Cup of Joe – June 2, 2023

The U.S. Senate voted Thursday night to pass a bill that would extend the debt ceiling for two years and establish a two-year budget agreement on a broad bipartisan vote, 63 to 36, NBC News reports.

The U.S. House has already passed the bill, so it now goes to President Biden for his signature.

Punchbowl News: “The structure of the agreement came together relatively quickly Thursday. A group of GOP defense hawks demanded a public commitment from Senate leadership to take up a supplemental defense spending bill this year focused on Ukraine funding and other priorities, including Israel and China.”

David Ignatius: “The president’s congenital centrism is easy to criticize, especially in this era of hard, polarizing views. He’s a conciliator, a dealmaker who likes to say yes and has trouble saying no. He’s also risk-averse, and he avoids escalation when facing potential catastrophe, whether it’s war with Russia or a budget default.”

“But Biden’s critics miss the glaringly obvious fact that he is behaving precisely as he said he would.”

“In the days after striking a deal with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, White House officials sought to downplay what they privately considered to be a substantial victory,” Politico reports.

“Aides feared that any crowing about the agreement would endanger its passage. They advised allies to be restrained, fearful of driving up Republican opposition.”

“But there was another consideration at play. Biden world wanted to emerge from the process with the public perception of being the ‘adults in the room;’ mediators in an era of sharp partisanship… Biden’s advisers are betting that voters will reward him for getting a big thing done in a bipartisan fashion. They plan to portray the president as a steady hand in stark contrast to the extremes of the Republican Party.”

Edward Luce: “Shakespeare foretold the tale of America’s latest debt-ceiling crisis — full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. The final deal, which will probably be passed this weekend, could also have been scripted by Joe Biden. Rarely in the history of fiscal brinkmanship has so much noise been made by so many Republicans with so little to show for it. The result is a win for Biden that prudence stops him from celebrating.”

“This charade’s key lesson is that people who call themselves ‘fiscal conservatives’ are guilty of fraudulent branding — aided by a process-obsessed media. The definition of fiscal conservatism is matching public spending with revenues over the business cycle. Threatening a catastrophic default unless the tax-collecting Internal Revenue Service is defunded is its very opposite. That would be fiscal incontinence.”

“The fact that this was one of the key Republican demands gave the game away.”

“I don’t know if he’s that lucky or that skillful. Whatever it is, it’s damn sure working.”— Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), quoted by Politico, on President Biden’s negotiating a bipartisan debt ceiling deal.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) may be facing a rebellion from the most conservative members of the Republican caucus, but he’ll probably keep his job for now. However, this may not be the case in the months to come.

The current unrest in his caucus shows McCarthy was weakened by negotiating a debt ceiling deal with President Biden. The only possible deal was one that everyone hates. That’s why there’s discussion among some Republicans about using a motion to vacate to toss McCarthy.

What’s preserving McCarthy’s position is the same thing that allowed him to become Speaker in the first place: the lack of a viable alternative. It’s unlikely Democrats will help conservatives oust McCarthy. After all, a weakened McCarthy may be a better outcome for the minority party. And the more deals he’s forced to cut with Democrats, the weaker he becomes.

As Josh Huder astutely observes: “McCarthy’s core problem is that doing his job puts his job in jeopardy. Speakers must pass must-pass bills.” Spending bills have turned into the ultimate wedge issue that Democrats can use against Republicans. As long as Republicans remain starkly divided on spending priorities, the tenure of a Republican Speaker is likely to be short.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-GA) “decision to vote in support of the debt ceiling deal on Wednesday has been harshly criticized by her former ally Steve Bannon, who called on the Georgia Republican to be challenged in the next party’s primary,” Newsweek reports.

“You’ve got two Irish guys who don’t drink. The bonding opportunities are not the same as for an Irish guy like me.”— Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), quoted by CNN, on the relationship between President Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

New York Times: “With House approval on Wednesday night of the debt limit package he personally negotiated with President Biden, Mr. McCarthy defied expectations and even earned grudging respect from White House officials while defusing the debt limit time bomb he himself planted by insisting on concessions in return for raising the nation’s borrowing limit.”

“The bar was set low for Mr. McCarthy, known more for politicking and fund-raising than for policymaking, after he struggled mightily to win his post in the first place as House Republicans took control in January.”

