Dem 48
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GOP 52
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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Congress Actually Passed Nearly 100 Laws in 2017
      •  Trump's Next Goal: Infrastructure
      •  D.C. Court of Appeals Rejects Challenge to Trump's Voter Fraud Panel
      •  Universities Are Preparing for a Violent Year Ahead
      •  Royal Wedding Could Become Political
      •  Virginia Elections Headed to Court
      •  Another Bad Poll for Republicans

Congress Actually Passed Nearly 100 Laws in 2017

While many media outlets have given the impression that Congress passed exactly one law in 2017 (the tax law), that is not true. It actually passed 74 bills and 23 joint resolutions (which carry the weight of law). Some of them are even important, and have actual effects on people. Here is the complete list. Many of them are minor, like these:

  • Issuing a coin to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the American Legion
  • Naming a VA living center the "Sgt. Joseph George Kusick VA Community Living Center"
  • Naming a VA outpatient facility in American Samoa the "Faleomavaega Eni Fa'aua'a Hunkin VA Clinic"
  • Establishing a Global War on Terrorism Memorial
  • Naming a federal building in Tennessee for Fred D. Thompson

In addition, fourteen of the resolutions nullified regulations passed during the Obama administration.

Nevertheless, some of the laws are actually quite important, including laws that do these things:

  • Appropriate $170 million to improve the nation's weather forecasting ability
  • Direct NASA to plan for a mission sending people to Mars by 2023
  • Overhaul GI benefits
  • Reform VA civil service rules
  • Expand a program to detect hearing problems in young children
  • Sanction Russia
  • Fund the Pentagon
  • Authorize federal employees to use Uber, Lyft, and similar services on official business

Still, it is pretty meager haul for an entire year of work for 535 people, most of whom make $174,000 per year (leaders get a bit more). That's a total of over $93 million, plus the salaries of thousands of aides and staffers. (V)

Trump's Next Goal: Infrastructure

You can't play golf in the dark, which means that Donald Trump has plenty of spare time for tweeting as he spends the week at Mar-a-Lago. He has made clear, and his aides confirm, that his next major focus—having failed to repeal Obamacare, and then having overhauled the tax code—is infrastructure:

The President does not have a "plan," per se. He doesn't even intend to ask Congress for the $1 trillion he promised during the campaign. Instead, he will send the legislature a list of suggestions, with the general notion that the federal government ponies up $200 billion, and then somehow finds a way to persuade states and localities to chip in another $800 billion.

Needless to say, starting out with no actual plan is not a great way to begin, especially when the initiative is something that Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) aren't excited about, which means they are unlikely to step up and fill in the blanks. There are other problems as well. Trump does not seem to have noticed, but Democrats across the country are planning to run against him in 2018, a strategy that looks like a winner. They are not likely to work with him just months before the midterm campaign gets underway, and that's before we consider how aggravated they are about DACA, Obamacare, and the tax bill. Another issue is that there really are budget hawks in the GOP, even if they developed temporary amnesia last week. While those folks were willing to swallow $1.5 trillion more in deficits to achieve a core Republican tenet, they may balk at writing another check for hundreds of billions of dollars so soon. So, this one does not look like a future "win" for the President. (Z)

D.C. Court of Appeals Rejects Challenge to Trump's Voter Fraud Panel

Earlier this year Donald Trump created a "Voter Fraud Panel," ostensibly to make recommendations for preventing in-person voter fraud—something that no expert believes even exists. The true purpose of the panel is hardly a secret though: To suggest laws states can pass that make it harder for students, minorities, and poor people to vote, often by requiring them to show documents they don't have and that are intentionally difficult and expensive to acquire. A group called the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) sued the government over the panel, alleging violations of the 2002 E-Government Act.

Somewhat surprisingly, the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. threw the suit out, with the explanation that EPIC doesn't represent any voters and hasn't been damaged by the panel, so it has no standing to sue. Nevertheless, other suits are forthcoming. The panel has requested states to give it the names, addresses, and partial social security numbers of voters. Providing that information makes the states incur costs—that is, damages them—so they might well have standing in future suits. Those damages aren't too likely to bother Texas or Mississippi, but New York AG Eric Schneiderman (D) and California AG Xavier Becerra (D) may feel differently. (V)

Universities Are Preparing for a Violent Year Ahead

White supremacist and anti-Semite Richard Spencer is collecting invitations from right-wing university groups to speak on various university campuses next year. The purpose of his speeches is to provoke students and put administrators in a bind. If he is allowed to speak, there will likely be clashes with between pro-Spencer and anti-fascist groups. If he is prevented from speaking, Spencer will claim that "free speech" on campus applies only to the left and that university officials are a bunch of hypocrites.

