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Cuomo’s Book Became a Publisher’s Worst Nightmare
McConnell Credits Biden for Infrastructure Breakthrough
Inside Cuomo’s Final Days
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GOP Hopes Manchin and Sinema Pare Down Spending Bill

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  The Infrastructure Two-Step
      •  Trump Buys Some Time on the Tax Front
      •  Texas Democrats Buy Some Time on the Voting Front
      •  Tim Scott for President?
      •  Cuomo Tries to Save His Bacon
      •  It's Getting Harder for the Unvaxxed...
      •  ...Or Maybe It's Not Getting Hard at All

The Infrastructure Two-Step

Things are definitely picking up speed on the infrastructure front, and everyone on The Hill is doing the dance, as they try to maneuver themselves, and their party, into the best position, while leaving the other party in the worse position.

To start, the bipartisan bill appears to be on course for passage today. Anytime after 4:00 a.m. ET Tuesday, the Senate is legally allowed to vote. They presumably won't make a point of getting to work before the rooster crows, but it's expected that they will indeed pass the bill late this morning or early this afternoon.

This certainly appears to be a big win for Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and the Democrats in general, but Joel Mathis, writing for The Week, says "not so fast." His argument is that the Democrats were going to spend this money one way or another, either as part of a bipartisan bill, or rolled into the reconciliation bill. Doing it this way, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has achieved two things: (1) strengthened the "bipartisanship can work" argument, thus weakening the case for killing the filibuster, and (2) shown that he runs the Senate GOP caucus, and Donald Trump does not.

It's a compelling argument, and there is a fair bit of truth to it. That said, it's more a case of making the best out of a bad situation for the Minority Leader. And while it's probably true that Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) are feeling no particular motivation to kill the filibuster right now, it's also the case that Joe Biden just delivered on two major campaign promises, namely infrastructure spending and reaching across the aisle. That's two things where both Trump and Barack Obama came up short. So, the Democrats' 2022 and 2024 campaign pitch was also strengthened here. That's certainly the view of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who took a victory lap on Monday, declaring: "Well, Senator McConnell, things are changing. For once in a very long time, the United States Congress is going to stand with working families and not just the rich and the powerful." Needless to say, fixing rusting bridges prevents Cadillacs as well as Hondas from falling into the river and this is hardly what Sanders campaigned on, but he's trying to be a team player right now.

Of course, there is still plenty of time for the narrative to change, in one direction or another, depending on two very clear known unknowns. The first of these is whether or not the bipartisan bill will pass the House. It probably will, but don't count your chickens before the eggs hatch. The second of these is exactly what happens with the decidedly non-bipartisan reconciliation bill. And there was much intrigue on Monday with the latter.

See, Chuck Schumer knows a thing or two about timing. And so, while everyone was busy patting themselves on the back over the bipartisan bill, the Majority Leader introduced a $3.5 trillion budget resolution that includes instructions and a framework for a reconciliation bill. What it does not have, however, is a provision that would increase the nation's debt ceiling. In theory, at least as things currently stand, that would have to be passed separately. And since the separate legislation would not be passed via reconciliation, it would require Republican votes.

What the Majority Leader is setting up here is a multi-trillion-dollar game of chicken. What he wants is for the increase in the debt ceiling to be a bipartisan move, so that Republicans can't make too much hay out of the Democrats' big-spending ways. Alternatively, if McConnell & Co. don't blink, then Schumer expects that they will get the blame for throwing a wrench into the economy. Something along the lines of "50 Democrats were ready to do what needs to be done, but not a single Republican was willing to join us to keep the economy going!"

At the moment, both sides are saying exactly what you would expect them to say when D-Day (likely sometime in November) is still pretty far away. In other words, the Republicans are saying "No way, no how, not going to happen," and the Democrats are saying "Ahhh...the Republicans will come around eventually." We will see in 2-3 months who blinks first and, if nobody blinks, who gets the blame. We're not so sure about Schumer's assessment of the situation, but we don't feel strongly enough about it to substitute our judgment for his, given his vast experience as a political operator. So, we'll guess—but without much enthusiasm—that he's performing a more skillful dance than McConnell is here, until we're presented with evidence that shows otherwise. (Z)

Trump Buys Some Time on the Tax Front

Whatever his strengths or weaknesses may be, Donald Trump has spent decades perfecting the art of dragging things out through use of the court system. And whaddya know, he's done it again. Although the law that entitles House Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-MA) to look at anyone's tax returns, including the former president's, is as clear as ice, and although the Merrick Garland-led Department of Justice has agreed that the returns should be turned over, they will remain under lock and key (or, really, under encrypted password) until November, at the earliest. That is the schedule set yesterday by Judge Trevor McFadden. Trump's legal team will make its arguments, then the DoJ and the House will have a month to respond, and then there will be a hearing on November 8. McFadden will issue his ruling sometime thereafter.

