Cup of Joe – 1/28/22

Justice Stephen Breyer told President Biden in a letter released Thursday that he plans to retire at the end of Supreme Court’s current term, assuming his replacement is nominated and confirmed, the Washington Post reports.

Justice Breyer was not planning to announce his retirement yesterday and is “upset” that the way that this is being handled was not the timeline that he had planned, Fox News reports.  Breyer reportedly “felt this was pushed before he was ready to make it official.” Well, it was a coordinated leak, from his office. Everyone had the story at the same time. So…..

President Biden vowed Thursday to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court by the end of February, saying “it’s long overdue,” the Washington Post reports.

A senior White House official told NBC News that internal preparations are now ramping up for what could be a quick selection process to pick a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

“Senate Democrats say they plan to move speedily to consider President Biden’s nominee for the Supreme Court vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Stephen G. Breyer, following the lead of Republicans who raced through the nomination of Justice Amy Coney Barrett in a matter of weeks before the 2020 elections,” the New York Times reports.

“Holding a bare 50-seat majority that is under severe threat in November’s midterm elections, Democrats acknowledged the need to act fast, particularly since an illness or death of one of their members could deprive them of their numerical advantage and greatly complicate efforts to fill the seat.”

Politico: Why not to expect a scorched earth fight over Breyer’s replacement.

Politico: “Democrats are eyeing a timeline similar to what Republicans used to confirm Justice Amy Coney Barrett, which was about a month between her nomination and confirmation. The tight timeline doesn’t reflect an overall rush.”

“Aides have said Democrats may consider confirming his replacement before this SCOTUS term is over, but delay the succession until after Breyer leaves his seat vacant.”

Punchbowl News: “And let’s clear up something here – Republicans can’t block a Supreme Court nomination in the Judiciary Committee or on the floor as long as all 50 Senate Democrats stick together and back Biden’s nominee. Democrats don’t need Republicans to hold a confirmation hearing in the Judiciary Committee, and they don’t need them to vote in committee in order to advance a nomination.”

New York Times: “Biden says that Vice President Kamala Harris will be advising him on a potential replacement for Justice Breyer. Her allies have been calling for the president to take advantage of her background as a former attorney general, local prosecutor and member of the senate judiciary committee.”

Jonathan Bernstein: “The odds are that the process of choosing a successor to Breyer will go well for the president. Vetting judicial nominees has been a strength for this White House, which has been nominating judges and getting them confirmed at near-record numbers and without significant controversy. The change of topic in the national media from the omicron wave and inflation — and from Biden’s low approval numbers — will be welcome as far as it goes, although that part of it won’t last long.”

“More helpful will be the opportunity to add a new accomplishment for the president to talk about and for Democratic party actors and Democratic voters to be happy about. Biden’s pick for the court is likely to be one that the party will unite behind, which will be a nice change for party actors, including the president, from the internal squabbling that has marked the last few months in Congress, and especially in the Senate.”

First Read: Supreme Court fight gives Biden the reset he’s been looking for.

Nathanial Rakich: “The Senate has been remarkably efficient at passing President Biden’s judicial nominees so far: During the first year of his presidency, 42 of Biden’s district-court and appeals-court nominees have been confirmed — more than any president since John F. Kennedy.”

“And crucially, Democrats have been united behind those nominees. The next time a Democratic senator votes no on one of Biden’s judicial picks, it will be the first time. That means that even Manchin and Sinema have 100 percent track records of supporting Biden’s judicial nominees.”

“Our politics may differ, but my praise for Ketanji’s intellect, for her character, for her integrity, it is unequivocal. She is an amazing person, and I favorably recommend your consideration.”  — Former Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), quoted by the New York Times last summer on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Charlie Sykes: “As near as one can tell, the strategy behind last week’s show-defeat on voting rights was designed to pressure or shame the two mavericks into line. If that was, indeed, the plan, it failed spectacularly, and ushered in a particularly awkward era of bad feelings.”

“So a reminder: the first rule of having a razor-thin majority is not to torch bridges, razors, or the boats you sailed in on. You may be angry or disappointed with a colleague, but a rational political party will always remember that someday they may need them. Someday is now.”

“Even so, it’s still likely that both Manchin and Sinema will support anyone Biden picks, because they have both consistently supported his lower court picks —- including one of the front-runners for the SCOTUS seat, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.”

“But this should also be a time to go back over the math: The Dems cannot count to 50 without Manchin or Sinema. Without them, the GOP controls the senate.”

