Friday, May 26, 2023

Last Call For Shutdown Countdown, Armageddon Edition, Con't

With Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen putting a hard date on June 5th for when the US can't pay the bills, House Republicans are trying to scuttle any notion of a reported deal as they want Biden's economy to pay the same price Trump did for Covid, only worse.

In response to reports about the details of the agreement, leading conservative lawmakers and budget experts raised strong objections, arguing that McCarthy had failed to extract sufficient concessions from the Biden administration in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. McCarthy pushed back in remarks to reporters on Friday, saying the criticisms were being leveled by people unaware of the substance of the deal.

Negotiators are closing in on an agreement that would raise the debt ceiling by two years — a key priority of the Biden administration — while also essentially freezing government spending on domestic programs and slightly increasing funding for the military and veterans affairs, said three people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reflect private deliberations. Although the deal is expected to include key GOP priorities, such as partially clawing back new funding for the Internal Revenue Service, a growing chorus of conservatives has balked at how little the deal appears to cut government spending overall — especially because it would also give up their party’s leverage on the debt ceiling until after the 2024 presidential election.

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), a top member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, described what he has learned so far of the emerging deal as “watered down.” Norman urged McCarthy to hew closely to the legislation that conservatives helped craft and pass last month, which raised the debt ceiling only into next year and coupled the increase with larger spending cuts than the two parties are now discussing.

“This is totally unacceptable, and it’s not what we agreed to,” Norman said.

Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), another House conservative, complained about reports that the deal would raise the debt ceiling by more money than the bill approved by the House. Good said the emerging deal would do so “for a whole lot less in return that we need from a policy standpoint, from a fiscal standpoint.” He added: “And if that were true, that would absolutely collapse the Republican majority for this debt ceiling increase.”

Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), another House conservative, added of the longer debt ceiling increase: “You’ve got to add things into it, not compromise things away.” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.), a key conservative leader, downplayed the idea that the deal would lead to McCarthy losing his speakership but added of the deal: “I think it’s an exit ramp about five exits too early.”

Asked by reporters about the criticisms on Friday, McCarthy said: “I’m not concerned about anybody making any comments right now about what they think is in or not it. Whenever we come to an agreement, we’ll make sure we will first brief our entire conference.”

The extent and ferocity of the conservative revolt could prove crucial to the ongoing debt ceiling standoff, as well as McCarthy’s future. But it was not exactly clear how many GOP lawmakers shared the objections voiced by Norman and Good. Since the beginning of the negotiations, McCarthy has been widely assumed to be able to lose the roughly three dozen members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus and still manage to pass the debt ceiling increase and retain his position as speaker. If he loses several dozen additional House Republican lawmakers, though, both the deal — and his grip on power — could be on shaky ground.

“These guys were never going to vote for it, so the question becomes how many of them you lose,” one GOP strategist said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe internal dynamics.
A deal was always going to require Democratic votes. McCarthy's issue is of course that if the deal is a majority Democratic one, he gets removed as House Speaker. A bill that a majority of the House GOP was going to accept and has enough Democrats on board to actually pass it, well, that's McCarthy's real problem, because it doesn't exist.
So now we watch as the circus ringmaster puts himself through the flaming hoops, and if he fails, the entire tent burns down and America along with it.



Ron's Gone Wrong (And Greedy)

The Authoritarian Dictatorship of Ron DeSantis is telling Florida lobbyists that in order to continue doing business with the state, that it's time to fork over millions in cash to DeSantis's presidential campaign or be shut out of operating in the Sunshine State.
Officials who work for Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration — not his campaign — have been sending text messages to Florida lobbyists soliciting political contributions for DeSantis' presidential bid, a breach of traditional norms that has raised ethical and legal questions and left many here in the state capital shocked.

NBC News reviewed text messages from four DeSantis administration officials, including those directly in the governor's office and with leadership positions in state agencies. They requested the recipient of the message contribute to the governor’s campaign through a specific link that appeared to track who is giving as part of a “bundle” program.

“The bottom line is that the administration appears to be keeping tabs on who is giving, and are doing it using state staff,” a longtime Florida lobbyist said. “You are in a prisoner’s dilemma. They are going to remain in power. We all understand that.”

NBC News is not naming the specific staffers who sent the text messages because it could out the lobbyists who received the messages and shared them.

DeSantis’ office did not return a request seeking comment, but one administration official acknowledged that they were fundraising for the campaign.

"I’m not sure what every EOG staffer does on their free time and after hours, with their first amendment rights, but I wouldn’t be shocked if team eog somehow raised more money than lobbyists," the administration official said in a text message, referring to an acronym for the governor's office. "I can confirm I (and many other staff) personally donated."

Generally, political staffers are charged with raising money for political campaigns, and aides on the official side are walled off from those operations.

The legality of the solicitations depends on a series of factors, including whether they were sent on state-owned phones, or if they were sent on state property. A longtime Florida election law attorney said that even if the DeSantis aides are fundraising for the campaign in their personal capacity, off the government clock, it still raised ethical questions.

“At a minimum, even if they are sitting in their home at 9 p.m. using their personal phone and contacting lobbyists that they somehow magically met in their personal capacity and not through their role in the governor’s office, it still smells yucky,” the attorney said. “There’s a misuse of public position issue here that is obvious to anyone paying attention.”

But the practice was still jaw-dropping for those who have long been involved in Florida politics.

NBC News spoke with 10 Republican lobbyists in Florida, all of whom said they couldn't remember being solicited for donations so overtly by administration officials — especially at a time when the governor still has to act on the state budget.

