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Political Wire logo CDC Director Raises Alarm as Cases Rise Again
Biden’s Ambitions Run Into Reality of Senate Rules
Kimberly Guilfoyle’s Wild Prediction
Women Say Madison Cawthorn Harassed Them
GOP Lawmakers Use Proxy Voting to Attend CPAC
House Passes $1.9 Trillion Relief Bill

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  MacDonough to Schumer: "Sorry, Charlie!"
      •  Biden's Team Is Being Put in Place...Slowly
      •  House Passes Equality Act
      •  McConnell Says He Would "Absolutely" Back Trump in 2024
      •  CPAC Begins Today
      •  The Horse Is Officially out of the Barn
      •  Governors in Hot Water

MacDonough to Schumer: "Sorry, Charlie!"

Ok, Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough presumably didn't say it in quite that way. However, even if she was more polite about it, the end result is the same. After examining the issue for many days (weeks?), MacDonough told Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Thursday that the Democrats' proposal to increase the minimum wage cannot be adopted via budget reconciliation.

So, what happens next? Well, the House is going to pass the Democrats' COVID-19 bill today, with the minimum wage hike intact. Then, it will head over to the Senate, where a dozen Republicans will fall all over themselves in hopes of being the first one to object to the minimum wage provision on procedural grounds. That objection will be successful, and the provision will be stripped out of the Senate version of the bill. Then, it will be necessary for the House to vote again, at some point, to approve the minimum-wage-free version of the bill.

The point of this song and dance, of course, is to do everything possible to make clear which party is a-ok with minimum wage earners trying to get by on sub-poverty wages (hint: it's the party whose logo is an elephant). Perhaps those voters will punish the Republicans at the polls in 2022. Or, perhaps the nuances of parliamentary maneuvering will be lost on them, and they will punish the Democrats for promising and not delivering. Or perhaps they will be too busy working and trying to scrape a living together to find time to vote. Who knows?

If the Democrats still want to try to pull this off, their options are pretty limited. It is possible that, if the blue team sticks together, then they could vote to overrule MacDonough, with President of the Senate Kamala Harris casting the deciding vote. But if Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) don't favor the higher minimum wage, then it's hard to see why they would support parliamentary maneuvering meant to achieve the higher minimum wage. Further, this kind of power play is very rare; the last time it happened was with Nelson Rockefeller in 1975. And finally, the White House has already announced Harris won't do it. So, barring some very big surprises, this isn't happening.

Alternatively, the Democrats could try to backdoor the minimum wage hike in a different way, by turning it into a poison-pill tax hike. The idea would be something along the lines of, "Any business with greater than 50 employees that does not pay $15/hour to employees will be compelled to pay a tax of $X/hour for every sub-$15/hour employee, where X is the amount less than $15 being paid." This is the approach that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is now working on. It has a better chance of passing muster with MacDonough, but it's no guarantee. Further, doing it this way is even more likely to make the Manchins and Sinemas of the world skittish. And finally, hammering something like this out will take time, and much of the voting public is already irritated with how long it's taken to get another COVID-19 relief bill done. Tacking a few more weeks onto the process isn't going to please those folks.

And finally, just to be thorough, we will note that the Democrats could try to reach across the aisle and work with the Republicans to find an option that 10 GOPers will support. But let's be serious here. The Republicans did not make the slightest effort on this front when they controlled both houses of Congress and the White House. Why would they get on board now, given their general fealty to the corporate donors, and knowing full well the Democrats would get most of the credit? One can scarcely even conceive of 10 Republican votes that would be available for even the most watered down of proposals. There's Mitt Romney (R-UT), and Susan Collins (R-ME), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and maybe Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and maybe Ben Sasse (R-NE), but even getting those five seems a longshot, and then who would be the other five votes?

So, if this fight is going to happen, it looks like it will have to wait for another day. Taking some extra time, either to craft the perfect poison-pill approach, or to try to get 10 Republicans on board, might work. But the most realistic path—not that it is all that realistic—is to kill the filibuster for statehood, admit D.C. and let it elect two Democratic senators, then kill the filibuster completely, and finally adopt a new minimum wage on the strength of 51 votes plus Harris' tiebreaker. We would not suggest betting money that all of these things will take place before next year's midterm elections, though. (Z)

Biden's Team Is Being Put in Place...Slowly

On Thursday, former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm was confirmed by the Senate to lead the Department of Energy. She's the eighth secretary to be confirmed, so the Biden cabinet is now more than half full (8 of 15). On the other hand, there are only 6 cabinet secretaries in the line of succession right now because DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is Cuban-born, while Granholm was born in...uh, oh...Canada. As they say, first it's the Department of Energy and then, before you know it, it's...the Department of Agriculture or the Department of Transportation. The Canadians have been at this since 1812, after all. They are comfortable playing the long game.

