Cup of Joe – January 20, 2023

“The Treasury Department is set to begin taking special measures to keep paying the government’s bills on Thursday as the divided Congress braces for a potentially lengthy and difficult debate over raising the debt ceiling,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“With the federal government about to run up against the debt limit, which Congress set at roughly $31.4 trillion in 2021, the Treasury Department has said it expects to start deploying so-called extraordinary measures. Those accounting maneuvers, which include suspending investments for certain government accounts, will allow the Treasury to keep paying obligations to bondholders, Social Security recipients and others until at least early June.”

New York Times: “Newly empowered Republicans in the House have vowed that they will not raise the borrowing limit again unless President Biden agrees to steep cuts in federal spending. Mr. Biden has said he will not negotiate conditions for a debt-limit increase, arguing that lawmakers should lift the cap with no strings attached to cover spending that previous Congresses authorized.”

 “The House Freedom Caucus captured the world’s attention by holding Kevin McCarthy’s speakership hostage, but in a divided government any five members can team up to block Republican leaders’ plans,” Semafor reports.

“That’s why it’s worth keeping an eye on the relative moderates who are making rumblings of their own. They have the power to stall legislation or to try and get bipartisan bills to the floor through procedural workarounds — if they have the guts.”

“House Republicans spent years ignored or drowned out in a Democratic Congress, but revelations about President Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents handed two of his fiercest critics ammunition to investigate just as they became committee chairmen,” USA Today reports.

“Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio has already drawn the spotlight with rapid-fire questions pelting Democratic witnesses during hearings investigating former President Donald Trump. Now he leads the Judiciary Committee and a special subcommittee created to investigate the Biden administration, where he can set the agenda.”

“Rep. James Comer of Kentucky argued for greater scrutiny of the Biden family’s business dealings even before winning the gavel of the Oversight and Accountability Committee. He and Jordan each pledged aggressive oversight on a variety of subjects even before they were sworn in, after the 2022 midterm election handed control of the chamber to Republicans.”

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY) is demanding documents from the University of Pennsylvania, including visitor logs of individuals who met with Biden at the Penn Biden Center and a list of any Chinese donors to the center or UPenn beginning in 2017, Punchbowl News reports.

Washington Post: “They adopted a strategy of caution and deference, making only limited moves in coordination with federal investigators to determine the number of documents involved, their significance and how they were mishandled.”

“They hoped that would earn the trust of investigators, avoid comparisons with former president Donald Trump, who is under federal criminal investigation for his own mishandling of classified materials, and end the matter quickly; instead, it yielded a political firestorm and repeated accusations of obfuscation, and instead of a speedy resolution, they now face a special counsel probe.”

CNN: Biden’s inner circle thinks documents flap is mostly “DC elite” making “DC noise” as they prepare reelection run.

“Senior House Republicans are moving swiftly to build a case against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas as they strongly weigh launching rare impeachment proceedings against a Cabinet secretary, a plan that could generate sharp backlash from GOP moderates,” Politico reports.

“It’s exceedingly rare for a Cabinet secretary to be impeached, something that has only happened once in US history – when William Belknap, the secretary of war, was impeached by the House before being acquitted by the Senate in 1876. Yet it’s a very real possibility now after Kevin McCarthy – as he was pushing for the votes to win the speakership – called on Mayorkas to resign or face potential impeachment proceedings.”

Playbook: “McCarthy this week rewarded Trump’s most bombastic allies — including some of the members who initially opposed him as speaker — with seats on the high-profile House Oversight Committee, ground zero for the GOP’s investigations of President Biden.”

“The panel’s roster is set to include Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Scott Perry (R-PA), who will join the likes of Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Andy Biggs (R-AZ) — a lineup sure to turn 2154 Rayburn into the Madison Square Garden of heavyweight political brawling.”

“It’s a risky strategy, to say the least.”

Dan Pfeiffer: “Putting these folks on this important committee was certainly part of the many backroom deals McCarthy made to secure the votes to become Speaker. In doing so, he made Joe Biden’s life easier and gave the Democrats an easy retort to the parade of investigations that they hope will trip up the Democrat while he runs for reelection.”

Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) “exploded after losing Ways & Means to a McCarthy ally, fueling anxiety that he could retire out of pique—and that McCarthy’s favor trading has eroded his narrow margin of support,” Puck reports.

“Just how angry was he? Well, a source on the House floor during the vote told me that while McCarthy was gaveling down the votes, Buchanan walked up to McCarthy and said, ‘You fucked me, I know it was you, you whipped against me.’ He then proceeded to chew out McCarthy’s deputy chief of staff for floor operations, John Leganski. It was shocking to see such fury from Buchanan, who’s known for being mild mannered. Indeed, I heard that the tirade was so heated that the Speaker’s security detail stepped in with a light touch.”

“In his decade as a member of Congress, Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) has downplayed the severity of Puerto Rico’s hurricane damage, refused to condemn QAnon, blasted coronavirus vaccine and mask mandates, and spread a baseless conspiracy theory about a Las Vegas mass shooting,” the Washington Post reports.

“But it was Perry’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump that attracted the attention of the Department of Justice, which seized Perry’s cellphone last summer as part of its investigation into the events leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, when a pro-Trump mob overran the U.S. Capitol seeking to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s victory.”

“None of that prevented Perry from being named Tuesday to the powerful House Oversight and Accountability Committee, along with several other of former president Donald Trump’s staunchest and most controversial allies.”

 “The White House is urging congressional Democrats to adopt a populist attack on the new House, tying together several proposals Republicans have floated or voted on so far,” Semafor reports.

