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Political Wire logo Facebook to End Exception Made for Politicians
Ron Johnson ‘Undecided’ On Running Again
Manchin Still Won’t Support Budget Reconciliation
Pence Says He and Trump Don’t Agree on Insurrection
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Prosecutors Want Rioters to Pay for Damages

MacDonough Rules That Democrats Get Only One More Reconciliation Bill This Year

The Senate rules are so incredibly convoluted that there is a whole office whose only job is to try to understand them and explain them to the senators. The office is run by Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, who ruled yesterday that the Democrats can have only one more reconciliation bill this year. That means that Joe Biden's American Jobs Plan (the "hard infrastructure" bill) and the American Families Plan (the "soft infrastructure" bill) will have to be combined into one monster $4 trillion-bill and then rammed through all at once.

The exact situation is technically complicated and involves getting a bill out of the Budget Committee. If at least one Republican on the Committee approves, it can be done, but the chance of that happening is pretty close to zero. What MacDonough actually said is this:

Unlike the 301 resolution, a section 304 resolution is an optional procedure untethered to the Section 300 structure. There is no deadline for its reporting from committee or its completion in the Senate.

Got it? She explained this in simpler language as well. The senators who created the budget reconciliation process in 1974 were leery of senators trying to misuse it. So they wrote over 300 sections to try to close all the loopholes. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was trying to use one of the loopholes, but MacDonough ruled that, sorry, they thought of that loophole and closed it off. Specifically, the majority party cannot pass an unlimited number of reconciliation bills in a year. It's sort of like the rule that says when you rub a magic lamp and a genie pops up and grants you three wishes, you can't wish for an unlimited number of wishes.

This unexpected development will cause a headache for Biden and an even bigger one for Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). Manchin wants two, maybe even more bills. In practice, it's going to be one bill or no bill. But it could also be a blessing in disguise. The hard infrastructure bill is much more popular than the soft infrastructure bill. Even Republicans don't like roads with potholes or bridges that collapse. But the soft infrastructure bill effectively taxes rich people and gives the money to poor people. OK, it's not quite that simple, but the money doesn't go into public works projects that benefit everyone the way repairing unsafe bridges does. If the consequence of the ruling is that Biden simply defers the soft infrastructure bill for at least a year and uses reconciliation to fix the roads, that might be very popular with the voters, even Republicans. And simply passing the "Jobs" bill will not give the Republicans much to carp about.

So the upshot now is that Biden will have to think carefully about where he wants to go from here and talk to all the relevant people, especially Manchin. We should know within a week or two what the plan will be. (V)

Biden Calls for a National Month of Vaccinations

Yesterday, Joe Biden announced a "National Month of Action" with the goal of getting 70% of U.S. adults to have at least one shot of some COVID-19 vaccine by July 4th. That won't get the country to herd immunity, but it will still help. Biden said he wants to enlist the federal government, state governments, local governments, the private sector, churches, colleges, athletes, celebrities, social media influencers, and, most important, the American people to free the country from the grip COVID-19 has had on it for a year.

Biden warned people who have not been vaccinated that they are still at risk of getting seriously ill or dying. He said: "All over the world, people are desperate to get a shot that every American can get at their neighborhood drug store at no cost with no wait." He is hoping that his pitch that the vaccine is good for you will nudge people who don't give a hoot about what is good for others or for the country to get vaccinated in order to protect themselves. He also mentioned that getting vaccinated is not a partisan act. What has the country become? Is he later going to announce that refraining from driving while totally drunk is not a partisan act? Or that not eating rotten fruit that is covered with fungus is not a partisan act? Have we gotten to the point that refusing to protect your own health is now seen as a valid political statement? (Quick answer: Yes.)

Some of Biden's plan consists of gimmicks, but if that is what it takes, that is what it takes. For example, Anheuser-Busch, the company that makes Budweiser beer, said it would give a free drink to all Americans over 21—if Biden's goal is met by July 4th. Four of the largest childcare providers are offering free childcare until July 4th to parents getting their shots. Thousands of pharmacies will stay open late every Friday in June in order to vaccinate more people. There will be a competition among cities to see which one can raise its vaccination rate the most by July 4th. Many employers are offering all manner of incentives to get employees vaccinated. Black barbershops and beauty salons will hold vaccination events. TV and radio ads will abound. Major League Baseball will offer free admission to people who get vaccinated at the stadium before the game. Numerous raffles and lotteries will give away prizes to people who are vaccinated. No doubt many more incentives will be announced in the days ahead. (V)

Trump Shuts Down His Blog

Donald Trump's new major "social media platform," which was just a generic blog, didn't even last a month. And it is already gone forever. It was poorly executed, hard to find, and had almost no new content. It was just Trump ranting about how he won the election. After reading that five or six times, even a dyed-in-the-wool Trump supporter was likely to say: "Yes, I know that. What else do you have to say?" Any site that wants to attract readers day after day needs to provide a continuous stream of new content. As an example, so far this year we have posted 915 news items, or 180 per month. And we have at least a dozen different things that we whine about, not just one. Trump doesn't seem to understand that to keep people's attention, you can't just whine about the same thing every day. You have to find new things. It is as if on his TV show "The Apprentice," he made one new show every season and then ran it 52 times.

