Cup of Joe – January 6, 2023

After 11 rounds of voting, there is no Speaker. In all the votes, Democrat Hakeem Jefferies won 212, Republican Kevin McCarthy won 201, and 21 votes were split among Donald Trump, Byron Donalds, Kevin Hern and Present.

Once again, McCarthy made absolutely no progress, though he did win the motion to adjourn last night 219-213.

A Republican House member told Politico that there are still between 8 and 10 GOP holdouts who won’t be swayed by the latest concessions from Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in the race for speaker.

Punchbowl News reports there’s a written agreement between McCarthy and at least some of his holdouts. CNN reports negotiators are pushing to get McCarthy closer to 218 votes. A source close to McCarthy told Reuters that a deal is on the table, but it will not be enough to take him over the line. The deal could win over 10 to 12 holdouts.

Ten votes would get McCarthy to 210, which is not even as many as Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) has received on every ballot so far, let alone close to the 218 votes needed.

Playbook: “[T]he thinking in McCarthy’s camp was that if they can winnow down his opposition from 20 to a half-dozen or so, the pressure on the remaining holdouts will be so great that enough will cave.”

“However, one McCarthy ally cautioned us that the situation could ‘get worse before it gets better.’ There’s an expectation that McCarthy could actually lose a handful of votes from exasperated members if balloting continues today.”

“Meanwhile, time is running out as some McCarthy backers frustrated by the stalemate eye an exit strategy.”

Punchbowl News: “The demands from Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) and the House Freedom Caucus are very aggressive, although McCarthy and his leadership allies are considering – or have even approved – nearly all of them. That’s a sign of the enormous leverage conservative hardliners have over McCarthy right now…”

“But remember: McCarthy could face a backlash from the rest of the leadership or the broader Republican Conference if he gives away too much. It does Republicans no good down the road if McCarthy becomes speaker yet is unable to govern. So he has to walk a very fine line here. McCarthy needs to convince enough hardline conservatives to back him to become speaker without losing his other supporters.”

Washington Post: “It remained unclear late Wednesday if the concessions could move the holdouts. But moderates have grown irate at the offer, after pledging last month they would never support a rules package that gives one member the power to vacate the speaker.”

Punchbowl News: “Republican insiders say negotiations to choose a speaker will likely drag into next week. Weekend votes are being threatened, but we’re told it’s unlikely.”

An Associated Press photographer snapped a picture of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) reading a recent New Yorker article: “What Kevin McCarthy Will Do to Gain Power.”

Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC) said he would resign from Congress if his group is unsuccessful in their effort to bring about institutional change in the House – which they do not trust Kevin McCarthy to deliver, Fox News reports.

Said Bishop: “We’re going to either see improvement up here the same way we made remarkable improvements in North Carolina in the state legislature, or I’m out.”

He added that over McCarthy’s 14-year tenure in Republican leadership, the would-be speaker has said the same things over and over again about threats facing the country and “every one of them has gotten worse, not better.” 

Rep. Bob Good (R-VA) tells reporters you “never” have to ask again: “I’m never voting for Kevin McCarthy.”

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to CNN: “Well I think what you’ll see today is the same until we finish everything out.”

He added: “I wouldn’t read anything into votes today.”

“I’m confident we will reach a solution otherwise we won’t be successful.”— Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), talking to reporters after a meeting on House rule changes.

Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), a holdout against Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) for speaker who has been in negotiations with him, tweets: “A deal is NOT done. When confidences are betrayed and leaks are directed, it’s even more difficult to trust. Totally unsatisfactory. I will not yield to the status quo.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) told reporters that this all ends either with Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) deciding to “withdraw from the race” or agreeing to a “straitjacket” agreement that fully constrains him as speaker.

Politico: “The McCarthy-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund reached a deal with the conservative Club for Growth, which had initially signaled opposition to a Speaker McCarthy, to stay out of open House primaries for safe Republican seats.”

“In the past, the two groups often found themselves at war with each other, with CLF pouring in millions to back establishment candidates while the Club endorsed those on the far right. In return for that promise, the Club has dropped its opposition to McCarthy.”

It’s worth noting that Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) governed the House for two years with the exact same majority that Republicans have today. The contrast is unbelievably striking. Pelosi not only easily won her vote for Speaker, she passed a tremendous amount of significant legislation.

It was the most productive House in decades.

Regardless of what you think of her personally or her ideology, she was certainly the most skilled legislator since perhaps Lyndon Johnson. Considering the slim majorities she faced over the last two years, she might be the greatest in American history.

But it was the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 that was probably her greatest accomplishment. She had to persuade House Democrats to swallow a Senate bill that many found lacking but could not change due to the Senate budget reconciliation rules. It required navigating the objections of both moderate and progressive Democrats. And she got it done.  It’s laughable to even bring up Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in a discussion about great legislative leaders. But he is trying to secure the votes for the gavel Pelosi held so firmly.

