Cup of Joe – January 7, 2023

After a 12th, 13th, 14th, and finally 15th round of voting for Speaker yesterday and early this morning, and after an actual fight on the floor, Kevin McCarthy finally gained enough votes to become Speaker.

McCarthy lost the 14th round after finally convincing the hardcore 6 to vote present to lower the threshold for his to win a majority, but then, in a dramatic scene that led to the fisticuffs, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) changed his vote to no. That lead to a motion to adjourn that was then reversed in favor of a 15th round that McCarthy would eventually win after some sort of final agreement or understanding was reached with Gaetz.

“Even for career-long observers of Congress, Friday night on the House floor was a sight to behold,” Politico reports.

“The chamber descended into chaos when two lawmakers nearly came to fisticuffs — the frustration of four long days of failing to elect a speaker boiling over. And that was just part of the drama.”

“Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) lunged at Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL.) and had to be pulled away by Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC). It happened after Gaetz blocked Kevin McCarthy from clinching the final vote to be elected speaker in the fourteenth round of voting — and after the rabble rouser signaled he was ready to back down and let everyone finally go home.”

“Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s historically long slog to become speaker of the House has made one thing abundantly clear: The United States should brace for the likelihood of a Congress in perpetual disarray for the next two years,” the New York Times reports.

“The recipe for the chaos already existed: A toxic combination of the Republicans’ slim governing majority, an unyielding hard-right flank that disdains the normal operations of government and a candidate for speaker who has repeatedly bowed to that flank in his quest for power.”

“But to see it play out repeatedly on the House floor this week, as Mr. McCarthy tried and failed repeatedly to win the speakership before prevailing, has left little doubt that Congress as an entity would struggle to carry out even its most basic duties in the coming two years, such as funding the government, including the military, or avoiding a catastrophic federal debt default.”

Wall Street Journal: “House Republican infighting plunged Congress into disarray this week. The larger risk is that fractiousness could imperil some basic functions of government in the coming year.”

Wall Street Journal: “Hanging in the balance is the ability of the U.S. government to stay open and pay its debts. Many of Mr. McCarthy’s foes are adamantly opposed to raising the debt ceiling or cutting spending deals with Democrats, and could move to oust him from his job if he tries to do so.”

“Also at risk are other high-profile measures that would require agreement between House Republicans and the Democrats who control the Senate and White House: funding the Pentagon and other agencies, sending aid to Ukraine as it battles an invasion and approving food stamps for low-income people as part of the farm bill, which is typically reauthorized every five years.”

New York Times: “As the Republican leader has made concessions to the far right, he has effectively agreed to give them carte blanche to disrupt the workings of the House — and to hold him hostage to their demands.”

Rolling Stone: “Among the major factors in McCarthy losing over a dozen speakership ballots… was the severity of Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz’s enmity toward the Republican leader. Gaetz’s intense and personal distaste for McCarthy has been an open secret in Washington political circles for years, so much so that Gaetz and McCarthy’s colleagues would argue it isn’t even a ‘secret’ at all.”

“But Gaetz’s hatred curdled into something even more powerful after it was revealed in early 2021 that the MAGA congressman was the target of a federal investigation into the sex trafficking of a minor. (No charges were filed against Gaetz, but his ‘wingman’ Joel Greenberg was sentenced to 11 years in prison.) McCarthy, in Gaetz’s opinion, failed to mount a forceful enough defense on his behalf. According to two sources familiar with the matter, Gaetz has been furious at McCarthy for the perceived lack of support ever since — despite the fact that McCarthy did not strip him of any committee assignments during the probe.”

Earlier Friday, in a move that moved 15 of the 21 holdouts to his side, McCarthy’s team presented an offer in writing, Semafor reports. Said Ralph Norman (R-SC): “It’s changes that we wanted.”

New York Times: “To the endless frustration of McCarthy and his allies, the insurgents’ demands have been heavy on two factors: internal procedural rules meant to expand the power of the far right within the House, and the insurgents’ desire to present themselves as uncompromising foes of Democrats’ agenda. But more than anything else, McCarthy’s most die-hard opponents just seem intent on taking him down.”

Associated Press: “The agreement McCarthy presented to the holdouts from the conservative Freedom Caucus and others center around rules changes they have been seeking for months. Those changes would shrink the power of the speaker’s office and give rank-and-file lawmakers more influence in drafting and passing legislation.”

“Even if McCarthy is able to secure the votes he needs, he will emerge as a weakened speaker, having given away some powers and leaving him constantly under threat of being voted out by his detractors. But he would also be potentially emboldened as a survivor of one of the more brutal fights for the gavel in U.S. history.”

