Cup of Joe – September 30, 2023

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has died, Punchbowl News reports.

The New York Times says the news was confirmed by a family member and the senator’s staff was being informed this morning.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) will need to appoint someone to serve out the remainder of her term.

“The death of Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat, immediately turns the spotlight to an intense, ongoing three-way battle to replace her, fraught with racial, political and generational tensions over one of the most coveted positions in California and national politics,” the New York Times reports.

“It also puts new pressure on Gov. Gavin Newsom, who will chose someone to fill her term through the end of 2024. Mr. Newsom, whose profile has risen in national Democratic politics in recent weeks as he has traveled the country on behalf of President Biden’s re-election campaign, had come under fire for announcing he would not pick any of the declared candidates in filling any vacancy, so as not to elevate them and give them an advantage in the Democratic primary race.”

The 19th: Feinstein’s death leaves critical Senate vacancy amid contentious race to replace her.

Politico: “Democrats will need 60 votes to appoint a senator to fill Feinstein’s role on the Judiciary panel, meaning at least 10 Republicans would need to vote in favor of filling Democrats’ majority on the panel, assuming they move to do so before someone is appointed to the California Senate seat.”

“Senators are typically assigned to committees by unanimous consent, but such orders are subject to debate and can be filibustered. Republican senators could slow, or stop, Democrats from filling the Judiciary roster.”

“The panel, under Democratic control, has been advancing scores of judicial nominations that Republicans object to. Leaving the panel short one Democratic vote would hamper the majority’s steady confirmation of President Joe Biden’s nominees.”

“A contingent of far-right House Republicans are plotting an attempt to remove Kevin McCarthy as House speaker as early as next week, a move that would throw the chamber into further disarray in the middle of a potential government shutdown,“ the Washington Post reports, “Members of the far-right faction of the party are coalescing around nominating a member of McCarthy’s leadership team, Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), to be the next speaker if they can successfully oust McCarthy, according to those people. The members think Emmer is more attuned to their concerns and will better deliver conservative results.”

“The effort to replace McCarthy with one of his top deputies is the latest example of the acrimony and chaos that has upended the Republican conference this year and has Congress on the path to a government shutdown.”

Politico: Conservatives pitch McCarthy alternatives as ouster talk heats up.

An effort to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is a “distinct possibility,” but it’s entirely dependent on whether Democrats are willing to play along with right-wing hardliners, Punchbowl News reports.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) “is privately courting some House Democrats to help him oust Kevin McCarthy from the speakership,” Politico reports.

“The Florida Republican, who is threatening to force a vote on booting McCarthy if he works with Democrats to avoid a shutdown, approached multiple Democrats on the floor late Thursday night to discuss how they would vote on a possible vote of no confidence against McCarthy.”

“Honestly, can that motherfucker please do it so we can move on with the business of the House? It is such a narrow-minded, not well thought-out plan.”— A House GOP aide, quoted by Semafor, referring to Rep. Matt Gaetz’s (R-FL) threat to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).

“There is something between them, and I don’t know what it is. And that’s the impression I’ve gotten from McCarthy, too: It’s not policy-driven; it’s personal.” — Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), quoted by Playbook, on the animosity between Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL).

Rep Matt Gaetz (R-FL) told CBS News that Speaker Kevin McCarthy paid social media influencers to trash him.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy told the House Republican caucus that he was donating $5 million to the party’s national campaign effort.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL): “How much of that is from FTX or Sam Bankman Fried?”

Rep. French Hill (R-AR): “Oh, fuck off.”

Politico: “It’s the question reverberating on Capitol Hill after the simmering feud between the Florida conservative and Speaker Kevin McCarthy flared up again Thursday morning in a closed-door meeting, with one lawmaker telling Gaetz to ‘fuck off’ for leveling unproven accusations against the speaker. Gaetz has threatened to force a vote on booting McCarthy for weeks, publicly called him ‘pathetic’ and accused him of lying multiple times.”

“Hill Republicans, when granted anonymity to speak candidly, say they don’t believe Gaetz when he insists it ‘isn’t personal’ (though rank-and-file GOP lawmakers are quick to add they don’t know what has set off the Florida Republican).”

“The speaker hasn’t publicly weighed in. But in private, McCarthy has questioned what he could have done to trigger this level of hostility from Gaetz, according to a longtime ally of the speaker. Other McCarthy allies have theorized that Gaetz’s fury dates back to a now-closed Justice Department inquiry into sex trafficking allegations, when some in the House GOP came just short of openly celebrating his potential political demise.”

“House Republicans failed to pass a stopgap government funding bill on Friday, leaving Kevin McCarthy with no clear next step to try to avert a shutdown in less than 36 hours,” Politico reports.