Thus far in his career on the federal bench (which commenced in October 2017), McFadden has shown himself to be a company man, with that company being the Trump Organization. So while he might rule in favor of Garland and Neal, you shouldn't bet on it. And whatever he decides is going to be appealed by one side or the other. If you were planning on making the intricacies of The Donald's tax returns a major topic of discussion at Thanksgiving dinner, well, you might want to have a backup plan.

Of course, all of this could be moot. MyPillow guy Mike Lindell has run the numbers, and decided that—gasp!—Trump is not likely to return to the White House on August 13 (i.e., on Friday). Instead, he says it will be late August, or possibly September. That's plenty of time for Trump to resume his presidency, find a new hatchet, AG, and have that AG kill this case.

But if Lindell is wrong—and, really, what are the odds of that?—then the case will move forward, and the process will play out, with the result that there will be a resolution sometime before...oh, the Los Angeles Olympics (2028)? Of course, if this drags out too long, then Trump might well be a feeble-minded old man by the time it's over. Oh, wait... (Z)

Texas Democrats Buy Some Time on the Voting Front

Trevor McFadden wasn't the only Texas judge to put a legal matter into a holding pattern on Monday. Travis County State District Judge Brad Urrutia also did it, albeit with a shorter time frame. At the moment, of course, Republicans in the Texas state government, from Gov. Greg Abbott on down, are making their third attempt (one in regular session, two in special sessions) to pass restrictive new voting laws. The Democrats in the state legislature are currently engaged in a program of quorum jumping, in order to keep the legislature from being able to vote. In response to a petition filed by 19 of those Democrats, Urrutia ruled that the Governor and his allies in the legislature may not have the Democrats arrested or detained.

Texas law, and the rules of the Texas legislature, both empower the Republicans to do these things, and so a hearing will be held on August 20 to determine if such rules are actually legal. The Democrats argue that police power should not be used to achieve political ends. The Republicans argue that if Urrutia prohibits the arrests, he will be violating the Texas state constitution, and will also be riding roughshod over the separation of powers between branches. Since one of the responsibilities of judges is to serve as a check on the other two branches when those branches overstep their bounds, we're not so sure about the latter part of the Texas Republicans' argument.

That said, the Texas constitution says what it says, and in allowing aggressive measures to counter quorum-busting, it's pretty much in step with federal laws and with the laws of other states. Not helping the Democrats' case is that the lawyer who is currently handling the case is on probation, and also that the members of the Texas Democratic caucus are somewhat disorganized. They aren't even in agreement as to which members are part of the legal case, and they also don't have much of a plan for what happens next, particularly if they lose. A couple dozen members have been lingering in Washington D.C. since the first special session of the Texas legislature was called about a month ago, and they say they will remain there to "lobby" the members of Congress. However, the members of Congress are about to leave town for the summer, making that somewhat pointless. Add it up, and it looks like Texas will have new voting laws in place long before anyone in Congress gets their hands on Donald Trump's tax returns (see above). (Z)

Tim Scott for President?

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has very clearly positioned himself as the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination if Donald Trump does not run, or even if Trump is damaged enough that it makes sense for someone to challenge the throne. We actually think that the Governor is being unwise here; it is very hard to retain frontrunner status for 2-3 years when you are under a giant microscope and you have a giant target on your back. He's the flavor of the month right now, but it's a long time until next year's Florida gubernatorial election, or 2024's presidential election.

By contrast, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) appears to be playing things more shrewdly. It was pretty clear that he was at least considering a presidential bid when he delivered the Republican response to Joe Biden's first speech before Congress, and made sure to say all the things that Trumpy Republicans want to hear (particularly about race relations). And since then, he has been working behind the scenes to build a network of political and financial supporters. He's already raking in the bucks, including a $10 million donation to a Scott-aligned super PAC courtesy of Republican tech billionaire Larry Ellison and generous sums from other conservative mega-donors (or MAGA-donors). The Senator is also building a robust grassroots funding network.

This is, in our view, a much sounder strategy than the one that DeSantis is pursuing. Scott is keeping things on the down-low, and worrying more about nuts and bolts right now, as opposed to winning over the hearts and minds of the base. Of course, it's easier to play your hand in that way when you're one of 100 senators, as opposed to one of one governors. Scott is also helped a fair bit by being Black. As he is the only Black Republican U.S. senator, and is the most prominent Black Republican officeholder in the nation, politicians and pundits on the right have enormous motivation to heap nothing but praise on him, as he is the very foundation of their "The Republican Party is not racist" argument. That is a cousin of the "I couldn't possibly be racist because I have a Black friend" argument.