“The memo highlights day-one legislation that would rescind money allocated to hire more IRS enforcement. The memo also instructs members to focus on Republicans who have called for entitlement cuts, a tax reform bill backed by some conservatives that would replace income tax with a national sales tax, and the debate around using the strategic petroleum reserve to lower gas prices in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has said she is resigning in a shock announcement, The Guardian reports.

Said Ardern: “I’m leaving, because with such a privileged role comes responsibility. The responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead and also when you are not. I know what this job takes. And I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It’s that simple.”

She added: “I am human, politicians are human. We give all that we can for as long as we can. And then it’s time. And for me, it’s time.”

Donald Trump told former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to “shut the hell up for a while” about China at the start of the Covid-19 outbreak in order to avoid angering the country’s leader, according to a memoir that Pompeo will publish next week, Semafor reports.

“In a new memoir peppered with broadsides at potential rivals in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, Mike Pompeo, the former secretary of state, accuses Nikki Haley of plotting with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump to be named vice-president, even while she served as Donald Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations,” The Guardian reports.

“The Haley story is not the only startling scene in a book which also says Trump had the ‘nutty idea’ that Pompeo could be secretary of state and secretary of defense at the same time.”

Florida has blocked the College Board from testing a pilot Advanced Placement African American Studies curriculum in the state saying the curriculum “is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value,” Rolling Stone reports.

“Despite facing pushback from medical professionals and businesses, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced legislation Tuesday that would make permanent a law to penalize companies that require employees to wear masks or be vaccinated for Covid-19 and added a new ban on medical boards reprimanding doctors for spreading Covid misinformation,” the Miami Herald reports.

Said DeSantis: “This is just nuts that we’re still doing this. We need to be leading on this by making all of these protections permanent in Florida statute as we need to do in the upcoming legislative session.”

New York Times: “The new Democratic power in Michigan comes as the party will also take charge in Maryland, Massachusetts and Minnesota, restoring Democrats’ control of statehouses to a level not seen since 2009, during the first months of Barack Obama’s presidency.”

“Democrats will have a so-called trifecta — control of the governorship and both legislative chambers — in 17 states… That is still fewer than the 22 states where Republicans have full control, but it is a major comeback from a lost decade for state-level Democrats, who were bludgeoned in the 2010 and 2014 midterms and, as recently as 2017, had sole control at only six capitols.”

Key takeaway: “Slightly more people will now live in states with full Democratic control than in those with full Republican control.”

Donald Trump claimed on Truth Social that he collected “hundreds” of “inexpensive folders with various words printed on them” — like “Classified” or “Confidential” — because they were “cool.”

But he claimed that the folders did not contain any documents and that any documents found in them were likely planted by FBI agents who searched Mar-a-Lago.

Murray Waas: “On the eve of Donald Trump’s last day in office as President, Trump sent a memo to his attorney general, and also the directors of National Intelligence and the CIA, directing them to declassify thousands of pages of highly classified government papers pertaining to the FBI’s investigation into the Russian Federation’s covert intervention into the 2016 US presidential election to help elect Trump and defeat Hillary Clinton.”

“But Trump was stymied in his efforts to make the records public, leading the outgoing president to rage to aides that the documents would never see the light of day.”

“Now, sources close to Special Counsel Jack Smith’s investigation tell me that prosecutors have questioned at least three people about whether Trump’s frustrations may have been a motive in Trump taking thousands of pages of classified papers from the White House to Mar-A-Largo, in potential violation of federal law. One of those people was compelled to testify before a federal grand jury.”

“The sources say that prosecutors appear to believe the episode may be central to determining Trump’s intent for his unauthorized removal from the White House of the papers.”

“Newly elected House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have a nearly 25-year age gap and political styles that are described by their colleagues as polar opposites, with one a glad-handing leader and the other a more sphinx-like strategist,” the Washington Post reports.

“But the ability of the two Republican leaders — who associates say have a good, professional but not close relationship — to work together now takes on new significance as several high-stakes fiscal showdowns loom in Congress.”

“McCarthy, who eked out a victory in the speaker’s race earlier this month, faces the challenge of leading a vanishingly small House majority whose far-right members have threatened to default on the nation’s debt obligations in order to enact steep federal spending cuts. McConnell, in the minority in the Democratic-controlled Senate, leads a caucus that is generally more averse to such brinkmanship, raising the possibility that Republicans on opposite ends of the Capitol will find themselves at odds in the coming months.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell “has named Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) as a counselor on his leadership team for the 118th Congress,” Punchbowl News reports.

“The addition of Tillis comes after the North Carolina Republican stood out as a common denominator in the chamber’s bipartisan accomplishments over the past two years. From infrastructure to gun safety to same-sex marriage, Tillis was either the lead Republican or a crucial player in the negotiations.”

“The record-breaking 50-50 split last Congress gave senators such as Tillis a unique opportunity to gain influence in the chamber.”

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) is recovering at home after she and her husband were struck by a car Friday evening “while were they walking across a street in a crosswalk,” CNN reports.

Wall Street Journal: “Multinational companies still want cheap and efficient markets, but they also want safety. That’s why they’re rerouting the pathways of global trade and finance.”

Katelyn Jetelina: “We have more evidence than for any other vaccine or disease in the history of humans that the benefits of Covid-19 vaccines greatly outweigh the risks.”

“The World Economic Forum says billionaire Elon Musk wasn’t on the guest list for the annual meeting of business executives, global leaders and cultural trend-setters in Davos, Switzerland — despite what the Twitter owner claims,” the AP reports.

A federal judge said that a California woman who breached the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection “followed then-President Trump’s instructions” in breaking the law, Axios reports.

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

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