One of Trump's senior aides, Jason Miller, "explained" why the blog sank without a trace so fast: "It was just auxiliary to the broader efforts we have and are working on." Huh? If it was a good idea and had many devoted readers, surely it could have lived on. But it wasn't so it didn't. It is a good thing Trump didn't start a new TV network, which he was thinking about at one time. If he was incapable of writing three or four short new items every day, how could he ever have filled up even 3 hours of prime time, let alone the rest of the day.

One thing he could have done is hire other people to write posts every day. If he had gotten the Millers (Jason and Stephen) to write up one news item each and every day and found a couple of other Trumpists to write up a daily item, that could have been a start. He could also have accepted guest items from Trump-worshiping politicians. He could have had a comments section, although it might have become a cesspool or battlefield early on. The trouble with all of those things is that Trump wants everything to be about him and no one else. And if he wasn't willing to share the space with others, he needed to fill it himself. As it turns out, he had nothing to say.

Now what? He has been banned from Twitter and Facebook (at least for now), so he doesn't have any obvious place to go. Without them or his blog, how can he raise money, something he is going to need if he decides to run again in 2024? In fact, he is going to need money even if he doesn't run again. He has hundreds of millions of dollars of loans coming due in the next 3 or 4 years and will have to pay lawyers to defend him in civil and criminal investigations in Georgia, New York, and possibly D.C. Remaining relevant is going to be a challenge. It will be interesting to see how he tries to do it. (V)

Tampa Man Pleads Guilty to Storming the Capitol

Hundreds of people have been charged with various crimes as a result of an insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Now some of those cases are moving forward. Yesterday, a man from Tampa, Paul Hodgkins (38) pleaded guilty to one felony count of attempting to obstruct Congress. As part of a deal with prosecutors, other charges against him were dropped. Under federal guidelines, he could get 15-21 months in prison and/or a fine of $7,500 to $75,000. His sentence will be closely watched by other defendants who have to decide whether to accept a plea deal or ask for a jury trial. In a trial they might get off scot free or be found guilty of multiple charges and then get to spend a lot more time on federal property than they did on Jan. 6.

On Jan. 6, Hodgkins got into the Senate chamber carrying a Trump flag and was photographed there with it. In his case, he had little chance of convincing a jury that he wasn't there, so taking a light-ish sentence was probably his best bet. Also, Hodgkins has no connection to any insurrectionist or alt-right groups. Furthermore, he admitted what he did was illegal and took full responsibility for it. Other insurrectionists may think they can beat the rap and may go to trial. The feds may not be so kind to people who are members of alt-right groups, who have a history of illegal behavior, or who insist that they were defending the country by trying to install Donald Trump as president.

How this plays out for the other 450 defendants depends on what they are charged with. About half of them are charged with misdemeanors and are unlikely to face prison. They could be fined, though. The others are charged with attempting to impede Congress, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. If prosecutors offer the others, say 3 years in prison in return for pleading guilty, will they take it? A lot depends on how much time Hodgkins gets.

Hodgkins isn't the first person to plead guilty in connection with the insurrection. On April 16, one of the founding members of the Oath Keepers, Jon Schaffer (53), agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. He could get up to 4 years in prison, but if he names some names and helps them get convictions of other insurrectionists, prosecutors could ask for a reduced sentence. (V)

Katie Hobbs Is Running for Governor of Arizona

Yesterday, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) announced that she is running for governor in 2022. The seat will be vacant because Gov. Doug Ducey (R-AZ) is term limited. Hobbs is one of only two Democrats in state office. The other one is Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman. However, both U.S. senators are Democrats and Joe Biden narrowly carried Arizona, so the state is trending purple.

The video announcing Hobbs' candidacy focused on her role running the 2020 elections. She said that she made sure the election was secure and every vote was counted, even though she received death threats as a result. The video also mentioned her priorities. She is a centrist and does not like being tied to the national Democratic Party. Before she ran for secretary of state, she was a social worker for 16 years. Then she was elected to the state House in 2010 and the state Senate in 2012, where she worked her way up to minority leader.

