Philip Bump: “To balance the budget without increasing revenue — mostly meaning taxes — you’d need to trim the federal budget by 26 percent over the next decade. If you exclude defense or veterans programs from cuts, you need to eliminate a third of what’s left. Take out Social Security and Medicare, too, and suddenly you have to cut basically everything.”
Jonathan Bernstein: “When it comes to the debt ceiling, President Joe Biden is right not to negotiate with House Republicans, whose strategy is to take hostages first and decide the ransom later. But their confusion also demonstrates why his decision doesn’t go far enough.”
“What Biden needs to do — now, not the day before the US is expected to default — is take action. Specifically, he should instruct Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to resume normal payments. Yellen has already notified Congress that the government has been taking extraordinary measures to prevent a breach of the debt limit, such as altering payments to government-run funds for retirees, and that she can continue to do so for several months.”
“If Biden is not willing to order the Treasury to return to business as usual, he should make it very clear to Republicans that the only choices are a debt-limit increase or a government default.”
Rich Lowry: “George W. Bush’s compassionate conservatism was an implicit rebuke of Newt Gingrich’s bomb-throwing majorities that tried to balance the budget at all costs. Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again populism was a rejection of Paul Ryan’s debt-obsessed majority that hoped to move the goal posts on entitlement reform.”
“The problem is that Ryan was right about the substance and Trump is right about the politics, and that dilemma is why the country’s debt-to-gross-domestic-product ratio is nearly 100% and is projected to keep climbing…”
House Budget Chair Jodey Arrington (R-TX) told Punchbowl News that the U.S. Constitution requires the country to keep paying its bondholders even if the U.S. breaches the debt ceiling, thanks to a clause in the 14th amendment that says the federal debt “shall not be questioned.”
That would mean the government would need to prioritize interest payments to bondholders over other spending.
“Video released publicly Friday shows the husband of former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi fighting for control of a hammer with his assailant during a brutal attack in the couple’s San Francisco home last year,” the AP reports.
Politico: “The break-in and attack stunned San Francisco and reverberated through national politics, punctuating a torrent of violent rhetoric directed at Nancy Pelosi and other elected officials.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence said Friday that he had been previously unaware classified documents were at his Indiana home but that “mistakes were made” and he takes full responsibility, CNN reports.
Vice News: “Experts and sources describe the classification process as messy and cumbersome, with far too much information needlessly marked classified. And they complain that when the handful of people at the top of the government mishandle classified information, they’re treated very differently than the (literal) millions of other people with security clearances would be treated if they accidentally misplaced classified material.”
Said one State Department official: “It’s a ridiculous system that’s not fit for purpose anymore.”
“Every source Vice News talked to said that there was a clear distinction between Biden’s and Pence’s situations and Trump’s. Biden and Pence’s teams made apparently honest and minor mistakes with a handful of documents and sought to rectify them once they discovered the documents; Trump acted with willful disregard of the law, lied to the Justice Department about what he had, and attempted to keep much higher-level classified documents that seemingly contained actual state secrets at his Mar-a-Lago estate.”
Los Angeles Times: The lesson from Pence’s (and Biden’s) closets: The government classifies way too many things.
David Axelrod: “Crisis communications, at its core, is pretty simple: Discern where the story is going. Fully disclose the facts. Admit where mistakes were made. And do it all as quickly and thoroughly as possible.”
“So it’s been a little confounding to watch Joe Biden’s White House deal with the discovery of classified documents from his years as vice president and in the Senate casually stored in a variety of locations, including his garage in Wilmington, Delaware, beside his prized 1967 Corvette.”
Rep. George Santos’ (R-NY) campaign briefly reported making 1,200 small payments that totalled $254,000 to “anonymous” but then amended its filing to remove them, the Washington Post reports.
Santos’ campaign committee “is facing new questions from federal regulators after submitting paperwork listing a new treasurer who says he never took the job,” the AP reports. “The Federal Election Commission sent a letter Thursday to the Devolder Santos for Congress campaign seeking clarity on the switch. It’s the latest scrutiny for the New York congressman who has been caught fabricating many elements of his life story.”
“A Republican technology firm says it is asking Rep. George Santos (R-NY) to correct yet another apparent error on his campaign spending records,” NBC News reports.
“Santos reported paying WinRed more than $206,000 to process donations to his 2022 campaign, records show. But that amount doesn’t match up with how much money Santos actually raised.”
“A Republican fundraising platform, WinRed charges candidates a 3.94% fee for contributions made online by credit card. At that rate, Santos would have had to have raised more than $5.2 million through WinRed to warrant a $206,000 payment to the firm.”
The Albany Times Union editorial board urged Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) to call out Rep. George Santos (R-NY) for his lies.
“The prospect that Mr. Santos will contribute anything useful to either panel is about as poor as the odds that he will become a brain surgeon by spring. (Then again, he might claim to be one.)”
“Now is the time for Ms. Stefanik — a frequent social-media scourge of any politician accused of wrongdoing who is not a member of her party — to show some of the integrity displayed by her state GOP colleagues.”
