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Trump 232
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Dem 48
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GOP 52
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  • Strongly Dem (213)
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Political Wire logo Quote of the Day
Trump Backs Primary Challenge Against John Thune
Trump Orchestrates Final Loyalty Test
White House Twitter Accounts Will Be Reset to Zero
FBI Links Iran to Online Hit List
Trump Calls Relief Bill a ‘Disgrace’

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Stimulus Bill Just Needs Trump's Signature
      •  Biden Gets Vaccinated
      •  Miguel Cardona to Be Tapped for Education
      •  Trump's Endgame Comes into Focus
      •  Barr Continues His Apostasy on His Way Out the Door
      •  The Subpoenas Are Coming
      •  Where Have All the Pollsters Gone?
      •  Today's Senate Polls

Stimulus Bill Just Needs Trump's Signature

It took until very late on Monday, but both chambers passed the latest COVID-19 stimulus bill. The majority in each chamber was well beyond veto-proof, and so Donald Trump has little choice but to sign the bill into law. He's expected to do so today.

The bill includes $325 billion in business relief, $82 billion for schools, $20 billion for vaccine distribution, and $13 billion to expand the food stamps program. Federal unemployment benefits of $300/week will be extended, and Americans earning less than $75,000 per year will receive a $600 stimulus payment. Those $600 payments will begin sometime next week, so anyone hoping to use the money for Christmas shopping is out of luck, unless they happen to be Eastern Orthodox Christians, who celebrate the holiday on January 7.

The final bill checked in at 5,593-pages—the proverbial Christmas tree. If you doubt that all of those pages address COVID-19 relief, then pat yourself on the back, because you're right to think that way. Among other provisions that reporters have already found snuck into the bill are one providing a tax credit for racehorse owners, one providing for the creation of the Smithsonian American Women's History Museum, and several pro-Tibet provisions. Hard to argue that racehorses, museums, or Tibet have anything to do with the pandemic. On the other hand, racehorses have everything to do with Kentucky. And why is Kentucky so important? We think you already know so we won't bother answering.

One can only imagine what else got snuck in there. That said, what we have here is an example of the two parties in Congress coming together to actually get something done. Wild-eyed optimists might even read this as a preview of the Biden years; perhaps there will be less gridlock and more legislating. We would caution against putting too much stock in one bill, especially one passed with the holidays and two critical Senate elections looming. Still, it's a start. (Z)

Biden Gets Vaccinated

As long as we're talking optimism, the past few days have seen some positive developments when it comes to combating the pandemic. To start, VP Mike Pence was vaccinated on live TV on Saturday, President-elect Joe Biden did the same on Monday, and Dr. Anthony Fauci will follow suit today. Anyone who doubted the safety of the vaccine should surely be mollified by that trio's willingness to roll up their sleeves.

As to VP-elect Kamala Harris, she and her husband will get their shots next week. The space between her inoculation and Biden's is insurance against the possibility that one of them has an adverse reaction. The only question mark among top-tier elected officials is Donald Trump. Doing the vaccination-on-live-TV thing would send a positive message, and would surely be good for the country, but he's given no indication as to his plans. Maybe the President doesn't feel he needs the vaccine, since he's had the disease. Maybe he's already been inoculated. Maybe he's frightened. Or maybe getting the shot publicly would be embarrassing, either because it would run contrary to his "COVID-19 is fake news" narrative, or because he doesn't handle shots well and fears fainting/screaming on live TV. Who knows?

Regardless of what Donald Trump does, the "COVID-19 is fake news" narrative has lost a great deal of steam as the pandemic has gotten worse and worse (as opposed to disappearing after Election Day, as many right-wing pundits predicted). A new study finds that 73% of Americans are now wearing masks whenever they leave the house, and another 16% wear masks most of the time, for a total of 89% across folks of all political persuasions. Democrats are particularly committed (87% always and 12% most of the time, for a total of 99%), but even Republicans are doing better than they were (55% always and 21% most of the time, for a total of 76%). So, the U.S. may just be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. (Z)

Miguel Cardona to Be Tapped for Education

Once again, Joe Biden has gone off the board, and made a cabinet pick that nobody saw coming. This time, it is Connecticut education commissioner Miguel Cardona, who will get the nod as Secretary of Education-designate.

