Cup of Joe – May 25, 2023

“Speaker Kevin McCarthy sent House Republican negotiators to the White House this afternoon for another round of debt-limit talks with the U.S. government just days from a catastrophic default,” Punchbowl News reports.

“Sources close to the talks tell us that the two sides haven’t made much progress. Reps. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) and Garret Graves (R-LA) – McCarthy’s chief negotiators – spoke to White House officials until late Wednesday night in a bid to break the impasse over spending levels and tightening work requirements for social safety-net programs.”

“The Biden administration requested that the Republicans meet on the White House’s campus – in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building – after meeting for days on Capitol Hill. But McHenry said no one should read too much into the venue change, saying neither side has budged.”

Punchbowl News: “The status of negotiations over the debt limit is extremely fluid. Members of the House GOP’s negotiating team — Reps. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) and Garret Graves (R-LA) — have told allies on Capitol Hill that talks have seesawed between positive and on the brink of a breakdown.”

“In fact, Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his negotiators repeatedly have warned the White House that a deal won’t be possible unless they agree to cut spending next year.”

“The White House, for its part, has tried to secure some Democratic wins without success. Administration officials looked to close tax loopholes and broaden prescription drug price negotiations for Medicare, but they were rebuffed by Republicans.”

Politico: “While McCarthy is keeping his often-fractious members in his corner more consistently than his predecessors, his newness to the glare of White House negotiations leaves Washington without a decoder ring for his public vows that — even as the two sides stay far apart on big issues — a deal is still possible by next week.”

“Traders worried about a potential U.S. default are swapping their go-to safe haven for the bonds of America’s top-rated companies,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “This trading has produced a rare twist in debt markets: corporate bonds that are trading at a yield discount to Treasurys, which are generally viewed as the world’s safest investment.”

Josh Marshall: “There’s a really stunning report out from the Journal last night. Corporate bonds at some of America’s top-rated companies are now trading at a yield discount to Treasuries. This isn’t quite the same as investors thinking U.S. corporate debt is safer over time. It’s focused on the what happens over the next few months rather than where you put money over time. But it’s still a stunning development, cutting at the very architecture of the world financial system and the United States’ position as its gravitational center.

To put it in layman’s terms, if you need a place to put money over the course of this summer and you need it to be as safe as possible, investors are deciding Microsoft’s corporate bonds are more attractive than bonds issued by the U.S. Treasury.

It’s a clarifying perspective on the impact of GOP extremism and nihilism on the nation’s finances and global power.

Walter Shapiro: “The favored metaphor on the left is to compare the trumped-up debt-ceiling crisis to hostage-taking by the House Republicans.”

“But in a true hostage situation, both sides have something major to lose. The perpetrators risk not getting a payoff or, worse, spending decades in prison. For the families of the victims and the police, the danger is that the hostages will be killed during the negotiations or in the midst of a botched rescue mission.”

“For Kevin McCarthy and the defaulters (which, incidentally, is a promising name for a band), there is no downside. If Joe Biden ultimately hands over his sword in surrender, the Republican incendiaries will be lionized as conquering heroes from the Fox News green room to the dining room at Mar-a-Lago.”

A new NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll finds 52% of Americans think Congress should raise the debt ceiling to avoid default and discuss spending cuts separately.

A new Monmouth poll finds that just half of American adults — 50% — feel they have a lot of understanding about what raising, or not raising, the debt ceiling would mean for the U.S. economy.

Sixty percent of Americans say Congress should only raise the nation’s debt ceiling if it cuts spending at the same time, according to a new CNN Poll.

“White House aides privately estimate they may need to deliver as many as 100 Democratic votes to ensure an eventual debt limit deal can pass the narrowly divided House,” Politico reports.

“The informal projection is driven by lingering doubts among Biden officials over House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s ability to convince the vast majority of Republicans to back a bipartisan agreement — and the expectation that dozens of the GOP’s most conservative members are poised to rebel against any sign of a compromise.”

“Speaker Kevin McCarthy is attempting a difficult balancing act as he tries to extract spending concessions from President Biden in exchange for raising the debt ceiling: cobbling together a deal that can win the votes of a majority of Republicans without alienating the critical mass of Democrats he would need to push it through the House,” the New York Times reports.

“Hard-right Republicans have fueled the debt-limit standoff by demanding deep spending cuts as the price of averting a default, and they are all but certain to oppose any compromise. That means that Mr. McCarthy, a California Republican, would need the support of a solid bloc of Democrats in the closely divided chamber.”

“The political reality is weighing on both Republicans and Democrats in the debt-limit talks, which continued Tuesday on Capitol Hill with no sign of imminent resolution.”

“Kevin McCarthy is finally a leading player in a huge Washington drama with his gavel on the line,” Politico reports.

“But as his team sits down with President Joe Biden’s, McCarthy is confronting a handicap that even his allies acknowledge is real: Four years in the minority have left him, and the entire GOP conference, with little practice at monumental bipartisan negotiations like the current debt fight.”

