Cup of Joe – February 17, 2023

“The U.S. could become unable to pay all of its bills on time sometime between July and September, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated, giving lawmakers several months to reach an agreement on lifting the debt limit and avoiding a default,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The Treasury Department ran up against the roughly $31.4 trillion debt limit in January. It is now deploying a series of special accounting maneuvers to keep paying the government’s obligations to bondholders, Social Security recipients and others.”

“The United States is on track to add nearly $19 trillion to its national debt over the next decade, $3 trillion more than previously forecast, as a result of rising costs for interest payments, veterans’ health care, retiree benefits and the military,” the New York Times reports.

“The new forecasts, released Wednesday afternoon, project a $1.4 trillion gap this year between what the government spends and what it takes in from tax revenues.”

“Republicans really wish President Biden would stop claiming they’re trying to cut Medicare and Social Security. They aren’t pushing a bill that would do anything of the sort, many have noted. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy continues to make it clear that, in terms of debt ceiling negotiations, those two programs are ‘off the table.’ Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the same,” Politico reports.

“But Biden is not about to stop.”

“The line of attack, which is still rippling through the news cycle a week after Biden’s State of the Union address, is expected to figure prominently in his likely reelection campaign.”

“Republican lawmakers are wary of their party’s propensity for self-inflicted wounds and are hoping for more discipline heading into the next election cycle,” The Hill reports. “Leading Republicans think that the House GOP’s raucous reception of President Biden at last week’s State of the Union played into the president’s hands and that the proposal by Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) to sunset all federal legislation after five years is a political gift to Democrats.”

Said Sen. John Thune (R-SD): “I think Republicans have got to be wise in how we talk about these issues.”

“Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is again attracting controversy in the wake of the Ohio train derailment, with elected officials from both parties questioning his ability to lead the department and respond to crises,” the Washington Examiner reports.

“Buttigieg, tapped for the position after attracting presidential buzz as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has found himself under frequent fire, leading to concerns about his fitness for the role and whether his performance harms his political future.”

“Special counsel Jack Smith is locked in at least eight secret court battles that aim to unearth some of the most closely held details about Donald Trump’s actions after the 2020 election and handling of classified material,” CNN reports.

“The outcome of these disputes could have far-reaching implications, as they revolve around a 2024 presidential candidate and could lead courts to shape the law around the presidency, separation of powers and attorney-client confidentiality in ways they’ve never done before.”

“Yet almost all of the proceedings are sealed, and filings and decisions aren’t public.”

“Former Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday that he will challenge a subpoena by the special counsel overseeing Trump investigations to compel his testimony before a grand jury — pursuing it to the Supreme Court if necessary,” the AP reports.

“Donald Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows has been subpoenaed by the special counsel investigating the former president and his role in the January 6, 2021, insurrection,” CNN reports.

“The move to subpoena one of Trump’s most senior aides – in addition to the recent subpoena of former Vice President Mike Pence, as CNN reported last week – marks the latest significant step in the special counsel’s investigation into Trump’s role in seeking to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election.”

“The FBI has conducted two searches at the University of Delaware in connection with the investigation into President Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents,” CNN reports. “The previously undisclosed searches were conducted in recent weeks, with the consent and cooperation of the president’s legal team.”

“Breaking a weekslong impasse, the New York State Senate rejected Gov. Kathy Hochul’s nominee to lead the state’s highest court, holding an unexpected floor vote on Wednesday that capped a dramatic battle that had roiled Democrats in the State Capitol,” the New York Times reports.

“The vote — the first time that the State Senate has rejected a governor’s pick for chief judge — amounted to an extraordinary repudiation of Ms. Hochul by members of her own party at the start of her first full term as governor.”

“President Joe Biden is planning to deliver his most extended public remarks yet — as early as Thursday — on the unidentified objects that the U.S. military has been shooting down,” NBC News reports.

“Biden will use his address to explain how the administration intends to deal with aerial balloons and other objects spotted in the future, based on a study conducted by a series of government agencies.”

“Senior American officials increasingly believe the Chinese spy balloon that was shot down off the coast of South Carolina in early February was originally supposed to conduct surveillance over U.S. military bases in Guam and Hawaii, but winds carried it off course to Alaska, Canada and finally the continental United States,” the New York Times reports.