“But in the end, he delivered an agreement that met his goal of cutting spending from current levels. It was not pretty; in fact, it was downright ugly. He managed to do so only with significant help from across the aisle, as Democrats rescued him on a key procedural vote and then provided the support needed for passage. Mr. McCarthy exceeded his goal of winning the support of the majority of his members with 149 backing it, but more Democrats — 165 of them — voted for the bill than members of his own party, an outcome that will fuel Republican criticism that he cut a deal that sold out his own people.”

NBC News: McCarthy proves his naysayers wrong.

Punchbowl News: “Today, the Senate today kicks off what could be a brisk, 36-hour sprint or a drawn-out, days-long marathon on that legislation, the Fiscal Responsibility Act.”

“Leaders in both parties hope it’s the former. Not only to preserve their weekends, but to calm world financial markets ahead of the deadline Monday for a U.S. government default.”

“Based on our conversations with leadership aides, there’s a reasonable hope that the Senate can pass the debt-limit package by Friday night. And last night’s blowout House vote will lend some momentum to this. Two-thirds of House Republicans were in favor, with an even bigger total among Democrats.”

“The key here for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will be clinching a time agreement with senators who are demanding votes on amendments — and then making sure that those amendments don’t pass. We expect all of these amendments to be considered at a 60-vote threshold.”

Playbook: “It appears to be smooth sailing from here. Both Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell were pretty blunt about the need to get this wrapped up by the end of the week and are hoping for cooperation from all senators.”

CNN: Senate races to avert default but vote timing unclear for debt limit bill.

Playbook: “It was the greatest test of his nascent speakership. And, depending on who you ask, he passed.”

“Yes, more Democrats than Republicans ultimately voted for the bill. Yes, that is something of a disappointment for McCarthy — mustering 149 GOP yea votes, given that he’d reportedly guaranteed 150.”

“But getting two-thirds of House Republicans to back any debt-ceiling increase is a remarkable feat.”

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) “quietly cut a deal for Democrats to vote to advance the bipartisan debt ceiling bill to a final vote,“ Axios reports.

“The 52 Democratic votes were necessary for the bill to clear a procedural hurdle after 29 Republicans voted against moving it to last night’s final vote, in which it was approved 314-117.”

“The details of the deal have been tightly held, but a source said they expect more details to be made available soon.”

Punchbowl News: “For his part, McCarthy faced deep unhappiness from the House Freedom Caucus over the legislation. A total of 29 Republicans voted against the rule for the Fiscal Responsibility Act, forcing House GOP leaders to turn to Democrats to pass the rule.”

“At other times, such a move would be considered a direct challenge to the leadership. In this case, the conservative opposition was widely telegraphed ahead of time, and it’s not expected to result in repercussions for those GOP lawmakers.”

“There is some chatter about conservatives trying to remove McCarthy using the motion to vacate, but the speaker’s team is confident they can beat that back.”

“Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said he will force the Senate to vote this week on cutting total federal spending by 5 percent in each of the next two years, a proposal that would include Social Security and Medicare,” The Hill reports.

“It’s an uncomfortable vote for Senate Republicans, one which it divides their conference.”

In a massive scoop by CNN, Donald Trump was recorded on audio — which is now in the hands of Special Counsel Jack Smith — at a July 2021 meeting at his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey talking about a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack on Iran.

From The Guardian:  “For several minutes of the audio recording, the sources said, Trump talks about how he cannot discuss the document because he no longer possesses the sweeping presidential power to declassify now out of office, but suggests that he should have done so when he was still in the White House.”

That’s a pretty big smoking gun.   Despite Trump’s repeated and flimsy claim that he declassified the documents that were found in his possession, he knew these were not declassified.  n fact, they were still marked “SECRET,” according to the report.

Law professor Ryan Goodman calls the news a “bombshell” and notes:  “If Trump discussed content of document it is even worse — and raises its own criminal exposure. These individuals are all likely good witnesses, with disincentive to lie given their number.

He adds that war plans “are among the most highly classified documents.” That puts added pressure on the special counsel to indict Trump.

Goodman concludes:  “Make no mistake. This is squarely an Espionage Act case. It is not simply an “obstruction” case. There is now every reason to expect former President Trump will be charged under 18 USC 793(e) of the Espionage Act.

The law fits his reported conduct like a hand in glove.”

But the biggest news may be from the New York Times which reported that a Trump aide, Margo Martin, routinely recorded interviews Trump gave, so there might be more audio recordings in the hands of the special counsel.

