Sunday, May 28, 2023

Shutdown Countdown, Armageddon Edition, Con't

With House Republican Circus of the Damned Ringmaster Kevin McCarthy and President Biden reaching a tentative debt ceiling deal last night, it's now up to Republicans in the House and Senate to pass it, and there's no guarantee at all that McCarthy has the votes.
To get the legislation through a fractious and closely divided Congress, Mr. McCarthy and top Democratic leaders must cobble together a coalition of Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate willing to back it. Members of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus have already declared war on the plan, which they say fails to impose meaningful spending cuts, and warned that they would seek to block it.

So after spending late nights and early mornings in recent days in feverish negotiations to strike the deal, proponents have turned their energies to ensuring it can pass in time to avert a default now projected on June 5.

“This is the most conservative spending package in my service in Congress, and this is my 10th term,” Representative Patrick T. McHenry, Republican of North Carolina and a lead member of Mr. McCarthy’s negotiating team, said at a news conference on Capitol Hill on Sunday morning.

House Republicans circulated a one-page memo with 10 talking points about the conservative benefits of the deal, which was still being finalized and written into legislative text on Sunday, hours before it was expected to be released. The G.O.P. memo asserted that the plan would cap government spending at 1 percent annually for six years — though the measure is only binding for two years — and noted that it would impose stricter work requirements for Americans receiving government benefits, cut $400 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for global health funding and eliminate funding for hiring new I.R.S. agents in 2023.

“It doesn’t get everything everybody wanted,” Mr. McCarthy told reporters on Capitol Hill. “But, in divided government, that’s where we end up. I think it’s a very positive bill.”

Mr. Biden told reporters that he was confident the deal would reach his desk and that he would speak with Mr. McCarthy on Sunday afternoon “to make sure all the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted.”

“I think we’re in good shape,” the president said. Asked what sticking points were left, he said, “None.”

Still, the deal, which would raise the debt ceiling for two years while cutting and capping some federal programs over the same period, was facing harsh criticism from the wings of both political parties.

“Terrible policy, absolutely terrible policy,” Representative Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington, said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” referring to the work requirements for food stamps and other public benefit programs. “I told the president that directly when he called me last week on Wednesday that this is saying to poor people and people who are in need that we don’t trust them.”

Ms. Jayapal, the chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said she wanted to read the bill before she decided whether to support it.

Some on the right had already ruled out doing so before seeing the details.

“No one claiming to be a conservative could justify a YES vote,” Representative Bob Good, Republican of Virginia and a member of the House Freedom Caucus, wrote on Twitter. Representative Dan Bishop, Republican of North Carolina, posted his reaction to news of the deal: a vomit emoji.

Russell T. Vought, President Trump’s influential former budget director who now runs the Center for Renewing America, encouraged right-wing Republicans to use their seats on the House Rules Committee — which Mr. McCarthy granted them as he toiled to win their votes to become speaker — to block the deal. “Conservatives should fight it with all their might,” he said.

Some Senate Republicans, who under that chamber’s rules have more tools to slow consideration of legislation, were also up in arms.

“No real cuts to see here,” Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, said on Twitter. “Conservatives have been sold out once again!”

“With Republicans like these, who needs Democrats?” asked Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, who has vowed to delay the debt limit deal.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, was also critical — though for a much different reason. He called the deal too stingy, demanding more robust military funding, particularly for the Navy.

“I am not going to do a deal that marginally reduces the number of I.R.S. agents in the future at the expense of sinking the Navy,” Mr. Graham said on “Fox News Sunday."

So, a huge pile of sausage being made, Republicans get their Medicaid work requirements expansion, and get hundreds of millions in IRS, CDC, and Covid funding cuts, and yes, Biden's student loan forgiveness program remains all but dead after SCOTUS killed it.

Worse, Student loan repayments are going to have to restart later this year, and that's going to hurt millions of Americans, period.

But Biden is getting 98% of the funding passed last year in the Infrastructure and Green New Deal bills too, so...nobody's going to be happy with this bill.

Will it pass?

We'll see. I remind everyone who is complaining about this bill that you elected Republicans to run the House, and this is the direct result.

Maybe stop electing them?

Sunday Long Read: Record Breaking

Like everything else in the internet age, the Guinness Book of World Records has had to make some adjustments over the years, and while the record-keeping keeps on keeping on, not everyone is happy with the new official record of superlatives, as The Guardian's Imogen West-Knights records for us in this week's Sunday Long Read.
A couple of summers ago, I went to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. I’d spent a lot of time in the city before, but I’d never visited the brewery. The tour is good. You can learn about how barrels are made, get your face printed in the head of a pint and, at the end, have a drink in a bar with a 360-degree view of the city. But what stayed with me most was something I saw there by accident.

One of the exhibit rooms was closed off, but only partially. Curiosity got the better of me, and behind the door, I found a room that was empty but for a table. On the table, there were a handful of editions of the Guinness Book of Records. I hadn’t thought about this book since I was in primary school. Back then, the Guinness Book of Records meant a big, brightly coloured, hardback volume containing 500-odd pages of pictures of people doing things like growing their hair very long or juggling knives. These were books that children gleefully unwrapped on Christmas Day and argued over with their siblings. As I flicked through the old editions – 1994, 2005, 2012 – I thought about the connection between Guinness the stout and Guinness the book for the first time, as well as a hundred questions I hadn’t thought to ask as an eight-year-old marvelling at the man with the stretchiest skin or the most needles inserted into his head.

Even now, in the age of YouTube and TikTok, when you can catapult yourself into fame, riches and recognition for feats of all kinds with nothing more complicated than your phone, the Guinness Book of Records continues, somewhat incredibly, to exist. The book, which since 1999 has gone by Guinness World Records, is still an overwhelming blizzard of wacky pictures and hard data.

But the company that publishes the book, also called Guinness World Records, is not the same as when I held my first annual, the green and silver 2002 edition. Sales of the book have declined in recent times, and the company has had to find new ways to make money – not all of which have met with the approval of the GWR old guard. When I spoke to Anna Nicholas, who worked as the head of PR for the book in the 80s and 90s, she lamented how things had changed: records are now more sensationalist, she said, to meet the demand of an audience that can see extraordinary things whenever they like on social media. “Guinness seemed to have had no issues with shamelessly and unapologetically selling out its devoted audience,” claimed one once-ardent fan in a 2020 blogpost.

It is strange to think of Guinness World Records – a business named after a beer company, which catalogues humanity’s most batshit endeavours – as the kind of entity that could sell out. At first glance, it seems like accusing Alton Towers or Pizza Express of selling out. But the deeper I delved into the world of record breaking, the more sense it made. In spite of its absurdity, or maybe because of it, record breaking is a reflection of our deepest interests and desires. Look deeply enough at a man attempting to break the record for most spoons on a human body, or the woman seeking to become the oldest salsa dancer in the world, and you can find yourself starting to believe that you’re peering into humanity’s soul.
I certainly remember having a copy of the GBWR as a kid picked up at a Scholastic Book Fair and man I wore that thing out, fascinated by the trivia and pictures of the bizarre, but fame, even obscure Guinness records fame, still comes at a price.

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