Cup of Joe – 1/19/22

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will propose that the Senate reinstate the “talking filibuster,” where senators must stand and continue debate in order to block bills, PBS Newshour reports.

Punchbowl News: “[Schumer] promised a cloture vote on the voting-rights bill, and if that fails – it will thanks to unified GOP opposition to the legislation – then Schumer has vowed to hold a vote on changing Senate rules on the filibuster.”

“Senate Democrats are scrambling for a Plan B to pass voting rights legislation after Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced last week that they would not vote to change the Senate’s filibuster rule despite the pleading of President Joe Biden,” The Hill reports. “Now some Democrats are discussing a novel approach to circumventing a Republican filibuster that may allow voting rights legislation to pass with 51 votes without changing the Senate’s rules.”

“These Democrats, including Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), are exploring the possibility of forcing Senate Republicans to actually hold the floor with speeches and procedural motions.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) floated a plan to reinstate a “talking filibuster” in the Senate but it was killed almost immediately when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said he won’t support it, Punchbowl News reports.

Said Manchin: “The majority of my colleagues in the Democratic Caucus – they’ve changed. They’ve changed their mind. I respect that. You have a right to change your mind. I haven’t. I hope they respect that too. I’ve never changed my mind on the filibuster.”

“Senate Democrats are convening a special, in-person caucus meeting on Tuesday as they brace for a fight on voting rights and the filibuster to come to a head,” The Hill reports. “Unlike most of the caucus meetings in the wake of the rise of the omicron coronavirus variant, the meeting will be in person.”

The vote on the legislation is expected to be held today at the earliest (though the schedule isn’t finalized). That’s when Republicans will almost inevitably invoke the filibuster to shoot it down, which is when Schumer would hold a vote on changing the filibuster rules if he decides to do so, which is when Sinema and Manchin would either reverse course and vote for the changes or stick to their position and doom the legislation.

Ever since the tortured Afghanistan pullout, the news cycles have absolutely punished Democrats. There was a brief respite when the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed, but that seems long forgotten at this point. It continued with months of squabbling about President Biden’s climate and social spending bill. Now it’s repeating with intraparty conflict over Senate rules changes.

It’s not a coincidence that Biden’s approval rate turned upside down around the same time as the Afghanistan pullout. And it’s not surprising it’s only gotten worse since then. At some point — if not already — the negative effects of this punishing news will be baked in for the midterm elections.

The Economist: “What better way to chase one humiliating setback and waste of political capital than with another? That seems to be the outcome of President Joe Biden’s latest political strategy as he smarts from the failure of his signature climate-change and social-policy bill last month. In the new year, the White House and Democratic leaders in Congress have pivoted to campaigning for a voting-rights package which stands no chance of passing.”

“As a matter of politics, it might seem underwhelming. But at the level of policy, too, the legislation, which Democrats describe as essential to prevent democratic catastrophe, is not narrowly tailored to meet the actual threats to the republic.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) warned that Democrats will pay a political price if they move to eliminate the filibuster — even if the effort fails, ABC News reports.

Said McConnell: “But too many of our colleagues across the aisle still want to respond to a 50-50 Senate with a rule-breaking power grab. Voting to break this institution will not be a free vote or a harmless action, even if their effort fails. An unprincipled attempt at grabbing power is not harmless just because it fails. Voting to break the Senate is not cost-free just because a bipartisan majority of your colleagues have the wisdom to stop you.”

Vice President Kamala Harris said that she is “not going to absolve” any member of the Senate who will not take action to pass voting rights legislation when she was asked specifically about Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Axios reports.

Said Harris: “As I’ve said before, there are a hundred members of the United States Senate, and I’m not going to absolve — nor should any of us — absolve any member of the United States Senate from taking on a responsibility to follow through on the oath that they all took to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

“Senate Democrats believe there is a good chance the Department of Justice will prosecute former President Trump for trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election and inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, which would have major political reverberations ahead of the 2024 presidential election,” The Hill reports.

