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Cup of Joe – November 29, 2022

Playbook: “First up: government funding, which expires Dec. 16. The verdict is still out on whether a bipartisan full-year appropriations deal is within reach — or whether Congress will just kick the can down the road and pass another continuing resolution into next year.”

“All eyes this week will be on Senate Republicans — and especially GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, who will have to decide whether to help put up the 10 needed GOP votes to clear a 2023 omnibus.”

“It’s a close call. On one hand, Republicans will control the House next year, boosting the party’s bargaining hand. On the other, GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (or whoever wins the speaker’s gavel) will be dealing with a slim, unruly majority — one that might well rally around a government shutdown to signal there’s a new sheriff in town.”

“McConnell has never been fond of shutdowns, and he might decide to clear the decks and spare Republicans one political headache (though he’s likely to punt another, the debt limit, to next year). He also has a crop of allies who are retiring and eager to put their imprint on government policies one last time, including GOP appropriations leader Richard Shelby. Plus there’s Ukraine funding, which many Senate Republicans want to lock in as House conservatives vow to turn off the Kyiv funding spigot.”

Punchbowl News: “The current continuing resolution keeping federal agencies open expires on Dec. 16. We can report that Democratic leaders are already discussing another one-week extension until Dec. 23. But even if they get a one-week CR, we’re not sure they will be able to cobble together a yearlong omnibus by that date, as we told you the other day. Christmas at the Capitol!”

“I don’t lie awake at night worrying about the bad legislation they are going to pass. Because I don’t think they’re going to pass it.”  — Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), quoted by Politico, on the new House Republican majority.

Politico: “Time is now suddenly of the essence for the bipartisan Electoral Count Act overhaul, with Donald Trump announcing another presidential run and House Republican leaders showing zero interest in passing this carefully negotiated package aimed at avoiding another Jan. 6. With Senate floor time already scarce, there’s a growing expectation the text may need to be attached to appropriations or the NDAA.”

The Senate is back Monday for action on the Respect for Marriage Act, which passed a test vote 62-37 before the break. It should pass by Thursday, codifying same-sex marriage protections into federal law. But while this landmark step, with bipartisan support, would have been unfathomable just two decades ago, it may be the easiest part of the lame duck session.

The Senate still has to pass a defense authorization bill by the end of the year, and aims to complete the bipartisan Electoral Count Act reform package as well. And there’s the small matter of keeping the government running after funding expires on December 16.

The House gets back into town on Tuesday afternoon, and will spend the week on a series of uncontroversial measures. The real action there is behind the scenes, where on Wednesday morning, the Pelosi-Hoyer-Clyburn troika that has led House Democrats since 2006 will pass the baton to incoming Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Minority Whip Katherine Clark (D-MA), and Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar (D-CA). Jeffries will be the first Black House party leader in history.

Republicans have already nominated Kevin McCarthy for speaker, but five Republicans have already said publicly that they will not vote for him on the floor in January — which would put McCarthy at least one vote shy of the 218 needed to win. McCarthy will spend the next month trying to win them back and prevent other defections, which could mean cutting deals that would limit his power if he does take the gavel.

McCarthy and other top Republicans face another headache this week in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s dinner with rapper-turned-anti-Semite Ye (née Kanye West) and professional racist Nick Fuentes. Trump has downplayed the event but has not condemned either man’s comments, and GOP leaders have been silent about it. But questions will be hard to avoid once Congress reconvenes.

Things will be much more pleasant for President Biden this week. After a Tuesday trip to Bay City, Michigan, to tout the domestic semiconductor manufacturing bill he signed in August, he’ll spend the rest of the week looking presidential: lighting the National Christmas Tree on Wednesday evening, then hosting French President Emmanuel Macron for the first state dinner of the Biden presidency.

“The protests that erupted against China’s Covid Zero strategy represent one of the most significant challenges to Communist Party rule since the Tiananmen crisis more than 30 years ago. How Xi Jinping responds to it may end up being just as pivotal for the country’s future,” Bloomberg reports.

“From the capital Beijing to the far western outpost of Kashgar, Chinese residents frustrated by lockdowns and mass-testing campaigns have taken to the streets in recent days to urge change. In Shanghai — stricken by a grueling two-month Covid clampdown earlier this year — one crowd called for Xi to step down, defying the risk of a long prison term. Demonstrations ranged from a few people to street rallies of hundreds.”

Yuan Yang: “Beijing could wait out the protests. But on everything else, time is against it. The healthcare system is creaking under the mass testing of millions of people every day, and people’s livelihoods are eroding as the economy stalls. Yet lifting restrictions could lead to more than 1mn Covid deaths, due to the low vaccination rate among the elderly.”

“Authorities eased anti-virus rules in scattered areas but affirmed China’s severe ‘zero- Covid’ strategy Monday after crowds demanded President Xi Jinping resign during protests against controls that confine millions of people to their homes,” the AP reports.

