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Cup of Joe – December 10, 2022

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) “is changing her party affiliation to independent, delivering a jolt to Democrats’ narrow majority and Washington along with it,” Politico reports.

Sinema said “that she will not caucus with Republicans and suggested that she intends to vote the same way she has for four years in the Senate.”

“Provided that Sinema sticks to that vow, Democrats will still have a workable Senate majority in the next Congress, though it will not exactly be the neat and tidy 51 seats they assumed. They’re expected to also have the votes to control Senate committees.”

Punchbowl News: “Sinema’s decision leaves Democrats in charge of the Senate but by a less comfortable margin than they hoped. Of course, Sinema more frequently sides with Democrats including on key nominations. But her leaving the Democratic Party gives Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) outsized sway once again.”

Sinema explains her switch in a video and in the Arizona Republic.

But it makes one wonder: Is Joe Manchin next to leave the Democrats?

In an interview before Sinema’s announcement broke, Manchin threw cold water on the idea that he would run for president in 2024, telling Semafor: “I don’t know where I would fit, I don’t fit in either party, I’ll be honest with you.”

He added: “I’m just strictly an independent and I’ve always been that and I think the people in the Democratic Party know that, some tolerate and some don’t like it. The Republican Party, they want me to change over, I said you won’t be any happier with me. Because I don’t like a lot of things you all do.”

Like Sinema, Manchin is up for re-election in 2024.  It’s not inconceivable that he might decide his best chance to win is to become an independent — especially since Democrats haven’t found the votes for the side deal they promised him when he helped pass the Inflation Reduction Act.

The challenge for Democrats will be to keep both in their caucus — regardless of their political affiliation.

Deeply unpopular in Arizona, Sinema faced a potential primary challenge in 2024, with Rep. Reuben Gallego (D-AZ) regularly nipping at her heels. She declined to discuss whether she would seek re-election.

“The leading progressive digital firm Authentic has dropped Kyrsten Sinema as a client, after the Arizona senator announced she was leaving the Democratic Party,” Politico reports.

Washington Post: “The first thing to note is that it remains unclear whether Sinema will continue to caucus with Democrats, as two other independents in the Senate do. The Arizona Republic reports that she plans to, but other reports leave it ambiguous, merely noting that she won’t caucus with Republicans and that she expects to keep her committee assignments with the majority Democrats.”

“All of it suggests Sinema has left it deliberately ambiguous. Asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper whether her move would change the balance of power in the Senate, she responded, ‘that’s kind of a D.C. thing to worry about.’”

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) on Friday announced he will let Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) keep her Senate committee assignments after she dropped her affiliation with the Democratic Party and said she would identify as an independent, The Hill reports.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) told Politico that she doesn’t plan to caucus with the Republicans after leaving the Democratic party. Said Sinema: “I don’t anticipate that anything will change about the Senate structure. I intend to show up to work, do the same work that I always do. I just intend to show up to work as an independent.”

However, unlike independent Sens. Bernie Sanders and Angus King, “she won’t attend weekly Democratic Caucus meetings, but she rarely does that now. She isn’t sure whether her desk will remain on the Democratic side of the Senate floor.”

“The White House on Friday downplayed Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s decision to leave the Democratic Party as unlikely to affect the Biden administration’s relationship with the Arizona centrist,” Politico reports.

Said a statement: “Sen. Sinema has been a key partner on some of the historic legislation President Biden has championed over the last 20 months. We have every reason to expect that we will continue to work successfully with her.”

Dan Pfeiffer: “Notably, Sinema has not yet announced a run for reelection, but if she does, she will do so as an Independent and avoid a Democratic Primary altogether. Democrats would be in a very difficult position. They could either support an Independent who mostly agrees with them and votes for a Democratic majority or run their own candidate, possibly split the anti-MAGA majority and hand the seat to a Republican.”

“Recent elections and the partisan makeup of Arizona suggest Sinema might be right. According to the exit polls, Mark Kelly won reelection with the support of nine percent of Republican voters and 55 percent of Independents. In a three-way race between a Democrat, Sinema, and a Republican, the GOPer would be a strong favorite to win.”

“All in all, a strategic move for her, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying. In other words, totally on brand for Kyrsten Sinema.”

“The House passed legislation Thursday that enshrines federal protections for marriages of same-sex and interracial couples,” NBC News reports.

“The vote of 258-169 sends the Respect for Marriage Act to President Joe Biden, who has championed the bill and is expected to sign it into law. It comes after the Senate passed the same bill last week by a vote of 61-36.”

Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) cried on the House floor as lawmakers moved to pass a historic bill codifying protections for same-sex and interracial marriages.

Said Hartzler: “This is yet another step toward the Democrats’ goal of dismantling the traditional family, silencing voices of faith and permanently undoing our country’s God-woven foundation. I hope and pray that my colleagues will find the courage to join me in opposing this misguided and dangerous bill.”

Detained American Paul Whelan told CNN he is “disappointed” the Biden administration has not done more to secure his release, meaning he’s been left behind in Russia after fellow detained American Brittney Griner was freed on Thursday.

Said Whelan: “I am greatly disappointed that more has not been done to secure my release, especially as the four year anniversary of my arrest is coming up. I was arrested for a crime that never occurred. I don’t understand why I’m still sitting here.”

CBS  News reports it learned about the prisoner swap agreement with Russia to release Brittney Griner a week ago, but agreed to delay publication given the danger that it could fall apart.

“The Biden administration officials warned that making details of the swap public beforehand would almost certainly lead Russia to pull out of the agreement and potentially endanger Griner’s well-being.”

Politico: How Biden chose to bring Griner home and leave Whelan in Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday more U.S.-Russian prisoner swaps may occur if the two countries can continue to reach compromises, Axios reports.

Russia is now providing an “unprecedented level” of military and technical support to Iran in exchange for Tehran supplying weapons for the war in Ukraine, NBC News reports.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) may face the first multiple-ballot vote for speaker of the House since 1923.

FiveThirtyEight has a good look at how Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) could lose his bid to become Speaker of the House. “Six Republicans have already come out against him, and several others share their very conservative, anti-establishment views.”

McCarthy met with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), one of McCarthy’s top critics in his bid for House Speaker, Punchbowl News reports. After the meeting, Gaetz reiterated that he was still opposed to McCarthy’s candidacy.

CNN: “With the increasing likelihood that the speaker’s race could go to multiple ballots – something that hasn’t happened since 1923 – McCarthy’s allies and foes alike are starting to quietly game out the next steps if he can’t get the necessary 218 votes on the first round and they move into uncharted territory.”

“McCarthy’s supporters are vowing to keep voting for him on multiple ballots, and GOP sources said there are early discussions about a floor strategy for that potential scenario, including whether to recess the House or let the votes keep rolling – no matter how long it takes.”

“Last night, seven members of the House Freedom Caucus circulated a Dear Colleague letter dictating their requirements for any candidate for speaker in yet the latest sign that House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy has some serious negotiating to do before he wins the gavel,” Politico reports.

Key among their demands is to reinstate the “motion to vacate” — basically, allowing any member of the House to force a vote to oust the sitting speaker.
“The seven members on the letter are completely separate from the five other conservatives who have voiced their intention to vote against McCarthy regardless of what assurances he makes.”

Charlie Sykes: “Trump is seldom careful about who he offends — tossing out jibes, insults, and threats with reckless abandon. He is more than willing to lash out at cultural elites and the people he calls ‘disloyal Jews’ who support Democrats. But Trump has been consistent in his reluctance to offend what he regards as a crucial part of the base that he has nurtured over the years.”

“He is unapologetic about associating with overt neo-Nazis, and unwilling to issue full-throated denunciations of antisemitism. Trump is willing to draw this barrage of opprobrium for one simple reason: He believes that he has tapped into something in the American electorate, especially among evangelical Christians, who have ingrained — but complicated — attitudes toward Israel and Jews.”

“And these are his people.”

Susan Glasser: “The fact that he actually put his objections to the Constitution in writing is a classically Trumpian flourish—one that seems more likely to be used against him in a court of law than to win him any support.”

“Republicans are facing a reckoning over their future after their poor performance in the midterms — and the debate isrunning hot inside the main hub of the GOP,” Politico reports. “In a series of private email threads… a handful of Republican National Committee members denounced former President Donald Trump, with one pushing for fellow members and RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel to forcefully condemn his decision to host a pre-Thanksgiving dinner with antisemites.”

“The emails, which were sent to all 168 committee members’ email addresses, offer a rare glimpse at the agitation that is roiling among some in the Republican National Committee at a moment of intense scrutiny of the institution and the party it represents.”

When Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) was asked if he would support Donald Trump in 2024, the senator didn’t miss a beat: “Absolutely not.”  He added: “Look, I voted to remove him from office — twice.”  More: “It’s not just because he loses. It’s also he’s simply not a person who ought to have the reins of the government of the United States.”

