Mitch Joel WARNING... LONG RANT! It takes a lot for me to both get angry and publish about it. Canada’s…
U.S. Government & governance January 2023-
Johnson dodges a shutdown but divides the GOP
The House passed a temporary spending bill today, avoiding a looming government shutdown and ending ten weeks without a break on Capitol Hill. The bill is now headed to the Senate and White House, which are both on board with the stopgap measure, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
It wasn’t pretty getting there. The spending fight illustrated the chaos that reigns supreme in the chamber, as weeks of inertia and uncertainty suddenly gave way to a negotiated settlement that stirred up old resentments — and even escalated into physical confrontation.
Did Mike Johnson Just Doom Himself to the Same Fate as Kevin McCarthy?
Congressional expert Matt Glassman on why the new GOP speaker is on weak footing the next time a government shutdown looms.
The House is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a bill that would avert a government shutdown Saturday
Johnson announced his pitch to avoid a shutdown. It’s already hitting a wall.
(Politico) Speaker Mike Johnson is leaning into the demands of his right flank, planning to head off a Friday government shutdown deadline with a risky two-tiered spending idea.
Yet it is already privately running into a wall of resistance among many of those same conservatives, who had urged their new speaker to seek steep cuts in his first negotiation with Democrats. Instead, the bill extends current funding levels.
(Politico Playbook) “Given the timetable (less than a week), Johnson’s experience dealing with shutdown politics (near zero), and the level of disarray in the GOP conference (high), the chances of a shutdown are growing.
Sources on the Hill and at the White House said they are adjusting travel plans accordingly and preparing to spend the holiday in D.C.
“Nobody is rooting for a shutdown, but it isn’t lost on Democrats that the recent political history of these funding standoffs is that they usually redound to the benefit of one party— and it isn’t the GOP.
“BILL CLINTON’s comeback and road to reelection after the Republican revolution of 1994 started with the 1995-1996 shutdown. BARACK OBAMA was safely past reelection when he faced off with House Republicans over defunding Obamacare in 2013, but he was generally considered the political victor after a 16-day shutdown. In 2018-2019, DONALD TRUMP precipitated a shutdown with a Republican Congress over funding for a border wall. It ended after 35 days when Democrats, who had won the House in the midterms, took over. The public blamed Trump for the shutdown and his approval rating took a nosedive.
“It goes without saying that given Biden’s approval rating right now, he is on the hunt for moments when he can be compared to the alternative rather than the almighty, and a shutdown could certainly do the trick.”
Heather Cox Richardson: November 9, 2023 (Thursday)
The problem with funding the government is the same problem that infects much else in the country today: far-right Republicans insist that their position is the only acceptable one. Even though the majority of the country opposes their view, they refuse to compromise. They want to gut the government that regulates business, provides a basic social safety net, promotes infrastructure, and protects civil rights.
To impose their will on the majority, they don’t have to understand issues, build coalitions, or figure out compromises. All they have to do is steadfastly vote no. If they can prevent the government from accomplishing anything, they will have achieved their goal.
… The problem remains what it has been since the Republican Party took control of the House in 2021: far-right extremists refuse to agree to any budget that doesn’t slash government funding of popular programs, while less extremist Republicans recognize that such cuts would gut the government and horrify all but the most extreme voters. In any case, measures loaded with extremist wish lists will not pass the Senate; this is why appropriations bills are traditionally kept clean.
The Polite Zealotry of Mike Johnson
A “rule-of-law guy” who played a pivotal role in attempting to overturn the election
(The Atlantic) In an interview last week on Fox News, the newly elected speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, told host Sean Hannity, “Someone asked me today in the media, ‘People are curious, what does Mike Johnson think about any issue under the sun?’ I said, ‘Well, go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it. That’s my worldview.’”
Johnson, 51, has deep ties to the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. He believes in a literal reading of the Bible, including the Book of Genesis. Johnson is a close friend of Ken Ham, the CEO and founder of Answers in Genesis, and provided legal services to that ministry in 2015.
Answers in Genesis rejects evolution and believes that the universe is 6,000 years old; to believe anything else would be to undermine the authority of the Bible. “We’re not just about creation/evolution, the age of the Earth or fossils,” Ham told Johnson and his wife, Kelly, on their podcast. “We’re really on about the authority of the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ and helping equip people to have a true Christian worldview.” Johnson is enthusiastically on board; he has suggested that school shootings are the result of having taught generations of Americans “that there’s no right or wrong, that it’s about survival of the fittest, and you evolve from the primordial slime.”
Johnson wants churches to be more politicized; he favors overturning the 1954 Johnson Amendment, which prevents churches from engaging in any political campaign activity if they want to keep their tax-exempt status. He also believes that churches are unceasingly under assault, and that Christian viewpoints “are censored and silenced.”
New speaker, new attitude
(Politico Playbook) When he was elected House speaker last week after a hard-right putsch, no one expected Mike Johnson to usher in a bold new era of bipartisanship. But Johnson is showing a special taste for confrontation in his early days with the gavel, setting an aggressive tone for the fights ahead.