“Republicans have often bristled at accusations that they are resorting to hostage tactics by refusing to raise the federal debt ceiling without securing spending cuts,” Semafor reports.

“But on Tuesday, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz leaned into the charge as he explained to reporters that he and his fellow hardline conservatives would likely reject any sort of compromise deal that watered down the party-line bill Republicans passed through the house.”

Said Gaetz: “I think my conservative colleagues… don’t feel like we should negotiate with our hostage.

The White House is looking to turn recent comments by Rep. Matt Gaetz into a cudgel in its messaging battle over the debt ceiling, after the Florida Republican eagerly described himself and his fellow conservatives as “hostage” takers, Semafor reports.

Washington Post: “Some Democrats, especially those who face tough reelections next year, have privately groused that the White House has bungled the messaging, is putting Democrats in a terrible negotiating position and could be forced to eat most of McCarthy’s demands.”

Said one Democratic lawmaker: “I’ve never seen such a massive, surprising and consequential potential failure. We’ll see where this comes out, but by definition we’re only measuring success on how much we lost.”

Washington Post: “Ahead of another round of negotiations with the White House, McCarthy told Republicans they had the upper hand in the discussions and encouraged his members to show their support for colleagues facing tough reelection bids next year as a sign of unity, according to two people in attendance, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private talk. McCarthy urged members to make sure vulnerable lawmakers would have plenty of campaign money from GOP coffers — even pledging that they would not be outraised by their opponents in the 2024 election cycle, the people said of the meeting, which took place at the Capitol Hill Club.”

“The overture reflects the GOP’s determination to stay unified behind spending cuts even as the nation heads toward the brink of a default, despite a rapidly approaching deadline, a White House suddenly eager to compromise and a Democratic-led effort to push a petition that could force a vote on raising the debt ceiling over McCarthy’s objections.”

CNN: “Meadows has also been advising right-wing lawmakers on negotiations over the nation’s debt ceiling, where McCarthy’s right-flank may try to stand in the way of any concessions made in a compromise with President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats.”

“The former chief’s hands-on role in both the debt fight and the speaker’s battle – details of which have not been previously reported – underscores how Meadows has managed to stay politically relevant even as he covertly navigates potential criminal exposure for his role in Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election.”

“Special counsel Jack Smith has all but finished obtaining testimony and other evidence in his criminal investigation into whether former President Donald Trump mishandled classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Some of Trump’s close associates are bracing for his indictment and anticipate being able to fundraise off a prosecution, people in the former president’s circle said, as clashes within the Trump legal team have led to the departure of a key lawyer.”

“In recent weeks prosecutors working for Smith have completed interviews with nearly every employee at Trump’s Florida home, from top political aides to maids and maintenance staff, the people said. Prosecutors have pressed witnesses—some in multiple rounds of testimony—on questions that appeared to home in on specific elements Smith’s team would need to show to prove a crime, including those that speak to Trump’s intentions, and questions aimed at undermining potential defenses Trump could raise.”

“Donald Trump’s legal team has formally requested a meeting with Attorney General Merrick Garland, amid fears from his attorneys that the coming weeks could bring a possible indictment of Trump regarding his alleged efforts to retain materials after leaving office and to obstruct the government’s attempts to retrieve them,” ABC News reports.

“The request does not specifically detail what Trump’s legal team wants to discuss with the attorney general.”

Here is the letter they sent:

It reads like yet another example of Trump personally dictating a response and his lawyers barely gussying it up to make themselves look less foolish. It’s also obviously a fundraising and attention-getting ploy. It’s not real lawyering.

No such meeting with Garland is likely to happen since he delegated the case to Smith. Garland, you may recall, already snubbed a Trump request for a meeting shortly after the FBI raided (or searched, if you prefer) Mar-a-Lago last August. Trump lawyers might win a final meeting with Smith to make a case for why the evidence doesn’t amount to a crime. But at this point, Smith is in the final stages of dotting i’s and crossing t’s.
Be prepared for indictments at any time now.

Chief Justice John Roberts said Tuesday night that he was “confident” the Supreme Court will convince the public that it “adheres to the highest standards of conduct,” the Washington Post reports.

Said Roberts: “I want to assure people that I’m committed to making certain that we as a court adhere to the highest standards of conduct. We are continuing to look at things we can do to give practical effect to that commitment.”

Donald Trump’s criminal trial in Manhattan over his alleged role in a hush money scheme has been set for March 24, 2024 — during the heat of the GOP primary election, The Hill reports.

American poet Amanda Gorman said on Tuesday that the poem she recited during President Biden’s inauguration has been banned by a school in Miami-Dade County,” The Hill reports.

“Target is removing certain items from its stores and making other changes to its LGBTQ merchandise nationwide ahead of Pride month, after an intense backlash from some customers including violent confrontations with its workers,” the AP reports.