“Looking ahead the American people elected a Senate that is evenly split at 50-50. To the degree that President Biden received a mandate, it was to govern from the middle, steward our institutions, and unite America. The President must not outsource this important decision to the radical left.”   — Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), in a statement on replacing Justice Stephen Breyer.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) told the West Virginia MetroNews that he’s open to supporting President Biden’s nominee to the Supreme Court, even if the pick is more ideologically liberal than he is.  Said Manchin: “Whoever he puts up will have experience and we’ll be able to judge them off of that. But as far as just the philosophical beliefs, no, that will not prohibit me from supporting somebody.”

Punchbowl News: “Biden presided over Breyer’s confirmation to the Supreme Court as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1994, and now he will name Breyer’s replacement.”

“This has never happened before in U.S. history. Not even by Martin Van Buren, who was Judiciary Committee chair way back in the 1820s and then later became the 8th president.”

“Economic growth accelerated to a 6.9% annual rate in the fourth quarter. But it appears to have lost momentum because of Omicron and supply shortages,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

CNBC: “The report reflected an overall solid period for the economy after output had slowed considerably over the summer. Supply chain issues tied to the pandemic coupled with robust demand spurred by unprecedented stimulus from Congress and the Federal Reserve led to imbalances across the economic spectrum.”

“The Kremlin warned on Thursday that there was ‘not much cause for optimism’ that the West would satisfy Russia’s demands in the showdown over Ukraine, but said that President Vladimir Putin would take his time to study the written responses that the United States and NATO submitted a day earlier before deciding how to proceed,” the New York Times reports.

Eliot Cohen: “Ukraine is a problem for Putin’s Russia not because it may join NATO, but because it is democratizing—slowly, awkwardly, imperfectly—and after 30 years of independence is constructing a new national identity. So, too, have the other former Soviet republics, a number of which (Azerbaijan, for example) have quietly sided with Kyiv.”

“The aim of reconstructing if not the Russian empire, then a 21st-century version of it, is slipping out of Putin’s grip, and he knows it. In many ways, what we’re seeing now from Moscow is a spasm of atavistic postimperial assertion, which, rather like British and French intervention in Egypt in 1956, may begin well but will probably end poorly.”

“The Russian dictator has made demands that he knows cannot be met. He has issued them publicly when such things are usually done in private, meaning that he is looking for a fight on any terms.”

“Germany has provoked outrage in some quarters after it offered to supply 5,000 military helmets to Ukraine to help it defend itself against a possible Russian invasion,” CNBC reports.

“About 100,000 Russian troops are believed to be on the border with Ukraine. While countries like the U.S. and U.K. have sent military hardware to Ukraine, Germany has been conspicuously reluctant to send equipment.”

“President Biden will host new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the White House next month, the first in-person meeting between the two leaders since Scholz took office,” The Hill reports.

“Boris Johnson on Wednesday vowed he would not quit as prime minister, as he prepared to receive a delayed report into lockdown-breaking parties in Whitehall by Sue Gray, a senior civil servant,” the Financial Times reports.

“Downing Street expected to be handed Gray’s report on Wednesday, but a dispute over exactly what should be included in the final version has pushed back publication, to the frustration of many Conservative MPs.”

Washington Post: “Emails released Wednesday by Britain’s Foreign Office appear to show that Prime Minister Boris Johnson did sign off on a controversial evacuation of dogs and cats from Afghanistan in August, contradicting his dismissal as ‘complete nonsense’ of claims that he intervened to rescue animals over the thousands of Afghans desperate to flee the Taliban takeover.”

“A year after Britain left the EU, the UK’s big banks are facing a scenario that was far from the vision of Brexit’s architects: their EU rivals could soon be able to lend more cheaply to British corporates than they can,” the Financial Times reports.

Sarah Palin, who tested positive for Covid-19 Monday, delaying her defamation trial against the New York Times, was spotted dining out at a restaurant in New York City on Wednesday night, the Daily Mail reports.

Senate Democrats say a proposal to raise the cap on state and local tax deductions, a top priority of Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), is likely to be cut from the revised Build Back Better Act, The Hill reports.

“About one in eight congressional staffers are not making a living wage,” Roll Call reports.  “The problem is particularly acute for staff assistants, who are often the most junior staffers in congressional offices.”

Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) broke his silence over the censure of his colleague Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), with a campaign spokesperson saying he disagreed with it and she should not be singled out over her opposition to changing the Senate’s filibuster rules, the Arizona Republic reports.