Hobbs has been a strong and outspoken critic of the ongoing election "audit" dreamed up by the Republican-controlled state Senate. Her fight against the "audit" has given her visibility and credibility with Democrats statewide and probably some non-Trumpy Republicans. In a state as closely balanced as Arizona, winning all the Democratic votes and 5-10% of the Republican votes would probably be enough to get the job. But before she gets to the general election, she will have to win the primary. Currently, there is only one other Democrat running, former Nogales Mayor Marco López Jr. He hasn't been in office in years and is certainly nowhere as well known as she is. If no other prominent Democrat files to run, Hobbs will be the favorite to get the gubernatorial nomination, but of course there is plenty of time for some state senator or other person to file.

If Hobbs wins, she will extend Arizona's record for having had the most female governors. Four of the last six occupants of the Grand Canyon State's gubernatorial mansion have been women, including two Republicans (Jane Dee Hull and Jan Brewer) and two Democrats (Rose Mofford and Janet Napolitano). Hobbs would, of course, make it five. Only one other state has even had three, though all were Democrats. Can you guess which state? We'll put the answer at the end of the last item. (V)

National Enquirer Settles with FEC over Helping Trump in 2016

In 2016, the parent company of the National Enquirer gave former Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal $150,000 in hush money to keep her from selling her story about having a months-long affair with Donald Trump. The FEC later determined that the payment was an illegal contribution-in-kind to the Trump campaign and fined the company—then called American Media, Inc., and now called A360 Media LLC. The company has now accepted the FEC's decision and will pay a fine of $187,500 to finally end the case.

Initially, when caught, then-CEO David Pecker argued he was just a journalist doing his job. That didn't impress prosecutors, who knew full well that Trump and Pecker have been buddies for decades. They're practically family; in fact, it would not be wrong to say that Trump is a Pecker. Anyhow, in 2018, Pecker admitted that the payment was indeed intended to help Trump and was thus clearly a campaign contribution and way over the legal limit to boot.

In addition, the FEC concluded that Pecker coordinated with the Trump campaign because Pecker had contact with Trump's then-fixer, now jailbird, Michael Cohen. Cohen told Pecker that the company would be reimbursed. Cohen pleaded guilty to this offense (among others) and was sent to prison for it. So far, Trump himself has escaped any form of punishment for this campaign finance violation. The FEC considered taking action against Trump, but the Republicans on the Commission blocked all action, saying that pursuing the matter was not the best use of agency resources. Actually, the whole purpose of the FEC is to enforce election law.

Common Cause vice president Paul S. Ryan (not the politician) noted that all the people who did the dirty work for Trump have been punished, but Trump, who masterminded the scheme, has walked. The Dept. of Justice could yet take action against Trump, but it has to move fast since the statute of limitations on this expires in August. (V)

Liberty University Is at a Crossroads

Liberty University, the most prominent evangelical university in the country, with over 100,000 students, is being roiled by a dispute over its future. The university was founded by Jerry Falwell Sr., who was primarily interested in saving souls. His son, Jerry Falwell Jr., later took over from Dad and was primarily interested in helping Donald Trump, although he and his wife also had a side interest in having kinky sex with a pool boy in Florida in return for various gifts and financial help. The latter interest got Falwell fired 9 months ago.

Now the university trustees are stuck with a dilemma. Are they fundamentally fundamentalists or are they fundamentally a subsidiary of the Trump Organization? In other words, is their primary mission to win souls or win elections? Turns out these are not the same thing and not everyone involved with the university is on the same page here. The trustees are older conservative Trump supporters. All are white, now that Allen McFarland, the first Black person to serve as the chairman, has been booted. The trustees are keen on keeping politics front and center.

However, many younger evangelicals, especially Liberty students, have had enough of Trump and want to bring the focus of the university back to religion, not right-wing politics. If the trustees keep the university primarily political, students could leave and find another evangelical university that is focused primarily (or entirely) on religion.

Falwell Jr. has a brother, Jonathan, who is not very political and is much more interested in religion. Currently the trustees are under pressure to appoint Jonathan as chancellor. He is currently the university pastor, a role with considerable visibility but no power. Unlike his brother, Jonathan is no fan of Donald Trump. Whether he and his wife have an interest in Florida pool boys is not known. In any event, Jonathan has no interest in becoming enmeshed in national politics. His true love is preaching. If he were to become chancellor, Liberty would hire a separate president to administer the university, but it is not clear who would be top dog and call the shots.

But the decision is very important and could affect where evangelicals nationwide turn their attention in the coming years. If Jonathan takes over and decides that evangelicals should focus on doing what God wants them to do, not what Trump wants them to do, it could have a major political impact on the Republican Party. Falwell Sr. always wanted Jonathan to play a major role at Liberty, so making him chancellor would fulfill the founder's dream.

