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January 03, 2023

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Happy New Year!

Tangentially related to the mess in the House, a few non-fiction books I read this year:


Jane Mayer: Dark Money - The Hidden History of the Billionaires behind the Rise of the Radical Right
(how the Koch brothers got us into this mess...)

Orlando Figes: The Story of Russia
(why Russia is an autocratic, expansionist empire...)

Catherine Belton: Putin's People - How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took On the West
(scary, also how greedy and stupid 'the West' is...)

Depressing, but hey, with Trump, Putin, Xi etc. reaching their limits, things might get better eventually.

Israel, unfortunately, seems to be going the other way. Iran is anyone's guess...

The Speaker doesn't have to be a member of Congress. They could elect a non-member like, for example, Justin Amash

No one seems to seriously talking right now about making Jabbabonk the Orange Speaker as was done not that long ago. At least in Washington his Orangeness' powers seem to have faded a bit.

Btw, is there a law that it has to be a livig human being?
OK, forget that. Since the Speaker is in the line of presidential succession, he or she has to ba a living US citizen and an AI will not suffice.

I'm undecided whether Jeffries should go anywhere near that poisoned chalice, even if it's offered to him.

He'd be Speaker in a House where the actual numerical majority Party is full of anarchist feces-flingers, insurrectionists, and traitors.

It would be they who hold the power to prevent anything being done, from setting rules that might allow him to sidestep them, to debt ceiling votes.

And I wouldn't accept any promises the GOP issue, not a single one, because they're also psychopaths incapable of keeping their word.

OK< I'm not undecided. The answer should be "No!"

Since the Speaker is in the line of presidential succession, he or she has to ba a living US citizen...

Succession beyond the VP is controlled by statute. The current law states that people after the VP in the line who do not meet the Constitutional requirements for Presidents are simply skipped over.

First, they don't believe in good faith. Second, they don't believe in negotiation.

They don't even know the meaning of the expression "good faith".

As for "negotiation", Trump called what he did with Putin, Kim et al "negotiation". The rest of the world had other words for it.

It's open to twenty (say) relatively sane Republican members of the house to declare collectively that on the nth vote for speaker, n of them, to be chosen by lot, will vote for Jeffries. That number to be reduced by one for each one of the twenty Jordan voters who goes over to McCarthy.

Then let's see who blinks first.

Meanwhile, perhaps someone with their finger on the pulse of nutjobbery could tell me what's the RWNJs' objection to McCarthy. Thank you.

My impression is that McCarthy is an empty suit that almost no one likes.

what's the RWNJs' objection to McCarthy

he's insufficiently insane.

these people are irresponsible children.

I'm hard pressed to understand what it is they actually want, other than airtime.

I'm hard pressed to understand what it is they actually want, other than airtime.

And chaos.

They don't actually want the government to function. (That is, to the extent that any of them want anything coherent, which is in doubt.) So this is perfect!

That's one reason why I agree with CaseyL that there's no way Jeffries should take the gavel, even in the (I think) wildly unlikely event that a few Rs offer to vote for that to happen.

If a few of them actually would change parties, that would be different. Ha ha ha for the chances of that happening.

My impression is that McCarthy is an empty suit that almost no one likes.

My impression is that McCarthy is a suit filled with nothing beyond an overwhelmingly desire for the title Speaker of the House. Whether he has given any thought to actually doing the job depends, I suppose, on whether he has even considered what the Speaker does.

However, it appears that the reason he got as far as he has is that most of his conference do like him. Or, at least, don't dislike him. That's the upside of being an empty suit type politician: you can be anything your audience wants to project onto you.

The difficulty is, to become Speaker he has to actually commit to doing specific things. And whichever commitments he makes, he's going to piss off some people whose votes he needs. If there's a way to square that circle, it isn't obvious. Exhausting the radicals so they just go away (dropping his needed vote total to something achievable) could work if he only needed a majority of those voting, and that majority would still remain if the dissenters went away.

But there are so many of them that before that point Jeffries' vote count will pass his. And, since they have the bit between their teeth, the radicals won't cave. It's "my way or the highway" for them -- the highway being Jeffries. Indeed, at least one of them said explicitly: "I'd vote for Jeffries before I'd vote for McCarthy."

Well, this is good news at any rate:

The privatisation of Channel 4 has been ruled out by the culture secretary who said the sale of the broadcaster would be disruptive to the country’s television production industry.

Michelle Donelan said in a letter to the prime minister that there were “better ways to secure” the channel’s sustainability, adding that she wanted to give the publicly-owned channel greater “commercial flexibility” and allow it to produce more of its own content.

Donelan’s predecessor, Nadine Dorries, with the support of former prime minister Boris Johnson had made clear her desire for the channel — which has a public service broadcasting remit but is entirely dependent upon commercial income rather than public subsidy — to be privatised.