Sure, Johnson’s early decision to separate out the White House’s funding request for Israel and Ukraine came as little surprise, given the sentiment inside the House GOP. But he’s also taken other pokes at President JOE BIDEN and congressional Democrats — casting doubt on Biden’s cognitive abilities and suggesting he’s “very likely” committed impeachable offenses, to name a couple.
Then, on Monday, Johnson unveiled his $14.3 billion Israel aid package — one that not only seeks to offset the spending with cuts elsewhere but taps Democrats’ signature domestic policy legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act, to do it.
As a policy matter, reversing the bill’s IRS plus-up doesn’t make a lot of sense. Cutting the agency’s planned enforcement surge against tax evaders would have the perverse effect of increasing budget deficits, not trimming them.
But as a political matter, the logic is impeccable: The libs, after all, were owned.
Joe Biden’s Surprising Focus on the Future
From infrastructure to democracy to this week’s action on AI, he’s laying a foundation for coming generations to build on.
(The Bulwark) Like so much else Biden has prioritized, the AI order is geared toward a better, safer, more livable world for today’s children and generations to come. It’s the latest in a series of Biden administration moves to meet U.S. challenges that former President Donald Trump largely ignored, failed at, or made worse.
Heather Cox Richardson October 29, 2023
On October 29, 1929, the U.S. stock market crashed. …while the vast majority of Americans of both parties liked the new system that had helped the nation to recover from the Depression and to equip the Allies to win World War II, a group of Republican businessmen and their libertarian allies at places like the National Association of Manufacturers insisted that the system proved both parties had been corrupted by communism. …
As Republicans could reliably turn out religious voters over abortion, that evangelical base has become more and more important to the Republican Party. Now it has put one of its own in the House Speaker’s chair, just two places from the presidency. …
Since then, his past has been unearthed, showing interviews in which he asserted that we do not live in a democracy but in a “Biblical republic.” He told a Fox News Channel interviewer that to discover his worldview, one simply had to “go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it. That’s my worldview.”
Johnson is staunchly against abortion rights and gay rights, including same-sex marriage, and says that immigration is “the true existential threat to the country.” In a 2016 sermon he warned that the 1960s and 1970s undermined “the foundations of religion and morality in the U.S.” and that attempts to address climate change, for example, are an attempt to destroy capitalism.
Like other adherents of Christian nationalism, Johnson appears to reject the central premise of democracy: that we have a right to be treated equally before the law. In 2021, Johnson was a key player in the congressional attempt to overturn the lawful results of the 2020 presidential election.
In his rejection of democracy, Johnson echoes authoritarian leaders like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, both of whom have the loyal support of America’s far right. Such leaders claim that the multiculturalism at the heart of democracy ruins nations. … Johnson has direct ties to these regimes: his 2018 campaign accepted money from a group of Russian nationals, and he has said he does not support additional funding for Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression.
The rejection of democracy in favor of Christian authoritarianism at the highest levels of our government is an astonishing outcome of the attempt to prevent another Great Depression by creating a government that worked for ordinary Americans rather than a few wealthy men.
Heather Cox Richardson October 25, 2023
Today, the United States House of Representatives elected a new speaker, Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana, [who] had an advantage over rivals because he has been a backbencher in the House fewer than eight years, too invisible to have made many enemies. He is the least-experienced speaker in more than a century.
Senate Republicans openly admitted they didn’t know who he was. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) added: “Apparently experience isn’t necessary for the speaker job…. We’re down to folks who haven’t had leadership or chairmanship roles, which means their administration of the House will be a new experience for them.”
House elects Mike Johnson as speaker
Republicans’ weeks-long stalemate ends after 3 failed nominations
(WaPo) Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) was elected speaker Wednesday by the full House on a first vote. … Johnson is an ally of former president Donald Trump and opposed certifying the 2020 election. He is antiabortion, voted against Ukraine aid and supports LGBTQ restrictions.
The Far Right Gets Its Man of the House
(NYT) The new speaker, Mike Johnson, is virtually unknown to most Americans, but he can be expected to press a hard-right social and fiscal agenda.
… If Mr. Johnson has a reputation at all, it is as a savvy and smooth constitutional lawyer who wrote a brief offering a legal justification for trying to overturn the 2020 election and served as a defender of President Donald J. Trump against impeachment.
Who Is Mike Johnson? One of the House’s Staunchest Conservatives.
(NYT) A lawyer and former chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, he played a pivotal role in congressional efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
A speaker at last
(GZERO) How did Johnson bring Republicans together as several candidates before him could not? First, his inexperience is a plus. He’s never served in a senior leadership position in the House, the kind of post that forces choices that make enemies. In fact, now serving just his fourth two-year term, he is the least experienced speaker since John G. Carlisle, who served in the 1890s.
Second, unlike Tom Emmer, the most recent candidate to fall short, Johnson is an ally of Donald Trump. In fact, he was active among a group of House Republicans who sought to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Trump’s favor.
Finally, though Johnson has established a solid conservative voting record, more moderate Republicans may well have agreed to support him with the expectation that he can bargain in good faith with Democrats to prevent a government shutdown next month and advance bills to send aid to Israel and Ukraine.
