Cup of Joe – November 18, 2022

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced that she will step down as the Democratic leader but will remain a member of the House of Representatives.  Said Pelosi: ”I will not seek re-election to democratic leadership in the next congress. For me, the hour has come for a new generation to lead the democratic caucus that I so deeply respect.”  Tellingly, she noted that she has “enjoyed working with three presidents,” even though she served during four presidencies.

Pelosi will go down in history as one of the most effective Speakers and a truly extraordinary politician — perhaps the best of our generation.

Puck: “[I]nstead of riding high into retirement, as has long been assumed, or becoming ambassador to Italy—a diplomatic posting the White House has been holding open for her—Pelosi will announce that she plans to stay in Congress as a backbencher, roaming the halls in a sort of emeritus role and helping to guide Democrats through their turn in the minority.”

“The decision to step down from leadership was reached over the weekend, as I reported on Monday, after Pelosi crafted a retirement speech with the help of the celebrity historian and presidential biographer Jon Meacham, a favorite of the Democratic elite, including Joe Biden, for exactly these types of moments.”

Despite the lingering narrative of “Democrats in disarray,” it’s really just a myth.  It always has been.  Nancy Pelosi proved this again today when she stepped down as the Democratic leader. For nearly 20 years, Pelosi has wielded her gavel more effectively than any other congressional leader in recent history.

There were no internal skirmishes and scandals during her tenure like we saw with Newt Gingrich. She wasn’t forced out like John Boehner. And she didn’t have a president of her own party move against her like Paul Ryan.

Instead, Pelosi has worked effectively with moderates and progressives. She never lost control of her caucus.

Pelosi’s consistency has apparently continued to the end. Democrats will now see an orderly transition to a new generation of leaders, including Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA). It was Pelosi, of course, who lined up her successors.

The contrast with Republicans will become even more apparent in the coming weeks as Kevin McCarthy tries to corral a narrow majority into electing him as Speaker — and then trying to govern.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) will also step down from Democratic leadership but remain in Congress, Punchbowl News reports. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) said he will run for Assistant Democratic Leader in the next Congress.

That sets up the new House Democratic leadership as Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) as Minority Leader, Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) as Minority Whip and Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA) as Caucus Chair.

With Pelosi and Hoyer remaining in Congress, that means there will be no vacancies as Kevin McCarthy tries to get the votes needed to be Speaker.

Earlier, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) “has decided not to seek a top House Democratic leadership post in the next Congress and is instead turning his focus to a potential Senate run,” Politico reports.

“History will note she is the most consequential Speaker of the House of Representatives in our history.” — President Biden, in a statement on Speaker Nancy Pelosi stepping down.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) “will likely be the first woman to serve as Senate president pro tempore, a position that would place her third in line for the presidency,” the Seattle Times reports. “Murray will also likely chair the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, controlling the federal purse strings and directing billions of dollars of spending.”

Politico: “McCarthy’s victory over internal critics on Tuesday marked the starting gun for a seven-week marathon. With his majority looking much thinner than many in both parties expected, he will need to persuade almost all of the 36 members who opposed him on Tuesday’s secret ballot to back him for the gavel in the public floor vote on Jan. 3.”

“While most of the conference’s anti-McCarthy votes went to Freedom Caucus challenger Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), five House Republicans wrote in a different name for speaker and one abstained for a total of 37 in opposition — drawing a map for the Californian’s rocky path ahead to 218 votes.”

“At least one Republican lawmaker’s mix-up in casting a ballot for House GOP whip on Tuesday changed the outcome of the leadership race, with the member intending to vote for current Chief Deputy Whip Drew Ferguson (R-GA), who lost by one vote during the first round to National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Emmer (R-MN),” the Washington Examiner reports.

“The first ballot resulted in Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Banks (R-IN) receiving 82 votes, Emmer having 72, and Ferguson receiving 71 votes, leading to Emmer and Banks facing off in the second round.”

“According to one senior GOP source in the room, the GOP lawmaker ‘committed to vote Drew on the first ballot and Tom Emmer on the second but mixed up the vote and voted for Tom Emmer on the first ballot, and that was the deciding vote and who went to the runoff against Banks.’

