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Biden Wants GOP Support for His Infrastructure Bill "If Possible"

Yesterday on CNN's "State of the Union," senior White House adviser Anita Dunn said that Joe Biden would like GOP support on his infrastructure bill—if that is possible. She didn't say explicitly what he would do if it is not possible, but the clear implication was that then he would go it alone, with only Democratic votes using the budget reconciliation process.

She also said that he understands that he is now negotiating with the Republicans and that some compromise will be needed to get a bipartisan bill. However, the Republicans' bill offers only one-third of what he wants, so they are going to have to beef that up considerably if they are serious. Biden has undoubtedly seen the poll released last week showing that 60% of Americans would prefer the bill to be bipartisan, but after 50 years in politics, he also knows that voters ultimately judge politicians by results, not process.

Dunn didn't comment on the proposal of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to split the bill into one dealing with hard infrastructure, like repairing roads, and one dealing with the "other stuff." If Biden were to do that, he would get enormous pushback from the progressive wing of his own party, which values the "other stuff" (like fighting climate change) much more than it values fixing potholes.

But even a separate hard-infrastructure bill is likely to cost close to a trillion dollars. Manchin won't vote for it unless it is paid for. Getting the Republicans to agree to a way to pay for it will be a gigantic hurdle. Democrats want to raise the corporate income tax and income taxes on rich people. For Republicans, these ideas are completely off the table. A tax on stock trades (which many European countries have) could also raise a lot of money, but Wall Street would howl at that one. Getting agreement on how to pay for it could be harder than determining what is in the bill. Maybe a deal is possible, but it would require both sides to give up on issues that they consider really, really important. It will be a steep hill to climb. (V)

Manchin Believes that D.C. Statehood Requires a Constitutional Amendment

Joe Manchin loves being in the spotlight. He is a welcome guest on any political program he would like to be on. Reporters are asking him for his opinion on just about everything, not just coal mines. It's not an exaggeration to say that he is the second most important person in D.C. at the moment, after only the president (and just ahead of Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough). He's not keen on giving up his 15 minutes of fame.

On Friday, Manchin said he did not support the House bill to grant D.C. statehood. He said that if statehood is to be conferred upon D.C., there would need to be a constitutional amendment. The potential legal problem he's concerned with is the 23rd amendment, which gives D.C. three electoral votes. Some constitutional scholars also see that as a problem. Although we are not lawyers, we do not see that as a problem as long as there is at least one voter left in the "D.C." part of the District after it is partitioned into "Douglass" and "D.C." Then Douglass would get the electoral votes that it is entitled to as a state and D.C. would get three, per the 23rd Amendment. Of course, if only a handful of voters are left in the "D.C." part, they would have far more power than their numbers would justify. If Republicans complained, Democrats could offer to strip Wyoming and South Dakota of their electoral votes to make it fair. After all, buffalo can't vote.

Back on Planet Earth, Manchin doesn't give a hoot about the constitutional issues here. He is not a lawyer (he majored in business administration at West Virginia University). His problem is that if D.C. becomes a state, shortly thereafter there will be two new Democratic senators, and the Democratic caucus will expand to 52 votes and the Senate will expand to 102 seats. If all the other Democrats vote for some bill and he opposes it, there will be 51 votes for the bill and 50 Republican votes and his vote against it. At that point President of the Senate Kamala Harris will pop in and vote with the Democrats. Manchin's vote will no longer matter and his 15 minutes of fame will be over. People who majored in business administration can generally do arithmetic with numbers under 200.

Manchin's position is not set in stone and may not last forever. If, by the summer of 2022, it looks like the Democrats will lose a seat or two in the Senate, Manchin could come to realize that his role as a kingmaker is doomed no matter what, and it is better to be in the majority than in the minority. In that case he could reverse course and allow H.R. 51 to pass before the election so two new Democrats could be chosen in Nov. 2022. If it looks like the Democrats will win a couple of seats, then his role as a kingmaker is also going to be gone, so why not have a slightly bigger majority? (V)

Republicans Threaten Cheney

Last week House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) got into a food fight with Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), who styles herself as the leader of the anti-Trump Republicans and wants to bring back Dad's Old Party (the DOP?). Now it has gotten worse. The #2 Republican in the House, Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), and Jim Banks, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, which is the largest conservative caucus in the House, have aimed their fire at Cheney as well. They have suggested that she will be booted from her leadership role in the House (she is #3 in the pecking order) within a month. Scalise recently told Axios: "This idea that you just disregard President Trump is not where we are, and, frankly, he has a lot to offer still."

