Thursday Reads: McConnell Blinks; New Report on Trump Coup Attempt

Armin Glatter, Reading Girl, Hungarian, 1861-1916

Armin Glatter, Reading Girl, Hungarian, 1861-1916

Good Morning!!

Yesterday Mitch McConnell backed down and offered the Democrats a short-term agreement on raising the debt ceiling. This morning AP reports: Schumer: Agreement reached on short-term debt ceiling fix.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday an agreement has been reached with Republicans to extend the government’s borrowing authority into December, temporarily averting a debt crisis.

“We’ve reached agreement,” Schumer announced as he opened the Senate. “Our hope is to get this done as soon as today.”

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican and Democratic leaders edged back from a perilous standoff over lifting the nation’s borrowing cap, with Democratic senators signaling they were receptive to an offer from Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell that would allow an emergency extension into December.

McConnell made the offer late Wednesday shortly before Republicans were prepared to block legislation to suspend the debt limit until December of next year and as President Joe Biden and business leaders ramped up their concerns that an unprecedented federal default would disrupt government payments to millions of people and throw the nation into recession.

The emerging agreement sets the stage for a sequel of sorts in December, when Congress will again face pressing deadlines to fund the government and raise the debt limit before heading home for the holidays.

A procedural vote — on the longer extension the Republicans were going to block — was abruptly delayed late Wednesday and the Senate recessed so lawmakers could discuss next steps. Democrats emerged from their meeting more optimistic that a crisis would be averted.

Politico speculates that McConnell gave in because he feared the Democrats would finally decide to get rid of the filibuster.

McConnell backed down after Democratic threats of nuking the filibuster for the debt ceiling started to become more real. At their Tuesday lunch, Democratic senators discussed how McConnell’s blockade on the debt ceiling was boosting the case of filibuster reformers. Later that day, Biden, generally a skeptic of filibuster reform, said such a change for the debt ceiling was now a “real possibility.”

George Cochran Lambdin, Girl Reading

George Cochran Lambdin, Girl Reading

McConnell took notice. Our friend Manu Raju at CNN reported, “McConnell told his colleagues he’s concerned about pressure on [JOE] MANCHIN and [KYRSTEN] SINEMA to gut [the] filibuster in order to raise [the] debt ceiling, I’m told. He pointed to this as reason why he is floating short-term increase in order to ease pressure on and push Democrats to use reconciliation.”

McConnell himself alluded to how filibuster reform was the key issue at play. “It’s not clear whether the Democratic leaders have wasted two-and-a-half months because they simply cannot govern, or whether they are intentionally playing Russian roulette with the economy to try to bully their own members into going back on their word and wrecking the Senate,” he said on the Senate floor.

The minority leader seemed skittish enough about where filibuster reform fever was headed in the Democratic caucus that he vetted his compromise plan with Manchin and Sinema, report Burgess Everett, Marianne LeVine and Anthony Adragna.

Democratic supporters of filibuster reform have taken note of how the issue seems to have moved McConnell. “The filibuster is McConnell’s instrument of obstruction,” one Democratic senator told Playbook. “He wants to protect that at all costs. He was at real risk of overplaying his hand as he faced the growing prospect that we would have 51 votes to waive it for the purpose of dealing with debt. He wanted to avoid creating that precedent. Still, would have been better for us to just do it.”

Jennifer Rubin has a good column on McConnell’s possible motivations at The Washington Post: Opinion: Mitch McConnell ‘blinked’ on the debt ceiling. Here’s what that means.

Besides the debt ceiling mess, the biggest story this morning is a report issued by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Trump’s plans to attempt a coup after he lost the 2020 election.

Katie Benner at The New York Times: Report Cites New Details of Trump Pressure on Justice Dept. Over Election.

Even by the standards of President Donald J. Trump, it was an extraordinary Oval Office showdown. On the agenda was Mr. Trump’s desire to install a loyalist as acting attorney general to carry out his demands for more aggressive investigations into his unfounded claims of election fraud.

Young Mother in the Garden, Mary Cassatt

Young Mother in the Garden, Mary Cassatt

On the other side during that meeting on the evening of Jan. 3 were the top leaders of the Justice Department, who warned Mr. Trump that they and other senior officials would resign en masse if he followed through. They received immediate support from another key participant: Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel. According to others at the meeting, Mr. Cipollone indicated that he and his top deputy, Patrick F. Philbin, would also step down if Mr. Trump acted on his plan.

Mr. Trump’s proposed plan, Mr. Cipollone argued, would be a “murder-suicide pact,” one participant recalled. Only near the end of the nearly three-hour meeting did Mr. Trump relent and agree to drop his threat.

Mr. Cipollone’s stand that night is among the new details contained in a lengthy interim report prepared by the Senate Judiciary Committee about Mr. Trump’s efforts to pressure the Justice Department to do his bidding in the chaotic final weeks of his presidency.

More details on the report:

The report draws on documents, emails and testimony from three top Justice Department officials, including the acting attorney general for Mr. Trump’s last month in office, Jeffrey A. Rosen; the acting deputy attorney general, Richard P. Donoghue, and Byung J. Pak, who until early January was U.S. attorney in Atlanta. It provides the most complete account yet of Mr. Trump’s efforts to push the department to validate election fraud claims that had been disproved by the F.B.I. and state investigators.

