Delaware

Cup of Joe – January 19, 2023

“With days to go before the United States bumps up against a technical limit on how much debt it can issue, Wall Street analysts and political prognosticators are warning that a perennial source of partisan brinkmanship could finally tip into outright catastrophe in 2023,” the New York Times reports.

“Bank of America analysts wrote in a note to clients this week that a default in late summer or early fall is ‘likely,’ while Goldman Sachs called the possibility that the government would not be able to make good on its bills a ‘greater risk’ than at any time since 2011. When the nation approached the brink in that episode, its credit rating was downgraded and wild market gyrations helped to force lawmakers to blink.”

David Wasserman: “The ‘hope yes, vote no’ dynamic of the Boehner/Ryan era—in which leadership blessed a faction of moderate Republicans to break away and vote with Democrats to increase the debt limit and fund the government—may now take on an even more extreme form. There’s already talk of smaller groups of GOP moderates signing discharge petitions with Democrats to bypass House GOP leaders and force floor votes on critical measures.”

“No matter what, the sharper battle lines between the two ideological ends of the House GOP conference are guaranteed to fuel contentious 2024 primaries—most often in safe GOP open seats, but likely in primaries against McCarthy-allied incumbents as well.”

Playbook: “It’s a posture rooted in hard-won lessons for Democrats. Brinkmanship during Barack Obama’s presidency upended the financial markets and only encouraged more hostage-taking, the thinking goes. But many Republicans took the opposite lesson — the brinkmanship, after all, resulted in significant curbs on federal spending, even though future Congress voted repeatedly to undermine them.”

“With the debt standoff likely to underpin most every interbranch interaction in the coming months, the question we’re pondering is: How do you hammer out a deal when the two sides can’t even agree on whether there will be any hammering?”

Politico: “Concessions over the debt ceiling were a vital part of the deal that McCarthy negotiated with his 20 conservative holdouts to finally attain the speakership. He agreed that the GOP House wouldn’t move to lift the debt ceiling unless Congress slashes at least $130 billion in federal spending next fiscal year or addresses broader fiscal reforms that tackle the ballooning debt, as many Republicans argue it threatens the nation’s economic security and future.”

“As part of his deal to become House speaker, Kevin McCarthy reportedly promised his party’s conservative hardliners a vote on legislation that would scrap the entire American tax code and replace it with a jumbo-sized national sales tax,” Semafor reports.

“The assurance got relatively little attention at the time, drowned out by the many other concessions McCarthy made to win his gavel. But with Democrats already attacking the proposal, some conservatives see it as a political headache in the making.”

Said Grover Norquist: “This is a political gift to Biden and the Democrats. I think that this is the first significant problem created for the Republican Party by the 20 people who thought that there was no downside to the approach they took.”

Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) confirmed to Politico that Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) promised a floor vote on his proposed Fair Tax Act.  The bill abolishes the IRS and streamlines the tax code by replacing income taxes with a national consumption tax.  It was reportedly a key demand of the 20 holdouts McCarthy needed to win over to win the gavel.

That means that McCarthy is willing to make Republicans vote on instituting a new tax — a massive national sales tax. Nothing says “tax hike” better than taxing every single purchase you make.

Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist is apoplectic, telling Semafor: “This is a political gift to Biden and the Democrats. I think that this is the first significant problem created for the Republican Party by the 20 people who thought that there was no downside to the approach they took.”

Of course, President Biden immediately picked up on it this week: “Great idea. It would raise taxes on the middle class by taxing thousands of everyday items from groceries to gas, while cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans. And if I’m not mistaken, what they’ve introduced — it also would totally eliminate the IRS. It feels good, except all going to be sales tax. Go home and tell your moms. They’re going to be really excited about that.”

It’s hard to see how McCarthy follows through on his promise to the hardliners.

In truth, McCarthy will probably bury any serious debate about what his party actually thinks about tax policy.

