The Mahablog

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The Mahablog

Endless Insanity in the New GOP House

My “congressman,” Jason Smith, was not one of the 20 or so nutjobs who held out against Kevin McCarthy in the speaker vote debacle. Smith was a pro-McCarthy nutjob. Yet he somehow got the chair of the Ways and Means Committee. I can promise you that no good will come of that, unless it’s to utterly bleep up the House Republicans somehow.

For example, Semafor is reporting that McCarthy may have promised the House nutjob fringe that he would allow the House to vote on a “fair tax” proposal, which I believe is the kind of thing that would have to go through Ways and Means.

As part of his deal to become House speaker, Kevin McCarthy reportedly promised his party’s conservative hardliners a vote on legislation that would scrap the entire American tax code and replace it with a jumbo-sized national sales tax. …

…The idea of a “fair tax” that would replace our current IRS code with a single sales tax was popularized on conservative talk radio in the late 1990s. It has kicked around Washington ever since, popping up in the occasional presidential platform, but never received a vote.

Its current champion in Congress is Georgia Rep. Earl “Buddy” Carter, whose Fair Tax Act would swap out the income, payroll, estate, and corporate levies for a 30% national sales tax. It would also send out “prebate” checks to soften the blow on lower income families, all while abolishing the Internal Revenue Service.

If people don’t like inflation, how are they going to feel about a 30 percent sales tax? I can’t imagine this has a serious chance of passing in the House, since I’m sure there are at least some Republicans who realize that this would not be a popular thing if it went into effect. And it wouldn’t have a chance in the Senate. Still, just the fact that some of the House nutjobs take this nonsense seriously says something. Where Jason Smith stands on this issue, I do not know. Smith does want to privatize Social Security, so he can’t be counted on to support anything sensible.

But one thing I do know, is that Rep. Vern Buchanan of Florida is really pissed at McCarthy now.

As I wrote last week, Republicans have been fixated on whether 71-year-old Rep. Vern Buchanan might retire from Congress after losing the House Ways & Means chairmanship to the 42-year-old Speaker’s pet Jason Smith, potentially reducing Kevin McCarthy’s margin of error from four votes to three to pass critical partisan legislation. (If McCarthy somehow loses fabulist George Santos, too, he could be held hostage by as few as two members of his already fractious House conference.) Vern’s people say he won’t retire (despite the rumblings on the Hill), but they didn’t deny that he was mighty pissed to be passed over as the most senior person on the Ways & Means committee by Smith, a member who was fifth in line.

Just how angry was he? Well, a source on the House floor during the vote told me that while McCarthy was gaveling down the votes, Buchanan walked up to McCarthy and said, “You fucked me, I know it was you, you whipped against me.” He then proceeded to chew out McCarthy’s deputy chief of staff for floor operations, John Leganski. It was shocking to see such fury from Buchanan, who’s known for being mild mannered. Indeed, I heard that the tirade was so heated that the Speaker’s security detail stepped in with a light touch. (McCarthy’s spokesperson Matt Sparks disputed this detail saying, “at no point did anyone have to step in.” A spokesperson for Buchanan declined to comment.)

McCarthy got the speaker’s gavel, but how long will he be allowed to keep it?

Note also that Marjorie Taylor Green, Paul Gosar, and Lauren Boebert are now all on the Oversight Committee. James Comer, who is eager to investigate President Biden on the documents issue but thinks Trump has earned a pass, is chair. I suspect the new Oversight Committee will be looking a lot like the old House Un-American Activities Committee in no time.

In other news, Greg Sargent writes that Biden just outmaneuvered MAGA Republicans — and they barely noticed.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas unveiled an initiative on Friday that would extend more protection against deportation to undocumented immigrants who report labor rights violations by employers.

This is a big move by the administration, one long sought by immigration advocates. Biden’s immigration record is decidedly mixed, but this would address a serious problem: Undocumented migrant workers often fear reporting workplace violations — ones they were victims of or just witnessed — because it could lead to their deportation.

Now they will have improved access to a legal process that can defer their deportations for two years and potentially extend them work permits. The hope: To encourage them not just to report unsafe or exploitative working conditions, but also to cooperate with ongoing Labor Department investigations, improving working standards for all workers.

So far, Sargent continues, the anti-immigrant Right hasn’t paid much notice to this policy change. To come out against it they’d have to come out in support of predatory employers. Well, they’ve done worse.

See also Josh Marshall, Trump’s Disappearing, and He Knows It.