5 things to know about Mike Johnson, the new House speaker
Tom Emmer drops out of Speaker’s race
(The Hill) Emmer withdrew his name from the running after a contingent of Republicans made clear they would not back him on the House floor, making it virtually impossible for him to secure enough votes to win the gavel.
Emmer’s Speaker bid ends with too many opponents to sway
House Majority Whip Tom Emmer’s bid for Speaker ended hours after he emerged Tuesday as the Republican conference’s nominee.
It took five rounds of votes to get to that consensus, but became clear shortly afterward that Emmer would have too many opponents to reach 217 votes on the House floor. Emmer withdrew his nomination, a source told The Hill.
Lawmakers estimated there were over a dozen holdouts, and Emmer could lose only four votes.
He is the third GOP Speaker nominee in a week to fall short of the gavel.
It’s Day 20 with no House speaker, and lower-level names seek Trump’s support and race for the gavel
(AP) — On Day 20 without a House speaker, Republicans found themselves starting over on Monday — bumbling ahead with few ideas about who will lead, what they are fighting over and when they will get Congress working again.
‘Kevin McCarthy created this mess’: McCarthy blames speaker chaos on far-right House members
(MSNBC) The Republican-led House of Representatives has been without a speaker for 18 days, and now nine Republicans officially entered their names for the vacant position. MSNBC’s Alicia Menendez is joined by MSNBC Political Analysts David Jolly and Matt Dowd, the founder of CountryOverParty, to discuss the current speaker fight, Donald Trump’s influence on the candidates, and dissect the irony of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s anger toward the far-right Republicans he worked with to get the speakership.
Americans’ faith in institutions has been sliding for years. The chaos in Congress isn’t helping
For many Americans, the Republican dysfunction that has ground business in the U.S. House to a halt as two wars rage abroad and a budget crisis looms at home is feeding into a longer-term pessimism about the country’s core institutions.
The lack of faith extends beyond Congress, with recent polling conducted both before and after the leadership meltdown finding a mistrust in everything from the courts to organized religion. The GOP internal bickering that for nearly three weeks has left open the speaker’s position — second in line to the presidency — is widely seen as the latest indication of deep problems with the nation’s bedrock institutions.
The disdain for Congress is just one area where Americans say they are losing faith. Various polls say the negative feelings include a loss of confidence or interest in institutions such as organized religion, policing, the Supreme Court, even banking.
“Trust in institutions has deteriorated substantially,” said Kay Schlozman, professor of political science at Boston College. Schlozman said she believes in government and the things it provides, such as national defense and access to health care, but “I also can very much understand why the American people can be cynical about government.”
Scalise Withdraws as Speaker Candidate, Leaving G.O.P. in Chaos
The No. 2 Republican had worked to win over holdouts but could not find a path to uniting his fractious party.
McCarthy ouster exposes the Republican Party’s destructive tendencies
By voting to expel Kevin McCarthy as House speaker, Republicans ground the work of Congress to a halt and revealed the danger of governing by chaos.
By Dan Balz
(WaPo) Nine months into their reign as the majority party in the House, Republicans have brought the legislative body to a halt and themselves to an inflection point. By ousting Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) as speaker and exposing anew the destructive tendencies of their most extreme members, Republicans now risk being returned to minority status by voters in next year’s election.
McCarthy becomes the first speaker ever to be ousted from the job in a House vote
(AP) — Speaker Kevin McCarthy was voted out of the job Tuesday in an extraordinary showdown, a first in U.S. history that was forced by a contingent of hard-right conservatives and threw the House and its Republican leadership into chaos.
McCarthy’s chief rival, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, forced the vote on the “motion to vacate,” drawing together more than a handful of conservative Republican critics of the speaker and many Democrats who say he is unworthy of leadership.
Next steps are uncertain, but there is no obvious successor to lead the House Republican majority.
Stillness fell as the presiding officer gaveled the vote closed, 216-210, saying the office of the speaker “is hereby declared vacant.”
Newt Gingrich: Republicans must expel Matt Gaetz
Government shutdown averted with little time to spare as Biden signs funding before midnight
(AP) — The threat of a federal government shutdown suddenly lifted late Saturday as President Joe Biden signed a temporary funding bill to keep agencies open with little time to spare after Congress rushed to approve the bipartisan deal.
The package drops aid to Ukraine, a White House priority opposed by a growing number of GOP lawmakers, but increases federal disaster assistance by $16 billion, meeting Biden’s full request. The bill funds government until Nov. 17.
After chaotic days of turmoil in the House, Speaker Kevin McCarthy abruptly abandoned demands for steep spending cuts from his right flank and instead relied on Democrats to pass the bill, at risk to his own job. The Senate followed with final passage closing a whirlwind day at the Capitol.
House Passes Bill to Keep Government Running for 45 Days
The House bill attracted strong bipartisan support and includes more domestic disaster relief aid but no money for Ukraine. It must pass the Senate before midnight to avert a shutdown.
(NYT) In a stunning turnabout, the House on Saturday approved a stopgap plan to avert a government shutdown that was less than 12 hours away as a coalition of Republicans and Democrats backed a last-ditch proposal hastily put forward by Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
The measure, which the Senate is expected to vote on this evening, would keep money flowing to government agencies through mid-November.