BoJo and his inadequate henchpeople hated C4 News in particular with a passion, and for months even refused to field ministers for interview on matters in the news. Their plans for C4 always looked vengeful, petty and ignorant, as when the ObWi favourite moron Nadine Dorries appeared in front of a select committee on the subject and was revealed under questioning to have no idea of how Channel 4 was actually funded. There is not much good news around today, but we can at least rejoice in this.

That's the upside of being an empty suit type politician: you can be anything your audience wants to project onto you.

No need to be content with projection. If one knows that the other guy has only empty ambition and no principles, one can easily get concessions since the other guy simply does not care about aything but the title. Imo McCarthy is not much different on that from the Orange One: The title is far more important than the actual job. And McCarthy may not even have the ambition to keep it longer than necessary, if he can get something lucrative elsewhere. But he wants "Speaker of the House" (and be it: former) in his CV.

Meanwhile, perhaps someone with their finger on the pulse of nutjobbery could tell me what's the RWNJs' objection to McCarthy. Thank you.

Could it be because, after January 6th, he said some disobliging things about Trump ("Trump bears some responsibility for what happened on January 6th" and other such comments), before coming to his senses and crawling down to Mar a Lago to kiss the ring? To the RWNJs, such (even temporary) treachery is not to be tolerated.

perhaps someone with their finger on the pulse of nutjobbery could tell me what's the RWNJs' objection to McCarth.

I think it's basically that they object to anyone who can be tarred as "part of the establishment". Which McCarthy, having been part of the party's House leadership for years, clearly is.

Of course, the same objection would apply to anyone with a clue about how the House actually governs. Because they are not so much indifferent to governing as opposed to the whole concept. They want to perform and get attention. Period, end of discussion.

I think it's basically that they object to anyone who can be tarred as "part of the establishment".

And to support this theory, Matt Gaetz was quoted as saying (on C4 News) "If you want to drain the swamp, you don't elect the biggest alligator there." Of course, since "the swamp" is supposed to be about corruption, among other things, and Matt Gaetz is hardly in a position to comment on that subject, one has to read between the lines (it's a bit like being an old-school Kremlinologist) to interpret what this could mean, said by this person, to this audience. None of it makes sense on the face of it, if you insist it be explained by people who are within even touching distance of reality.

“When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less. ' 'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things. ' 'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.”

Quoted to me from someone who quoted it from TPM:

Since 2015 and especially since January 2019, Kevin McCarthy’s theory of the case has been that he can solve the problem John Boehner and Paul Ryan never could. His solution? Stop arguing with the Freedom Caucus and give them whatever they want. But it didn’t work. We hear all of these complaints about how they can’t trust Kevin McCarthy, the rebels can’t trust Kevin McCarthy. The reality is that they can trust him to give in to literally every far-right demand. But it hasn’t been enough. Because at heart the GOP is now a burn-it-down party. They want to break things. There are no chits McCarthy can give them. Because breaking things is the goal. At this moment the thing is Kevin McCarthy. But that’s just momentary.

The contingencies of the moment have brought the underlying fact of the GOP to the fore: It’s a party of breaking things. They can’t get past that.

A succinct analysis of the House GOP from a Never Trump Republican:
https://twitter.com/SykesCharlie/status/1610645613552476162?s=20&t=PZo3PzpCDx8WzNTjaasBSw

The MAGA crackup accelerated as crackpots fought with nihilists, wing nuts pointed fingers at extremists, and grifters started slap-fights with one another.
Quite

Another take on what ails the GOP: https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2023/01/why-house-republicans-coup-kevin-mccarthy-conservative-moderate-congress.html

The concluding sentence: "The House Republican caucus will be a cauldron of rage, because the party, at its core, does not believe it should be forced to share power."

'nuff said.

bobbyp, I think Chait got it wrong. Or, at minimum, incomplete.

It isn't, or isn't merely, that the party does not believe it should be forced to share power. It will be a cauldron of rage because none of the factions within it** believe that they should have to share power, even with the rest of the party.

** It is admittedly debatable whether the nihilists believe in anything but destruction. And whether that qualifies.

An interesting thought I saw suggested somewhere this morning is that McCarthy can only promise the Freedom Caucus so many conditions and so many prized committee seats and subcommittee chairs before he pisses off other Republicans who have been waiting in line for years for those positions.

The simple statement "Republicans aren't interested in governing" may be true. That doesn't mean individual Republicans in the House don't want the better office, bigger staff, and other perks that come with being a subcommittee chair. And are going to be angry about putting in 20 years only to be passed over for Lauren Boebert.

A late report (obviously from an alternate universe): McCarthy is, apparently, now making concessions to various PACs. In the hopes that they, in turn, will influence the radicals to support him. With statements like this???

