Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Last Call For The Circus Of The Damned, Con't

Infernal Ringmaster Kevin McCarthy has made a contract from below to keep his current job as House Speaker, but how long that remains the case we don't know, as his GOP clowns voted for a rules package that apparently includes secret provisions that nobody wants revealed.

What we know about the concessions McCarthy made is that they apparently contain some of the more controversial points — especially as compared with the rules package itself, which contained relatively few and passed with little fuss. Among them, as The Washington Post’s Marianna Sotomayor and Leigh Ann Caldwell report:

Those concessions place limits on new spending, including defense spending, which has frustrated some defense hawks. Leadership also agreed to prioritize for a vote an aggressive border security bill that would build a wall along the southern border, according to multiple aides and members of Congress familiar with the agreement who spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail private conversations. The House would also vote on legislation to establish term limits for members to serve six terms or 12 years, a proposal that would require a constitutional amendment.

The deal also apparently included concessions on committees. But there, too, precisely what form those concessions took isn’t clear.

We know that McCarthy has agreed to things like putting a certain number of hard-right Republicans on the influential Rules Committee, but McCarthy has said he didn’t promise anyone chairmanships. Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), an ally who said he has seen the document, told Axios that it included “no names, just representation.”

At the same time, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) claimed over the weekend that he had secured a slot on the House Republican Steering Committee, which decides committee chairmanships and assignments, in exchange for flipping his speaker vote back to McCarthy:

Fox News: Congressman, what did you get in Florida? What did you get? Everybody got something, right? What did you get?
DONALDS: Oh, well, listen, one of the things that’s going to happen is, it’s been put out I’m actually going to be a part of the Republican Steering Committee as Kevin McCarthy’s designate.

This doesn’t necessarily suggest that Donalds’s name appears on whatever document might exist. But his statement highlights how little we know about the extent or the particulars of the committee promises.

As for why, the obvious answer is that it’s just not terribly helpful to put yourself on the record agreeing to these things. Being forced to agree to such extensive concessions reinforces that McCarthy is a diminished speaker at the mercy of a small number of holdouts. It also would have risked alienating the allies that stood by McCarthy’s side. Sharing specifics would mean McCarthy would have to account for them and his ability to live up to the deal publicly. Some — such as cutting defense spending — open the GOP up to discord and criticism (and those are just the terms for which we know the basic outline).

While that would explain keeping this information from the public, though, it doesn’t explain why even House members appear to be in the dark. Those members have declined to truly press the issue, voting for McCarthy and then the rules package when they could have used both for leverage. McCarthy got what he wanted, ultimately winning both votes without being forced to show the hand that he has left himself with.
If Nancy Pelosi had ever done this, it would have been a front-page scandal for years.  McCarthy gets away with it, and the Washington damn Post is asking why he's allowed to do it, rather than, you know, actually finding out what's in the secret rules addendum.

Read the damn assignment.

Mr. Smith Comes For Washington

Special Counsel Jack Smith is getting to work here in the new year with a federal subpoena of Rudy Giuliani over Trump's 2020 Save America PAC slush fund mess.
Special counsel Jack Smith’s team has subpoenaed Donald Trump’s former attorney Rudy Giuliani, asking him to turn over records to a federal grand jury as part of an investigation into the former president’s fundraising following the 2020 election, according to a person familiar with the subpoena.

The subpoena, which was sent more than a month ago and has not been previously reported, requests documents from Giuliani about payments he received around the 2020 election, when Giuliani filed numerous lawsuits on Trump’s behalf contesting the election results, the person said.

Prosecutors have also subpoenaed other witnesses who are close to Trump, asking specifically for documents related to disbursements from the Save America PAC, Trump’s primary fundraising operation set up shortly after the 2020 election, according to other sources with insight into the probe.

Taken together, the subpoenas demonstrate prosecutors’ growing interest in following the money after the 2020 election as part of their sweeping criminal probe around Trump’s efforts to overturn his loss of the presidency.

Save America was part of broader fundraising efforts by Trump and the Republican Party that raised more than $250 million after the election. Since then, the political action committee has compensated several lawyers who now represent Trump and his allies in January 6-related investigations.

The subpoenas to other witnesses in addition to Giuliani were sent in late December, according to the other sources.

The information the prosecutors seek is still being collected, the sources said. With Giuliani, the investigators have prioritized getting financial information from him, one person said.