At the same time, Scott's race makes him an exciting presidential candidate to some Republicans, because they imagine he can steal some Black votes from the Democratic Party. That assumption is, by all evidences, a big mistake. When Scott last ran for the Senate, back in 2016, he got...8% of the Black vote (and that's in South Carolina, where even the Black people tend to be socially conservative). By contrast, when Donald Trump ran in 2020, he got...8% of the Black vote nationwide.

It is true that, in 2016, Scott was running against a Black opponent. Up against a white opponent, like Joe Biden, he might do better. Don't count on it, though. When two candidates are very similar, then religion, or gender, or race can be a tie-breaker. Similarly, when the candidates are poorly known, or are unknown, then voters often choose someone of their same demographic group. But in a presidential race, the two major-party candidates are neither similar, nor are they unknown. And it is foolish to assume that some huge number of Black Democrats will prefer a Black Republican over a white Democrat. Heck, it is foolish to assume that some huge number of Black Democrats will prefer a Black Democrat over a white Democrat if that Black Democrat is unsatisfactory to them. Just ask Jesse Jackson, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, etc. Black voters are not stupid; they know what Scott stands for.

Meanwhile, lest we forget, the Republican Party has a bunch of racists in it. And for every Black vote that Scott manages to add to the Republican tally, he's likely to lose a couple of white votes from Proud Boys or militia members or klansmen or Aryan Nation types. Oh, and the states where a relatively small number of Black voters could plausibly be decisive—Georgia, North Carolina, maybe Wisconsin—also happen to be among the states with the largest number of white racists. So, while we would not be surprised to see Scott emerge as a serious candidate, we would be very surprised indeed to see him win the White House. (Z)

Cuomo Tries to Save His Bacon

There was bad news, good news, and bad news for Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) on Monday, which we will present in that very order. The first bit of bad news is that the Governor offered a deal to the state legislature: "Don't impeach me, and I'll agree not to run for reelection." Since everyone believes he is finished, Cuomo wasn't exactly offering the moon and the stars here. To nobody's surprise, including him presumably, the legislature said "Thanks, but no thanks."

And now the good news. The state legislature declared on Monday that they plan to impeach Cuomo "with all due haste." However, they don't want to get sloppy here, and they want to make sure they have all their (lame) ducks in a row. So, they are going to spend the next few weeks reviewing the evidence and collecting expert testimony. That means that the Governor gets a brief reprieve. Perhaps in those three weeks, King Kong will attack New York City again and distract everyone, or the Earth will jump its orbit and plunge directly into the sun, or Mike Lindell will come up with proof that Cuomo never harassed anyone and, in fact, wasn't even in the country at the time.

But probably not. And that brings us to the second bit of bad news. The New York Assembly appears to be dead-set on impeachment; a spokesman announced yesterday that the Governor has "lost the confidence of the majority members." On the other hand, the state Senate is not in session right now. And besides that, by terms of New York state law, Cuomo must be given 30 days to prepare his defense. So, while impeachment is probable by the end of the month, a trial is not likely before October, if that soon.

The problem for the Governor is that, under the terms of that very same state law, he is removed from office as soon as he is impeached, with Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) taking over the governor's mansion, and Senate President Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) taking over as lieutenant governor. That means that Cuomo is probably going to be out of office by the end of the month, and will only regain his chair if he triumphs in the Senate trial—whenever they get around to holding it. And what are the odds of that? This is why Hochul is quietly preparing to commence her administration, while Cuomo's aides are pushing him to resign. Well, except for Melissa DeRosa, a member of the Governor's inner circle, who decided the game is already up, and quit yesterday. Sure looks to us like the writing's on the wall. Well, OK, it's New York, so the graffiti's on the wall. (Z)

It's Getting Harder for the Unvaxxed...

Speaking of the writing on the wall—and New York City, for that matter—let's pause for a brief sidebar, and consider the musical "Hair," which ran on Broadway for 1,750 performances commencing in April 1968, and famously featured on-stage nudity. (Z) uses this to start his lecture on the Vietnam War era and the cultural changes that were wrought upon America during that time. The point is that if a Broadway play had tried that in, say, 1955, then the more puritanical forces in American society would have shut the production down. But in 1968, when musicians, and TV shows, and poets, and artists, and filmmakers, and protesters were all pushing boundaries, it was harder to focus on any one of them, and so most got away with it.