“Donald Trump’s legal team for months has weathered deep distrust and interpersonal conflict that could undermine its defense of the former president as the criminal investigation into his handling of classified documents and obstruction of justice at Mar-a-Lago nears its conclusion,” The Guardian reports.

“The turmoil inside the legal team only exploded into public view when one of the top lawyers, Tim Parlatore, abruptly resigned two weeks’ ago from the representation citing irreconcilable differences with Trump’s senior adviser and in-house counsel Boris Epshteyn.”

“But the departure of Parlatore was the culmination of months of simmering tensions that continue to threaten the effectiveness of the legal team at a crucial time – as federal prosecutors weigh criminal charges – in part because the interpersonal conflicts remain largely unresolved.”

“Attorneys for former president Donald Trump are expected to argue that the judge overseeing his criminal case has conflicts that should disqualify him from seeing it forward,” the Washington Post reports.

“New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, a veteran judge who also handled the Trump Organization’s criminal tax fraud trial, was appointed to preside over Trump’s 34-count falsifying business records indictment when it was voted by a grand jury in late March.”

“SpaceX’s Starlink, the satellite communications service started by billionaire Elon Musk, now has a Department of Defense contract to buy those satellite services for Ukraine,” Reuters reports.

The Economist: “A demographic tragedy is unfolding in Russia. Over the past three years the country has lost around 2m more people than it would ordinarily have done, as a result of war, disease and exodus.”

“The life expectancy of Russian males aged 15 fell by almost five years, to the same level as in Haiti. The number of Russians born in April 2022 was no higher than it had been in the months of Hitler’s occupation. And because so many men of fighting age are dead or in exile, women now outnumber men by at least 10 million.”

“President Biden’s decision last month to help Ukraine obtain F-16 fighter jets marked another crossing of a Russian red line that Vladimir Putin has said would transform the war and draw Washington and Moscow into direct conflict,” the Washington Post reports.

“Despite the Russian leader’s apocalyptic warnings, the United States has gradually agreed to expand Ukraine’s arsenal with Javelin and Stinger missiles, HIMARS rocket launchers, advanced missile defense systems, drones, helicopters, M1 Abrams tanks and, soon, fourth-generation fighter jets.”

“His bluffing has given U.S. and European leaders some confidence they can continue doing so without severe consequences — but to what extent remains one of the conflict’s most dangerous uncertainties.”

“A Kremlin-linked businessman accused of illegally exporting American military technology to Russia was arrested in Italy at the U.S.’s request. Then he vanished,” the Wall Street Journal reports.  “Artem Uss, son of a powerful Russian politician close to President Vladimir Putin, was able to escape back to Moscow after Italy granted him house arrest, despite U.S. warnings that he would flee. Uss evaded Italian police using cars and an international network of helpers including a Serbian criminal gang.”

“The U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision Thursday siding with an employer that had sued a union for damages after workers went on strike,” the HuffPost reports.

“In an 8-1 decision, the majority ruled that federal law does not preempt a lawsuit the employer filed against the union in state court, alleging workers had destroyed property with their work stoppage. The Supreme Court ruling strikes down a lower court’s decision and keeps the employer’s lawsuit against the union alive.”

“On the verge of the NBA finals, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has proposed a ‘friendly wager’ with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, with a happy Disney ending should the Denver Nuggets beat the Miami Heat,” the Denver Post reports.

“The championship matchup starts on Thursday and Polis suggests that the Walt Disney World Resort pull up stakes from the Sunshine State and land in colorful Colorado should the Nuggets beat the Heat.”

“The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Wednesday tossed out two state laws outlawing abortion,” Tulsa World reports. “The court ruled that it had found that there is an inherent right of a pregnant woman to terminate a pregnancy when it is necessary to preserve her life.”

“The national security adviser to Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) has resigned after The Washington Post disclosed in a story that he presented Tuberville with the highly controversial strategy of stalling scores of senior military nominations in an attempt to stop a new Defense Department policy that helps ensure access to abortions for service members,” the Washington Post reports.

The brother of Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) is speaking out on social media, saying he is “compelled to distance” himself from some of the lawmaker’s recent statements, reports.

