House Republicans In Disarray, Once Again

[ Posted Monday, April 22nd, 2024 – 15:53 UTC ]

Republicans in the House of Representatives truly are their own worst enemy. It has been this way since the Tea Party revolt, more than a decade ago. And it shows no signs of changing or abating any time soon.

Here is the basic dynamic: House Republicans want to accomplish things, but most of the time they can't even get their own act together enough to get bills passed through their own chamber. The hardliner faction among them takes a "my way or the highway" approach and demands 100 percent of everything on their agenda. A lot of this is seriously radical stuff, so the more-moderate Republicans balk at voting for it. The speaker makes a choice and either puts the totally radical bill on the floor or he strips their stuff out and puts a more-reasonable bill on the floor. Either way leads to furious infighting among the GOP. For the radical bills, no (or very few) Democrats vote for them. Any radical bills that pass (most of them fail because some Republicans from swing districts refuse to vote for them) then go over to the Senate, where they immediately die. For the reasonable bills, Democrats vote for them en masse (as long as there aren't any deal-breaking "poison pills" in the bill). Reasonable bills pass with all (or almost all) Democrats voting for them and the reasonable Republicans (about half of them, give or take) also voting for them. But this inevitably leads to the hardliners trying to force out their own speaker. This already happened to John Boehner, Paul Ryan, and Kevin McCarthy -- and now Mike Johnson is threatened by the same fate. The infighting is fierce during these challenges to the party leadership. Some Republicans enjoy fighting with fellow Republicans more than they enjoy sparring with Democrats, it seems.

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Friday Talking Points -- Week One Of The 'Don Snoreleone' Trial

[ Posted Friday, April 19th, 2024 – 17:12 UTC ]

We begin today with some rather sad breaking news. Outside the trial of Donald Trump in New York City, a man lit himself on fire in the protest area. However, from initial reports, this act of self-immolation was not actually political in nature, instead it appears to be the act of a man suffering from serious mental problems. From live reports from the scene:

A person familiar with the investigation into the man who set himself on fire said that one of the fliers that the man threw in the park referred to [New York University] as a mob, and another talked about the CIA and called the entire government a criminal operation.

A witness who saw the entire thing from a very short distance away said the man: "had a sign saying something about Trump and Biden working together to orchestrate a 'coup'," which clearly shows the act can't really be classified as partisan in any way. Anyone thinking that President Joe Biden and Donald Trump are "working together" on anything is obviously not in his right mind, to state the obvious. The man was still alive when taken to the hospital, but was said to be in critical condition. As of this writing, that's all the news there is on the subject.

Inside the trial room, the week ended with both a full jury and six alternate jurors being successfully seated, so everything is now on track for opening arguments to begin Monday morning. This is a faster schedule than some had anticipated, but the trial itself may take over a month to complete.

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Three-Dot Thursday

[ Posted Thursday, April 18th, 2024 – 15:40 UTC ]

We haven't done one of these for a while, but the disparate nature of the political news today seemed to suggest it was time for another "three-dot Thursday," where we follow in the footsteps of journalists of days of yore and heavily lean on our ellipses.

Today we have one serious story which could have very large political ramifications this November, as well as two monumentally silly stories to report from the Republican side of the aisle... but first...

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Impeachment? What Impeachment?

[ Posted Wednesday, April 17th, 2024 – 15:31 UTC ]

It has already been both a pioneering and superlative week at the crossover between the political and legal worlds (and it's only Wednesday!). Pioneering because this week saw both the opening of the first criminal trial of an American ex-president as well as the first Senate trial of a sitting cabinet member (after impeachment by the House of Representatives). The superlative part just happened today as well, as the "trial" of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was undoubtedly the fastest impeachment proceedings ever to occur in the Senate. The senators were sworn in as jurors, and then (after a few hours of Republicans blathering in a failed attempt to delay the inevitable) the whole body voted on motions to dismiss the two charges contained in the impeachment. Both were strict party-line votes, so the Mayorkas impeachment trial is now over before it even began.

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Two Things To Watch Out For In Trump's Trial

[ Posted Tuesday, April 16th, 2024 – 15:41 UTC ]

The first criminal trial of Donald Trump leapt forward today in New York City, making more progress than some had predicted after yesterday's rather slow start. Seven jurors have now been seated, which is more than one-third of the total needed (there will be a dozen jurors and six alternates in total). Nothing will happen tomorrow (the judge has ruled that the trial will take a break on every Wednesday), but it's not out of the question that a full panel of jurors could be seated by the end of the week.

Trump's legal team has been busy digging into all the prospective jurors' online presences, and several were challenged today "for cause." Lawyers from both sides -- the prosecution and the defense -- can challenge jurors for a valid reason (showing bias, mostly) and they also have a limited number (10 each) of "peremptory challenges," where they can dismiss jurors for essentially no reason at all (other than: "I don't want that person on the jury"). As of this writing, Trump's lawyers have used up six of theirs and the prosecution has used up four. Of the jurors challenged by Trump's team, some were dismissed for cause, but not all of them (the judge has to agree that there is a valid cause, and he didn't for at least one juror).

Whether it happens by the end of the week or not, at some point the full jury will be seated and the trial itself will actually get underway. Trump has tried delaying this inevitability in pretty much every way he and his lawyers could think up, but finally the delays will be over and opening arguments will begin.