“Kevin McCarthy has effectively led House Republicans from the Minority to the Majority and we want to see him continue to lead the party so we can pick up seats for the third cycle in a row,” Conservative Leadership Fund President Dan Conston said in a statement.

Riiiight. Such incredible success they saw in November. Great leadership there.

McCarthy is, apparently, now making concessions to various PACs.

I heard those PACs supposedly overcame the objections to McCarthy, via contributions of cold hard cash.

I've also heard that bought off 15 votes, but 5 Never Kevin votes remain.

The first vote has begun. Let's see if the PACs investment has an impact...

What concessions can he make to a PAC? He can't unilaterally change any of the rules.

Gaets just voted for Trump.

McCarthy's already lost this vote, provided all the Democrats stick around and vote for Jeffries.

The notion of Clickbait as Speaker has been mentioned, in and out of jokes, for a long time. Every time I hear it, I keep trying to imagine his ponderous, self-indulgent bulk leaving his dwelling -- never mind that, leaving Florida! -- to go to work on an almost daily basis. I mean, doesn't the Speaker have to be there?

If we think there's chaos now, and will continue to be chaos even if the Rs manage to pick a Speaker sometime this millenium, imagine having someone in the role who has never met a rule he isn't willing to break, and who probably isn't competent enough (out of laziness and disinterest if nothing else) to turn on the stove and heat some water. The notion that that guy could preside over an institution that can't run without a mountain range of procedural rules is beyond my ability to conjure up. It would be like expecting a fruit fly to do brain surgery.

Of course, the point, if they did it, would probably be to get him moved up in the line of succession as quickly as possible, so none of that would really matter.

I don't see it, though. I think his star has fallen far enough so that there are too many other people willing to walk over him to get what *they* want. (Or ignore him, as the case may be.)

What concessions can he make to a PAC? He can't unilaterally change any of the rules.

No clue. But apparently he talked to several of them, and they moved from opposing him to supporting him. So he must have had something to offer. Given the contortions he has been going thru, what that was is anybody's guess.

The notion that that guy could preside over an institution that can't run without a mountain range of procedural rules is beyond my ability to conjure up.

Consider this. Once they have elected a Speaker, the new members can be sworn in, committee assignments made, hearings can start, etc. After which, someone else can do the actual work -- the Speaker doesn't have to show up or do anything personally. Day to day, an acting Speaker can preside over the House floor, do the behind the scenes work, and things generally can get going. In fact, the radicals might prefer an absentee Speaker -- one less person to distract attention from them.

What concessions can he make to a PAC? He can't unilaterally change any of the rules.

If I understand correctly, the agreement is the CLF PAC (endorsed by McCarthy and his allies) would not put their thumb on the scales to oppose, Club For Growth funded insurgencies against GOP "moderates" (oxymoron) in open primaries in otherwise safe GOP seats.

You may notice this concession has nothing to do with Rules of the House or public policy.

Up to ten ballots now and not getting any closer.

Cos tonight we're gonna party like it's 1859.

Not only no progress, but no sign of motion. Beyond the radicals shifting here and there on which not-McCarthy they are voting for.

At some point, you'd think someone among the McCarthy supporters would figure out that doing the same thing over and over, and getting the same (non)result, means that it's time to do something different. I'd hope that at least some of the ongoing "negotiations" are actually discussions about who else might be a better choice. But that might be unduly optimistic.

If the Ds really wanted to troll these figpuckers hard, they could cast 212 votes for Liz Cheney in the next round.

If the Ds really wanted to troll these figpuckers hard, they could cast 212 votes for Liz Cheney in the next round.

Might be risky....All it would take is 6 GOP (pending) members to join in once they see what's going on and voila! you have a slightly better version of conservative lunacy as Speaker.

If they really wanted to troll, they would all vote for Geena Rocero.

What bobbyp said. Other than her opposition to TFG's claims of electoral fraud and 1/6 shenanigans, Cheney's an absolutely solid movement conservative. She could move across the border to Greeley, CO next year and probably beat Ken Buck in the 2024 primaries.

Does anyone want power enough to live in Greeley?

Also, for the troll to work you'd need to make sure that it was a roll-call vote, and that you could get just enough Ds to melt away to leave it just shy of a majority, but closer than KM has gotten.

This is new to me.
It doesn't excuse, but does a lot to explain, why Republicans since Gingrich have consistently behaved like utter assholes.

The ‘Stolen’ Election That Poisoned American Politics. It Happened in 1984.
https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2023/01/06/indiana-8th-1984-election-recount-00073924

I blame the election of 1876.

Does anyone want power enough to live in Greeley?

That's a fair question. Ken Buck currently lives in the piece of neighboring Windsor that the redistricting commission carved out and tacked onto CO-4 so Buck wouldn't have to move.

There's a reasonable chance that before 2030 all eight of Colorado's Representatives will live along the Front Range, no matter what part of the state they represent. Even now Boebert's the only exception.

