Politico: “Biden officials have privately discussed the potential for a compromise that heads off a debt ceiling crisis while separately granting McCarthy small concessions that would allow him to save face with his party — such as creating a commission to study and propose future spending reforms.”
“But the White House is unwilling to touch entitlement spending or gut programs central to Biden’s agenda. And while McCarthy has tamped down early talk of cuts to Medicare and Social Security, he is still likely to pursue major funding reductions across much of the government.”
“That means that any agreement the White House might consider supporting at this early stage, officials have concluded, is unlikely to appeal to the GOP.”
The Economist: “These debt-ceiling fights are American governance at its most stupid. As achievements in hypocrisy and self-defeat, they cannot be beat. When Republicans had unified control of government under Donald Trump, they freely raised the ceiling and, with it, the debt, while Democrats, for all their piety now, have also used the debt ceiling for leverage.”
“As for self-defeat: the last time a Republican House pursued such brinkmanship the president was, of course, a Democrat (Barack Obama), and the result was a jump in rates that may have added half a billion dollars to the debt.”
“Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) was kicked off the the House Foreign Affairs Committee in a party-line vote that followed a contentious debate on the House floor Thursday morning that included yelling and Omar defending herself on the verge tears,” the Washington Post reports.
“Omar, a refugee from Somalia, is one of the first Muslim women to serve in the House of Representatives and often faces death threats and other threats of violence. Her office told The Post that violent threats had increased considerably since she has been in the news again.”
Jonathan Chait: “One of the first things the Republican Party did upon gaining control of the House of Representatives was to restore committee privileges to Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose positions were stripped over a series of deranged and bigoted statements. One of its next moves is to impose the same punishment on Ilhan Omar over her past antisemitic statements.”
“The absurdity and vindictiveness of the Omar decision is thrown into the starkest relief when you consider it in conjunction with the treatment of Greene.”
More than 30 House Democrats have signed onto a new resolution “recognizing Israel as America’s legitimate and democratic ally and condemning antisemitism,” NBC News reports.
“The most notable among them: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), a Muslim American who has been a fierce critic of Israel and the Jewish lobby and ousted by Republicans on Thursday from the Foreign Affairs Committee for what members of both parties said were antisemitic remarks.”
“A routine House committee meeting erupted into a heated, nearly hourlong debate Wednesday over the Pledge of Allegiance, with one Democratic lawmaker saying that ‘insurrectionists’ who backed former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election should be banned from leading it,” NBC News reports.
“House Democrats are placing Rep. Adam Schiff on a high-profile committee at the center of combating Republican investigations for the next two years, fresh off Speaker Kevin McCarthy booting him from another panel,” Politico reports.
“The California Democrat is one of a roster of party fighters who will now serve on the House Judiciary or Oversight Committees, with the full lineup of members approved by the House this week.”
“Russia is preparing to launch a major new offensive against Ukraine in the coming weeks, a top Ukrainian security official said, adding to mounting concerns in Kyiv and the West that the Kremlin is preparing a renewed push to seize large areas of the country,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
Abbas Gallyamov, a former speechwriter for Vladimir Putin, predicted on CNN that a coup to oust the Russian president is a “real possibility” in the next year.
Julia Ioffe: “From Moscow’s vantage point, it isn’t simply the gross incompetence of its military and intelligence services that prevented Russia from seizing Ukraine in a flashy blitzkrieg last February. It was the fact that Ukraine was armed with NATO weaponry, its troops trained by NATO advisors, its intelligence services constantly fed information by Western intel agencies. Moscow has made no secret of this frustration or its assertion that the battle for Ukraine was a proxy war against the West, itself.”
“This is why, from the very beginning, Moscow has framed this war as one not between Russia and Ukraine, but rather one between Russia and what Vladimir Putin and his coterie love to call ‘the collective West.’ And, according to this consensual ideology, it is this collective West—not the incompetence of any generals or advisors—that has thwarted Putin’s aims of swallowing Ukraine and fulfilling his dream of a pan-Slavic super state with Moscow at its capital.”
“I’ve been amazed and horrified by how many people are frightened of a guy called Tucker Carlson. Has anybody heard of somebody called — Has anybody heard of Tucker Carlson? What is it with this guy? All these wonderful Republicans seem somehow intimidated by his — by his perspective.” — Former British prime minister Boris Johnson, quoted by the Washington Post.