We’ve Got More BS Than Shovels

Josh Marshall writes,

Over the last couple days I’ve read a dozen or more articles and newsletter briefs which describe the purported political disaster that is the Biden classified documents issue, then explain how it bears no comparison to the ongoing Mar-a-Lago scandal and then note that the difference and lack of comparison actually don’t matter because that’s how it is. Punchbowl runs through a list of Democratic lawmakers who are barely willing to make the distinction in public, let alone defend the President from the adverse comparisons. The headline of this Dan Balz column perhaps sums it up most nicely: Biden, Trump cases aren’t alike. The political system doesn’t care.

Most recently, Republicans are expressing outrage that there are no visitor logs for President Biden’s private home. Do presidents ever keep visitor logs for their private homes? Did Trump keep visitor logs at Mar-a-Lago while he was president? Did anyone ever ask for those logs, even now? And didn’t Trump try to shield his White House visitor logs so that the J6 committee and anyone else could not see them? My goodness, yes he did! Josh Marshall continues,

The deputy editor of the Post opinion section goes so far as to say that the Biden documents “should spell the end of any realistic prospect of criminal charges against former President Donald Trump” and lauds this as a wonderful thing since such charges would have been terrible for the country. Arrrghghghghg.

Indeed. That deputy editor is David Von Drehle, whom I met years ago and who seemed a good person, but this is stupid. This is what Von Drehle wrote:

Politically, Trump is a dead man walking. He has lost the ability to drive the news cycle. His outlandish social media posts fall as silently as unheard forest trees. His declaration of his next campaign produced a yawn worthy of another run by Ralph Nader. As drum major of a wackadoodle parade, he marched through the Republican primaries last year, delivering candidates who bombed in the general election. Now no one marches to his tune. When he tried to influence the election of a House speaker, even the surviving zealots ignored his instructions. …

… To be indicted and hauled into court for history’s most heavily publicized trial would invigorate Trump, and the spectacle would galvanize his dwindling base of support. He’d go from grumbling irrelevance in the gilded prison of his Mar-a-Lago mausoleum to ring master of a circus trial that would dominate every news outlet.

One, although Trump is politically diminished, he’s far from dead. But that shouldn’t matter in a courtroom. Two, if he isn’t destroyed, what’s to keep some future despot from taking the same liberties? This stops now.

The real issue here is not about which incident of document mishandling is worse. We know that already. The real issue, as Josh Marshall says at the end of his post, is that the news media and political establishment have decided that the American people are too stupid or too dishonest to understand the difference between Biden’s documents and Trump’s documents. No, most of them aren’t that stupid, but they need the difference explained to them. And it needs to be explained every time the issue comes up, because not everyone tunes in to multiple news sources every day. I’ve seen a lot of television news stories about this that doesn’t point out the difference at all.

Jake Tapper has pissed me off many times in the past, but here in this podcast at least he’s giving it his best shot in exposing GOP Rep. James Comer as a partisan hypocrite for investigating Biden’s documents issue after saying that Trump’s documents issue wasn’t a priority.

Another thing that the Powers That Be have decided the people are too stupid to understand are debt ceilings. House Republicans plan to hold the debt ceiling hostage to force spending cuts, while pretending they are just trying to get spending under control. And, of course, defaulting on loans you’ve already taken out is not usually considered a legitimate spending cut strategy. John Light writes at TPM,

Republicans have periodically taken the debt ceiling hostage as a bargaining chip, threatening the full faith and credit of the U.S. and raising the possibility that a government on which the world’s economy relies might default on its debt. To justify such a maneuver, Republicans habitually conflate the budgeting process — in which Congress decides what it will spend money on — with the debt ceiling, which allows the administration to borrow money to cover expenses largely made up of funds Congress has already appropriated.

Bacon, a McCarthy ally in his recent speakership fight, leaned into that conflation, telling ABC that “the mission we’ve given is to control reckless spending, which has been not the only contributor but one of the main contributors to inflation.”

The hope, for Republicans, is that Americans will share their party’s seeming confusion about just what is going on here. Rep. James Comer (R-KY) went there too, claiming in a separate interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday that “Republicans were elected with a mandate from the American people in the midterm elections. We campaigned on the fact that we were going to be serious about spending cuts. So, the Senate is going to have to recognize the fact that we’re not going to budge until we see meaningful reform with respect to spending.” 

But the Biden Administration has said, in effect, it’s not going to negotiate with hostage takers. This makes the hostage takers sad.

“When President Biden says he’s just going to refuse to negotiate with Republicans on any concessions, I don’t think that’s right either,” said Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) in an interview with ABC This Week on Sunday.

“I want our side to negotiate with the Democrats in good faith,” he said later in the interview. “But President Biden has to also negotiate. He can’t say he refuses to negotiate.”

No, he doesn’t. Republicans have tried this trick too many times. Democrats seem to be united on this. No negotiation, no conditions. Steve Bennen writes,

Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz recently articulated the party’s position using even more direct language.