The interim report, released publicly on Thursday, describes how Justice Department officials scrambled to stave off a series of events during a period when Mr. Trump was getting advice about blocking certification of the election from a lawyer he had first seen on television and the president’s actions were so unsettling that his top general and the House speaker discussed the nuclear chain of command.

“This report shows the American people just how close we came to a constitutional crisis,” Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. “Thanks to a number of upstanding Americans in the Department of Justice, Donald Trump was unable to bend the department to his will. But it was not due to a lack of effort.”

Mr. Durbin said that he believes the former president, who remains a front-runner for the Republican nomination in 2024, would have “shredded the Constitution to stay in power.”

The Washington Post: Senate report gives new details of Trump efforts to use Justice Dept. to overturn election.

On Jan. 3, then-acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen, his deputy Richard Donoghue, and a few other administration officials met in the Oval Office for what all expected to be a final confrontation on Trump’s plan to replace Rosen with Jeffrey Clark, a little-known Justice Department official who had indicated he would publicly pursue Trump’s false claims of mass voter fraud.

Alabaster, Vera, 1889-1964; Girl Reading

Vera Alabaster, 1889-1964; Girl Reading

According to testimony Rosen gave to the committee, Trump opened the meeting by saying, “One thing we know is you, Rosen, aren’t going to do anything to overturn the election.”

For three hours, the officials then debated Trump’s plan, and the insistence by Rosen and others that they would resign rather than go along with it.

The Senate report says that the top White House lawyer, Pat Cipollone, and his deputy also said they would quit if Trump went through with his plan.

During the meeting, Donoghue and another Justice Department official made clear that all of the Justice Department’s assistant attorneys general “would resign if Trump replaced Rosen with Clark,” the report says. “Donoghue added that the mass resignations likely would not end there, and that U.S. Attorneys and and other DOJ officials might also resign en masse.”

A key issue in the meeting was a letter that Clark and Trump wanted the Justice Department to send to Georgia officials warning of “irregularities” in voting and suggesting the state legislature get involved. Clark thought the letter should also be sent to officials in other states where Trump supporters were contesting winning Biden vote totals, the report said.ther DOJ officials might also resign en masse.”

Rosen and Donoghue had refused to send such a letter, infuriating Trump. According to the report, the president thought that if he installed Clark as the new attorney general, the letter would go out and fuel his bid to toss out Biden victories in a handful of states.

Two more interesting articles about the Senate report:

CNN: Senate Judiciary Committee issues sweeping report detailing how Trump and a top DOJ lawyer attempted to overturn 2020 election.

Politico: Senate Judiciary probe of Trump’s 2020 machinations zeroes in on Pennsylvania House Republican.

Also breaking this morning, Politico’s Betsy Woodruff Swan reports: ‘The intelligence was there’: Law enforcement warnings abounded in the runup to Jan. 6.

On Dec. 24, a private intelligence company that works with law enforcement issued a grave warning: Users of a pro-Trump internet forum were talking about turning violent on Jan. 6.

“[A] supposedly violent insurrection by [Trump’s] supporters has ‘always been the plan,’” read a briefing by that company, SITE Intelligence Group. SITE sent this bulletin and others to its numerous subscribers, including U.S. federal law enforcement.

Woman Reading by Jean Leon Henri Gouweloos

Woman Reading by Jean Leon Henri Gouweloos

That briefing is among a host of previously unreported documents that circulated among law enforcement officials in the weeks before Jan. 6 — laying out, some with jarring specificity, the threats that culminated in the attack on the Capitol. They showed just how much of a danger far-right extremists posed to federal buildings and lawmakers. And they bolster the argument that Jan. 6 was not an intelligence failure.

“A potpourri of communities overtly strategized to storm the Capitol building and arrest — if not outright kill — public officials and carry out a coup,” said Rita Katz, the founder and executive director of SITE, which supplied many of the most detailed and specific warnings ahead of Jan. 6She said Jan. 6 represented the most “profound failure to act” she has ever seen in decades of sharing intelligence with the U.S. government.

“Law enforcement officials were alerting their superiors and other agencies to the threats SITE had identified—many of which ended up manifesting that day, just as they were written,” she said. “These warnings were distributed by the FBI and other agencies well before January 6.”

The new documents come from a variety of sources in addition to SITE, including an industry group that tracks threats to rail transportation, the New York City Police Department, a state-government intelligence-sharing hub and the FBI itself. SITE shared its briefings with POLITICO. Property of the People, a transparency watchdog group focused on national security, obtained the other documents through open-records requests.

The documents mirror a flood of public warnings about the gathering danger posed by the outer fringes of the Trump movement in the months leading up to Jan. 6. The congressional select committee probing the attack is scrutinizing the failure of law enforcement to protect the Capitol that day.

There’s much more at the Politico link.

Have a great Thursday, Sky Dancers!!


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

Fiona-Hill-Jonathan-Xu-22-Merionite-News

Fiona Hill

A new book about the Trump Administration was released today, and this one is likely to be much more serious than the many gossipy Trump books that have preceded it. This one is a memoir by Fiona Hill, who served in Trump’s White House as a Russia expert and then testified in the impeachment hearings.

