Thursday Reads: A Clown Show to End All Clown Shows
Posted: January 19, 2023 Filed under: just because
I thought politics had become so ridiculous during the Trump years that it couldn’t possibly get any worse. But I was wrong. It can always get worse. We’re living in the days of George Santos (or whatever his real name is) dominating the news, and Kevin McCarthy selling out whatever decency he may have had left to get the House Speaker’s gavel. He won’t get rid of Santos because he needs his vote. On top of that McCarthy has turned over the most important House committees to the insurrection caucus.
From NBC News: What the 21 McCarthy holdouts got in committee assignments.
The 21 House Republicans who initially blocked Rep. Kevin McCarthy from winning the speakership had demanded big changes to House rules, but they also wanted more influence on the congressional committees that will set the GOP agenda over the next two years.
While not every holdout got exactly what he or she had asked for, some won plum committee assignments from McCarthy, R-Calif., and his allies after they helped him secure the speaker’s gavel, a process that took 15 rounds of voting.
Some highlights–you can click the link to read the rest of the list:
Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, a former head of the Freedom Caucus and one of the five so-called Never Kevins, will keep his spots on the powerful Judiciary and Oversight committees. He changed his vote to “present” on the final ballot for speaker, helping push McCarthy over the finish line….
Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, a vocal McCarthy critic who voted “present” on the 14th and 15th ballots, was awarded a seat on the Oversight and Accountability Committee, which plans to launch numerous investigations into the Biden administration. She will continue to serve on the Natural Resources panel, on which she served in the previous Congress.
Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia, another lawmaker who flipped to McCarthy on the 12th ballot, will serve for the first time on Appropriations.
Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida, who was nominated to run against McCarthy for speaker and flipped to him on the 12th ballot, was named by McCarthy as the “speaker’s designee” on the influential Steering Committee, which decides which lawmakers get committee gavels and seats. Donalds also won a coveted spot on the Financial Services Committee, a top panel known on Capitol Hill as an “A” committee.
Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, perhaps the most vocal McCarthy foe during the speaker fight, who flipped to “present” in the 14th round, will continue to serve on the Judiciary panel….
Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, who flipped to McCarthy on the 12th ballot, was reinstated by Republicans on two committees —Oversight and Natural Resources panels — after Democrats removed him two years ago for posting threats to lawmakers on social media….
Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, the chairman of the far-right House Freedom Caucus who brokered a deal between conservatives and McCarthy, will remain on the Foreign Affairs Committee. A subject of Jan. 6 investigations, Perry won a new seat on the Oversight committee….
Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, who along with Perry helped negotiate a deal with McCarthy, will keep his seat on the Judiciary panel.
Those are the best known names. See the rest at the link.
In addition, Marjorie Taylor Greene has been assigned to the Homeland Security and Oversight committees.
Even George Santos got two committee assignments. CNN: Santos named to two House committees even as he faces growing calls to resign.
Embattled freshman Rep. George Santos has been awarded seats on two low-level committees after House Republicans debated where to put the New York congressman, who is facing mounting legal issues and growing calls to resign for extensively lying about his resume.
Several GOP sources told CNN that the House Republican Steering Committee, controlled by Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his top allies, tapped Santos to serve on two House panels: the Committee on Small Business and the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Santos had privately lobbied GOP leaders to serve on two more high-profile committees, one overseeing the financial sector and another on foreign policy, but top Republicans rejected that pitch as some chairmen balked at adding him to their panels.
Still, Republican leaders for now have decided to treat Santos like any other member of the House, even as questions grow over his past and as some have raised security concerns about allowing him to have access to classified briefings.
Unreal. Read more at CNN.
The Washington Post reacts:
The new Republican House majority apparently felt it had to put Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and George Santos (R-N.Y.) on some committees. And in picking which ones, it apparently aimed for (depending on your viewpoint) maximum irony or maximum trolling.
We learned the committee assignments for both members late Tuesday. Greene, who was removed from her committees by all Democrats and 11 House Republicans in 2021, will sit on the Homeland Security Committee, as well as the Oversight Committee. Santos will serve on the Small Business Committee, as well as the Science Committee.
The choice for Greene is particularly remarkable given her penchant not just for conspiracy theories, but conspiracy theories specifically involving homeland security. Indeed, her making such claims was cited as among the very reasons for her removal from committees. Greene has also spread conspiracy theories about and even advocated the use of political violence, including at the U.S. Capitol itself.
