Cup of Joe – October 13, 2023

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) withdrew his bid to become speaker of the House, the Washington Post reports.

This will throw the chamber into further chaos as Republicans struggle in their search for a new leader.

Slate: “Whoever wins will have to deal with a seemingly unmanageable Republican conference, the expiration of government funding in just over a month, multiple geopolitical crises in Israel and Ukraine, and a host of other day-to-day issues—all while trying to hold on to a paper-thin majority, with 18 members in districts won by Joe Biden and another member who has introduced six different bills to impeach Biden.”

“The job also comes with the constant risk of being deposed at any time and the urgent necessity to spend free time crisscrossing the country to raise money. It comes with a nice gavel, sure, but you can buy one of those online for $20 without any of the aggravation of having to manage the egos of 220 other members of Congress (not to mention one very mercurial resident of Mar-a-Lago).”

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) estimated that “at least 20” conservative lawmakers won’t back Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) for speaker, a replay of what happened to Kevin McCarthy back in January.

Punchbowl News: “If this isn’t already clear, the math isn’t in Scalise’s favor right now. He can only lose four Republicans on the floor and many more than that are currently publicly opposed to him.”

“As House Republicans remain divided over their next leader, a group of moderates is plotting to empower temporary Speaker Patrick McHenry (R-NC) to make the chamber function again,” The Messenger reports.

“The center-right Republican Governance Group has gathered signatures on a petition to suggest giving McHenry the authority to lead the House in legislative business.”

Politico: “The way forward for the House GOP continues to be murky. Scalise has not shown any interest in taking his fight to the floor the same way former Speaker Kevin McCarthy did in January. Instead, he’s spending the evening meeting with small groups of members in hopes of moving the needle in his direction. Members have been told there could be another Republican conference meeting later Thursday night.”

“Hopes that any further talks will be fruitful are fading.”

“Some Republicans are saying the quiet part out loud: Is it time to rally behind another candidate for speaker? Or is it time to empower the acting speaker pro tempore, Patrick McHenry?”

Punchbowl News: “Scalise actually lost votes today following a two-hour closed-door meeting with colleagues. Scalise tried to answer members’ questions on his plan to get to 217 on the floor, as well as his overall legislative strategy. But some members complained that they knew less coming out than when they went in.”

Washington Post: Republicans fail to coalesce around speaker choice, leaving House in limbo.

Punchbowl News: “House Majority Leader Steve Scalise’s quest for the speakership — his seemingly impossible bid to turn 107 votes in his favor — has shades of the same Sisyphean task that McCarthy faced over the last nine months. Only the stakes this time are higher, the time frame is shorter, the opposition is larger and the House Republican Conference is angrier…”

“Scalise’s gamble appears to be this — once he became the party’s nominee for speaker, Republicans would fall in line behind him. But that’s simply not happening.”

“Scalise’s fellow Republican leaders believe he should be afforded the time to try to win over colleagues. Yet the window for Scalise is very narrow, perhaps just a few days, to show that he can get to 217…”

“The real hard-core ‘Never Scalise’ vote is probably 20 to 30 members, although it’s hard to estimate. Scalise can only afford to lose four votes on the floor.”

Playbook: “Unlike McCarthy, who spent two months whipping votes for the speakership — if not years laying the groundwork — Scalise was thrust into this power vacuum with little heads-up. While his leadership operation thrives on elections and he won the nomination yesterday, a whopping 99 House Republicans opposed Scalise and backed Jordan instead. That means Scalise has a long way to go to nail down 217.”

“And the longer he takes, the harder it could get, should more members come out against him.”

“It’s really, really hard for this Republican House to govern. We have incredibly tight margins and, frankly, some members who have a hard time getting to yes on almost anything, almost every week.” — Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD), quoted by Politico.

Except that Nancy Pelosi did it with the exact same margin.

Donald Trump criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — and called the Iran-backed terrorist organization Hezbollah “very smart” ― just days after Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel, the HuffPost reports.

Trump described “a bad experience with Israel” when he claimed Netanyahu had at the last minute pulled out from a joint U.S.-Israel 2020 operation to assassinate Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani.

Said Trump: “We did it but I’ll never forget that Bibi Netanyahu let us down. That was a very terrible thing. We were disappointed by that. Very disappointed. But we did the job ourself and it was absolute precision, a magnificent, beautiful job. And then Bibi tried to take credit for it. That didn’t make me feel too good but that’s all right.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) slammed 2024 rival Trump’s comments.