Here’s the New York Times review by Jennifer Szalai: In a Memoir, the Impeachment Witness Fiona Hill Recounts Her Journey From ‘Blighted World’ to White House.

The arresting title of Fiona Hill’s new book, “There Is Nothing for You Here,” is what her father told her when she was growing up in Bishop Auckland, a decaying coal-mining town in North East England. He loved her, and so he insisted that she had to leave.

Hill took his advice to heart — studying Russian and history at St. Andrews in Scotland, sojourning in Moscow, getting a Ph.D. at Harvard and eventually serving in the administrations of three American presidents, most recently as President Trump’s top adviser on Russia and Europe. “I take great pride in the fact that I’m a nonpartisan foreign policy expert,” she said before the House in November 2019, when she delivered her plain-spoken testimony at the hearings for the (first) impeachment of President Trump. But for her, “nonpartisan” doesn’t mean she’s in thrall to bloodless, anodyne ideas totally disconnected from her personal experience. She wrote this book because she was “acutely aware,” she says, “of how my own early life laid the path for everything I did subsequently.”

Sure enough, “There Is Nothing for You Here: Finding Opportunity in the 21st Century” weaves together these two selves, slipping back and forth between the unsentimental memoir reflected in its melancholy title and the wonkish guide promised in its inspirational subtitle. The combination, however unlikely, mostly works — though by the end, the litany of policy prescriptions comes to sound a bit too much like a paper issued by the Brookings Institution, where Hill is currently a fellow. When recounting her life, Hill is a lucid writer, delivering her reminiscences in a vivid and wry style. As much as I wanted more of Hill the memoirist and less of Hill the expert, I began to sense that giving voice to both was the only way she could feel comfortable writing a book about herself.

Looked at from afar, Hill’s story seems like a triumphant tale of striving and accomplishment. Born in 1965, she grew up in a “blighted world.” Her father followed the men in his family into the mines when he was 14; as the industry started to collapse in the 1960s, he found a job as a hospital porter. Hill’s mother worked as a midwife. As late as the 1970s, Hill’s grandparents lived in a subsidized rowhouse without “mod cons,” or modern conveniences, including indoor plumbing. Her grandfather had been pierced by the “windy pick” — the pneumatic drill — and had to wear a brace around his pelvis “to keep his battered insides in” for the rest of his life.

House Intelligence Committee Continues Open Impeachment Hearings

Fiona Hill is worn in at the House Intelligence Committee Open Impeachment Hearings.

Read more about Hill’s early life at the link. Here’s a bit about her experiences in the Trump White House.

Instead of making the usual insider-memoir move of fixating on all the brazenly outrageous behavior — the bizarre comments, the outlandish tweets — Hill notices his insecurities, the soft spots that, she says, made him “exquisitely vulnerable” to manipulation. Yes, she writes, the Kremlin meddled in the 2016 election — but unlike the #Resistance crowd, which insists that such meddling was decisive, Hill is more circumspect, pointing out that Vladimir Putin wasn’t the force that tore the country apart; he was simply exploiting fissures that were already there.

Just as concerning to her was the way that people around Trump would wreak havoc on one another by playing to his “fragile ego” — spreading rumors that their rivals in the administration had said something negative about Trump was often enough to land those rivals on what the president called his “nasty list.” Hill says that watching Trump fulminate made her feel like Alice in Wonderland watching the Queen of Hearts, with her constant shouts of “Off with their heads!” In Hill’s telling, Trump’s norm-breaking was so flagrant and incessant that she compares him, in her matter-of-fact way, to a flasher. “Trump revealed himself,” she writes, “and people just got used to it.”

But neither Trump nor Putin — who was the subject of one of Hill’s previous books — is what she really wants to talk about. What she sees happening in the United States worries her. Economic collapse, structural racism, unrelieved suffering: Even without Trump, she says, none of the country’s enormous problems will go away without enormous efforts to address them. Hill the expert points to heartening examples of benevolent capitalism at work. But Hill the memoirist knows in her bones that the neoliberal approach, left to its own devices, simply won’t do.

I cannot wait to read this book. More articles about it to check out:

Yahoo News: Trump’s fixation was on Putin himself rather than Russia, says fmr. WH adviser.

Raw Story: Trump’s former Russia expert has a message for voters if he runs in 2024

Yahoo News: Fiona Hill says Trump was a national security risk because he was ‘so vulnerable to manipulation based on the fragility of his ego’

Financial Times: There Is Nothing for You Here by Fiona Hill — memoir from Trump White House.

Finally, Newsweek has an excerpt from the book: Donald Trump Called Fiona Hill ‘Darling,’ Thought She Was a Press Secretary.

Mitch-McConnell-Debt-CeilingIn other news, we’re still facing the possible default of the United States leading to a global financial crisis. Jonathan Weisman at The New York Times: As the U.S. Hurtles Toward a Debt Crisis, What Does McConnell Want?

In March 2006, as the government veered dangerously close to a default, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the No. 2 Republican, let the Bush White House know he was two votes short of what he needed to raise the legal limit on federal borrowing.

Andrew H. Card Jr., then the White House chief of staff, began working the phones. He soon found two Democrats willing to break ranks and vote to put the legislation over the top. But Mr. McConnell was holding out for something else entirely, hoping to extract concessions from President George W. Bush as the price for uniting Republicans around lifting the limit.