Death of Dianne Feinstein -Newsom Faces Pressure to Quickly Appoint a Replacement
Filling the seat would help Democrats maintain control of a closely divided Senate during a critical time in Washington. But the choice could be complicated for California’s governor, Gavin Newsom.
In a shift, McCarthy floats a clean stopgap without Ukraine aid
(The Hill) Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Friday evening floated passing a “clean” continuing resolution without Ukraine aid, marking a clear shift in the possibilities he is willing to consider to avert — or end — a shutdown after being repeatedly undercut by his own party.
The Speaker on Friday did not commit to putting such a measure on the floor, and other Republicans leaving a conference meeting said lawmakers are still exploring GOP-only possibilities to bring up for a vote on Saturday.
Congress begins to admit it’s running out of time to avoid a government shutdown
Republicans failed to move forward on their own stop-gap plan Friday, while the Senate plan might not be able to pass before the funding deadline
(WaPo) Congress is rapidly running out of ways to keep the government open past Saturday, after House Republicans on Friday failed to pass a short-term bill to extend the deadline and the Senate prepared a schedule for its own temporary funding bill that could delay a vote on final passage until after a shutdown begins.
U.S. government starts notifying federal employees a shutdown may be imminent
(WaPo) The official warnings reflect Congress’s failure to extend funding past Saturday
House GOP leaders sending members home for the week as shutdown appears increasingly likely
(CNN) The move to send members home came after conservatives dramatically bucked House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and GOP leadership on a procedural vote over a Pentagon funding bill, with members now not set to return to session until next week.
House Republicans had originally planned to be in session over the weekend to pass a stop-gap government funding bill. But that strategy is now on ice amid turmoil and infighting within the House Republican conference that threatens to paralyze the chamber.
Centrist Dems and McCarthy’s allies are in secret talks to strike a deal
Any Democratic participation in a plan to stop a shutdown — let alone save the speaker’s gavel — would have huge conditions attached.
(Politico) — Bipartisan McCarthy bailout talks gaining steam thanks to House chaos: The long-shot idea that Democrats could bail out the beleaguered Speaker Kevin McCarthy is suddenly getting real. Small groups of centrist Democrats are holding secret talks with several of McCarthy’s close GOP allies about a last-ditch deal to fund the government, according to more than a half-dozen people familiar with the discussions. The McCarthy allies engaging in those conversations are doing so out of serious concern that their party can’t stop an impending shutdown on its own, given the intransigence of a handful of conservatives.
House Democrats weigh risky strategy: Whether to save McCarthy
(CNN) Publicly, Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries has not weighed in on how he’d want his members to manage a challenge to McCarthy’s speakership, saying it’s hypothetical at this point. But privately, Jeffries has counseled his members to keep their powder dry, according to multiple sources, a recognition it’s better for Democrats to keep their options open as the government funding fight plays outs.
McCarthy, Facing an Ouster and a Shutdown, Orders an Impeachment Inquiry
Republicans have found no evidence of financial wrongdoing or corruption by the president, but said they have received enough information to warrant more investigation.
(NYT) The move against President Biden, which Speaker Kevin McCarthy had been signaling for weeks, comes as some far-right House Republicans are irate over spending and threatening to depose him.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday opened an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, working to appease far-right lawmakers who have threatened to oust him if he fails to accede to their demands for deep spending cuts that would force a government shutdown at the end of the month.
Mr. McCarthy’s decision to unilaterally announce an impeachment investigation with no formal House vote entwined the Republican investigations into Mr. Biden with the funding fight that is rattling the Capitol. It appeared to be a bid to quell a brewing rebellion among ultraconservative critics who have accused the speaker of not taking a hard enough line on spending, by complying with their demands to more aggressively pursue the president.
Mr. McCarthy said he would task three committees — Oversight, Judiciary, and Ways and Means — with carrying out the inquiry into the president and his family as Republicans hunt for evidence of financial wrongdoing or corruption. After months of digging, Republicans have found no such proof, though they argue they have enough information to warrant more investigation.
Tuberville’s hostage-taking of the American military
By Steve Schmidt
(The Warning) There is no current issue in front of the country that speaks to the shattered condition of our political institutions than the immoral, outrageous and dangerous assault being led against the US military by one US senator. Hundreds of military promotions have been held up by Tommy Tuberville, Alabama’s dimwitted Republican/MAGA senator, who has blockaded the necessary US Senate confirmation votes that are required for promotion, which have now reached 98 in the Air Force, 91 in the Army, 86 in the Navy, 18 in the Marines and eight in the Space Force.
Currently, the Army, Navy and Marine Corps have no Senate-confirmed chiefs in place. Hundreds of vacant commands have the ability to cause chaos in the US military, and let’s be clear, that chaos causes death in a business of life and death.
A letter to the American people was issued in the form of an op-ed by the secretaries of the Navy, Air Force and Army in the Washington Post this week that speaks to the seriousness of the issue.
Three service secretaries to Tuberville: Stop this dangerous hold on senior officers
By Carlos Del Toro, secretary of the Navy; Frank Kendall, secretary of the Air Force; Christine Wormuth, secretary of the Army.