Sidney Blumenthal: “Donald Trump’s ragtag minions of horned madmen and militias could not seize the Capitol on January 6. But when the 118th Congress is sworn in on 3 January, Trump’s coup will have broken through more than a police barrier to enter a new phase. That’s because Trump will, for all intents and purposes, become the de facto speaker of the House.”

“The ultimate power will be held in the hands of Trump. From his gilded tropical palace, he will phone dictates to Jim Jordan and other acolytes who will transform the House of Representatives into his 2024 presidential campaign committee, virtual law firm and bludgeon for revenge. The House will be his hammer.”

“Republicans managed to make their victory in the House seem like a loss by underperforming so badly. But while they did not win control by anywhere near the margin that they anticipated, they did win. And in the House, even the barest majority can work its will if it can hold together to produce 218 votes,” the New York Times reports.

“The main question going forward is whether Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, who was nominated on Tuesday to lead the new Republican majority, can achieve the unity necessary to perform fundamental tasks such as funding the government, or whether unyielding far-right members will make the new speaker’s life miserable and the House an unmanageable mess.”

Politico: McCarthy’s next step on the GOP tightrope: Navigating concessions to conservatives.

Wall Street Journal: “Legislating will likely grind to a near halt, including some bills that once saw bipartisan support but have recently drawn skepticism from Republicans, such as assistance for Ukraine in defending itself against Russia. Republicans will get to push a competing agenda if they can hold their caucus together on key priorities — a daunting task with such a small majority.”

CNN: “Nearly a dozen years ago when Barack Obama was president, a newly emboldened House GOP majority came to power, promising to rein in the Democratic agenda, cut spending and investigate a White House they believed had run rampant. What resulted: Years of intense feuding between the two parties and a government in gridlock as Washington careened from one potential fiscal crisis to the next.”

“Now, as Democrats are poised to hold a narrow Senate majority – and Republicans are expecting a razor-thin House majority of their own – lawmakers in both parties have a deeply pessimistic view over the next two years and are bracing for an ugly period of legislating in Washington.”

“Everybody’s relevant, nobody’s irrelevant.”— Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), quoted by the Wall Street Journal, when asked what the razor-thin House majority would look like.

“The House Republican Conference will have the barest majority, rendered ungovernable by the lunatic likes of Matt Gaetz and Majorie Taylor Green. The self-sabotage of an ungovernable Republican majority will all but guarantee that Democrats take back the House in 2024.” — Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY), quoted by Vanity Fair.

“Donald Trump’s entry into the 2024 White House race adds a new degree of difficulty for federal prosecutors who’ve struggled for months to shield their investigations of the former president from accusations of political impropriety,” Bloomberg reports.

“The Justice Department is determined to continue the probes, but Trump’s status as a candidate means investigators will have to take extra procedural steps to shield their work. They will also face pressure to speed it up in order to resolve any criminal trial and appeals before voters head to the polls.”

“If the Justice Department decides to indict him, Trump would be the first former president charged with a federal crime. And it would be under the auspices of the man who beat him for the presidency in 2020 and may run against him again in the 2024 election. Joe Biden hasn’t formally declared he is running again, though has said he plans to.”

Meanwhile, Just Security has a model prosecution memo for the Mar-a-Lago investigation.

The Economist: “Some of the consequences will be more performative than substantive. The finances of Hunter Biden, Mr Biden’s troubled son, are likely to be one target; America’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan and the origins of covid-19 are also possibilities. The Trumpiest fringe of the House Republicans may push for the president’s impeachment. None of this is likely to amount to much of anything, since the Democrat-controlled Senate will, as a matter of course, reject it all. Still, the theatrics of divided government will have important repercussions, especially for the economy.”

“The biggest concern is that Republicans will provoke a crisis by refusing to increase America’s debt ceiling.”

Kurt Bardella: “Congressional Democrats are now the first line of defense for the Biden administration. And they will have a series of consequential decisions to make about which personnel they appoint to serve on Republican-led committees. The Biden administration’s best chance of weathering these politically charged probes may come down to Democrats’ willingness to buck tradition and ignore seniority, as they did when Issa became chair a decade ago.”

