Cup of Joe – October 14, 2023

The incredible dysfunction in the House Republican Conference has some moderate Republicans talking about working with Democrats to pick a speaker.

It’s not the likely outcome, but something roughly similar did happen before.

But it was in the California state assembly nearly 30 years ago. The Orange County Register explains: “At the start of the 1994 session, Jim Brulte of Rancho Cucamonga, the leader of a Republican caucus that had a narrow majority, seemed to be set for the speaker role. But a few things happened: Paul Horcher of Diamond Bar bucked his Republican colleagues and voted for longtime Democratic Speaker Willie Brown, and Democrats were able to block Richard Mountjoy, a Republican who had recently won a special election for a vacant Senate seat, from participating in the vote. Thus, Brown held onto the speaker role, and Horcher lost his seat after Republicans mounted a recall.”

But the drama wasn’t over. A few months later, Assemblymember Doris Allen, a Republican from Cypress, became the first woman to hold the speaker position in June 1995. Brown had said he’d only remain in the post until another member could put together the requisite number of votes needed for the job — and with the help of Democrats, Allen did. She won the speaker spot with no Republican votes except her own.”

It’s probably not a model for House Republicans — primarily because the Republicans in California committed the unpardonable sin of working with Democrats. They ultimately lost their jobs over it. And the only reason Republicans are in this mess is because Speaker Kevin McCarthy worked with Democrats to lift the debt ceiling and prevent a government shutdown.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) warned that the House GOP’s failure to support the candidate who won a majority of its votes will “paralyze the country indefinitely at what’s a very difficult moment,” Politico reports.

Then he warned: “If people aren’t very careful, they’re going to open the door for a coalition speakership, which is not something that we should want to happen as Republicans.”

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, “emerged from a contentious closed-door meeting of House Republicans to tell reporters that Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries should spell out what concessions he would require to help the GOP elect a speaker,” Bloomberg reports.

Said Rogers: “They put us in this ditch along with eight traitors. We’re still the majority party, we’re willing to work with them, but they gotta tell us what they need.”

The GOP isn’t really a majority party if they can’t muster a majority.

“Lawmakers in both parties are expressing growing openness, both in public and in private, to a bipartisan deal to elect a House speaker as Republicans are continually thwarted in their efforts to do it alone,” Axios reports.

Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE), a perennial bipartisan dealmaker, said “at this point, there are enough Republican and Democrats saying we’ve got to get this fixed.”

Rep. Greg Landsman (D-OH) said, as the situation devolves, he sees Republicans “absolutely” getting more open to a deal: “Yes, I mean you’re seeing that.”

“It does seem like we’ve opened the Pandora’s Box of unrestrained ambition. People feel no loyalty to this institution.” — Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), quoted by Bloomberg, on the House GOP’s inability to pick a speaker.

The House Republican Conference nominated Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) to be Speaker of the House over Austin Scott, 124 to 81. The nomination must now go to the House floor for a vote.

Jake Sherman: “He can go to the floor and risk losing on the first ballot. But if he lost on the first ballot, at least he’d know who is opposed to him so he can try to work them over.”

“Several backers of Steve Scalise are opposed to Jim Jordan’s potential speakership bid out of frustration with how the Ohioan handled losing to the Louisianan after the House GOP’s internal election this week,” Politico reports.

When asked why he thinks Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) can get to the 217 votes he need to be elected speaker, Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) was confident.

Said Burchett: “Daddy was an old World War II marine, and he would talk about sometimes coming off that landing craft… the guy up front would get it, second guy might get wounded, and generally the third guy would get on the beach.”

“House Republicans on Friday rejected — for the second time this week — a proposal designed to help ensure their pick for speaker has the support needed to prevail on the floor,” Politico reports.

“GOP lawmakers voted to table a plan to require 217 of the 221 House Republicans to agree on their next leader before any speakership vote on the floor, where Democrats are set to remain united in support of Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY).”

“Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) is now the only declared candidate for the GOP’s nod, but he remains short of the support needed to win on the floor.”

