Don’t Let the House Hunter Biden Investigation Become a Russiagate-Style Search for Election Excuses

“Republicans have long insisted that not only did Hunter use his father’s name to secure foreign business deals for himself but that Joe Biden was in on the game. There is evidence for the former, and not for the latter. Regardless, the first people lawmakers might want to question are those intimately involved with Hunter Biden’s business dealings, right?
Apparently not. First up, per a Politico report, are three former Twitter employees.

Comer has invited former Twitter Deputy General Counsel James Baker, former Global Head of Trust and Safety Yoel Roth, and former Chief Legal Officer Vijaya Gadde to the hearing to testify about Twitter’s decision to temporarily block a New York Post story about Hunter Biden in 2020.

That decision was recently dissected at length in the Twitter Files, a series of reports based on internal documents that Twitter CEO Elon Musk has shared with a small group of journalists. The documents reveal Twitter executives engaged in ample deliberation and debate about how to handle the story, primed by warnings from the (Trump-era) Justice Department about the possibility of fake news being spread by foreign adversaries.

It’s pretty clear that Twitter’s decision to suppress the story—ultimately a wrong decision, albeit also a very short-lived one—was very much a product of people trying to avoid repeating the mistakes of 2016. Authorities were on high alert—perhaps to the point of paranoia—about foreign propaganda that might influence the 2020 electorate. And tech companies, having just lived through years of being excoriated for letting foreign propaganda spread in 2016, were extra sensitive to allegations that they might let it happen again.

But Republicans seem to desperately want there to be more to this story. For it to serve as a smoking gun against Joe Biden, tech companies, or both. For it to be a tidy explanation as to why Biden won in 2020.”

“Twitter made the wrong call with the story, yes. But it did so temporarily, with much deliberation, influenced by authorities in the Trump administration, and to the effect that the Hunter Biden story got even more attention. The idea that Joe Biden would have lost the election had this not happened is crazy. And the idea that Biden himself helped cover it up because he’s hiding something about his own business dealings lacks any evidence.

But these narratives are also very beneficial to Biden’s enemies. And Republicans seem determined to wring every last bit of political capital possible out of them.

Once again we’re reminded that the people in power—no matter which side that is—are more focused on making excuses for their own shortcomings and slinging mud at the other side than actually doing the hard work of becoming a faction more Americans can get behind.”

House GOP tempts fall government shutdown with longshot spending demands

“In addition to Republicans’ pledge to slice $130 billion from the $1.7 trillion government funding package that passed in December, conservatives want to take the process old-school. Rather than passing one massive bill, they’re calling for individual votes on the dozen appropriations bills that set annual budgets for different agencies, a more time-consuming but transparent procedure that recent Congresses have struggled to complete.
They’re also planning to allow an amendment free-for-all, which is all but certain to further drag out or trip things up.

Additionally, House Republicans say they’ll refuse to negotiate with the Senate until the upper chamber passes its own spending bills, which hasn’t happened in years. Typically, Senate appropriators have instead entered into bipartisan talks with their House counterparts, only burning valuable floor time on a package they’re certain would pass both chambers.

And GOP demands expand beyond funding the government. Republicans say they won’t back a debt limit increase unless they get their way on spending cuts or measures to reign in the ever-increasing $31 trillion debt. The timing of that could be tricky, however, as the Treasury Department could hit its credit card limit this summer, while federal cash expires on Sept. 30.

A debt ceiling hike will arguably make for a much bigger battle in Congress, leaving even less time and patience for bipartisan talks on funding the government.”

The GOP’s Current Plan To Cut Spending Is a Political Failure

“According to the Manhattan Institute’s Brian Riedl, the GOP plan so far is to cut $130 billion from discretionary appropriations. Unfortunately, the defense budget and veterans health funds are excluded from cuts, despite making up $993 billion out of $1,602 billion discretionary budget. As Riedl notes, their plan will require “freezing those two items and cutting everything else by 21% immediately.”
This maneuver guarantees political failure for the Republicans’ plan.”

“imposing cuts on only a small share of the discretionary budget excludes trillions of dollars from scrutiny and is a political nonstarter.”

