Saturday, September 30, 2023

Last Call For Shutdown Countdown, Clown Town Edition, Con't

House GOP Speaker Kevin McCarthy bet it all on a 45-day extension on funding the government, minus billions in Ukraine aid. Democratic House leader Hakeem Jeffries let the Democratic caucus go along on the bill, and it passed. The question is, how long does Kevin McCarthy have left before he's deposed?

When he walked into the Capitol on Saturday, Speaker Kevin McCarthy knew exactly what he’d do to stave off a shutdown: Call up a bill that abandoned the border policy and spending cuts he’d preached for weeks.

McCarthy’s move marked an abrupt shift after spending most of the year trying to placate all corners of his party — including a dozen-plus hardliners who have made it next to impossible for him to maneuver anything onto the floor. After the vote, McCarthy all but taunted his critics to come after his gavel if they wanted to.

And their first chance to do that will be Monday night. Multiple House conservatives confirmed in interviews they will begin seriously mulling whether they will try to seize McCarthy’s gavel in the coming days.

“I think it is a surrender,” said Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), one of multiple conservatives who warned McCarthy not to accept Democratic help to avoid a shutdown.

In the end, the 45-day funding patch that is on track to keep the government open passed with more Democratic than GOP votes, in a repeat of the spring debt vote that first inflamed McCarthy’s opponents.

The bill was finished just before midnight on Friday. But McCarthy didn’t unveil his plans to take up the bill until almost 11 hours later, after a choreographed parade of Republicans took the mic during a private 90-minute meeting to argue for exactly his proposal.

Dozens of conservatives ended up voting against the bill, which gave in on their two biggest priorities — spending cuts beyond McCarthy’s spring debt deal and hard-right border policies. Still, McCarthy wanted the groundswell of support for it to look like an organic move by his members, rather an order down from leadership.

Mere hours later, a majority of House Republicans backed the type of shutdown-averting bill that the California Republican had repeatedly sworn was unacceptable. McCarthy’s 180-degree turn could soon threaten his speakership, giving conservatives who have threatened to try to eject him plenty of fodder to make their move.

“You can’t form a coalition of more Democrats than you have Republicans who you’re supposed to be the leader of, and not think that there’s going to be serious, serious fallout,” Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) said. He confirmed that after Saturday’s spending vote, they would start discussions about ousting the speaker.

Freedom Caucus member Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) acknowledged that McCarthy’s speakership is “probably” in danger, but added: “I’m not even getting into that right now. There are other members that have to decide if they want to bring that or not.”

House Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Scott Perry (R–Pa.) said he did not expect an effort to oust McCarthy because Republicans didn’t “have any other option” but to bring up a clean spending patch after GOP holdouts tanked their own party’s plan.

But Perry — who has himself lost sway with some more conservative members — didn’t commit to opposing a McCarthy ouster. He told POLITICO: “The case has to be made. So we’ll listen to the argument.”

McCarthy’s biggest antagonist, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), has not yet declared that he intends to force a vote to boot the speaker over the Saturday vote.

“That will be something I will chat with my colleagues about,” Gaetz said, just before the bill passed on the floor.
On the Senate side, Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans scrapped their deal with Chuck Schumer to instead go with McCarthy's House bill.  The bill passed and the shutdown will be averted.

Whether McCarthy survives the week as Speaker, well, place your bets now. 

Either way, we get to go through this again in mid-November.

Orange Meltdown: LOL U LMAD Edition

The first of Trump's Georgia RICO case co-conspirators has taken a plea deal to turn state's evidence against the rest.
Bail bondsman Scott Hall on Friday became the first defendant in the Fulton County election interference case to take a plea agreement with prosecutors, signaling the probe has entered a dynamic new phase.

During an impromptu hearing before Fulton Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee with his attorney at his side, Hall pleaded guilty to five misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with the performance of election duties.

Hall agreed to testify truthfully when called, five years probation, a $5,000 fine, 200 hours of community service and a ban on polling and election administration-related activities. He also recorded a statement for prosecutors and pledged to pen a letter of apology to Georgia voters.

Hall was indicted last month in connection with the breach of sensitive voting data in Coffee County in South Georgia on Jan. 7, 2021. He had been charged with racketeering and six felony counts of conspiracy.

The agreement is a victory for prosecutors, who are preparing for at least two sets of trials involving what is now 18 defendants. Jury selection for the trial involving the first two defendants, Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, is slated to begin on Oct. 20.
This is going to be a bad, bad weekend for Trump, as he'll wonder who else will turn on him.
Who else will play Let's Make A Deal with Fulton County DA Fani Willis? 

Like fellow Whose Line? veteran Drew Carey, Wayne Brady has made a 15-year second career filling the legendary shoes of a beloved game show host. He's made thousands of deals with contestants.
We're about to find out if Fani Willis can wheel and deal just as well, and I'm betting she can.

Prime Time Drama

The Biden Administration is filing an anti-trust suit against Amazon over having monopoly power large enough to "warp the entire internet economy".
The Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. government’s primary business regulator, sued Amazon on Tuesday, alleging that the company has used its market power to warp ecommerce across the internet.

The allegations focus on the company’s primary marketplace,, and paint a picture of a company able to use its size and power to pressure sellers to agree to its terms and warp the prices of goods.

There is immediate harm that is ongoing here,” FTC Chair Lina Khan said at a news conference ahead of the lawsuit announcement. “Sellers are paying one of every $2 to Amazon. Shoppers are paying higher prices as a result, not just on Amazon but across the internet. And the public as a whole has been deprived of the benefits of open and fair and free competition. And so that’s what this case is really about, and those are the harms that we’re looking to fix.”

The FTC made the allegations in an antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington state, backed by the attorneys general of 17 states, including two Republicans. Amazon is based in Washington state.

The lawsuit is the most aggressive action yet by Khan, a longtime critic of Amazon who was brought in to the FTC by President Joe Biden to reinvigorate the government’s enforcement of competition laws particularly around technology companies.

The FTC alleges that Amazon deters sellers from discounting goods and lowering prices below what is available on Amazon, pushing prices higher across the internet. It also argues that Amazon pushes sellers into its fulfillment services, making it more expensive for sellers to offer their goods elsewhere.

California lodged similar complaints in a lawsuit filed just more than a year ago.

Kahn declined to directly address whether she hoped the suit would lead to a breakup of Amazon into smaller companies, but stressed that it showed Amazon had established an unfair advantage.

“Each element of Amazon’s monopolistic strategy here is working in tandem, and so the cumulative impact of Amazon’s unlawful conduct is greater than the harm caused by any particular element,” she said. “So you have a feedback loop between these different practices in a way that amplifies the overall exclusionary effects.”

In a statement posted to Amazon’s website, David Zapolsky, Amazon's senior vice president for global public policy, said: “The practices the FTC is challenging have helped to spur competition and innovation across the retail industry, and have produced greater selection, lower prices, and faster delivery speeds for Amazon customers and greater opportunity for the many businesses that sell in Amazon’s store.”
Amazon's defense is "Nu-uh, we're helping."
By the way, that $89 year of Amazon Prime is now $139, a nearly 50% price hike from just five years ago. On top of everything else, they get you coming and going.

As I've said before, breaking up Amazon, Google, and Meta needs to happen sooner rather than later. Lina Kahn may have lost a few battles, but this is the one she needs to win.
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