“In exchange for not crashing the United States economy, you get nothing,” Schatz said in an interview with The Daily Beast. “You don’t get a cookie. … You’re just a person doing the bare minimum of not intentionally screwing over your constituents for insane reasons.”

So we’ll see who blinks.

Fun and Games in the Republican Playhouse

The new Republican House wasted no time in passing bills that (a) will die in the Senate, and (b) show us they still aren’t listening to voters. A couple of these were abortion bills. One was the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which is based on the morbid and possibly prurient fantasy that healthy, viable babies routinely survive abortions, and when that happens doctors kill them (some Fetus People get off on describing the warm, still-twitching flesh discarded into buckets) or deny them care so they die of neglect. Never mind that intentionally causing the death of an infant, no matter its circumstances, is murder under the laws of every state. And as for denying care, all I can imagine is that some of them are mistaking the palliative care given newborns who have no chance with denying them care.

This also ignores the fact that an earlier Congress already passed a Born-Alive Infants Protection Act into law back in 2002 that was supposed to protect all these viable babies who survive abortions from being tossed into buckets. If the 2002 law didn’t change anything, perhaps it was because the atrocities the Fetus People oppose are only happening in their imaginations. Laws can’t change that. And ain’t enough psychologists in the world to deal with these people. Unfortunately, the new law would imprison real doctors for up to five years if they fail to resuscitate babies “born alive” after an  abortion. This is regardless of whether the abortion was performed due to fatal fetal abnormalities. It’s possible doctors would be prosecuted for following standard medical practice for, say, an anencephalic neonate.

The other bill is a resolution that condemns violence directed at “anti-abortion facilities” such as those phony pregnancy crisis centers. And I also would condemn such violence, but of course the bill doesn’t say bleep about violence against abortion providers or facilities. Shooting doctors is okay with these people. So ‘pro life” they are.

As one Republican already admitted, this is about signaling to the forced birth advocates that their elected officials haven’t given up. Since there is no chance either bill will pass in the Senate or be signed into law by President Biden, the two bills are really just legislative theater, and the House Republicans won’t have to face any real-world consequences for passing them.

House Republicans also are still talking about a federal abortion ban and making the Hyde Amendment a permanent, stand-alone law and not a rider attached to appropriations bills.

This would seem to be nuts, given that their forced birth positions cost the Republicans a whole lot of seats in last year’s midterms. Well, it is nuts. These people are not facing reality. The forced birth movement is telling them that the reason Republicans lost so many elections in the midterms is that they didn’t talk about forcing women to give birth against their wills enough. Some elected Republicans are claiming that the midterms really gave them a mandate for more abortion restrictions.

Many GOP lawmakers who sailed to victory in states with anti-abortion laws balk at the idea that Democrats’ focus on abortion rights is evidence the left’s message resonated with voters. Instead, they’re taking their electoral victories as a mandate to pass additional abortion restrictions.

“South Carolina had a huge red tidal wave in this election. We flipped eight seats in the South Carolina House of Representatives … We all ran on pro-life,” said South Carolina Republican Rep. John McCravy, who spearheaded efforts this summer to prohibit abortion in most cases starting at conception. “If anything, we need to ramp our efforts up.”

I guess we should expect members of the Selfishness Is Good party to not care what happens to other members in less deep-red states. Also note that abortion is still legal in Rep. John McCravy’s South Carolina, thanks to the SC Supreme Court deciding the state constitution protects a right to abortion.

That’s not so in other states, of course. A few days ago the FDA announced a policy change that would allow more retail pharmacies, both online and brick-and-mortar, to dispense abortion pills. CVS and Walgreens have already announced they are getting with the program, at least in states where state laws don’t prohibit the sale of abortion pills. The forced birth people are up in arms and organizing pickets outside CVS and Walgreens stores in at least eight states. Well, it’s their time to waste, I guess. But if Walgreens stores around the country start getting bombed, we’ll know why.

The attorney general of Alabama has declared that if he catches any women buying abortion pills he will prosecute them under a state law meant to protect children from illegal drugs like cocaine and throw them in jail. This is causing division in the forced birth movement, since it has long been the official position of the Fetus People that women are not capable of making abortion decisions for themselves and are being misled by the malevolent abortion industry into having abortions it wouldn’t occur to them to have otherwise. Seriously.

And then there’s Virginia. Yesterday Republicans in the state legislature introduced a bill providing a 15-week abortion ban. This was proposed by the MAGA-Lite governor as a moderate compromise.

The party is framing the ban as a moderate compromise: GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin praised it as a “bipartisan consensus,” while the Senate Republican caucus described it as “practical, sensible, and reasonable.”