“I don’t need your damned votes,” he snapped at Mr. Card. He lifted the debt ceiling with Republicans only.

Mr. Card never learned what the Senate leader wanted, but he tells the story for a reason: Mr. McConnell has long used the periodic need to raise the government’s borrowing limit as a moment of leverage to secure a policy win, as have leaders of both parties.

But two weeks before a potentially catastrophic default, Mr. McConnell has yet to reveal what he wants, telling President Biden in a letter on Monday, “We have no list of demands.”

Instead, he appears to want to sow political chaos for Democrats while insulating himself and other Republicans from an issue that has the potential to divide them.

Mr. McConnell has said the government must not be allowed to stop paying its debts; he has also said he will not let any Republicans vote to raise the limit, while moving repeatedly to block Democrats from doing so themselves. Instead, he has prescribed a path forward for Democrats: Use a complicated budget process known as reconciliation to maneuver around a Republican filibuster that he refuses to lift.

Asked what he wanted, that was his answer: “As I have said for two months, I want them do it through reconciliation.”

So what’s the problem then? Why don’t the Democrats just do it through reconciliation? Of course that is another problem, because Joe Manchin and Kirsten Sinema are standing in the way of the reconciliation bill. And what the hell do they want? A couple of reads on those two:

joe-manchin-arrives-capitolCNN: Manchin breaks with party leaders over strategy on debt ceiling and Biden’s economic package.

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin on Monday pushed back on several politically sensitive positions his party leaders are taking at a crucial time for President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda.

The West Virginia Democrat, who holds a pivotal vote in the 50-50 Senate, indicated to CNN that he disagrees with the strategy top Democrats are pursuing in the standoff with Republicans over raising the national debt limit. Manchin said that Democrats “shouldn’t rule out anything,” including a budget process that Democratic leaders have made clear they will not employ.

Speaking to reporters, Manchin also would not commit to the new timeline set by party leaders to find a deal on the social safety net expansion by October 31. And he sounded resistant to calls from progressives and other top Democrats to raise his $1.5 trillion price tag for the package, which many in his party view as too low to achieve key policy objectives.

On Tuesday, however, Manchin did not rule out a $1.9 trillion to $2.2 trillion price tag for the social safety net package, a range Biden has floated privately. “I’m not ruling anything out,” Manchin said when asked by CNN if he would rule out that number.

In a stark warning sign to progressives, Manchin also indicated the package must include a prohibition against using federal funds for most abortions. “The Hyde Amendment is a red line,” he said. Manchin’s stance puts him at odds with progressives, with Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal saying Sunday she would not support a package that included the Hyde Amendment.

Read more at the link.

LLREOPMIHVF7XFYWQ5C5K2JOJIMichelle Goldberg at The New York Times: What’s Wrong With Kyrsten Sinema?

In 2003, Joe Lieberman, at the time one of the worst Democratic senators, traveled to Arizona to campaign for his party’s presidential nomination and was regularly greeted by antiwar demonstrators. “He’s a shame to Democrats,” said the organizer of a protest outside a Tucson hotel, a left-wing social worker named Kyrsten Sinema. “I don’t even know why he’s running. He seems to want to get Republicans voting for him — what kind of strategy is that?”

It was a good question, and one that many people would like to ask Sinema herself these days. People sometimes describe the Arizona senator as a centrist, but that seems the wrong term for someone who’s been working to derail some of the most broadly popular parts of Joe Biden’s agenda, corporate tax increases and reforms to lower prescription drug prices. Instead, she’s just acting as an obstructionist, seeming to bask in the approbation of Republicans who will probably never vote for her.

A “Saturday Night Live” skit this weekend captured her absurdist approach to negotiating the reconciliation bill that contains almost the entirety of Biden’s agenda. “What do I want from this bill?” asked the actress playing Sinema. “I’ll never tell.” It sometimes seems as if what Sinema wants is for people to sit around wondering what Sinema wants.

When Sinema ran for Senate, the former left-wing firebrand reportedly told her advisers that she hoped to be the next John McCain, an independent force willing to buck her own party. Voting against a $15 minimum wage this year, she gave a thumbs down — accompanied by an obnoxious little curtsy — that seemed meant to recall the gesture McCain made when he voted against repealing key measures of the Affordable Care Act in 2017.

But people admired McCain because they felt he embodied a consistent set of values, a straight-talking Captain America kind of patriotism. Despite his iconoclastic image, he was mostly a deeply conservative Republican; as CNN’s Harry Enten points out, on votes where the parties were split, he sided with his party about 90 percent of the time.

Sinema, by contrast, breaks with her fellow Democrats much more often. There hasn’t been a year since she entered Congress, Enten wrote, when she’s voted with her party more than 75 percent of the time. But what really makes her different from McCain is that nobody seems to know what she stands for.

Click the link to read more.

There’s lots more news out there. I’ll post more links in the comments. As always, this is an open thread.


Thursday Reads: Republicans Go Over The Cliff

WileEBoehner (1)

Good Morning!!

Before we get started, I need to make another appeal for donations. We still need a little more money to pay for WordPress extras like extended memory and our domain name. If you could give even $5, it would help a lot. We only need about $30 more to cover everything. Thanks so much to those of you who already gave!