Consistent with the progress being made on COVID-19, Biden wants to re-open most U.S. schools within 100 days of his inauguration. Cardona agrees strongly with that goal, which undoubtedly helped his chances. He was once a public school teacher, so he checks the box for that particular promise made by the President-elect. And Cardona's Latino heritage didn't hurt, either; the Congressional Hispanic Caucus pushed hard for a third seat in the cabinet, and now they have it. More specifically, Cardona is of Puerto Rican descent, HHS Secretary-designate Xavier Becerra is of Mexican descent, and DHS Secretary-designate Alejandro Mayorkas is of Cuban descent, which means that the three most important Latino constituencies are now represented in the cabinet. One might just interpret that as a sign that Team Biden learned a little something from the election. By way of comparison, Barack Obama's cabinet included four Latinos over the course of 8 years; three of them of Mexican descent (Hilda Solis, Julián Castro, and Ken Salazar) and a fourth of Dominican heritage (Tom Perez).

Biden has five high-profile slots left to fill; AG, Secretary of Commerce, and Secretary of Labor in the cabinet, and the cabinet-level posts of Small Business Administrator and CIA Director. One will presumably go to a Republican, and another person of Asian heritage, another Black person, a progressive, and a labor leader are strong possibilities, in some combination. (Z)

Trump's Endgame Comes into Focus

Much ink and many pixels have been expended trying to figure out how Donald Trump will handle the end of his presidency. In the last few days, that murky picture has become a good bit clearer.

To start with, the notion of staging a coup—specifically, following Michael Flynn's suggestion of declaring martial law—is clearly off the table. The subject came up for discussion in the White House this weekend, which resulted in much shouting, while numerous staffers promptly ran to the media to issue warnings about what is going on. If the President cannot even count on his inner circle to support such a thing, then there is no hope of making it work. Indeed, pursuing it would be very risky at this point. Not only would Trump suffer a(nother) huge, highly public defeat, but he would basically be giving the Biden administration an engraved invitation to prosecute him. It's one thing to look the other way with something like, say, violations of the Emoluments Clause, and Team Biden might well decide to let that sleeping dog lie. However, it's another thing entirely to ignore an attempt to foment armed rebellion. There is no way that Biden & Co. could let that go.

But while martial law is not in the cards, bowing to reality and accepting defeat is not in the cards, either. Trump's ego, along with his brisk fundraising, demand that he keep alive the fiction that he actually won this thing. And so the traditional meeting between outgoing and incoming presidents is not likely to happen. Neither side is particularly interested; Trump doesn't like the optics, since a meeting would recognize Biden's victory, and Biden doesn't think Trump has anything useful to tell him.

Meanwhile, Trump-loving members of the House continue to dream the impossible dream, plotting to steal the election on Jan. 6, when Congress is set to count and approve the electoral vote tally. It's developing into something of a game of chicken, as members of the Senate GOP caucus and other Republican pooh-bahs are outspoken in warning that such a scheme cannot work, and that it will ultimately harm the Party. For example, Sen. John Thune (R-SD), who ranks second to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), was asked about possible challenges to the electoral tally and said: "I mean, in the Senate, it would go down like a shot dog. I just don't think that it makes a lot of sense to put everybody through this when you know what the ultimate outcome is gonna be." In short, the Trump supporters don't have the votes in the House or the Senate to mount a successful challenge. If they try, they are going to aggravate their colleagues, and are going to end up with some egg on their faces.

Once Jan. 6 passes, and Biden's victory is signed, sealed, and delivered, then the only remaining signpost, of course, will be the inauguration on Jan. 20. Consistent with his program of denial, Trump is not planning to be in attendance. Instead, some of his supporters are staging an online "alternate" inauguration for him. Reportedly, over 300,000 people have expressed interest in "attending" and 60,000 have already RSVPed. By way of comparison, Barack Obama's second inauguration—which required people to actually get out of their houses and travel to Washington—attracted about a million people. Perhaps that reflects the sizable difference between the two events; a real inauguration is both historic and (ideally) uplifting, whereas a pseudo-inauguration/temper tantrum is about the most inconsequential and depressing thing one can imagine. (Z)

Barr Continues His Apostasy on His Way Out the Door

AG William Barr will hold that title for two more days, before his resignation becomes official and he joins the ranks of the unemployed. On Monday, in the midst of preparations for his exit, he spoke to the press, and pushed back hard against two of Donald Trump's favorite narratives. First, the AG reiterated that there was no large-scale voter fraud, which means there is no justification for seizing voting machines or for other aggressive actions by the Dept. of Justice. Second, Barr said he sees no reason to appoint a special counsel to look into the affairs of Hunter Biden.