What triggered Scalise and Banks is Cheney's statement that anyone challenging the 2020 election results should be disqualified from running in 2024. And she didn't mean McCarthy, Scalise, or Banks. Cheney also said that a commission should investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection and just the Jan. 6 insurrection. It should not investigate any riots last summer or anything else that would distract it from focusing on the insurrection, who was guilty of it, and who put them up to it. McCarthy is more of the view that "all riots matter."

If McCarthy and Scalise want to kick Cheney out of the Republican leadership, they have to put it to a vote by their caucus. Given that 147 members voted against certifying the election results, there are probably enough votes to strip her of her position. Whether that is a wise move for a party that has very few women in positions of leadership remains to be seen. It might end up being counterproductive if more moderate female Republican voters are disgusted by the move and decide to switch teams in 2022.

Cheney got support yesterday from the other end of the Capitol. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), said: "We are not a party that is led by just one person." Them's fighting words to a lot of Republicans, who definitely see the party as being led by one person, and his name doesn't start with "McC." Collins also said she was appalled by the booing Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) got back home for offering even a feeble amount of resistance to King Donald I.

Kicking Cheney out of the House entirely would require a two-thirds majority of the entire House. While Democrats are not generally fond of the Cheneys, Democrats will never vote to expel her. After all, her "crime" is saying that Donald Trump lost the election. Democrats don't see that as an offense so serious that it warrants expulsion. It says something about where the Republican Party has moved in the past 15 years that Dick's daughter, who is politically a clone of her Dad, is now considered a sensible moderate. The Cheneys haven't changed, but the GOP certainly has. Of course, this shift has been going on for decades. In 1996, when it was the Cheneys and the John Ashcrofts and the Donald Rumsfelds who were the far-right fringe of the Party, Barry Goldwater said to Bob Dole: "We're the new liberals of the Republican party. Can you imagine that?" It is really something to be perceived as too far right by someone who was deemed to be too far right by Barry Goldwater. (V)

Giuliani May Have to Choose between Saving His Own Neck or Trump's

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, someone who understands how federal prosecutions work in detail, has written an article in Politico stating that Rudy Giuliani is in big trouble and his only way out may be to implicate Donald Trump.

Mariotti notes that the mere fact that federal investigators showed up at Giuliani's home and office with search warrants and seized his computers and other electronic devices tells us that Giuliani is already in very deep doo doo. To get search warrants, the investigators had to show a federal judge actual evidence that Giuliani committed a federal crime and convince the judge that more evidence was likely to be found in his home and/or office. Suspicions and hunches don't count. Federal judges do not issue warrants based on hunches. The fact that a judge issued the warrants means that investigators already have dirt on Giuliani. What they are looking for is more corroboration.

Mariotti thinks that the crime being investigated is a violation of the FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act), which requires people working for a foreign government to register as such. He thinks that Giuliani was lobbying Trump on behalf of Ukrainian oligarchs and some Ukrainian officials who wanted the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, fired because she was actively opposing the corruption those oligarchs were perpetrating. If Giuliani was being well compensated by the Ukrainians for attempting to get rid of their nemesis, Yovanovitch, and he didn't register under the conditions imposed by the FARA, he would be guilty of a crime.

So far, Giuliani's defense has been "there was no written contract," but Mariotti says that won't work. If you work for a foreign government or its agents and are paid for doing so, you have to register, even if there is no written contract. An oral contract is still a contract in this case.

So what are Giuliani's lawyers going to tell him to say at the trial, if there is one? His best option is to say he was working entirely on Trump's behalf and at his direction, and Trump knew everything he was doing and approved it. Then he could say that he was working to advance the interests of the United States as expressed by the president, not those of a foreign country. That would probably get him off the hook, as carrying out the president's lawful instructions is not a crime.

However, if Giuliani offered that defense, the Justice Dept. would instantly subpoena Trump so they could ask him about it under oath. He would then be subjected to a withering cross examination under oath. This case would not be handed to a couple of summer interns. Given the stakes, the Justice Dept. would use the cream of the crop, the best seasoned prosecutors they have. Trump is well known for lying under oath and would be no match for the Justice Dept.'s top prosecutors. He could easily slip up and lie about something that was easily proven to be false, thus setting himself up for a perjury charge.

If Giuliani uses the "Trump ordered me to do it" defense, Trump could plead the Fifth Amendment. However, he has repeatedly said that doing so makes you look guilty. And given how chaotic and disorganized he is, one has to wonder if he has the discipline to answer every question with "I hereby invoke my Fifth Amendment right not to answer that question." What if the prosecutor said: "Did you commit a federal felony while in office, yes or no?" and Trump pleads the Fifth? How will that look in 2024? If he says no, the prosecutor will have follow-up questions prepared and Trump will quickly forget his lawyers' entire plan.