No classified documents were found during the FBI’s search of President Joe Biden’s beach house in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, on Wednesday, NBC News reports.
“The FBI is expected to search former Vice President Mike Pence’s Indiana home for classified material in the coming days, as senior government officials come under increased law-enforcement scrutiny of their handling of such documents,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
CNN: “The New York attorney general’s office is asking a judge to sanction former President Donald Trump, his adult children and their attorneys after taking issue with their legal responses to the $250 million fraud lawsuit filed last year.”
Jeffrey McConney, the controller of the Trump Organization, is expected to appear Thursday before a Manhattan grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump’s alleged role in a hush money payment scheme, CNN reports.
New York Times Magazine goes deep on the Atlanta district attorney investigating Donald Trump’s 2020 election subversion efforts in Georgia: “Late on the first Sunday of 2021, news broke of President Donald J. Trump’s call with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger of Georgia, asking him to “find 11,780 votes” to help contest the 2020 election. The next morning — Monday, Jan. 4 — was Fani Willis’s first day in the office as the district attorney for Fulton County, which encompasses most of Atlanta, as well as suburbs like Sandy Springs, East Point and Alpharetta. “Not the second day,” she told me when I met with her in November. “My very first day in this office — in that conference room, it’s all over the TV.” She found herself hoping that the secretary of state might have been “in another county when it happened,” she said, laughing darkly. He was not. And so, Willis said, “I’m stuck with it.””
“Donald Trump’s long-estranged former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, says Manhattan prosecutors recently took his cellphones to preserve evidence related to a hush-money payment he made to porn actress Stormy Daniels in the waning weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign,” the AP reports.
“The payment to Daniels, which Cohen says was intended to buy her silence about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump, has been the subject of law-enforcement scrutiny for years, but a new grand jury is giving it a fresh look.”
“Lawyers for Hunter Biden sent letters Wednesday requesting investigations into allies of former President Donald Trump who they say trafficked in stolen information from his laptop — a dramatic shift in strategy for the president’s son after years of GOP attacks,” NBC News reports.
“Information from the laptop has raised questions about Biden’s finances, which have been under investigation by federal prosecutors in Delaware since 2018. They’ve also been the source of several salacious stories from conservative media outlets, many focused on his drug use.”
Washington Post: Hunter Biden’s lawyers, in newly aggressive strategy, target his critics.
“The transformation of George Santos began in 2019, the year he went from Anthony Devolder, just another New Yorker sharing political musings on social media, to a Republican congressional candidate with a compelling fictional resume,” CNN reports.
“His improbable rise to the House of Representatives started as he joined a group of pro-Donald Trump activists at a time when the House GOP had just been defeated by a blue wave in 2018. He was young, gay and Latino, and appeared on the conservative scene as activists from more diverse backgrounds were gaining more attention and becoming influencers in Republican social media circles.”
Mother Jones: “According to Santos’ campaign filings with the Federal Election Commission, his recent campaign pulled in more than $45,000 from relatives who lived in Queens. This included a mail handler who gave more than $4,000, a painter who donated the maximum of $5,800, and a student who also contributed $5,800. One of Santos’ relatives, who was recorded as giving $5,800, says that they did not make any donation to Santos.”
Said one Santos relative: “I’m dumbfounded.. It’s all news to me. I don’t have that money to throw around!”
FBI agents are investigating Rep. George Santos’ role in an alleged GoFundMe scheme involving a disabled U.S. Navy veteran’s dying service dog, Politico reports.
New Yorker: “Half a century ago, most of the public said they trusted the news media. Today, most say they don’t. What happened to the power of the press?”
“Federal Reserve officials made their eighth interest rate increase in a year on Wednesday as they continued their fight against rapid inflation. And while policymakers slowed the pace of adjustment to give themselves more time to see how their policies are affecting the economy, they signaled further rate moves to come,” the New York Times reports.
“The central bank concluded its first meeting of 2023 by announcing a quarter-point rate move, the smallest adjustment since March.”
“Gas stoves are coming under fresh scrutiny as a second federal agency has now stepped into the political firestorm with a proposal for new regulations for the appliances,” Bloomberg reports.
