Cup of Joe – October 20, 2023

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) did not hold a third ballot for speaker today, and earlier said he would back Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) as an interim speaker until January 3, Punchbowl News reports. Jordan would remain speaker designee and could hold a vote to be speaker at any time.

Washington Post: “Senior Democrats support the plan. It reopens the House as a new funding deadline approaches in less than a month. And with Jordan as the speaker designee, they are still able to frame Republicans as extremists backing an election denier as their leader.”

However, this plan faced fiery opposition in a four hour Republican meeting yesterday afternoon.

CNN reports things got heated in the meeting. At one point, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) was told to sit down by former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and refused, then Rep. Michael Bost (R-IL) “got all emotional” and “was cussing at him” and “telling him it’s all his fault.”

Other Republicans stood up and expressed fury over Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) for backing the empowering McHenry resolution, and suggested it was a self-serving move. Some members encouraged him to drop out of speaker’s race.

Playbook: “On Day 17 without an elected speaker, House Republicans appear to be no closer to figuring things out. In fact, they appear to be exploring entirely new frontiers of dysfunction.”

“House Republicans are abandoning a push to empower a temporary speaker, Rep. Patrick McHenry, after it faced fierce pushback within the party on Thursday,” Politico reports. “As they left a nearly four-hour internal meeting about the idea, multiple Republicans said there was no virtually no path forward. The proposal, which may still come back for a vote at some point, would have allowed McHenry and the GOP to reopen the House after 16 days without a speaker.”

New York Times: “It was the latest abrupt turn in a Republican speaker drama that has played out for more than two weeks, underscoring the depth of the party’s divisions and disarray. Unable to unite behind a candidate to lead them, the G.O.P. is now unable even to agree on a temporary solution to allow the paralyzed House to function while they sort out their differences.”

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) is now saying he expects to have another speaker vote — the third of his candidacy, Punchbowl News reports. Apparently, Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN) are opposed to the temporary speaker proposal — likely because it would involve many Democratic votes.

Politico: “During a private caucus meeting on Thursday, Jeffries’ message was essentially to ‘wait and see’ if Republicans make a formal offer in exchange for Democratic help on a vote to empower McHenry.”

Playbook: “Among the concessions that Democrats could potentially seek: Pursuing full-year FY2024 appropriations at the levels agreed to in the debt-limit deal passed earlier this year; guaranteeing a House vote on a supplemental funding package for Ukraine, Israel and more; and ensuring that no Republican who voted to reject 2020 electoral votes holds the gavel.”

“And one other thing: It’s hard to see Democrats agreeing to any deal as long as Jordan is still pursuing the speakership.”

Washington Post: “The number of people who vote against [Jordan] on the floor will only increase with each round of balloting, Republicans say.”

“There’s a coordinated effort among the 55 Republicans who opposed Jordan in an internal conference meeting last week to build on their votes of opposition to ensure that he loses more votes each round, according to three Republicans familiar with the plan. In other words, he loses more votes with each round he holds.”

“Leaving a closed-door GOP meeting to determine the way forward, Rep. Pat Fallon (R-TX) estimated that about two-thirds of the House Republican conference opposed the idea of electing the caretaker speaker, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), as an interim speaker,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Said Fallon: “The mood of the room was clear. Because of this ugly process, what has this party done? It has enabled the Democrats to determine the way forward in part, because if all 212 Democrats vote for this resolution, it will pass. If all of them oppose it, it will fail. So we’re in the majority and we don’t have a say as to what happens with this resolution. It was completely up to the Democrats. That was not smart.”

The inability of House Republicans to elect a Speaker explains quite a lot about their party.  They have no common purpose.  That’s why Republicans had no platform in the 2020 presidential election. That’s why they can’t pass a budget. And that’s why they can’t choose a speaker. 

Republicans can’t put aside their disagreements and grievances in the service of a larger agenda because they don’t have one.  There is no bill they want to pass so badly that would force them to get into a room together and agree on a Speaker.  Since Ronald Reagan, Republicans had a coalition committed to smaller government and lower taxes, a foreign policy of peace through strength and conservative social policies.  The disastrous George W. Bush presidency broke this coalition apart after bungling two wars and overseeing a financial meltdown.