Now on to the news of the day, which is so strange that I hardly know how to begin. Did we really just go through more than two weeks of a hostage drama with supposed grown-up elected officials threatening to bring down the U.S. economy–and along with it the global economy–unless the President and the legislature agree to repeal a legitimate law that has been upheld by the Supreme Court? Or failing that, deny birth control to adult women?

Yes, yes we did. Somehow, truly insane people have tried to take over the government. They’ve been defeated for now, but in only a few months we could go through this again! This article at Bloomberg Businessweek pretty much sums it up: Congress Ends Impasse to Be Revisited in January.

After the partisan passions and heated rhetoric, the disruptions of a government shutdown and displays of dysfunction, Congress did what it could have done weeks ago: voted to fund the government and lift the debt limit.

The passage last night by wide margins — an 81-18 vote in the Democratic-led Senate, followed by a 285-144 vote in the Republican-controlled House — allows the U.S. to avoid default and ends the shutdown that began Oct. 1 and has taken $24 billion out of the U.S. economy.

President Barack Obama signed the bill just after midnight, according to a White House statement. The measure puts government workers back on the job starting today and permits the U.S. to pay its debts, benefits and salaries.

Lawmakers didn’t show they’re any closer to resolving the underlying issues of spending priorities and deficit-reduction measures, particularly in the House where a shrinking political middle makes compromise elusive as the latest events show.

The focus now shifts to a new series of deadlines — the first for budget negotiations with a Dec. 13 target — that set up more rounds of political combat over taxes and spending on programs including Social Security and Medicare. The deal funds the government at Republican-backed spending levels through Jan. 15, 2014, and suspends the debt limit through Feb. 7.

GOP Ransom Note

But according to CBS News, Republicans still plan to keep trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

[Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell claimed victory for Republicans in the fact that the sequester cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act were preserved, and assured the party he is committed to fighting to repeal Obamacare.

“Republicans remain determined to repeal this terrible law, but for today the relief we hope for is to reopen the government, avoid default and protect the historic cuts we achieve under the Budget Control Act,” he said. “This is far less than many of us had hoped for, frankly, but its far better than what some had sought. Now it’s time for Republicans to unite behind other crucial goals.”

Ted Cruz plans to continue the hopeless fight against Obama’s health care law. From Mediaite: Ted Cruz Slams ‘Lousy Deal,’ Pledges Obamacare Fight Is Far From Over on Hannity.

Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, the conservative tag-team that led the fight on Obamacare from the beginning, joinedSean Hannity Wednesday night before the House voted to officially end the government shutdown, both of them slamming the compromise deal and promising to continue fighting the health care law. Cruz called it a “lousy deal” and the latest example of the “Washington establishment selling the people down the river.”

Watch the video at the link if you can stomach it.

Meanwhile, back in Texas some folks aren’t so happy with their new Senator. The Houston Chronicle yesterday expressed regret for having endorsed him. From HuffPo:

Nearly one year removed from its decision to endorse Ted Cruz, the Houston Chronicle reflected back on that choice in a Tuesday op-ed, admitting that he has not lived up to the paper’s expectations.

In a piece entitled “Why We Miss Kay Bailey Hutchison,” the newspaper reflected back on how Hutchison had an “extraordinary understanding of the importance of reaching across the aisle when necessary.” That skill has not been displayed by Cruz or senior Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), according to the Chronicle….

In an Oct. 18, 2012 op-ed, the Chronicle explained that its endorsement of Cruz was premised on him following the example of previous senators, including Democrats Lloyd Bentsen, who went on to serve as Treasury Secretary and Lyndon B. Johnson, who later became president.

“We expect Cruz as the senator from the Lone Star State to spend his energies standing up for Texans of every background and economic station, representing their best interests from health care and education to energy, space and medicine,” the paper wrote.

The Dallas News notes: Ted Cruz left with few friends after Obamacare fight fails, government shutdown ends, debt limit rises.

It might be time for Ted Cruz to get a dog.

Because as the saying goes, if you want a friend in Washington, that’s what you do. And by the time Cruz’s crusade to defund Obamacare finally crashed to a halt Wednesday, the Texas senator had precious few friends left.

The government shutdown alienated colleagues in both parties. It generated fresh animosity toward the tea party and a flurry of recriminations toward Cruz. Voter support for the Republican Party plunged….

Cruz willed himself to the center of the fight. For months, he predicted that Democrats would cave if Republicans stood together to strip funding from the health care law. He dramatized the cause with a 21-hour overnight Senate speech, soaring to unusual prominence for a freshman senator. He refrained from using the risk of a catastrophic default on U.S. debt as leverage. Still, the defeat was so resounding that it left his political future in doubt.

The vast majority of his colleagues repudiated his tactics. Some accused him of promoting himself more than any attainable goals or the health of his party.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, called the last few weeks an “agonizing odyssey.”

“This has been one of the most shameful chapters I’ve seen here,” he said, lamenting damage to the GOP for little gain. “We’re in a hole. We have to dig out. We weren’t going to defund Obamacare, and we weren’t going to keep the government shut down.”

On the other hand, Mitch McConnell didn’t walk away empty-handed. WFPL in Louisville reports: McConnell-Reid Deal Includes $3 Billion Earmark for Kentucky Project.

