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Breach of Ohio Election Network Draws Scrutiny
The GOP Has a Bad Men Problem
Biden Replaces DeJoy Allies on Postal Board

McCarthy Shoots, CBO Scores

Ok, so it was actually not in that order. And it was more like "McCarthy shoots... his mouth off." Still, the point is that yesterday had much drama on the reconciliation bill front.

Let's start with the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), since again, that came first. Operating a little bit ahead of their previously announced timeline, the CBO released its score for the bill. And given that we live in a world with two entirely different sets of facts, the report was deemed to be a big win for the Democrats by some outlets, and a total train wreck by others. For example, the headline in The Washington Post was "CBO delivers surprisingly good news to Democrats on Build Back Better," while the National Review headline was "CBO Cost Estimate a Disaster for Democrats."

Where does the truth lie? Well, the Republicans can extract two talking points from the report. The first is that, contrary to White House claims, the CBO does not think that the bill is deficit neutral. And the second is that the amount the CBO thinks the bill will add to the deficit is $367 billion. That's a lot of money. A whole lot of money. Heck, that's Elon Musk money.

However, the Democrats have the stronger side of the argument, though with their usual bad luck that their side is much more complicated and so is harder to explain to voters. The bill, as currently written, has $80 billion in it for the IRS to more aggressively enforce the tax code. However, the CBO disagrees with the White House as to how much additional revenue that will generate. The CBO thinks that tax cheats will find new and innovative ways to cheat, with the result being that the $80 billion will return $207 billion in additional tax revenue. The White House thinks that the additional revenue will be more like $400 billion.

That's a difference of nearly $200 billion, and while the White House is likely too optimistic, the CBO is likely too pessimistic. Further, and rather significantly, the CBO included the $80 billion outlay in its figuring but did not include the $207 billion in new revenue. That means that even if the CBO's more pessimistic figure is correct, the actual amount added to the deficit would be $160 billion... over 10 years. $16 billion per year is pretty much a rounding error when it comes to the federal budget and, again, it could end up being less than that. By way of comparison, the CBO estimated that the Republicans' tax cut would add roughly $146 billion per year to the deficit (a figure that has proven to be low, thus far). So, Democrats are in a position to respond to Republican complaints about creeping socialism by asking "Oh, you mean our bill that added about 10% as much to the deficit as your tax cut?"

The other thing working in the Democrats' favor, at least at the moment, is that they don't particularly need to convince millions of voters that the bill is deficit-neutral, or nearly so. They just have to convince a couple of voters, one of them from West Virginia and the other from Arizona. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) did his usual hemming and hawing after the CBO issued its findings, while Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) did her usual impression of Marcel Marceau. However, neither of them is stupid, and both will understand the various nuances here when it comes time for the Senate to resume work on the bill.

Before that can happen, however, the House has to pass their version of the bill. And they were expected to do so yesterday afternoon/early evening. However, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) did not account for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who delivered a seemingly endless speech/rant, stretching early into the morning, causing Pelosi to move the vote to today.

What is going on here? Well, members of the House are generally allowed to give one-minute speeches on the floor of the House when legislation is under consideration. These speeches are known as "one minutes," as in "We listened to 33 one minutes before we finally took a vote." Clearly there's a lot of creativity in the lower chamber. Anyhow, the Speaker, the House Majority Leader and the House Minority Leader are afforded the privilege of the "magic minute," where their one minutes can last... as long as they see fit. In other words, it's the House version of a filibuster. Pelosi may not have known that McCarthy was about to drop a marathon magic minute on her, but she was certainly aware of the option, since she delivered the longest magic minute in the history of the House (8 hours) a few years ago. Actually, it was the longest, but at 5:15 a.m. this morning, McCarthy yielded the floor as the new record-holder. But while he may now be #1, he was not man enough to deliver the whole speech while wearing 4-inch stilettos, as Pelosi did.

