Cup of Joe – May 28, 2023

“President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) have reached a tentative agreement for raising the nation’s borrowing limit for two years while placing new limits on spending over that period, according to a person familiar with negotiations, moving to end a standoff that has threatened a historic default on U.S. government debt and put the global economy on edge,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The agreement was announced after Biden and McCarthy spoke by phone on Saturday night for roughly 90 minutes and follows weeks of negotiations between the White House and GOP leaders in the House.”

Matthew Yglesias: “If you ignore everything about the circumstances of how this came together, it’s really not a bad deal.”

Playbook: “The two sides appear to be in agreement on raising the debt ceiling for two years (through the 2024 election) and essentially capping discretionary spending over that time frame for everything except the Pentagon and veterans programs.”

“Where Republicans relented: GOP negotiators initially demanded that Democrats reduce spending on non-defense programs to FY 2022 levels. But they’ve now agreed to pare back those expectations and meet the White House closer to (but below) its own offer of freezing spending at FY 2023 levels.”

“Where Democrats relented: Because the deal will reduce non-defense discretionary spending below the FY 2023 level, Republicans can say that they secured spending cuts. But the inchoate agreement will also include accounting maneuvers to allow Democrats to shift funds from other places, meaning that the cuts are almost a wash.”

Wall Street Journal: Potential debt ceiling deal starts to take shape as deadline looms.

Josh Marshall: “There is a deal. Both sides are presenting it to their members. McCarthy announced plans to hold a vote on Wednesday. Details of the deal are dribbling out. Broadly they seem to conform to reporting over the last 72 hours. The big sticking point at the end was work requirements. There are changes to SNAP and TANF. But they seem pretty limited, mainly focus on able-bodied recipients without children between the ages of 50 and 54.

These concessions are not nothing. But they’re basically what you would have expected if the Republicans had never played with the debt ceiling in the first place but had done a regular budget negotiation. On the merits this is a very good result because it means we won’t have the financial chaos of a debt default and we appear to have far more modest concessions than almost anyone was anticipating. In other words, the hostage taking was a fail. If you walk into Denny’s, pull out a gun and say gimme the money, if you end up just getting served breakfast that means you failed. And that’s kind of what happened here.”

CNN reports House Republican leadership is getting ready to whip the vote.

Playbook notes the Hastert rule lives on: “Republicans are still hoping to deliver a majority of the majority. But doing so is going to take some serious arm-twisting.”

“The U.S. government will run out of money to meet all its payment obligations on June 5 if Congress does not raise the debt ceiling, according to a letter Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sent to lawmakers on Friday,” the Washington Post reports.

“The new projections provide a timeline for lawmakers on Capitol Hill as they try to strike a deal to raise the nation’s borrowing limit and fund the federal government.”

Bloomberg: “In case anyone was wondering, there are 24 individuals on the Bloomberg Billionaires list who have more money than the Treasury does right now.”

New York Times: “She urged Democrats to use their remaining time in control of Washington to lift the debt limit beyond the 2024 elections.”

“Democrats did not heed Ms. Yellen’s advice. Instead, the United States has spent most of this year inching toward the brink of default as Republicans refused to raise or suspend the nation’s $31.4 trillion borrowing limit without capping spending and rolling back parts of President Biden’s agenda.”

“Now the federal government’s cash balance has fallen below $40 billion. And on Friday, Ms. Yellen told lawmakers that the X-date — the point at which the Treasury Department runs out of enough money to pay all its bills on time — will arrive by June 5.”

Playbook: “It didn’t get a lot of attention yesterday, but CNN’s story about Mark Meadows advising the Freedom Caucus as part of debt ceiling talks is worth a read. The former North Carolina Republican congressman and Trump chief of staff is a longtime McCarthy foe, and is infamous on the Hill for making ex-speakers Paul Ryan and John Boehner miserable. His meddling will almost surely cause problems for GOP leadership.”

“Watch this space closely. The more Republicans peel away from McCarthy, the more the speaker will need to rely on Democratic votes to get anything passed in the lower chamber. That could potentially mean a more watered-down bill than the agreement they’re trying to finalize now.”