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What Might Have Been

[ Posted Monday, April 15th, 2024 – 16:32 UTC ]

I was reminded recently (by a reader who tweeted it to me) that the "People v. Donald Trump" trial which began today is not so much: "the porn-star hush-money case," but rather more properly: "the 2016 election-interference case." Because when all the tawdry details are stripped away (so to speak... ahem...) this is indeed what remains: Trump gamed the system to suppress bad news about him which could have influenced how people voted. And since a relative handful of votes in a few key swing states provided him with his victory, if he hadn't done so things could easily have gone the other way. To put it differently, we might now be in a frenzy of horserace speculation about which Democratic candidate would be the nominee to succeed President Hillary Clinton, at the end of her second term.

I know I'm not alone in thinking that the entire planet slipped into some sort of alternate universe in 2016 -- the "Bizarro World" of the Trump era. If this cosmic shift hadn't happened, America (and the rest of the world) would be in a very different place indeed right now, and that's putting it mildly.

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Friday Talking Points -- The Abortion Election

[ Posted Friday, April 12th, 2024 – 17:31 UTC ]

If Democrats have their way, the 2024 election will be a one-issue election for many voters (enough to win, hopefully). And conservative Republicans just keep making it easier and easier for that to actually happen.

In the half-century that Roe v. Wade was the law of the land, Republicans made a lot of political hay out of being what they called "pro-life," but what is now more accurately referred to as "forced-birth." They want to force every woman who ever gets pregnant -- no matter the circumstances, no matter the consequences -- to give birth, no matter what. American women (and men, it should be noted) do not support these radical restrictions of their rights. And they're now going to get to vote on it, in the clearest way since Roe was overturned. The 2024 election may well go down in history as being "the abortion election," to put this another way.

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The People v. Donald Trump

[ Posted Thursday, April 11th, 2024 – 15:09 UTC ]

Barring any last-minute surprises, we are now all on the brink of seeing a spectacle that has never happened before: an ex-president of the United States defending himself in criminal court against felony charges. Donald Trump's lawyers filed a flurry of motions this week to try to stave off this inevitability, but to no avail. Each one was summarily dismissed or postponed and in none of them did Trump achieve what he had been seeking, which was to delay the start of his first criminal trial. I should mention that I say "his first" with optimism, since he is facing three other possible felony court cases -- but nobody knows when (if ever) any of them will begin. Hope springs eternal, but for now what we've got is: "The People of the State of New York versus Donald Trump."

Trump is admittedly a master of the legal delay. He has seemingly-bottomless funds to foot the bills of teams of lawyers who will file every motion under the sun in an effort to delay, delay, delay. Each and every motion can then be appealed all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which currently has three members appointed by Trump himself. A court case which in normal circumstances would be over within a few months or perhaps half a year at most can be dragged out for years and years in this fashion, and Trump has been a master at doing so for decades now. He has participated in one way or another in thousands of court cases, although this will be his first as a criminal defendant.

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Arizona Supreme Court's Abortion Decision Could Hand Entire State To Democrats

[ Posted Wednesday, April 10th, 2024 – 16:04 UTC ]

We are still over half a year away from the 2024 election, so it would be premature to say: "This is the issue is that the election will all be about" (since anything could happen in the meantime which could eclipse all the biggest current issues). But it is looking like abortion rights are going to be a major part of it, at the very least. The fallout from the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision continues -- in statehouses, in ballot measures, and in court decisions. Republicans continue to learn that the most Draconian abortion laws are incredibly unpopular, and they scramble to figure out some way to deal with it all. Democrats are out there championing "freedom" and "protecting your rights" and "get the government out of your private business," which are all very potent arguments in general and which all seem to be resonating with the voters on abortion.

Yesterday, the Arizona supreme court dropped a bombshell into the political fray. It ruled that an abortion law first written in 1864 was still valid and constitutional and would soon go back into effect. This law, written during the Civil War era, completely bans abortion with only one exception. Here is the relevant text of the original, from the section criminalizing poisoning (and "just after the section banning duels"):

[E]very person who shall administer or cause to be administered or taken, any medicinal substances, or shall use or cause to be used any instruments whatever, with the intention to procure the miscarriage of any woman then being with child, and shall be thereof duly convicted, shall be punished by imprisonment in the Territorial prison for a term not less than two years nor more than five years: Provided, that no physician shall be affected by the last clause of this section, who in the discharge of his professional duties deems it necessary to produce the miscarriage of any woman in order to save her life.

Note that: "Territorial prison" -- Arizona had just become a U.S. territory and wouldn't be admitted to the Union for almost another half-century (in 1912, the last of the contiguous 48 states to join). This law was quite literally "frontier justice," to put it a different way.

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Will April Be The Cruellest Month For Speaker Mike Johnson?

[ Posted Tuesday, April 9th, 2024 – 15:29 UTC ]

That title (and double-L spelling) comes, of course, from T. S. Eliot's masterpiece poem "The Waste Land," which begins: "April is the cruellest month...." Will this prove to be the case this year for House Speaker Mike Johnson? Will he still be speaker when the May flowers start a-blooming? The answer to those questions might hinge on whether he actually gets anything done this month or not. He's certainly got plenty of things on his plate, and he has actually indicated he's going to move a few of the more critical ones forward -- which (naturally) has absolutely incensed certain members of his caucus. And if he does get them passed, it will further enrage them -- possibly to the point of throwing him overboard.

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