The WaPo list of insane remarks by Greene:
In 2018, Greene echoed conspiracy theories doubting that an airplane actually hit the Pentagon on 9/11. She cited “the so-called plane that crashed into the Pentagon,” and added: “It’s odd there’s never any evidence shown for a plane in the Pentagon.” In fact, video of the plane hitting the Pentagon was released in 2006. (When Greene’s comments were unearthed in 2020, she conceded in a tweet, “Some people claimed a missile hit the Pentagon. I now know that is not correct.”)
That same year, Greene “liked” a Facebook comment that began by saying 9/11 “was done by our own gov[ernment],” before it launched into various other conspiracy theories. She also replied by saying, “That is all true,” according to a screenshot by the liberal watchdog Media Matters. (In her 2020 tweets, Greene said, “I’ve seen plenty of evidence that Islamic radicals hijacked four planes, attacked our country, and killed thousands of Americans on 9/11/01.”)
Earlier that year, she repeatedly agreed with the idea that mass shootings were false flags intended to crack down on people’s Second Amendment rights.
Also in 2018, Greene floated the idea that wildfires in California were caused by a laser from space linked to investment banks controlled by the Rothschilds, a prominent Jewish family that is often the target of antisemitic conspiracy theories. Even some GOP colleagues such as Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) have recently ribbed Greene over the “Jewish space laser” conspiracy theory, when they were on opposite sides of the contentious speakership votes.
In addition to liking social media posts that called for the executions of prominent Democrats and federal agents in 2018 and 2019, she in 2019 urged supporters to “flood the Capitol” and use violence “if we have to” to address various grievances (though last year Greene beat back an effort to disqualify her from holding office for allegedly inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection).
Greene also very recently remarked that if she and Stephen K. Bannon had organized the Jan. 6 insurrection, “we would have won. Not to mention, it would’ve been armed.” She later said it was a joke.
And regarding Santos, another list of outrages:
Santos’s appointment on the Small Business Committee might rival Greene’s installment on Homeland Security in terms of audacity (including because of things we learned just hours after it was announced).
The local news outlet Patch reported late Tuesday that a disabled veteran is accusing Santos of effectively bilking him of $3,000 that was raised for a surgery needed to save his service dog’s life. Santos has denied the accusation, but there is evidence that his pet charity was not the legitimate, tax-exempt organization he claimed it was. Neither the IRS nor the states of New York or New Jersey has records of such a charity. And a New Jersey animal rescue group previously said Santos never gave it the proceeds from a 2017 fundraiser.
Santos in 2010 reportedly admitted to check fraud in Brazil, but authorities were unable to find him to resolve the case. The case has been resurrected in recent weeks. Santos has denied having broken the law.
Santos in recent years worked for Harbor City Capital, which the Securities and Exchange Commission has accused of running a “classic Ponzi scheme” that defrauded investors of millions of dollars. Santos has not personally been accused of wrongdoing and has denied knowledge of such a scheme.
Perhaps the biggest question surrounding Santos involves how he was able to self-fund his 2022 campaign to the tune of about $700,000, despite having reported little income during his 2020 run. Santos has cited a windfall from his business, the Devolder Organization, which he claims linked wealthy individuals to items they wanted to purchase. But there’s little evidence that the business was so successful, and the watchdog Campaign Legal Center has suggested that Santos might have used his business in an illegal straw-donor operation.
And of course there’s Jim Jordan, who will head the powerful Judiciary Committee and control the subcommittee on “the weaponization of government.”
This is going to be a clown show to rival all previous clown shows, especially if Santos sticks around. Yesterday we learned something new about his years in Brazil.
From The Handbasket by Marisa Kabas: The Daily Santos: Vol. 7.
Eula Rochard and George Santos met when she was already a well-known drag queen in Niterói, a city next to Rio de Janeiro where Santos also lived at the time. She says people often seek out her friendship because she’s “highly respected in town,” and she remembers becoming friends with Santos, who at the time went by Anthony (one of his many aliases) or Kitara, his drag name. “I think I met him when he was around 16 or 17-years-old,” she said. “He used to hang out in my house while his mom was playing Bingo.”
So when she saw Santos on Brazilian TV the other day, she couldn’t believe her eyes. She messaged some friends who were around during the time she knew Santos to say she thought it was him, but they all doubted her. So she dug up an old photo and posted it to her Instagram.
“The picture was taken in 2008 at the Pride Parade at Icaraí Beach in Niterói,” she says. “George had disappeared for a little while, and then returned to Brazil with a lot of money, and that was about the same time when the picture was taken.”