Because that’s as politically damaging as voting on any new tax.

“The White House is escalating its fight with newly empowered congressional Republicans, with officials Tuesday calling on House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to ‘come clean’ about secretive deals he made with hardline members that helped him eventually land the top job,” Politico reports.

Said White House spokesman Andrew Bates: “An unprecedented tax hike on the middle class and a national abortion ban are just a glimpse of the secret, backroom deals Speaker McCarthy made with extreme MAGA members to end this month’s chaotic elections and claim the gavel. It is well past time for Speaker McCarthy and the ultra MAGA Republican House members to come out of the dark and tell the American people, in-full, what they decided in secret.”

“A failed New Mexico state House candidate visited the homes of local Democratic leaders to vehemently dispute his election loss weeks before he allegedly orchestrated a series of shootings at the residences,” NBC News reports.

The failed GOP candidate accused of plotting shootings at Democratic officials’ homes called himself “the MAGA King” and said he was “researching his options” after he lost his state election by nearly 50 points, Insider reports.

Axios: What we know about the former GOP candidate arrested for shootings at New Mexico Democrats’ homes.

“Scandal-plagued Representative George Santos will receive committee assignments, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said, despite calls from within the New York Republican’s own party to resign,” Bloomberg reports.

 “Two Republican lawmakers who were previously expelled from House committees over their extremist or violent remarks have been given committee assignments again, days after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) won the gavel,” the Washington Post reports. “Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) will be seated on the Homeland Security Committee and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) will be seated on the House Natural Resources Committee.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) congratulated Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) on her new committee assignments, saying she’ll do “amazing work for the people on these key committees she has earned.”

But Greene’s response to Gaetz was ice cold: “Too bad we’re weeks behind after you spent a week only getting motion to vacate from 5 to 1.”

Heather Cox Richardson: “Today the bill for the elevation of Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to House speaker began to come due. McCarthy promised the far-right members of his conference committee seats and far more power in Congress to persuade them to vote for him.”

“Now they are collecting.”

“Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who was removed from committee assignments in the last Congress for her racist and antisemitic conspiracy theories as well as her encouragement of violence against Democrats, has a spot on the Homeland Security Committee. Such spots are usually filled by those with experience in either the military or intelligence, neither of which she has. And security is an odd fit for her: voters in her district tried to get her disqualified from running in 2022 because of her participation in the attempt to overthrow the results of the 2020 election.”

NBC News: What the 21 McCarthy holdouts got in committee assignments.

The White House bashed House Republicans for placing some of their most controversial members on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, accusing the GOP of “handing the keys of oversight” to extremists, The Hill reports.

“The White House strategy to manage the special counsel investigation into President Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents has taken shape,” CNN reports.

“Pledge full cooperation. Attack House Republicans. Don’t engage on the details of an ongoing matter.”

“Most of all, maintain the meticulously planned strategic road map on which Biden planned to act this month long before all but a small handful of White House officials were even aware the handling of classified documents was a problem for anyone other than his predecessor.”

“The Justice Department considered having FBI agents monitor a search by President Biden’s lawyers for classified documents at his homes but decided against it, both to avoid complicating later stages of the investigation and because Mr. Biden’s attorneys had quickly turned over a first batch and were cooperating,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Those deliberations, which haven’t previously been reported, shed new light on how the Biden team’s efforts to cooperate with investigators have thus far helped it avoid more aggressive actions by law enforcement.”

Associated Press: “Among the questions still unanswered by the White House or Biden’s private attorneys: Exactly how many documents were found; whether there may be other documents out there, what was contained in them and why the public wasn’t notified until months after they were discovered.”

NBC News: After criticism for silence, Biden White House takes questions about classified documents.

Philip Bump: “So it is that we enter our second (third? Who can keep track) week of apologists for former president Donald Trump seeking to equate his effort to retain documents sought by the government with a clutch of documents with classification markings found at President Biden’s home and an office he used.”