The difference between Jerry Jr. and Jonathan was made crystal clear by the 2017 white supremacist march in Charlottesville. Remember, the one about which Trump said there were "very fine people on both sides"? A few days later, Jerry Jr. went on Martha Raddatz' "This Week" on ABC and was asked about Trump's statement. His reply: "He has inside information that I don't have." Jonathan, in contrast, delivered a blistering sermon at his church the Sunday after the march. He said: "The one thing that I know is that God calls it sin. Racism is against God's word, it is wrong every single time." The two brothers don't get along all that well.

Another issue Liberty has to deal with is the Falkirk Center on campus. It is named after Falwell Sr. and GOP activist Charlie Kirk. It has hired people like Trump's lawyer Jenna Ellis and spent money on Facebook promoting Republican candidates for office. However, the student body president and vice president have tweeted that they think the center is overtly partisan and not Christian. Hundreds of Liberty students have signed a petition that claims the center is damaging the university's reputation. In short, depending on how things go, Trump's days on campus could be numbered. If Liberty turns away from Trumpism, that is sure to affect evangelicals across the country, who see it as a leader of their faith. (V)

Bye-Bye, Bibi

Israeli politician Yair Lapid has cobbled together an eight-party coalition that will topple Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (known in Israel as "Bibi"). This will have ramifications for the politics of the Middle East, Joe Biden's foreign policy, and more.

What we find the most interesting is watching how parliamentary democracies based on proportional representation work. To start with, the Israeli parliament must first approve the coalition. One of the parties could get cold feet in the next week before it happens. The coalition is extremely unstable because the eight parties don't like each other and have little to nothing in common in terms of whom they represent and what they want, with one exception: They all want to remove Netanyahu from power. Beyond that, they are all over the map. There are left-wing parties, right-wing parties, and even an Arab party is in the coalition. Once they have gotten rid of Netanyahu and maybe passed a budget, it will be difficult for them to do anything else. This is always an issue in parliamentary systems, but Israel demonstrates the weakness of that system in spades because it has so many tiny parties, all of which want different things. Thirteen parties have seats in the 120-seat Knesset, but 11 of them have fewer than 10 seats.

For the first 2 years, Naftali Bennett, the son of American immigrants to Israel, will be prime minister. Then Lapid will take over. Bennett's party, Yamina (which means "rightwards" in Hebrew) got only seven seats in the Knesset, not a massive power base. He is strongly opposed to a Palestinian state and wants Israel to annex the entire West Bank. This is unacceptable to Lapid. This is not the kind of minor tiff you can easily paper over for long with a vague position paper.

Imagine that to form a government in the U.S., Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chuck Schumer, Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Joe Manchin, Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Ted Cruz (R-TX) had to agree on a plan to run the government for the next 4 years. And they also had to pick a cabinet they could all live with and with the presidency alternating between the parties. Technically that could be done by having President Sanders asking his veep to resign and then nominating Cruz as the new veep and then resigning himself after Cruz was confirmed. Then after a spell, Cruz could ask his veep to resign so he could nominate Sinema as his veep and then resign. Can you imagine that working?

For Joe Biden, getting rid of Netanyahu is an unmitigated positive. The now-former PM actively tried to block any plan that might lead to peace in the Middle East. Biden is now free to hire noted Middle East expert Jared Kushner to try to arrange a peace plan. Or, if he is unavailable, maybe Secretary of State Tony Blinken can give it a shot. It will now be exceedingly difficult, but that is a big step forward from "totally impossible." (V)

Women Governors: The answer to the question above is Kansas: Joan Finney, Kathleen Sebelius, and the incumbent, Laura Kelly have all led the state.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun02 Biden Speaks in Tulsa
Jun02 Democracy in Danger
Jun02 To Trump or Not to Trump: The Democrats
Jun02 To Trump or Not to Trump: The Republicans
Jun02 RNC Is Already Whining about 2024 Debates
Jun02 Limbaugh's Empire Splinters
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Jun01 3-D Chess, Texas-Style
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Jun01 Corporate America Gets Woke
Jun01 GOP Has a Greene-Sized Headache
Jun01 Flynn Appears to Be All-in on Military Coup
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May31 Exhausted Voters, Exhausted Ballots
May30 Sunday Mailbag
May29 The Republicans' Line Holds on 1/6 Commission
May29 Saturday Q&A
May28 As the Senate Turns
May28 Many Republicans Would Like to Move On from Trump
May28 Trump Legal Blotter
May28 Something Else for Trump to Worry About
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May26 Trump Grand Jury Is Convened
May26 1/6 Commission Bill Speeds Up
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