The Minority Leader's goal was to force a late-night vote, so Republicans would have a talking point about "wasteful spending bills passed in the dead of night." When it became clear that was not going to happen, then he started blathering on about whatever came into his head, like Jimmy Carter's sweaters (really). The purpose, once the vote was rescheduled, was to perform for Donald Trump and his acolytes, and to show that McCarthy can be just as... whatever you want to call it as the Trumpiest members of his party. It remains to be seen how impressed Trump and his base will be. Anyhow, the vote is expected early today, and the fact that it's still going forward strongly suggests that Pelosi has the votes for it to succeed. It's going to be close, though, as Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME) has already said he's a "no," leaving the Speaker with just two votes to burn. We'll know for sure in a matter of hours. (Z)

Could the Senate Actually Avoid another Debt-Ceiling Showdown?

There's a strong case to be made that nobody wins when the debt ceiling is held hostage. Certainly, the country doesn't win. And in the Senate chamber, which is where the showdowns always happen, time is wasted, relationships are soured, and voters on both sides of the aisle end up aggravated. The last showdown, back in October, certainly did not go well for the Republicans. Not only did they fail to achieve their goal of scoring talking points to use against the Democrats, but they also ended up in the middle of a nasty public squabble, with Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO), in particular, openly taking potshots at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

In view of all of this, not to mention the fact that members on both sides of the aisle are not going to be enthusiastic about ruining their holiday recess, it is not too surprising that McConnell is doing more to play nice in advance of the latest "the government is out of money" deadline, which is Dec. 15. Whereas the Minority Leader did not meet with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) at all during the last standoff, preferring instead to "negotiate" through the media, this time they are meeting on a regular basis. And both are promising that they will not allow a default, no matter what.

Outside of Cruz and Hawley, who continue to believe they might actually be elected president someday, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who always loves an opportunity to go scorched earth, the Republican conference does not appear to have the stomach for another game of chicken. They want the Democrats to use reconciliation, but don't want to drag the process out with endless amendments and procedural votes. That would give the GOP enough of a talking point, most Republican members figure. The Democrats would prefer a bipartisan bill, but were previously willing to pass a clean debt-ceiling-increase bill solely with Democratic votes. The latter option would appear to be the middle ground between "reconciliation bill" and "bipartisan bill," so that's probably where this ends up. That said, never underestimate Cruz's ability, in particular, to make things far more difficult than everyone else wants them to be. (Z)

One Day after Gosar Vote, He and Other Republicans Are Defiant

On Wednesday, House Democrats—joined by a grand total of two Republicans—voted to censure Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and to strip him of his committee assignments. The ostensible goal of this was to teach the Representative in particular, and his colleagues in general, that there are certain lines that are not to be crossed.

It did not take long for confirmation that no lesson was learned. Gosar, for his part, continued to play the martyr for anyone and everyone who would listen. He also retweeted the anime clip showing him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). That was the clip that triggered the censure in the first place, and that he had previously deleted. He knows full well that the Democrats have now used every tool at their disposal, and that his colleagues have no intention of holding him accountable.

In case there was even the slightest doubt on that point, Kevin McCarthy announced on Thursday morning that, if he takes over the Speakership in 2023, he will restore Gosar and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) to their committee assignments. He can do that if and when he's running the show. The Minority Leader spends much of his time kowtowing to Donald Trump, and it's surely not a coincidence that McCarthy announced his plans for "amnesty" not long after the former president formally endorsed Gosar's reelection bid. Just in case you had any doubt at all where Trump stood on all of this.

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), who is in competition with Gosar for the title of most deplorable member of Congress, also weighed in with a speech delivered from the floor of the House. She engaged in a little casual bigotry, referring to Rep. Ilhan Omar (DFL-MN) as a member of the "Jihad Squad." Boebert also found time to slur another colleague, accusing Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) of sleeping with a Chinese spy. And with her remaining time, the Representative warned that she was already making a list of Democrats that she wants to go after once the Republicans control the House.