(WaPo op-ed) As the civilian leaders of the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Space Force and Army, we are proud to work alongside exceptional military leaders who are skilled, motivated and empowered to protect our national security.
These officers and the millions of service members they lead are the foundation of America’s enduring military advantage. Yet this foundation is being actively eroded by the actions of a single U.S. senator, Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), who is blocking the confirmation of our most senior military officers.
The senator asserts that this blanket and unprecedented “hold,” which he has maintained for more than six months, is about opposition to Defense Department policies that ensure service members and their families have access to reproductive health no matter where they are stationed.
Senators have many legislative and oversight tools to show their opposition to a specific policy. They are free to introduce legislation, gather support for that legislation and pass it. But placing a blanket hold on all general and flag officer nominees, who as apolitical officials have traditionally been exempt from the hold process, is unfair to these military leaders and their families.
And it is putting our national security at risk.
4 takeaways from rejection of Issue 1 in the Ohio special election
Ohio voters on Tuesday rejected a much-watched ballot measure that could have helped Republicans restrict abortion rights.
Red-leaning Ohio becomes the latest in a succession of states to deliver a setback to antiabortion forces after Roe v. Wade was overturned last year.
Ohio Issue 1 failed. This is how that will impact abortion rights.
Voters rejected an effort to raise the bar for passing changes to the state constitution
Heather Cox Richardson August 4, 2023
Army Chief of Staff General James McConville, the 40th person to hold that position, retired today. Because Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) has put a hold on military promotions for the past 8 months, there is no Senate-confirmed leader to take McConville’s place. There are eight seats on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the group of the most senior military officers who advise the president, homeland security officials, the secretary of defense, and the National Security Council. Currently, two of those seats are filled by acting officials who have not been confirmed by the Senate.
Politico’s Pentagon reporter Lara Seligman illustrated what this personnel crisis means for national security: “U.S. forces are on high alert in the Persian Gulf,” she wrote today. “As Tehran attempts to seize merchant ships in the Strait of Hormuz, the U.S. is sending warships, fighter jets and even considering stationing armed troops aboard civilian vessels to protect mariners. Yet two of the top senior officers overseeing the escalating situation aren’t where they’re supposed to be.”
Two days ago, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin wrote in a memo that the “unprecedented, across-the-board hold is having a cascading effect, increasingly hindering the normal operations of this Department and undermining both our military readiness and our national security.”
650 Military Promotions Threatened as Senator Shows No Signs of Relenting
About 650 general and flag officer promotions could be delayed this year by a legislative hold on Capitol Hill imposed by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., over military abortion policies, according to the Pentagon.
Meanwhile, on July 26, when soldiers took charge in Niger, a country central to the fight against Islamic terrorists and the security of democracy on the African continent, the U.S. had no ambassador there. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) was blocking the confirmation of more than 60 State Department officials the same way that Tuberville was blocking the confirmation of military officials.
As of July 17, the current Senate had confirmed only five State Department nominees. On that day, Blinken wrote to each senator to express “serious concern” about the delays. He told reporters that he respects and values the Senate’s “critical oversight role…[b]ut that’s not what is happening here. No one has questioned the qualifications of these career diplomats. They are being blocked for leverage on other unrelated issues. It’s irresponsible. And it’s doing harm to our national security.”
Tuberville is showing how much power one lawmaker wields under Senate rules
(NPR) Since February, the senator has been blocking every personnel move in the U.S. military that requires confirmation. Starting with a “senatorial hold” on what was then 150 personnel moves waiting for approval in batches, he is now up to at least 270 — and counting.
That lawmaker is Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a Republican from Alabama who has been in the Senate for a little over two years. Tuberville likes to say “there is no one more military than me.” And while he has not served in the military himself, he regularly features Alabama service members on his senatorial website.
Notably, the positions without permanent replacements include that of the Marine Commandant, a post that is now unfilled for the first time since the Civil War. The commandant is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the senior uniformed leadership of the U.S. military.
Heather Cox Richardson Letters from an American
On July 9, 1868, Americans changed the U.S. Constitution for the fourteenth time, adapting our foundational document to construct a new nation without systematic Black enslavement.
In 1865 the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution had prohibited enslavement on the basis of race, but it did not prevent the establishment of a system in which Black Americans continued to be unequal.
… The principles behind the Fourteenth Amendment were behind the 1870 creation of the Department of Justice, whose first job was to bring down the Ku Klux Klan terrorists in the South.
Those same principles took on profound national significance in the post–World War II era, when the Supreme Court began to use the equal protection clause and the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment aggressively to apply the protections in the Bill of Rights to the states. The civil rights decisions of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, including the Brown v. Board of Education decision outlawing segregation in public schools, come from this doctrine.
Get Rid of the Debt Ceiling Once and for All
Regularly putting the entire economy at risk is in no way “fiscally responsible.”
By Robert E. Rubin
(The Atlantic) The year was 1995, and I was serving as secretary of the Treasury under President Bill Clinton. Raising the debt limit to avoid default, which had previously been a perfunctory matter, was now a catalyst for crisis. For months, Speaker Newt Gingrich threatened to plunge the country into default unless Clinton signed the House Republicans’ budget bill.