If Giuliani is indicted and then asks Trump to play along at the trial and Trump refuses, Giuliani will be in a real bind. He could claim Trump told him to do it, but without any backup, that won't get him very far, especially if Yovanovitch knows more than she let on in her House testimony. Then Giuliani's lawyers could say the only way to avoid prison is to flip and rat on Trump concerning the Jan. 6 insurrection and a lot more. If Giuliani learns that Trump won't come to his aid, he could easily conclude it's every man for himself. (V)

Biden Is Giving the Pentagon Back the Money Trump Took for Wall Construction

Donald Trump raided the Pentagon's piggy bank to fund his pet wall project. But he wasn't able to spend it fast enough, and $14 billion remains unspent. Now Joe Biden is giving the money back to the Pentagon to spend the way Congress intended. This includes buying military vehicles, aircraft, and ships, as well as supporting the troops and their families.

A Pentagon spokesman said that all wall projects will be canceled and the money used for other purposes. Some of those do involve construction at the border, but not for stopping immigrants. For example, Trump's wall-building blew a big hole in the Rio Grande Valley's flood barrier system. That project can now resume. There is also a stretch of the river 14 miles long subject to erosion. That risk will also be addressed now.

This move is not unexpected. On his first day in office, Biden signed a proclamation ending the state of emergency that Trump had declared. That state of emergency is what "justified" taking money from the Pentagon's budget to use on the wall. Once the emergency was over, there was no more justification for spending the money in a way Congress never intended. So all the unspent funds are now going to revert to the projects for which Congress appropriated them. (V)

Poll: 64% of Americans Are Optimistic about the Direction of the Country

A new ABC/Ipsos poll shows that 64% of American adults think the country is headed in the right direction. This is a huge break with the past, where 60% or more of Americans felt the country was on the wrong track. Here is a graph of the Morning Consult poll on a similar topic (right track/wrong track). It hasn't quite hit the level of the Ipsos poll, but it is clearly moving in that direction:

Direction of the country poll; after 
being far apart since January of 2017, excepting a brief near-convergence in mid-2017, 'right track' and 'wrong track' have again converged
as of January of this year.

The last time the country was almost as optimistic as the Ipsos poll shows it is now was Dec. 2006, when 61% were optimistic. One warning sign is that spending and taxes remain a flash point, with only 52% in favor of the government spending money to revitalize the economy. A similar small majority (51%) think Biden is compromising enough with the Republicans. However, 39% think he is not doing enough.

If the positive mood holds up until Nov. 2022, it will help the Democrats enormously. If most of the country thinks things are going well, a pitch of "throw the bums out" will never work. Why throw them out if things are going smoothly? Of course, Nov. 2022 is something like a million years away. (V)

Cindy McCain Calls Arizona Election Audit "Ludicrous"

As we briefly discussed on Saturday, Arizona Senate Republicans hired a firm called Cyber Ninjas to audit the 2020 election results. The firm is based in Florida and has no experience with elections. Furthermore, its president, Doug Logan, is a pro-Trump conspiracy theorist. The company simply scooped up all the ballots from Maricopa County and will someday just announce who won. By taking the ballots, it broke the crucial chain of custody required for anyone to have confidence in the results. The company can now add or remove ballots at will with no one seeing what they are doing. It can now put in fake ballots, or alter existing ballots, without any scrutiny. Just imagine what Fox News will do if Cyber Ninjas puts in a fake ballot on which someone has scrawled: "I am a Mexican but I am voting anyway because I think Mexicans should have a say in the election." Tucker Carlson might expire right on the spot, as his own personal rapture commences.

Yesterday, John McCain's widow, Cindy McCain, called the whole show ludicrous. McCain is a conservative Republican, just as her husband was. Nevertheless, she said: "The election is over. Biden won."

McCain wasn't the only one to criticize the stunt. Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) said it was "such a farce" and called for it to end. She added: "A group of Republicans are trying to appease their base who refuse to accept that ... Trump lost Arizona and is not the president any more."

Even the Arizona Senate Republicans know they can't overturn the election and install Donald Trump as president. But that isn't their goal. What they want is for Cyber Ninjas to announce there was massive fraud so as to justify the legislature's passing laws that greatly restrict voting in the future. (V)

A Battle Is Brewing over the Chairmanship of the South Carolina Republican Party

South Carolina has only 9 electoral votes, but plays an oversize role in Republican politics because it is the most Republican of the four early primary states and the only one in the South. The current chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party is Drew McKissick. His Trumpist credentials are pretty solid. After all, in 2020, he canceled the primary and simply awarded all the state's delegates to Trump to avoid the possibility of some renegade winning a few of them.