Language in a draft of the McConnell-Reid deal (see page 13, section 123) provided to WFPL News shows a provision that increases funding for the massive Olmsted Dam Lock in Paducah, Ky., from $775 million to nearly $2.9 billion.

The dam is considered an important project for the state and region in regards to water traffic along the Ohio River.

As The Courier-Journal’s James Bruggers reported in 2011, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said they needed about $2.1 billion for the locks due to “stop and go funding.”

Asked about the additional funding in the proposal, McConnell spokesman Robert Steurer directed all questions to lawmakers who worked on the bill directly.

Hostage-taking, extortion, and bribery. It’s the Republican way.

Lee and Cruz

In the midst of the madness last night, Diane Reedy, a House stenographer had to be dragged off the House floor after she grabbed a microphone during the vote and began ranting about Freemasons. CNN:

Amid all the chaos of the last-minute deal in Washington, there was an unusual moment on the House floor moments after the bill passed.

A House stenographer and well-known employee calmly took to a microphone and began screaming.

“Do not be deceived. God shall not be mocked. A House divided cannot stand,” she said, according to a House GOP aide. After a few seconds, she was escorted out by the Sergeant-at-Arms, but an audio recording by Todd Zwillich of Public Radio International captured the rest of her rant.

“He will not be mocked, He will not be mocked, (don’t touch me) He will not be mocked. The greatest deception here, is that this is not one nation under God. It never was. Had it been… it would not have been… No. it would not have been… the Constitution would not have been written by Free Masons… and go against God. You cannot serve two masters. You cannot serve two masters. Praise be to God, Lord Jesus Christ.”

According to Dana Bash, the woman is well liked on Capitol Hill. She was taken to a hospital for a psychological evaluation. I hope she will be okay; but frankly, her behavior is no crazier than that of some House members. For example, insane Texas Rep. Louis Gomert claimed yesterday that Sen. John McCain is a supporter of al Qaeda. Raw Story reports McCain’s response: 

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) shrugged off Rep. Louie Gohmert’s (R-TX) insinuation that he was an “al Qaeda supporter” in an interview with NBC Nightly News host Brian Williams on Wednesday, while conceding to an increasing amount of polarization between lawmakers.

“On that particular issue, sometimes comments like that are made out of malice,” McCain told Williams. “But if someone has no intelligence, I don’t view it as being a malicious statement. You can’t respond to that kind of thing.”

And this wasn’t just an isolated incident.

Gohmert made a thinly-veiled reference to McCain during an Oct. 11 appearance at the Value Voters Summit, mocking his trip to meet with rebel leaders in Syria by calling him, “a guy that’s been to Syria and supported Al Qaeda and the rebels.”

The two also clashed in 2012, with Gohmert calling McCain and other GOP lawmakers“numbnuts” after McCain criticized Gohmert and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) for what he called “specious and degrading attacks” against former State Department aide Huma Abedin.

Can we get Gomert a psych eval? Please?

Just a couple more links on reactions to the insanity in DC:

From the Wall Street Journal: Business Voices Frustration With GOP.

The budget stalemate that had the U.S. flirting with default has left business and the Republican Party, longtime political allies, at a crossroads.

In interviews with representatives of companies large and small, executives predicted a change in how business would approach politics. They didn’t foresee a new alignment with Democrats but forecast backing challengers to tea-party conservatives in GOP primaries, increasing political engagement with centrist Republicans and, for some, disengaging with politics altogether.

Many business executives say they were dismayed that some Republicans didn’t heed their warnings that closing the government and risking default would hurt the U.S. economy. Others expressed disgust with Washington politics in general. All said the crisis could have been averted with a more pragmatic approach.

The decadeslong relationship between American business and the GOP is certainly likely to endure, with business still feeling a kinship and shared goals with many in the party, including a push for lower taxes and lighter regulation.

But the conversation among businesses is “characterized by tremendous frustration and angst,” said Dirk Van Dongen, president of the National Association of Wholesale-Retailers, a trade group. “Because at the end of the day, the system is supposed to produce results, and the failure to produce results has consequences.”

credit rating

Reuters: Dollar slides as relief at U.S. debt deal fades.

“The U.S. can give a sigh of relief for now but the New Year could bring a dangerous sense of déjà vu,” Luke Bartholomew, investment analyst at Aberdeen Asset Management, said.

Equity markets in the U.S. and Asia initially welcomed the last-minute deal which pulled the world’s biggest economy back from the brink of a historic default, but the rally ran out of steam as the longer-term implications sank in….

The temporary nature of the agreement and longer-term worries that the debt ceiling risks would become a structural drag on the economy also weighed on debt markets.

That view was shared by Chinese credit agency Dagong, which downgraded the U.S. sovereign rating to A- from A with a negative outlook, driving further dollar losses.

The 10-year benchmark Treasury note yield slipped to 2.65 percent from around 2.68 percent late in New York. While U.S. Treasury bill futures had gained 0.1 percent.

“It casts dark clouds over the economy – politics are now the main drag for growth in the U.S,” Rabobank strategist Philip Marey said.

Read more at the link.

Finally, the Center for American Progress has released a report on Replacing the Sequester. Check it out at the link.

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? What reactions are you seeing to yesterday’s agreement? Please post your own thoughts as well as your links on any topic in the comment thread.