“while limiting discretionary spending is a good start, fiscal sustainability requires that Congress also cut the mandatory side of the budget. Indeed, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—not defense or education—are still the chief drivers of our future debt, just as they have been in the past. Along with the interest the Treasury must pay on the debt, these three programs will be responsible for 86 percent of federal spending between 2008 and 2032, says Riedl. In other words, no level of discretionary spending cuts will ever be enough to control the upcoming debt explosion.”

McCarthy’s speaker chaos could make Democrats more powerful

“Given Republicans’ narrow 222-person majority, they can’t really pass much if they lose any more than five votes in their own conference. Since conservatives have been vocal about their commitment to blocking key bills, like an increase to the debt ceiling, in order to get the spending cuts they want, Republicans will likely need Democratic votes to keep essential government functions and services running if they want to do so.
Additionally, given the number of Freedom Caucus members added to the House Rules Committee, Democrats could theoretically join with the conservatives on the panel to block or slow bills favored by House GOP Leadership.

The situation gives Democrats more leverage to put forth their own demands, if Republican leadership is actually interested in getting anything done. Of course, there’s a high chance that they aren’t”

“In 2011 and 2014, Republican House Speaker John Boehner needed Democratic votes to approve spending bills to fund the government”

“McCarthy’s concessions included adding multiple members of the Freedom Caucus to the Rules Committee, which plays a key role in deciding what bills make it to the floor and what amendments get considered. Should three ultraconservative Republicans be added to that committee, something McCarthy agreed to, they’d be able to delay bills and push more extreme versions of policies.

That’s led some Democrats to worry these changes will empower Republicans’ conservative flank to use the panel for obstruction. “We have a small faction basically holding Congress hostage,” Scanlon says. “Many of the rules changes that are being proposed by this kind of extreme faction have the same goal.”

Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA), a member of the Rules Committee, notes that conservatives could gum up the process on bills by forcing debate on amendments, whether or not they are germane to the legislation at hand. “It’s impossible to legislate from that perspective,” she said.”

House GOP obsesses over mirage of a backroom-deal doc

“Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his GOP allies insist that no back-room promises were made to land his gavel after 15 frenetic ballots, that no plum committee spots, precise spending cuts, or debt limit strategy were guaranteed in a quid pro quo. Agreements and goals were reached with conservatives who initially withheld their votes from the speaker, GOP leaders say, but nothing was formalized in writing.”

“One McCarthy holdout, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), bluntly told Fox News when asked “what did you get” that he would join the influential GOP Steering Committee “as Speaker McCarthy’s designee.”
McCarthy also informed members that the House would take its first-ever vote this Congress on a contentious national sales tax bill that Georgia Republicans — including McCarthy dissenter Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) — have pushed for decades.

“That was part of the negotiation. The 20 conservatives who were holding out, one of the things that they wanted was to see it come to the floor for a vote,” Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) said.”

“Another McCarthy promise was to diversify the membership on coveted House panels, which in practice means adding more Freedom Caucus members and other conservatives. That has begun to happen: Four speaker-race holdouts — Clyde, Donalds, Rep. Michael Cloud (R-Texas) and Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.) — were awarded spots on prime committees”

“Clyde stressed: “There’s no secret rules addendum. There’s just an agreement.”

The rumored existence of a binding secret document, however, prompted multiple GOP lawmakers to approach their leaders about it, texting each other in search of the missing paper.”

“Some House Republicans argue that the most divisive of the concessions floating around are “aspirational” — particularly on issues like spending and the debt limit, which would need to get buy-in from the Democratic Senate and White House to go anywhere.”

Yes, Merrick Garland can prosecute Mark Meadows (and Peter Navarro, and Dan Scavino)

“The US House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and the Trump White House’s role in it is charging ahead. But — thanks in part to the limited power of congressional inquiries — the success of their next steps depends on the Justice Department.

And at least right now, the committee appears to be losing faith in that department, and specifically in Attorney General Merrick Garland, who has thus far been reluctant to prosecute high-ranking Trump administration officials who’ve stonewalled the committee. Several members of the committee criticized Garland for failing to prosecute at least one former top Trump aide whom Congress voted to hold in contempt. In the words of Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA), “Attorney General Garland, do your job so we can do ours.”