And therein lies the actual long-term implication of the censure vote. The several dozen Republicans at whom it was directed were uncowed, and have no intention of changing their behavior. What they do intend to do is to use the Gosar "martyrdom" as an excuse to put the screws to Democratic members, even if those Democrats don't come within the same ZIP code of the line that Gosar crossed. This is not to say that Nancy Pelosi & Co. made a mistake in holding the censure vote, however; if Gosar had not been punished, that would also have encouraged him and his colleagues to keep pushing the envelope. Sometimes a situation is no-win. (Z)

RNC Chair Pushes Back against Trump, at Least a Little

Yesterday, RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel attended a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. And apparently, on her way to the breakfast, she stopped at the bank and got the Romney family spine out of the safe deposit box where it normally resides. We say that because the Chair twice used the occasion to push back against the Trump wing of the party.

First up was a defense of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY). Asked about the Representative's "expulsion" from the Party by Wyoming Republicans, McDaniel said: "You know, the Wyoming GOP took their actions. Obviously, she's still a Republican. She's a Republican in the conference. She's still got an 'R' next to her name." In other words: "Nice try Wyoming Republicans, but no dice."

Even more consequential, however, was McDaniel's admission a few minutes later that Joe Biden won the presidential election last year. "Painfully, Joe Biden won the election and it's very painful to watch," she said. "He's the President. We know that." Though she hedged a little, complaining about "lots of problems" with the election, this is the first time she has acknowledged the real outcome.

So, might this be the beginning of the RNC putting some distance between itself and Donald Trump? One doesn't want to read too much into a couple of comments, of course, but it certainly could be. There is a fundamental tension here, in that the RNC's sole concern is helping Republicans to win elections while Donald Trump's sole concern is Donald Trump. When Trump was running for office as a Republican, those two goals were in alignment. Now, however, the two agendas are in opposition, as McDaniel & Co. are focused on winning as many elections next year as is possible, while Trump is focused on settling as many scores as is possible, even if that means backing unelectable candidates.

McDaniel may have decided, then, that the band-aid is going to come off at some point in the next year, and the time to start pulling might just be now. On the other hand, maybe this was an anomaly, and the spine went right back to the bank after the breakfast. We'll see, but it certainly bears watching. (Z)

Well, That's Not Very Environmentally Friendly

Last week, Joe Biden attended the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, and promised the U.S. would "lead by example" in the fight against global warming. Then, shortly after his return to the U.S., the federal government commenced its long-planned auction of oil leases, covering more than 80 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico.

This juxtaposition is not a good look for the administration, particularly with the two events taking place essentially back-to-back. Environmentalists are not happy, and the international community is none-too-happy, either. In fact, the link in the previous paragraph is to The Guardian, a British newspaper. A link from an American outlet is not so easy to find, because the story has gotten very little attention back in the United States.

If Donald Trump had done this, of course, the story would be all over the place. Granted, he never would have gone to an environmental summit in the first place, and so would not have created this particular juxtaposition. However, just the auction alone would have gotten all kinds of attention. We know this because every time the Trump administration did sell drilling leases (or even tried to sell drilling leases), it was major national news.

So, is this a case of media bias, and a sign that they are in the bag for the liberals? Could be, but we would say it is not. The reason that the Trump drilling leases got so much attention is that they were a clear and easily explainable manifestation of that administration's general policy of plundering the natural environment for all it is worth, often at the behest of the petroleum industry.

In Biden's case, the picture is more complicated. The environmentalists are accusing him of also being a plunderer, willing to betray his promises at COP26 because he's currently taking flak for high gas prices. The administration's argument is that it attempted to stop selling the leases, the (very conservative) Fifth Circuit stepped in and said "you can't do that," and there's no real option but to yield to the Court's order while the appeals process plays out.

There is probably some truth on both sides of this argument. The administration really did try to kill the leasing program, and will be happy to claim that it put a stake through the program's heart, when and if the appeals process works out in its favor. At the same time, gas prices are high because supplies of gas are low, so the White House is probably not too unhappy to increase the petroleum supply a bit, even if it might take a while for the new leases to result in the production of actual crude.