“The government made no comment on the protests or criticism of Xi, the most widespread display of opposition to the ruling Communist Party in decades. There was no official word on how many people were detained after police used pepper spray against protesters in Shanghai and struggled to suppress demonstrations in other cities including Beijing, the capital.”

Wall Street Journal: “Demonstrations occurred throughout the weekend in both Beijing and Shanghai. According to eyewitness accounts, there were also protests in the eastern city of Nanjing and in Wuhan, the original epicenter of the pandemic. Video footage and photos circulating on social media, which The Wall Street Journal wasn’t able to independently verify, suggest protests broke out in several other cities, including Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province.”

Associated Press: “Demonstrators poured into the streets over the weekend in numerous cities including Shanghai and Beijing, chanting slogans and confronting police. A number of university campuses also experienced protests.”

“Chinese protesters have turned to blank sheets of paper to express their anger over Covid-19 restrictions in a rare, widespread outpouring of public dissent that has gone beyond social media to some of China’s streets and top universities,” Reuters reports.

“Images and videos circulated online showed students at universities in cities including Nanjing and Beijing holding up blank sheets of paper in silent protest, a tactic used in part to evade censorship or arrest.”

“Donald Trump repeatedly refused to disavow the outspoken antisemite and white supremacist Nick Fuentes after they spoke over dinner at his Mar-a-Lago resort, rejecting the advice from advisers over fears he might alienate a section of his base,” The Guardian reports.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said former President Donald Trump’s meeting with a white nationalist last week was not “accidental” and that “it shouldn’t happen,” USA Today reports.

Said Hutchinson: “You could have accidental meetings. Things like that happened. This was not an accidental meeting.”

Insider: Trump likes to “wink and nod” at white supremacists.

“Many of Donald Trump’s potential 2024 rivals and some top Republicans have fallen silent on the former president’s dinner with a notorious white supremacist, illustrating the party’s continuing struggle to escape his grasp,” Bloomberg reports.

“Trump’s impromptu dinner with Nick Fuentes at Mar-a-Lago last week has drawn condemnation from only a handful of Republicans, while most sidestepped the matter or said nothing. Those silent so far include Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy, the chamber’s likely next speaker.”

“Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) criticized former President Donald Trump for his dinner with Nick Fuentes, whose unabashed racism and antisemitism has made him the nation’s most prominent white nationalist figure,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

Said Kemp: “Racism, antisemitism and denial of the Holocaust have no place in the Republican Party and are completely un-American.”

“Republican Senate hopeful Herschel Walker, meanwhile, declined comment through an aide.”

The defining political story of the holiday weekend was former President Trump’s dinner at Mar-a-Lago with Kanye West and Nick Fuentes. The coverage was all so predictable and rehearsed, like the coverage of a school shooting: an unsatisfying response to an intractable and recurring problem. The most valuable part of the coverage was the fact that the dinner happened. The dinner was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. The news of the dinner for four at the ex-president’s beachside resort trickled out in bits and pieces, with some initial confusion about who was actually there.

By the Friday after Thanksgiving, Trump World was confirming that the dinner as reported did in fact happen. The attendees: Trump, Ye, Fuentes, and Karen Giorno, a political operative who worked on Trump 2016 campaign in Florida. Who is Nick Fuentes?

The flawed conceit of the coverage is that the dinner reveals something about Trump we didn’t already know. The premise to the coverage: What does dining with Ye and Fuentes say about Trump? Really? That’s an open question?

Trump is the unabashed leader of the far right in America and has been since 2016. While in office, he unleashed a far-right coup attempt from the White House. Before, during and since being president, Trump has fomented racism, anti-Semitism, white supremacy, political violence, extremist groups, and Christian nationalism.

Everything that right-wing extremists have represented in the collective mind for the last 40 years, Trump has personally embodied. The notion that Kanye and Fuentes might somehow rub off on Trump and soil him in the process is to mistake the leader for the followers.

Some of the language and journalistic constructs still in use were outdated five years ago. They’re the equivalent of mass shooting’s “thoughts and prayers.” In this slow-to-get-it way of looking at things, Trump is “embracing” extremists, he’s under- or poorly staffed, he’s the victim of lamentable vetting at Mar-a-Lago. You can spot it easily because it’s the coverage that still openly ponders if this is what Trump truly believes. Please.

Beyond the initial fact of the dinner happening, the coverage quickly devolved into the condemnation game: Would GOPers condemn it? Would they not? Few GOP contenders for 2024 weighed in on the fiasco, but it should be noted that few Republican officials defended him either.

  • Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted a condemnation of anti-Semitism out of the blue without naming Trump or offering any context.
  • RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel condemned “white supremacy, neo-Nazism, hate speech and bigotry” but did not name Trump.
  • The Republican Jewish Coalition condemned West and Fuentes but did not name Trump either.
  • Among the few GOP elected officials to criticize Trump directly: Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) and Rep. James Comer (R-KY).