But these descriptions do not align with the actual text of the law. In addition to outlawing abortion long before viability, the proposal shares several features with the extreme abortion bans adopted by states like Louisiana and Texas. It contains extremely limited exceptions while exposing doctors to criminal liability for performing emergency abortions, including up to 10 years’ imprisonment. In short, the ban would ensure that reproductive health care in Virginia is dictated by criminal law rather than patients and their physicians.

Also yesterday, a Democrat defeated a Republican in a special election for a Virginia state Senate seat. This was a district that had elected Republicans for a decade. It’s suspected that the abortion issue made the difference. Republicans control most of the Virginia government except for the Senate, which has a small Dem majority. Youngkin may have a hard time getting his “moderate” bill passed.

The moral is, though, that the Republican party hasn’t yet been punished enough for their obsession with banning abortion.

Other bills the GOP House passed or is about to pass include defunding the IRS (which will be DOA in the Senate),

In other news, the Missouri state legislature is considering a dress code for women lawmakers to be sure they keep their arms covered. And for some a cardigan isn’t good enough; they want the ladies to wear blazers.

Florida: The Last Refuge of Washed-Up Wannabe Strongmen?

I want to note that more than a thousand of the rioters in Brasilia were arrested on the spot. Our January 6 rioters were allowed to all go home that day, meaning they had to be tracked down later. I never got an explanation for that.

Jair Bolsonaro is in Florida. CNN is reporting that he was just admitted to a hospital for “abdominal ‘discomfort,’ related to injuries from a 2018 knife attack during a political rally, Michelle Bolsonaro said.” Yeah, right. Per the NY Post he’s in AdventHealth Celebration in Kissimmee outside Walt Disney World, if you want to send a card.

The Guardian is reporting that Bolsonaro went to Florida to avoid possible legal action in Brazil. Florida is “a US state much favoured by other anti-communist conservatives from Cuba and elsewhere in Latin America.” Is Florida the new Argentina?

Last week the Palm Beach Post ran a photo from 2020 showing Bolsonaro dining at Mar-a-Lago with Trump, but apparently no one has seen Bolsonaro at Mar-a-Lago lately. It would almost be odd if the two would-be Mussolinis were ignoring each other. Unless they are just pretending to be ignoring each other. Hmm. Frank Cerabino of the Palm Beach Post continues,

But I propose we make an exception for deposed dictators who see Florida as a sanctuary from their failed criminal plots to thwart democracy and establish themselves as kings in perpetuity. 

We took in one of these dead-enders over the weekend. Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro slipped out of Brazil and moved into a house in a gated community in Orlando — where he was seen taking a neighborhood stroll. 

Bolsonaro was supposed to be in Brazil, handing over the presidential sash to the man who beat him in the recent presidential election, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. 

But, instead, Bolsonaro hightailed it to Florida after saying, “We will not throw in the towel. We may have lost the battle but not the war.” 

He sounds like Trump, in other words.

It’s possibly significant that Bolsonaro entered the U.S. while he was still the head of state of Brazil. Reuters reports,

A U.S. consular official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Bolsonaro had almost certainly entered on an A-1 visa, which are reserved for heads of state, diplomats and other government officials. A second source, a senior former U.S. diplomat, also believed it was almost certain that Bolsonaro had entered on an A-1.

Normally the A-1 is canceled after the recipient leaves office. But with Bolsonaro having left Brazil and entered the United States before his term ended, the official suspected his A-1 was still active.

The official, who has experience with the cancellation of visas for former heads of state, said there is no set time limit on how long someone can stay in the United States on an A-1.

I assume the U.S. State Department would honor any arrest or extradition requests from Brazil.

Even if Trump and Bolsonaro have avoided being in direct touch, there are reports that some of Trump’s entourage expressed support for the protests in Brasilia, and I want to know how much any of them may have been involved.

In other news: My so-called U.S. representative, Jason Smith, will chair the House Ways and Means Committee. No good will come of that. The last I heard from Smith was in a pre-election robocall, in which he was huffing and puffing that if Missouri legalized recreational pot it would lead to teaching Critical Race Theory in public school. He’s a MAGA-headed moron.

Republicans, including Jason Smith, want to defund the IRS. This would cost the nation, a huge amount of revenue.

See Paul Waldman, What the right’s war on ‘wokeness’ in the military is really about

Fani Willis’s Fulton County Grand Jury has concluded its work.

In a brief order issued Monday, Fulton Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney wrote that the grand jury has fulfilled its duties to his satisfaction.

In addition, a majority of Superior Court judges who have reviewed the special grand jury’s final report agree, his order stated….

