The U.S. Government avoided a shutdown on Friday night after Senate Democrats gave up on an effort to extend retired miners’ health insurance and the Senate approved a bill which will keep the government funded through April. New Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer subsequently claimed that the party was never willing to shut down the government over the miner’s insurance, an issue he says they only wanted to highlight. According to Politico’s reporting, it seems like the entire dispute — which wasn’t resolved until an hour before the midnight deadline for funding the government — was likely just an attempted show of gamesmanship by Democrats. Schumer apparently told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that he would make sure the bill had the votes this time around, but “next time, negotiate.” Republicans didn’t seem worried about the threat, which was spearheaded by Democratic senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sherrod Brown of Ohio. McConnell has said he supports extending the benefits, and that the Senate will be able to figure out how to do that before April, when the miners’ insurance will run out.
Of the many things that resulted in Donald Trump’s election, from Hillary Clinton’s own errors to James Comey’s extraordinary insinuations against her in the contest’s final stages, Russian hacking played a meaningful enough role to tilt a razor-tight contest. Russia successfully riled up Bernie Sanders die-hards against the Democratic Party by leaking minor intrigue that fueled their suspicions, aggravating a Clinton liability with young voters that never healed. They also dribbled out enough emails in the succeeding months to keep stories using the word “emails” in the lead of Hillary Clinton news, adding more smoke to the haze of scandal that permeated coverage of her campaign.
Things that now seem inevitable often came first as surprises, and if you look back at the campaign, Rudy Giuliani’s unhinged, grasping embrace of Donald Trump was in fact slow and cautious — at least at first. This evolution (or devolution) over the course of this latest election almost functions as something of a stand-in for Rudy’s career: a long arc of slowly moving rightward over the decades, from district attorney to America’s mayor to Fox News talking head. Then, suddenly, with a snarling acceleration, emerging on the national stage someone who looks almost unrecognizable as the same politician who, on 9/11, ached alongside a diverse city and a frightened country in shock. Now, instead, he was haranguing his enemies with vicious personal attacks, race baiting, denying reality alongside the same conspiracy theorists who doubted the 9/11 attacks. He was the top choice of Steve Bannon, the alt-right’s voice in the Trump administration, to be secretary of State. But it turns out he won’t be — news broke on Friday afternoon that Giuliani had withdrawn his name from contention — leaving him to grapple with the public embarrassment of campaigning so openly, right after the election, for a job he thought was in the bag. The talk is that his old client list was going to cause him problems in the confirmation hearings. Whatever the reason, he’s not going to make any year-end winner lists now; his strange turn was all for naught. Or was it such a turn? If you’ve been looking closely, the clues have been there for years: Giuliani’s Trump era is less an abrupt departure from his true personality than the purest distillation of it.
Representative Sam Johnson, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee’s Social Security subcommittee, has introduced a bill to cut Social Security benefits. Why he is doing this, and what it means, is extremely hard to say. Any reckoning with the politics has to begin with a grasp of the bill’s effect. It would eliminate Social Security’s actuarial deficit entirely through spending cuts — indeed, more than entirely through spending cuts. Social Security taxes bring in about 13.2 percent of taxable payroll. Bringing the program into balance entirely through cuts would bring spending down to that level. Johnson would cut it another percentage point lower:
As votes continue to be tabulated in the days since the presidential election, Donald Trump’s deficit continues to grow (now at 2.7 million votes, or 2 percent of the total), while the imagined scale of his triumph continues to swell. He is no longer the ever-so-narrow beneficiary of Hillary Clinton’s deep unpopularity but the authentic tribune of the people, imbued with a “mandate for leadership,” as Mike Pence boasted. The alchemy at work here uses the usual Republican tactic of emphasizing the “coastal” nature of the Democratic coalition, which — in combination with the Republican stronghold in low-density counties, and perhaps even jacked up with fake maps — can make Trump’s minority at least look like a majority.
National Review has a story carrying the promising headline, “No, Scott Pruitt at the EPA Will Not Be a Threat to the Planet.” A hopeful premise. Alas, the story, written by Ian Tuttle, proceeds to argue that Pruitt will not pose a threat to the planet because climate science is a giant hoax. The consensus of climate scientists that greenhouse-gas emissions lead to steadily rising temperatures, explains Tuttle, is merely an “ever-looming but never-arriving ‘climate change’ apocalypse, the most concrete indication of which appears to be — maybe — the occasional lean polar bear.” So never fear, things will be fine, as long as you’re pretty sure the field of climate science is a hoax.
The Obama administration will conclude with one more government shutdown threat, but this time the players have changed. Senate Democrats say they may shut down the government this weekend if they can’t secure a better deal to extend health benefits for retired coal miners — and they’re appealing to Donald Trump for support.
Unsurprisingly, the man who publicly encouraged Russia to hack his opponent isn’t tremendously concerned about foreign meddling in U.S. elections. During his Person of the Year interview with Time, Donald Trump said he doesn’t believe that Russia interfered in 2016 — then clarified that he thinks it’s possible someone tried to throw the election:
This week, United Steelworkers Local 1999 president Chuck Jones publicly corrected Donald Trump, telling the media that while the president-elect claims his deal with the heating and cooling company saved 1,100 U.S. jobs from moving to Mexico, the real figure is 800. Trump responded by falsely attacking Jones, making the ludicrous suggestion that the union president is to blame for American companies shipping jobs overseas, rather than decades of economic and technological developments.
Deep behind a tangle of denial and rebranding initiatives, a GOP resuscitation plan emerges.By Frank Rich
When Mark Sanford decided to run for office again, he asked his ex-wife, Jenny, for her blessing. Whether he has her vote is another matter.By Jason Zengerle
Jon Favreau’s most enduring riffs.
Wonkblog Jan. 21, 2013
For all the sound and fury, Washington’s actually making real progress on debt.By Ezra Klein
Mother Jones Jan. 15, 2013
Our debt dysfunction began with the Constitution, funded Manifest Destiny, and makes the trillion dollar coin look tame.By Tim Murphy
Salon Jan. 15, 2012
Harry Reid and other pro-gun Democrats leave Obama in need of unlikely allies.By Steve Kornacki
New York Magazine / Nov. 5, 2010
After November's glitch, Boehner, McConnell and Congress strike familiar poses.By John Heilemann
New York Magazine / Jan. 25, 2009
Obama drew progressive ire from day one.By John Heilemann
New York Magazine / Nov. 30, 2008
How one undocumented family lives in our sanctuary city.By Jeff Coplon