Tuesday Reads: Nightmare on Capitol Hill

Nightmare on Capitol Hill Dave Granlund

Good Morning!!

Yes, it’s real–too real. We’re approaching the deadline for raising the debt ceiling–it’s Thursday–and Congress is still dithering. But it looks like they may figure out a way to kick the can down the road again, as long as Ted Cruz doesn’t decide to have another tantrum.

According to the Hill this morning, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell are close to agreeing on “a deal” to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling for a few more months. The two Senate leaders huddled for hours yesterday trying to put together some kind of package that would satisfy House Republicans and convince them not to bring down the U.S. Government and the global economy.

An emerging deal to reopen the government and raise the nation’s debt ceiling until February gathered political momentum Monday evening after Senate Republicans signaled they would likely support it.

Lawmakers and aides said the legislation would fund the government until Jan. 15 and extend the nation’s borrowing authority until February but leave ObamaCare largely untouched.

The agreement would also set up another “supercommittee” to try to deal with the next round of automatic sequester cuts. The committee would have until December 13 to report to Congress. Anyone who thinks they’ll agree on anything, please raise your hand.

The big question is whether a package to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling can pass muster in the House.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was briefed on the deal Monday, and members of his conference were taking a wait and see attitude.

“When we see it, we’ll know what it is. Do you know what it is yet?” Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), chairman of the House Rules Committee, asked reporters as he left Boehner’s office.

“As soon as we see something in writing, then we can understand how we can thoughtfully understand what we’ll do with it,” Sessions said.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) wouldn’t comment on the emerging Senate deal, but he told reporters House Republicans will meet Tuesday morning “to discuss a way forward.” “Possible consideration of legislation related to the debt limit” was added to Cantor’s daily House schedule for Tuesday.

Ted Cruz Onward Michael Ramirez

Of course the biggest potential fly in the ointment is Texas junior Senator Ted Cruz and his gang of Tea Party House members. Cruz wouldn’t say whether he’s planning another fake filibuster or some other effort to kill the Affordable Care Act. However, Cruz did hold a secret meeting with House Republicans last night, according to Roll Call.

Sen. Ted Cruz met with roughly 15 to 20 House Republicans for around two hours late Monday night at the Capitol Hill watering hole Tortilla Coast.

The group appeared to be talking strategy about how they should respond to a tentative Senate deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling without addressing Obamacare in a substantive way, according to sources who witnessed the gathering. The Texas Republican senator and many of the House Republicans in attendance had insisted on including amendments aimed at dismantling Obamacare in the continuing resolution that was intended to avert the current shutdown.

Sources said the House Republicans meeting in the basement of Tortilla Coast with Cruz were some of the most conservative in the House: Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas, Steve King of Iowa, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho, Steve Southerland II of Florida, Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Justin Amash of Michigan.

The group is a collection of members who have often given leadership headaches in recent years by opposing both compromise measures as well as packages crafted by fellow Republicans….While the emerging deal to reopen the government and hike the debt ceiling increase may have been a hot topic, it was not immediately clear what the group actually discussed. But the fact that such a group met with Cruz at all could give House GOP leaders even more heartburn as they consider themselves what to do if the Senate passes the measure.

If Cruz and his buddies decide to cause more trouble, they could bring about a default by dragging the fight out until after Thursday. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew could probably keep the U.S. afloat for a few more days, but it would be touch and go. Joshua Green wrote yesterday at Bloomberg Businessweek that “Ted Cruz Could Force a Debt Default All by Himself.”

How could this happen? Because the Senate can move quickly when necessary, but only by unanimous consent. Let’s say Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) strike a deal today (that’s looking unlikely). Cruz surely won’t like it and has said repeatedly, “I will do everything necessary and anything possible to defund Obamacare.” If he’s true to his word, he could drag out the proceedings past Thursday and possibly well beyond. “If a determined band of nut jobs wants to take down the global economy, they could do it,” says Jim Manley, a former top staffer for Reid. “Under Senate rules, we are past the point of no return—there’s not anything Reid or McConnell could do about it.”

If Cruz is truly determined to block or delay any deal that does not touch Obamacare, here’s how he’d do it: The hypothetical Reid/McConnell bill would probably be introduced as an amendment to the “clean” debt-ceiling raise that Democrats introduced—and Republicans defeated—last week. Reid voted against cloture on the motion to proceed to that bill, a procedural tactic that allows him to reconsider the bill later on. Let’s say he does so by 5 p.m. Monday. There would need to be a cloture vote on the motion to proceed. Cruz would dissent, but he wouldn’t be able to round up 41 votes for a filibuster….

The real killer is that Senate rules stipulate there must be 30 hours of post-cloture debate, unless senators agree unanimously to waive it. Reid and McConnell would want unanimous consent to move quickly, but Cruz could refuse, thereby forcing 30 hours of debate. This would drag things out until Tuesday at 11:30 p.m. Then there would be a vote on the motion to proceed (requiring a simple majority), followed by an intervening day, assuming Cruz withheld his consent to vote earlier. So now we’re looking at a Thursday cloture vote on the bill itself, followed by another 30 hours of post-cloture debate that would blow right past the Treasury deadline.

Ted Cruz Jesus

Let’s hope even Cruz isn’t that delusional and foolhardy. Booman also points out that the Senate can change the rules and limit post-cloture debate for this one vote. That takes 67 votes.