“The House committee investigating the Capitol insurrection issued a new batch of subpoenas Tuesday to some of Donald Trump’s closet advisers, including Rudy Giuliani, as the committee inches closer to the former president,” the AP reports.

“The committee is continuing to widen its scope into Trump’s orbit, this time demanding information and testimony from Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, Sidney Powell and Boris Epshteyn.”

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a request to block a federal mask mandate for air travel, The Hill reports.

Jeffrey Toobin tweets: “Imminent Supreme Court retirement?”

NPR: “Sotomayor did not feel safe in close proximity to people who were unmasked. Chief Justice John Roberts, understanding that, in some form asked the other justices to mask up.”

“They all did. Except Gorsuch, who, as it happens, sits next to Sotomayor on the bench. His continued refusal since then has also meant that Sotomayor has not attended the justices’ weekly conference in person, joining instead by telephone.”

“Gorsuch, from the beginning of his tenure, has proved a prickly justice, not exactly beloved even by his conservative soulmates on the court.”

When President Biden said anyone could find free Covid testing by Googling “Covid test near me,” Libby Watson took him up on the challenge and found it’s not that easy — especially in rural areas.  Meanwhile, the federal website to request free Covid tests by postal delivery was launched a day early.

“Russian military forces and hardware began arriving in ex-Soviet Belarus for joint drills starting in February, Minsk said on Monday, amid soaring tensions between East and West over Ukraine,” Reuters reports.

“Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Berlin and Kyiv to rally allies after a week of stalled negotiations meant to head off a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine,” USA Today reports.

“The week before intensive diplomatic meetings began over the buildup of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border, American and Ukrainian officials watched from afar as Russia began emptying out its embassy in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital,” the New York Times reports.

“On Jan. 5, 18 people — mostly the children and wives of Russian diplomats — boarded buses and embarked on a 15-hour drive home to Moscow… About 30 more followed in the next few days, from Kyiv and a consulate in Lviv, in western Ukraine.”

“The Biden administration is weighing new options, including providing more arms to Ukraine to resist a Russian occupation, to try to raise the costs for Russian President Vladimir Putin should he decide to invade the country,” CNN reports.

“The discussions, described by multiple sources familiar with them, reflect a sense of pessimism in the administration following last week’s diplomatic talks with Russian officials that yielded no breakthroughs and as Russia has continued to raise its force levels in the last few days.”

Axios: “The U.S. believes that Russia may use joint military exercises inside Belarus as cover for an invasion of Ukraine from the north.”

“We believe we’re now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack on Ukraine. I would say that’s more stark than we have been.”  — White House press secretary Jen Psaki, at her press briefing.

Tomas Pueyo: “After the Omicron wave, we’ll be in a world where most people will have some sort of immunity, either through natural infections, vaccines, or both. We now know how to get vaccines fast (we should approve them faster for new variants), and we have treatments too. The value of time for learning has dropped: we know most of what we need to know about it. So the benefits of social measures to stop Covid are much lower.”

“Meanwhile, the costs of stopping Covid are much higher, because Omicron escapes immunity and is extremely transmissible. It’s much, much harder to stop a Covid wave now than it was two years ago. Look at how China is desperately trying to stop the virus but can’t without drastic lockdowns.”

“Lower benefits, higher costs: the ROI (return on investment) of tackling Covid with social measures has reversed. And from now on, it’s not going to get any better… If the benefits of social measures are as low as they’ll ever be, and their costs as high as they’ll ever be, the cost/benefit of fighting Covid won’t change much anymore in the next few years.”

Punchbowl News: “Morning news TV anchors have an off-the-record briefing with President Joe Biden today at the White House. Biden will hold a press conference tomorrow to mark his first year in office.” 

Jonathan Bernstein: “The most important thing to remember is that while presidents are surely the single most important players in the U.S. political system, that’s all they are — single players. Even the most successful and influential presidents have limits on what they can do to influence Congress, their party, the courts, the bureaucracy, interest groups, state and local governments, private businesses, foreign governments and more. Evaluations that ignore the context that presidents work in, including the constraints they face, are useless…”

“A second caution is to be sure that any evaluation is clear about the differences between the president, the presidency and the larger political system. Former President Donald Trump was an extreme case of a leader who often received credit or blame for actions taken by executive branch actors that he had little or nothing to do with.”

