Cup of Joe – April 25, 2023

“Speaker Kevin McCarthy will put his shaky control of the thin Republican majority on the line this week with a bid to pass a bill slashing spending that is designed to jam President Joe Biden over the looming government debt crisis,” CNN reports.

“The standoff is deepening between the Republican speaker and the Democratic president, which could be fateful for the country and both their political careers. And the ability of each side to unify their parties and shape public opinion to avoid – or dispense – blame will be crucial.”

McCarthy is trying to bring his debt-ceiling hostage-taking bill to a floor vote as early as Wednesday. Not clear whether he has the votes in his own conference, but the consensus of the reporting from the Hill is that his prospects look better than they did last week.

“For months, Wall Street has barely focused on the possibility that the government might default on its debt. It’s paying attention now,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“As the drop-dead date to raise the nation’s $31.4 trillion debt ceiling looms with no deal in sight, traders and executives are starting to get nervous that President Joe Biden and Republicans won’t resolve the impasse until it’s too late. That’s sparked increasing concern about a potential threat that could rock markets and tilt the world’s largest economy into recession.”

Punchbowl News: “The House is set to vote this week on a $4.5 trillion GOP bill — the Limit, Save, Grow Act — that raises the debt limit into 2024 while slashing federal spending by tens of billions of dollars. In addition, we expect to hear from the Treasury Department on when the United States government could default on its $31.4 trillion debt.”

“The House GOP whip operation worked throughout the weekend to shore up support for the package. As of late Sunday night, party leaders felt as if undecided Republicans were breaking their way.”

“Democrats have no idea what McCarthy is up to. They don’t have much insight into him or how the House GOP leadership operates at this point. But the mystery is overrated. McCarthy simply wants to get to the negotiating table with President Joe Biden and top Democrats. To do that, it’s imperative that House Republicans pass this bill. Otherwise, the House could be forced to move a clean debt limit increase this summer. That’s exactly what Biden wants, but it would be devastating for McCarthy.”

Playbook: “Since the House doesn’t return till tomorrow, the earliest this vote could happen would be Wednesday. But if McCarthy still needs time to whip, the roll call could be pushed to the end of the week — or beyond. People close to the whip tally tell Playbook they’re not there, but they’re in a good position.”

“Indeed, if House Republicans succeed, the focus will immediately turn to Biden and Democratic leaders, who are still insisting on a clean debt ceiling hike sans concessions. That position is already looking untenable, with even some Hill Democrats arguing that it’s time for both sides to sit down.”

“House Republicans are abandoning a years-long push by their party to pass a federal abortion ban and are exploring other ways to advance their anti-abortion agenda – a remarkable shift that underscores how the GOP is wrestling with an issue that has become a political landmine for their party,” CNN reports.

The conservative Supreme Court showed there are some limits to how far it will go in imposing its favored policy positions, putting on hold late Friday the outrageous abortion pill rulings out of Texas. While a majority of the court hewed to the rule of law, Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas objected in a dissent authored by Alito. It was classic Alito: bitter, intemperate, small-minded.

Strong majorities of Americans oppose laws banning medication abortion, disagree with judges overturning FDA approval of prescription drugs, don’t have much confidence in the Supreme Court and don’t think justices should serve lifetimes appointments, according to the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, the Amarillo abortion pill judge, “redacted key information on his legally mandated financial disclosures, in what legal experts described as an unusual move that conceals the bulk of his personal fortune,” CNN reports.

The “Administrative Office of the United States Courts approved the redaction after reviewing the relevant rules and applicable threats,” Kacsmaryk said in a statement to CNN.

This revelation is on top of his previous failure to disclose to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation process two provocative Christian talk radio interviews he did and his authorship of a controversial law review article.

Fox News said Monday that it was parting ways with Tucker Carlson, its most popular prime time host who was also the source of repeated controversies and headaches for the network because of his statements on everything from race relations to L.G.B.T.Q. rights.

The network made the announcement less than a week after it agreed to pay $787.5 million in a defamation lawsuit in which Mr. Carlson’s show, one of the highest rated on Fox, figured prominently for its role in spreading misinformation after the 2020 election.

The decision to fire Tucker Carlson came straight from Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, the Los Angeles Times reports.

“Carlson’s exit is related to the discrimination lawsuit filed by Abby Grossberg, the producer fired by the network last month… Carlson’s senior executive producer Justin Wells has also been terminated.”

“Murdoch is also said to be concerned over Carlson’s coverage of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, in which the host has promoted the conspiracy theory that it was provoked by government agents.”

