Cup of Joe – September 25, 2023

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) on Friday “rejected calls for him to resign from Congress, saying he plans to fight charges that include allegations of bribery and corruption,” NBC News reports.

New York Times: “The department’s aggressive pursuit of Mr. Menendez appeared to undercut claims that Mr. Trump is the victim of pervasive political bias that targets leaders on the right while shielding transgressors on the left.”

“The entanglement of electoral politics and law enforcement is becoming the norm, and the prosecution of a top Democrat up for re-election in 2024 has political as well as legal reverberations. And the indictment, brought by federal prosecutors in Manhattan with limited participation from the Justice Department’s national security division in Washington, comes at a politically opportune moment for the besieged department.”

Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) called for Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) to resign from the Senate on Saturday, making him the first senator to call for his resignation, Politico reports.

“President Biden announced that he would travel to Michigan on Tuesday to ‘join the picket line’ with members of the United Automobile Workers who are on strike against the nation’s leading automakers, in one of the most significant displays of presidential support for striking workers in decades,” the New York Times reports.

“The trip is set to come a day before Mr. Biden’s leading rival in the 2024 campaign, Donald J. Trump, has planned his own speech in Michigan, and was announced hours after Shawn Fain, the union’s president, escalated pressure on the White House with a public invitation to Mr. Biden.”

Speaker Kevin McCarthy used a conference call today to pitch House Republicans on short-term funding bill that would keep the government open until mid November, Punchbowl News reports. The strategy would be to keep the government funded for 45 days while the House tries to pass additional spending bills. The bill would include several provisions to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.

Another goal would be to prevent a government shutdown from “interfering with the Virginia elections” since many government workers live in the state. It’s not clear whether a short-term funding bill could pass.

“Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Saturday he still lacks support from a handful of GOP hardliners to put a Republican stopgap measure on the floor next week, making a government shutdown likely with just one week until the deadline,” CNN reports.

Said McCarthy: “I’ve been trying to put (a continuing resolution) on for quite some time. I appreciate all the members who’ve worked so hard on that. There are still a few members that won’t vote for funding the government while we finish all the 12 bills. I don’t understand.”

Associated Press: “Speaker McCarthy is giving hard-right Republicans what they want. But it never seems to be enough.”

“Speaker Kevin McCarthy is backtracking on his plan to remove Ukraine aid from a massive military spending bill as Republicans scramble to find a way forward on funding the government,” Politico reports.

“The California Republican’s U-turn comes a day after he told reporters he would remove the roughly $300 million from the Pentagon bill and give it a separate vote as he faced GOP pushback on its inclusion.”

“But in the Capitol on Saturday, McCarthy said the bill will move forward with the Ukraine aid included, arguing it would be too complicated to remove because of the Republicans’ funding strategy of bringing the Defense bill to the floor with other measures. The decision injects fresh doubt into whether the Pentagon spending bill will come up for debate at all after failing twice in recent weeks.”

Henry Olsen has some advice for how Speaker Kevin McCarthy could get tough with his GOP critics: “Target their political aspirations.”

“McCarthy can damage those plans by setting a clear threshold for when a person can be removed from the conference and from their committee assignments for defying the overwhelming will of the party.”

Playbook: “After nine months, McCarthy’s management style as speaker is fairly predictable: He appeases his far-right members as much as possible until the pressure builds and they realize their strategy is hopeless.”

“The arsonists are out there, number one, whining that their house is on fire; number two, are going to want credit that they put the fire out; and then number three, are gonna set up a GoFundMe site to get paid for it.”— Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA), quoted by The Hill, on the state of the House GOP caucus.

Playbook: “We continue to hear chatter about a discharge petition or some other parliamentary maneuver that would sidestep the speaker’s control of the floor and set up a bipartisan CR vote.”

“As embarrassing as it would be to McCarthy, some of his allies argue, it would at least spare him from being blamed by Gaetz & Co. for jamming the CR through the House.”

Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) brushed off threats to Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) top position, saying threats from conservative Republicans to remove him don’t hold water, The Hill reports.