Donald Trump stitched the pieces together through a cult of personality and an assist from the electoral college in 2016. But it’s been breaking apart again in every election since.  When Republicans run political ads, they just attack Democrats on inflation, immigration and crime. But they offer no solutions to any of these problems.  Today’s Republicans want power, but have no idea what to do when they actually have it.

Jonathan Martin: “There’s a reason why House Republicans can’t settle on a speaker.”

“It’s the same reason there are effectively parallel GOP presidential primaries. One is between a series of candidates embarked on all the usual rituals vying for support from about half the party’s voters, while the other half has long ago made up its mind about who its preferred nominee is. His name may ring a bell.”

“There is no longer a cohesive Republican Party. There’s a pre-Trump GOP and a post-Trump GOP, living together uneasily. They may be roommates but they’re not married.”

Politico: “Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME) is now openly calling to increase McHenry’s powers, at least to avoid a government shutdown.”

“He argued his party doesn’t need ‘much leverage’ in return for greenlighting McHenry… Other Democrats have indicated they support the idea, though they’re still pushing for a deal with Republicans in exchange for votes. Exact support is difficult to gauge, since they don’t have a concrete proposal yet.”

Punchbowl News: “Jordan notched the lowest vote total in decades for a major party candidate for speaker Wednesday when just 199 GOP lawmakers voted for him. Twenty-two Republicans opposed Jordan’s nomination by voting for someone else, and it’s likely to be even worse tomorrow.”

“Since today’s mid-afternoon vote, Jordan has been cloistered with aides and advisers trying to plot a path forward to reduce his opposition. Our reporting indicates it’s an extreme long shot that Jordan will be able to turn enough votes to get anywhere close to the 217 threshold for the speakership. In fact, GOP lawmakers say that more no votes are expected to materialize on the third ballot.”

Karl Rove: “The Republican calamity continues. As I write, the House is still without a speaker more than two weeks after Kevin McCarthy was deposed by Rep. Matt Gaetz’s band of political arsonists. Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan hasn’t yet persuaded, cajoled, enticed or threatened his way to 217 votes. He may not get there.”

“It will be ironic if Mr. Jordan wins: The founder of the House GOP’s Freedom Caucus must then become the unifier in chief. A man who during 16 years in Congress has never passed a bill would have to become a master legislator. A politician who gained power by bullying others would have to learn to persuade and energize them. He would find quickly that making demands in Washington has limits—as does anyone stuck with the speaker’s job.”

“Mr. Jordan also has a fondness for government shutdowns. If he’s elected speaker, will he champion one even though the GOP’s four-seat House majority depends on 14 Republicans from districts Joe Biden carried in 2020, six of which are in New York or California?”

Reuters: Republican opponents of Jordan’s speaker bid cite government shutdown worries.

Punchbowl News: “Jordan hates to lose. His entire brand is wrapped up in fighting liberals and being a winner. That’s why Jordan doesn’t want to go through a third roll-call vote on the floor, especially when he could lose even more votes, according to more than a half-dozen sources involved in the talks. Jordan’s office denies this, saying he plans to move forward with trying to become speaker.”

“But at the same time, House Republican leaders feel as if they can no longer hold back members who want to elect McHenry speaker pro tem for the next roughly 80 days. These GOP lawmakers are desperate to get back to work after more than two weeks of humiliating Republican infighting that has cost them one speaker already.”

“This resolution — penned by Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio) — would likely pass overwhelmingly. House Democrats have signaled they’ll vote for it. GOP leadership sources tell us they believe a majority of House Republicans would too.”

“Passing the resolution would allow Jordan to effectively end his campaign for speaker without formally dropping out. Jordan can pledge to continue his run for speaker once McHenry’s term is up in January.”

Playbook: “For one, McHenry himself has pooh-poohed the idea. The North Carolina Republican — who seems less than thrilled to be in his current position — has made clear that he thinks he only has power to oversee a new speakership election. Could that change? Sure. But for an effort to be successful, McHenry himself would likely need to be onboard.”

“An even bigger challenge: On a practical level, many Republicans are opposed. Sure, the world is on fire. Hamas’ barbaric attack on Israel and Israel’s response has left the Middle East reeling, Ukraine is still struggling to hold the line against Russia, and here at home, Uncle Sam runs out of money in less than a month. But the truth is that most Republicans don’t yet feel pressured enough to set aside their own personal ambitions to get back to governing.”