We would propose that a similar dynamic is playing out with vaccine mandates. The anti-vaxx forces can concentrate their attention, and their blowback, and their boycotts if it is just one business, or one university, or one employer that compels vaccination. But when it's dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of entities, it becomes nearly impossible to mount a meaningful resistance. It also becomes increasingly impossible to live a normal life when being unvaccinated becomes a barrier to entry for...nearly everything. Sure, you can decide not to fly on planes, or cruise on ships, or eat at some (many?) restaurants, or attend most universities, or apply for some (many?) jobs, but that eventually becomes rather limiting.

On Monday, the vaccine-mandate shoes continued to fall. To start—and this was all but inevitable—members of the United States Armed Forces will soon be required to vaccinate, according to a plan announced by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. The deadline will be mid-September, or possibly even earlier, if the FDA grants final approval to the vaccines more quickly than expected. Service members who are willing to accept punishment, including time in the stockade/brig, along with possible dishonorable discharge, can keep holding out, if they wish. But otherwise, they are going to have to roll up their sleeves.

Most other entities cannot compel people to get shots, but—barring a court decision to the contrary—they can discriminate against those who are unvaccinated. And, with FDA approval right around the corner, there will be more and more discrimination of this sort. On Monday, the campaign of once (and future?) Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe (D) became the first political campaign to require that staffers be vaccinated. It won't be the last. And shortly after that announcement, the University of Minnesota joined the list of schools that won't let people on campus without getting their shots. It will not be long before graduating high school seniors who wish to continue their education will have two choices: (1) get vaccinated, or (2) go to Bob Jones University. Well, OK, there's a third choice: Liberty University, but they are not everyone's cup of tea.

This does not mean that the war is over, of course, and the anti-vaxx forces continue to push back, at least for now. Tucker Carlson, who is the self-appointed high priest of the anti-vaxxers, despite being vaccinated himself, took to the airwaves to compare mandatory vaccinations to forced sterilization. That's such a strong argument that we think that Carlson's physician really has no option but to sterilize the Fox host, so as to help him make his point. Then, once the procedure is done, the doctor can "remember" that, unlike vaccine mandates: (1) there's no medical or moral basis for mass forced sterilization, and (2) forced sterilization is inherently discriminatory, since a society that forcibly sterilized everyone wouldn't last for very long. In other words, vaccine mandates and forced sterilization aren't all that similar after all. Who knew that Tucker Carlson was capable of making a silly, bad-faith argument like that? (Z)

...Or Maybe It's Not Getting Hard at All

Some unvaccinated folks, then, might be persuaded to finally take care of business, either because they have greater confidence after final FDA approval of the vaccines, or because being unvaccinated is about to get very inconvenient (see above). Failing that, however, there may be another angle that will win over some holdouts.

What do we mean? Well, it turns out that men who are not vaccinated are very naughty boys. Or maybe it's men who are vaccinated. We're not quite sure how the verbiage works. What we do know, however, is that many sex workers who make their living as BDSM dommes are ordering their clients to show proof of vaccination. If the submissives provide the proof, they get spanked. If they don't provide proof, then no spankings. And in the world of BDSM, at least, the former is a good thing, and the latter is a bad thing.

This is not the only alternative sexual lifestyle where this dynamic is playing out, either. We're trying to keep this as PG-rated as possible, so imagine a fellow named Georgie Porgie who looks to the Roman emperor Caligula for cues as to how to conduct his love life. Well, it would not do for one person at the gathering to make all the others ill, and so folks who partake of this particular activity are now being strongly encouraged, and sometimes required, to show proof of vaccination before participating.

On the other hand, gentlemen who have not gotten vaccinated got some bad news last week. In the first (but probably not the last) study of its type, a group of researchers at the University of Miami found that—and again, we're trying to keep it PG here—gentlemen who have the COVID vaccine are not especially prone malfunctions (despite a popular rumor), but gentlemen who have had the disease definitely are. Given our goal of being family-friendly, as well as the curious racial undertones, we don't think we can run the graphic that was all over Twitter this weekend, but if you want to see it, it's here. The graphic shows that only 9% of vaccinated men had difficulty achieving lift-off, as it were, while 28% of unvaccinated men had difficulty.

The tone of this item is admittedly a little cheeky, but the point is a serious one. Pretty much everyone in the U.S. who doesn't need persuading has already gotten the vaccine. And from here on out, anything that gives a push to the holdouts helps. If 5% of people are won over by the increasing difficulties of living in a society while unvaccinated, and another 3% do it so that they can it, then that could just be enough to cross the herd immunity barrier. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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