Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said efforts by the majority of Americans to stop the confirmation vote of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh this weekend won’t work. “What I’ve said from the beginning is we will push forward with our vote no matter what most Americans say they want,” McConnell said this morning. McConnell pointed to widespread protests, heckling of lawmakers, and letters by legal, academic, religious, and civic organizations as a clear indication the nominee is unacceptable to most Americans and to key institutions. He said he expects a 51-49 or 51-50 vote (with the vice president acting as tie-breaker) in favor of the nominee to put the matter to rest. More.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), who blamed his wife Margaret for his alleged illegal use of $250,000 in campaign contributions on personal expenses, says she’s also responsible for his saying climate change isn’t real, woman who are raped shouldn’t be allowed to take a morning after pill, and that men in the military shouldn’t have to take showers with transgender recruits if they still have “the girl stuff” on them. He also blamed his wife for his defense of Rep. Greg Giaforte (R-Mont.), who in 2016 was convicted of body slamming a reporter at a campaign event, and for his defense of Donald Trump’s toxic personality by saying that while Trump is an asshole, “he’s our asshole.” Hunter also blamed his wife for his opposition to same-sex marriage, making health insurance harder to get for people who don’t work at jobs where health insurance is a benefit, and for his support of vaping in closed spaces. More.
Gerald Hastings of Harvard University says House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said the stupidest things yesterday at a hearing his committee held jointly with the House Oversight Committee to look at political bias by FBI Russia investigator Peter Strzok. But Yale Political Science Professor Alfred Knowlings said House Oversight Committee Chair Trey Gowdy (R-Okla.) said the stupidest things by far and in fact came across as an idiot based on the stupid things he said. “Trey Gowdy is supposed to be one of the smarter members of the House Republican majority but based on the embarrassingly stupid things he said at the hearing yesterday, it’s hard to see him as any better than the dumbest, most moronic member of the House,” Knowlings said. More.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a former Ohio State University wrestling coach who’s been under fire since accusations emerged that athletes were groped by the team doctor and he did nothing about it, says he had no knowledge of the groping he was told about during his years there. “Had I known about the groping that the students told me about before and after practice, I would have done something,” Johnson told CNN this morning. Jordan was an assistant wrestling coach at the university from 1987 to 1995. He was elected to Congress in 2007 and has emerged as one of President Trump’s fiercest defenders. He’s being talked about as a replacement for retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). More.
Retiring Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) says he plans to be a thorn in President Trump’s side before he votes to confirm Trump’s pick to replace retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. “Because I’m not running for reelection, I can take brave positions without repercussions at the polls, which is why I’ll make a lot of noise until I give Trump what he wants,” Corker says. Retiring Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is in a similar position. “I have a history of standing up to Donald Trump until I sit down to vote for what he asks for,” Flake says. “I think it’s important for all of us who worry about the health of our democratic institutions to wag our finger in the president’s face before we hand him more power.” More.
Calling its passage a national security priority because lawyers are refusing to defend President Trump against mounting accusations against him, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) introduced a bill requiring lawyers to register with the Selective Service and be prepared to serve in a new White House Office of Criminal Defense for an unspecified term. “It’s unacceptable that our president cannot assemble a team of lawyers to defend him and his office against the growing investigation over his campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia and the increasing number of lawsuits against him by women he’s allegedly harassed or had affairs with,” said Ryan. The United States has not required conscription of any kind since the Selective Service was ended in the mid-1970s, after the Vietnam War, but times have changed, Ryan said. More.
The House Intelligence Committee released its long-awaited report on whether Russia intervened in the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Donald Trump and concluded that, while there were errors of judgment by Trump campaign officials, there was no collusion with Russian attempts to tamper with the election. It also recommended measures to protect future U.S. elections against tampering, and also recommended the redeployment of remaining Russia funds to investigate still-open questions about the 2012 attacks on the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya, and the culpability of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “There remain unanswered questions about Secretary Clinton’s negligence and misconduct in the days and weeks leading up to the horrific attack on the United States,” the report says. More.
House and Senate leaders, concerned recent moves by Donald Trump could cause lasting damage to the United States, say it might be necessary to remove the President from office before he’s given due process because going through impeachment and then a vote to remove him would take too long. “We like taking his office first and going through due process second,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters after meeting with a bi-partisan group of leaders from the House and Senate. “Think of a crazy person holding a gun. You want to take the gun first and give him due process later.” McConnell said lawmakers don’t have a lot of time because the President is about to launch a trade war, which is expected to lead to retaliatory measures from many countries, including many allied countries, and the midterm elections are coming up and the President has yet to order action against efforts Russia has already taken to destabilize the process. More.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Trump), brushing the dust off his suit from the exploding memo his staff wrote on FBI bias against Donald Trump, says he’s ordered several new explosive devices to discredit the Mueller investigation into Trump Russia collusion. “I have several orders pending with Acme Corp. that I’m confident will bring down this charade of an investigation,” Nunes said this morning. Among other things, Nunes said, he expects to get a delivery by as early as Monday that will show the Deep State connections of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller . . . . More.