… McBurney also scheduled a hearing on Jan. 24, during which parties — including the Fulton District Attorney’s office that advised the jury, the news media and, presumably, investigation targets — will argue whether the grand jury’s report should be made public. Jurors recommended that their report be published, McBurney said….

… The grand jury’s final report, known as a special presentment, is expected to include a summary of its findings. It may also contain recommendations on whether anyone should be indicted, if a majority of jurors can agree.

Fani Willis will have the final say on whether there will be indictments.

Republicans Have Already Made a Mess in the House

So Matt Gaetz got his pound of flesh out of Kevin McCarthy and gave him the speakership. I missed the part where Mike Rogers had to be physically restrained from punching Gaetz in his smirking face. Too bad. That Rogers was restrained, that is. There are few faces on the planet more deserving of a good punch than Gaetz’s.

There’s a story that Gaetz was offered the chair of an Armed Force subcommittee in exchange for a “yes.” This is from WaPo:

Then Mike D. Rogers of Alabama, who expects to become chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, on which Gaetz serves, stormed toward the huddle, enraged. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), a member of the leadership, walked with Rogers, aware of how angry he was.

Video and photographs show Rogers beginning to yell at Gaetz, when Hudson grabbed Rogers, including across his mouth, and physically yanked him back and sent him away from the group.

A gasp went up across the entire House chamber, as lawmakers realized how close they were to something that could have turned into a physical altercation.

Rogers’s outburst stemmed from an offer floated by GOP leadership that would give Gaetz the gavel of one of his subcommittees, according to two people familiar with the dynamics. According to a fellow lawmaker, Rogers believed there are more qualified members to take on the role.

There are no end of vertebrates more qualified to take on the role, I say, but let’s go on.

“Might give you some perspective on why Mike Rogers blew up on the floor,” they said.

When the drama ended, McCarthy denied any such offers. “I mean, we ended up with a tie and he was able to get the others there to go ‘present,’” he said. As for whether Gaetz would get a subcommittee chairmanship for his vote, McCarthy said: “No one gets promised anything.”

Yeah, we’ll see what Gaetz gets when the smoke clears. And why isn’t Gaetz in jail yet? His buddy Joel Greenburg got eleven years for sex trafficking over a month ago. He was expected to flip on Gaetz. There are a lot of news stories from last September or so saying that charges against Gaetz were “unlikely.” But maybe that can change.

Gaetz wants to be in charge of the Armed Forces so he can weed out all the “wokeism.” See this Vanity Fair column by Bess Levin from April, Matt Gaetz Narrowly Avoids Being Called a “Smug Little Shit” in Official Congressional Record.

Last June, Florida representative Matt Gaetz used his allotted time during a congressional hearing to attack military leadership over the Republican–manufactured claim that the U.S military has become a bastion of wokeism by teaching critical race theory. Unfortunately for Gaetz, the stunt clearly didn’t pan out as he’d hoped, and he essentially had his ass handed to him on live TV. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told him: “I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our commissioned, noncommissioned officers of being, quote, ‘woke,’ or something else, because we’re studying [things like critical race theory] that are out there.… I do think it’s important, actually, for those of us in uniform to be open-minded and be widely read…and it is important that we train and we understand.”

You might have thought that after that experience, Gaetz—a member of the party that talks a big game about its respect for “law and order”—would subsequently avoid churlishly attacking military leaders in general, let alone repeat that the armed forces have been infected by “woke” ideology. But you‘d have thought wrong!

On Tuesday, the conservative lawmaker used a House Armed Services Committee hearing about the Defense Department’s 2023 budget to berate Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin over the military’s supposed failures, which he pinned on the Pentagon’s alleged embrace of “wokeness.”

Referring to a February article in the conservative Washington Free Beacon that reported that Thomas Piketty, an economist whose work focuses on inequality, was slated to give a lecture at the National Defense University titled “Responding to China: The Case For Global Justice and Democratic Socialism,” Gaetz asked Austin why taxpayers should be funding talks that “embrace socialism.” When Austin said he was unaware of the lecture, Gaetz snarkily responded that it was “widely reported,” and asked the defense secretary if he agreed that “embracing socialism” would be an effective strategy. Naturally, as Austin began to reply, Gaetz cut him off, moving on to a line of questioning no doubt tailored specifically to appear in a clip on Fox News hours later.

“While everyone else in the world seems to be developing capabilities and being more strategic, we got time to embrace critical race theory at West Point, to embrace socialism at the National Defense University, to do mandatory pronoun training,” Gaetz said, to which Austin informed him that the U.S. military remains “the most capable” and “the most combat critical” force in the world and “will be so going forward.”