The Economist: “In keeping with its flawed recent handling of the virus, the answer is surely that it does not. The official tally of cases is falling, but that is probably because people are being tested less often. Not long ago the aim was to suppress every infection chain. Today social media suggest that an alarming and rapidly growing number of Chinese people know someone who has caught the disease.”

“If the virus is indeed spreading, watch out. Once Omicron gets going, it burns through a population like a forest fire. It may now move especially fast in China, because the virus spreads more easily during winter.”

“Donald Trump does not plan to appeal to the Supreme Court a lower court order that put an end to the special master review of documents seized from his Mar-a-Lago estate,” CNN reports.

Politico: “Trump had a week to contest the issue before the full bench of the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals or at the Supreme Court, but he did not. The appeals court formalized its ruling Thursday afternoon ending the so-called special master process a lower judge established in September.”

“Prosecutors have urged a federal judge to hold Donald Trump’s office in contempt of court for failing to fully comply with a May subpoena to return all classified documents in his possession — a sign of how contentious the private talks have become over whether the former president still holds any secret papers,” the Washington Post reports.

“The request came after months of mounting frustration from the Justice Department with Trump’s team — frustration that spiked in June after the former president’s lawyers provided assurances that a diligent search had been conducted for classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago Club and residence. But the FBI amassed evidence suggesting — and later confirmed through a court-authorized search — that many more remained.”

“One of the key areas of disagreement centers on the Trump legal team’s repeated refusal to designate a custodian of records to sign a document attesting that all classified materials have been returned to the federal government.”

A hearing is reportedly scheduled for today. All of this is happening in secret because it is associated with a grand jury investigation that Howell is presiding over. It’s not clear if or when the judge’s ruling on the contempt issue will become public or what form it might take.

The January 6 Committee will release its list of criminal referrals alongside its final report on Dec. 21, The Hill reports. The panel is meeting this Sunday to hash out what referrals it may make to the Department of Justice.

“The House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, insurrection is considering criminal referrals for at least four individuals in addition to former President Donald Trump,“ CNN reports.

“The panel is weighing criminal referrals for former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, right wing lawyer John Eastman, former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark and Trump’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani.”

“Supporters of Pedro Castillo as president of Peru clashed with riot police last night, hours after he tried to dissolve his country’s elected parliament to rule by decree,” the Times of London reports.

“The maverick left-wing leader was detained by police in Lima after what some reports suggested was an abortive attempt to reach the Mexican embassy and request asylum. His escape was foiled by the capital city’s notorious traffic jams, local media claimed.”

“Peru’s former President Pedro Castillo faced a first court hearing on Thursday over his arrest on charges of rebellion and conspiracy, as his successor issued her first pronouncements from the presidential palace,” Reuters reports.

“More people died and more Americans lost trust in their institutions as a result of the federal government’s decisions made in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a newly released investigative report from the Democratic staff of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs,” ABC News reports.

“The committee’s majority staff said they endeavored to unpack why, from early on, the federal government appeared unprepared to address the pandemic — and why the Trump administration failed to adequately respond, while exerting partisan influence to exploit public health messaging as a political football.”

“Rupert Murdoch, the 91-year-old chairman of Fox News parent company Fox Corp, will be forced to answer questions under oath next week about his network’s coverage of the 2020 presidential election,” the Washington Post reports.

“Murdoch will be deposed on the mornings of Dec. 13 and Dec. 14 as part of election technology company Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News… The lawsuit alleges that the network purposely aired false claims about Dominion’s role in the 2020 presidential election to boost ratings and fight off competition from more-conservative-leaning television networks.”

Michelle Obama writes in her new book that she “overcame a teleprompter mishap during her first major live televised speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention,” Insider reports.

Write Obama: “I was standing there on live television, knowing I was supposed to speak for 16 minutes straight. There was no pausing the show or calling for help. For a second, I felt wildly alone — and also wildly exposed.”

“Luckily, Obama was prepared. She had spent weeks rehearsing the speech until she had it completely memorized.”

Associated Press on the White House meeting with State legislators: “The aim is to give state lawmakers a to-do list for the upcoming legislative session, though meeting those goals will be nearly impossible in states where Republicans are in control.”

“The meetings come as Democrats are increasingly focused on making inroads in state governments in part through better alignment on top issues, a political tactic that helped the GOP secure leadership in 23 states.”

The House Ethics committee ordered Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) “to pay more than $15,000 for violating conflict of interest rules by publicly promoting a cryptocurrency he owned and for failing to promptly disclose crypto transactions,” CNBC reports.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is being investigated by the House Ethics Committee for an unknown matter, Insider reports.

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

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