Does anyone want power enough to live in Greeley?

You might want to consider that
a) If one lives in Wyoming, Greeley might not be that huge a cultural shift. Just saying, our perceptions of "living in Greeley" might not be universal.
b) If one is a member of Congress, one mostly lives in DC, not in one's district. OK, some folks who are terrified of the (generic) city might leave their families elsewhere and commute home on the weekends. But it's hardly universal.

Liz Cheney lives in McLean, VA with her husband and any of their children still young enough to be there. Like many other wealthy people, they own an expensive residence outside Jackson Hole, WY. She'd be much more at home in Castle Rock, south of Denver, another piece of the Front Range carved off to stick on CO-3 in order to make the numbers work out.

Liz Cheney lives in McLean, VA with her husband and any of their children still young enough to be there.

And so, owning a second (third?) home in Greeley wouldn't be a big deal.

Meanwhile, in another part of the forest (or swamp), Ginni Thomas comes out against McCarthy and praises the 20 courageous members of Congress whose "courageous efforts to find a Speaker of the House who will represent the interests of conservatives", while her husband continues to give no sign that he might recuse himself when ruling on matters which involve her.

perhaps someone with their finger on the pulse of nutjobbery could tell me what's the RWNJs' objection to McCarthy.

I think it's basically that they object to anyone who can be tarred as "part of the establishment". Which McCarthy, having been part of the party's House leadership for years, clearly is.

Twenty is a big enough group that motivations probably vary. I reckon "It can all burn down as long as I get attention" is an accurate enough summary of the Gaetz faction though.

Still, I did see a brief clip of AOC being extremely charitable about them, and pointing out that at least some of this boils down to the insurgents simply wanting more actual small-d democracy in the house, like rules that make the Speaker somewhat less of an absolute dictator.

I'm sure that what these guys would do with that democracy wouldn't be that great. (Hello, sovereign default.) But in principle, that seems like a reasonable demand. If this had been a group of insurgent progressives trying to oust Pelosi, my sympathies might be quite on the other side.

12th ballot is McCarthy 214, Jeffries 211, Hern 3, and Jordan 4.

maybe McCarthy should do like Boehner did and just hand out some checks.

old school, but it has been known to work.

maybe McCarthy should do like Boehner did and just hand out some checks.

old school, but it has been known to work.

The thing is, they would have to be really, really big checks. Because performative "politics" can bring in big bucks to the radicals. Both from immediate donations and from side gigs on various media platforms.

This is quite the enticement for Democrats, no?

https://www.businessinsider.com/matt-gaetz-says-resign-if-democrats-elect-moderate-republican-2023-1

Not that I think he'd follow through in that unlikely event, but still.

Per hsh's link: this is such utter BS. It's not up to the Ds to solve the problem of R insanity. And who would trust Gaetz to keep his word anyhow? Not that he even expressed it as a promise, or a tit for tat. He only said it as a showboaty way to try to make his point that it's the Ds who are being recalcitrant and are somehow at fault because the Rs are batshit crazy.

I can't even.

I have to say (and I bow to no-one in my contempt for Matt Gaetz) that I don't think that's what he was saying (i.e. that the Ds are being recalcitrant). He made the (rather valid) point that "He [Hakeem Jeffries] is a historic candidate for them. They are not going to cleave off under any circumstance. I assure you of that....If Democrats join up to elect a moderate Republican, I will resign from the House of Representatives. That is how certain I am. I can assure your viewers: That won't happen".

He is a sleaze and a creep, and certainly one of the batshit crazy, and I'm sure you're right that he wouldn't keep his word, but in this particular instance (and for once) I don't think he is really saying the Ds are at fault. It's people on the outside (including here, with the Cheney thought-experiment) wondering what would happen and what would the advantages be if the Ds were to do such a thing. And thought experiments are always an interesting exercise.

Here's a thought experiment for you.

Suppose, eventually, the Republicans manage to elect a Speaker. We're looking at lots of "investigative" theater, and little or nothing resembling legislation -- at least legislation that could get past the Senate.

But eventually something will come along that really needs to get done. (Raising the debt ceiling leaps to mind, but there are other possibilities.) Naturally, the radicals will refuse to let it happen, even if it has substantial Republican support. So what happens?

Per the rules changes that the radicals have insisted upon, a Democrat could make a "motion to vacate the chair." While there is little chance right now of a bipartisan election for Speaker, a sufficiently serious issue could separate even the extreme conservatives from the nihilists. And, after all, it would only take 4 patriotic Republicans to elect a Democrat as Speaker. At which point, all the concessions McCarthy has made go out the window.

Could it actually happen? No idea. But these days, I'm reluctant to claim that anything is impossible.

wj - The extreme conservatives forming the thin outer rind of the GOP may not be nihilists, but they aren't about to stop the nihilists from taking the country down if they can (via, say, debt default).

