Editors’ Blog

Where Things Stand: GOP Leaders Whipping Votes That Will … Help Progressives? Prime Badge
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It’s a bit of a bizarre calculation, but House GOP leadership is reportedly launching a relatively aggressive offensive against the bipartisan infrastructure bill ahead of the potential House vote tomorrow.

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Kill the Bill

Members of Congress have begun to say explicitly in the last couple days what I think has been clear for weeks and months. Kyrsten Sinema’s multiple trips to the White House yesterday just confirm it. She’s not negotiating about any of this in good faith. Joe Manchin is a huge obstacle for Democrats pushing their agenda. But the Manchin problem is still very different from the Sinema problem.

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Where Things Stand: Petty To The Point Of Pain Prime Badge
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The former president did a lot of things to maintain control of his presidency — like the whole dismantling democracy thing or the time he encouraged a mob of his most loyal to violently try to do a coup.

But, according to one account, he also underwent a surgery without anesthesia just to maintain his hold on the office.

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Understanding the Inane ‘Debt Ceiling’ System

I’ve made this point a few times. I think most Editors’ Blog readers fully get this. But it’s so important I thought I’d make the point again. People continually claim that the debt ceiling vote adds to the national debt or somehow runs up spending. That is not true. In most cases we can’t make useful analogies between macro-economics and government spending and the household and personal spending most of us are familiar with. This is the rare exception.

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When Does It Get Signed?

I think this is just too rich for the White House’s blood. But I can’t imagine the ‘moderates’ and others behind them haven’t had this thought. Let’s assume the “BIF” gets passed on Thursday. When does the President sign it? It’s not law until he signs it. And he can wait a while. I believe he has ten days excluding Sundays.

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So Where Are We?

We’re seeing a lot of talk about the decoupling of the infrastructure bill and the reconciliation bill. Let’s start by stating the obvious: this isn’t great. But we’ve been in the land of the not great for at least a couple weeks. That said, we should remember that the joined approach isn’t simply about timing. It’s the commitment that the President’s agenda is both bills and that both have to pass. Insisting on passing them together in sequence was a way of guaranteeing that both would pass – giving each side a veto over what the other side wanted most.

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What Next?

We’re puzzling over Nancy Pelosi’s apparent decoupling of the bipartisan infrastructure bill from the reconciliation bill. What’s it mean? Does it matter? Where does lifting the debt ceiling fit in? We got you covered here.

What’s Milley Got To Say About Trump?

We’re covering his Senate testimony live here.

Where Things Stand: Trump’s Thirst For Revenge Might Be Stronger Than Loyalty Prime Badge
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While unwavering fealty may be the most important key to former President Trump’s heart, a good prodigal’s son (or, daughter) story may be just as enticing. Especially when it’s coupled with the sweetness of retribution.

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The Road to the Stolen 2024 Election

I’ve been gratified to see that the threat to the 2024 election and really all elections that come after it is beginning to seep into the mainstream or prestige political dialog. You may have seen Robert Kagan’s essay in the Post or this one in Politico or other pieces that have appeared in the last week or more. These don’t tell us a lot that we don’t know. But especially pieces like Kagan’s place the critical conversation in one of those prestige venues that exist outside the limits of “both sides” analysis. Maybe the foundations of our democracy are under active threat and we see it all happening right in front of us. Maybe it’s not a general issue. Maybe it’s the radicalization of one political party increasingly taking aim at the foundational rules and agreements that make civic life possible in this country.

I thought it was worth laying out just what we’re talking about in specific terms. The general problem is that a radicalized GOP simply no longer accepts the idea that elections apply to them. Or rather, elections they don’t win can’t be legitimate, by definition.

But there are specific paths that get you to acting on that belief. So let’s discuss them.

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Crunch Time

Here’s the latest as we head into a crucial few days.