“To my knowledge, hardly any of the New York members speak with him. There’s really nothing to speak about. He’s a totally untrustworthy individual who has broken the public’s trust… He’s become an embarrassment. He’s become a joke.”— Rep. Nick LaLota (R-NY), quoted by Politico, on Rep. George Santos (R-NY).
“Donald Trump, whose first impeachment was linked to his dealings with Ukraine, on Thursday appeared to criticize the US and Germany over their recent decisions to provide battle tanks to Kyiv at a time when Russia is expected to launch another major offensive. Trump suggested offering tanks to Ukraine would lead to the use of nuclear weapons,” Yahoo News reports.
“Meanwhile, Trump said it would be ‘easy’ to end the war, without providing any suggestions on how this would be accomplished.”
“Nearly a year into an invasion that was supposed to take weeks, Vladimir Putin is preparing a new offensive in Ukraine, at the same time steeling his country for a conflict with the US and its allies that he expects to last for years,” Bloomberg reports.
“The Kremlin aims to demonstrate that its forces can regain the initiative after months of losing ground, putting pressure on Kyiv and its backers to agree to some kind of truce that leaves Russia in control of the territory it now occupies, according to officials, advisers and others familiar with the situation.”
Mikhail Zygar: “President Vladimir Putin of Russia, it seems, has finally noticed that the war in Ukraine created a dangerous competitor to his power: Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the private military company, the Wagner group, whose troops fight alongside the Russian Army.”
“Depending on your point of view, Mr. Prigozhin could be considered either the person of the year or the villain of the year. Mr. Putin is, according to many sources in Moscow, confident that he can weaken Mr. Prigozhin, who has clashed with the military’s general staff. However, the effect could be the opposite, with more people seeing Mr. Prigozhin as the most probable favorite to succeed Mr. Putin.”
“Donald Trump is unveiling a 2024 education policy plan, one focusing heavily on the culture war components that have animated conservatives,” Politico reports.
The plan calls for cutting federal funding for any school or program that includes “critical race theory, gender ideology, or other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content onto our children.”
It also calls for opening “civil rights investigations into any school district that has engaged in race-based discrimination,” particularly against Asian American students, and promises to “keep men out of women’s sports.”
Rolling Stone: “In that moment, he became the ninth of 13 people executed in the final six months of the Trump administration — more federal executions than in the previous 10 administrations combined. Of the 13, six were put to death after Trump lost the election, his Justice Department accelerating the schedule to ensure they would die before the incoming administration could intercede. Before Trump, there had been only three federal executions since 1963; in January 2021, Trump oversaw three executions during a single four-day stretch.”
“Two years before that stretch, Trump had signed perhaps the lone broadly popular major initiative of his presidency: a bipartisan criminal-justice reform bill. By 2020, however, his political calculus had changed. As he geared up for another election, Trump White House sources say, the president was telling advisers that carrying out capital punishment would insulate him from criticism that he was soft on crime. And in his attorney general, Bill Barr, a longtime death-penalty advocate, he had the perfect accomplice.”
New York Times: “Ads from major brands are nonexistent on the site. Instead, the ads on Truth Social are for alternative medicine, diet pills, gun accessories and Trump-themed trinkets, according to an analysis of hundreds of ads on the social network by The New York Times.”
“The ads reflect the difficulty that several far-right platforms, including Rumble and Gab, have faced in courting large brands, preventing the sites from tapping into some of the world’s largest ad budgets. It could be particularly problematic for Truth Social. Although the site has gained influence among the far right, becoming a vibrant ecosystem brimming with activity, its business is in need of cash.”
“After relentlessly crying for Congress to intervene because DirecTV dumped it, pro-Trump channel Newsmax has received a promise from a top Republican to hold congressional hearings on the matter,” the Daily Beast reports.
“Newsmax, which had been with DirecTV since the channel’s launch in 2014, was dropped by the pay-TV carrier this week after demanding license fees in a new deal. DirecTV balked at the request, noting that the network provided it on-air content for free on several different platforms and its own app.”
Florida Politics: “Republican leadership of the Florida House has posted flyers throughout the Capitol showing what to wear — and perhaps more strikingly, what not to wear.”
“The flyer breaks down a dress code for three different scenarios — when in the chamber, when Members are in the building, and when Members are not in the building. The required attire is, not surprisingly, most formal when in the House chamber.”
“What sticks out though, is the requirement that women never show their shoulders when House Members are present in the building, whether in the chamber or not.”
“Justice Brett Kavanaugh said the Supreme Court is not as divided as members of the public might think, praising his liberal colleagues and highlighting rulings in which the justices were not divided on ideological lines during a recent public appearance,” NBC News reports.
“The Supreme Court did not disclose its longstanding financial ties with former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff even as it touted him as an expert who independently validated its investigation into who leaked the draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade,” CNN reports.
“The court’s inquiry, released last week with Chertoff’s endorsement, failed to identify who was responsible for the unprecedented leak. The decision to keep the relationship with Chertoff quiet is a reflection of a pattern of opacity at the nation’s highest court, whose rulings affect every American.”