Having come from the financial industry, and being relatively new to Washington, I remember being surprised. I knew the legislative process was messy, and that hostage-taking was frequently part of it. Still, the notion that the government of the United States would, for political reasons, not meet its financial obligations seemed outside the realm of possibility.
Over the past 30 years, debt-limit crises, once practically unthinkable, have become a recurring feature of American life.
That America did not default on its debt, and that the short-term danger has passed, is cause for great relief. But over the longer term, the threat of regular debt-ceiling brinkmanship is a crisis unto itself. Requiring a vote to raise the debt limit serves no valuable purpose, and it creates a wide range of economic and geopolitical risks. Congress must pass legislation to eliminate the need to vote on the debt limit altogether.
Biden signs debt ceiling bill
Biden signed H.R. 3746, the “Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023,” two days before Monday’s default deadline, on which the U.S. would run out of cash to pay its bills.
Heather Cox Richardson: June 2, 2023
Tonight, President Joe Biden addressed the nation from the Oval Office to emphasize that democracy depends on bipartisanship.
“[W]hen I ran for President,” he began, “I was told the days of bipartisanship were over and that Democrats and Republicans could no longer work together. But I refused to believe that, because America can never give in to that way of thinking…. [T]he only way American democracy can function is through compromise and consensus, and that’s what I worked to do as your President…to forge a bipartisan agreement where it’s possible and where it’s needed.”
While he noted that he has signed more than 350 bipartisan laws in his time in office, his major focus today was on the bipartisan budget agreement passed by the House and Senate after months of wrangling to get House Republicans to agree to lift the debt ceiling. Biden will sign it tomorrow, averting the nation’s first-ever default.
Biden characterized those threatening to force the U.S. into default as “extreme voices,” who were willing to cause a catastrophe. The economy, which continues to add jobs at a cracking pace—another 339,000 in May, according to the numbers released today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor—would have been thrown into recession. As many as 8 million Americans would have lost their jobs, retirement savings would have been decimated, borrowing for everything from mortgages to government funding would have become much more expensive, and “America’s standing as the most trusted, reliable financial partner in the world would have been shattered.”
Remarks by President Biden on Averting Default and the Bipartisan Budget Agreement
31 May-3 June
Biden signs debt ceiling bill
Biden signed H.R. 3746, the “Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023,” two days before Monday’s default deadline, on which the U.S. would run out of cash to pay its bills.
Shortly after the signing, Biden tweeted: “I just signed into law a bipartisan budget agreement that prevents a first-ever default while reducing the deficit, safeguarding Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and fulfilling our scared obligation to our veterans. Now, we continue the work of building the strongest economy in the world.”
On the buzzer, US Senate passes debt ceiling deal
(GZERO media) The US Senate on Thursday night passed an eleventh-hour compromise deal to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for spending cuts demanded by Republicans. The bill is now ready to be signed into law by President Joe Biden and prevents the US government from running out of money to pay its bills.
The expediency with which the upper chamber signed off on the House bill without further delay underscored the urgency of avoiding a catastrophic default by June 5. But dozens of Republican fiscal hawks and a smaller number of progressive Dems voted against the legislation, which passed by a 63-36 margin that somewhat mirrored its 314-117 support in the House the day before.
Still, despite all the drama, it all played out as Ian Bremmer expected weeks ago: House Republicans led by Speaker Kevin McCarthy played hardball while the White House refused to give up anything until it was almost too late. Then, both sides reached an agreement with concessions that ruffled activist feathers within their parties. Biden and McCarthy ultimately decided, again, not to fix the problem (America spends more money than the government is allowed to borrow) but rather kick the can down the road until Jan. 2025.
Senate racing to pass debt ceiling bill ahead of Monday default deadline
The 99-page legislation brokered by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and President Biden cleared the House on Wednesday.
By John Wagner, Rachel Siegel, Leigh Ann Caldwell and Marianne LeVine
(WaPo) Senate leaders are imploring their colleagues to move quickly to approve a House-passed bill ahead of a Monday deadline that would suspend the debt ceiling, limit federal spending and avert a catastrophic U.S. government default.
The 99-page legislation brokered by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and President Biden cleared the House on Wednesday night on a 314-117 bipartisan vote. Senators are expected to follow suit, but it remains unclear how quickly they will move.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday that the chamber would stay in session until it sends the bill to Biden and urged his colleagues not to make changes to the legislation, which would send it back to the House.
US debt ceiling bill advances toward tight vote in House
(Reuters) – A bill to suspend the U.S. government’s $31.4 trillion debt ceiling and avert a disastrous default cleared a key procedural hurdle in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, setting the stage for an vote on the bipartisan debt deal itself.
Republicans control the House by a narrow 222-213 majority. But the deal will need support from both Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s Republicans and President Joe Biden’s Democrats to pass, as members of both parties object to significant parts of the legislation.
The procedural vote, which allows for the start of debate and then a vote on the bill itself, passed by a vote of 241-187, with 52 Democrats needed to overcome the opposition of 29 Republicans.
This Memorial Day weekend, there is a strange disconnect in our country’s public life.