“Back then, the top Democrat on the Oversight panel was the mild-mannered Representative Ed Towns of New York. After Issa ran roughshod over him for two years, the Democratic leadership realized it had to recalibrate if it had any chance of blunting Issa’s probes and saving Obama’s agenda. Democrats got smart. They broke the precedent of letting the most senior member automatically assume the ranking position, and sidelined Towns. The plan was to bypass the more senior Carolyn Maloney and elevate Elijah Cummings.”

“Cummings was a powerful speaker and a brilliant tactician, and he was always disciplined in his approach to hearings: the perfect foil for the more impulsive Issa.”

After Donald Trump pledged to “make America great and glorious again” in his presidential announcement speech, some notice he might have unveiled a new slogan: MAGAGA, the HuffPost reports.

Said Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe on Twitter: “The hats’ll have to say MAGAGA — make America great and glorious again. If it makes you gag, get used to it.”

New York Times: “The former president cannot stop trying to make his own reality and cannot start accepting responsibility for his actions or acknowledging their consequences. In the heads-I-win-tails-you-lose world of Mr. Trump, all successes accrue to him, and any failings are someone else’s fault — the 2018 midterms, when Democrats took back the House; his own presidential loss in 2020; and now 2022, the worst showing of a party out of power in two decades.”

“In that sense, with the smoke still rising on a national rebuke, the choreographed conviviality on Tuesday night was the ultimate in not taking responsibility.”

“Instead, Mr. Trump spun out an alternate vision where the news media has not reported all his successes and where much of the blame for the party’s shortcomings in the midterms ‘is correct,’ though none of that blame belongs to him. And while the country, he told supporters, has slid from greatness to abject embarrassment in two short years, its citizens ‘have not yet realized the full extent and gravity of the pain our nation is going through’ — a suggestion that voters would have punished the party in power if they had only shared his understanding of President Biden’s depravity.”

New York Times: “Though former President Donald Trump has talked of a third run for the White House since before he completed his term, the rollout of his actual candidacy — as the Republican Party grapples with the fallout from midterm losses — has been surprisingly slapdash.”

“Hours after former President Donald Trump launched his third bid for the White House, Gov. Henry McMaster (R) made it official: He’s all in for Trump in 2024,” the Charleston Post & Courier reports.

“The backing illustrates how Trump’s announcement is already sending ripples through South Carolina, where it could affect the political futures of two of the state’s most popular Republicans: former Gov. Nikki Haley and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, both of whom are mulling potential bids.”

A low energy Donald Trump launched his 2024 presidential campaign last night. Most people watching television probably missed it and even traditionally Trump-friendly media downplayed it, but it would be a mistake to ignore it. Trump made crystal clear that if he wins the presidency he intends to rule as an authoritarian.

He pledged to send the military into American cities: “I will restore public safety in American cities and other communities that need our help. And if they don’t want our help, we’re going to insist that they take our help.”

He promised to end all early voting: “I will immediately demand voter ID, same-day voting, and only paper ballots.”

He said he would seek immediate trials and executions of drug dealers: “If you get caught dealing drugs, you have an immediate and quick trial. And by the end of the day, you’re executed…. We’re going to be asking everyone who sells drugs, gets caught selling drugs, to receive the death penalty for their heinous acts.”

With GOP megadonors fleeing, former allies distancing themselves and pundits saying he’s finished, it’s easy to underestimate Trump.  Don’t do it. He was elected before and when he lost his re-election he stoked an insurrection in an attempt to stay in power. And now he’s telling you exactly what he intends to do.

Jonathan Bernstein: “As he seeks the nomination, Trump will need to demonstrate that he is the ultimate Republican newsmaker. That pressure is also probably why we have seen him become increasingly extreme in his rhetoric, coming closer to fully endorsing QAnon conspiracy theories and falsely claiming election fraud in the midterms even when the candidates involved responsibly conceded defeat.”

“It might work, at least when it comes to recapturing the support of Republican media and party figures who are afraid to take on the talk-show hosts and cable networks. Fox News did cut away from Trump’s lengthy speech Tuesday evening, but mainly to go to analysts in the studio who  praised the event. Trump might have lost the unconditional backing of Fox News, but he will continue to get airtime as long as viewers tune in.”