Readers can decide for themselves, of course, but we would say that there are two lessons here. The first is that governing is complicated, and often requires choosing the least bad option, as there is often no "good" option. The second is that media bias is complicated, too, and can only be judged by considering a wide selection of a particular outlet's coverage, over the course of months (or, ideally, years). Sites that reach conclusions by looking at a single item, as generally does, are just silly. (Z)

This Week in Schadenfreude

Ted Cruz is a world-class jerk. That's not a particularly controversial statement; even many of his Republican colleagues are willing to say it (or, at least, imply it) openly. He's also supposed to be remarkably intelligent. We assume that must be true, because so many people have said it, including people who dislike him. However, we have rarely, if ever, seen much direct evidence of that ourselves because his public persona is that of a down-home, boot-wearing, country-music-listening, Texas-loving borderline yokel. So, he rarely displays this reputed intellect for the cameras. We also have a hard time grasping how someone who is allegedly a genius can be so clueless about so many things. Like, even if you're not a sports fan, how can you not know that it's a basketball hoop, and not a basketball ring?

But we digress. The key points here are: (1) jerk and (2) often clueless. And the Senator had not one, but two, moments of epic cluelessness this week. The first came on Hannity, when Cruz lit into Liz Cheney: "I look at the situation of Liz Cheney and I just think it's sad... I think she falls into the category of people who Donald Trump just broke, just shattered."

It may have occurred to you, on reading that, that Sen. Pot probably should not be attacking Rep. Kettle like that. It certainly occurred to Twitter users, who observed that Cruz certainly knows what it's like to be "broken" by Trump, since it happened to him nearly half a decade ago. It also occurred to Cheney, who fired back: "Trump broke Ted Cruz. A real man would be defending his wife, and his father, and the Constitution." Ouch.

If that were not enough, Cruz resumed his program of trying to score cheap political points later in the week. The Hill reported that Joe Biden would spend Thanksgiving on Nantucket, as he normally does. And Cruz responded with this tweet:

We struggle to understand what potshot Cruz thought he was taking, particularly since the picture he used was of the Bidens attending Beau Biden's funeral. And we also find it hard to believe that he doesn't understand the reference he was making. On the other hand, maybe a guy who doesn't know what a basketball hoop is also doesn't know that he was effectively congratulating the President on the size of... well, let's just say the size of his stimulus package.

And it gets worse, because this inspired vast numbers of people to pen their very own Cruz-themed limericks. Here's the one from J.L. in Los Angeles, who brought this item to our attention:

Ted Cruz is a crass politician
Who made getting elected his mission
He ran to be POTUS
But Trump put him on notice
That the GOP must sow division!

And here are some of the others posted to Twitter:

There once was a man named Ted Cruz
Who crawled around licking Trump's shoes
He'll go back on his word
And pick on Big Bird
Because he's a pathetic traitorous cooze

A loathsome old fellow named Ted
Loved Donald, a creep who once said,
"Your wife's face is whack,
Your papa killed Jack,"
And Cruz followed wherever he led.

There once was a small "man" named Ted.
Who in a crisis to Mexico fled.
He said with a smirk
Because he's a terrible jerk
"Don't blame me, blame my daughters instead."

If readers would like to try their hand at limerick-writing, we'd be happy to run a few good ones targeting the Texas senator, or any other politician, on Sunday.