“It’s an enormous blow to the speaker, who by bringing the vote to the floor essentially dared his hardliners to oppose the patch. He argued that voting against it essentially meant opposing border security.”

Washington Post: “It is unclear what Houselawmakers will do next.”

Punchbowl News: “The question now is what does McCarthy do next. The House Republican Conference will meet today at 4 p.m., less than 36 hours before the government will run out of money.”

“McCarthy is really on an island here, as we’ve stated a few times over the last few days. House Republicans have plunged the nation into a government shutdown. And he has to figure a way to get out of it.”

Said McCarthy: “It’s not the end yet. I have other ideas.”

“The Republican-led House voted on Wednesday to reduce the salary of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to $1, as right-wing lawmakers tried to transform a Pentagon spending bill and a series of other funding measures into weapons to take aim at President Biden, his agenda and his top officials,” the New York Times reports. “There is little chance that Mr. Austin, the first Black defense secretary, will actually see his pay cut. The military spending bill is all but certain to die in the Senate, where it is expected to meet with bipartisan opposition.”

Politico: “If you’re a federal worker who doesn’t know what the future holds, we’re here to tell you: Your duly elected Congress doesn’t know what the future holds, either.”

“But this much is clear: Lawmakers are racing toward a shutdown, and it’s becoming harder by the minute to see how they can find their way to any of the potential off-ramps.”

“This is a huge mess… I thought we would be better than this.”— Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), on Fox News, about the House Republican caucus.

Washington Post: “Lawmakers have until 12:01 a.m. Sunday to pass a new law to extend government funding, or a wide range of critical federal services will come to a halt. On Thursday, a bipartisan Senate agreement to temporarily fund the federal government passed a procedural hurdle, but that plan has already been rejected by House Republicans.”

“Typically, funding showdowns in divided government between Congress and the White House have featured pitched battles over specific policies, such as Trump’s border wall or Obamacare. But budget experts and historians say the current impasse stands out for its lack of a clear policy disagreement.”

“When Representative Kevin McCarthy was short the votes he needed to become speaker in January, he didn’t browbeat his far-right Republican detractors or threaten retribution. Instead, he granted them major concessions, subjecting himself to a long, humiliating slog to win them over,” the New York Times reports.

“Mr. McCarthy is now facing a near-certain government shutdown and a possible move by the same faction to oust him from his post if he moves to head off the crisis. And he is turning to the same people-pleasing script, seeking to mollify a faction of his conference he privately scorns.”

“He has once again caved to the demands of far-right lawmakers, opening an impeachment inquiry into President Biden and then agreeing to slash government spending to levels they clamored for. When that was not enough, Mr. McCarthy pushed aside a stopgap spending bill to avert a government shutdown. Instead, he bowed to the right flank’s insistence on first bringing up a series of individual yearlong spending bills loaded up with arch-conservative policy dictates — even though none had a chance of enactment.”

Politico: House GOP’s spending gambit flops.

“More than two dozen members of the House Freedom Caucus are demanding Speaker Kevin McCarthy answer questions about the path forward on government funding while also publicly denouncing a bipartisan Senate stopgap proposal,” Politico reports.

“The letter is just the latest data point for how hard it will prove for McCarthy to round up sufficient GOP support for any short-term spending measure. He can lose but a handful of votes without the support of Democrats.”

Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Mark Milley told 60 Minutes that he will take “appropriate measures” to make sure he and his family are safe in the wake of recent comments made by Donald Trump. Said Milley: “I’ve got adequate safety precautions.”

“Look, I’m a soldier. I’ve been faithful and loyal to the Constitution of the United States for 44 and a half years, and my family and I have sacrificed greatly for this country, and my mother and father before them. And, you know, as much as these comments are directed at me, it’s also directed at the institution of the military, and there’s 2.1 million of us in uniform, and the American people can take it to the bank that all of us, every single one of us, from private to general, were loyal to that Constitution and will never turn our back on it, no matter what. No matter what the threats, no matter what the humiliation, no matter what.”— Former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Mark Milley, on 60 Minutes, responding to Donald Trump’s death threat.

“We don’t take an oath to a king, or queen, or a tyrant or a dictator. And we don’t take an oath to a wannabe dictator… we take an oath to the Constitution… and we’re willing to die to protect it.” — Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Mark Milley, at his retirement ceremony.

Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) told his Democratic colleagues that he will wear a suit when speaking or presiding over the chamber, Punchbowl News reports. If not in a suit, Fetterman said he will vote from the cloakroom.

“Embattled Sen. Bob Menendez on Thursday, who is battling felony bribery charges and a counterintelligence probe into his ties to Egypt, defiantly told his Democratic colleagues on Thursday he will not step down,” The Messenger reports.