Punchbowl News: “It’s safe to say that this House Republican Conference meeting has not moved Congress closer to electing a permanent speaker. Like not at all. In any way.”

Washington Post: “Some House Republicans have begun to privately conclude that Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) has little chance of being elected speaker of the House, throwing the fractured conference further into chaos as members potentially reignite the search for a nominee who can unite them.”

“Though Scalise narrowly clinched a majority of the conference’s support to win the nomination for speaker in a secret-ballot vote Wednesday, ideological, personal, and policy divisions that have plagued the conference for years quickly began to throw into question his chances of earning the 217 votes needed on the House floor to wield the speaker’s gavel.”

Rep. Andy Ogles (R-TN) just sent out a Dear Colleague letter asking fellow Republicans to lock themselves in a room until there is a new speaker.

Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX) walked out of the Republican conference meeting this afternoon saying no progress had been made on naming a speaker, the HuffPost reports.

Said Nehls: “We are a broken conference.”

Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) likened the situation to a football team calling a play in the huddle, lining up in formation, and then never snapping the ball because nobody listened to the quarterback: “This is the worst team I’ve ever been on.”

“There are too many people who don’t accept the reality we live within, which is we are a fractured group that need to find a way to 217. Pretending like that isn’t real is like pretending we don’t actually live on the same planet.” — Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-NY), quoted by The Hill, on the dysfunction in the House Republican caucus.

“Four top centrist Democrats on Friday sent a pitch to Acting Speaker Patrick McHenry: Let’s get the House working again,” Politico reports.

“Democrats told him they support giving him ‘temporary, expanded authorities’ that would allow the House to take up the most urgent bills — namely, government funding plans.”

“Specifically, the Democrats are proposing to let McHenry bring up any emergency aid for Ukraine or Israel, a short-term bill that extends government funding through Jan. 11, or general consideration of fiscal 2024 spending bills. Those powers should be limited to 15-day increments.”

Punchbowl News: “Scalise’s blockbuster decision on Thursday night to withdraw his name for consideration as speaker shows once again just how toxic it is inside the House Republican Conference. They’re all but ungovernable. Forget about compromising with Democrats or President Joe Biden. This group of House Republicans won’t even compromise with each other. They’re deeply distrustful of anyone in leadership not named Donald Trump. And they’re unwilling to accept the realities of divided government — or simply governing at all.”

“Yet now the House Republican Conference needs to face this jarring reality: The floor has been shut down for going on two weeks, the federal government runs out of money in a month, our vital ally Israel is involved in an existential war and, due to endless GOP infighting, there is no speaker.”

It might not be likely that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) is elected speaker, but it’s definitely possible. That’s because the dysfunction House Republicans are showing this month is absolutely toxic to the party’s chances at holding control of the House next year.

Jordan might be an extreme far-right lawmaker — Speaker John Boehner called him a “legislative terrorist” — but having a paralyzed House might be worse for GOP lawmakers fighting for re-election next year in blue districts.

As Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) told CNN: “These guys want to be in the minority.”

And besides, in just a few months, the Republican party will almost certainly nominate Donald Trump as their party’s nominee for president.

That’s considerably worse for moderate Republicans than having Jim Jordan as speaker.

Jordan doesn’t have the votes now, but if Trump is going to lead the Republican party in 2024, moderate Republicans might just decide to stop the pain of this week and vote for Jordan.

Politico: “It’s not just GOP centrists sparring with the hard right. It’s not just McCarthy loyalists secretly fuming at Scalise or his allies. There’s mounting anger across the entire conference that no GOP speaker candidate, including Jordan, appears able to prevail under the current margins.”

New York Times: “Despite conflicts overseas and an approaching deadline to avert a government shutdown, Republicans are unable to rise above their internal divisions.”

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) said “our adversaries are watching” as Republican infighting paralyzes the House of Representatives.

Said McCaul: “I see a lot of threats out there, but one of the biggest threats I see is in that room because we can’t unify as a conference and put a Speaker in the chair to govern.”

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) was caught on camera trying to trip someone asking him difficult questions.

Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY) gave NBC News the status of the House Republican conference as they emerged from their closed door meeting: “The French have a word for it… clusterfuck.” Said another Republican to Fox News: “It’s a shit show in there.”