“The evolution of Washington’s understanding of the Chinese military’s original goals and new details that reveal misreadings of the U.S. reaction by Chinese officials in private meetings reflect how difficult it is for the United States and China to discern each other’s intentions — a gap that American officials fear could lead to greater mistrust in an already fraught relationship or even to armed conflict.”

“The Justice Department has informed lawyers for at least one witness that it will not bring charges against Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) after a years-long federal sex-trafficking investigation,” CNN reports.

“Senior officials reached out to lawyers for at least one witness on Wednesday to inform them of the decision not to prosecute Gaetz. The final decision was made by Department of Justice leadership after investigators recommended against charges last year.”

“The Democratic-led Senate is poised to confirm President Joe Biden’s 100th federal judge on Tuesday, marking a milestone for the president and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer,” NBC News reports.

“The two Democrats have made it a priority to reshape U.S. courts with judges who tend to be younger, liberal and more diverse — both in terms of race and ethnicity, as well as professional experience — than the current bench, a project aided by Democrats expanding their Senate majority in the 2022 midterm election.”

President Biden has decided to name Federal Reserve Vice Chair Lael Brainard as his top economic adviser, with an announcement coming as soon as Tuesday, Bloomberg reports.

“The White House is considering nominating Austan Goolsbee, who became president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago last month, to serve as vice chair of the Federal Reserve’s board of governors,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson, a Republican appointee, writes in the Wall Street Journal that she’ll resign her position in protest of Chair Lina Khan’s leadership.  Writes Wilson: “I refuse to give their endeavor any further hint of legitimacy by remaining.”

Rolling Stone: “It’s not an idle inquiry: The former president, if re-elected, is still committed to expanding the use of the federal death penalty and bringing back banned methods of execution, the sources say. He has even, one of the sources recounts, mused about televising footage of executions, including showing condemned prisoners in the final moments of their lives.”

“Specifically, Trump has talked about bringing back death by firing squad, by hanging, and, according to two of the sources, possibly even by guillotine. He has also, sources say, discussed group executions. Trump has floated these ideas while discussing planned campaign rhetoric and policy desires, as well as his disdain for President Biden’s approach to crime.”

“In at least one instance late last year, according to the third source who has direct knowledge of the matter, Trump privately mused about the possibility of creating a flashy, government-backed video ad campaign that would accompany a federal revival of these execution methods. In Trump’s vision, these videos would include footage from these new executions, if not from the exact moments of death.”

“When Rep. George Santos (D-NY) was 24, he did something that many millions of people do each year: He got married,” the New York Times reports.

“That marriage, to a Brazilian woman, would last seven years. In that time, Mr. Santos began to lay the groundwork for a largely fictional life story, moving back and forth between New York and Florida, working sporadic jobs that he later falsely inflated into a successful Wall Street career, and navigating a handful of evictions. He would also date men — even proposing to one in 2014.”

“By 2019, Mr. Santos was divorced, not long before he launched his first congressional campaign. But the old relationship drew new scrutiny on Wednesday, via a letter filed with ethics watchdogs in the House of Representatives requesting an investigation into whether Mr. Santos has violated federal immigration laws.”

“The Federal Election Commission is warning Representative George Santos to substantiate who is in charge of his campaign’s finances — or risk a ban on raising or spending any money,” Bloomberg reports.

“The FEC sent a letter to Santos asking him to file paperwork to list the treasurer of his campaign, after his previous one resigned in January. The letter adds to confusion over who’s in charge of the embattled New York Republican’s campaign accounts.”

Meanwhile, CBS News reports police interviewed Santos in a 2017 international case of credit card and identity theft.

“One of Rep. George Santos’ first-known forays into politics was an attempt to raise $20,000 for a pro-Trump rally in 2019 in Buffalo, N.Y. that never happened,” Politico reports.

“The five-figure fundraising goal drew questions from members of the small New York state-based group United for Trump. Santos — who was the group’s president at the time — claimed he needed $750 to hire an accountant, $2,500 to keep a lawyer on retainer and thousands more for a keynote speaker.”

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) “appears to have thwarted an attempt to stop law enforcement obtaining menstrual histories of women in the state,” The Guardian reports.