For one thing, their own nests are feathered well enough they believe they'd be able to ride it out and come out richer than before.

For another thing, they're scared of the nihilists because, well, nihilists don't care what or who they burn. They've been jonesing for a Second American Revolution (or Third, if you count the Civil War) and a little thing like their own fellow Party members isn't going to stop them once they're in a position to make those fantasies real.

Sometimes, we overlook the obvious.

Absent a Speaker, the Clerk of the House, Cheryl Johnson, has been presiding. She's making it up as she goes along, there being no rules yet in place. And doing so well enough that she has twice tecieved standing ovations from all of the members present!

So, since the Speaker doesn't have to be a member, why not just make her Speaker and get on with it? She seems to be the only one in the room that everybody could support.

Well. The NYT is already calling MCCarthy's election after 15 rounds a "vibrant display of the strengths and weaknesses of democracy."

So the MSM narrative will be that the GOP shitshow is democracy in action.

FFS.

Throwing out questions about this whole process, recognizing there's some combination of statutes and precedent that I am ignorant of.

How is it that a body whose members have not yet been sworn into office have the authority to elect an officer?

The constitution grants the power for the House and Senate to be the sole judge of the election and qualification of its' members. For the House, how can there be a body to rule on the qualifications of members if there are no members sworn in?

As an extreme example, what happens when 870 people descend on Washington, each claiming that they were properly elected, and their opponents' claims of election are fraudulent?

In 1876 an extra-constitutional ad hoc process was adopted for determining the results from the disputed electors. Under the current circumstances I can't see something like that being agreed upon by the two parties. War it is.

As an extreme example, what happens when 870 people descend on Washington, each claiming that they were properly elected, and their opponents' claims of election are fraudulent?

Congress has delegated much of the grunt work to the states. IIRC, current federal law requires each state to certify its election results for federal offices and communicate same to the Clerk of the House and some similar office in the Senate. If those 870 show up, the Clerk (who by rule is in charge until the Speaker is elected) says, much like a bouncer, "You're not on the list."

But eventually something will come along that really needs to get done. (Raising the debt ceiling leaps to mind, but there are other possibilities.) Naturally, the radicals will refuse to let it happen, even if it has substantial Republican support. So what happens?

Per the rules changes that the radicals have insisted upon, a Democrat could make a "motion to vacate the chair." While there is little chance right now of a bipartisan election for Speaker, a sufficiently serious issue could separate even the extreme conservatives from the nihilists. And, after all, it would only take 4 patriotic Republicans to elect a Democrat as Speaker. At which point, all the concessions McCarthy has made go out the window.

Well, wj, the necessary first part of this scenario has been achieved. It will be interesting to see if there are any Rs sane enough to cooperate with the Dems to scotch the worst of the RWNJ agenda, and operate over various different issues in a bipartisan manner. I don't imagine so, although I imagine it would be popular with a substantial part of the population, and it would certainly be very interesting to watch how it might develop....

it would certainly be very interesting to watch how it might develop

The fascination of watching an impending train wreck is much reduced when one is standing on the tracks between the two trains.

As an extreme example, what happens when 870 people descend on Washington, each claiming that they were properly elected, and their opponents' claims of election are fraudulent?

Welcome to 2024

On current trends, maybe 3/4 that number (probably less!) will show up. And the only ones claiming fraud will be the Republican losers. Not all the Republicans who lost the election, mind. Just the losers.

Just the losers.

Even this I would not take for granted. Cf. Jabbabonk the Orange who could not stop complaining about his (technical) victory against Hillary Clinton and how e.g. more illegals voted for her than the country has actual inhabitants. He has many disciples in that.

Will Hutton in today's Observer:

It is a commonplace that today’s Conservative party has become an ungovernable rabble – a group of factional sects unfit to govern, with too many in the party and among its media supporters careless of effective government as a matter of principle. What else can be said of a party that has delivered three prime ministers and home secretaries, four chancellors and health secretaries and five education secretaries in one calendar year? What is less explored is the deeper ideological source of this phenomenon.

An important clue came last week with the spectacle of newly elected Republicans in the House of Representatives taking 15 votes over five days to elect candidate Kevin McCarthy as House speaker, the second most important role in the US constitution after the president. No speaker and the House cannot function – no swearing in of members, committee chairs or passing of laws. Business was frozen as McCarthy made an incredible series of concessions on House procedures and his power as speaker to the “Freedom Caucus” of ultra rightwingers to win their votes. He is now their cipher: US government is in the pocket of a minority faction who do not believe in the very principle of government.