McCarthy is obviously no Nancy Pelosi. In fact, we may never see another like her.

Josh  Marshall: “The spectacle of the last two days is an embarrassment. The House GOP and really the GOP generally has shown itself incapable of governing in the most basic sense. But I’ve heard some suggestions that this is sort of a lo-fi reenactment of the events of two years ago: more chaos, more craziness, more dysfunction. It’s worth pushing back a bit on that appraisal. This is democracy. If anything there is something a bit invigorating about seeing vote after vote where the outcome, immediate or eventual, isn’t at all clear. One vote, followed by various frenzied negotiation, another vote, followed by more.

I’m not being panglossian about this. As I noted above, the GOP is showing itself incapable of governing and what the great majority of Americans want are leaders capable of governing and addressing basic needs of the country and its people. The GOP can’t manage that. Hopefully they will continue to pay the just price for that at the ballot box. But in a democracy there is a way we work through logjams like these. And this is it. Voting. More negotiating and logrolling. More voting.

We’ve seen a literal insurrection in which a violent mob incited by the lame-duck President stormed the Capitol and tried to overturn the result of an election. We’ve seen a different kind of unconstitutional action in which a minority threatens to violate the country’s sovereign debt obligations — an obligation clearly and explicitly made sacrosanct in the federal constitution — to get its way. Those and other recent events are signs of the breakdown of the constitutional order and civic democracy. What’s happening this week isn’t. This is the failure of a party within the proper practices of the democratic order. It’s a distinction we should keep at the forefront of our minds.”

Eric Levitz: “On one level, the chaos that’s presently consuming the GOP is so familiar as to be almost reassuring. Like birdsong announcing the return of spring, the braying of far-right backbenchers heralds a new Republican House majority. The Earth’s cycles remain unbroken, the universe’s laws unchanged.”

“In reality, however, the Republican civil war represents something new. The party’s inability to elect Kevin McCarthy as its Speaker indicates that it is more ungovernable than ever before.”

Jon Ward: “For over a decade, the GOP has been hobbled by a faction that sees getting nothing as better than something, if it cannot get everything it wants. Sometimes this faction has actually wanted nothing.”

“While uniquely embarrassing, the stalemate over the speakership is just the latest in a series of moments of gridlock caused by the party’s right wing.”

Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH), who is backing Kevin McCarthy’s embattled bid for House Speaker and nominated McCarthy on the floor Wednesday, told CNN that the window may be closing.

Said Davidson: “The reality is, there are some people who, in their estimation, there’s no way they’re going to be able to support Kevin McCarthy.”

He added: “I think the number that will never vote for Kevin McCarthy is more than four.”

From a Wall Street Journal editorial: “The problem any GOP leader faces today is that too many Republicans don’t really want to hold and keep political power. They’re much more comfortable in opposition in the minority, which is easier because no hard decisions or compromises are necessary. You can rage against ‘the swamp’ without having to do anything to change it. This is the fundamental and sorry truth behind the Speaker spectacle and the performative GOP politics of recent years.”

“Many House Republicans are furious with a band of far-right rebels who they say are holding the party hostage by repeatedly rejecting its nominee for speaker,” NBC News reports.

“But there’s one thing they’re so far unwilling to do: work with a faction of Democrats to elect a centrist speaker to govern the narrow GOP majority and teach the rabble-rousers a lesson.”

Said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK): “That’s really off the table. I don’t think anybody voted to do that. I don’t think that works very well in any time. I think it’s particularly unsuited to these times. The polarization is too great.”

“That’s mild, mild. There’s not a word. Webster hasn’t come up with a word yet.”— Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR), when asked by CNN if he was “frustrated” by the concessions Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has made to right-wing lawmakers in an attempt to be elected speaker.

“Regardless of who is elected speaker, House Republicans have systematically gutted the power of their leaders — and institutionalized de facto anarchy,” Axios reports.

“Long gone are the days of rank-and-file members pining for money, endorsements or committee assignments from their top leaders. Now, it’s the rank-and-file lawmakers — and outside allies juiced by social media — holding the real power.”

“Kevin McCarthy’s desperate scramble to win the speakership has made things a lot worse for any future leader — thanks to a series of concessions he privately knows are anathema to sane governance.”

Benjy Sarlin thinks “the same divisions roiling the House will also prevent it from mounting a serious debt ceiling fight that extracts major concessions.”

“The party pushing for significant policy changes in shutdown fights or similar standoffs typically starts at a huge political disadvantage already. A divided caucus that limped through the midterms without a clear mandate would start in even worse shape. Maintaining 218 votes on a clear, consistent, and achievable position would be critical to success — and very unlikely, especially after this week’s fiasco.”