“Despite the ongoing incomparability of the situations, the relentless, overlapping desires to curry Trump’s favor and to appeal to his loyal followers by echoing his rhetoric has generated a new series of arguments from Republicans, encapsulated over the weekend in a revealing demand…”

“By suggesting that the Trump and Biden situations are the same, though, Comer and Trump’s other allies can feign equivalence and hypocrisy. And given the apparent lack of interest among Trump’s base in a more nuanced, more accurate presentation of the situation, the play works.”

A former roommate of Rep. George Santos (R-NY) told CNN that the embattled congressman used a Jewish-sounding last name to try to raise money for a questionable GoFundMe page.

Said Gregory Morey-Parker: “He would say, ‘Oh well, the Jews will give more if you’re a Jew.’”

Politico: “Weeks into the new Congress, the media circus surrounding the embattled freshman New Yorker has not let up. More than a dozen reporters and photographers are stationed outside his fledgling office whenever the House is in session.”

New York Times: “Mr. Santos’s actions in the House chamber so far this year, his willingness to appear on Mr. Bannon’s podcast and the few public hires he has made to his congressional staff all suggest that his stance in Congress, should he remain for his full two-year term, will be further to the right than the one he adopted on the campaign trail.”

“His appearance on the Bannon podcast, often a platform for election deniers and far-right conspiracy theorists, has revived campaign questions about where the congressman sits on the conservative spectrum.”

Newly obtained documents from the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services show that Rep. George Santos’ (R-NY) mother was not in the World Trade Center during the terrorist attacks on 9/11, as he has claimed, The Forward reports. Santos has said that his mother survived the attacks — including on his campaign website — and that the “ash cloud” caused her death 15 years later, in 2016.

A Brazilian drag queen who was friends with Rep. George Santos (R-NY) when he lived in Brazil told MSNBC that everyone knew him as Anthony — or by his drag name, Kitara. She also shared a photo of him from a 2008 drag show.

Rep. George Santos (R-NY) “claims he has no knowledge of a purported scheme in which he allegedly used a fake animal charity to scam a disabled veteran by raising money for their sick dog’s cancer treatment and then disappearing with the funds,” Semafor reports.“The accusations, detailed in a story on Patch.com that contained alleged text messages and social media exchanges with Santos, are perhaps the darkest turn yet in the Congressman’s story.”

Jonathan Chait: “One of the curious things about the recent revolt by far-right House Republicans is that it was led by some of the party’s Trumpiest figures, yet they were essentially insisting that Congress return to the time before Donald Trump. The Republican-rebel demands — that their leaders stage shutdowns and debt-ceiling threats in the service of bug-eyed hysteria over the budget deficit — ‘harken back to the tea-party era,’ noted Politico.”

“Before the symbol of the right became guys in red hats warning that immigrants and the deep state were destroying the country, it was guys in tricorne hats warning that the stimulus and Obamacare were destroying the country. And now they are back.”

“When Trump won the nomination in 2016, it was widely believed that the Republican Party’s ideological character had changed in some fundamental way. ‘His surprising election marked a replacement of the GOP’s free-market conservatism’ — exemplified by Paul Ryan — ‘with a more populist, big-government conservatism,’ noted budget hawk Brian Riedl a few years ago, bemoaning the ‘final nail in the tea-party coffin.’ Seeing the nails pop out and the coffin spring back open might seem terribly confusing. What happened to the party’s great philosophical evolution?”

If you pay strict attention to what House Freedom Caucus members say they want, you might see why they’re so angry.

Over the last 40 years, the Republican Party has completely failed in its promise to make government smaller.

David Hopkins explains: “There is a simple reason why there aren’t large-scale spending reductions or the permanent closure of multiple federal departments and agencies when Republicans take power: The votes to do it are never there. The public’s fondness for small government in the abstract seldom translates into support for eliminating specific benefits or programs.  Incumbents in competitive seats are understandably reluctant to cut popular services. Moreover, the fact that appropriations legislation is subject to the Senate filibuster ensures that yearly spending bills are always the product of bipartisan compromise in at least one chamber of Congress.”