“It is absurd that anyone, much less someone running for President, would choose now to attack our friend and ally, Israel, much less praise Hezbollah terrorists as ‘very smart,’” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

A Likud minister lashed out at Donald Trump’s critical comments about Israel last night saying it is “shameful that a man like that, a former US president, abets propaganda and disseminates things that wound the spirit of Israel’s fighters and its citizens,” the Times of Israel reports.

Said Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi: “We don’t have to bother with him and the nonsense he spouts.”

Asked if Trump’s comments make it clear that he can’t be relied on, Karhi replied: “Obviously.”

New York Times: “Since Hamas launched a deadly cross-border attack into Israel over the weekend, violent videos and graphic images have flooded social media. Many of the posts have been seeded by Hamas to terrorize civilians and take advantage of the lack of content moderation on some social media sites — particularly X and Telegram — according to a Hamas official and social media experts.”

“The strategy mirrors efforts by extremist groups like the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, which took advantage of the lack of guardrails at social media companies years ago to upload graphic footage to the internet. Social media companies reacted then by removing and banning accounts tied to those groups.”

“The issue has sprouted anew in the past week, particularly on X, where safety and content moderation teams have largely disbanded under Elon Musk’s ownership, and on Telegram, the messaging platform which does virtually no content moderation.”

“Israel is targeting Hamas’ political leaders in Gaza as well as military ones as it seeks to crush the Palestinian group that launched a brutal attack on its civilians last weekend,” Bloomberg reports.

Health Minister Moshe Arbel issued a directive to the public health system in Israel to refuse to treat captured terrorists on Wednesday afternoon, the Jerusalem Post reports.

“Every Hamas member is a dead man.”— Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, quoted by the New York Times.

“Over 180,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are packed into U.N. shelters as Israeli warplanes pound the tiny territory of 2.3 million people after their Hamas militant rulers launched an unprecedented weekend attack on Israel,” the AP reports.

“But residents say there is no real escape in Gaza, which has been under a suffocating 16-year blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt. When war breaks out, as it has four times since the Hamas militant group seized power in 2007, even U.N. facilities that are supposed to be safe zones risk becoming engulfed in the fighting. The United Nations said that an airstrike directly hit one of its shelters Sunday and damaged five other schools-turned-shelters on Monday.”

Reuters: “Most of the 2.3 million people in the Gaza Strip have no electricity and no water. And, with hundreds of Israeli strikes raining down on their tiny enclave, they have nowhere to run.”

“Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman discussed the war between Israel and Hamas in a call with Iran’s president, the first such conversation between the two leaders who normalized relations earlier this year,” Bloomberg reports.

“The crown prince, known as MBS, ‘underscored the Kingdom’s unwavering stance in standing up for the Palestinian cause’ and support for comprehensive peace during his call with Ebrahim Raisi, according to a report by the state-run Saudi Press Agency.”

The State Department increased the number of Americans confirmed dead in the attacks on Israel to 25, The Hill reports.

“The U.S. could soon have two aircraft carriers in the eastern Mediterranean, a move that would mark a major escalation in U.S. military power in the region as fighting intensifies between Israeli forces and Hamas militants,” Politico reports.

“The U.S. has sent hostage rescue experts to advise the Israel Defense Forces on freeing the 150 hostages — including possibly some Americans — who were kidnapped by Hamas during the bloody attack on southern Israel,” The Messenger reports.

“Meanwhile, U.S. special operations forces have been placed on alert in a nearby European country.”

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that “nothing is off the table” as the U.S. weighs whether to take up new sanctions against Iran and Hamas, the New York Times reports.

“The Treasury secretary also did not rule out the possibility of reversing a decision made last month to unfreeze $6 billion of Iranian funds in exchange for the release of American hostages if it is determined that Iran was involved in the attack by Hamas.”

“Officials in President Joe Biden’s administration have privately told lawmakers that the White House is preparing a supplemental funding request to submit to Congress that includes money for Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan and U.S. border security,” NBC News reports.

“Administration officials also said the request would aim to address the strain that providing additional military support for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan would put on the Pentagon’s stockpiles, by asking for money to build more weapons.”

“Hamas’ attack on Israel is bringing pressure on President Joe Biden to clamp down on Iranian oil exports — even at the risk of provoking a politically damaging spike in world oil prices,” Politico reports.