That process that involves DeSantis using his line-item veto pen to slash funding for projects that the same lobbyists whom they are asking for political cash have a professional stake in. Most of the lobbyists said they felt pressure to give to the governor's campaign.
I almost have to laugh at these lobbyist groups feeling sorry for themselves.
You got into bed with an authoritarian dictator in a single-party state where he has 100% control of politics and spending. Of course he's going to extort millions for his presidential campaign from you, and no matter how you feel about DeSantis's decreasing chances against Trump in the GOP primary, the fact is DeSantis still controls the state lock, stock and barrel.

So you'll pay up or be driven out by new legislation. What DeSantis can do to Disney, he can do to any business group operating in Florida. It's perfectly legal because DeSantis and crew made it so.
And everyone knows it. So these industry groups will be directly funding DeSantis's already failed campaign...
...or else.

Paxton Faces The Lone Star Law

Republicans in Texas's House heard the results of the investigation into corruption and abuse of power by Attorney General Ken Paxton this week, and it's bad enough that Paxton may actually face impeachment.
A Texas House committee heard stunning testimony from investigators Wednesday over allegations of a yearslong pattern of misconduct and questionable actions by Attorney General Ken Paxton, the result of a probe the committee had secretly authorized in March.

In painstaking and methodical detail in a rare public forum, four investigators for the House General Investigating Committee testified that they believe Paxton broke numerous state laws, misspent office funds and misused his power to benefit a friend and political donor.

Their inquiry focused first on a proposed $3.3 million agreement to settle a whistleblower lawsuit filed by four high-ranking deputies who were fired after accusing Paxton of accepting bribes and other misconduct.

Committee Chair Andrew Murr said the payout, which the Legislature would have to authorize, would also prevent a trial at which evidence of Paxton’s alleged misdeeds would be presented publicly. Committee members questioned, in essence, if lawmakers were being asked to participate in a cover-up.

“It is alarming and very serious having this discussion when millions of taxpayer dollars have been asked to remedy what is alleged to be some wrongs,” Murr said. “That’s something we have to grapple with. It’s challenging.”

Many of the allegations detailed Wednesday were already known, but the public airing of them revealed the wide scope of the committee’s investigation into the state’s top lawyer and a member of the ruling Republican Party. The investigative committee has broad power to investigate state officials for wrongdoing, and three weeks ago the House expelled Bryan Slaton, R-Royse City, on its recommendation.

In this case, it could recommend the House censure or impeach Paxton — a new threat to an attorney general who has for years survived scandals and been reelected twice despite securities fraud charges in 2015 and news of a federal investigation into the whistleblowers’ claims in 2020.

Erin Epley, lead counsel for the investigating committee, said the inquiry also delved into the whistleblowers’ allegations by conducting multiple interviews with employees of Paxton’s agency — many of whom expressed fears of retaliation by Paxton if their testimony were to be revealed — as well as the whistleblowers and others with pertinent information.

According to state law, Epley told the committee in a hearing at the Capitol, a government official cannot fire or retaliate against “a public employee who in good faith reports a violation of law … to an appropriate law enforcement authority.”

The four whistleblowers, however, were fired months after telling federal and state investigators about their concerns over Paxton’s actions on behalf of Nate Paul, an Austin real estate investor and a friend and political donor to Paxton.

“Each of these four men is a conservative Republican civil servant,” Epley said. “Interviews show that they wanted to be loyal to General Paxton and they tried to advise him well, often and strongly, and when that failed each was fired after reporting General Paxton to law enforcement
Imagine being so utterly, thoroughly corrupt that Texas Republicans are even considering a recommendation to remove another Texas Republican from office. Indeed, the committee's recommendation is that Paxton has to go.
In an unanimous decision, a Republican-led House investigative committee that spent months quietly looking into Paxton recommended impeaching the state’s top lawyer. The House could vote on the recommendation as soon as Friday. If it impeaches Paxton, he would be forced to leave office immediately.

The move sets set up what could be a remarkably sudden downfall for one of the GOP’s most prominent legal combatants, who in 2020 asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory. Only two officials in Texas’ nearly 200-year history have been impeached.

Paxton has been under FBI investigation for years over accusations that he used his office to help a donor and was separately indicted on securities fraud charges in 2015, but has yet to stand trial.
In an unprecedented move, a Texas House committee voted Thursday to recommend that Attorney General Ken Paxton be impeached and removed from office, citing 20 accusations that include bribery, retaliating against whistleblowers and obstruction of justice.

Around 8 p.m., the House General Investigating Committee filed its impeachment resolution with the House clerk. It included the 20 articles listing a yearslong pattern of alleged misconduct and lawbreaking that investigators detailed one day earlier. On the House floor, some lawmakers could be heard yelling the number of the newly filed articles, and several could be seen reading the document minutes after it was filed.

The House will next decide whether to approve the articles against Paxton, which could lead to the attorney general’s removal from office pending the outcome of a trial to be conducted by the Senate.

State Rep. Andrew Murr, chair of the investigating committee, followed by telling House members that the impeachment resolution alleged “grave offenses,” justifying the committee’s action.

“After a period of time for your review and reflection, I intend to call up the resolution adopting the articles of impeachment. If you have any questions at all, please come visit with me or any other member of our committee,” said Murr, R-Junction.

During a specially called meeting earlier Thursday afternoon, the committee voted unanimously to refer the 20 articles of impeachment to the full chamber.
If Paxton is impeached, he'll be removed from office pending the state Senate trial.
So maybe Paxton will finally fall.  We'll see.
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