“In fact, yesterday Jordan’s inner circle appeared to try to use this idea of empowering McHenry to boost Jordan’s own candidacy, accusing those flirting with the idea of trying to turn the majority over to Democrats.”

Key takeaway: “Democrats aren’t going to bail out Republicans for free. And it’s unclear exactly what concessions they’d want in exchange for elevating McHenry.”

“A Russian-American journalist working for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has been detained in Russia and charged with failing to register as a foreign agent,” France 24 reports.

“Attorney Sidney Powell has reached a plea deal with prosecutors in the Fulton County election probe,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution report.

“Powell was charged with racketeering and other counts for her role in a Coffee County election system data breach. Under a deal announced Thursday in Fulton County Superior Court, she will receive six years probation and pay a $6,000 fine. She also agreed to pay $2,700 in restitution to the state and to testify truthfully in the case. And Powell wrote a letter of apology to the citizens of Georgia.”

Donald Trump made remarks outside the courthouse for his civil fraud trial:

TRUMP: They want to keep me here instead of campaigning in Iowa… They want me to be here.

(Three minutes later…)

REPORTER: Will you be back tomorrow?

TRUMP: Probably not. We’re having a very big professional golf tournament at Doral, so probably not.

The Hill: “The two senators also got into an in-person tiff as they rode the escalator in opposite directions to the Capitol from the Senate subway area Tuesday morning. According to sources, Fetterman told Menendez that Tuesday would be a great day to resign.”

“Menendez reacted, telling Fetterman that he is hanging onto this issue too closely, echoing a line he told HuffPost a night earlier. Fetterman mockingly responded that he is ‘consumed’ by Menendez’s indictment.”

Politico: “You’ve got to hunt for news about the most consequential election in Europe this year. Israel has pushed even the war in Ukraine far down the headline scroll.”

“But Sunday’s surprising vote in Poland deserves attention — for what it says about domestic small-d democratic politics and for what it means geopolitically for the U.S. and Europe.”

The defense team in the Mar-a-Lago case is running circles around U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon and not only does she not see it but she’s encouraged, enabled, and sanctioned it.

In a remarkable turn of events, Special Counsel Jack Smith’s team submitted a new filing in the case late yesterday. It comes ahead of Friday’s resumption of the hearing on the conflicts of interest that defense counsel Stan Woodward has in representing Walt Nauta.

Woodward has been denying for months that he has any conflict of interest even though he’s represented both Nauta and other witnesses key to the case who are adverse to Nauta, i.e., their testimony will hurt him. Cannon has played along, dragging out what should be a routine process for months now.

With that backstory, Smith’s team alerted Cannon that Woodward for the first time yesterday conceded to them that he won’t cross examine at trial the witnesses adverse to Nauta. If this is true … wow! Woodward didn’t explicitly acknowledge to prosecutors that he has a conflict of interest – after denying it all this time – but the implication is clear.

This doesn’t resolve the issue entirely by any means, but it marks a significant shift in Woodward’s posture and leaves Cannon badly exposed for not having taken a firm hand in this matter but instead hectoring prosecutors.

Still unresolved:

  • Will Nauta sufficiently waive these conflicts of interest?
  • Will Cannon disqualify Woodward, or give Nauta a chance to confer with independent counsel before he waives his rights?
  • Will Woodward, as he apparently has told prosecutors, seek to keep them from using his name when they draw out witness testimony at trial? (Remember one of the key witnesses flipped as soon as the judge in DC provided him with counsel other than Woodward.)
  • If Woodward continues representing Nauta, can he undermine the testimony of his former clients in his closing argument?

All of that should be ironed out in today’s hearing, but with Cannon who knows. She should see by now that she’s been played. It’s led to months of delay in resolving this basic issue.

Prosecutors not so subtly reminded Cannon in the latest filing that it is up to her to ensure that the trial is a fair adversarial proceeding and not undermined or compromised by inadequate representation of counsel working under crippling conflicts of interest.

“Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell suggested that he is pleased with inflation’s decline this summer and that the central bank is unlikely to raise interest rates again unless it sees clear evidence that stronger economic activity jeopardizes such progress,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Fortune: “A prospective homebuyer needs to make $114,627 to afford a home, the brokerage and real-estate research firm says. That’s a 15% year-over-year increase and the highest annual income on record to buy a home.”

