Cup of Joe – 12/23/21

During Democratic senators’ virtual call on Tuesday night, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) told his colleagues that he was still open to negotiations on Build Back Better despite still having issues with it, according to CNN. Manchin reiterated his complaints about BBB in the beginning of the call but mostly listened to his colleagues speak during the discussion, CBS News reports.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) reportedly said on the call that the chamber would hold a vote on BBB in January, per CNN.

Matthew Yglesias: “Progressives can be mad about this, but the fact is that $1.75 trillion in spending without phase-out gimmicks is better on the merits than what House leadership put together. Manchin is not ruining anything by pointing this out. He is making life harder for his colleagues in the sense that they will have to pick winners and losers.”

“But it’s much better to do six good programs than to half-ass a dozen of them. And the reality is that $1.75 trillion is a lot of money; you can do a lot of good stuff for $1.75 trillion.”

Washington Post: “Biden’s speech marked the clearest distillation to date of a new message from the White House, as officials acknowledge the virus is unlikely to disappear but Americans no longer have to fully upend their daily lives even as cases rise.”

“And it reflected the extent to which many Americans and political leaders show little appetite for the widespread shutdowns of the early pandemic period that hobbled the economy, forced millions of students into virtual learning, and sparked bitter partisan and cultural battles over how to combat the virus.”

“When you’re dealing with one that spreads so rapidly and you are unvaccinated, the virus is going to find you.”  — Dr. Anthony Fauci, on MSNBC.

“Britain surpassed 100,000 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday for the first time since the start of the pandemic, as the England’s government announced an easing of isolation restrictions,” the New York Times reports.

“The new toll of 106,122 new infections — the highest ever — comes as the highly transmissible Omicron variant continues to surge across the country. The uptick is a 50 percent increase over the past week.”

“I don’t think it’s possible that we’re going to eradicate this infection, because we’ve only eradicated one infection in human history, and that’s smallpox.” — Dr. Anthony Fauci, quoted by The Atlantic.

Convicted ex-Trump adviser Michael Flynn filed a lawsuit against the House Jan. 6 select committee yesterday, claiming that its subpoenas for his electronic records and testimony could violate his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in other investigations he’s tied to (like the reported federal probe into Sidney Powell’s Defending the Republic PAC).

“A federal judge in Florida on Wednesday ruled against former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn’s bid to block the Jan. 6 select committee from obtaining his phone records,” Axios reports.

These are the other top Trump foot soldiers who’ve sued the committee to stonewall its investigation in case you’re having trouble keeping track (I can’t blame you):

  • Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows
  • Trump legal adviser John Eastman
  • Far-right conspiracy theoriest Alex Jones
  • “Stop the Steal” leader Ali Alexander
  • Cleta Mitchell, the election lawyer who was on Trump’s infamous call when he tried to pressure Georgia officials to “find” votes for him to steal the state from Biden

Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) announced that he won’t cooperate with the House Select Committee’s request to seek information from him on the January 6 riots, raising the question of whether the House panel will subpoena a sitting lawmaker if he refuses to comply, CNN reports.

Whatever actions come next will set a precedent for the House.

Alex Jones, the far-right conspiracy theorist and InfoWars host, currently embroiled in legal trouble thanks to his lies about the Sandy Hook shooting, is dragging the House Jan. 6 panel to court to block it from obtaining his phone records and compelling his testimony.

Jones argues that his documents were part of his “journalistic activity” and are therefore protected under the First Amendment.

Jones is also planning on pleading the Fifth, according to his lawsuit.

“U.S. health regulators cleared use of a Covid-19 pill from Pfizer Inc., the first drug that newly infected patients can now take at home to stay out of the hospital,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday permits doctors to prescribe the medicine to high-risk patients age 12 and older early in the course of disease, shortly after they develop symptoms.”

Republican senators like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who are utterly delighted with Manchin after he struck a major blow to BBB, are inspired to keep wooing the West Virginia senator over to their side of the aisle.

Manchin would be “more comfortable” in the GOP, McConnell argued on Tuesday.

