Senate page     Aug. 02

Senate map
Previous | Next

New polls:  
Dem pickups: (None)
GOP pickups: (None)

McConnell Supports Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill

During all of the negotiations and hoopla about the bipartisan infrastructure bill, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) took the lead on the Republican side. If he pulls this off, he will have a legacy. It was now or never for him, since he is retiring next year. While this was going on, however, one senator was strangely quiet: Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Most turtles are quiet, but this one, not so much. Possibly he hadn't made up his mind, or maybe he didn't want to step on Portman's toes. In any event, he has now said that he will support the bill provided that all the Republicans in the gang of 10/20/21 also support it.

The reason McConnell was uncharacteristically silent is that his conference is badly torn. If a bipartisan bill passes, Joe Biden will crow about how he can work with the other side and all the bipartisanship fetishists will swoon. This would be a huge victory for the Democrats going into 2022. McConnell knows this very well. However, if the bill fails, it will give the Democrats an excuse to put the sun, the moon, and the stars in the reconciliation bill and then say that they were forced to do this because the Republicans refused to negotiate with them. If McConnell became the face of obstruction, that would not play well with the bipartisanship fetishists. Ultimately, he decided that passing a bill was the lesser of two evils.

It is also possible that McConnell is worried that if he kills the bill, one particular bipartisanship fetishist whom he knows very well, namely Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), will be really miffed. Manchin could express his displeasure by announcing that he has changed his mind and thinks it is time for some filibuster reform. McConnell certainly doesn't want that.

Complicating matters for McConnell is that Donald Trump is vehemently against the bill—not because there is something in the bill he dislikes, but because he doesn't want Biden to get credit for it.

Even if McConnell tries to get the bill through the Senate, it will be a rough slog as many members of his caucus don't want it and will try to sabotage it any way they can. For McConnell, the worst of all possible worlds is that he supports the bipartisan bill, his conference kills it, the Democrats pass a huge reconciliation bill that includes everything in the bipartisan bill and much more, and Manchin gets really angry with the Republicans. That is the last thing McConnell wants and he will move heaven and earth to prevent it.

The Minority Leader probably won't have to work too hard for too long, though, because Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on Sunday that a final vote on the bill could come "in a matter of days." Even if Senate Republicans try to filibuster, something that would not please McConnell, it would only add two days before a cloture motion could be voted on (and, presumably, approved). In other words, as long as 60+ votes are there, a filibuster would just extend things from, say, Wednesday to Friday. Hardly worth it, though don't put it past Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), and/or Josh Hawley (R-MO) to give it a try, in search of a few headlines and/or praise from Trump. (V)

Manchin: No Guarantee the Reconciliation Bill Will Pass

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is ever the media hog. Every time he opens his mouth it is front page news, and he knows that (and likes it very much). Yesterday, he told CNN that he couldn't guarantee that the reconciliation bill will pass. He wants to see the actual bill before committing himself. But in the past, he has said that if the bill is fully paid for and corporate taxes are not raised above 25%, he was generally on board with it.

So why did he go on CNN yesterday? Probably it was a gentle reminder to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, to make sure West Virginia gets enough pork to embarrass Iowa and Minnesota combined. (And yes, Minnesota is number two in pork. Who knew?)

Manchin did express his concern about inflation, but when asked if he wanted a smaller bill, he didn't say Sanders' bill was too greedy. He said that if the bill is entirely paid for, inflation shouldn't be a problem. Of course, the hard part is figuring out where to get the money, but since Republicans will not have a say in where it comes from, that will be much easier than with the bipartisan bill. Most likely Democrats will simply raise taxes on rich people and large corporations, as well as cranking up the capital gains tax and maybe the estate tax. When the Republicans don't have to be mollified, it shouldn't be too hard.

The bottom line on Manchin's appearance is that he is for the bill and, subject to a few conditions that will be acceptable to Sanders, will vote for it. If he votes for it, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) is not going to be willing to scuttle the bill. The price for her future would be too high (a guaranteed primary in 2024). She might ask for a few changes, but if they are somewhat reasonable, she'll get them and also vote for it.

Yesterday, in a rare Sunday session, Chuck Schumer said the reconciliation instructions are on track. He said the text would be released "imminently" and he expected to pass the resolution this week. The resolution is not an appropriations bill. It consists of instructions to the spending committees to meet certain targets. They will then get to work. The actual spending bills won't be finalized until September. (V)

Trump Brought in $56 Million for Republicans in First Half of 2021

One of the reasons Republicans in Congress are scared witless of criticizing Donald Trump is that he is still a prolific fundraising machine. In the first half of this year, he raised $34 million for his MAGA super PAC and another $21 million for his Trump Save America Committee. This money can be (and often is) deployed against people who criticize him.

