Thursday, July 11, 2019


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Gridlock, Pelosi Edition

Speaker juggling debt ceiling, budget talks, impeachment calls, North American trade deal, and The Squad.

My take: The single most important story for you to read today is this Washington Post tour de force on the state of play of the Big Casino matters of the debt ceiling/budget deal/spending caps (DCBDSC), plus the North American trade deal thrown in for good measure.

Once upon a time, and today, unrealistic fantabulists imagined all these issues could be dealt with before the August congressional recess.

Halperin’s First Rule of Capitol Hill: The old saw that “Congress only acts at the last possible minute and when it absolutely has to” is no longer true – now typically Congress blows past apparent hard “deadlines” and fails to act even then.

Pelosi reportedly trusts only Treasury Secretary Mnuchin on budget matters (having lost faith in the acting White House chief of staff and the man running OMB, whose name she apparently at least once failed to know/remember).

Pelosi reportedly only trusts Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer on the North American trade deal.

Right at the end of the Post story, the paper drops this:

“In private, Pelosi and Trump’s conversations on the border spending bill and other topics have been more cordial and productive than their public comments might suggest, aides say. But for the House speaker and the president, the coming battles over the budget and trade could prove the biggest test yet.”

It seems impossible to imagine that Pelosi can find a way to raise the debt ceiling anytime soon without a budget deal.   It seems impossible to imagine Pelosi can find a way to get the necessary progressive support for the new Mexico/Canada trade deal anytime soon.

Rationally and irrationally, the most likely way to break these logjams would be direct talks between Pelosi and Trump.  But that seems impossible too.

What the Speaker wants on these matters is clear: a budget deal through the election that increases domestic spending (and raises the debt ceiling and nixes the spending caps) and a North American trade deal that the left can love.

What does the Speaker want the outcome to be regarding the extraordinary public fight with the progressives in her caucus?

She wants them to keep their unhappiness private, inside the family. She wants them to stop tweeting criticism of the more centrist Democratic members of the House, who help account for their majority.  And she wants liberal congressional staffers to stop tweeting criticism of her team (that last practice might appall her more than anything else).  

With Bob Mueller’s pending testimony a week away, she wants the committee chairs to stage manage the spectacle in a way that appeases the left, doesn’t embarrass the party, and keeps calls for impeachment (which she is still certain would be a political error for 2020) on a low boil.

That is, for a Speaker, a lot to ask for.

But that is what she wants, and her lieutenants are right now, per usual, backing her up big time.

Gridlock, Trump Edition
My take: The President is most certainly delighted to watch the tensions between Pelosi and The Squad but, despite the way he often behaves, he is in fact not a bystander on the Big Casino or North American trade cliffhangers.

The path to success on these matters is not clear and failure could cause the stock market and the real economy to take big hits that would be extremely bad for America and for Trump’s re-election prospects.

The same is true for the trade talks with China: The path to success is not clear and failure could cause the stock market and the real economy to take big hits that would be extremely bad for America and for Trump’s re-election prospects.

Again, the Washington Post has that nailed too, saying a new hardline Chinese negotiator seems to make a deal less likely.

The forty-two ring circus that is Donald Trump’s Washington should not obscure for you the ticking calendar on these issues: Big Casino DCBDSC, North American trade, and China trade. 

Done before the August recess? Nah.

Done by Christmas? More likely, but still hard.

As I said, we know what Pelosi wants on these matters. The two key questions are: what does Trump want and how in the heck does he think he is going to get them before the nation defaults on its obligations, a government shutdown looms, and the economy tanks on word of the collapse of talks on two “vital” trade pacts?

No one knows the answers to those questions, including, it would be safe to wager, Donald J. Trump.

In Other News

Those ICE Raids Reportedly Back on for Weekend

My take: If Trump goes through with this, it will roil the immigration story right back to the top of the news heap.

Acosta Apparently Satisfied Trump

My take: Status quo ante still holds (Acosta can likely survive until/unless Senate Republicans turn on him.)

McConnell Opponent Flip Flops to Kavanaugh Opposition

My take: Amy McGrath can raise Beto-like money because of her opponent, but beating the Senate Leader will require running a near-perfect campaign. This is an extremely inauspicious beginning.  Team Mitch will do everything it can to keep McGrath off balance, a job will that be made easier if she is unprepared for even the most obvious questions imaginable. When the opposition research starts to drop, she is going to need to be a lot more ready.

Karl Rove on Democratic Field

My take: Read this column to understand how giddy the President’s campaign is about the current state of the Democratic race (which POTUS remains uncharacteristically quiet about for a reason).

John Podhoretz on Democratic Field

My take: Read this column to understand what Joe Biden needs to do to get back up off the floor.

RIP: Jim Bouton

Big Four

New Hampshire

Sanders facing tougher 2020 competition for liberal support.

Sununu vetoes election finance reform bills.


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