A new Public Policy Polling survey finds Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is very unpopular among New Jersey voters, putting his favorability ratings at a dismal 8% to 74%.   “Even among Democrats, Menendez’s position is looking dire, with an approval rating of 12% to 67% among respondents who said they voted for Joe Biden in 2020.”

“He may be facing bribery charges and calls for his resignation from more than half of his Senate Democratic colleagues. But donors can still hit the links and dine with Sen. Bob Menendez at a luxurious beachside hotel – for a price,” CNN reports.  “A political action committee tied to Menendez is hosting donors in two weeks for an evening reception with the senator and his chief of staff at the Ritz-Carlton hotel at Dorado Beach in Puerto Rico – a move likely to prompt Democratic fears that the embattled senator will try to hang onto his seat despite his criminal charges.”

“Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) on Thursday became the first senator to say he supports a vote to expel embattled Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) from the Senate over the federal bribery charges that have rocked Capitol Hill,” NBC News reports.  “Expelling a sitting senator is extremely rare, and it’s unlikely Fetterman would be able to secure the two-thirds majority of votes needed to force Menendez out of office. Unlike members of Menendez’s own party, Senate Republicans have not called on the senior senator from New Jersey to resign, saying he deserves to have his day in court.”

Said one senior GOP aid to CNN: “Picking witnesses that refute House Republicans’ arguments for impeachment is mind-blowing. This is an unmitigated disaster.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) on Thursday slammed Republicans “for proceeding with their impeachment inquiry hearing into President Biden as the U.S. government teeters on the brink of a shutdown,” Axios reports.

Said Raskin: “It’s hard to grasp the complete derangement of this moment. Three days before they’re set to shut down the United States government, Republicans launch a baseless impeachment drive against President Biden. No one can figure out the logic of either course of action.” 

Meanwhile, conservative legal scholar Jonathan Turley, a GOP witness during the hearing, said that “the current evidence doesn’t support articles of impeachment.”

Charlie Sykes: “Fresh off a chaotic and embarrassing presidential debate, and slouching toward a government shutdown, Congressional Republicans took time out Thursday to roll out the Biden impeachment inquiry. The charitable view is that the first hearing was a dumpster fire inside a clown car wrapped in a fiasco.”

How badly did it go? Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) quipped: “As a former director of emergency management, I know a disaster when I see one.”

Neil Cavuto: “I don’t know what was achieved over these last six-plus hours… The way this was built up — where there’s smoke there would be fire…but where there’s smoke today, we got more smoke.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) told CNN that he heard directly from Republicans on the House floor that the right-wing believes Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) set up the initial impeachment hearing into President Biden to fail.

Said Raskin: “They couldn’t believe that such a disaster would just happen by accident.”

Donald Trump will be deposed next month in connection with a pair of lawsuits filed by former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, NBC News reports.

“New York Attorney General Letitia James plans to call former President Donald Trump and three of his adult children to testify at his civil fraud trial set to begin in New York next week,” CNBC reports. “Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump are among the 28 names on James’ list of fact witnesses to be called in the case.”

“Also on that list are Michael Cohen, Trump’s former fixer and personal lawyer, and Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization.”

“An appeals court Thursday declined to postpone the start of next week’s trial in the New York attorney general’s $250 million fraud lawsuit against Donald Trump and his company,” the Washington Post reports.  “The appellate court had been asked by Trump’s legal team to put off the scheduled start of the proceeding Monday and to force New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, who will oversee it, to dismiss claims that were covered by statute of limitations.”

“A New York judge’s sweeping ruling on Tuesday punishing Donald Trump for years of alleged business fraud could force the former president to sell the New York real estate empire he built over decades that helped catapult him to fame, television stardom and the White House,” the Washington Post reports.

“The decision in a civil case accusing Trump of illegally inflating his property values orders the cancellation of his New York business licenses, potentially wresting from his control of dozens of properties worth hundreds of millions of dollars.”

“Donald Trump has sought to discredit a New York judge’s blockbuster ruling threatening his business empire by arguing that Mar-a-Lago alone is worth more than a billion dollars,” The Messenger reports. “But fewer than three years ago, his tax representative told Palm Beach County officials that Trump ‘agrees’ his private club in South Florida is worth just $26.6 million.”

“If you really want to get to Donald, the way to do it is through his bankbook. That’s what really gets to him.”— Former Trump fixer Michael Cohen, on CNN.