Boris Johnson’s former top aide Dominic Cummings accused the premier of lying to Parliament, saying he would “swear under oath” that the premier both was aware of and allowed a drinks party at Downing Street at the height of lockdown during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, Bloomberg reports.

“Novak Djokovic risks being frozen out of tennis as he chases a record 21st Grand Slam title, with rules on travelers who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 tightening in the third year of the pandemic and some tournaments reconsidering exemptions,” Reuters reports.

“The Serbian, who has not been vaccinated, was deported from Australia on Sunday ahead of the Australian Open after losing a court case to have the cancellation of his visa overturned.”

Meanwhile, Axios reports that all athletes must be vaccinated to compete in sporting events held in France, including the French Open in May.

“Leading Novak Djokovic sponsor Lacoste has said it plans to ‘review’ the events that led to the tennis star’s deportation from Australia, highlighting the potential fallout for athletes who remain unvaccinated against Covid-19,” the Financial Times reports.  Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports Djokovic got a “hero’s welcome” upon his return to Serbia.

“Just three years ago, as they vied to lead the country, the Democratic Party’s presidential candidates competed to produce novel and dramatic policy proposals aimed at America’s most serious problems,” the Washington Post reports.

“The party’s insurgent liberals, who at times ran at the front of the pack, brought to the national stage dozens of new policy ideas on health care, housing, climate, education and more. The scale of their ambition startled Washington and captivated millions of voters. The establishment candidates were forced to move left in response, adapting to incorporate the new policy energy pouring out of the party’s base.”

“But with the 2022 midterms months away, the intellectual optimism and energy that defined the American left during that window has been markedly deflated.”

“Puerto Rico received approval from a federal judge on Tuesday to leave bankruptcy under the largest public sector debt restructuring deal in the history of the United States, nearly five years after the financially strapped territory declared that it could not repay its creditors,” the New York Times reports.

Wall Street Journal: “The chief executives of major passenger and cargo airlines said there could be significant flight disruptions when new 5G service goes live in the U.S. this week, unless implementation of the wireless service within 2 miles of major airport runways is delayed.”

“China’s central bank cut its key interest rate for the first time in almost two years to help bolster an economy that’s lost momentum because of a property slump and repeated virus outbreaks,” Bloomberg reports.  “In a stark policy divergence with other major economies, the People’s Bank of China lowered the rate at which it provides one-year loans to banks by 10 basis points — the first reduction since April 2020.”

“China’s zero tolerance approach to Covid has idled Toyota Motor Corp. and Volkswagen AG factories the past week, a troubling sign for global carmakers as the omicron variant begins to spread in the world’s biggest auto production hub,” Bloomberg reports.

“China had already barred foreign spectators from attending the Winter Games that begin in Beijing in less than a month. On Monday, it announced that most Chinese people won’t be able to attend either,” the New York Times reports.

“Citing the evolving threat from the coronavirus pandemic, the Beijing 2022 organizing committee announced that it was ending ticket sales to the events ‘to ensure the safety of all participants and spectators.’”

“The decision came less than two days after health authorities reported Beijing’s first case of the Omicron variant and ordered an immediate lockdown and mass testing in one of the capital’s neighborhoods.”

“A smartphone app that athletes and others attending next month’s Winter Games in Beijing must install has glaring security problems that could expose sensitive data to interception,” the AP reports.  “China is requiring all international Olympic attendees — including coaches and journalists — to download and start using the app 14 days before their departure.”

The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee is encouraging Team USA to use disposable or “burner” phones instead of bringing their own devices to China, because of possible surveillance during the Games that begin Feb. 4, the Washington Post reports.

Prosecutors granted immunity to an ex-girlfriend of Rep. Matt Gaetz before she testified last week in front of a federal grand jury hearing evidence in the investigation of the congressman, CBS News reports.  The woman apparently has information related to the investigation of both the sex trafficking and obstruction allegations against Gaetz.

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

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