Cornyn texted Manchin yesterday telling him “Joe, if they don’t want you we do,” the Texas Republican said. Said Cornyn: “I don’t know what he will decide to do. But I do know West Virginia has gotten increasingly red… So yeah, we’d love to have him.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made yet another public invitation for Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to switch parties in an interview with Hugh Hewitt: “Well, you know, as I’ve said the last couple of days, I’ve had this conversation with him off and on for a couple of years. We come from states that have a lot in common, that have become increasingly red over the last decade or so. And I think what Manchin is discovering is that there just aren’t any Democrats left in the Senate that are pro-life and terribly concerned about debt and deficit and inflation. So he feels like a man alone.

If he were to join us, he’d be joining a lot of folks who have similar views on a whole range of issues.”

McConnell even suggested Manchin could keep his prized position as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. It’s not surprising that McConnell wants Manchin to switch parties. It would make McConnell majority leader.

But the idea that Manchin would somehow be more comfortable as a Republican is absurd.

Manchin votes with President Biden more than 97% of the time. He wants to undo the Trump tax cuts. He supports Biden’s judicial nominations. He wants to protect the Affordable Care Act. He voted to convict Donald Trump twice on impeachment. And he supported an investigation into the January 6 insurrection.

These are hardly Republican positions. Manchin would likely be a bigger outcast in the Republican party than he is as a Democrat.

“The Biden administration on Wednesday took steps to ease the pressure that sanctions on the Taliban are having on Afghanistan as the combination of the pandemic, a severe drought, the loss of foreign aid and frozen currency reserves have left the country’s fragile economy on the brink of collapse,” the New York Times reports.

“The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan has put the Biden administration on the defensive three months after the Taliban assumed power and American and international forces left the country. A thicket of American and international sanctions that were designed to cut the Taliban off from the international financial system have left the entire country with a cash shortage, crippling banks and businesses and sending prices soaring.”

“The United Nations is proposing to pay nearly $6 million for protection in Afghanistan to Taliban-run Interior Ministry personnel, whose chief is under U.N. and U.S. sanctions and wanted by the FBI,” Reuters reports.

“President Joe Biden received a negative coronavirus test result on Wednesday, days after he was exposed to a staffer who later test positive for the virus,” CNBC  reports.  “The aide spent about 30 minutes near the president on Air Force One on the way from South Carolina to Philadelphia.”

The U.S. population grew at a slower rate in 2021 than in any other year since the founding of the nation, according to new Census data.

Wall Street Journal: “Final data released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that Americans’ life expectancy fell 1.8 years to 77 years in 2020. The drop was 0.3 years more than that of provisional estimates released in July 2021 and remains the biggest life-expectancy decline since at least World War II.”

President Biden announced that he will extend the moratorium on student loan payments until May 1, 2022, due to the ongoing pandemic.

CNN reports: “The reversal comes less than two weeks after White House press secretary Jen Psaki had indicated that the administration was still planning to restart federal student loan payments in February, resisting pressure from some fellow Democrats who have been calling for an extension of coronavirus pandemic relief benefits.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci called on Fox News to fire host Jesse Watters for targeting him with violent rhetoric at a conservative conference, Politico reports.  Said Fauci: “I mean, that’s crazy. The guy should be fired on the spot.”

Bill O’Reilly told NewsNation that he had to comfort former President Donald Trump after a crowd booed him for getting a vaccine booster shot.

Said O’Reilly: “I told him that today, he called me. I said ‘This is good for you, this is good that people see another side of you, not a political side, you told the truth, you believe in the vax, your administration did it, and you should take credit for it, because it did save, I don’t know, hundreds of thousands of lives.’”

Yascha Mounk: “Muddy early data mean that, for now at least, the immediate epidemiological future is uncertain. We could be in for a few months of relatively mild inconvenience before Omicron goes out with a whimper. Or we could be about to experience yet another exponential rise in hospitalizations and deaths.”

“And yet I wager that, whatever course Omicron—or future strains of the disease—might take, we are about to experience the end of the pandemic as a social phenomenon…”

“Scientists have their own way of deciding that a pandemic is over. But one useful social-scientific marker is when people have gotten used to living with the ongoing presence of a particular pathogen. By that definition, the massive surge of Omicron infections that is currently coursing through scores of developed countries without eliciting more than a half-hearted response marks the end of the pandemic.”

New York Times: “It is not yet clear whether the variant causes milder illness than earlier variants. But there is a concern among some scientists that the notion has gained wide circulation and that the pandemic-weary public has let down its guard.”

“Researchers looking at real-world coronavirus cases in Britain reported Wednesday that the omicron variant appears to be less severe than the once dominant delta strain,” the Washington Post reports.