These are not just the political shenanigans that are now customary in Washington; instead, they reveal the ideological madness that has also descended on the right in the UK. Thus, Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng’s radical libertarianism, which informed the disastrous tax-cutting mini-budget was borrowed directly from the US libertarian right and now reinforces the Truss camp’s crazed belief they have a legacy to protect. Same story for climate change denial, fighting culture wars as a proxy battle against the liberal left and stretching anti-immigrant legislation beyond the limits of legality. The actions of the Freedom Caucus, or “the Taliban 20”, have the same roots, ideological and organisational, as those of the Brexit “spartan” MPs who forced the hardest of hard EU exits on Britain by brooking no deal except on their scorched earth terms.

“Losers’ consent”, the doctrine under which, if you lose a free election, you accept the verdict of the voters, is rightly said to be a precondition for democracy. So is a broader willingness to accept other basic principles; democracy is not a process to give an ideological minority a clean sweep of everything through sheer bullying. There has to be compromise and acceptance that democratic politics is a constant argument; opponents are citizens, too, with valid interests and arguments. They have to be out-argued rather than treated as disposable scum.

The American Republican Taliban don’t care. Members of the Freedom Caucus may talk and look like other politicians, but the self-belief that they are absolutely correct – helped by the US’s industrial-scale rightwing media – has made them deranged. Government is a “swamp”; welfare undermines self-reliance, however acute individual need; tax is an infringement of personal liberty; might is right in interpersonal as in international affairs (so be suspicious of Zelenskiy and lean into Putin); global warming is a socialist conspiracy; abortion and gay marriage offend the Bible.

Etc.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/jan/08/americas-taliban-20-republicans-have-the-same-roots-as-our-brexit-spartans

To see what we narrowly missed two years ago, you can look at Brazil today.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/01/08/bolsonaro-invade-congress-lula/
The followers of the losing candidate, Bolsonaro, have stormed the congress, the presidential palace, and destroyed the Supreme Court. Bolosonaro, be it noted, is currently residing at Mar-a-Lago. And his Secretary for Security of the Federal District spent the past couple of months in Florida consulting with guess-who about how to deal with having lost the election.

As digby notes: "Who says America isn’t still an inspiration to the world?"

Gftnc,

It will be interesting to see if there are any Rs sane enough to cooperate with the Dems to scotch the worst of the RWNJ agenda, and operate over various different issues in a bipartisan manner. I don't imagine so,

I don't imagine so either.

I'm tired of hearing about these imaginary "moderate" Republicans. I'll believe they exist when they do something remotely sensible.

And McCarthy decides what comes to the floor to start with. So, if the radikalinskis don't like something, they can simply threaten him not to allow a vote or else. So even if some so-called moderates would be willing, they could not do anything except making the same threat but with less cerdibility since the alternative would be to vote a Dem in as Speaker. The extremists can in case of doubt do without a Speaker, since their main agenda is to block not to legislate.

McCarthy decides what comes to the floor to start with. So, if the radikalinskis don't like something, they can simply threaten him not to allow a vote or else. So even if some so-called moderates would be willing, they could not do anything except making the same threat but with less c[re]dibility

Actually, not quite. There is something we are likely to become much more familiar with: the "discharge petition." Basically, it's a parliamentary maneuver which allows the House members to force a floor vote on a bill, whether the Speaker (or a majority of the Rules Committee) likes it or not.

I expect it to get talked about a lot more the next two years. Probably not used all that much, since there would be downsides to Republican members joining one. But for something like raising the debt ceiling, I wouldn't be surprised if it was used.

Rules package passed. So far as I can tell, only one Republican complained that the promise that House members would see things in writing 72 hours before they had to vote was broken.

So far as I can tell, only one Republican complained that the promise that House members would see things in writing 72 hours before they had to vote was broken.

Is that the quickest broken political promise ever?

I've read there are 3 "secret pages" of rules no one but McC and the HFC have even seen.

They approved rules they haven't even read.

Cool, cool, cool.

It occurs to me to wonder. The new members are now sworn in (and have office budgets, which probably matters more to some), committee assignments are done, etc. So at this point, how much impact on things would there really be if we had a motion to "vacate the chair," and multiple elections for a new Speaker?

So at this point, how much impact on things would there really be if we had a motion to "vacate the chair," and multiple elections for a new Speaker?

One of the long-standing rules is that a Speaker is supposed to, at earliest reasonable opportunity, provide the Clerk with a list of people who will assume the responsibilities of the Speaker -- less the succession parts -- in the event of a vacancy or extended incapacity. The names are not revealed unless actually needed. I've always assumed that most Speakers just list the leadership of their own party in some order.

So, not much impact.

Unless, of course, one of McCarthy's (unannounced) concessions was to put one of the crazies next in line. Considering that they were, as Gaetz put it, "running out of things to ask for" ...

There was some blog-comment (so, grain of salt the size of the Titanic) that there are several "secret" pages in the House Rules that were voted in.

It would be inappropriate not to speculate. Cawthorn's drug orgy clubs? Having Gaetz run the House page program? Loyalty oaths to Putin?