The inquiry to Giuliani came from David Rody, a former top prosecutor in New York who specializes in gang and conspiracy cases and is assisting Smith with examining a broader criminal conspiracy after the election, according to some of the sources.
Rudy escaped prosecution on his earlier Ukraine lobbying legal problems, but he's now facing a host of new potential charges. We'll see how far these get.

Welcome To Gunmerica, Ten Years Later

One of the biggest advocates for gun safety legislation in the wake of Sandy Hook has been Shannon Watts, who founded the advocacy group Moms Demand ten years ago. But facing two years, minimum, of a hostile Supreme Court and a House GOP who will never pass anything to stop kids from being butchered by guns, Watts is hanging up her spurs, and I don't blame her one bit.


Shannon Watts, one of the country’s most influential gun-safety activists, says she will retire later this year from Moms Demand Action, the grass-roots advocacy group she began in her kitchen a decade ago and grew into a political juggernaut.

“I have asked myself, honestly, every year since I started this organization: Is it time for me to step back and let other people step forward?” Watts, 52, said in an exclusive interview with The Washington Post to announce her decision. “And I think this is the right time.”

The 2012 massacre of 20 first-graders and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut inspired Watts, then a stay-at-home mom, to act. When she searched online for a gun-safety group to join and found that all of them were led by men, she decided to start her own. From her home in Indiana, Watts recruited like-minded women through a Facebook group.

Now, in much of the country, Moms Demand’s influence has eclipsed that of its longtime adversary, the National Rifle Association. Under Watts’s leadership, the organization has established chapters in all 50 states and enlisted tens of thousands of volunteers — almost always dressed in branded red shirts — to organize rallies, campaign for “gun sense” candidates and pack meeting rooms where firearms laws are being debated.

Watts’s success stems from an uncommon blend of qualities and experience that made her ideally suited for the job’s challenges. Her previous work as a communications executive gave her a deep understanding of how to attract media attention and market ideas. She turned a severe case of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder into what she called a “superpower” that allowed her to hyperfocus for many hours straight, a skill she’s harnessed hundreds of times to live-tweet details and context after shootings.

Watts, who says she has never taken a salary from Moms Demand, also possesses a fortitude that has sustained her despite years of death threats from gun-rights extremists, inaction by federal lawmakers and near-constant immersion in one of America’s darkest crises.

Although she denies opposing the Second Amendment, gun-rights groups have long portrayed her as an enemy of the Constitution who wants legal weapons confiscated. In its many denunciations, the NRA has called her a “#2A-hating lobbyist,” accused her of promoting “nearly every gun control measure” and described her Twitter feed as a “fevered anti-gun stream-of-consciousness.”

Through it all, Watts has maintained a sense of optimism — as well as a biting wit she often deploys against her many conservative critics (Watts’s “location,” according to her Twitter profile: “NRA’s head, rent free”).

“This woman has nerves of steel,” said Katie Couric, among the first journalists to introduce Watts to a national audience. “I just admire her on so many levels for her organizational acumen, for her fearlessness in the face of just horrible harassment, and for her determination to stop at nothing.”

Watts says she won’t stop after resigning either, and though some around her have suggested she run for public office, the mother of five has yet to decide what will come next.

She started the organization assuming she would run it for only a few months, but in the spring of 2013, the U.S. Senate rejected President Barack Obama’s effort to overhaul the nation’s gun laws. Watts was in the Capitol, watching from the gallery, when one of those bills failed to pass by six votes.

Among the senators to reject the legislation was Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota, who told reporters that calls to her office the day before the vote were “at least 7 to 1 against that bill.”

Watts never forgot that comment. Nine years later, when the chance for reform finally returned to Capitol Hill this summer after another deadly school shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Tex., she helped organize a massive lobbying effort that directed more than a million calls and messages to the Senate.

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act passed Congress with relative ease, despite NRA opposition. The bill didn’t include many of the sweeping changes activists had long fought for, but it represented the first significant gun legislation to become federal law in three decades.
A victory in the BSCA, but the war has effectively been lost. We live in Gunmerica now, where firearms outnumber people by tens of millions. There's no reason to believe any further legislation will pass, or even be considered Constitutional, in the years ahead.
Like I said, I see why Watts is retiring.  Maybe she can make a difference in Congress.
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