But the new Republican politics is: "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the Trumpiest of them all?" And maybe McKissick isn't Trumpy enough. Attorney Lin Wood fought a valiant but ultimately futile battle to defeat the windmills—er, sorry, to overturn the will of Georgia's voters and get the state's 16 electoral votes put in Trump's column. He moved to South Carolina in February and is now running against McKissick for the chairmanship of the state party. Wood is mounting an unexpectedly strong challenge to McKissick, which says something about South Carolina Republican politics.

Wood is an adherent to the garbage QAnon conspiracy theory and still contends that Trump won the election in a landslide and is still the legal president. He speaks in a style that blends a Southern preacher with the experienced trial lawyer that he actually is. He declared that someone needs to shake up South Carolina politics and has humbly offered himself as the shaker. The only thing missing was an announcement that God had told him that he was the rightful Party chairman. Actually, unfortunately for Wood, God has already spoken from his winter quarters at Mar-A-Lago and endorsed McKissick. That was before Wood entered the fray, however, so perhaps new orders will come down from on high.

It's going to be a fun race between McKissick and Wood—for Democrats. Wood has said (without a shred of evidence) that McKissick doesn't care about stopping pedophiles. McKissick responded with some vague allegations about Wood and Chinese pornography. He also noted that the Georgia Bar Association wants Wood to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

Earlier this month in Greenville County, pro-Wood activists accused outgoing County Chairman Nate Leupp of rigging the local election and picketed his place of employment, a Christian music store, Majesty Music. Leupp called the activists "pitchfork and torch bearers." Wood's supporters apparently lost the local election, but taking a cue from Trump, disputed the count.

The new state chairman will be chosen by the 870 delegates to the state convention, which will be held May 15. The wrangling over those delegates is ongoing already. McKissick believes he is ahead, but no one really knows.

Also a problem is that the state party couldn't find a venue that was suitable during a pandemic for 870 people, so there will not be a physical convention, opening the door to potential monkey business. The voting will be conducted by county conventions and the votes will be reported upstream to the state party. Will the county chairs correctly report the votes to the state party? Given the history of Republican state politics in South Carolina, no one is sure of that, so the loyalties of the county chairs may be critical. Wood's supporters are pre-complaining that the election is rigged because McKissick holds sway over the county chairs.

OK, let's cut to the chase now. Suppose former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley decides to challenge Trump for the Republican nomination in 2024. Who do local Republicans want rigging the primary election, a Trumpist or a super Trumpist? That's the big question. If Trump gets all the delegates from the South Carolina primary, irrespective of how many votes he got from the actual voters, that will pretty much nip Haley's candidacy in the bud. South Carolina politics at its finest. (V)

TX-06: It's Over Before It Starts

Then-representative Ron Wright (R) of Texas died in February of COVID, a month after voting to overturn the election. He was the first sitting House member to die of the disease. Wright's death triggered a special election in TX-06, an R+9 gerrymandered district that barely hangs together:

TX-06; a small triangle in the northwest
barely touches the corner of a larger rectangle to the southeast

The first round of the special election was completed on Saturday. Wright's widow, Susan Wright (R), came in first in a 23-person field with 19.2% of the vote. Second was Jake Ellzey (R) with 13.8%. Third was Jana Lynne Sanchez (D) with 13.4%. This means that in the runoff, both candidates will be Republicans, so the GOP will hold the seat, no matter what.

This race again shows the need for adopting ranked-choice voting. The two leading candidates together got only 33% of the vote, so the other 67% will not be represented in the runoff. If there had been ranked-choice voting, then the other 67% could have made their second, third, and subsequent choices known, and the winner might have been someone who got more than one-fifth of the votes in the first round. This would also have saved the taxpayers the cost of running a second election.

Another issue here is how few people voted. Wright got 15,052 votes and Ellzey got 10,851 votes. Their totals represent 4.4% and 3.2%, respectively, of the number of voters who voted in the 2020 TX-06 congressional race. And remember, the Texas legislature is actively working on new laws that will make voting more difficult.