A related issue is that if Spencer is allowed to speak, heavy security will be needed, and that can cost up to $500,000 per event. Beefed up security is an absolute requirement in states that allow (concealed) weapons on campuses. Some universities have refused to let Spencer and others of his ilk speak, but the white supremacists have often gone to court, pointing out that they were invited by an authorized campus group and should have the same right to speak as anyone else invited by a campus group. University of California President Janet Napolitano, who knows a thing or two about security, having been Secretary of Homeland Security in the Obama administration, is hoping the courts will give guidance on whether "free speech" covers "hate speech" and how much a university can be required to spend for security at events expected to produce violence. (V)

Royal Wedding Could Become Political

The British royal family is supposed to stay out of politics and generally does, but the impending wedding of Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle could potentially cause a problem and the U.K. government is worried about the consequences. Interestingly enough, the problem isn't being caused by a gay baker who refuses to bake the wedding cake of a heterosexual couple on the grounds that this violates his beliefs. It's also not about the Prince marrying a black woman. It's not even about the Prince wanting to marry a divorcee, something that got his great grandfather's brother, Edward VIII, into a bit of hot water, and resulted in his chucking the whole king thing.

The problem is the guest list. Harry insists on inviting Barack and Michelle Obama and not inviting Donald and Melania Trump. Trump would no doubt not take that well, and the U.K. government is worried that U.S.-U.K. relations, which are already strained, will only get worse as a result of the (clearly intentional) snub. The government is applying pressure on the couple not to invite the Obamas, so it is not clear how this will end. (V)

Virginia Elections Headed to Court

Today, election officials were supposed to draw lots to decide the "winner" of the Virginia House of Delegates race that ended with Republican David Yancey and Democrat Shelly Simonds each collecting 11,608 votes. The tie was made possible by a ballot that was open to interpretation, was originally disqualified, and then was awarded to Yancey by a three-judge panel, all of them Republican appointees. After a lengthy discussion, the judges decided that the ballot in question was otherwise a straight Republican ticket, and that fact—along with the line through Simonds' bubble—was enough to establish intent to vote for Yancey.

The drawing of lots is now on hold, however, as Simonds has filed suit, asking the judges to reconsider their decision. One argument that her lawyers will undoubtedly make is that Virginia law does not actually have a stipulation for judgments of intent—the letter of the law is that a ballot that is marked twice is invalid. Simonds' counsel might also point out a rather significant hole in the judges' reasoning. The part of the ballot with Simonds and Yancey's names (right) is getting all the attention, but there is a second part of the ballot (left) that is also germane to the discussion: the voter's pick for governor, which is also crossed out:

Virginia Ballot

If we conclude that "crossed out" means "vote withheld," then this voter did not cast a vote for governor, either. And if that is true, then the voter did not vote a straight Republican ticket, and—in particular—chose not to vote for a Republican for the single most important office on the ballot. The judges are not likely to buy it, but the odds are also pretty good that Simonds is just setting the stage for an appeal.

Meanwhile, that is not the only Virginia House of Delegates race that is headed to court. The contest between Republican Bob Thomas and Democrat Joshua Cole was decided in Thomas' favor by a margin of 73 votes. However, more than 100 voters were given the wrong ballot on Election Day. So, Democrats are asking that a new election be held. That question will be addressed by the courts on January 5, just four days before the new legislature is to be seated. If a new election is indeed called for, and control of the Virginia legislature hangs in the balance—right there in Donald Trump's backyard—it will undoubtedly shatter all records for money invested in a state legislative race. In the Simonds-Yancey race, for example, a little over $1.1 million was spent. A Thomas-Cole rerun could easily pull in ten times that much. Maybe twenty times. (Z)

Another Bad Poll for Republicans

We're probably going to have to make a macro of that headline, because it's likely to be needed a lot in 2018. In any event, the latest bad news for the GOP comes courtesy of the Wall Street Journal/NBC News. They asked women voters whether they favored Democratic or Republican control of Congress. Among all women, the Democrats have a 20-point lead over the GOP, and among college-educated women, it's a staggering 32 points. Recall that Donald Trump lost women voters, in general, by 13 points and college-educated women by 10. That's a swing of 7 points and 22 points, respectively, in one year.