“President Biden made bipartisanship the backbone of his 2020 campaign, but with this year set to be dominated by the midterm elections, he is pivoting away from work with Republicans,” The Hill reports.  “The president, who has adopted a stronger tone with the GOP since the start of the year, said in no uncertain terms this week that the Republican Party had changed, even since he was vice president.”

“It is a party that is unrecognizable to him, he said at a press conference earlier this week, drawing lines of division between the two parties.”

“When a federal judge ordered Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes to remain jailed pending his trial for conspiracy charges on Wednesday, they cited testimony by Rhodes’s estranged wife, who alleged that he installed ‘elaborate escape tunnels’ in his backyard,” the Daily Beast reports.

Tasha Adams shared her photos on Twitter: “Folks if you ever feel tempted to rent a backhoe and dig escape tunnels in the backyard of your rental house, keep in mind it may back to haunt you if you later attempt to overthrow the U.S. government.”

Former President Donald Trump’s forthcoming Truth Social calls itself a “free speech platform” but will use AI censors to moderate posts to keep it “family-friendly,” Fox Business reports.  Meanwhile, Axios reports that Truth Social “is reaching out to internet influencers asking them to “reserve their spots” for when it launches in February or March.”

Washington Post: “Prominent figures known for spreading misinformation… have flocked to Substack, podcasting platforms and a growing number of right-wing social media networks over the past year after getting kicked off or restricted on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.”

Politico: “Inside Harris’ office and among her advisers, confidants and close allies, there’s a near universal belief that she is mired by a contradiction: While she’s among the most powerful people in the world, owing to her swift rise in national politics, people still don’t know her at the levels they need to.”

“They point to instances where her work is either ignored or her policy portfolio misinterpreted, as evidence that she remains not just poorly defined but under-defined by the public. They’ve identified a spate of recent polls where voters give Harris and President Joe Biden similar marks for their disapproval rating, but where her approval rating falls several points below his. They explain the disparity not purely as a byproduct of her early, and at times self-inflicted struggles, but of Americans not knowing what she’s been up to. And aides and allies believe the D.C. press corps is obsessed with style over substance, especially when it comes to their boss.”

“Combined with the zero-Covid strategy, the paradoxical result of this ineffective vaccination effort has been to make the Chinese population more vulnerable to Covid-19 than almost any other population on earth,” Foreign Affairs reports.

“A rough estimate of clinical data, for example, suggests that no more than a small fraction of one percent of the Chinese population has acquired natural immunity through a prior infection.”

“Such a large ‘virgin’ population in China means the Omicron variant could potentially multiply and spread unhindered. Unless China abandons the zero-Covid mentality, it may have to adopt ever more draconian social controls until the virus completely disappears or face an Omicron tsunami of almost unimaginable proportions.”

Ezekiel Emanuel and Michael Osterholm: China’s zero-Covid policy is a pandemic waiting to happen.

“About 14.5 million Americans have signed up to get health coverage this year through Affordable Care Act insurance marketplaces, eclipsing the previous record enrollment by nearly 2 million,” the Washington Post reports.

Neil Young’s music is in the process of being removed from Spotify’s streaming service, as the folk-rock star isn’t wavering in his objections to Joe Rogan’s podcast and how it spreads misinformation about Covid-19, the Wall Street Journal reports.

President Biden on Wednesday said he will sign an executive order making sexual harassment an offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

“Dozens of local and state Republican leaders who showed their loyalty to Donald Trump by casting fake electoral votes for him a year ago may now face prison time in return for that devotion,” the HuffPost reports.

“Because as the House select committee investigating the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, starts to look into the origins of the scheme to send ‘alternate’ ballots to Congress from states narrowly won by Joe Biden, the 59 ersatz Trump electors who claimed to be “duly elected and qualified” could face federal charges ranging from election fraud to mail fraud, in addition to a range of state-level charges.”

“After a frenetic few weeks when the Omicron variant of the coronavirus seemed to infect everyone, including the vaccinated and boosted, the United States is finally seeing encouraging signs,” the New York Times reports.  “As cases decline in some parts of the country, many have begun to hope that this surge is the last big battle with the virus — that because of its unique characteristics, the Omicron variant will usher Americans out of the pandemic.”

Axios: “Most of that decline is being driven by continued improvement on the East Coast, particularly in and around New York, Washington, D.C., and New England.”

Politico: “The administration’s recommendation that race and ethnicity be considered when deciding who gets the limited supply of new Covid drugs is the latest political cudgel with which Republicans are hammering Democrats, looking to energize their base ahead of the midterm elections.”

“And Democratic strategists say these attacks, while baseless, may prove effective, further hampering the party’s efforts to retain its slim congressional majorities.”

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

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