Nate Cohn: “The swelling congressional support for Mr. Jordan didn’t make him speaker, but it might nonetheless herald the emergence of a new, alternative Trumpist governing elite — one authentically loyal to Donald Trump’s pugilistic brand of politics, and one that would pose a fundamental challenge to what remains of the beleaguered Republican ‘establishment.’”

“Mr. Trump’s continued dominance of Republican politics has dashed any establishment hopes of a return to the way things were. Instead, his strength has started to pose a more lasting threat to what remains of the old elite, by promoting a group of loyalist outsiders who might soon have the numbers to defeat the insiders at their own game.”

Josh Marshall: “If you watch Israeli media there’s clearly been a vast upsurge of social solidarity and support for retaliation against Hamas (that civilians in Gaza will pay a heavy price for). But there’s been very, very little evidence of any surge in support for Netanyahu or his government. Indeed, we see signs of a volcanic anger against his government over its responsibility for the events of last weekend. There have been a number of viral videos of members of the coalition heckled in public or shouted down or forced to leave events in response to public anger.

Now we have one of the first polls and it appears to confirm all of that, a vast sea of public anger and catastrophic loss of support for Netanyahu’s government.

Polls are always just snapshots in time, even more so in such chaotic circumstances. But this poll from the Israeli daily Maariv paints a clear and devastating picture of initial public reactions. The results show drops for almost every party in the government and a dramatic drop for Likud, from 32 to 19 seats. In total it’s well below a majority. There is meanwhile a huge gain for the party of Benny Gantz, the former chief of staff who just joined the national unity government. That party, somewhat confusingly also called National Unity, goes from 12 seats to 41. There are a bunch of other changes but those are the key ones.”

“The Biden administration has ruled out sending military personnel, including special forces, into Gaza as part of an attempt to free American hostages there,” Politico reports.

“But the decision, which was announced by a top White House official, could be revisited.”

President Biden will make his formal request for additional foreign aid next week, including aid for Israel and Ukraine, Bloomberg reports.

“President Joe Biden’s strong support for Israel is one of his most deeply held beliefs, dating back to his childhood. It also may pay political dividends as he ramps up his reelection bid,” Bloomberg reports.

“In emotional, almost-daily comments since the Hamas attack early Saturday killed more than 1,000 Israelis, Biden has highlighted the anti-Semitic motivation of the attacks, vowed full support for the Jewish state and sent weapons and naval ships to back it up.”

“His stance has earned him praise from one-time critics in the US and Israel, helping neutralize Republican attacks on his Middle East policy as too soft. At the same time, his moves help position him firmly in the pro-Israel mainstream going into next year’s election, sidelining at least for the moment left-wing voices in his own party who had attacked the US ally and threatened to alienate many voters.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is making a visit to Israel this weekend in the wake of Hamas’ massive terrorist attack earlier this week to show his support, Jewish Insider reports.

“The U.S. Capitol complex is enhancing security due to the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas, the House’s top security official said in a bulletin on Thursday,” Axios reports.

“U.S. officials and the Qatari government have agreed to stop Iran from accessing a $6 billion account for humanitarian assistance in light of Hamas’s attack on Israel,” the Washington Post reports.

“The decision not to permit access to the money comes just a few weeks after the U.S. and Iranian governments announced a deal to set up the humanitarian assistance as part of a prisoner swap aimed at easing hostilities in the region. U.S. officials had to approve each transaction under the agreement. The fund is financed by Iranian oil sales.”

“The Pentagon has transferred to Israel the first missiles in US inventories for the Iron Dome air-defense system to intercept Hamas rockets,” Bloomberg reports.

“The initial Tamir interceptors — owned by the US military but located in Israel — will be followed by more from American inventories elsewhere to ensure that Israel has the capabilities to sustain its air-defense systems.”

New York Times: “Not long ago, Donald Trump occupied enormous psychological space in Israel and among American Jews: His face draped skyscrapers alongside Benjamin Netanyahu’s during Israeli elections, and his politics drove a wedge between the Democratic Party and the Jews who have long called it their political home.”