Condemnation, or lack thereof, from GOPers who have been party to this nightmare has a certain hollowness to it that weighs down the coverage, unless you focus on the comedy. It is comedic to watch Republicans do this dance every time. Even their failure to defend him much this time around is fundamentally amusing.

With the Jan. 6 committee set to expire with the end of this Congress, it’s focused on issuing its final report in the coming days.

As we headed into the Thanksgiving holiday, there was backbiting and recriminations among committee staff over the scope of the final report and what would be left on the cutting room floor.

Former top Trump White House aide Kellyanne Conway is being questioned by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, NBC News reports.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) told Steve Bannon that Donald and Melania Trump are “just sick” that many January 6 rioters have been locked up for their crimes.

She added that Trump said “over and over that he will pardon the Jan. 6 defendants” once he’s back in office.

“Republican leader Kevin McCarthy is in the fight of his political life, grinding through the promises and proposals, cajoling and deal-making necessary to win over reluctant colleagues whose support he needs to become House speaker,” the AP reports.

“Every new commitment from McCarthy can be seen as a potentially strategic move, intended to quell skeptics on his right flank as he reaches for the speaker’s gavel. With a slim House majority in the midterm elections, the GOP leader must solidify his ranks in a sprint for the 218 votes he’ll need when the new Congress convenes — each coming at a cost and with no room for error.”

“As House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy works to lock down the GOP votes he needs to win the speaker’s gavel in January, he’s getting squeezed from the right on a number of fronts. And he can expect to hear a lot of this phrase: ‘corrupt bargain,’” Politico reports.

From a strategy memo: “Democrats should undertake a concerted messaging campaign over the next 5 weeks through January 3rd to brand McCarthy’s struggling campaign to win the speakership as a ‘corrupt bargain’ he is striking with ultra MAGA extremists in the Republican caucus to attain the 218 votes he needs to secure the job.”

“Twitter’s radically reduced anti-propaganda team grappled on Sunday with a flood of nuisance content in China that researchers said was aimed at reducing the flow of news about stunning widespread protests against coronavirus restrictions,” the Washington Post reports.

“Numerous Chinese-language accounts, some dormant for months or years, came to life early Sunday and started spamming the service with links to escort services and other adult offerings alongside city names.”

“The result: For hours, anyone searching for posts from those cities and using the Chinese names for the locations would see pages and pages of useless tweets instead of information about the daring protests as they escalated to include calls for Communist Party leaders to resign.”

“High-profile Republican members of Congress gained tens of thousands of Twitter followers in the first few weeks of Elon Musk’s reign over the social media network, while their Democratic counterparts experienced a decline,” the Washington Post reports.

The World Health Organization announced on Monday that it is renaming monkeypox as mpox due to concerns that the original name could be perceived as racist or stigmatizing, Axios reports.

“Democrats just spent two harrowing years navigating one of the tiniest majorities in House history. Now it’s the GOP’s turn — and things could get even worse,” Politico reports.

“House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and his team are set to take over in January with the kind of margins that vexed Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but lacking the two decades of experience she brought to the task.”

“And the House GOP will have to steer legislation through with as few as four votes to spare while its leaders deal with an emboldened Freedom Caucus, internal finger-pointing over a disappointing midterm cycle, and a looming brawl over a 2024 presidential primary that features Donald Trump back in the mix.”

The United States is still talking to Russia about a deal to free jailed Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan but Moscow has not provided a “serious response” to any of its proposals, Reuters reports.

“Republicans and their longtime corporate allies are going through a messy breakup as companies’ equality and climate goals run headlong into a GOP movement exploiting social and cultural issues to fire up conservatives,” Bloomberg reports.

“The ensuing drama will unfold over the next two years in the US House, where the incoming GOP majority plans to pressure companies on immigration, equality and climate change stances that are now being assailed by key Republicans as ‘woke capitalism.’”

“Half of all state legislatures are on track to have veto-proof majorities, handing the party in power a historic level of control over elections, redistricting, abortion rights, gun laws and other major policies,” Axios reports.

“Supermajorities often boast sweeping power to amend state constitutions and overrule governors. In Wisconsin, where Republicans fell barely short of a supermajority in the midterms, a governor’s veto is the only check standing in the way of a statewide abortion ban.”

“Across the country, openly carrying a gun in public is no longer just an exercise in self-defense — increasingly it is a soapbox for elevating one’s voice and, just as often, quieting someone else’s,” the New York Times reports.

“This month, armed protesters appeared outside an elections center in Phoenix, hurling baseless accusations that the election for governor had been stolen from the Republican, Kari Lake. In October, Proud Boys with guns joined a rally in Nashville where conservative lawmakers spoke against transgender medical treatments for minors.”

“Judge Juan Merchan reprimanded lawyers for the Trump Corporation for filing motions and new exhibits late Sunday night that they want to introduce Monday morning when they question Mazars accountant Donald Bender, telling them he will no longer accept any motions from the attorneys,” CNN reports.

“Defense attorneys had submitted 18 exhibits to the prosecution around midnight.”

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

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