The committee also voted hold two former Trump White House aides in contempt of Congress. The former aides, trade adviser Peter Navarro and social media director Dan Scavino, both refused to comply with a subpoena seeking documents and testimony.

In the likely event that the full House agrees that the two men should be held in contempt, both could be fined and face up to a year of incarceration — though the decision whether to prosecute the two former White House aides will be made by the Justice Department and not by Congress.”

Progressives get rolled on Pentagon policy

“Democrats hold power in the House, Senate and White House for the first time in more than a decade, yet the high-profile defense bill got more GOP votes than from Biden’s own party. As progressive lawmakers made their dissatisfaction with the bill’s high price tag clear, centrist Democrats knew they needed Republican support to pass the House and Senate.”

“Bipartisan provisions requiring women to register for the draft, cracking down on Saudi Arabia and imposing sanctions on Russia were nixed; legislation repealing outdated Iraq war authorizations fell by the wayside; reforms to the military justice system and efforts to combat extremism in the ranks were pared back; and a proposal to give Washington, D.C., control of its National Guard was dropped.”

How The House Got Stuck At 435 Seats

“There have been 435 seats in the House for so long now that it might seem as if the Founding Fathers had foreseen it as a natural ceiling for the chamber’s size. But that isn’t the case: 435 is entirely arbitrary. The House arrived at that number because of political expediency — and it has stayed there because of it, too.

Up until 1910, when the chamber expanded from 391 to 435 seats,4 the size of the House had experienced a mostly unchecked pattern of growth. Only once, after the 1840 census, did the number of seats in the House not increase; 1910, however, marked the last time the House grew, even though the U.S. population has more than tripled since then, from over 90 million in 1910 to over 330 million today.”

“In 1910, the largest state, New York, had about 9 million more people than the smallest — that is, least populous — state, Nevada. But today, the largest state, California, has nearly 39 million more people than the smallest, Wyoming.

This staggering gap makes it far more likely for states to end up with wildly unequal district populations thanks to the Constitution’s requirement that each state have at least one congressional district. The Supreme Court requires districts to have equal populations, but this applies only to the districts within a state — not between states. So even though the average House district will have just over 760,000 people after this round of reapportionment, each state’s average district will vary quite a bit, especially as states get smaller in size.

Take the smallest and largest states with only one representative: Wyoming and Delaware, respectively. Wyoming, with just under 578,000 people, winds up overrepresented because it’s guaranteed a seat despite falling well short of that 760,000 national average. Conversely, Delaware has nearly 991,000 people, which leaves it underrepresented because it isn’t quite large enough to earn a second seat. Meanwhile, Montana has only about 95,000 more people than Delaware, but that’s enough for the apportionment formula to eke out a second seat, meaning Montana will have two districts to Delaware’s one and an average district size of just over 542,000, making its constituents the most represented in the country.

State lines make perfectly equal districts across the country impossible, but there’s no question that increasing the size of the House would help reduce how unequal district sizes among states have become. Expanding the House could also make districts smaller, which in turn could help with representation, as the average number of people living in a congressional district has grown by about 520,000 people from 1920 to 2020 — three times more than the total shift from 1790 to 1910.”

“each member of the House represents far more people on average than legislators in most other large, developed — or developing — democracies.”

“Regardless of the potential benefits of a bigger House, though, there would likely be steep opposition to expanding it because of some of the tradeoffs — and potential downsides — involved. For instance, a larger House would by necessity mean a bigger government and more spending. House members make $174,000 per year, and after five years of service they are also eligible for a pension. Combine that with new staff, new construction for office space, perhaps even a roomier House chamber and you’re talking about many millions or even billions of dollars.

There could also be consequences for governing, too, such as more gridlock and partisanship. “By increasing the number of players who have to be satisfied in the legislative game, you make arriving at the kind of majorities — or, in most cases, supermajorities — that you need to pass legislation more difficult,””

“a bigger House might produce fewer competitive seats thanks to partisan sorting and fewer representatives open to compromise. “You would have even less of an incentive as an individual member of Congress to try to do things on a bipartisan basis,” said Overby, “because your district would be increasingly homogeneous — increasingly Democratic or increasingly Republican.””