Senator Schumer Munches Meatloaf

And other musical interludes…

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Chuck Schumer, the Brooklyn Affenpinscher (“active, adventurous, curious, and stubborn, but .. also fun-loving and playful”) who caught the MTA bus of the majority leadership slot, says he has three short-term priorities: confirming Biden nominees,  quickly passing a large pandemic relief measure, and holding a successful Trump impeachment trial.

To paraphrase Meatloaf: At this hour, one out of three ain’t bad.

It would be, for instance, a success rate greater than Hank Aaron’s lifetime .305 batting average, which was Hall of Fame stuff.

Biden’s nominees are overall moving faster than once upon a time was thought likely, with the events of January 5 (Georgia) and January 6 (Capitol riot) playing a decisive (but somewhat under appreciated) role in changing that particular game.

HALPERIN SAYS: With the waivers for Lloyd Austin secured before confirmation and Team Biden cleverly handling the Neera Tanden account, it appears the administration will, after more time and effort than they would have liked (but not actually all that much time and effort) have a strong chance to win confirmation of literally every cabinet-level nominee.  Score one for the Beltway acumen of Ron Klain and Co.

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As for the second of Schumer’s priorities:

Biden’s relief package is being declared dead on arrival by senior Senate Republicans, some of whom say there has been little, if any, outreach from the Biden team to get their support. Liberals are demanding the president abandon attempts to make a bipartisan deal altogether and instead ram the massive legislation through without GOP votes. And outside groups are turning up the pressure for Biden and the Democrats who control Congress to enact economic relief quickly, even if it means cutting Republicans out of the deal. (Washington Post)

HALPERIN SAYS: As of today, you would have to rank the outcomes in order of likelihood as: (1) something like what Biden originally proposed passes after a few weeks (or longer) via reconciliation; (2) something much smaller passes after a few weeks with a vaguely bipartisan vote, followed by rolling much of the rest of what was left out into an infrastructure effort; (3) the whole thing collapses; (4) something like what Biden originally proposed passes after a few weeks (or longer) after nixing the filibuster; (5) something around $1 trillion passes with strong bipartisan support but with howls on the left; (6) something like what Biden originally proposed passes after many weeks with vaguely bipartisan support.

The biggest question now is the one that has loomed from the start: How long will Biden continue to seek a bipartisan process before he breaks the glass and seeks a partisan one?

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As for the Senate impeachment trial, combine the reporting of the New York Times

[B]oth sides indicated they were looking to compress it into a handful of days, potentially allowing senators to reach a verdict by the end of that week…..

…with this vital quote at the end of the Washington Post’s story….

“We kind of have an inkling of what the outcome is going to be,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.). “I mean, Democrats this time didn’t even bother to go through the motions of getting sworn testimony and having hearings in the House. This is not a serious effort. It is a serious issue, but it’s not a serious effort to comply with the requirements of due process of the Constitution when it comes to impeachment.”

….and it seems like the conventional wisdom in this case is now as wise as it is conventional: The courts will allow a Senate trial of a former president, leading to a short tribunal at the end of which nearly every Republican Senator, benefiting politically from the passions cooling as 1/6 gets farther in the rearview, gloms onto one procedural argument or another (Insufficient due process! Rushed! Unconstitutional! Let’s move on!) and then votes to acquit.

HALPERIN SAYS: It seems that congressional Democrats and their Dominant Media allies have not prepared themselves and the public for the possible fallout of a trial that ends with a Trump victory lap, just like a year ago.  This isn’t a game, but there also might not be any candle at the end for Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer to take home when all is said and done.  Democrats say a trial is essential to restore justice and bring about unity – but what if the process ends and both perception and reality are that America got neither?

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The Gang of 500 current scorecard on the Biden presidency, via the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus:

I have watched Biden for more than three decades, as senator, vice president and presidential candidate, and this is the best Biden I have seen. Winning the office he has sought nearly his entire adult life becomes him. He looks and acts older, yes, and sometimes in an unsettling way. But he is also more self-assured than the vice president who worked in Barack Obama’s shadow or the young senator who seemed so hungry for approval from his older colleagues.

HALPERIN SAYS: No doubt this is true, but when the time comes for Biden to go over the heads of the Congress directly to the American people, as every successful president does now and again, what will happen?

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ESSENTIAL READING

The Wall Street Journal with a newsy lede topping a good waterfront check of the Biden administration China opportunities and challenges:

Looking to reset the troubled U.S.-China relationship, Beijing is pressing for a meeting of its top diplomat with senior aides to President Biden to explore a summit between the two nations’ leaders, according to people with knowledge of the initiative.

HALPERIN SAYS: At some point, it would be nice if the president weighed in more directly to give America and the world a sense of his heart and head on the Middle Kingdom. His views on that might just matter more than whether he wants to micromanage the impeachment trial schedule or not.

* Check out this from the Grover Norquist operation:

During his Senate confirmation hearing for Transportation Secretary, Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg told members of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee that a gas tax increase is “on the table” as a means to pay for infrastructure spending.

When asked directly by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) if he supported increasing the gas tax and by what amount, Buttigieg replied, "I think all options need to be on the table, as you know, the gas tax hasn't been increased since 1993 and it's never been pegged to inflation."

“There are several different models, in the short to medium term that could include revisiting the gas tax, adjusting it, and or connecting it to inflation," Buttigieg continued when pressed by Sen. Scott to provide more detail.

HALPERIN SAYS: Mark Mark’s words – the anti-Biden coalition is going to make tax increases a 2022 battle cry, no matter what Biden proposes or doesn’t on taxes.

* The news cycle revelation that Donald Trump toyed with sacking his acting attorney general in the Final Days is neither shocking nor surprising, given the subject matter.

HALPERIN SAYS: There is more more more of this type of narrative headed our way soon and for years to come.

* The original decision of the Washington Post to change an unflattering portion of a past story about Vice President Harris is something you should definitely read about in this Reason piece

HALPERIN SAYS: Oh, and this revelation apparently was adjudged unworthy of any or significant coverage by America’s main newspapers and political news organizations.  Please write a 750-word essay on why those joint decisions were made as they were.

* Headline in Delaware’s top newspaper, the News Journal:

Man Charged in Bear Stabbing Death Thursday, Police Say

HALPERIN SAYS: Don’t judge a newspaper story by its headline.

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