We remain perplexed at Barr's 180-degree turnaround, from someone willing to trample on just about any legal norm in service of the President, to someone who suddenly feels compelled to defend truth, justice, and the American way. Perhaps this all makes sense in Barr's mind, and he sees no inconsistency here. Or perhaps he's trying to clean up his reputation in hopes of landing a plum private-sector gig once he leaves the White House. Another possibility, and the one we would guess is most likely, is that Barr is the latest in a string of folks—think Michael Cohen, John Kelly, John Bolton, Dan Coats, Omarosa Manigault Newman, etc.—who became disenchanted with the Donald, and after doing everything possible to help him, shifted to doing everything possible to hurt him.

In any event, Barr is not making it any easier for the President to peddle his narratives of the election. That said, there was a little good news for Trump on that front on Monday. After carefully combing through the records, officials in Pennsylvania have finally found evidence of voter fraud. The bad news for the President is that it's only one ballot, and it was cast by a guy who tried to vote twice for Trump (in the voter's own name, and also in the name of his deceased mother). So, it's not exactly justification for overturning Joe Biden's 80,000-vote victory. Oh well, Mr. President, tomorrow is another day. (Z)

The Subpoenas Are Coming

By Jan. 20, 2021, Donald Trump and his administration will be gone. However, they definitely won't be forgotten, at least not by House Democrats. Any subpoenas issued by the current Congress expire when the current Congress does. However, various committee chairs are prepping a wave of fresh subpoenas to issue as soon as the 117th United States Congress takes its seats on Jan. 3, 2021.

To start, the House Oversight Committee still wants to take a long look at Donald Trump's financial records. Getting his tax returns will no longer be a problem, as of 12:15 p.m. on Jan. 20 (give or take a few minutes), but the Committee also wants to keep pressing the court case that would require accounting firm Mazars to fork over whatever they've got. Officially, the reason is to investigate the possibility of passing new legislation regarding presidential finances and ethics. However, it has also undoubtedly occurred to the Democrats on the committee that any dirt they come up with could hurt the Republican Party, and could undermine the future political prospects of Trump and his family.

Meanwhile, the House select subcommittee on coronavirus has much evidence that various members of the Trump administration interfered with CDC Covid-19 reports, in an effort to mislead the American people and to sustain the administration's "all is well!" narrative. Several prominent folks, including HHS Secretary Alex Azar, have already been subpoenaed. When they ignore those subpoenas, they will promptly be hit again in January. In the end, it could turn ugly, since these individuals might well be said to have Americans' blood on their hands.

Undoubtedly, this is just a preview. There remains much about the Trump administration that could stand to see the light of day, and with a cooperative White House, the House of Representatives will undoubtedly spend much time seeing that happens. (Z)

Where Have All the Pollsters Gone?

Today, we have polls of the Georgia Senate race (see below). This will be only the sixth occasion since the November elections, which means an average of about once a week. One might expect these races, upon which hang the balance of power in the Senate, and which are going to result in north of half a billion dollars in spending, to attract much more attention from the polling houses. Back in November, the Senate races in places like Maine, North Carolina, Arizona, and Iowa were getting near-daily attention. So, what's going on?

It turns out that the problem is exactly what you think it is. It's not entirely fair (nor entirely unfair), but the narrative coming out of November was that pollsters blew the election (especially at the Senate level). There is so much about the Georgia runoffs that is unusual that trying to model the electorate is basically a fool's errand. The major polling houses would prefer not to follow what happened in November with a giant miss in January. So, most of them are sitting this one out.

In the end, the absence of polls is not that big a deal. The pollsters can tell us that the elections are likely to be close, but they aren't going to be able to do more than that, since the election will be all about turnout. And whether we get reminded once a week, or once a day, that they are going to be close, it's pretty much all the same. Unless someone can persuade Ann Selzer to move to Georgia for a month, we're just going to have to wait until Jan. 5 to see what happens. (Z)

Today's Senate Polls

As we wrote above, it's going to be close. The most recent polls prior to these gave the Republicans a small edge, these give the Democrats a small edge. In the end, the result will depend primarily on turnout among three groups: Trump supporters, Black voters, and suburbanites. (Z)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Georgia Jon Ossoff 49% David Perdue* 47% Dec 08 Dec 14 RMG Research
Georgia-special Raphael Warnock 49% Kelly Loeffler* 48% Dec 08 Dec 14 RMG Research

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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