It probably goes without saying that presidents usually don't have to play the long game as they wait for an intact (or nearly intact) cabinet. But an impeachment trial, plus a 50-50 Senate, will tend to complicate things. Joe Biden is also waiting for a large number of his other nominees (undersecretaries and the like) to be confirmed. Here's a comparison, as of Feb. 25, for each of the past five administrations:

President Nominees Confirmed
Biden 55 11
Trump 31 14
Obama 45 29
Bush the Younger 20 18
Clinton 28 24

Somebody is not doing their job, and it ain't the White House. Perhaps the pace will pick up, now that the senators have returned from their vacations in places like...Cancun. (Z)

House Passes Equality Act

In 2019, the House passed a bill that would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" as protected classes. In other words, the bill would make it illegal to discriminate against LGBTQ folks in employment decisions, housing, public accommodations, etc. Yesterday, the House passed the bill again, by a vote of 224-206. That's all of the Democrats voting "yea," along with three Republicans: John Katko and Tom Reed (both NY), and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA).

The bill will now head to the Senate, where Chuck Schumer promises it will get a vote. Equally guaranteed is that it will trigger a filibuster, and one that the Democrats are not likely to be able to break. The Republican Party line (for all members beyond the three listed above, it would seem) is that the bill infringes on the religious liberties of those who would prefer to discriminate against LGBTQ folks. Undoubtedly, some members of the Republican conference really believe that. However, they also know that their voter base includes a lot of folks who just don't like gay people and won't be happy with any protections being granted the LGBTQ community. It is worth noting that "religious liberty" was also used as a counterargument when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed in the first place.

So, we already know what's going to happen. And once it does, then it will be a messaging issue for the Republicans to grapple with, as they try to persuade LGBTQ folks (as well as suburbanites) that their opposition to the bill is totally about religious freedom, and not at all about tolerating discrimination. To take just one example, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) has a podcast, and he will host a transgender guest next week to talk about trans soldiers. Crenshaw plans to use the installment to get his position on the Equality Act (which, of course, he already voted against) on the record. He said on Thursday that it's "pretty damn important" to get it right, and that "There's definitely a wrong way to message everything."

If the GOP is successfully able to spin this, we shall see if the potential Republican voters who care about LGBTQ equality (a group that, again, includes meaningful numbers of LGBTQ Republicans and independents as well as sizable numbers of socially liberal suburbanites) buy it. When it comes to the spin operation, a rather large fly has already landed in the ointment in the form of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). Greene is off her committees, and has little interest in governing anyhow. So, all of her time appears to be devoted to stunts designed to impress the folks back home and to get some headlines on Fox, OAN, and Newsmax. The Representative's latest was to post this sign outside of her office, which also happens to be across the hall from the office of Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL), whose daughter is transgender:

The sign says 'There are two genders,
male and female, trust the science'

Greene says she was "provoked" by the fact that Newman put up a transgender pride flag out front of her (Newman's) office. In other words, "she started it!" Perhaps that is a good point. Or perhaps this is not a third-grade playground, and there is a difference between a parent who supports their kid and deploys a symbol that is not anti- anyone, as opposed to a person who is just trying to score political points and is most certainly anti- someone. As you try to decide, you may want to take note that many of Greene's Republican colleagues were not happy with her, fearing that stunts like that would undermine the "we're not motivated by bigotry" argument.

In any case, LGBTQ equality has again turned into a political football. Indeed, as we write this, the folks at "The 700 Club" are helpfully reminding viewers that Jesus does not approve of gay people. This would be the same Jesus, of course, who did not approve of racial equality 60 years ago, despite—and don't tell Pat Robertson this—most likely being a person of color himself. Or, at very least, he was not "white" as that notion is generally understood in the West. (Z)

McConnell Says He Would "Absolutely" Back Trump in 2024

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) appeared on Fox News on Thursday, and was asked by host Bret Baier if he would support Donald Trump, should Trump claim the 2024 Republican nomination. "The nominee of the party? Absolutely," replied McConnell.