It can be hard to keep straight the sheer deluge of litigation that has flooded Fox News of late. But while we poke around for what exactly caused Carlson’s abrupt departure, it’s worth revisiting the March lawsuit from former Fox News employee Abby Grossberg who alleges that Fox News lawyers coerced her into lying under oath in the Dominion suit and into underplaying the network’s misogynistic work environment.

Carlson is named as a defendant in her lawsuit, as Grossberg worked on his show after leaving Maria Bartiromo’s program.

She details a vile work environment in the suit, much of it allegedly created by Carlson’s staff. But there’s not much about him personally. Here’s what her lawyers wrote about the former Fox titan:

  • “Plaintiff Abby Grossberg, a dedicated and hardworking former Senior Booking Producer on the Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo (“SMFMB”) show and currently the Head of Booking on the Tucker Carlson Tonight (“TCT”) program, endured an extremely hostile work environment under the auspices of senior executives, including the Individual Defendants.”
  • “Mr. Carlson’s derogatory comments towards women, and his disdain for those who dare to object to such misogyny, is well known on the set of TCT.”

And that’s about it. They also mention years-old Carlson controversies — his defense of statutory rape and denigrating women in the military among them — and there’s plentiful detail of the sexism that allegedly permeated the office (including a particularly distasteful alleged episode involving print-outs of Nancy Pelosi in a bathing suit). But ultimately, based on the documentation we have right now, Carlson does not seem to be the primary villain in Grossberg’s accounting of her experience.

Update: Per Semafor, Carlson’s executive producer Justin Wells — another defendant on the Grossberg suit — is also out at Fox.

Brian Stelter: “Here is a theory. The revelations from Dominion’s lawsuit against Fox, which the network settled last week for $787.5 million, were embarrassing for many individuals, including Carlson, whose private emotions about Donald Trump (a ‘destroyer,’ a ‘demonic force’) and Fox’s own journalists were published for all the world to read. Hundreds of pages of emails and text messages from within Fox were published in Dominion’s pre-trial legal filings. But there is a huge number of other pages that remain out of public view. The redactions were voluminous.”

“Only three groups of people know what those pages contain: Dominion’s lawyers, Fox’s top executives, and obviously the people who were sending and receiving the messages. So what was Carlson saying about, say, Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott? What was he texting about the Murdochs? We don’t know. We may never know. But this theory may explain why Carlson’s top producer and textmate, Justin Wells, was also terminated.”

Rolling Stone: 13 terrible things Tucker Carlson said that didn’t get him fired.

Jonathan Chait: “Carlson’s career defies parody and challenges analysis because it has always been laid bare. Carlson inherited the fake-populist shtick used by O’Reilly and honed it into something like performance art. He ranted conspiratorially about ‘them,’ laying sinister plots in their opulent lairs, against ‘us.’ The Carlson version of the character was a campy, scenery-chewing performer who exceeded O’Reilly in every way.”

“The high-pitched squeals and goofy facial expressions were the superficial expressions. The deeper and more sinister aspect of Carlson’s success was his realization that his audience craved racist and nativist resentment in higher doses than his predecessor had been able to supply.”

Gabriel Sherman: “On Monday morning, Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott called Carlson and informed him he was being taken off the air, and his Fox News email account was shut off. According to a source briefed on the conversation, Carlson was stunned by his sudden ouster from his 8 p.m. show, the most watched program in cable news last month. Carlson was in the midst of negotiating the renewal of his Fox News contract through 2029, the source said. As of last week, Carlson had told people he expected the contract to be renewed.”

“Carlson has told people he doesn’t know why he was terminated. According to the source, Scott refused to tell him how the decision was made; she only said that it was made ‘from above.’ Carlson has told people he believes his controversial show is being taken off the air because the Murdoch children intend to sell Fox News at some point.”

The White House hosts a state dinner for South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Tuesday. President Yoon will address a joint session of Congress on Thursday, with Vice President Harris in attendance.

Jury selection is set to begin Tuesday in Manhattan over rape accusation made by E. Jean Carroll against Donald Trump.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, which has been in stasis with the absence of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), is expected to consider several judicial nominations on Thursday.

On Thursday, the House Administration Committee holds a hearing on “American Confidence in Elections: State Tools to Promote Voter Confidence” featuring former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and former Federal Election Commission member Hans von Spakovsky, both key conservatives.

On Thursday, Fort Lee in Virginia, named after the Confederate general, will be officially renamed Fort Gregg-Adams in honor of retired Army Gen. Arthur Gregg and Lt. Col. Charity Adams, the first Black officer in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. Gregg is the only living soldier in modern history to have an installation named in his honor.

The White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner takes place Saturday night at the Washington Hilton. The President, First Lady, Vice President, and Second Gentleman will all attend, and the President will deliver remarks.

Chief Justice John Roberts responded to Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin’s request to investigate Clarence Thomas’ financial disclosure lapses by referring the request to the Judicial Conference, the policy-making body of the federal courts.