To overcome this political reality, the Freedom Caucus is now setting up a dangerous showdown over the nation’s debt ceiling in an effort to force spending cuts.  The problem with this argument is that the debt limit doesn’t authorize any new spending. Congress does that with its annual appropriations bills.   What the debt ceiling does is allow the federal government to pay off existing obligations that past Congresses have already passed and funded.

So in the name of “conservatism,” the Freedom Caucus is suggesting the government renege on those promises. That’s hardly conservative.  Of course, these same “conservatives” voted for massive tax cuts during the Trump administration — when the Republicans controlled both the House and Senate — without offsetting them with spending cuts. That’s not conservative either.

As Charlie Sykes writes:  “Indeed, it’s hard to imagine anything less conservative than defaulting on the debt you are obligated to pay and shutting down the government you are entrusted to run.”

There must be a better word to describe them.

“Gov. Kathy Hochul’s embattled nominee to become New York State’s top judge was rejected on Wednesday by a key State Senate panel, escalating a divisive intraparty clash that has roiled the State Capitol,” the New York Times reports.

“Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin — who foiled Democrats’ efforts to pass a voting-rights overhaul by a simple majority — shared a high-five on the stage in Davos as they reaffirmed their opposition to overturning the Senate’s filibuster rule,” Bloomberg reports.

Said Sinema: “Joe and I were not interested in sacrificing that important guardrail. That massive voting-rights bill was not passed through Congress, and then we had a free and fair election all across the country.”

Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) and legislative leaders “want to expand access to abortion — allowing abortions after 24 weeks with a doctor’s approval — and take steps to protect health care providers,” the AP reports.

“The Montana legislature is considering a proposal that would would interpret the state’s constitutional right to privacy to mean that it does not protect the right to an abortion, a move that would echo others in several states to severely restrict or ban abortion,” the AP reports.

“The Manhattan district attorney’s office on Tuesday took a significant step forward in its investigation of Donald Trump, meeting with his former personal lawyer about hush money paid to a porn star who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump,” the New York Times reports.

“The questioning of the lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, offered the clearest sign yet that the district attorney’s office was ramping up its investigation into Mr. Trump’s role in the $130,000 hush money deal. Mr. Cohen has said publicly that Mr. Trump directed him, in the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign, to buy the silence of Stephanie Clifford, the actress known as Stormy Daniels.”

“While the hush money was an impetus for the district attorney’s investigation, which began in 2018, prosecutors had shifted in recent years to a broader examination of Mr. Trump’s business practices. In recent months, however, the prosecutors returned to the payments, seeking to breathe new life into the investigation.”

“U.S. wholesale prices sank 0.5% in December mostly due to cheaper food and gasoline, extending a string of low readings and adding further proof that high inflation is fading,” MarketWatch reports.

Wall Street Journal: “Prices were lower last month for dozens of products including airline tickets, chicken and shoes, providing some modest relief to Americans who faced historically high inflation in 2022.”

Aaron Blake: “The new Republican House majority apparently felt it had to put Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and George Santos (R-NY) on some committees. And in picking which ones, it apparently aimed for (depending on your viewpoint) maximum irony or maximum trolling…”

“The choice for Greene is particularly remarkable given her penchant not just for conspiracy theories, but conspiracy theories specifically involving homeland security. Indeed, her making such claims was cited as among the very reasons for her removal from committees…”

“Santos’s appointment on the Small Business Committee might rival Greene’s installment on Homeland Security in terms of audacity (including because of things we learned just hours after it was announced). While much ink has been spilled on Santos’s lies about his background, perhaps his biggest liabilities moving forward are the questions about his dubious business and financial pursuits.”

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

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