Maybe Nickolas Cage should break in and get those secret Rules. It would make a great movie.

Came across an interesting thought on the debt ceiling. There's Section 4 of the 14 Amendment (which Amendment is mostly discussed with regard to Section 1 -- Equal Protection):

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void. emphasis added]
The discussion is to the effect that the debt limit conflicts with this. Consider failing to pay the debt when it comes due -- which is what refusing to raise the limit would do. That pretty well trashes "shall not be questioned". So, the suggestion goes, President Biden could simply put out a statement to that effect: the debt which the United States has taken on as a result of spending which the Congress has mandated will be paid. Period.

If the crazies want to take the President to court for that, good luck. Even the current Supreme Court would be hard pressed to support a challenge which required that the US government default.

IANACL, so . . .

I have seen the 14th Amendment bandied about as an out for avoiding default, but I would think the opposing argument would be tied to the work the phrase "authorized by law" is doing. That is, that debt limit laws are what is doing the authorizing, so debt issued beyond the limit would not be authorized by law and therefore open to being questioned.

The argument that proponents of using this are putting forward is that Congress, through how spending and revenue are balanced in legislation, is implicitly "authorizing" debt when it appropriates funds in excess of revenue.

Actual historical practice would need to be laid out in detail to determine which, if either, of those interpretations matches what people believed to be controlling government actions regarding issuing debt.

The platinum coin seems on sounder legal ground to me, though it would likely provoke a lot more backlash than making a Constitutional argument.

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law...

For the sake of argument...

When this was added to the Constitution, the interpretation of "authorized by law" was the Treasury would come to Congress and say they needed to borrow $100M for such-and-such, and Congress would pass a law authorizing them to sell bonds (or perhaps not). When everyone got tired of doing that too often, Congress -- ever lazy -- said they would pass a debt ceiling law, and the Treasury could borrow up to that limit but not over it. The argument that appropriating moneys itself authorizes debt in excess of the stated limit is relatively new.

No President has yet been willing to take the step of actually arguing that in court. And it will wind up in court if the Treasury chooses to ignore the ceiling. Given the current SCOTUS, I'd bet that they hold "authorized by law" can't be done implicitly, it has to be done explicitly. The Court will further hold that the bondholders are the only spending mandated in the Constitution, so must be paid first and other spending cut.

Note that California's constitution does this explicitly. IIRC, the first obligation on California revenue is K-12 education, the second is bondholders, and the rest follow (K-12 and bondholders may be in the other order, but they're definitely at the head of the line). During one of the financial crises this got put into practice: the controller disbursed the K-12 money and paid the bondholders. Schwarzenegger then instructed him where to not spend money when the revenue ran short. IIRC, California dropped out of TANF for a year, and cut way back on UC recruitment efforts, among other things.

If the Congress passes a spending bill, that's "authorize by law". Indeed, mandated by law. If they don't want money borrowed, then either they raise taxes or cut spending. Which is what traditionally happens in California, thanks to our balanced budget mandate.

But for the Federal government, what we have is a) a tax code which (if enforced!) brings in some amount of money, b) annual spending bills, which require spending some amount of money, and c) a debt limit which constrains how much the latter can exceed the former. If you don't raise the debt limit, pick any two.

Because, as we are aware, you can't have all three if the crazies have their way. Somebody will have to pick which one gets ignored. If you don't want the President to just raise tax rates arbitrarily (duh!), then what? I know, I know. What the crazies want is to be able to blame the Democrats for hugely unpopular spending cuts -- maybe even getting the Medicare and Social Security cuts they talk about but know, on some level, would never pass. But if the Democrats refuse to play ball...?

As for the Supreme Court, if a violation of the debt limit came before them. A cogent question would be: OK your honors, which of the three mutually exclusive legal requirements do you direct us to violate?

One other thought.

  • The law says what tax rates are.
  • The law says what money is to be spent, and on what. But
  • The Constitution says that debts must be paid.
If there's a conflict, the Constitution trumps laws. No argument there. (Although I suppose the Court, devout originalists and textualists that they are, could decide that, after all, there's nothing explicit in the text of the Constitution to support Marbury v Madison.... But since that would neuter their own power, probably not.)

The new House has ordered to remove the metal detectors from the entrance to the chamber.
So, can MTG now practice her second amendment rigths in peace(?) again?
Other priorities: undermining the House ethics comittee and passing a bill to protect tax cheats.
That the latter IS the purpose can be deduced from words spoken on the floor by GOP members in last congress explicitly expressing fear that, if the IRS got properly funded, it could actually enforce existing tax law.

I keep trying to think of something thoughtful or helpful to say about the state of things, but all I keep coming up with is this:

folks, it's gonna be a sh*t-show for the foreseeable future.

sm damn h

You mean like elected officials tweeting "I’ll NEVER give up my gas stove. If the maniacs in the White House come for my stove, they can pry it from my cold dead hands. COME AND TAKE IT!!"?