Charlie Warzel: “Twitter has long been described, even by its most ardent users, as a hellsite. But under Elon Musk, Twitter has evolved into a platform that is indistinguishable from the wastelands of alternative social-media sites such as Truth Social and Parler. It is now a right-wing social network.”

“In December, I argued that if we are to judge Musk strictly by his actions as Twitter’s owner, it is accurate to call him a far-right activist. As a public figure, he has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the right’s culture war against progressivism—which he refers to as “the woke mind virus”—and his $44 billion Twitter purchase can easily be seen as an explicitly political act to advance this specific ideology.”

“Now the site itself has unquestionably transformed under his leadership into an alternative social-media platform—one that offers a haven to far-right influencers and advances the interests, prejudices, and conspiracy theories of the right wing of American politics.”

“Elon Musk has displaced Rupert Murdoch and Fox News as the king of conservative media in recent weeks,” Axios reports.  “Fox News used to be the place where conservatives went to break news. But the right-wing ecosystem has turned on the network, leaving Twitter as the center of media gravity for the Republican Party just as the 2024 election heats up.”

Attorneys for Clarence Thomas benefactor Harlan Crow claim Congress has no constitutional power to impose ethics rules on the Supreme Court.

The decade-long winning streak that LGBT+ advocates have had in acculturating corporate America to gay pride seems to be coming to an end as corporations react to a wave of new threats against them and their employees from right-wing agitators.

The retail giant Target is pulling back some Pride displays and merchandise in the face of threat, prompting a blistering response from California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The Target capitulation comes after that the Los Angeles Dodger responded to a right-wing outcry by revoking its invitation to the team’s Pride night from the delightfully named Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. After the backlash to that move, including the refusal of other LGBT+ groups to participate in Dodgers’ Pride night, the team apologized and re-invited the good sisters.

“The largest LGBTQ+ rights organization in the U.S. joined other civil rights organizations Tuesday in issuing a travel advisory for Florida, warning that newly passed laws and policies may pose risks to minorities, immigrants and gay travelers,” the AP reports.

“A South Carolina six-week abortion ban that has cleared the Republican-controlled Legislature is now for the second time headed to the governor’s desk, whose expected signature enacting the bill into law is likely to be challenged immediately,” the Columbia State reports.

“The present bill includes exceptions for rape and incest no more than 12 weeks, fatal fetal anomaly and the mother’s life.”

“A push to inject religion into public schools across Texas faltered on Tuesday after the State House failed to pass a contentious bill that would have required the Ten Commandments to be displayed prominently in every classroom,” the New York Times reports.

“The measure was part of an effort by conservative Republicans in the Legislature to expand the reach of religion into the daily life of public schools.”

“A bipartisan duo of Hispanic women are introducing the most robust immigration proposal to date this Congress, a significant collaboration as a new generation of lawmakers pushes for meaningful reform of the nation’s immigration system after decades of failed attempts,” the Washington Post reports.

“For six months, Reps. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL) and Veronica Escobar (D-TX) have been quietly negotiating on key issues where Republican and Democrats have previously sought changes, while leaning on their lived experiences as lawmakers representing border districts with majority Hispanic constituencies.”

“Democrats on Tuesday sued West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican Senate candidate, for refusing to release his work schedule as governor in response to public records request seeking to show a continued pattern of absenteeism,” the Washington Post reports.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster’s (R) office has clarified that the governor was joking when he said that he looked “forward to the day that Democrats are so rare, we have to hunt them with dogs,” at a state GOP convention last weekend, the Washington Post reports.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) said that state House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) should resign, accusing him of presiding over his chamber “in a state of apparent debilitating intoxication,” the Texas Tribune reports.

44-second video clip of Phelan began circulating on social media over the weekend showing him slurring his words.

Paxton’s call for resignation might be in response to this: A Texas House committee revealed Tuesday it was investigating the office of Attorney General Ken Paxton over his push for $3.3 million in taxpayer dollars to settle a whistleblower lawsuit from former deputies who had accused Paxton of misconduct.

Phelan’s office fired back, noting the investigation has been going on since March.

Three months after entering home hospice, the 39th president is still hanging in there, visiting with family and eating ice cream.  “We did think that when he went into hospice it was very close to the end,” Carter grandson Jason Carter said yesterday. “Now, I’m just going to tell you, he’s going to be 99 in October.”

“One of President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees is pulling his name from consideration for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench, the second such politically painful withdrawal this month,” Politico reports.  “Jabari Wamble, currently a federal prosecutor, is yanking his nomination to fill a district court seat in Kansas.”

New York Times: “The share of U.S. adults who said they were doing ‘at least OK financially’ fell sharply last year, to 73 percent from 78 percent in 2021, according to the latest Federal Reserve survey of Americans’ financial well-being, released on Monday. Some 35 percent of Americans said they were worse off than a year earlier, up from 20 percent in 2021 and the highest share in the nine years the question has been asked. Just 19 percent of respondents said they were better off than a year earlier.”

“The erosion in financial health was broad-based, cutting across racial and ethnic lines, educational categories and income groups.”

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

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