Youngkin, who has pushed for a 15-week abortion ban to mirror similar measures in several Republican-controlled states, essentially killed the bill through a procedural move in a subcommittee of the Republican-controlled House.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, “renewed a request to Jared Kushner for documents outlining how the former White House official received $2 billion from a Saudi investment fund, writing that Kushner had failed to respond to an earlier inquiry and raising new questions about whether he had ‘improperly traded’ on his government work to benefit his financial interests,” the Washington Post reports.

“Raskin’s letter also requested that Kushner identify all foreign investors in his company.”

“Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Wednesday signed into law a bill to expand a controversial state program used to relocate migrants from anywhere in the country to Democratic-led cities,” Axios reports.  “The program, which now gains an additional $10 million in funding, faced intense backlash after Florida officials were accused of misleading migrants and promising false incentives.”

“Tens of thousands of Florida high school students take Advanced Placement courses every year to have a competitive edge heading into college,” the Miami Herald reports.

“Now, Gov. Ron DeSantis says he wants to reevaluate the state’s relationship with the private company that administers those courses and the SAT exam. The move comes after the College Board accused DeSantis’ administration of playing politics when it rejected an Advanced Placement African American Studies course.”

“Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday that his administration is expanding Advanced Placement African American Studies courses next year from one school to 26 in New Jersey after Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis blocked the course from being taught in public schools in Florida,” the AP reports.  “Murphy’s move comes about a month after the administration of DeSantis, a potential presidential candidate, declared without citing any evidence that the course violates state law and isn’t historically accurate.”

“There’s more bad news for Vladimir Putin. Europe is on course to get through winter with its vital gas storage facilities more than half full,“ Politico reports.

“That means despite the Russian leader’s efforts to make Europe freeze by cutting its gas supply, EU economies will survive the coldest months without serious harm — and they look set to start next winter in a strong position to do the same.”

“The long-running public feud between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) continues to flare regardless of how much fellow Republican senators might wish they would just let it go,” the Washington Post reports.

“It’s a tension that began during the last election cycle when Scott was chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. It escalated when Republicans failed to win back the Senate majority.”

“It has intensified again in recent days as President Biden and Democrats keep bringing up Scott’s year-old 12-point plan to sunset all federal laws every five years unless Congress votes to keep them, to accuse Republicans of wanting to make cuts to Social Security and Medicare.”

Politico: “In addition to policy disputes, the clash stems in part from the two Republicans’ divergent views of modern politics. Scott views the attention he gets from Democrats as valuable increased name recognition, and he’s raised money off of the loss of his committee assignment.”

“But McConnell sees things very differently, according to allies. He’s studiously avoided releasing any agenda that can be easily pilloried, instead trying to run as a check on Democrats — a strategy that’s had mixed results in his 16 years as Senate GOP leader. With the party gearing up for another bid to take back the White House and Senate, that means some Republicans are cringing every time Biden brings up Scott.”

NBC News: “Natural disasters forced an estimated 3.4 million people in the U.S. to leave their homes in 2022, according to Census Bureau data collected earlier this year, underscoring how climate-related weather events are already changing American communities.”

Even Osnos did a fascinating New Yorker interview with former White House chief of staff Ron Klain.

“Look, obviously, my life experience is twenty years in government, twenty in the private sector. So I get the fact that there are outside experiences that you can bring to us. They’re very important, and we have people who have different backgrounds. But I think one reason why our team has been successful working for President Biden is that we are all people who have spent a substantial part of our careers in government or in politics, and experience matters. I think that, at the senior level, we’re one of the oldest teams ever here at the White House, but that age has purchased a lot of experience.”

New York Times: “Two months after China ended ‘zero Covid,’ rough estimates suggest that between 1 and 1.5 million people died — far more than the official count.”

“Nicola Sturgeon is resigning as Scotland’s first minister in a move that stunned her pro-independence party and fired the starting pistol on the race to succeed her,” Politico reports.

“The SNP leader — who has led the Scottish National Party and the country’s devolved government since 2014 — made the shock announcement at a hastily arranged press conference Wednesday from her official residence in Edinburgh.”

Italian former Premier Silvio Berlusconi was found not guilty Wednesday of witness tampering, in a trial related to the sexually charged “bunga bunga” parties he held at his villa near Milan while he was in office, the AP reports.

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

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