The primary issue, of course, is the blase attitude towards sexual misconduct demonstrated by Republicans in general, and by Trump in particular. A number of women interviewed by the WSJ made this very clear, noting in particular their disgust with the Party's and the President's support of Roy Moore, "I don't know where the party is going to go from here, but they are going to have to do a lot to get me back," said one long-time Republican woman. Former RNC chair Michael Steele warned that the GOP is headed for disaster if they don't take such sentiments to heart. "If they're not willing to confront these allegations directly, they will pay a very dear price at the ballot box next year," he said. Of course, his warnings will fall on deaf ears. Even if GOP members of Congress decide to do a 180-degree turn on the issue, there is no chance that Donald Trump does. It's not his nature, and besides that, it's not practicable, given the pu**ygate tape. His only viable option is to deny, deflect, and dissemble, even if he has keep doing so while the ship sinks to the bottom of the ocean. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec26 Democrats Are Going to Run in Almost Every House District in 2018
Dec26 The Top 10 House Races to Watch in 2018
Dec26 To Impeach or Not to Impeach, That Is the Question
Dec26 Menendez Isn't Drawing Serious Competition
Dec26 Who Is Kirsten Gillibrand and What Is She Up to?
Dec26 Utah Paper Blasts Hatch
Dec26 A Really, Really Bad Poll for Republicans
Dec25 Trump Reportedly Told Friends "You All Just Got a Lot Richer"
Dec25 Trump Has Visited His Properties over 100 Times This year
Dec25 Why Wasn't Black Turnout in Alabama Much Lower?
Dec25 Judge Deals Setback to Voter Fraud Commission
Dec25 An Analysis of Doubleheaders
Dec25 Flake For President?
Dec25 Haley Appears to Have Been Pranked
Dec25 Trump Killed Christmas
Dec24 Trump Builds His Wall, But out of Red Tape
Dec24 Trump Takes Shots at FBI
Dec24 White House Staff Could Soon Look Very Different
Dec24 Bannon for President?
Dec24 EPA Staff Fleeing in Droves
Dec24 Marine Corps Commandant: "Bigass Fight" Coming
Dec24 Trump Coin Screams "DONALD TRUMP"
Dec23 Trump Signs the Tax Bill
Dec23 Trump Aides Talk Him Out of Holding News Conference
Dec23 Tax Law Could Change How Many Americans Work and Live
Dec23 Trump's Political Advisers Argue with Each Other
Dec23 Conservative Groups Are Planning Massive Marketing Effort to Sell the Tax Plan
Dec23 Ethics Case Against Trump Thrown Out
Dec23 More People Approve of Mueller than Disapprove
Dec23 Polling, Trump Style
Dec23 California Will Be Ground Zero for House Battles in 2018
Dec22 Thad Cochran May Resign Next Year
Dec22 Republican Control of the Senate is Hanging by a Thread
Dec22 Congress Votes to Kick the Can into January
Dec22 Copy of Deciding Ballot in Virginia Obtained
Dec22 It's Trump Against the U.N.
Dec22 What Will the Consequences of the Tax Bill Be?
Dec21 Congress Passes the Tax Bill
Dec21 Winners and Losers from the Tax Bill
Dec21 Taxpayers Won't Know How the Bill Affects Them Until after the Midterms
Dec21 Obamacare Is Not Dead and Gone
Dec21 Next Up: Big Problems
Dec21 Democrats Open Huge Lead on Generic Congressional Poll
Dec21 Virginia House of Delegates Race Is an Exact Tie
Dec21 Nadler Will Succeed Conyers on the House Judiciary Committee
Dec21 White House Takes Petitions Offline
Dec20 House, Senate Pass Tax Bill
Dec20 Mystery Solved? Maybe "Corker Kickback" Was Actually "Hatch Kickback"
Dec20 Trump Could Do Something Worse Than Fire Mueller: Fire Rosenstein
Dec20 James Clapper: Putin is Handling Trump Like an Asset