The WinRed platform, the Republican answer to ActBlue, has announced its first-half-of-2021 haul, which includes what it pulled in for the Trump committees. Here are the biggest winners:

Most of the money Trump raised came from the rubes who didn't realize that they were signing up for a monthly donation rather than a single donation (or who knew that but couldn't find the hidden button to turn it off). All in all, WinRed took in a quarter of a billion dollars, which is not a bad haul for 6 months in an off year.

Trump's combined committees have $102 million in the bank now. This situation is unpresidented, as Trump might say. Never before has a former president had over $100 million in the bank to use for political ends after leaving office. It can be used to reward friends and punish enemies in 2022, but it could bankroll a 2024 run for Trump himself. Of course, it can also be used to pay himself and his family fat salaries for managing the money and giving advice on how to spend it.

Trump's success at raising money is not an unmixed blessing for the Republicans. Undoubtedly, in the absence of Trump's active fundraising, much of that money would have gone to the NRC, NRSC, NRCC, and individual Republican candidates. So by drawing so much money himself, he could be starving other Republicans of much needed funds, but there is nothing the rest of the Party can do about it. (V)

Treasury Dept. Must Give Congress Donald Trump's Tax Returns

A 1924 law states unambiguously that if the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee requests anyone's tax returns, the Secretary of the Treasury must turn them over. Former secretary Steven Mnuchin simply refused, saying that the chairman didn't have a valid reason, even though the law does not give the secretary any discretion or require any reason. Even if the chairman wants to line his bird cage with the returns, the law clearly states that the secretary must comply.

The chairman has now reiterated his request, but there is a new secretary and a new AG in town now. On Friday, the Dept. of Justice issued a memo that stated: "The statute at issue here is unambiguous: 'Upon written request of the chairman of one of the three congressional tax committees, the Secretary 'shall furnish' the requested tax information to the Committee.'"

In other words, the Dept. is basically ordering Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to give Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) the records he wants. However, Trump went to court earlier about this and then a federal judge said that before any potential release, the Dept. must give Trump's lawyers 72 hours' notice, so they can sue to stop the release. Needless to say, they will try, but if the judge actually reads the statute, it is completely unambiguous, given the term "shall furnish."

The Dept. of Justice memo leaves it to Congress to decide how much of the information it receives will be made public. The memo said: "After reviewing and analyzing the information, it will be squarely within the Committee's responsibility to decide whether or not to include some of that information in a report to the full House that might be available to the public." In other words, if Neal should, for example, write a bill requiring the president, vice president, and possibly cabinet officers to release 10 years of tax returns to prevent conflicts of interest, he could decide to include all or part of Trump's tax returns in an appendix as a case study of why the legislation was needed. So initially the ball will be in the judge's court when Trump's lawsuit arrives, and if Trump loses in court, probably Neal will get to make the call about making the returns public. (V)

Kinzinger Wants to Subpoena McCarthy and Jordan

The committee that is investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection is planning to hear from some of the folks involved in that day's events. And that includes members of Congress, even if they are not enthusiastic about testifying. Yesterday, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who is a member of the 1/6 Committee, told ABC News that he supports the idea of issuing subpoenas to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) to find out about their parts in it.

Neither one is likely to be enthusiastic about testifying. Both may go to court to make the claim that House committees cannot subpoena members. At the very least, they may try to stall for months. Jordan, in particular, loves to grandstand when questioning witnesses. He has never been on the other end of it, with very determined questioners asking him what he did on Jan. 6. And he knows that Kinzinger is going to ask how much contact Jordan had with Trump and what he said to the former president. Jordan could plead the Fifth Amendment if he wants to, but that never looks good, especially when Donald Trump has often said that only people who are guilty take the Fifth. (V)

McCarthy Says He Wants to Hit Nancy Pelosi If He Gets the Speaker's Gavel in 2023

On Saturday, Kevin McCarthy said that if the Republicans take the House and he becomes speaker on Jan. 3, 2023, and gets the gavel, "it will be hard not to hit her."