Said Bacon: “It only takes four Republicans to potentially put [McCarthy] at risk and lose the speakership, but the fact is they have no alternative. They have nobody else that they can offer to put up there that the 200 of us would ever vote for.”

“Historically, Republicans have been blamed. So whether you look at it through a policy or a political lens, a shutdown is never beneficial.”— Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), quoted by Politico.

Wall Street Journal: “In a nation fatigued by political battles, voters across the political spectrum have come to see their elected leaders as captivated by their own partisan fights and inattentive to the nation’s most pressing needs.”

“The impeachment inquiry, coming as the nation barrels toward a likely government shutdown due to congressional infighting, is just the latest cause for cynicism.”

New York Times: “With a fractured House in chaos, a government shutdown a near certainty and Mr. McCarthy grasping to hold onto his job, Mr. Gaetz has once again emerged as an influential figure on Capitol Hill, the determined ringleader of a small band of right-wing rebels who are willing to sow disorder and dissent no matter the consequences.”

“And unlike the speaker, who has repeatedly shown himself this week to be unable to corral Republicans to do his bidding, Mr. Gaetz appears — at least for now — to have enough votes to dictate how, or whether, the House will function.”

Donald Trump suggested on Truth Social last night that Gen. Mark Milley — the outgoing chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff — should be executed for treason.

It’s an extraordinary attack on a well-regarded public servant.

But it also raises the question of whether Milley is one of Special Counsel Jack Smith’s witnesses for Trump’s trial over interfering with the 2020 presidential election.

That’s because Milley may be able to provide proof that Trump knew he had lost the election.

Politico made this report after the January 6 Committee voted to subpoena Trump: “Among other revelations, the committee said Thursday that Trump sent military leaders into a panic by secretly ordering all U.S. troops withdrawn from Afghanistan and Somalia days after losing reelection. The select panel showed testimony from Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, describing Trump’s withdrawal move as “potentially dangerous” but said Trump suggested leaving the problem to “the next guy.” While the order was never implemented, Trump’s intent was to complete the withdrawal before Inauguration Day — and panel member Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) argued that it was evidence that he knew “his term would shortly end.”

If Trump knew he lost the election, then his actions on January 6 were obvious attempts to stay in office illegally.

If Milley is a witness, Trump’s comments last night can easily be portrayed as an attempt to intimidate him — something he swore not to do as part of his release conditions.

“Speaker Kevin McCarthy has only one way out of next week’s impending government shutdown: working with Democrats. It’s an exit he’s still refusing to take,” Politico reports.

“During the most tumultuous stretch of his speakership so far, McCarthy hasn’t phoned a single member of the opposing party about a way to keep the lights on.”

“Instead, the speaker and his team will scramble this weekend to slash their own party’s spending bills in an effort to placate a handful of hard-liners who are threatening to eject him. Votes on some of those revised bills are now expected on Tuesday, four days before the Sept. 30 shutdown deadline. But even if they pass, that will move Congress no closer to a solution.”

New York Times: “With government funding set to expire at the end of next week as the fiscal year closes and with no clear path for a temporary spending measure to keep federal agencies operating, officials across Washington are rushing to make preparations to weather a shutdown that looks more and more likely with each passing hour.”

Politico: Here’s what happens when the government shuts down.

Jonathan Martin: “Now, at 41, she’s become not only well-liked by colleagues in both parties but, more remarkably, a sought-after inside player in a way that’s unusual for a non-celebrity senator during their first months in office. It’s easy to see why Britt is so appealing, particularly to the chamber’s institutionalists: She’s engaging, respectful of her elders, well-versed on substance and more focused on her state than garnering hits on Fox prime time.”

New York Times: “Despite new border barriers and thickets of razor wire, risk of deportation and pleas for patience, a resurgent tide of men, women and children is not waiting. Driven by desperation, families and individuals are pushing across the southern border and past new efforts by the Biden administration to keep migrants waiting until they secure hard-to-get appointments to enter the nation with permission.”

Associated Press: “Migrants were stopped at the border 142,037 times during the first 17 days of September, up 15% from 123,777 the same period last month.”

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