Poisoning The Well

We are now down to the crunch time on the Biden agenda. And we don’t know how it will turn out. But there are two aspects of the story which have been quite damaging for the Democrats. They’re worth discussing.

The first is one we’ve discussed before but in a different context. It’s largely a press failure. But it’s one Democrats could do more to fix. For months we’ve had this intra-party debate presented as one between “progressives” and “moderates.” Often that gets personalized as AOC and Bernie versus Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema. This is demonstrably false. The overall package is supported overwhelmingly by Democrats in both chambers and pretty much across all factions. There are some quibbles about SALT taxes and the scope of the climate package. Some more middle-of-the-road Dems resist making some of the social programs permanent. Those are real and potentially consequential differences. But they’re all negotiable. The important point is that this package is the consensus position, supported by virtually everyone. It is after all the President’s agenda. Literally. And, as much as these labels confound more than they clarify, President Biden isn’t from AOC’s wing of the party.

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A Democrat Only Republicans Can Love
Sinema's Been Flagging All Year with Democrats; But She's Built a Strong Constituency with Partisan Republicans.
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 08: U.S. Sen. Kirsten Sinema (D-AZ) heads back to a bipartisan meeting on infrastructure in the basement of the U.S. Capitol building after the original talks fell through with the White House on June 8, 2021 in Washington, DC. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said they are now pursuing a two-path proposal that includes a new set of negotiations with a bipartisan group of senators. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Kirsten Sinema

I saw a few people questioning the Data for Progress poll I which I used as the basis for yesterday’s post about Kyrsten Sinema cratering at home among Democrats. So I decided to dig into some other polling data. Data for Progress is a progressive-aligned organization, as the name suggests. And some skepticism is always warranted when the pollster is in some way an interested party. But Data for Progress is a respected outfit. And my review of data from other pollsters over the last year bears that out. Their numbers are consistent with what other pollsters have found. But there were some more details that helped fill out the picture.

Back in March (March 8th-12th) an Arizona Public Opinion Pulse (AZPOP) poll found a similar picture to what we discussed yesterday. Sinema had very anemic support among Democrats – just 50% favorability – and she wasn’t doing well with independents either. Just 36% of independents viewed her favorably. This came just after Sinema had declared her support for the filibuster and helped tank a minimum wage increase. (Favorability is different from approval. This poll only had the former. But for these purposes it’s a close enough approximation.)

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Where Things Stand: But What If There Was No Debt Ceiling? Prime Badge
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UNITED STATES - AUGUST 9: Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., right, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., are seen in the U.S. Capitol on Monday, August 9, 2021. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Mitch McConnell’s dangerous game with the debt ceiling seems to be playing out more or less as intended.

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Big Tent Wrangling

A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is live! This week, Josh and Kate discuss the debt ceiling, impending government shutdown and fate of the two-track infrastructure plan.

Watch below and email us your questions for next week’s episode.

You can listen to the new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast here.

Another View from Arizona, Annals of Sinema

TPM Reader XX gives us another view on how Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is doing back in Arizona.

I am a longtime TPM subscriber who has known Krysten Sinema since she was running for Phoenix City Council as a Green party candidate. I think your analyses, and that of fellow reader GT, of her behavior are largely on target, though the revelation this morning that the big mail and digital push on her behalf is coming directly from Big Pharma suggests that this, again, is short-term positioning rather than some long-term plan.

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A Few Notes on the State of Play

Last night, with a lead-in from our friend Ed Kilgore, I sketched out what I think must happen for the Democrats to make good on the work of the 2018 and 2020 election cycles and avoid electoral and policy catastrophe. Let me share a few notes on what it appears is happening.

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BFD and STFU – It’s All Down to Biden

Our friend Ed Kilgore has a piece in New York Magazine that’s worth your time to read. The gist is that the Democratic party and its tenuous control of the federal government is at a critical moment of decision. There’s now a very real chance that the President’s whole agenda could go down in flames. Remember 1994 and 2010 and then multiply one times the other. The consequences for the country and the Democratic party will be vast and hard to calculate. This isn’t just about saving Biden’s presidency. That actually gets things backwards. It’s the ability to pass legislation like this that was the point of all the effort that went into the 2018 and 2020 cycles in the first place.