“Whatever that says about Trump’s weakness and his capacity to recover from it, the whole episode demonstrates the power of conservative media within the party. But a party that allows ratings to drive political decisions will find it hard to get elected and almost impossible to govern.”

Ben Shapiro slammed the Senate vote to advance the right to same-sex marriage: “If you vote for the idea that society has an obligation to recognize male-male or female-female dyads in the same way that society has to recognize male-female, you should not be in the Republican Party.”

Charlie Sykes: “In theory, that means that at least a dozen Republican Senators — and probably several dozen House Republicans — ought to be excommunicated. And, under the Shapiro Rule, several million Republican-leaning voters also ought to be shown the door, which seems an odd strategy for a political party struggling to figure out how to win elections.”

“But maybe, just maybe, that’s part of the GOP’s problem.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said people “just need to chill out a little bit” about his brewing rivalry with Donald Trump, as the two Republicans jostle in what is widely expected to be a brawl for the GOP’s 2024 presidential nomination, Bloomberg reports.

Said DeSantis: “We just ran an election and we have the Georgia runoff coming, which is very important for Republicans to win.”

“DeSantis has been coy about his own presidential ambitions, especially on the heels of his landslide re-election. Still, he’s sending plenty of signals by attending key Republican gatherings, like the Republican Governors Association’s winter meeting in Orlando on Tuesday and a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas at the end of the week.”

The Economist: “At just 44, Mr DeSantis represents a new generation of populist conservatism, mirroring Mr Trump but without all the broken glass. Some like to compare him to another Ronald (Reagan) for his conservative stances on social issues, but in his public appearances and recent victory speech, Mr DeSantis is trying to portray himself as a Republican version of John F. Kennedy, with a glamorous wife and young family.”

“The presidential comparisons are still premature. There are many questions about what Mr DeSantis stands for rather than against. But he is worth watching, because of the attention he is receiving and what he shows about how the Republican Party may eventually look after Mr Trump, whenever that day comes.”

The Economist: “In the anxious race to develop a Trumpism without Trump, the Republican governor of Virginia, Glenn Youngkin, is at work on a formula that is peculiar, even radical. He wants not just to substitute for the man but to replace the key binding ingredient—anger—with affability.”

“Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, has mastered the Trumpian scowl, which the likes of Ted Cruz, a senator from Texas, are doubtless still practising in the bathroom mirror. But the gangly, even goofy Mr Youngkin seems incapable of being less than ebullient, even at eight o’clock on a recent morning as he bundled his six-foot-seven-inch frame into the back seat of a Chevrolet Suburban, and began joyfully recounting tales of the six years he lived in London.”

Nick Catoggio: “DeSantis will kick back for the next six months and greet every Trump attack with amused silence, I suspect, believing correctly that those attacks do Trump more harm than good. The one-sidedness of the war will contrast how panicked Trump is about the primary with how self-assured DeSantis is. And it will alienate Republican voters who’ll resent seeing Trump take pot shots at a man who isn’t in the race (yet) and hasn’t uttered an unkind word about him (yet). Inevitably ugly rumors about DeSantis will begin to leak into the media and everyone will know where they came from. DeSantis’ admirers will resent that, too.”

“Imagine this going on week after week, month after month, while a smiling DeSantis goes about enacting more base-pleasing conservative policies in Florida, like an abortion ‘heartbeat’ bill.”

Said one Trump confidant to Axios: “The best thing for DeSantis is Trump gets in, DeSantis stays out for a while, and Trump runs a race against himself for the next six months.”

After taking his case all the way to the Supreme Court – and losing – Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is set to testify today before a Georgia grand jury investigating Trump’s 2020 election meddling.

“Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson on Wednesday testified before a Georgia special grand jury investigating efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia,” CNN  reports.

Former Vice President Mike Pence said he would not testify before the House of Representatives panel probing the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol because Congress “has no right to my testimony,” Reuters reports.

A video filmed by a man charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack shows rioters inside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office during the insurrection, NBC News reports.

“The House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, insurrection, is interviewing Robert Engel, the lead agent in former President Donald Trump’s motorcade on the day of the US Capitol attack,” CNN reports.