“Moderates are already openly contemptuous of the conservatives driving the anti-McCarthy rebellion. It seems harder to imagine them sitting quietly while the same hated colleagues lead a no-compromises charge for, say, a rapidly balanced budget filled with unpopular cuts while the stock market begins to tank. This is especially true since the core of the razor-thin majority — some 18 members — are in vulnerable seats won by Biden.”

“If a speaker can’t credibly promise to deliver 218 votes on a deal without help from the other side, their leverage withers. Faced with similar internal splits, former speakers like John Boehner and Paul Ryan were forced to turn to Democrats to get must-pass bills across the finish line.”

President Vladimir Putin of Russia has ordered his Defense Ministry to implement a short cease-fire along the front line in Ukraine for the Russian Orthodox Christmas, the New York Times reports.

A senior Ukrainian official dismissed the move as “hypocrisy.”

New York Times: “As winter sets in and the one-year anniversary of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine looms next month, Mr. Putin has dropped his earlier efforts to shield the public from the pain of war and is now seeking to prepare Russians, and his own military, for a long fight ahead.”

Jonathan Martin: “The GOP’s Ukraine divide is so resonant because it’s here and now and because it neatly cleaves much of the party’s old and new guard.”

“But it also cuts deeply because it represents a stand-in for the internal party debate that never took place over the Iraq war.”

“Ukrainian missiles struck a building that housed Russian soldiers in an occupied city in Donetsk early on New Year’s Day,“ the New York Times reports. “The Russian Defense Ministry said that 63 service members died in the attack, a toll that would make it one of the deadliest single strikes against Russian forces in Ukraine since the war began.”

Wall Street Journal: “Photos of the site have since spread on Russian social media. Several of the military bloggers said the army had stored ammunition at the same location that triggered a large explosion leveling the building.”

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn gave his assessment of the Ukraine war on Steve Bannon’s podcast.

Said Flynn: “Russia has achieved all of their objectives, and they’re now exposing… bio labs that have been in there sponsored by the U.S. The guy that just showed up to speak to our Congress in a sweatsuit should’ve been thrown out.”

Ron Brownstein: “When President Joe Biden visited Kentucky yesterday to tout a new bridge project, most media attention focused on his embrace of bipartisanship. And indeed Biden, against the backdrop of the GOP chaos in the House of Representatives, signaled how aggressively he would claim that reach-across-the-aisle mantle. He appeared onstage with not only Ohio’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine, but also GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, a perennial bête noire for Democrats.”

“But Biden also touched on another theme that will likely become an even more central component of his economic and political strategy over the next two years: He repeatedly noted how many of the jobs created by his economic agenda are not expected to require a four-year college degree.”

“Economically, this message separates Biden from the past two Democratic presidents, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.”

“President Joe Biden begins 2023 politically stronger than 12 months ago, bolstered by his party’s surprise midterms success, a robust set of legislative accomplishments and the resilience of the alliance he rallied to support Ukraine after Russia’s invasion,” Politico reports.

“Indeed, as he vacations on St. Croix, the biggest decision he faces is whether to seek reelection to the office he holds.”

“There are challenges still on the horizon, from an economy threatening to slow down, to the war in Europe, to an incoming Republican House majority threatening gridlock and investigations. But those in the president’s circle believe there is a strong and growing likelihood that he will run again and that an announcement could potentially come earlier than had been expected, possibly as soon as mid-February, around the expected date of the State of the Union.”

NBC News: Biden to laud economic wins as GOP takes over House.

“In a far-reaching move that could raise wages and increase competition among businesses, the Federal Trade Commission on Thursday unveiled a rule that would block companies from limiting their employees’ ability to work for a rival,” the New York Times reports.

“The proposed rule would ban provisions of labor contracts known as noncompete agreements, which prevent workers from leaving for a competitor or starting a competing business for months or years after their employment, often within a certain geographic area. The agreements have applied to workers as varied as sandwich makers, hair stylists, doctors and software engineers.”

“President Biden on Thursday will announce new immigration restrictions, including the expansion of programs to remove people quickly without letting them seek asylum, in an attempt to address one of his administration’s most politically vulnerable issues at a time when the nation’s attention is focused on Republican disarray in the U.S. House,” the Washington Post reports.

President Joe Biden’s efforts to cancel student debt for millions of Americans “fall comfortably” within the law and enjoy “clear authorization” from Congress, the Justice Department argued in its opening brief defending the policy before the Supreme Court, Politico reports.

The court filing marks the beginning of a high-stakes battle at the court in the coming months over the fate of one of Biden’s major domestic policy programs.