But Gaetz, who loves himself a camera, obviously wasn’t done. Sounding like a bratty teen yelling at his parents, the lawmaker lectured Austin: “You guys said that Russia would overrun Ukraine in 36 days. You said that the Taliban would be kept at bay for months. You totally blew those calls. And maybe we would be better at them if the National Defense University worked a little more on strategy and a little less on wokeism.”

To this Austin asked him, “Has it occurred to you has Russia has not overrun Ukraine because of what we’ve done? And what our allies have done?” Gaetz, who undoubtedly believes he could lead the military if necessary, shot back: “That was baked into your flawed assessment,” before claiming that the Obama administration “tried to destroy our military by starving it of resources, and it seems the Biden administration is trying to destroy our military by force-feeding it wokeism.”

Austin, who clearly has more class than Gaetz, obviously did not use the time between questions from lawmakers to mutter something under his breath about the congressman being a smug little shit, or something to that effect. But it would’ve been hard to blame him if he had!

Let’s be clear that Gaetz has no experience whatsoever in military service. He really is just a smug little shit.  But I’m sure Gaetz has grand plans to be highly visible in similar televised hearings so he can get on the teevee a lot.

So McCarthy got his speakership, but to close the deal he had to give critical committee assignments to the most narcissistic, the dumbest, and the most Trumpy nitwits in his caucus. This crew is going to form a huge bottleneck that will stop anything from getting done in Washington. It won’t just piss off the Democrats. I suspect a lot of Republicans are going to be just as sick of these people in no time, if they aren’t already.


Republicans in Charge, the Series

Sorry I missed some of the action today. I had to go out for a bit. I see that a number of the nutso faction flipped their votes to McCarthy, leaving him just five votes short of 218. Since a few members-elect had to leave for personal business, he may not need all 218.

Update: So they’re in the 13th vote, and five Republicans (so far) have reverted to voting for Gym Jordan. Make that six.

Update: The 13th vote is now history, and I assume the 14th will happen soon. The word is that McCarthy got some holdouts to flip by promising that he would support their plan to hold the debt ceiling hostage to get spending cuts. Alexander Bolton writes for The Hill:

Conservative rebels who blocked McCarthy’s election as Speaker on six consecutive ballots say the Speaker must insist on using the debt limit as leverage to enact major spending reforms — something that Senate Democrats have dismissed as a non-starter over the past decade.  

“Us 20 want changes, and we’re going to stay here until we get it,” Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) told reporters Wednesday. “Could McCarthy all of a sudden morph into a fiscal conservative? We’ll see.” 

“Is he willing to shut the government down rather than raise the debt ceiling? That’s a non-negotiable item,” he added.  

Here is my obligatory reminder that if the U.S. defaults on its debts it will hurt the U.S. economy for a very long time to come and probably the global economy as well. But you know that.

A group of seven conservatives opposed to McCarthy’s bid to become Speaker circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter last month demanding that the next Speaker “commit to not raising the debt ceiling without a concrete plan to cap spending and operate under a budget that balances in 10 years.” 

Of course, these same people won’t consider adjusting taxes on the wealthy. The budget will be balanced on the backs of the poor and middle class.

Senate Republicans, however, warn that debt ceiling legislation with spending caps isn’t going to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate, setting up the two chambers for a stalemate that could put the nation’s credit rating at risk or the federal government on the verge of default.  

“That’s not going to get 60 votes. That’s math,” said a Senate GOP aide, who predicted that “it’s going to be a challenge” to pass legislation to raise the debt limit later this year. 

Alexander Hamilton put the nation on the path of deficit spending, and since then the majority of economists have admitted Hamilton had the right idea. This is not to say that there’s anything wrong with balancing the budget, but history shows us that there’s no correlation between the few times there was such a thing in the U.S. and prosperity for everyone. Indeed, the kinds of spending cuts the Right wants to do to balance the budget would probably dump the nation into recession if not depression. But to the Right, a balanced budget has become an object of faith, a kind of mythic totem that cannot be questioned. No matter what the economists say.

Update: They’re adjourning until 10 pm? Are they planning a pajama party? Or are they just going to meet at 10 pm and vote to adjourn for the weekend?

Update: Well, McCarthy loses again. Now they’re fighting over adjourning. I’m not going to stay up watching this.

Republicans in Charge, Day 3

I’m reading that McCarthy has made more concessions to the wackjob caucus, meaning he’s not giving up. I fear we’re in for more of wash, rinse, repeat. Well, it’s just past noon EST, so I assume they’re starting up again …

Annie Karni at the New York Times points out that at no time all week has Kevin McCarthy bothered to address the House to make a case for himself.

Update: Matt Gaetz just voted for Donald Trump for speaker.