John Harris: “For now, McCarthy has maneuvered himself into a situation where he might face something worse than losing the speakership: Winning it under conditions like these.”

Paul Kane: Has McCarthy given up his House speaker powers before he’s even won?

“The emerging deal Kevin McCarthy is discussing to make him speaker of the House would propose a roughly $75 billion cut in defense spending at a time when the US is intent on backing Ukraine against the Russian invasion and grows more wary of China’s stepped up aggression toward Taiwan,” Bloomberg reports.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) told reporters that he is happy about the framework deal and suggests he could make deal with Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-FL) for speaker now. Said Gaetz: “We’re still negotiating on spending and on the rules, and we’ll see how it goes tonight.”

Grid: “The strategy outlined… went beyond just extracting concessions from House leaders — it amounted to a game plan for the House Freedom Caucus to operate as a third party in a de facto parliamentary system, essentially co-governing the chamber with mainstream Republicans.”

Jonathan Last: “This fight over the speaker’s gavel is exactly what every important vote in the House over the next two years is going to look like. The speaker’s fight is the debt ceiling fight is the budget fight is the Ukraine aid fight.”

“Meaning: One half of the federal legislature will be mostly non-functional for the next two years.”

Jonathan Chait: “Imagine a Republican Speaker — any Republican Speaker — figuring out a ransom that almost the entire caucus could agree on. The intraparty dynamics virtually guarantee that anything a Republican leader could agree to would immediately be seen on the far right as too little.”

“All is to say that even if you think Biden ought to negotiate a debt-ceiling-ransom demand, it’s now a practical impossibility. The only way to accomplish the goal is to separate it from policy altogether. The best way to do that would have been for Democrats to lift the debt ceiling when they still had control of Congress. (Their failure to do so could potentially prove to be the decisively catastrophic choice of the last four years.) The best remaining option is for the Treasury to use its Congressionally inscribed authority to mint coins in denominations it chooses.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) told Fox News that “if Democrats join up to elect a moderate Republican, I will resign from the House of Representatives.” Don’t threaten me with a good time, Matt.

“Several Republican House members fighting to stop Rep. Kevin McCarthy from becoming Speaker of the House met Friday morning at the offices of the Conservative Partnership Institute, an organization run by Mark Meadows and Jim DeMint,” Yahoo News reports.

Jake Sherman: “Meadows and McCarthy have one of the most tortured relationships I’ve ever witnessed in Washington.”

“If this remains the face of the GOP in 2024 we will get pummeled in the Presidential and Congressional elections. We would have won more seats in 2022 but too many feared the extremes in the GOP even before this.” — Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE), quoted by Politico.

New York Times: “The recipe for the chaos already existed: A toxic combination of the Republicans’ slim governing majority, an unyielding hard-right flank that disdains the normal operations of government and a candidate for speaker who has repeatedly bowed to that flank in his quest for power.”

“But to see it play out repeatedly on the House floor this week has left little doubt that Congress as an entity would struggle to carry out even its most basic duties in the coming two years, such as funding the government, including the military, or avoiding a catastrophic federal debt default.”

“Already, the functioning of the House had ground to a halt before it even began, rendering the body essentially useless.”

Aaron Blake: “At some point, McCarthy’s GOP backers need to ask themselves how much they’re willing to entertain this strategy before it goes too far for them. That’s because McCarthy’s concessions could not just negatively impact them and their vision for the House, but it makes it more likely that even a speaker not named McCarthy would have to match them.”

Playbook: “Some members are privately angry that McCarthy is empowering hard-liners with rules changes to the point that they worry it will be difficult, if not impossible, to govern. There’s also concern about policy commitments he’s considering for the far right, including a vote on steep budget cuts that defense hawks will never swallow.”

“It’s the third day of a leaderless House, and Democrats are in no mood to bail Republicans out,” Politico reports. Said Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI): “They’re not desperate enough yet.” She added: “We’re going to need to sit here and stay united while they figure out who they want to be.”

Washington Post: Democrats’ schadenfreude dissolves into exasperation.


“Big Republican donors haven’t been much help in pushing California Rep. Kevin McCarthy over the finish line in his bid to become speaker of the House of Representatives,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The reason: His dissenters don’t need them.”

“About half the Republicans opposing Mr. McCarthy’s bid for House speaker fund their campaigns through small, online contributions instead of counting on major donors and corporate political-action committees, a Wall Street Journal review of Federal Election Commission reports found.”

“After Kevin McCarthy failed to win enough votes to become House speaker on Tuesday, former President Donald Trump held a call with Mr. McCarthy and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, one of the key Republican members of Congress blocking Mr. McCarthy’s bid,” the New York Times reports.