“The Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge eased further in December, and consumer spending fell — the latest evidence that the Fed’s series of interest rate hikes are slowing the economy,” the AP reports.
“Friday’s report from the Commerce Department showed that prices rose 5% last month from a year earlier, down from a 5.5% year-over-year increase in November. It was the third straight drop.”
“The U.S. economy finished 2022 in solid shape even as questions persist over whether growth will turn negative in the year ahead,” CNBC reports.
“Fourth-quarter gross domestic product, the sum of all goods and services produced for the October-to-December period, rose at a 2.9% annualized pace.”
Politico: Biden’s economy dodges recession.
“Days before then-President Donald Trump left the White House, federal prosecutors in New York discussed whether to potentially charge Trump with campaign finance crimes once he was out of office, according to a new book from CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig,” CNN reports.
“Prosecutors from the Southern District of New York developed significant evidence against Trump when they charged his former attorney Michael Cohen in 2018 over a hush money scheme paying two women claiming affairs with Trump, including adult film star Stormy Daniels, Honig writes. But prosecutors did not consider charging Trump at the time because of longstanding Justice Department guidance that a sitting president cannot be indicted.”
“With Trump about to leave office in January 2021, however, Audrey Strauss, the acting US attorney, held multiple discussions with a small group of prosecutors to discuss its evidence against Trump. They decided to not seek an indictment Trump for several reasons, Honig writes, including the political ramifications and the fact that Trump’s other scandals, such as efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and the January 6, 2021, insurrection, ‘made the campaign finance violations seem somehow trivial and outdated by comparison.’”
“Over the past three years, Republican state lawmakers have put forward a barrage of bills to regulate the lives of transgender youths, restricting the sports teams they can play on, bathrooms they can use and medical care they can receive,” the New York Times reports.
“But even by those standards, the start of the 2023 legislative season stands out for the aggressiveness with which lawmakers are pushing into new territory.”
“The bills they have proposed — more than 150 in at least 25 states — include bans on transition care into young adulthood; restrictions on drag shows using definitions that could broadly encompass performances by transgender people; measures that would prevent teachers in many cases from using names or pronouns matching students’ gender identities; and requirements that schools out transgender students to their parents.”
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) told lawmakers late Monday he wants to work with them to make Alaska “the most pro-life state in the country,” with policies supporting families and making the state an affordable and a desirable place to live, Fox News reports.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R) push for a 15-week abortion ban died late Wednesday evening when a state Senate subcommittee blocked the ban along with two other restrictions, the HuffPost reports.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R), along with the state’s Republican attorney general, said the state will prosecute pharmacists who dispense abortion-inducing pills following a recent FDA rule change that broadens access to the pills, the AP reports. The FDA earlier this month formally updated labeling for abortion pills to allow many more retail pharmacies to dispense them.
Benjamin Wittes: “It is rare for a government body to show its work to the extent that the committee has. Normally, footnotes in an investigative report point to interviews readers can’t access. They refer to grand jury transcripts, internal memorandums of interviews and other materials the reader cannot simply click on and search. The Jan. 6 report’s 4,286 endnotes, small print that people so often skip, by contrast, offer a guide to this vast and vital public record.”
“For nearly a month, I have studied the footnotes and the document they support. Legal scholars, historians and others will analyze this material for years to come, but already some takeaways are clear. Notably, the committee shared not just its interpretation of events and the raw material from which it drew but also used the notes to make thousands of connections between the two. It’s a powerful model for future investigative bodies, one that allows anyone to check the committee’s interpretation of its evidence. It also offers pointers to journalists as to where to find the good stuff in the pile of material just dropped in their laps.”
New York Times: “Egged on by Mr. Trump, Attorney General William Barr set out in 2019 to dig into their shared theory that the Russia investigation likely stemmed from a conspiracy by intelligence or law enforcement agencies. To lead the inquiry, Mr. Barr turned to a hard-nosed prosecutor named John Durham, and later granted him special counsel status to carry on after Mr. Trump left office.”
“But after almost four years — far longer than the Russia investigation itself — Mr. Durham’s work is coming to an end without uncovering anything like the deep state plot alleged by Mr. Trump and suspected by Mr. Barr.”
Axios: “It has taken an average of nearly 145 days for Biden’s political appointees to receive Senate confirmation — a jump from other recent presidents at this point in their terms.”
“President Joe Biden’s nominee for a top human rights position is withdrawing from contention in the face of unrelenting opposition from a Senate Republican who questions her support for Israel,” Politico reports.
In his judicial appointments so far, President Biden “has prioritized diversity throughout the federal court system,” The 19th reports. “Biden’s judicial appointees are the most diverse of any U.S. president to date in terms of race, gender and professional background.”
President Biden formally said that Jeffrey Zients, who served as the coronavirus response coordinator and a chairman of Mr. Biden’s transition, would take over as the White House chief of staff, the New York Times reports.
President Biden is looking at Lael Brainard, the Federal Reserve vice chair, as the top candidate to be the next director of the National Economic Council when Brian Deese leaves, the Washington Post reports.
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