“Crude oil exports from Iran have risen on Biden’s watch despite U.S. sanctions aimed at punishing Tehran for its nuclear ambitions, military aggression and support for terrorism. Now, last weekend’s violence by the Iranian-allied Palestinian group is fueling new calls for the U.S. to choke off that revenue stream, which Republican lawmakers have lambasted as an ill-fated attempt at ‘appeasement.’”

“Silence is complicity. I want you to know — I think you have already figured it out, I refuse to be silent, and I know you refuse to be silent as well.”— President Biden, speaking about U.S. support of Israel.

“Pro-Israel Democrats were cheered by the unequivocal tone of Biden’s speech Tuesday afternoon about Hamas’ attack… Biden avoided any hint of language that suggested Israel’s role in Gaza could ever justify Hamas’ terrorism,” Politico reports.

“But the early drafts of the speech were far less clear, we’re told. It was Biden himself who banished any wishy-washy language, which included more inter-agency input that struck a muddled tone to Biden’s ears.”

Said one source: “The speech that came into speech prep and the speech that came out were vastly different. Whenever an aide tried to water it down or both-sides it, Biden angrily and forcefully shot it down.”

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) said her critics are purposefully distorting her position to make it seem she is sympathetic to Hamas and its attacks on Israel, which she called “war crimes,” the Detroit Free Press reports.

“Tlaib − who is the target of a censure resolution filed by another member of the Michigan congressional delegation for her comments − said there is no defense for the atrocities committed by the group, which the U.S. government labels a terrorist organization. But neither, she added, is there for any extreme retribution exacted by Israel on the civilians in the Gaza Strip from where the attacks were launched or the human rights violations committed by Israel against Palestinians under its control.”

Said Tlaib: “They were war crimes. It’s a war crime just like the collective punishment of Palestinians right now is a war crime.”

Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-WI) interrupted a White House briefing on the Israel terrorist attack with “a curse-laden outburst,” Politico reports.

“Multiple attendees described Van Orden as acting belligerent towards the Biden administration briefers when he asked questions. Several people said Van Orden cursed directly at the briefers, prompting loud boos in the room.”

“One member, Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN), shouted ‘shame on you’ in response to Van Orden’s verbal affront — prompting Van Orden to drop an f-bomb toward the Minnesota Democrat, who is Jewish.”

“The Supreme Court’s conservative majority on Wednesday appeared likely to uphold a Republican-drawn congressional district in South Carolina that a lower court found was racially gerrymandered,” Politico reports.

“During an oral argument that stretched for more than two hours, several conservative justices voiced doubts that the evidence presented at the lower court proved that race was a predominant factor when mapmakers drew the lines.”

“Republican lawmakers in this political battleground state appear to be easing off an effort to impeach a new liberal state Supreme Court justice who in her campaign promoted abortion rights and condemned gerrymandering,” the Washington Post reports.

Donald Trump has been insinuating for weeks that Barack Obama is secretly still in control of the White House, NBC News reports. Said Trump: “It’s never been worse than it is now under crooked Joe Biden and, frankly, his boss, Barack Hussein Obama. I think it’s his boss.”

“Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wants to visit Israel in a show of solidarity with the country amid the fighting in Gaza,” Axios reports. “A visit by Zelensky would boost international support for Israel’s counteroffensive against Hamas in Gaza.”

Washington Post: “Considerable amounts of Kremlin funds are frozen in Western nations, and the Biden administration is increasingly interested in using them to benefit Ukraine.”

A new analysis by the Guttmacher Institute found that abortions in North Carolina declined by 30% after a new law banning the procedure at 12 weeks took effect earlier this year.

“Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Monday he plans to file criminal complaints against the group of state representatives who led the impeachment against him for releasing his personal information,” the Texas Tribune reports.

Said Paxton: “The impeachment managers clearly have a desire to threaten me with harm when they released this information last week. I’m imploring their local prosecutors in each individual district to investigate the criminal offenses that have been committed.”

“The once-ubiquitous MyPillow commercials that flooded the airwaves of Fox News and other cable television stations have all but disappeared over the past few weeks amid owner Mike Lindell’s ongoing financial problems,” the Daily Beast reports.

“A group of six New York Republican lawmakers said Wednesday that they will ask the House to expel scandal-plagued Rep. George Santos (R-NY), a day after an indictment was unsealed showing Santos is facing additional federal charges for allegedly stealing the identities of family members and using donors’ credit cards to spend thousands of dollars,” the Washington Post reports.

“The US has accepted China’s invitation to attend a top annual security forum in Beijing this month, a sign ties between the world’s two-largest economies are starting to normalize,” Bloomberg reports.

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

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