“Mr. Trump’s goal was to break the logjam. But if Mr. Trump had wanted Mr. Perry to quickly flip, it wasn’t to be: The next day, Mr. Perry voted against Mr. McCarthy three more times.”

“Mr. McCarthy’s inability to corral enough votes this week has underscored the limits of Mr. Trump’s political potency inside a party that has not controlled the Senate since 2018, lost the White House in 2020 and failed, so far, to identify the next leader of their narrow majority in the House.”

“The special counsel investigating former President Donald Trump brought on two current and former long-time career prosecutors experienced in handling complex public corruption cases,” Bloomberg reports.

“Special Counsel Jack Smith has tapped Ray Hulser, a veteran prosecutor who previously led the Justice Department’s public integrity section, and hired David Harbach, who previously served as counsel to a Trump adversary, former FBI Director James Comey.”

“The two attorneys have prosecuted some of the most high-profile public corruption targets of both political parties in recent years, including cases against Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and former presidential candidate and Senator John Edwards.”

Bloomberg’s Zoe Tillman has some new reporting on the status of Special Counsel Jack Smith’s investigations, much of it based on anonymous sourcing. Some of the highlights:

“He’s set to make critical decisions about whether to bring charges, possibly in a matter of weeks, according to people familiar with the matter.”

“The special counsel’s office and Justice Department leaders realize that the historic investigations and the potential for politically explosive indictments and trials will collide with the 2024 presidential election calendar as the year goes on, according to people familiar.”

“Investigators are also going through deposition transcripts provided by the now-defunct congressional committee and will have to decide if they want to bring in any of those witnesses for more questioning or to testify before a grand jury. “

“During the nearly nine hours that Congress was under attack on Jan. 6, 2021, the official White House call logs show former President Donald Trump not placing a single phone call,” the Daily Beast reports.

“And while historians may consider the missing call logs a crime of inaccurately memorializing history, it may also actually bolster the expected criminal case against Trump.”

Said professor Chris Edelson: “The first thing one thinks of is the Nixon tapes, the missing 18 minutes. It’s never been resolved.”

“A federal judge has ordered lawyers for former President Donald Trump to give the government the names of the private investigators who searched Mr. Trump’s properties late last year for any remaining classified documents, part of what appeared to be a step by the Justice Department toward questioning the investigators about their efforts,” the New York Times reports.

“The fact that the Justice Department sought a formal order for the investigators’ names suggests an increasing breakdown in trust between prosecutors investigating the documents case and Mr. Trump’s legal team.”

House members gathered at the Capitol to mark the second anniversary of the January 6th riots, CNN reports. Only one Republican member was present: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).

Fitzpatrick to ABC News: “There’s a lot of terrible emotions. A terrible day that we can never let happen again.”

Bloomberg: “The chaos unfolding on the House floor threatens to tarnish the new GOP majority, which voters put back in power less than two years after a mob instigated by Donald Trump fought through police lines to ransack the building and try to stop certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory.”

“Lawmakers allied with Trump who have publicly sympathized with the rioters are at the center of the fiasco over speaker, repeatedly blocking Representative Kevin McCarthy’s bid for the position.”

“Biden on Friday will seize on the anniversary and the drama in the House to draw a contrast between his party and Republicans, holding a White House ceremony to recognize police officers who defended the Capitol and state election officials who endured harassment by Trump supporters in certifying Biden’s 2020 victory.”

Axios: House Democrats connect January 6 to GOP’s speakership fight.

“The labor market continued gradually downshifting at the end of 2022, as higher interest rates started to drag on hiring and previously fast-growing industries run out of steam,” the New York Times reports.

“Employers added 223,000 jobs in December, the Labor Department reported on Friday, about in line with economists’ expectations but lower than the average in recent months. The unemployment rate ticked down to 3.5 percent, back to its low point from before the pandemic.”

“George Santos has spent his first week at the Capitol being chased by the press corps in between speaker voters, and it might be doing him some good. The still-not-a-Congressman from New York told Semafor he’s lost six pounds from walking since arriving in Washington,” Semafor reports.

“The Federal Election Commission has flagged issues with contributions made to embattled Rep.-elect George Santos’ campaign,” CNN reports. “The commission has requested clarification and more information on certain donors and about apparent excessive contributions to Santos’ winning 2022 campaign for his Long Island seat.”

CPAC honcho Matt Schlapp has been credibly accused of groping a male staffer for Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign back in October, the Daily Beast is reporting in a story out last night. Schlapp, through his attorney, is denying the allegation.