The much harder questions—but, unfortunately, Fox does not often ask hard questions of Republican guests—would be whether or not McConnell would support Trump in the 2024 primaries, or whether he would prefer that Trump be the GOP nominee. But granting Trump the nomination, and asking if he would have McConnell's support from that point forward, is a softball. The Minority Leader is a party man, of course, such that it's hard to imagine anyone he would not support if that person somehow landed the Republican nomination. Consider this list:

  • An abandoned-the-Democrats-for-the-Republican-Party-of-my-youth Hillary Clinton
  • Former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke
  • Convicted pedophile and former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky
  • Marjorie Taylor Greene
  • The reanimated corpse of Malcolm X
  • Vladimir Putin
  • Serial killer David Berkowitz (a.k.a. The Son of Sam)

Admittedly, some of these folks are not natural born citizens, and so are not eligible. But is there anyone on the list who would unquestionably be a bridge too far for McConnell, if they somehow became the GOP nominee?

In other words, there was zero chance that McConnell would have answered, "No, I would not support Trump if he is the nominee." The surprise, though, is that he answered at all. The Minority Leader could have said, "2024 is a long way away, and I'll think about that election once we're beyond the 2022 midterms." Now, with him having taken a position (of sorts) on Trump, Republican voters who are looking to McConnell for cues must surely be confused. First, it was voting for acquittal in the impeachment. Then, it was a blistering anti-Trump speech on the Senate floor. Now, it's "of course I will back him." Presumably there is some game of 3-D chess underlying this Jekyll and Hyde Act, but we don't see what it is. (Z)

CPAC Begins Today

The annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), hosted by the American Conservative Union, is like the Academy Awards of Republican politics. Everybody who is anybody in the GOP is there. And, in further evidence that it remains the Trumpublican Party, this year's conference is going to be 100% the Trump Show.

Trump, of course, will be speaking this year. He's been given the "grand finale" slot on Sunday. That's actually not where the keynote speaker usually goes, but the former president presumably does not know that, and insisted on bringing up the rear. The list of speakers is also heavy on Trumpy types, and includes Mike Pompeo, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Ben Carson, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Larry Kudlow, Donald Trump Jr., Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), right-wing talkers Dana Loesch and Buck Sexton, and "celebrity actor" Jon Voight. Do you still get to call yourself a celebrity actor if your last hit was more than 20 years ago, and was actually carried by your daughter ("Lara Croft: Tomb Raider")? Guess so. Meanwhile, the guest list is notably short on those whom Trump considers to be apostates. Those who will not be there include Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA), Mike Pence, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), and Nikki Haley (who is learning very quickly that there is no halfway with Trump).

The topics of discussion are even Trumpier (if that's possible). For example, there will be seven different panels on how the 2020 election was stolen. Their subtitles are:

  1. Why we Must Protect Elections
  2. How Judges & Media Refused to Look at the Evidence
  3. The Left Pulled the Strings, Covered It Up, and Even Admits It
  4. Failed States (PA, GA, NV, oh my!)
  5. They Told Ya So: The Signs Were Always There
  6. Successful States
  7. Pandora's Ballot Box—What's Next

There will also be plenty of discussion of the evils of socialism, of all the things liberals hate (e.g., the Bill of Rights), of the many ways in which Joe Biden is dopey, of cancel culture, and of the many and varied threats posed by, China. The only thing missing, it would seem, is a panel entitled: "'Help Me Pay My Legal Fees!': Fleecing Your Followers for Fun and Profit."

In any event, someone at CPAC usually says something newsworthy. We'll see if that holds this year, given that the order of the day (well, four days) appears to be re-litigating old grievances. At very least, this will be Trump's first return to the arena since leaving Washington with his tail between his legs nearly five weeks ago. So that will get some headlines, if nothing else. (Z)

The Horse Is Officially out of the Barn

As long as we are on the subject of Donald Trump, we will note that his defeat at the hands of Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. is now final. On Thursday, Vance's office confirmed that it got copies of the former president's tax returns just hours after the Supreme Court ruled in the DA's favor, and that city-employed lawyers are already going through them with a fine-toothed comb.

We still do not know, of course, exactly what Team Vance is looking at. And, because grand jury matters must remain secret, it could be a while before anything is publicly known. However, now that Vance has the returns (and, by extension, New York AG Letitia James has them as well), the genie is out of the bottle, and no number of lawyers or court cases can put him back. (Z)

Governors in Hot Water

At the moment, the governors of three of the nation's four most populous states go to sleep at night fearing for their political lives. Yesterday, we had an item about Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX), and how Beto O'Rourke has risen from the political dead and is now breathing down the Governor's neck in anticipation of a 2022 run, thanks to the energy crisis that gripped the Lone Star State on Abbott's watch. That is the second-largest state.