 “I heard some things he talked about, about race and things that he wanted to mix into the military. Our military is not an equal opportunity employer.”— Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), to Bloomberg, on why he didn’t vote to confirm the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Nick Catoggio: “Because despite all the blather about Biden and Trump being the two most known ‘known quantities’ in politics, we actually don’t know how dangerous and destabilizing Trump might prove to be as his mind bends under the strain of an election and four indictments.”

“Or whether it’ll break entirely once he’s back in power and surrounded by the most obsequious fascist toadies he can find.”

Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey told MSNBC that Donald Trump’s threats to military leaders “is a parallel to the 1930s in Nazi Germany.” Said McCaffrey: “That’s 15-25 House members, a couple of Senators, and all those who are Trump MAGA loyalists—it’s a major threat to the armed forces of the United States.”

Former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann told MSNBC he’s worried that someone targeted by Donald Trump will face actual violence. Said Weissmann: “It is so unreal that we’re sitting at a table discussing that the former leader of the free world is making statements knowing darn well the sort of call and response affect he has… something terrible is going to happen.”

“In a surprise move, former President Donald Trump has decided not to seek to move his criminal trial from Fulton County to federal court,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.  “In order to move his case, Trump would have had to show he was operating as a federal official — rather than a political candidate — in taking steps to change the outcome of announced results in the 2020 presidential election in Georgia and elsewhere.”

Politico: “After a series of questions about the Constitution and Trump’s conduct after the 2020 presidential election, 51 percent said the 14th Amendment prohibits Trump from running again because he engaged in insurrection, compared with 34 percent who said the opposite.”

“The Supreme Court on Friday said it would wade into the future of free speech online and decide whether laws passed in Texas and Florida can restrict social media companies from removing certain political posts or accounts,” the Washington Post reports.

“The justices’ decision to take the landmark social media cases came in an order that also added 10 other cases to the calendar for the Supreme Court term that begins on Monday. Earlier, the high court had said it would tackle controversial issues involving gun regulations, voting rights and the power of federal agencies. Those cases will be heard as the justices are under intense pressure from Democratic lawmakers to address ethics issues facing some of their colleagues, including potential conflicts in some of the cases.”

Nate Silver points out two related facts that make for “politically inconvenient” bedfellows:

Until vaccines became available, there was little difference in Covid death rates between blue states and red states.

After vaccines became available, there were clear differences, with red states having higher death rates, almost certainly as a result of lower vaccine uptake among Republicans.

“In other words, the vaccines made a real and obvious dent in Covid, whereas the effect of other NPIs — such as school and business closures, masks, and social distancing — is much less clear.”

“Robert Hur, the special counsel investigating President Biden’s handling of classified documents while serving as vice president, has interviewed many of Mr. Biden’s closest aides and advisers in a quiet inquiry that over the last nine months has reached into the upper levels of the White House and the cabinet,“ the New York Times reports.

“Those who have been questioned about how government documents came to be stored in a think tank office set up for Mr. Biden after his vice presidency and in his Delaware home include officials who worked with him both at the tail end of the Obama administration and now.”

New York Times: “In some cases, people caught up in the cases reached out for help finding lawyers and paying their legal bills. In others, Mr. Trump’s lawyers contacted them, offering to put them in touch with lawyers already working on the cases.”

“Mr. Trump’s political action committee, seeded with money he had raised with debunked claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, became the piggy bank for paying the bills, helping to knit together the interests of key figures in the investigations.”

“But as Mr. Trump’s legal problems have expanded, the ad hoc system has come under intense strain with the PAC doling out financial lifelines to some aides and allies while shutting the door on others. It is now running short of money, possibly forcing Mr. Trump to decide how long to go on helping others as his own legal fees mount.”

“An economic indicator the Federal Reserve favors as an inflation gauge rose less than expected in August, showing that the central bank’s fight against higher prices is making progress,” CNBC reports.

A Proud Boy convicted in the Jan. 6 attack but who failed to show up to his sentencing last month was arrested at his home in Florida, the Naples Daily News reports. He faces 14 years in prison.

A federal appeals court has lifted a lower court ruling that prevented the State of Idaho from enforcing aspects of its near-total ban on abortion, Politico reports.

“Russia currently has 150,000 excess shipping containers that rail depots are struggling to manage, reflecting a surge in Chinese goods flowing into the country but much less moving out,” Bloomberg reports.

Melania Trump has “quietly” renegotiated her prenuptial agreement with Donald Trump in advance of his potentially serving a second term in the White House, the New York Post reports.

Donald Trump has sued a former British MI6 officer who penned the infamous “golden showers” dossier which claimed that Trump had been “compromised” by Russia, The Independent reports.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) has referred 521 cases of suspected voter fraud by non-citizens since taking office, but just one was actually charged with voter fraud, the Ohio Capital Journal reports.

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

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