Punchbowl News: “Democrats don’t like what they’ve heard about the emerging debt-limit and federal spending deal between President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy. And that sense has been building within House Democratic ranks all week.”

“The leadership trio warned the White House that it can’t just assume 80 to 100 Democrats will back any Biden-McCarthy deal. Tougher work requirements for social-welfare programs is the most sensitive issue for many Democrats, with McCarthy continuing to press the White House to give in on this front.”

Josh Marshall again: “But if [the deal happens (and it did)], the big political questions that comes to mind is this: Does the House Freedom Caucus whine a bit, vote no on the deal and then move on to Hunter Biden or do they get stuck on the fact that Biden and McCarthy essentially got together to sideline them and stiff them on most of their demands? The politics of the next two years turns a lot on the answer to that question.

A key for thinking about which path they go in is understanding the relative roles of dominance politics and policy in Freedom Caucus thinking. These folks don’t really care much about spending levels or policy. The Trump years make that clear. They care about gutting a Democratic President. To paraphrase Adam Serwer, the humiliation is the point.”

“In a history-making late-afternoon vote, a divided Texas House chose Saturday to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton, temporarily removing him from office over allegations of misconduct that included bribery and abuse of office,” the Texas Tribune reports.

“The vote to adopt the 20 articles of impeachment was 121-23.”

“Attention next shifts to the Texas Senate, which will conduct a trial with senators acting as jurors and designated House members presenting their case as impeachment managers.”

Washington Post: “The move against Paxton was engineered by his fellow Republicans, who have long controlled all three branches of state government.”

Donald Trump rallied around Attorney General Ken Paxton as the Texas House prepares for a historic impeachment vote today, the Dallas Morning News reports.

Said Trump: “I love Texas, won it twice in landslides, and watched as many other friends, including Ken Paxton, came along with me. Hopefully Republicans in the Texas House will agree that this is a very unfair process that should not be allowed to happen or proceed — I will fight you if it does.”

New York Times: Paxton is counting on political support that he’s amassed as a Republican legal firebrand.

Texas Tribune: “In revealing it had been secretly investigating Paxton since March — and then recommending his impeachment on Thursday — a Republican-led state House committee sought to hold Paxton accountable in a way the GOP has never come close to doing.”

“It amounted to a political earthquake, and while it remains to be seen whether Paxton’s ouster will be the outcome, it represents a stunning act of self-policing.”

Associated Press: “Paxton, who served five terms in the House and one in the Senate before becoming attorney general, is sure to still have allies in Austin.”

“A likely one is his wife, Angela, a two-term state senator who could be in the awkward position of voting on her husband’s political future. It’s unclear whether she would or should participate in the Senate trial, where the 31 members make margins tight.”

However, it gets complicated: “Paxton’s impeachment deals with an extramarital affair he acknowledged to members of his staff years earlier.”

Special counsel Jack Smith is reportedly wrapping up his investigation into Donald Trump’s refusal to return classified documents after his election defeat.

Possible criminal charges are expected “in the days or weeks after Memorial Day,” according to Bloomberg.

Two new stories pinpoint what the charges might include.

The Washington Post reports prosecutors “have gathered evidence indicating that Trump at times kept classified documents in his office in a place where they were visible and sometimes showed them to others.”

The New York Times says that in a sealed court order “the government had also provided sufficient evidence to meet its burden of showing that the former president had retained the classified documents willfully.”

Law professor Ryan Goodman expects this will result in criminal charges under the Espionage Act, noting that dissemination of the stolen information is key.

Goodman also notes the judge in the sealed court order made clear she believed the government had met the threshold for “unauthorized retention of national defense information.”

Many downplay the political impact of indicting Donald Trump since he’s displayed an uncanny ability escape accountability for so many years.

For instance, the conventional wisdom around Trump’s recent indictments in the “hush money” case quickly morphed into a narrative that the Manhattan prosecutor overreached.

But if Trump is charged under the Espionage Act, that’s going to be hard for many Republicans to dismiss.

Another flurry of new reporting about the Mar-a-Lago documents investigation.