I have a quibble on exactly what Ed says should happen next. But I think it’s largely a tactical one. Big picture we totally agree.

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Where Things Stand: Loudmouthed Former Guv Gets Surprising Endorsement For Comeback Bid Prime Badge

Susan Collins refused to endorse Trump in 2016, and she voted to remove him during his 2020 impeachment trial.

But in 2022, she will be supporting the self-declared proto-Trump Paul LePage. (“I was Donald Trump before Donald Trump became popular,” the former two-term governor of Maine once opined.)

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Yep. Sinema’s Cratering Back Home
before the college football game at Sun Devil Stadium on November 3, 2018 in Tempe, Arizona.

Let me share a few more thoughts on the post from yesterday on Kyrsten Sinema from TPM Reader GT. And here I am not talking about the substantive impact of her stance. I’m talking purely about her own political future, self-aggrandizement, etc.

It makes perfect sense for someone like Sinema to carve out a centrist niche in the Senate. Arizona is purple but just barely, at least for now. It just voted for Biden and now has two Democratic Senators. But Sinema, who was only elected in 2018, is the state’s first Democratic Senator since Dennis DeConcini. He retired in 1994 but he was first elected all the way back in 1976, almost 45 years ago. Arizona may be trending blue but it’s just at the beginning of the trend.

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Policy vs Positioning Has Dems in a Stalemate

On Capitol Hill – among the Democrats alone since the Republicans have absented themselves from the process – we’re seeing one of those legislative stand-offs that seem insoluble and which, for the Democrats, raises the real risk of disaster. These crises tend to resolve themselves, eventually. Because both sides eventually see that they’re courting disaster and draw back from the brink.

But there’s something a bit different this time. And it’s worth teasing out what that is.

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Where Things Stand: McConnell’s Not Biting Prime Badge
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WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 12: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks through the Senate subway on his way to the fourth day of the Senates second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol on February 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump’s defense team begins their presentation of the defense that Trump should not be held responsible for the January 6th attack at the U.S. Capitol on First Amendment grounds and the fact that he is no longer in office. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Mitch McConnell

We covered a report over the weekend about ex-President Trump’s ambition to boot longtime Republican leader Mitch McConnell out of office. McConnell has refused to comment on the news, a stance first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Sunday, and he shrugged again today.

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Sinema Cueing Up To Go Indy (Must Read)

Absolutely fascinating look at Kyrsten Sinema’s efforts to position herself as an independent in Arizona, possibly formally but definitely in effect. It makes pretty clear she’s not done with politics or angling for a high dollar lobbying gig, as some speculate. She thinks she can be a latter-day McCain and build her political brand on that basis, likely looking for a promotion above the Senate. TPM Reader GT, a registered independent in Arizona, walks us through the view from in-state as well as the mailers he’s been getting on Sinema’s behalf from something called the “Center Forward” PAC run out of New Jersey and chaired by former Alabama Rep. Bud Cramer (D).

I remain pretty confident that Sinema has misjudged the politics. But as GT makes clear, there’s no question she has a plan and is following it in a very considered way.
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Walking the Crumbling Firmament

There was a time in the life of this site when its focus was at least as much foreign and national security policy as domestic and electoral politics. But that hasn’t been the case for well over a decade. Indeed, when it came time to build out a staff for TPM beyond just me in the 2005-07 era we never saw either topic as part of our core purview. The one exception to this was when Spencer Ackerman worked for TPM (virtually everyone worked for TPM at one point or another). But we hired Spencer in a sense in spite of his foreign policy/national security focus. He’s just so good and I had an opportunity to bring him on so I did. The fact that his core focus wasn’t really our core focus … well, we just decided we’d make it work and we largely did. (Definitely check out his just-released, years-in-the-making new book.)