In any event, when a jerk who regularly puts himself above his colleagues, his constituents, and the Constitution manages to make himself into an object of national derision twice in one week, that's certainly occasion for a little schadenfreude. (Z)

Hooray for Hollywood: Readers' Favorite Films (Nos. 40-31)

After today, we'll have finished the bottom half of the list. Here are the four entries that have run so far:

And now, Nos. 40-31:

  1. Saving Private Ryan (1998; Steven Spielberg, dir.): One of Spielberg's best, and not Tom Hanks' worst. Brutal, realistic, and hard for World War II vets (like my Dad) to watch. (T.B. in Winston-Salem, NC)

  2. The Grapes of Wrath (1940; John Ford, dir.): Seen as a rerun in my teens. Beginning of my awareness of class and politics. (D.K. in Oceanside, CA)

  3. Chinatown (1974; Roman Polanski, dir.): The movie captures a sense of time and place, and is an homage to film noir without pandering to the genre. You peel off an onion until you get to the fetid core and then are told to forget about it, disorienting you. It is, as are all great movies, an experience. (T.J.R. in Metuchen, NJ)

  4. Blade Runner (1982; Ridley Scott, dir.): Clearly realized vision of a future where it rains in LA—always. (B.U. in St. Louis, MO)

  5. Blazing Saddles (1974; Mel Brooks, dir.): A satirical comedy with humorous historical insights that could/would never be made today. It says more about America than first meets the eye. (H.G. in Sarnia, ON, Canada)

  6. Duck Soup (1933; Leo McCarey, dir.): The Marx Brothers at their greatest, making it the funniest movie of all time. (R.S. in Chicago, IL)

  7. The Sting (1973; George Roy Hill, dir.): Underdogs vs. the machine. (T.S. in Mansfield, OH)

  8. Groundhog Day (1993; Harold Ramis, dir.): I truly love this movie; it's just about never giving up and just trying to improve. Plus, it's clever as hell! (D.B. in Keedysville, MD)

  9. It's A Wonderful Life (1946; Frank Capra, dir.): I should be sick of this one by now, but I'm not. (T.C. in Danby, NY)

  10. Fargo (1996; Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, dirs.): A desperate Midwestern car salesman triggers a series of gruesome crimes that a pregnant, small-town cop must disentangle. Brilliant performances and crisp writing make this dark comedy one of the most surprising and satisfying films in the modern American canon. (J.G. in San Diego, CA)

On Monday, it will be Nos. 30-21. That means that if you enjoy pondering such things, you can spend the weekend trying to ascertain which films might be in the Top 30, and whether or not Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo made the Top 10. (V & Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov18 All But Three Republicans Vote in Support of Gosar
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Nov18 Republicans Are Already Plotting Revenge for Bannon's Subpoena
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Nov18 Sarah Huckabee Sanders Is a Shoo-in for Governor of Arkansas
Nov18 Trump's Hotel in D.C. Will No Longer Have His Name on It
Nov18 Hooray for Hollywood: Readers' Favorite Films (Nos. 50-41)
Nov17 It's Debt-Ceiling Time... Again
Nov17 It's the Sixth Circuit
Nov17 SCOTUS Is Playing with Fire
Nov17 White House Set to Announce Diplomatic Boycott of 2022 Olympics
Nov17 Gosar Censure Vote Scheduled for Wednesday
Nov17 Speier to Retire
Nov17 Hooray for Hollywood: Readers' Favorite Films (Nos. 60-51)
Nov16 Biden Signs on the Dotted Line...
Nov16 ...And He Really Needs to Win the Lottery
Nov16 Bannon Surrenders, Is Released
Nov16 Welcome to Unpersonhood, Never Trumpers
Nov16 Beto Is In...
Nov16 ...And Leahy Is Out
Nov16 Hooray for Hollywood: Readers' Favorite Films (Honorable Mentions, Part II)
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Nov15 Hooray for Hollywood: Readers' Favorite Films (Honorable Mentions, Part I)
Nov14 Sunday Mailbag
Nov13 A Sleeping Giant Awakens
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Nov13 ...And Cherfilus-McCormick Scores the Win
Nov13 Saturday Q&A
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Nov12 Biden to Appoint Infrastructure Czar
Nov12 "Cancel Culture" Means Nothing
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Nov12 This Is Why We're (Probably) Stuck with Daylight Saving Time
Nov12 This Week in Schadenfreude
Nov11 Republicans Are Divided over the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill
Nov11 2022 Will Test Democracy