This is the second time within 6 weeks that the wife of someone who had been elected to Congress and who died of COVID-19 ran for her late husband's seat. Luke Letlow ran in LA-05 and won but died of COVID-19 before he was seated. His wife, Julia Letlow, ran in the special election and won. She was seated on April 14. (V)

Cheri Bustos Will Not Run for Reelection

The Democrats' problems holding the House in 2022 just got worse. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) won't run for reelection in 2022. Her district, which is in the northwest corner of the state, is D+3, so it will definitely be in play. However, with Illinois set to lose a seat in 2022, the new district lines may be quite different from the old ones.

Bustos was the chair of the DCCC in 2020. She was a strong advocate of running moderate candidates in most districts except very Democratic ones, saying that winning moderate voters was more important than winning progressive voters. She was unable to implement this plan, however, and the Democrats lost 13 seats in 2020 and barely hung onto their majority. If Bustos had her way, they might not have lost in places where a moderate Democrat might have had a chance, like Montana and Alaska. We'll never know for sure, but it's a results-based business and what we do know is that Bustos did not get good results. Not a single sitting House Republican lost in 2020. The Democrats were routed, despite having tons of money. While Bustos was not required to fall on her sword, she is not a popular figure among House Democrats, and decided that she doesn't have much of a future in the Party, so she is calling it quits.

Bustos comes from a political family. Her grandfather was a state representative. Her father was press secretary for Lt. Gov. Paul Simon, who later served in the Senate, and also chief of staff for Sen. Alan Dixon. She babysat the children of Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and learned a lot about politics from him. She even went door to door campaigning at the age of 10. But now her political career is over.

Bustos is the fourth House Democrat to throw in the towel. Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-02) and Filemón Vela (TX-34) aren't running in 2022 either, while Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) is going to take a shot at the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Rob Portman (R). Kirkpatrick's district is R+1, so it will be a huge battleground. Vela's district is D+10. Ryan's district is likely to disappear as Ohio is going to lose a House seat and Republicans control the redistricting process there. Two Republicans are also calling it quits: Kevin Brady, whose Texas district is R+28, and Tom Reed, whose New York district is R+6. You can track retirements using the link to the left of the map above. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
May02 Sunday Mailbag
May01 Saturday Q&A
Apr30 The Takeaways Are In
Apr30 The Reviews are In, Part I: Joe Biden
Apr30 The Reviews are In, Part II: Tim Scott
Apr30 The Ratings Are In
Apr30 100 Days
Apr30 Trump Says He Would Consider DeSantis for VP
Apr30 Zinke's Back
Apr30 It Would Seem that Trans Rights Are the New Gay Marriage...Maybe
Apr29 Biden Addresses (a Small Bit of) Congress
Apr29 Redistricting Revisited
Apr29 MacDonough Has Become K Street's New Star
Apr29 Two Key Biden Judicial Nominees Testify
Apr29 Feds Search Giuliani's Apartment
Apr29 Fed Will Keep Interest Rates Near Zero
Apr29 Poll: Americans Approve of Biden
Apr29 Kelly and Warnock Are Bellwethers
Apr29 Budd's Bid
Apr28 This Is Not a State of the Union Address
Apr28 This House Isn't Big Enough for the Both of Us?
Apr28 Hundreds of Prominent Businesses Support LGBTQ Equality
Apr28 Send in the Clowns
Apr28 More on the Census
Apr28 More on Crying Wolf
Apr28 No More "Op-Eds" in The New York Times
Apr27 The Returns Are In
Apr27 Supreme Court Pulls the Trigger on Concealed-Carry Case
Apr27 Kerry Enmeshed in Scandal...Maybe
Apr27 And Speaking of Crying Wolf
Apr27 Armenian Genocide Is Now Official (at Least in the U.S.)
Apr27 California Recall Is a Go
Apr27 Trump Endorses Wright in Texas
Apr27 Collins Is Out
Apr26 Biden's Next $2 Trillion "American Families Plan" Will Be Released This Week
Apr26 Redistricting Is Upon Us
Apr26 Biden Is Still Popular
Apr26 Poll: Reaction to Chauvin Verdict Is Partisan
Apr26 Walker Freezes Georgia
Apr26 Caitlyn Jenner Is Running for Governor of California
Apr26 Carter Beats Peterson in Louisiana
Apr26 The "Great Replacement Theory" Has It Backwards
Apr25 Sunday Mailbag
Apr24 Saturday Q&A
Apr23 House Passes D.C. Statehood Bill
Apr23 Biden Announces Ambitious Plans on Climate Change
Apr23 Democrats Are Also Working to Change the Voting Laws
Apr23 Black Democrats Prioritize H.R. 4 over H.R. 1
Apr23 Montana Restricts Voting Rights
Apr23 Democrats' Ambitions Are Succumbing to Reality