First, the timing of indictments:

  • Bloomberg: “Special Counsel Jack Smith is wrapping up his investigation into former president Donald Trump’s refusal to return classified documents after his election defeat and is poised to announce possible criminal charges in the days or weeks after Memorial Day, according to people familiar with the matter.”
  • WaPo: “The grand jury working on the investigation apparently has not met since May 5, after months of frenetic activity at the federal courthouse in Washington. That is the panel’s longest hiatus since December …”

Second, two substantial and mostly new stories on some of the evidence Special Counsel Jack Smith has (emphasis below is mine):

  • WaPo: “Prosecutors in addition have gathered evidence indicating that Trump at times kept classified documents in his office in a place where they were visible and sometimes showed them to others, these people said.”
  • The NYT had limited access to the sealed court order piercing attorney-client privilege between Trump and Evan Corcoran: “At another point, Judge Howell addressed Mr. Trump’s intent and state of mind, saying that the government had also provided sufficient evidence to meet its burden of showing that the former president had retained the classified documents willfully, the person said.”

Third, Espionage Act charges against former President Donald Trump remain firmly in play.

Associated Press: “While efforts to ban books or censor education material have come up sporadically over the years, critics and supporters credit DeSantis with inspiring a new wave of legislation in other conservative states to regulate the books available in schools — and sometimes even in public libraries.”

Politico: Ron DeSantis upended education in Florida. He’s coming for your state next.

CNN: “Doing so will require pushing the limits of the executive branch like never before, DeSantis has suggested in multiple interviews in the past 24 hours. He told conservative radio host Mark Levin that he had studied the US Constitution’s ‘leverage points’ and would use his knowledge to exercise the ‘true scope’ of presidential power…”

“DeSantis’ vision for the executive branch is seemingly at odds with the Republican Party’s traditional adherence to the principles of limited government. Many Republicans often accused former President Barack Obama of extending his powers unconstitutionally and DeSantis himself wrote an entire book in 2011 based on that perception. But it is an approach Republican voters have come to expect from their elected leaders in the years since Trump emerged and dispensed with governing norms.”

Politico: “California Republicans are such a distinct minority group in the blue state — they make up about a third of the electorate — that, this go around, things could get weird. The race to replace Feinstein could end up as a Democrat-on-Democrat contest, and Republicans could wind up swinging the whole election. It’s also not clear who might benefit. Porter’s campaign seems obsessed with this idea.”

“An FBI search earlier this month at the home of media consultant Tim Burke and his wife, Tampa City Council member Lynn Hurtak, stemmed from an investigation of alleged computer intrusions and intercepted communications at the Fox News Network,” the Tampa Bay Times reports.

“In the recesses of the internet where some of Donald Trump’s most fervent supporters stoke conspiracies and plot his return to the White House, suspected con artists have been mining their disappointment over the last presidential election for gold,” NBC News reports.

“They’ve been peddling ‘Trump Bucks,’ which are emblazoned with photos of the former president, and advertising them online as a kind of golden ticket that will help propel Trump’s 2024 bid and make the ‘real patriots’ who support him rich when cashed in.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis said he would be “welcoming” of a measure from Congress to defund the Internal Revenue Service if he’s elected president next year, Fox News reports.

Said DeSantis: “I think the IRS is a corrupt organization and I think it’s not a friend to the average citizen or taxpayer. We need something totally different.”

“Republican presidents have accepted the canard that the DOJ and FBI are ‘independent.’ They are not independent agencies.” — Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), quoted by CNN.

Prosecutors in Donald Trump’s Manhattan criminal case have released to his attorneys a recording of Trump and a witness, whose identity was not disclosed, CBS News reports.

“Jessica Watkins, an Army veteran and member of the far-right Oath Keepers, was sentenced Friday to 8.5 years in prison for participating in a plot to disrupt the certification of the 2020 presidential election culminating in the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol,” CNN reports.

“A South Carolina judge on Friday moved to pause the state’s six-week abortion ban until it can be reviewed by the state Supreme Court,” the Washington Post reports.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) called the the recent legislation successful “the most successful… in many of our lifetimes and maybe in Minnesota history,” MinnPost reports.

“With a DFL trifecta and more money to spend than any Legislature ever — even adjusted for inflation — nearly every plank of the DFL platform was fulfilled.”

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

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