“The Energy Department proposal, published Wednesday, sets first-of-their-kind limits on energy consumption for the stoves, drawing fear from the industry that the regulation could effectively end the use of some products from the market. The proposal also sets energy usage standards for electric cook tops and new standards for both gas and electric ovens.”
“Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has pulled Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), who tried to oust him as the Senate’s top Republican in a bruising leadership race, off the powerful Commerce Committee,” The Hill reports. “McConnell also removed Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), who supported Scott’s bid to replace McConnell as leader, from the Commerce panel, which has broad jurisdiction over a swath of federal agencies.”
McConnell informed Scott via text message, the Washington Examiner reports.
Said Scott: “This is what happens when you challenge leadership. It was McConnell’s decision to remove someone who has actually run businesses and ran the third largest state from a committee I’ve served on for four years. You’ll have to ask him why.”
“Black taxpayers are at least three times as likely to be audited by the Internal Revenue Service as other taxpayers, even after accounting for the differences in the types of returns each group is most likely to file, a team of economists has concluded in one of the most detailed studies yet on race and the nation’s tax system,” the New York Times reports.
“The findings do not suggest bias from individual tax enforcement agents, who do not know the race of the people they are auditing. They also do not suggest any valid reason for the I.R.S. to target Black Americans at such high rates; there is no evidence that group engages in more tax evasion than others.”
“Instead, the findings document discrimination in the computer algorithms the agency uses to determine who is selected for an audit.”
“The Republican staffer who accused conservative stalwart Matt Schlapp of sexual assault and filed a lawsuit against him for nearly $10 million has filed a separate suit against another top GOP operative alleging defamation,” Politico reports.
Freshman Rep. Andy Ogles (R-TN) has never complied with a federal law required of all congressional candidates, WTVF reports. “That law requires candidates and members of Congress to disclose their personal finances, so voters can know if they have any conflicts of interest. Not only did Andy Ogles ignore that law during the campaign, he continues to ignore it today.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) “is standing his ground, refusing to apologize to Paul Pelosi for sharing conspiracy theories about the hammer attack… even after seeing the shocking police video of what went down,” TMZ reports.
“A family friend of Mark Meadows has been charged with accepting an illegal campaign contribution during an ill-fated 2020 run to succeed the former Trump White House chief of staff in Congress,” Politico reports. “Lynda Bennett, who lost in a 2020 Republican primary campaign to Madison Cawthorn, accepted a contribution from a family member totaling at least $25,000, according to charging paperwork filed by prosecutors.”
“The Department of Education in Ohio is investigating the openly antisemitic and racist Nazi homeschooling group with thousands of members being operated by a couple from Upper Sandusky, Ohio,” Vice News reports.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced that Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) will give the Republican response to President Biden’s State of the Union address next week.
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) wrote to Google and Apple on Thursday, urging both companies to remove TikTok from their app stores, Axios reports.
“TikTok’s chief executive has agreed to appear before a congressional committee in March, as House Republican lawmakers step up scrutiny of the Chinese-owned video-sharing app,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Shou Zi Chew will appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 23, a committee spokesman said, in what would be the first appearance of a TikTok CEO before a congressional panel.”
Wall Street Journal on measures to ban Tik Tok: “The measures, known as the Berman amendments, date to the last years of the Cold War. They took away the president’s authority to regulate or ban imports of ‘informational materials’ from adversarial nations such as Cuba, and shielded those who produced such works — and their U.S. distributors — from penalties for violating economic sanctions.”
“The dilemma for lawmakers now: how to write legislation to prevent China’s government from influencing content on TikTok or other Chinese social-media apps, and gathering data on users, without shutting down global exchanges of content — or inviting retaliation against U.S. platforms and media.”
“Brian Deese, who served as President Biden’s top economic adviser and helped craft and negotiate the sweeping economic legislation that Mr. Biden signed into law in his first two years in office, will leave his position in mid-February,” the New York Times reports.
“The White House will likely appoint Federal Reserve Vice Chair Lael Brainard to run the National Economic Council and Jared Bernstein to lead the Council of Economic Advisers,” CNBC reports.
“Both roles are integral to shaping Biden administration economic policy as the U.S. tries to tame high costs of living across the country. The appointments are expected to be announced after incoming White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients assumes his role, as soon as next week.”
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