Politico: “From news media to message-testing to adversary-monitoring, the platform has changed Washington. It won’t be easy to go back.”

President Xi of China was caught on camera at the G20 summit scolding Justin Trudeau of Canada over alleged leaks of their private conversation to the media, the Times of London reports.

Canadian television cameras caught the incident where Xi talked to Trudeau after reports the Canadian leader had questioned him over alleged Chinese interference in his country’s domestic elections.

“For President Joe Biden, an international trip scheduled for just days after the midterm election looked like it would offer an escape hatch, allowing him to jet far away as he faced what many thought would be a crushing verdict from voters,” the AP reports.

“Instead his journey, which included stops in Egypt, Cambodia and Indonesia, turned into an around-the-world victory lap.”

“The Ukrainian government is warning Western allies that it is anticipating increased Russian attacks on its energy infrastructure in the coming days and that Kyiv does not have enough replacement parts to bring heat and power back online if those occur,” Politico reports.

“Ukrainian officials have in recent days asked their American counterparts and more than half a dozen European countries for assistance preparing for a prolonged period with limited electricity and gas — a scenario Kyiv expects to complicate fighting on the ground and displace civilians.”

U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner has been taken to a penal colony in the Russian region of Mordovia, Reuters reports.

CNN: “While President Joe Biden and Democrats campaigned to preserve their congressional majorities, a small team of attorneys, communications strategists and legislative specialists have spent the past few months holed up in Washington preparing for the alternative.”

“The preparations, largely run out of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building near the White House, are among the earliest and most comprehensive by any administration ahead of a midterm election and highlight how far-reaching and aggressive Republican investigations are expected to be.”

“The likely next chairman of the Ways and Means Committee will drop the panel’s long-running effort to obtain former President Donald Trump’s tax returns,” CNBC reports.

“All three Republicans vying for the chairmanship, Reps. Jason Smith, of Missouri, Vern Buchanan, of Florida, and Adrian Smith, of Nebraska, confirmed they would end the legal battle.”

“Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel signaled on Monday that she plans to run for reelection as party chair, which would set her up to lead the RNC through the 2024 presidential election,” Politico reports.

“The announcement came on a Monday call with RNC members, following a disappointing midterm election for Republicans, who had hoped to win control of both chambers of Congress but are instead caught in a post-election blame game. Democrats have maintained their hold on the Senate, and it remains unclear which party will be in the House majority, though the GOP has the inside track.”

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) “is inching closer toward running for chair of the Republican National Committee,” Politico reports.  “Zeldin, whose strong performance in the New York governor’s race last week may have helped the GOP take back the House, is emailing committee members Thursday about his potential bid.”

Wall Street Journal: “Outreach is limited in part because Congress hasn’t approved additional Covid-19 funding, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees Covid-19 response. Health officials and experts say that the recent easing of the pandemic has also played a role in public outreach and messaging.”

New York Times: “While deaths have plummeted since the beginning of the year, about 315 Americans are still dying of Covid on the average day. This year’s toll has so far exceeded 219,000. More than 27,000 Americans with Covid are in hospitals on any given day, and an uncertain number face lingering complications, so-called long Covid. Declines in test positivity and hospitalization are flattening, hinting at a possible reversal.”

“Donald Trump’s longtime finance chief took the witness stand Tuesday at the Trump Organization’s criminal tax fraud trial, making his long-awaited turn as the star prosecution witness after pleading guilty to evading taxes on $1.7 million in company-paid perks, including a Manhattan apartment and luxury cars,” the AP reports.

“Iranian security forces have opened fire on people at a metro station in Tehran and beaten women who were not wearing mandatory hair coverings as protests over the death of Mahsa Amini entered a third month,” The Guardian reports.

“The Taliban has ordered judges in Afghanistan to fully impose their interpretation of Sharia Law, including potential public executions, amputations and flogging, a move experts fear will lead to a further deterioration of human rights in the impoverished country,” CNN reports.

The world’s population is projected to reach 8 billion people sometime tomorrow, according to an estimate by the United Nations.  “While it took the global population 12 years to grow from 7 to 8 billion, it will take approximately 15 years—until 2037— for it to reach 9 billion, a sign that the overall growth rate of the global population is slowing.”

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

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