“With the House effectively shut down, the Senate has the upper hand on Washington’s two biggest issues this fall — aiding Ukraine and Israel and keeping the government open,” Politico reports.

“Even if the House GOP selects a speaker or a caretaker leader to claw out of the current chaos, its Republicans will already be in a weakened state as the White House prepares a massive, potentially $100 billion request for national security aid. Instead, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Senate GOP looks to have the Republican sway over both that foreign money debate and the fight to avoid a shutdown.”

“Republicans are signaling opposition to President Biden’s nominee for ambassador to Israel, Jack Lew, but are likely to allow his confirmation to proceed,” The Hill reports.

“Sen. James Risch (R-ID), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said discussions are ongoing over whether any Republican senators may take action to block or slow down Lew’s advancement to the Senate floor.”

“President Joe Biden will deliver a prime-time foreign policy speech to the country on Thursday night,“ NBC News reports.

“The Oval Office address is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET and will address the administration’s response to Hamas’ terrorist attacks against Israel and Russia’s war in Ukraine. It comes after Biden flew to Tel Aviv on Wednesday pledging his support for Israel in the wake of the sprawling attack carried out by Hamas terrorists this month.”

Politico: “Instead of searching the IRS’s tax return database directly for Trump’s documents — something that would have tripped agency alarms — Charles Littlejohn used “more generalized parameters that would nevertheless” yield the filings, the government says.”

“Littlejohn uploaded the data to a private website, rather than using a flash drive or a conventional remote-storage website, ‘to avoid IRS protocols designed to detect and prevent large downloads or uploads from IRS devices or systems.’

“He then downloaded the documents from the private website onto a personal computer. Littlejohn stored the data in various places, including his iPod.”

Politico: “For decades, party loyalty and discipline have been on the decline among both Republicans and Democrats, as changes in campaign finance law and the proliferation of new forms of media have weakened the parties’ grips over their members.”

“But in the case of the GOP… the decline in party power has coincided with the rise of a new faction of conservative Republicans who are ideologically committed to weakening federal power and gumming up the inner workings of Washington. The result is a sort of perfect storm of Republican dysfunction, where macro-political trends and internecine disagreements combine to make the speakership the most difficult job in D.C.”

New York Times: “The latest round of House Republican infighting has badly damaged the G.O.P. brand. It has left the party leaderless and one chamber of Congress paralyzed for more than two weeks. The chaos is raising the chances that Democrats could win back the majority next year, and it has given them ample ammunition for their campaign narrative, which casts Republicans as right-wing extremists who are unfit to govern.”

Aaron Blake: “In a historically fraught time marked not only by partisan gridlock but also a remarkably incohesive Republican Party, the House GOP could soon elect a speaker with a remarkably thin legislative track record and precious little experience building the bipartisan consensus he would soon need.”

“Critics of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) have increasingly pointed to this — most notably the fact that he has yet to get a bill signed into law since being elected in 2006.”

Washington Post: “Since Grassley, a Republican, was elected to the Senate in 1980, his D.C. and Iowa offices have become matchmaking hotspots. After his chief of staff married a former legislative correspondent on Saturday in Iowa, Grassley said 20 couples who began dating in his office have since married.”

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA), who voted for Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) for speaker yesterday, then against him today, said in a statement that she has received “credible death threats.”

In the summer of 2021, GOP megadonor Peter Thiel began providing information as a “confidential human source” to Johnathan Buma, a Los Angeles-based FBI agent who specializes in investigating political corruption and foreign-influence campaigns, Insider reports.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s (R) son “has been sentenced to eight days in jail” for “possession of a controlled substance and driving while intoxicated,” KHBS reports.

Jeffrey Toobin: “Mr. Trump has never respected the norms of political behavior and there’s little reason to think gag orders will provide meaningful discipline either. As on Jan. 6, his supporters shed traditional rules as well.”

“The day is fast approaching when someone picks up a gun or builds a bomb and then seeks to follow through on Mr. Trump’s words. If and when that happens, he will say that he did not specifically direct or cause the violence, and he will probably escape without criminal charges — but the blood will be on his hands.”

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

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