“Early evidence from Scotland and England suggests that omicron is sending fewer people to the hospital with severe symptoms.”

“The U.S. is facing an overwhelming surge of cases driven by the Omicron variant less than six months after President Biden celebrated ‘Independence from Covid-⁠19,’ and experts say the administration could have done more to better prepare the country,” Axios reports.

“A common theme is that the Biden administration has been reactive, chasing the latest Covid crises rather than getting ahead of them.”

“Some experts say the administration’s cardinal pandemic sin has been moving too slowly, while others say it’s over-relying on vaccines. But there’s widespread agreement that the administration should have made cheap, at-home rapid tests more widely available months ago.”

“South Africa’s noticeable drop in new Covid-19 cases in recent days may signal that the country’s dramatic omicron-driven surge has passed its peak, medical experts say,” the AP reports.

“Daily virus case counts are notoriously unreliable, as they can be affected by uneven testing, reporting delays and other fluctuations. But they are offering one tantalizing hint — far from conclusive yet — that omicron infections may recede quickly after a ferocious spike.”

Bloomberg: “South Africans contracting Covid-19 in the current fourth wave of infections are 80% less likely to be hospitalized if they catch the omicron variant, compared with other strains, according to a study released by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.”

“Once admitted to the hospital, the risk of severe disease doesn’t differ from other variants.”

“Just the other day former President Trump announced he got his booster shot. It may be one of the few things he and I agree on.” — President Biden, quoted by CNN.

Former President Trump told Fox News that he is “very appreciative” and “surprised” that President Biden thanked him and his administration for their success in making COVID-19 vaccines available to the public, adding that “tone” and “trust” are critical in getting Americans vaccinated.

Said Trump: “I think it was a terrific thing, and I think it makes a lot of people happy… I think he did something very good. You know, it has to be a process of healing in this country, and that will help a lot.”

Evan Osnos at The New Yorker dives into Manchin’s politics and history: 

“Manchin is especially vulnerable to accusations of imperial remove. Photos that circulated online show him chatting over the rail of his houseboat in Washington with angry constituents, who had arrived by kayak. After he persuaded the Biden Administration to drop from the bill the Clean Electricity Performance Program, the centerpiece of efforts to slash greenhouse-gas emissions, climate protesters surrounded Manchin’s silver Maserati. […] 

To anyone who knows the details, Manchin’s self-narrative—of a coal-country football star from the tiny town of Farmington—has always passed over his wealth and status. The Manchins are machers; Joe’s grandfather ran Farmington’s grocery store and served, over the years, as its fire chief, constable, justice of the peace, and mayor. His father had a similar stature in local politics, while also expanding the family business from groceries into furniture and carpets. Joe’s uncle, A. James Manchin, ascended to the positions of West Virginia’s secretary of state and treasurer. Joe’s daughter, Heather Bresch, went to work at a pharmaceutical plant in the state run by Mylan, eventually becoming its C.E.O. and collecting an estimated $37.6-million exit package when she retired, in 2020. Joe, for his part, has prospered as a coal broker, building a net worth of between four and thirteen million dollars, according to his Senate disclosures. In West Virginia terms, Manchin has been a member of the gentry—corporate, political, and personal—for decades.”

John Nichols at The Nation:  “Manchin couldn’t be trusted. The right strategy was to build a grassroots movement in West Virginia to pressure him to do the right thing, as the Rev. William Barber II and the Poor People’s Campaign proposed. Barber—like Sanders and the Squad—recognized, even if top Democrats did not, that it was going to take more than backroom negotiations to move Manchin.”

Over at The Washington  Post, Eugene Robinson notes that Manchin’s opposition to the Biden agenda wouldn’t be so crucial if it wasn’t for unanimous Republican opposition from Republican senators:

“If Democrats had a bigger majority, they couldn’t be held hostage by Manchin or by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) — or by any other Democratic senator who might want to derail the bill. It is actually remarkable that Biden and the Democrats, working with zero margin for error, have been able to accomplish so much this year, including confirmation of 40 federal judges, the most for any first-year president since Ronald Reagan.

I doubt Manchin will switch parties and become a Republican, since he would instantly revert to being a bit player with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) running the show as majority leader. Manchin could conceivably become an independent and continue to caucus with the Democrats, but that wouldn’t materially change the situation.”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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