Not surprisingly, that remark got a couple of reactions. Pelosi's deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, tweeted: "A threat of violence to someone who was a target of a #January6th assassination attempt from your fellow Trump supporters is irresponsible and disgusting." Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) tweeted: "Violence against women is no laughing matter." He called on McCarthy to apologize. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) went further and called on McCarthy to resign. When reporters asked McCarthy to respond, he declined. (V)

Georgia Republicans Start a Formal Review of Fulton County Election Officials

Arizona Republicans are going after the ballots. Georgia Republicans are going after the ballot counters. On Friday, the Republican-controlled Georgia state legislature voted to conduct a performance review of election officials in Fulton County (Atlanta) to see if they did a good job. If the reviewers conclude they did not (which they probably will, no matter what the facts are), the legislature will step in and take away some of their authority in future elections, as allowed in the new Georgia voting law. If the legislature gets to run the election and count the ballots, voter suppression won't even be needed.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) has repeatedly said that the election results are accurate and state and county officials did their jobs correctly. But this is not what the legislature wants to hear, hence its own "performance review."

Prof. Edward Foley, a constitutional law and elections expert at Ohio State University, said that having a partisan legislature take over local elections is deeply troubling. He said: "That's the warning bell—it can lead to the corruption of the process and the undermining of the will of the people." Needless to say, the legislature sees this as a feature, not a bug. (V)

COVID-19 Is Running Rampant in Florida

In the past week, COVID-19 cases have jumped in Florida by 50%. More than 110,000 cases were recorded last week. This is comparable to the rate before vaccinations started in January. And more cases are expected, since only half of Florida's population is vaccinated. Florida is second in the country in new cases (after Louisiana) and second in hospitalizations (after Nevada).

So what is Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) doing about this? He is criticizing the CDC's guidance that people should wear masks indoors. He also signed an executive order saying that parents—not public health authorities—can decide whether their children wear masks in school. Since the CDC wants children to wear masks in school, DeSantis is playing to anti-mask, anti-vaxx parents who are prepared to sacrifice their children, if necessary, to DeSantis. This is somewhat like the story of Abraham and God in the Bible. Only God, to his credit, didn't actually want Abraham to kill his son. He just wanted to see how loyal Abraham was. We're not so sure about DeSantis. There is another starring role in the Bible that might suit the governor, except that Florida is known for oranges, and not apples.

DeSantis' order no doubt will play well with the base for now. The trouble is that if things get out of hand, hundreds of Floridians die in the next few months, and the pandemic continues to rage for months in Florida while it is much better contained in blue states, his track record as a governor might just come up during the 2022 campaign. How does "He let [X] Floridians die of COVID-19" sound as a Democratic campaign slogan in 2022? Having to govern and having a track record are problems all governors have, whereas senators, such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who is also up in 2022, don't have an actual track record to defend, just a bunch of (usually party-line) votes. Gubernatorial reelections are generally tougher than senatorial ones because governors make many decisions that affect people's lives, whereas senators don't make as many, except things like raising taxes and declaring war. (V)

GOP to Herschel Walker: Stay on the Bench

Donald Trump has been egging on former football player Herschel Walker to run for the Senate in Georgia. Last week a news story came out that Walker has admitted to mental illness, has been abusive to his ex-wife (to the point of being subject to a court order to stay away from her), and has lied about his finances. Senate Republicans noticed the story. In particular, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) has gotten involved and said: "I want to win that race. And to the extent that he is handicapped by some of these things that would make that unlikely, I'd prefer to have somebody else." This is Senate-speak for "He'll be the GOP nominee over my dead body." Needless to say, this puts Cornyn on a direct collision course with Trump.

Cornyn is not especially Trumpy and when the choice is (1) suck up to Trump and have the Democrats control the Senate or (2) tell Trump to shut up and maybe win back the Senate, there is no doubt he will do the latter. Same holds for Mitch McConnell, of course. If Trump were smart, he would forget the Georgia Senate race and go play golf, but he is not smart and won't.

Cornyn's message wasn't really to Trump, though. It was to Walker. Effectively he was telling Walker via the media that if he runs, he can expect the NRSC to pick one of the other Republican candidates and pour big money into supporting that candidate in order to defeat Walker. In other words, Cornyn is actively trying to scare Walker and keep him out of the race. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), who chairs the NRSC, has said that he doesn't want to get involved in primaries, but if getting involved is the difference between being in the majority and the minority in 2023, he will probably change his tune fairly quickly. He might do it indirectly though, by encouraging wealthy Republican donors to pony up for the candidate Scott thinks will do best in the general election, thus keeping his own hands clean.

Cornyn isn't the only senator sending out gentle hints. Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-LA) said: "Don't do it if you don't want to do it." This is Senate-speak for "Don't do it." This puts Walker in a bind, but our guess is that unless he got his bell rung one time too many, he'll get the message that the campaign would be all about his past and the Republican senators don't think he could win, and thus he should not run. If he chickens out, it will again show that Trump's power is waning and that when there is a direct conflict between what the Republican senators want and what Trump wants, the senators win. (V)

Previous | Next

Back to the main page