In any case, foreign policy and national security policy isn’t our thing and it’s not going to become our thing. But just in the last few weeks I’ve had the sense – foreboding as much as anything – that it’s moving back to the center of our national life. Maybe it won’t be in terms of focus for the average American but it probably should be.

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Where Things Stand: Gun Couple Might Lose Their Law Licenses Prime Badge
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Mark and Patricia McCloskey leave the Carnahan Couthouse on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, after pleading not guilty to two felony charges each of unlawful use of a weapon and evidence tampering for an incident in June when they pointed guns at protesters in front of their Portland Place home. (Laurie Skrivan/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)

Their gun-waving earned them a coveted speaking gig at the Republican National Convention last year, victimhood status in Trumpworld and the inflated confidence needed to run for Senate in Missouri.

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Kyrsten Sinema’s Final Senate Term

Like many people I spent a lot of time trying to figure out Kyrsten Sinema’s motivations this year. I’ve discussed my conclusions in other posts. But what I’ve focused on more recently is that as near as I can see, unless she shifts her stance pretty dramatically the odds of Sinema being elected to a second Senate term in 2024 are pretty poor. And that’s made me consider another question: does she just misread the politics of her situation that badly or is she not planning on running?

I know I’ve thrown out a few pretty dramatic claims. So let me walk you through my reasoning. Because I think it’s pretty solid.

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Armageddoning with the Democratic Coalition

Presidents usually get their first year big legislative initiatives. Maybe not in total. Maybe not entirely as they’d wished. But certainly most of the time. But there’s no question the President Fiscal/Infrastructure/Climate agenda is facing some serious headwinds. The establishment DC outlets are practically giddy with each new threat from the Senate and House “moderates” to torch the whole agenda. Joe Manchin is back to his demand for a “strategic pause” to delay consideration into a reconciliation package – a gambit that is basically guaranteed to bring the whole program down in flames. Kyrsten Sinema meanwhile, allegedly, threatened in a conversation with the President that she’ll vote against reconciliation if her bipartisan mini-bill doesn’t get a successful vote this month. So she has to get her bird in hand and then she’ll decide if anyone else gets hers.

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Is the Biden Administration Being Too Timid in Combatting Covid?

The main complaint lodged against Donald Trump’s response to the pandemic is that he didn’t “follow the science.” Joe Biden has promised repeatedly to do so. But when it comes to the pandemic, there is a catch: there are conflicting scientific opinions, and our main governmental institutions in charge are having trouble deciding among them. Faced in the last months with the Delta variant, the Biden administration has not performed so well.
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Responding to the Crumbling Firmament #3

From TPM Reader MV

I’m a regular reader, writing in from Australia. I really enjoy reading your analysis and thoughts at TPM. Most of the time I think it’s spot on. But on the topic of the Aukus deal, I think you are missing quite a bit of the picture. So, I thought I’d write in with a contrary view.

First off, this is not really just a choice of submarine propulsion technology. The French offer initially *was* for nuclear boats; the Australian government specifically requested a downgraded diesel/electric version, on the grounds that Australia did not (and still does not) have domestic nuclear capability to build or keep them operational. If our govt had simply decided we needed nuclear after all, they could have just upgraded to the nuclear version of the Barracuda (already in production, and I believe even an option in the contract).

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Responding to the Crumbling Firmament #2

From TPM Reader HP

I was surprised to read Josh’ last edblogs on the French dispute with US and Australia (note:as French foreign minister said, they did not spat with the UK as “they were already used of their duplicity”). Josh’s inputs are usually well balanced and offer interesting arguments and perspective. But these last two articles are instead showing contempt and lack of curiosity. They sound as if Josh was only paraphrasing what a prejudiced friend at the State Department just told him.

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