Update: Some Republican reps were missing from the seventh vote, but it’s still pretty much the same as the last vote, and McCarthy falls short.

Update: In the seventh vote McCarthy gained not a single vote from previous votes. He’s stuck at 201 votes. Nobody is budging.

Update: Here comes the eighth vote.

Update: In the Ss. No movement toward McCarthy yet.

Update: I’m getting behind. Now they’re in the ninth vote. When McCarthy loses this one, it will break the 20th century record for speaker votes, I believe.

Update: McCarthy lost a vote in the ninth round. He’s down to 200.

Update: It has been noted that since Gaetz has voted for Trump twice, Trump now ties John Quincy Adams for most speaker votes cast for a former president.

Update: They’re discussing whether to do another vote today, I believe.

Update: Yep, they’re doing a tenth vote. The 20th century record is broken. I sincerely hope they aren’t going for an all-time record. The 1855-1856 speaker election lasted for 133 ballots over nearly two months.

Republicans in Charge, Day 2

I understand the Congress critters are all assembled in the House chamber again and will begin a fourth vote soon. It’s not clear that anything has changed from yesterday.

Emily Cochrane wrote in the New York Times,

Nancy Pelosi of California, walking to the House floor, chided reporters for asking about whether Democrats would help pave the way for Kevin McCarthy: “This is a problem of their own making. This is called leadership. They should be able to work it out. Don’t put this at the Democrats’ doorstep.”

John Cassidy wrote in the New Yorker,

Over the past few decades, the G.O.P. has gone from being a ruthless and disciplined party of limited government and trickle-down economics to a party of anti-government protest to, now, a party of performative verbiage—in which the likes of Gaetz and Boebert (and, of course, Trump) are far more interested in boosting their follower count, raising money, and appearing on “The Sean Hannity Show” or Newsmax than they are in governance.

This gradual substitution of theatric self-promotion for serious politics has been ongoing ever since Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America, and Tuesday’s events merely represented its logical culmination: a newly elected House Republican majority reduced to a rabble incapable of performing the basic function of selecting a leader. 

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.

After several hours of blustering and “we’ll see what happens,” Trump finally issued a statement calling for “all good Republicans” to get behind Kevin McCarthy. Matt Gaetz responded, “Sad!” Now the anti-McCarthy faction is preparing to vote for Byron Donalds of Florida.

And the fourth vote has begun.

Update: They’re in the Gs and Byron Donalds already has eleven votes.

Update: Annie Karni writes at the New York Times,

For those looking for a Trump-DeSantis proxy battle angle, our colleague Matt Flegenheimer just texted to remind me that Donalds is a DeSantis ally who may have helped set a campaign finance precedent for the governor to repurpose state re-election funds for a presidential race.

Update: They’re in the Ss, and Donalds has 20 Republican votes.

Update: Final tally, McCarthy 201, Donalds 20, Jeffries 212. One Republican who voted for McCarthy yesterday voted “present” today.

Update: I’m losing track. Fifth vote no change, and they’re about to start a sixth vote?

Update: Sixth vote, no change. The House is adjourned now, but not without protests. They are adjourned until 8 pm this evening.

The Embarrassment Is the Point

I thought the Speaker vote in the House was supposed to happen at noon EST. I think they are in the preliminary stages of the procedure now, just past noon. I’ve been cruising through commentaries about what could happen. Even right-wing pundits are using terms like “train wreck” and “sh*t show.”

If Kevin McCarthy isn’t elected on the first vote, this will make him a weaker speaker even if he is elected on the second vote, the pundits say. But the hard right caucus in the House seems to want to weaken Kevin McCarthy for the sake of weakening Kevin McCarthy. Brendan Buck writes in the New York Times,

A small band of Republican misfits has vowed to vote against Kevin McCarthy, the party’s nominee for speaker. With a razor-thin majority, just five Republicans voting against him could deny Mr. McCarthy the gavel. This would be no small event. The House last failed to elect a speaker on the first ballot in 1923, and it’s only happened once since the Civil War. …

… A failed vote would badly weaken Mr. McCarthy or whoever the new speaker will be. The House is a majoritarian institution, and a speaker’s power is ultimately derived from the ability to produce the 218 minimum votes needed to do business. If Republicans are unable to muster the votes for a speaker, it will make very clear from the outset they cannot be counted on to fulfill the body’s basic responsibilities, such as funding the government and preventing a credit default by lifting the debt ceiling, both of which will be required this year.

It’s supposed to be a big embarrassment for the Republicans if they fail to elect a speaker on the first vote. I doubt they care. Brendan Buck concludes,

But the agitators’ objective isn’t to win the speakership for one of their own; it is to weaken Mr. McCarthy or whoever emerges as the next speaker of the House. The embarrassment indeed may be the point.

