A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo. Sign up for the email version.
GOP Shutdown Watch
Much of the coverage of the looming government shutdown is just terrible because it doesn’t accurately capture the power dynamic at play, obscures what’s really going on, and falls into lazy (yet breathless!) procedural play-by-play.
Here’s the real power dynamic to focus on: There is bipartisan support for a budget deal in the Senate and there are enough votes in the House for such a deal, but the holdup (or the stickup, to be more accurate) is that the Freedom Caucus is threatening Kevin McCarthy’s speakership so he won’t bring bipartisan deals to the floor. That is the rub here. Full stop.
Anything you read about the dynamic being Biden v. McCarthy or Senate v. House is simply wrong. It’s not even quite right to frame it as far-right House GOP v. rest of the House GOP. McCarthy is being extorted by the far-right and caving to the pressure by refusing to bring to the floor budget vehicles that would pass right now … today … in a heartbeat.
What Happens Next?
I’m getting questions about what will happen, and while I don’t like making predictions, it’s fair to say:
- With the House GOP’s right-wing circus wanting a shutdown, it’s more likely than not we get one starting Oct. 1. In lieu of a shutdown, they might take McCarthy’s speakership instead but that would be the dog catching the car, and for as crazy as the Freedom Caucus is they seem to realize that the current setup is perfect for them: They can keep McCarthy on a short leash, continue to hold a cartoon bomb (💣) and threaten to detonate it, and break institutions, processes, and norms with impunity.
- For those reasons, it’s hard for me to imagine a short, quickly resolved shutdown. It’s possible, but there’s no obvious forcing mechanism to get a deal done now or after the shutdown begins. Perhaps the end-of-year holidays create some additional pressure, but that would mean a record-long shutdown.
- Whatever the ultimate resolution, it’s going to be messy and convoluted and designed to save face and obscure the real underlying power dynamic. Unfortunately, part of why we’re in this morass is that the Freedom Caucus sees shutting the government down as a “win” no matter what concessions they make later.
McCarthy deserves everything he gets, but dragging the elderly, the poor, the most vulnerable with him into a needless shutdown is a product of his own political and characterological weakness.
The Man Can’t Drive A Hard Bargain
It looked for a time like McCarthy was greenlighting a Biden impeachment inquiry as a way to placate the Freedom Caucus: You give me a budget deal, and I’ll give you room to run on impeachment. But at this point, it looks like McCarthy once again made a concession and in return got … nothing.
The House GOP’s inane, baseless, evidence-free impeachment inquiry kicks off today. All you need to know: Among the witnesses (none of whom are fact witnesses) for the first impeachment hearing is the shameless Jonathan Turley.
This Is Gross
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a conservative white woman from Georgia, inserted a provision into the defense spending bill to slash the salary of Lloyd Austin, the first Black secretary of defense, to $1 per year. The bill passed the House (though it is DOA in the Senate).
Chutkan Refuses To Recuse
In a tight, solid, almost bulletproof ruling, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan denied Donald Trump’s motion to recuse herself from his Jan. 6 case.
Delay, Delay, Delay
You may have noticed that things have quieted a bit in the Trump prosecutions, at least publicly. Much pretrial wrangling is ahead, and there is prep behind the scenes for that and for the trials themselves. So a fierce level of activity behind closed doors, but a lot less public-facing movement – and notably a lot fewer new factual reveals, bombshells, or other newsy tidbits. Alas, this is what happens when the story shifts from the investigative and political realms into the criminal justice system.
Two new developments yesterday, though, that tell the story of Trump’s delay strategy:
- Special Counsel Jack Smith told the judge in the Mar-a-Lago case that Trump’s latest delay request “threatens to upend the entire schedule” and amounts to seeking a continuance without saying he’s seeking a continuance.
- Trump is now seeking a similar delay in a new filing in the Jan. 6 case.
Trump’s Threats Against Judges
Another day, another threat from Donald Trump toward a judge:
Andrew Weissmann is exactly right when he says something awful is going to happen to someone targeted by Trump and we’re all going to sit around lamenting that we saw it coming from a million miles away:
Trump’s Threats Against The Military
I had missed this exchange from Cassidy Hutchison’s interview with Lawrence O’Donnell the other night. You’ll recall that O’Donnell connected Hutchinson with Alexander Butterfield, the Nixon White House figure who revealed the Oval Office taping system. She recalls crying when she saw the segment with Butterfield and the promise she later made to him when they talked:
About Last Night’s Debate Fiasco …
The GOP debates sans Trump are the most meaningless exercises in the six decades we’ve been doing the televised presidential debate schtick:
If you’re curious despite yourself about what went down last night, our team has you covered:
- TPM: Republicans Yell, Interrupt, Make Uncomfortable Sex Jokes At Second Debate
- Josh Marshall: “The two GOP debates have amounted to a kind of cosplay episode.”
TPM’s Hunter Walker: Joe Kent Is The Most Extreme House Candidate You Haven’t Heard About
Led by the sartorialists Joe Manchin and Mitt Romey, the Senate attended to the urgent business of formalizing a dress code for itself, to which John Fetterman responded:
And Sen Fetterman is out with this statement in response to the new dress code, which isn’t a statement at all, it’s just this picture: pic.twitter.com/1rzVdIUPuU— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) September 27, 2023
Hoochie Coochie Man
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