By E.J. Dionne
In Washington, negotiators scrambling to avoid a market calamity reached a debt ceiling deal that was more narrow than Republicans hoped and Democrats feared it would be. You might expect from this that our politics is primarily about taxes, spending and economics.
But on the 2024 Republican campaign trail, former president Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are skirmishing over who will be the dominant voice in opposition to “wokeness” and trans rights and who can keep the most books out of schools and libraries. Dollars and cents seem to be an afterthought. …
The good news about the debt ceiling deal is that the country will not default on its debt (avoiding a fight of this sort for the remainder of Biden’s presidency) and will escape the extreme cuts right-wing Republicans originally hoped for. This is balanced by the reality that divided control of Congress will foil social advances through 2024. As we join in honoring our country’s fallen heroes, we should ponder how far we are — as we were on the first Memorial Day — from the solidarity to which this worthy holiday calls us.
Biden, McCarthy poised to claim victory after protracted debt drama
Some conservatives are signaling they’re going to try to tank the deal, but early signs are promising it will pass.
By Sarah Ferris and Olivia Beavers
(Politico) Unless either party runs into major trouble with the unveiling of final text later Sunday, McCarthy and his counterpart, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, will likely have the votes to pass the bill this week, according to more than a half-dozen lawmakers and aides from both parties. It would be a surprisingly low-drama end to months of high-stakes theatrics between McCarthy and Biden — one in which both can claim victory after avoiding fiscal calamity.
Here are the 6 must-know provisions of the new debt ceiling deal
The policy provisions of the agreement between President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy appeared to fall far short of conservatives’ demands.
The debt ceiling deal that President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy struck late Saturday is a true meet-you-halfway compromise between the stark ultimatums the leaders have issued for months.
A far cry from the “clean” increase Biden had sought for the nation’s $31.4 trillion borrowing cap, the bipartisan agreement is also much less punchy than the sweeping package House Republicans passed last month as they demanded drastic spending cuts, major changes to energy permitting rules and an end to many of Biden’s signature accomplishments, including student loan forgiveness and pieces of the Inflation Reduction Act.
White House and G.O.P. Strike Debt Limit Deal to Avert Default
With the government on track to reach its borrowing limit within days, negotiators sealed an agreement to raise the debt ceiling for two years while cutting and capping certain federal programs.
Debt ceiling explained: What to know about the showdown in Washington as default looms
(AP) Once a routine act by Congress, the vote to raise the debt ceiling allows the Treasury Department to continue borrowing money to pay the nation’s already incurred bills.
The debt limit vote in more recent times has been used as a political leverage point, a must-pass bill that can be loaded up with other priorities.
House Republicans, newly empowered in the majority this Congress, are refusing to raise the legal limit unless Biden and the Democrats impose federal spending cuts and restrictions on future spending.
The Republicans say the nation’s debt, now at $31 trillion, is unsustainable. They also want to attach other priorities, including stiffer work requirements on recipients of government cash aid, food stamps and the Medicaid health care program. Democrats oppose those requirements.
Biden had insisted on approving the debt ceiling with no strings attached, saying the U.S. always pays its bills and defaulting on debt is non-negotiable. But he launched negotiations after House Republicans passed their own legislation and made clear they would not pass a clean debt ceiling increase.
Why a 21-year-old had a top-secret security clearance
(WaPo) Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira is charged with the unauthorized removal and transmission of classified national defense information, including recent assessments of the situation in Ukraine, details of China’s approval of the “provision of lethal aid” to Russia in its war in Ukraine and Egypt’s secret plans to supply rockets to Russia. The charges carry a potential maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
President Biden, high-profile Department of Defense officials and members of Congress have called into question the clearance process and security protocols that they say gave Teixeira access to the leaked documents.
… The new Republican right views the state as an enemy when it is being run by Democrats or moderate conservatives. Part of the Trump legacy is a preference for foreign dictators over opponents in a democratic system. So weeding out enemies of the state within the intelligence and military community risks angering an increasingly significant and vocal part of the political arena.
Too many with access, too little vetting. Pentagon leaks were ‘a matter of time’
Julian Borger and Manisha Ganguly
(The Guardian) Jack Teixeira’s arrest has exposed a system weakened by the legacy of 9/11 and caught off guard by an enemy that is increasingly within
This was the young man, clearly still living out his adolescence, who was given one of the nation’s highest security clearances – “top secret/sensitive compartmented information” (TS/SCI) – so that he could do his job maintaining the sealed infranet system at Otis air base on Cape Cod, through which the nation’s most closely guarded secrets flowed.
To get that level of clearance you must, in theory, be extensively vetted. The process takes months, as investigators trawl through your history and interview friends and colleagues. But vetting standards differ across agencies, and those of the air national guard may not be on a par with the CIA, yet the staff at both see the same documents.
How top-secret documents leaked from a chatroom to the world
The culture of government secrecy is out of control
By Fareed Zakaria
(WaPo) What should we think of the fact that Donald Trump, Joe Biden, and now Mike Pence have all turned out to have classified material sitting in their houses? Before I answer that question, let me tell you a few facts. One 2004 essay put the number of classified pages in existence at about 7.5 billion. In 2012, records were classified at a rate of 3 per second, making for an estimated 95 million classifications that year alone. Today, no one knows how frequently information is classified. And as of 2019, more than 4 million people were eligible to access classified information, about one-third for top secret records, the highest general designation.