Meanwhile, in the largest state, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) continues to be dogged by a possible recall effort. That one is going to come down to the wire, as the deadline to collect enough signatures is March 17. If the anti-Newsom forces have the luck of the Irish, then the Governor would likely go before voters sometime this Fall. If they drink too much green beer and eat too much corned beef, then he'll be safe until he runs for reelection next year. However, even if Newsom dodges the recall bullet, this whole situation has telegraphed to other ambitious Democrats that he's vulnerable. It would not be a surprise to see a heavyweight enter the race—Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), perhaps, or Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis (D-CA).

And finally, in the fourth-largest state, the setbacks just keep coming for Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY). He was already enmeshed in a scandal over the counting of COVID-19 deaths at the state's nursing homes. And now, he's got a second, potentially even more damaging, scandal in the form of a sexual harassment claim lodged against him by former aide Lindsey Boylan. She says that Cuomo once kissed her on the lips against her will, and that he challenged her to a game of strip poker. In a statement, Boylan wrote:

Governor Andrew Cuomo has created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected. His inappropriate behavior toward women was an affirmation that he liked you, that you must be doing something right. He used intimidation to silence his critics. And if you dared to speak up, you would face consequences.

Cuomo has, of course, denied everything and has produced witnesses that he says back up his version of events.

As the Cuomo-Boylan situation is still pretty new, it remains to be seen what will come of it. However, as with the nursing home situation, it looks like he will weather the storm—for now. That said, as with Newsom in California, ambitious New York Democrats—like maybe Letitia James, or possibly Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand—cannot help but notice that Cuomo is badly wounded heading into his third reelection campaign. Given the sexual harassment accusations, a female candidate just might be able to best him, particularly if they are fairly centrist, and run on a "it's time for a change" platform. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb25 Manchin Will Back Haaland
Feb25 DNC Will Get Involved in Midterms
Feb25 Postmaster General DeJoy May Soon Get a Special Delivery Letter
Feb25 Secretaries of State Are Hot
Feb25 Net Neutrality Scores a Big Win in California
Feb25 Democrats Might Make a Huge Unforced Error That Could Cost Them Next Year
Feb25 Virginia Gubernatorial Election Is Often a Bellwether
Feb25 Rush Limbaugh and the Battle of the Flags in Florida
Feb25 O'Rourke Is Back
Feb25 Democrats Introduce a Bill to Strip Presidents Convicted of a Felony of Their Pension
Feb24 COVID-19 Bill Will Be a One-Party Show
Feb24 Putting 500,000 in Context
Feb24 Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss
Feb24 Perdue Chickens Out
Feb24 Texas Democratic Postmortem Is In
Feb24 Gonna Turn My Red State...Blue
Feb24 They Were Trump Before Trump, Part III: Henry Ward Beecher
Feb23 SCOTUS Pokes Trump in Both Eyes
Feb23 Tanden in Deep Trouble, Haaland Not Far Behind
Feb23 Garland Is in the Clear
Feb23 Sanders and Co. Work to Save Minimum Wage Hike
Feb23 Florida Republicans Apparently Have Their Candidate
Feb23 Low Blows on Joe
Feb23 Dominion Voting Systems to Go to the Mattress with MyPillow Guy
Feb22 COVID-19 Death Toll in U.S. Hits Half a Million
Feb22 Garland to Appear before Senate Judiciary Committee Today
Feb22 The Race to Replace Neera Tanden Has Already Begun
Feb22 The Two McC's Are Playing Different Games
Feb22 Trump Will Address CPAC on Sunday
Feb22 Democrats Are Doing an Autopsy of the Election
Feb22 Republicans' Strength in the State Legislatures Was Built Up over 40 Years
Feb22 Poll: Republicans Are Still with Trump
Feb21 Sunday Mailbag
Feb20 Saturday Q&A
Feb19 Ted Fled
Feb19 It Ain't Easy Being Prez
Feb19 Shadow Boxing
Feb19 Poll: It's Still Trump's Party
Feb19 Trump to Haley: Pound Sand
Feb19 Ivanka Is Out
Feb19 Video Killed the Radio Star
Feb18 Rush Limbaugh Is Dead
Feb18 How to Turn Bad News into Good News, Texas Style: Lie
Feb18 Manchin Is a Byrder
Feb18 Biden Does Not Support Forgiving $50,000 in Student Loans
Feb18 Democrats May Turn Marjorie Taylor Greene into a Boogeywoman
Feb18 Traffic at Far-Right News Sites Spiked in 2020
Feb18 Forty Acres and a Mule, Revisited
Feb17 The Kid's in the Hall
Feb17 Trump Slams McConnell