Said Charles Tuberville, on Facebook: “Due to recent statements by him promoting racial stereotypes, white nationalism and other various controversial topics, I feel compelled to distance myself from his ignorant, hateful rants… What I’m trying to say is that, I DO NOT agree with any of the vile rhetoric coming out of his mouth. Please don’t confuse my brother with me.”

“Donald Trump’s latest idea to enshrine American greatness is to throw the country ‘the most spectacular’ birthday bash — one that will last all year,” Politico reports.

“In 2026, the U.S. will celebrate the semiquincentennial: the quarter millennial since its declaration of independence. To commemorate the anniversary, Trump is proposing a blowout, 12-month-long ‘Salute to America 250’ celebration.”

“The biggest part of Trump’s yearlong party plans is a massive fair — like a modern world’s fair — showcasing each state.”

Although Donald Trump said this month that “everybody wants to see the Open Championship” played at his Turnberry golf resort in Scotland, he was told that he was unlikely to get another British Open held at one of his courses for the foreseeable future, The Telegraph reports.

Bloomberg: “The former Fed chair, regarded by many as the country’s most experienced economic policymaker, shows little concern when reflecting on government spending.”

“Instead of looking at the pile of outstanding bonds as a share of the economy’s output, she prefers the ratio of interest payments — crucially, after adjustment for inflation — to GDP.”

“The Senate voted largely along party lines Thursday on legislation to block President Joe Biden’s student debt relief program after the measure cleared a key procedural hurdle in the chamber,” NBC News reports.

“The final vote comes a day after senators voted 51-46 to advance the measure, which would repeal Biden’s debt relief program and end the administration’s pause on federal student loan payments. A few moderate Democrats — Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana, as well as independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — voted with Republicans on Wednesday on the motion to proceed to the final vote.”

“Just a simple majority of senators were needed to pass the legislation and send it to Biden’s desk. But the White House warned in a Statement of Administration Policy last month that Biden would veto the resolution.”

The Economist: “A new paper by economists at the University of Chicago suggests that the pause in student-loan payments caused borrowers to rack up more debt, not less.”

The Economist: “Today’s populist Republicans have jettisoned many classical conservative values, but their departure from a decades-long alliance with America’s corporations is one of the most notable rebellions…”

“With big business on Republican hit-lists, entrepreneurs saw an opening. The parallel economy has two major draws. For consumers, it offers the opportunity to buy from firms that reflect their values. Surveys show that Americans want brands to get political and would sometimes even pay a premium for products if they did. For firms, politically aligned suppliers serve as an insurance policy.”

“Federal Reserve officials signaled they are increasingly likely to hold interest rates steady at their June meeting before preparing to raise them again later this summer,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

An AI-enabled drone killed its human operator in a simulated test conducted by the U.S. Air Force in order to override a possible “no” order stopping it from completing its mission, Vice News reports.  It’s like no one has seen any Terminator movie.  Skynet is real.

“We are not interested in whether the allegations against Vice President Biden are accurate or not.”— Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), on Fox News.

“Hunter Biden could soon find himself in a surprising position: at the cutting edge of the fight to strengthen the Second Amendment,” Politico reports.

“The president’s son is the target of a Justice Department investigation scrutinizing his purchase of a gun in 2018 — a time when he has said he was regularly using crack cocaine. Federal law bans drug users from owning guns.”

“But the constitutionality of that law — like many other provisions restricting gun ownership — is newly in question after a precedent-rocking decision the Supreme Court handed down almost a year ago.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) appointed former Secretary of State John Scott as interim Texas attorney general, temporarily replacing Ken Paxton, who was suspended as attorney general pending the outcome of an impeachment trial in the state Senate, the Texas Tribune reports.

“The Justice Department filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the coal empire of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice over $5 million in unpaid fines related to health, safety and environmental violations,” the HuffPost reports.

The companies who appear to have swindled supporters of former President Donald Trump out of tens of thousands of dollars by peddling them bogus “Trump Bucks” no longer have active websites, NBC News reports.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker (D) “is expected to sign a bill that would make Illinois the first state to legislate to end book bans – by punishing publicly-funded institutions that attempt to censor in that way,” The Guardian reports.

“The White House announced Thursday that it will levy sanctions against key defense companies and people ‘perpetuating the violence’ in Sudan as warring sides fail to abide by a cease-fire agreement,” the AP reports.

Elon Musk has reclaimed his position as the world’s wealthiest person, Bloomberg reports.

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

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