“But it is President Biden’s face that now beams from a billboard over the main highway through Tel Aviv, and Mr. Trump’s criticism of Israel’s leaders that has left even Israeli conservatives stunned.”

Associated Press: “Israel’s military told some 1 million Palestinians living in Gaza on Friday to evacuate the north, according to the United Nations, an unprecedented order for almost half the population of the sealed-off territory ahead of an expected ground invasion against the ruling Hamas militant group.”

“The Israeli military pulverized the Gaza Strip with airstrikes, prepared for a possible ground invasion and said Thursday its complete siege of the territory — which has left Palestinians desperate for food, fuel and medicine — would remain in place until Hamas militants free some 150 hostages taken during a grisly weekend incursion,” the AP reports.

Michael Oren: “War, in Israel, is a recurrent reality. One used to break out every six years or so, but in recent years the distance between conflicts has dwindled. Between 2006 and today, Israel fought four wars with Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, and a fifth, in Lebanon, with Hezbollah. None, however, could compare to the scope, the destructiveness, and the agony of the Yom Kippur War. That is, until now.”

“Palestinian fighters took at least 64 captives into the Gaza Strip during the unprecedented incursion into Israel that began Saturday morning,” the Washington Post reports.

“Among them were 49 people who appeared to be civilians — nine of them children — and 11 who appeared to be members of the Israeli military… In four cases, it was not possible to determine whether the captive was a civilian or soldier.”

“Donald Trump’s inflammatory and artless comments about Hamas’ horror in Israel emphasize the defining characteristic of his attitude toward foreign policy and his entire political world view: It’s all about him,” CNN reports.

“The ex-president openly admitted a grievance against Netanyahu, complaining he had pulled out at the last minute from joining the US air attack that assassinated Iranian intelligence chief Qasem Soleimani in Iraq in 2020. Trump had previously fumed over the Israeli leader’s perceived disloyalty in recognizing he lost the election.”

Dennis Aftergut: “No doubt we’ll be seeing 30-second ads from the Biden campaign and pro-Biden PACs replaying the clip of Trump expressing admiration for Hezbollah.”

“But the potential harm to Trump goes beyond that. His remarks may create something of a rift between segments of his supporters. Praise for Hezbollah and criticism of Netanyahu might appeal to the antisemitic faction of his base, but a larger segment, the evangelical Christians who love Israel, will likely find his remarks offensive.”

“Yet Trump can’t help himself when it comes to seeking vengeance against the friends of his enemy, President Biden.”

“And what about the voters who can swing general elections—independents? They are not members of the Trump cult willing to suppress their own empathy for victims of murder. Trump’s remarks might cost him support among voters unwilling to back a presidential candidate devoid of human decency.”

Rolling Stone: “Trump has had phone calls with various pro-Israel GOP allies and donors who want to know what Trump would do on Israeli-Palestinian matters if he’s reelected. The former president has relayed ideas — including cutting off all aid to Palestinians and encouraging other nations to do the same, or capturing and extraditing certain Hamas figures — that he has recently discussed with certain policy advisers. But during these private conversations, Trump has also spent an inordinate amount of time aggressively trashing Netanyahu.”

“In a recurring comment that Trump has yet to voice publicly, the former president — and former close ally and supporter of the Israeli PM — has repeatedly expressed his strong desire for Netanyahu to be gone by the time Trump would potentially be back in office in 2025… Since the attack, Trump has said Netanyahu should be ‘impeached’ by the Israeli parliament because Hamas’ shocking assault, which was preceded by an apparently catastrophic intelligence failure on the part of Netanyahu’s government, occurred on his watch.”

“Trump has also asked multiple longtime advisers if he should now publicly call for Netanyahu to step down as prime minister immediately.” 

“Donald Trump will back in court next week for his New York civil fraud trial, setting up a potential face-to-face showdown with fixer-turned-foe Michael Cohen, who is expected to testify,” the AP reports.

Said Cohen: “It’s been 5 years since we have seen one another. I look forward to the reunion. I hope Donald does as well.”