Dan Balz: “The roots run deep that brought House Republicans to this week’s demonstration of chaos and dysfunction. The problems have been building for years. Now they have been exposed for all to see — to see just how broken the GOP has become. The opening two days of the 118th Congress foreshadow turmoil, frustration and a potential breakdown in governing in the coming two years.”

“What has been on display is a perfect storm of misjudgment and anti-institutionalism. The failure of House Republicans to properly assess the political climate (and their own vulnerabilities) in the 2022 midterm elections left them with a narrow majority rather than the ‘red wave’ margin they expected. That empowered the band of rebels, whose sole objective, at least for a handful, appears simply to be to blow up both the party and the Congress for their own gain.”

“Republicans are set to end Capitol Hill’s short-lived experiment with allowing staffers to unionize,” Semafor reports.

“Last year, House Democrats voted to let congressional offices organize and collectively bargain for the first time, despite some nagging logistical questions about how it’d all work. But that measure will be revoked under that rules package the GOP is getting ready to introduce when it takes over this week; none of the offices that voted to unionize last year will be recognized in the new House.”

Ben Sasse: “Civic pluralists understand that ideas move the world more than power does, which is why pluralists value debate and persuasion. We believe America is great because it is good, and America is good because the country is committed to human dignity, even for those with whom we disagree. A continental nation of 330 million souls couldn’t possibly agree on everything, but we can hash out our disagreements in the communities where we live and the institutions we build. The small but important role of government, for the civic pluralist, is a framework for ordered liberty. Government doesn’t give us rights, or meaning, or purpose or permission. It exists to protect us from the whims of mobs and majorities.”

“Political zealots reject this, holding that society starts and ends with power. Government in their view isn’t to protect from the powerful or the popular. More than anything else, zealots—on the right and the left—seek total victory in the public square. They believe that the center of life is government power. They preach jeremiads of victimhood and decline. On the left, they want a powerful bureaucracy. On the right, they want a strongman. But they agree on a central tenet: Americans are too weak to solve problems with persuasion. They need the state to do it.”

“The zealots thrive in the chaos of the current moment…”

TPM alum Alice Ollstein: “The FDA on Tuesday updated a rule allowing brick-and-mortar pharmacies to dispense the abortion pill mifepristone — expanding access to the drug amid a wave of state efforts last year to impose restrictions.”

Alice again: The Justice Department has cleared the U.S. Postal Service to deliver abortion drugs to states that have strict limits on terminating pregnancy, and has offered limited assurances that a federal law addressing the issue won’t be used to prosecute people criminally over such mailings.

Texas Tribune: “Texas teens will now need their parents’ permission to get birth control at federally funded clinics, following a court ruling late last month.”

“The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the state’s six-week abortion ban violates the state’s constitutional right to privacy and is therefore unconstitutional,” the Columbia State reports.

“Various new state laws will go into effect Sunday, with the start of the new year,” Axios reports.  “From minimum wage increases across nearly two dozen states, access to abortion expanded or limited, and the legalization of marijuana and shrooms sales for some, many people will be impacted by a variety of new laws.”

House Republicans plan a new Judiciary Committee panel with the working name “Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government,” Axios reports.  “It’s part of the aggressive posture planned by the GOP, which takes the House majority when the new Congress opens Tuesday.”

Jared Kushner ordered that the incoming Biden administration be excluded from Covid-19 planning in the aftermath of the 2020 election, Insider reports.  Kushner said Biden’s team should “absolutely not” be looped in.

Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) had an uncharacteristically warm Twitter exchange on following the announcement of Raskin’s cancer diagnosis.

USA Today: “GOP members of military oversight committees in Congress are signaling they’ll target the Pentagon over racial curriculum at military academies, efforts to root out extremists from the ranks, and funding for troops’ abortions. The issue could get an increased focus in this Congress.”

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), a former House Ways and Means chairman who has served in Congress for 25 years, said that Rep.-elect George Santos (R-TX) would have “to take some huge steps” to regain trust and respect in his district, the AP reports. Said Brady: “This is troubling in so many ways. Certainly, he’s lied repeatedly. He certainly is going to have to consider resigning.”

“The Biden administration plans to send national security adviser Jake Sullivan to Israel in mid-January for talks with newly sworn-in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his government’s policies,” Axios reports.  “The White House is concerned about the new Israeli government’s policies on Palestine — including plans to expand settlements and legalize outposts in the occupied West Bank.”

Politico: “In interviews, friends and allies of [Supreme Court Justice Elena] Kagan suggest she is at a major crossroads — mulling whether the breakdown in the broader American political scene has rendered her decadelong effort to find compromise and consensus on the nation’s highest court obsolete, while sowing doubts about her future.”

Said a longtime associate: “She’s clearly not very happy.”

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

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