Eula also shared this video from a past Niterói pride parade. She’s in pink around the 2:00 minute mark, and she says Santos is the person interviewed around the 4:19 mark.
Eula says Santos was never a professional drag performer, but did it for fun and enjoyed dressing up. “He did not have what it takes to be a professional. George did not have the glamour for that.”
Santos’ complicated relationship with the truth is nothing new, she says. “George always lied about everything. He used to create stories, usually involving money—like that his dad was rich. But then people wondered why his mom was a cleaning lady. There’s nothing wrong with being a cleaning lady, but if his dad was rich, then why?”
See a video at the link.
Kabos report is backed up by Reuters.
Reuters: Embattled U.S. Rep. George Santos was drag queen in Brazil pageants, associates say.
U.S. Representative George Santos competed as a drag queen in Brazilian beauty pageants 15 years ago, two acquaintances told Reuters on Wednesday, adding to contrasts that have drawn criticism of the openly gay Republican congressman’s staunchly conservative views….
A 58-year-old Brazilian performer, who uses the drag name Eula Rochard, said she befriended the now-congressman when he was cross-dressing in 2005 at the first gay pride parade in Niteroi, a Rio de Janeiro suburb. Three years later, Santos competed in a drag beauty pageant in Rio, Rochard said.
Another person from Niteroi who knew the 34-year-old congressman but asked not to be named said he participated in drag queen beauty pageants and aspired to be Miss Gay Rio de Janeiro.
The congressman said on Twitter on Thursday that claims “that I am a drag Queen or ‘performed’ as a drag Queen” are “categorically false,” adding: “I will not be distracted nor fazed by this.”
Sure George, if that is in fact your name.
In more catastrophic news involving McCarthy’s clowns, the U.S. officially hit the debt ceiling today.
The New York Times: America Hit Its Debt Limit, Raising Economic Fears.
The United States hit its debt limit on Thursday, prompting the Treasury Department to begin using a series of accounting maneuvers to ensure the federal government can keep paying its bills.
In a letter to Congress, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said the government would begin using what’s known as “extraordinary measures” to prevent the nation from breaching its statutory debt limit and asked lawmakers to raise or suspend the cap so that the government can continue meeting its financial obligations.
“The period of time that extraordinary measures may last is subject to considerable uncertainty, including the challenges of forecasting the payments and receipts of the U.S. Government months into the future,” Ms. Yellen said. “I respectfully urge Congress to act promptly to protect the full faith and credit of the United States.”
The milestone of hitting the country’s $31.4 trillion debt cap is the product of decades of tax cuts and increased government spending by both Republicans and Democrats. But at a moment of heightened partisanship and divided government, it is also a warning of the entrenched partisan battles that are set to dominate Washington in the months to come, and that could end in economic shock.
Newly empowered Republicans in the House have vowed that they will not raise the borrowing limit again unless President Biden agrees to steep cuts in federal spending. Mr. Biden has said he will not negotiate conditions for a debt-limit increase, arguing that lawmakers should lift the cap with no strings attached to cover spending that previous Congresses authorized.
Treasury officials estimate the measures that they began using on Thursday will enable the government to keep paying federal workers, Medicare providers, investors who hold U.S. debt and other recipients of federal dollars at least until early June.
The Washington Post: U.S. begins ‘extraordinary’ steps to avoid debt ceiling.
The Biden administration began “extraordinary measures” Thursday to prevent the federal government from breaching its debt limit and hurtling toward default, a grim scenario with the potential to destabilize markets and devastate the economy.
Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen told lawmakers that officials will alter certain federal investments to preserve the nation’s credit until summer — largely through technical moves that will buy lawmakers time to reach an agreement on how much the government is allowed to borrow.
Treasury’s moves should give lawmakers time to pass legislation that raises the amount the country can borrow, or suspends that limit, which is currently capped at $31.4 trillion, Yellen wrote to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Thursday. But she said there’s “considerable uncertainty” about how much room the measures will provide.
“I respectfully urge Congress to act promptly to protect the full faith and credit of the United States,” Yellen wrote.
Newly emboldened House Republicans are trying to leverage the standoff to extract major spending cuts, insisting that previous Congresses and administrations have spent too much on social programs. Some GOP lawmakers have even raised the prospect they might seek changes to entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare. But the White House has said it will not negotiate on the debt ceiling, and Biden has pledged to oppose any attempt to cut entitlements.
Note to Biden. Social Security and Medicare are not “entitlements.” We pay for them from our wages.
House Republicans are running a clown show, but it isn’t at all funny.
That’s it for me today. What other stories have you been following?