“Federal prosecutors in New York City have rewritten their indictment against Sen Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and his wife to charge them with conspiring to have him act as an agent of Egypt and Egyptian officials,” the AP reports.

“The new charge comes just weeks after the Democrat and his wife were accused of accepting bribes of cash, gold bars and a luxury car from three New Jersey businessmen who wanted the senator to help and influence over foreign affairs.”

Sen John Fetterman (D-PA) called on the U.S. Senate to vote to expel Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) following the latest criminal charges, NBC News reports. Said Fetterman: “We cannot have an alleged foreign agent in the United States Senate. This is not a close call.”

“A week after a fatal car crash involving the soon-to-be wife of Senator Robert Menendez, a prosecutor’s office in New Jersey filed an official account of the incident that contained apparent factual errors quickly noted by relatives of the pedestrian who was killed,” the New York Times reports.

“But the seven-page report, which concluded that the driver, Nadine Arslanian Menendez, should not be charged, was never corrected — raising new questions about whether the incident was handled properly by the authorities.”

“Wisconsin’s Republican Assembly leader on Thursday refused to back down from possibly taking the unprecedented step of impeaching a newly elected liberal state Supreme Court justice over her refusal to step aside in a redistricting case,” the AP reports.

Punchbowl News: “Yes, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries has repeatedly expressed his desire for a ‘bipartisan governing coalition’ in the House — through press releases, statements to reporters and even an op-ed.”

“But beyond those public calls for moderate Republicans to come their way, House Democratic leadership isn’t doing anything privately to make that happen.”

“Of course, top House Republicans would never go for the idea Jeffries is suggesting, and he knows that. But Jeffries really has one job right now — look like the reasonable adult in the room while Republicans continue to tear each other apart.”

John Harris: “There’s only one person who plausibly could impose order on the sullen, snarling House Republican conference and the free-floating chaos for which it stands. So far, however, there’s scant evidence that one person gives more than a passing damn about the outcome…”

“If Trump is a would-be authoritarian, the House drama shows that he is not the kind who cares much about exercising authority beyond himself.”

Jake Sherman: “The House Republican Conference is a mess. Complete and utter mess. They are no closer to picking a speaker. They are a month away from a shutdown. Israel is asking for aid, which needs to pass in the next few weeks. They are completely lost. And have no idea how they will get out.”

“Donald Trump has denigrated undocumented immigrants in recent weeks by accusing them of ‘poisoning the blood of our country,’ associating them with drug and alcohol use and portraying them as dangerous threats to Americans, prompting widespread criticism and denunciations of racism and xenophobia from immigrant and civil rights groups,” the Washington Post reports.

Said Trump in Iowa: “These people are very aggressive: They drink, they have drugs, a lot of things happening.”

And in New Hampshire: “People are pouring into our country, and we have no idea from where they come.”

“Trump’s recent comments, coming as President Biden has struggled to contain an increase in illegal crossings at the Southern border, reflect the ex-president’s effort to put the border and immigration at the forefront of his bid to return to the White House. His at-times escalating attacks have energized his base of supporters while prompting a growing wave of alarm from immigrant advocates, particularly as Trump is the clear polling leader in the race for the GOP nomination.”

Former Republican George Conway said Democrats need to wage a “psychological war” against Donald Trump until it makes him so “crazy” that he violates court orders, the New Republic reports.

Said Conwaay: “I think you have to wage psychological war on Donald Trump. I don’t think the Democrats have ever attacked Trump enough.”

He added: “He knows he’s not that smart, he knows he’s not that rich, he knows that he’s not that good. And so, if you go and attack him for the things he knows he is not deep down, it makes him crazy. He’s not that far from his bursting point.”

One more benefit: “The more he gets attacked the more he will talk about things he shouldn’t be talking about. I think you could even get him thrown into jail, by running the right ad.”

The public shell corporation that has been preparing to merge with Donald Trump’s social media firm announced that it was dropping its plans to pursue the merger, Reuters reports.

The company also said it planned to return $533 million it had raised from investors to complete the deal.

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

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