At The Daily Beast, Lloyd Green calls what Cruz and other Tea Party Republicans are doing “backdoor impeachment.”

The dance over the debt ceiling and the fight over the government shutdown are nothing less than impeachment on the cheap: a chance to negate the will of the majority by ostensibly placating the letter of the law. Unable to win the last two presidential elections or to persuade a Supreme Court majority that the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional, House Republicans have arrived at a point where default and closure are the next best things. This combustible brew of race, class, and economic anxieties bubbles all too closely to the surface.

These days, the GOP comes across as hating Obamacare more than loving their countrymen, and the nation is returning that ire (PDF). Less than a quarter of Americans view the Republicans favorably, and a majority dislikes them, three-in-10 intensely. The GOP’s goal of recapturing the Senate in 2014 is now looking more like a dream than a reality, as Republicans are “forced to explain why they are not to blame and why Americans should trust them to govern both houses of Congress when the one they do run is in such disarray.” Indeed.

Unfortunately, the calamity of a potential default has tempered neither judgment nor passion. On Saturday, Ted Cruz—the man who lit the match, won the Values Voters Straw Poll with 42 percent of the vote. Channeling her inner Glenn Beck, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) concluded that the President “committed impeachable offenses.” Bachmann also proclaimed that civil disobedience was a potential response to Obama’s “thuggery,” and compared the Obama presidency to Egypt’s deposed Muslim Brotherhood.

I hope you’ll read the rest at the link.

Ted Cruz is stealing the right wing nut show for now, but in the House Paul Ryan raised his ugly head over the weekend to complain about the ACA’s individual mandate and requirement that women have access to birth control. From HuffPo:

Sources told the Post that, in a private meeting with House Republicans, Ryan said that by kicking the can down the road, the GOP would lose “leverage” in their fight against Obamacare.

Ryan’s main concern appears to be delaying the health care law’s individual mandate, but ThinkProgress points out that Ryan also emphasized the need to give employers the ability to deny birth control coverage based on moral or religious reasons.

Meanwhile most people around the country and even on Wall Street don’t seem all that concerned about what’s happening in Washington DC. I guess that after multiple emergencies in which political leaders “cried wolf,” everyone just assumes that Congress will find some way to keep the country going. Still, is this any way to run a country? Shouldn’t citizens be up in arms? Will Durst has a wacky column about this at Cagle Post called “Fukushima Sushi.”

Which is harder to believe? The ludicrous shenanigans going down in Washington or the fact that nobody seems particularly interested in doing anything about them? Good neighbors — it looks like we got ourselves one heck of a bumper crop of official dysfunction this year. Near as high as Manute Bol’s eye.

You’d think with national parks closed, veteran’s benefits being withheld and a possible catastrophic debt ceiling crisis looming, folks would be atwitter like chicken inspectors on a rotisserie spit during a power surge. And you’d be as wrong as a Bergman film on Comedy Central.

What the country seems to be seeking here is a little something called political responsibility. Which, in these dark days, is a wee bit of a tad of a total and complete oxymoron. Real similar to saying Fukushima sushi. Or elegant squalor. Comfortable rock.

Driving the point home: Weird normality. Spherical edge. Iron kite. Freedom shackle. Fresh detritus. Flammable sleet. Placid hammer. Colossal shrimp. Diminutive giant. Formal jeans. Sensitive linebacker. Salable autonomy. Veteran rookie. Vegetarian butcher. Pork tartare. Reality TV.

Keeping it real: Precarious certainty. Serene devastation. Bitter honey. Catholic condom. Heaven’s basement. Gelatinous needle. Sadistic lover. Banker’s compassion. Macabre solace. Chaste indiscretion. Temporary tax. Restorative annihilation. Healthy fries. Unhungry shark.

Lots more oxymoron’s at the link. How he came up with so many, I’ll never know.

Now what stories are you focusing on today? Please share your links on any topic in the comments.


Early Saturday De-Lite

For this third installment (y’all are probably sick of these cartoons now) we have a several commentaries on the debt ceiling and other topics that have been in the news this past week.

Hope you enjoy them!

01/16 Luckovich cartoon: Hostage taking | Mike Luckovich

011613-toon-luckovich-ed

Blackmail With the Debt Ceiling – Truthdig

Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » National Buffoons

https://i0.wp.com/media.caglecartoons.com/media/cartoons/10/2013/01/16/125654_600.jpg

Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » Boeing Dreamliner Problems

Boeing Dreamliner Problems © Patrick Chappatte,The International Herald Tribune,Transports,Aviation,Boeing,Dreamliner,USA,Cars,Economy

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Lisa Benson, Victor Valley Daily Press – 01/18/2013 

*Please take a look at this comment regarding the Headstart cartoon below.

Cartoon by Lisa Benson -

Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » Piers Morgan Tonight

Piers Morgan Tonight © Tim Campbell,Indianapolis,gun control,assault weapons,piers morgan,cnn,2nd amendment,founding fathers,gun debate 2012, Living With Guns, nra, NRA 2012, second amendment

This last one is real funny, if you have trouble reading the small writing…click the image for a larger look.

Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » The Masters Voice

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There you are, have fun this long weekend!

This is an open thread.