The real scandal is that the U.S. government has a totally out-of-control system of secrets that represents a real danger to the quality of democratic government. … Given how crazy the classification system is, the wonder is that we don’t find more top secret documents littered throughout the houses of government officials.
… Democratic governments demand transparency. Accountability and control are impossible when citizens know so little about what the government is doing — and when it has the power to block access to any of that information.
This problem has become much, much worse in the digital era. Timothy Naftali, a New York University scholar and former director of the Nixon Library, told me, “We now have a tsunami of classified documents — tens of thousands of emails, PowerPoints, all kinds of stuff — all stored somewhere in the cloud, but we still have a tiny staff of people at the National Archives for the declassification process.”
Why we have a debt ceiling, and why this trip to the brink may be different
The debt limit is back. And this particular round of wrestling over the issue could carry the ugliest economic consequences yet.
The Big Picture: Debt limit fight looms
(NPR) House Republicans – led by new Speaker Kevin McCarthy – are vowing to fight for spending cuts at all turns in exchange for their support for lifting the debt ceiling. While the Treasury Department is now using “extraordinary measures” to cover its obligations, Congress will have to vote to raise it by early summer or risk an unprecedented debt default that could trigger negative economic consequences worldwide.
Like past presidents, Joe Biden maintains that he will not negotiate over the debt limit. Democrats think Republicans are backing themselves into an untenable political position that flirts with default in order to fight for spending cuts that cannot pass a Democratic Senate or be signed by President Biden.
Democrats are not the only obstacle facing McCarthy. Across the Capitol, Senate Republicans’ support for this spending cut push has been lukewarm. “I think that important thing to remember is that America must never default on its debt. It never has, and it never will,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters in Kentucky last week.
McConnell was a chief negotiator around 2011 and 2013 debt limit standoffs and has competing political interests from McCarthy. Senate Republicans are poised to have a competitive 2024 election cycle with a good chance to win Democratic-held seats and the Senate majority — if they don’t mess it up. Risking a debt default and demanding deep slashes in domestic programs while also flirting with overhauling entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare are ways they could, in fact, mess it up. Before McCarthy can try to get Biden to the negotiating table, he might first need to get on the same page as McConnell.
Here’s why a high-stakes debt ceiling fight looms on Capitol Hill
America Hit Its Debt Limit, Raising Economic Fears
The Treasury Department said it would begin a series of accounting moves to keep the United States from breaching its borrowing cap.
(NYT) The milestone of reaching the $31.4 trillion debt cap is a product of decades of tax cuts and increased government spending by both Republicans and Democrats. But at a moment of heightened partisanship and divided government, it is also a warning of the entrenched battles that are set to dominate Washington, and that could end in economic shock.
Heather Cox Richardson: January 18, 2023
One of the promises House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) made to the extremist members of the Republican conference to win his position was that he would let them bring the so-called Fair Tax Act to the House floor for a vote. On January 8, Representative Earl “Buddy” Carter (R-GA) introduced the measure into Congress.
The measure repeals all existing income taxes, payroll taxes, and estate and gift taxes, replacing them with a flat national sales tax of 30% on all purchased goods, rents, and services (which its advocates nonsensically call a 23% tax because, as Bloomberg opinion writer Matthew Yglesias explains their thinking: “if something sells for $100 plus $30 in tax, then it’s a 23% tax—because $30 is 23% of $130”). The measure abolishes the Internal Revenue Service, leaving it up to the states to administer the tax.
The bill says the measure will “promote freedom, fairness, and economic opportunity.” But a 30% sales tax on everything doesn’t seem to do much for fairness or economic opportunity for all, since it would, of course, hit Americans with less money to spend far harder than it would Americans with more money to spend. And the end of income, gift, and estate taxes would be a windfall for the wealthy.
Such a bill is not going to pass this Congress, and if it did, President Biden would not sign it. Two days after Carter introduced the measure, Biden said to the press: “National sales tax, that’s a great idea. It would raise taxes on the middle class by taxing thousands of everyday items from groceries to gas, while cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans.” He promised he would never agree to any such legislation.
Heather Cox Richardson: January 17, 2023
Today the bill for the elevation of Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to House speaker began to come due. McCarthy promised the far-right members of his conference committee seats and far more power in Congress to persuade them to vote for him.
Now they are collecting.
Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar get committee assignments after Democrats kicked them off
While holding the majority in 2021, House Democrats removed Greene and Gosar from their assigned committees because of controversial posts they made on social media.
(NBC) The GOP Steering Committee, which doles out committee gavels and seats, voted to give Greene and Gosar spots on the Oversight and Accountability Committee, which plans to launch numerous investigations into President Joe Biden and his administration.
Gosar also secured an assignment on the Natural Resources Committee. Democrats had booted him off both panels in the last Congress.
Greene also won a seat on the Homeland Security Committee, which Republicans will use to focus on border security and to investigate Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Last week, a House Republican from Texas filed articles of impeachment against Mayorkas.