Asked Sunday why he hasn’t subpoenaed Clarence Thomas to come before his committee, Durbin said Thomas would have just ignored him.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan have reached a settlement in their dispute over Jordan’s subpoena of former prosecutor Mark Pomerantz. Under the reported terms of the agreement, Pomerantz’s testimony to the committee will be allowed, a win for Jordan, but an attorney from Bragg’s office will be allowed to be present.

The settlement came after Bragg lost badly in the district court in his attempt to block the House subpoena. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals had put the lower court decision on hold and agreed to consider the case, but Bragg and Jordan told the appeals court late Friday that they had reached an accommodation.

Pomerantz’s deposition is now scheduled for May 12.

Remember though: This is all part of Jordan’s broad effort to undermine, delegitimize and interfere with Bragg’s prosecution of Trump in the Stormy Daniels hush money case. That effort will continue.

 “As economists and investors scour data on inflation, jobs, housing, banking and other bellwether indicators to determine whether the United States is headed for a recession, a visit to the nation’s largest food-bank warehouse offers some ominous clues,” Reuters reports.

“More than half of the shelves at the Atlanta Community Food Bank are bare, in part because of supply-chain issues, but mostly because demand for food assistance is as high as it was during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

President Biden is expected to make the formal announcement of his re-election campaign today, the same day that the civil trial of Donald Trump on charges he raped E. Jean Carroll in the 1990s is set to begin.

It is as remarkable a tableau in American politics as you’ll see.

The former president, once defeated by the current president and still widely expected to be the GOP nominee against him in 2024, facing a rape and defamation civil trial in federal court in New York while also under criminal indictment in New York state court.

The challenge in our politics since circa 2015 has been to try to preserve some internal sense of what “normal” is. Without a baseline against which to measure the deviations from the norm, it’s easy to get lost. Frankly, even with a baseline it’s been easy to get lost.

During this era, I’ve reverted to two different baselines, neither perfect, but each useful in its own way: (i) what might we have expected in politics 10 or 20 years ago; and (ii) how will historians view today 100 years from now.

By either measure, the week ahead presents an astonishing departure from anything resembling normal.

 “A lawyer for Hunter Biden called Monday for a congressional ethics investigation into the behavior of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), alleging that she has repeatedly directed ‘unmoored verbal abuses’ at the president’s son, including false accusations of human trafficking and cavorting with prostitutes,” the Washington Post reports.

Wrote lawyer Abbe Lowell: “Representative Greene’s unethical conduct arises from her continuous verbal attacks, defamatory statements, publication of personal photos and data, and promotion of conspiracy theories about and against Robert Hunter Biden. None of these could possibly be deemed to be part of any legitimate legislative activity, as is clear from both the content of her statements and actions, and the forums she uses to spew her often unhinged rhetoric.”

“Hunter Biden’s legal team is asking the Treasury Department to investigate a former Trump aide for circulating federal banking records linked to the president’s son,” NBC News reports.

“President Joe Biden’s domestic policy adviser, Susan Rice, is stepping down from her post next month,” NBC News reports.

“The move brings to a close Rice’s prolific, wide-ranging and at times controversial tenure overseeing Biden’s domestic agenda — including some of the thorniest political issues, such as immigration policy. During her more than two years in the role, Biden has signed executive and legislative actions on health care, gun safety, student loans, policing and other key priorities for Democrats.”

The on-the-ground manifestations of the country’s slide toward authoritarianism are at least as alarming as what’s happened to the Republican Party under Trump:

Shasta County, California: “A California journalist documents the far-right takeover of her town: ‘We’re a test case’”

Ottawa County, Michigan: “In a thriving Michigan county, a community goes to war with itself”

Politico: “Listen to the southern right talk about violence in America and you’d think New York City was as dangerous as Bakhmut on Ukraine’s eastern front.”

“In reality, the region the Big Apple comprises most of is far and away the safest part of the U.S. mainland when it comes to gun violence, while the regions Florida and Texas belong to have per capita firearm death rates (homicides and suicides) three to four times higher than New York’s. On a regional basis it’s the southern swath of the country — in cities and rural areas alike — where the rate of deadly gun violence is most acute, regions where Republicans have dominated state governments for decades.”

“Saudi Arabia was ranked the 5th biggest military spender in 2022, jumping from eighth to fifth place in one year and surpassing the United Kingdom, Germany and France,” Al Monitor reports.

“The kingdom was the only Middle Eastern country to make the top 10 global list.”

“Israel in a proposal given to the warring generals in Sudan offered to host the two sides for Israeli-mediated talks aimed at reaching a cease-fire agreement,” Axios reports.

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

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