Oy vey...

"Your proposal is acceptable." Men in Black

Yglesias has described what might be a workable idea:

Issue bonds with a nominal face value, say $1000, as usual, but put a very high interest rate on them. Then auction them off. The Treasury would collect way more than $1000, but the actual debt would only be the face value.

There are issues, but it's a clever idea.

'A “basis point” is just a percentage point.'

He's wrong by a factor of a hundred. I think I'd go to someone else for advice about bond issuance.

'A “basis point” is just a percentage point.'

He's wrong by a factor of a hundred. I think I'd go to someone else for advice about bond issuance.

RIP Jeff Beck.

Good gods, what a talent. Such an inimitable feel and sense of phrasing on the guitar. And he seemed like a very gracious person to work with as a band leader.

He's one whose passing I knew I would feel when it came.

IMO Beck was the most eloquent and expressive guitarist that rock ever produced. Full stop. A unique and brilliant player.

RIP

"If there's a conflict, the Constitution trumps laws."

Shelby County, where John "Lawless" Roberts cancelled the part of the 15th Amendment that conflicted with his Confederacy-inspired priors.

You can't trust those fnckers.

In the Santos soap opera, now the Nassau County Republican Committee is calling for him to resign. As are a couple of Republican Congressmen from New York.

Needless to say, McCarthy is saying nothing.

Another thing to note on the debt ceiling: as far as I can tell, we're the only country in the industrialized world other than Poland* that subjects ourselves to this particular piece of nonsense.

* - Poland's is actually in their constitution and is fixed at 60% percentage of GDP. Maybe worse in some respects, but at least it doesn't have the attendant brinkmanship.

He's one whose passing I knew I would feel when it came.

Yes. :-(

My wife casually told me while looking at her phone. It felt like she slapped me across the face.

pro bono,

Yeah. Very dumb mistake.

And I'm not relying him for bond investment advice. I just think it;s one way to deal with the problem.

IMO Beck was the most eloquent and expressive guitarist that rock ever produced. Full stop. A unique and brilliant player.

Yep. Doubters should give "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" a listen:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWkgUopbru4

I love watching his hands and how many little things he does together at one time to make his phrasing work.

A live version of the "big hit".

I love how he gives Tal Wilkenfeld (bass player) the first solo and just gets the hell out of her way. Like, walks to the other side of the stage, so she can have the spotlight all to herself.

And then marshals, not just technique, but a remarkable range of techniques, in his own solo. But without turning it into a "look what I can do!" chops fest.

He just plays music.

An intelligent, adventurous, lyrical player. I'll always be interested in hearing anything he's on. I'm sorry he's gone.

Are there any doubters? They'd have to be nuts.

I almost posted RIP yesterday, when I first heard, but I thought (and I think I was right) that people here with far more knowledge and connoisseurship and feel for music than I had a right to their reactions first.

As I have observed before in other contexts, when giants fall, the earth shakes.

New dress codes from Tehran the Missouri legislature.
https://www.riverfronttimes.com/news/missouri-republicans-have-found-their-post-roe-enemy-cardigans-39259210

Because, what else could be more important?

New dress codes from Tehran the Missouri legislature.

What's the California State Legislature's floor dress code? I'll bet that cardigans don't cut it on the floor in California.

Speaking from my experience on the permanent staff for the Colorado General Assembly, time spent on the floor is as much performance for the media and public as it is functional. As in all things performative, costuming helps set the audience's expectations. The Academy hands out awards for costuming for a reason.

I hate dress codes. I'm with Thoreau when he says (perhaps a paraphrase): "Beware of any enterprise that requires new clothes."

I can think and speak just as well in bluejeans as I could in a dress or a skirt. (Of which I own none.) I realize I'm an outlier among humans on this point, which I why I'm also a hermit.

But I would have less of a problem with a dress code for legislators if I was sure that the standards were similar for everyone. If women have to wear jackets (or sweaters or whatever) but men can be in their shirtsleeves, I've got a big problem with that. The linked article doesn't enlighten us on that point.

*****

Pause to check ... the WaPo says that "The men’s dress code in the House states that 'proper attire for gentlemen shall be business attire, including coat, tie, dress trousers, and dress shoes or boots.'"

I also don't own any footwear other than sneakers. Oh well, I never wanted to be a legislator anyhow. Especially in Missouri.

*****

Another pause, out of curiosity. The Maine Senate's rules of decorum say this about clothing: "Senators should be appropriately attired on session days. Men are expected to wear a suit jacket and tie. Women are expected to wear a jacket when wearing slacks."

The suit jacket with slacks bit is interesting....

I couldn't find anything similar for the Maine House.

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