“Matt Schlapp of the CPAC grabbed my junk and pummeled it at length, and I’m sitting there thinking what the hell is going on, that this person is literally doing this to me,” the staffer said in a video he recorded shortly after the alleged incident.

The staffer, who remains unnamed in the story, credits the Walker campaign with handling the incident professionally.

In a White House ceremony today, President Biden will award the Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second highest civilian honor, to a dozen familiar figures who defended the Capitol on Jan. 6 or fought off the Big Lie to defend the 2020 election results.

“The estate of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died a day after defending the Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack, sued Donald Trump, alleging that the officer’s death resulted from the former president’s ‘incendiary’ rhetoric and false claims that the 2020 election was stolen,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Politico: “A handful of Republicans who remained in the Jan. 6 committee’s sights throughout its investigation are now leading the effort to deny Kevin McCarthy the speakership — using their power to bring the House to a standstill.”

WaPo: Supporters raise millions to rebrand Jan. 6 rioters as ‘patriots’

The FBI has increased the reward from $100,000 to $500,000 for information that leads to the arrest of the person(s) responsible for placing pipe bombs near RNC and DNC headquarters the day before the Capitol attack. The case remains unsolved.

The biggest investigation in FBI history continues to grow.

“In the two years since a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, prosecutors have secured guilty pleas from more than half the rioters they have charged, helping lead to a 99.8% conviction rate,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Remember, this year I will probably go to federal prison for a while.”— Steve Bannon, when asked his plans for 2023.

Former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonarro was caught on video wandering around a Publix.

“The number of populist leaders around the world has fallen to a 20-year low after a series of victories for progressives and centrists over the past year,” the Guardian reports.

“New Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang offered effusive praise of Americans after stepping down as his nation’s top envoy to Washington, signaling that ties between the world’s biggest economies appear to be warming despite recent tensions over Taiwan,” Bloomberg reports.

British lawmaker Virginia Crosbie, of the Conservative Party, has revealed she wears a stab-proof jacket to meetings with constituents, the HuffPost reports.  Said Crosbie: “I have direct contact with my constituents. Unfortunately, this is one of the things I have to do to ensure that I can actually do the job that I was elected to do.”

Politico: “The Biden administration is grappling with how to respond to new Taliban restrictions on women’s rights in Afghanistan, knowing that punishing the ruling Islamists risks rupturing the limited relationship the United States has with them.”

“The Michigan attorney general said Friday there’s ‘clear evidence’ to pursue charges against pro-Donald Trump Republicans who claimed they were the state’s presidential electors in 2020, despite Democrat Joe Biden’s 154,000-vote victory,” the AP reports.

“Dana Nessel referred the matter to federal prosecutors last year, but no public action has been taken. A year later, she said it’s time for state authorities to step in.”

Detroit Free Press: “The fact Nessel announced her decision on the two-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol is not an accident. She’s repeatedly argued the effort of the so-called ‘fake electors’ in late 2020 was part of a much broader scheme to overturn President Joe Biden’s lawful victory.”

“The Arkansas woman who gave birth to a baby fathered by Hunter Biden has requested that a court change the young girl’s last name to Biden,” the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette reports.

The filing says the Biden family remains “estranged from the child. To the extent this is misconduct or neglect, it can be rectified by changing her last name to Biden so that she may undeniably be known to the world as the child of the defendant and member of the prestigious Biden family.”

Tim O’Brien: “The GOP can’t dump on Democrats by calling for the release of Biden’s tax returns because, lo and behold, he has already done so. Biden has also been subjected to the mandatory Internal Revenue Service audit required of all presidents. Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, was put through that tax review, too. Trump, magically, was not. The House Ways and Means Committee’s report on Trump’s tax returns notes how forcefully officials in his administration tried stymying efforts to release the returns. Perhaps that’s why Trump wasn’t properly audited. Maybe it was just bureaucratic ineptitude. Either way, a robust examination of the lapse is in order.”

“More disclosure from Trump is in order, too – especially since he plans to run for president again in 2024. It’s handy to have returns for the 2015 to 2020 tax years, but there are ample and important financial disclosures still missing from those documents. It’s also vital that Trump’s returns stretching back to the years long before he became president be released as well.”

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) announced that he has prostate cancer but says he has an excellent prognosis and will have surgery in the coming months.

Two men were arrested on federal criminal charges arising from the Christmas Day attacks on four power substations in Washington State.

“In the House Republican Rules package, a provision tucked into its section on the Office of Congressional Ethics would effectively sack most of the Democratic-appointed board members by instituting term limits and make it much harder to hire staff,” Politico reports.

“This could have big implications for ethics cases… like an investigation into Republican members related to Jan. 6, or Rep-elect George Santos.”

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

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