Going back to my proposal that one can best understand the Right if one imagines them all to be ten-year-old boys … yeah, pretty much. They’re all in a state of pubescent rebellion.

Well, the votes have begun. I’ll comment more when there’s a result.

Update: They’re still in the Hs, and there have been ten Republican votes for someone other than McCarthy. I think this means McCarthy doesn’t have a prayer.

Update: Yeah, McCarthy is way short of the votes.

Update: Rolling Stone has the list of Republicans who voted against McCarthy.

  • Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.)
  • Dan Bishop (R-N.C.)
  • Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.)
  • Josh Brecheen (R-Okla.)
  • Michael Cloud (R-Texas)
  • Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.)
  • Eli Crane (R-Ariz.)
  • Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.)
  • Bob Good (R-Va.)
  • Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.)
  • Andy Harris (R-Md.)
  • Ana Paulina Luna (R-Fla.)
  • Mary Miller (R-Ill.)
  • Ralph Norman (R-S.C.)
  • Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.)
  • Scott Perry (R-Pa.)
  • Matt Rosendale (R-Mt.)
  • Chip Roy (R-Texas)
  • Keith Self (R-Texas).

Rolling Stone continues,

Biggs received several votes, as did Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who himself voted for McCarthy. Reps. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) and Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) each received a vote, as did former Rep. Zee Zeldin. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) received 212 votes. McCarthy finished with 203.

The opposition to McCarthy is centered in the far-right Freedom Caucus, whose chair, Rep. Scott Perry, bashed McCarthy in a statement just hours before the voting was slated to commence.

Update: I understand they’ll have another vote soon.

Update: Second vote is underway.

Update: McCarthy is going to lose the second vote also. The anti-McCarthy vote is coalescing around Gym Jordan.

Update: Off topic, but here’s a tidbit from the January 6 committee transcripts. Kellyanne Conway told the committee that the only person Trump fears is Melania.

Update: The anti-McCarthy voters all voted for Gym Jordan this time. Jordan himself voted for McCarthy and Jordan gave the speech nominating McCarthy for the second round of voting. Maybe Jordan can work out a deal between his voters and McCarthy that would break the impasse. Otherwise this could go on for days.

Update: They’re about to start a third vote. I’ll check back in later.

Update: Still no sale. This could go on a while. From what I am reading the holdouts are being difficult purely for the sake of being difficult. Ten year old boys, etc. Democrats could step in and give McCarthy the votes he needs, but from what I’m hearing they aren’t planning to do that anytime soon. The House is adjourned, and there will be more votes tomorrow.

Here Comes Another Year

I am hopeful for the new year, but I was hopeful about 2020 also. So don’t go by me.

Here’s some stuff to read. I’m sure you remember the gun totin’ lawyers Mark and Patricia McCloskey. Back in 2021 they pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of assault and harassment for pointing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters. As part of the plea deal they surrendered an AR-15 rifle and a .380-caliber pistol and paid some fines. Then the governor, Mike “Absolutely Useless” Parson, pardoned them. The McCloskeys sued to get their guns and money back, but this week a circuit judge said nope. They get no guns and no refund.

The best thing I’ve read so far about Trump’s taxes is this bit by David Cay Johnston at Daily Beast. There’s a lot of useful information about why the IRS operates as it does and useful suggestions for reform. So do read the whole thing. And then he closes with this,

Perhaps most glaring in the tax returns is that they include 26 Trump businesses—or imaginary businesses—with zero revenue and hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax deductions for expenses.

Unless Trump can produce records showing the expenses are real and meet other standards to be deductible, that’s fraud. That Trump did it 26 times as a candidate and as president is powerful evidence that he qualifies for prosecution by the federal government and New York State for criminal tax fraud.

Watch to see if Attorney General Merrick Garland, New York State Attorney General Letitia James, or Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg pursue what looks to me like a slam-dunk prosecution—or continue to enable Trump’s lawless conduct.

Here’s another one from the Daily Beast, by Matt Lewis. The MAGA Right Would Have Called Winston Churchill a ‘Welfare Queen.’

RIP Barbara Walters and Pope Benedict.

By a bunch of people at the New York Times, no paywall, The ‘Red Wave’ Washout: How Skewed Polls Fed a False Election Narrative. This is about how the news media still get sucked into right-wing narratives that are flatly nonsense, and also how the fake right-wing polls predicting a “red wave” caused Democrats to waste campaign dollars on campaigns that were already way ahead.

Paul Krugman, no paywall, How to Destroy a Brand, Musk Style. See also Fidelity slashes Twitter value by 56%.