The mother of John Thune (R-S.D.), the third-ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate, says he needs to put some meat on his bones so he doesn’t blow away when a strong wind kicks up. “Is he getting enough to eat?” his mother says. “I bet he’s not eating breakfast.” His mother says she sees him on TV and she can tell he probably didn’t eat the potato rolls she sent him last week. “His aunt brought those rolls home from Pennsylvania,” she says. “The man she bought them from was very nice. The rolls were good. He should eat them instead of letting them get stale.” More.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) says he’s bummed Congress just added $1.5 trillion to the deficit for tax cuts because that’s the exact same amount President Trump says he wants to use to rebuild the country’s crumbling infrastructure. “Just really bad timing,” Ryan told reporters after President Trump concluded his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. “We know how badly we need to repair our roads, bridges, dams, train tracks, airports, canals, ports, and other big public works projects but unfortunately we just burned through the exact same $1.5 trillion Trump says we need to pay for our tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans.” More.
Congressional leaders are scrambling to make sure the budget stalemate that’s led to a government shutdown this weekend doesn’t impede the regular monthly payments that members of Congress make to to Katie, Ashleigh, and other interns and staffers who’ve agreed not to have lunch or otherwise talk to reporters from the Washington Post, New York Times, or other news organizations about their time on Capitol Hill. “People think of these non-disclosure payments as a minor budget item but I can tell you they’re not and members are very concerned that these payments not be disrupted due to the shutdown,” a staff aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said today. The aide, who asked to remain anonymous in order to speak frankly about sensitive budgetary matters, said lawmakers pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars each month to interns and aides, mostly women but also some men, who’ve signed non-disclosure agreements about their time working on the Hill. More.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) called it “very unfortunate and unhelpful” that President Trump is destroying the United States, and said it would be better if the President didn’t destroy the institutions he has sworn to oversee or make the United States loathsome in the eyes of people around the world. He also said it would be better if the President didn’t pit Americans against Americans. “Would it be better if the President tried to strengthen our institutions? Yes, it would,” Ryan said. “Would it be better if he tried to make people look up to the United States rather than down on it? Yes. And would it be a plus if he brought Americans together rather them drive them apart? Yes, I’m sure it would be.” Ryan said he can’t speak for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), but he believes the Majority Leader also thinks it’s very unfortunate and unhelpful when the President makes the United States an object of hatred and derision around the world. More.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) probably aren’t going to say anything about it, according to the two congressional leaders’ aides. Max Phillip, McConnell’s chief of staff, said it’s the Majority’ Leader’s intent not to say much about President Trump’s tweet comparing his nuclear button to the nuclear button of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. “Would he plan to comment on that anytime soon?” Phillip said. “I wouldn’t expect that.” Phillip said there’s always a temptation to say something when the President’s son is accused of treason by a person who was the President’s top aide just a short while ago, but the Majority Leader will probably not address it. “You have to think about what you remark on and what you don’t remark on, and I think the Majority Leader will probably choose not to remark on that,” he said. More.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) says the trial balloons he’s been floating about retiring after tax reform passes have nothing to do with his plans to run against Donald Trump for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination. “I am not planning and will not plan to offer Republican voters an alternative to the crazy man in the White House today,” Ryan said. Ryan said there’s no truth to the rumor that he would seek to give an alternative to Republican voters who don’t want to see Trump reelected but also don’t want to see a Democrat take the White House. “I know there’s speculation that I would put myself out there as a safe vote for Republicans who don’t want another Roy Moore-type debacle in 2020, but that is not the case,” he said. More.
Influential Republican strategist Stephen Bannon wasted no time after his party’s big loss in the Alabama Senate race this week to unveil a plan for losing in South Carolina, Texas, and other deep-red states in coming elections. “We have that rare opportunity to hand over Republican states to Democrats next year and in 2020 if we’re ready to seize the moment,” Bannon said in remarks to Republican supporters last night. “After decades of Republican control, we can hand these states over to Democrats by draining the swamp of the mainstream, establishment conservatives who people are willing to vote for and replace them with people that many mainstream conservatives aren’t willing to vote for.” More.
Corporations and wealthy individuals say they’ll pour their millions of dollars in cuts they stand to get from tax reform into the reelection fight of Republicans whose seats are now at risk from angry middle-class voters whose tax increases will pay for the bill. “We told the GOP they needed to pass tax cuts for the wealthy or they could forget about calling us again for political contributions,” says one billionaire who stands to save millions from tax cuts. “Now that they’re poised to deliver, we understand they need help. There are a lot of people who will want to retaliate by voting out of office anyone who voted for the tax cuts. What we’re saying is, we’re putting our new money where our mouth is.” According to polls, voters are angry that they’re facing tax hikes to pay for the cuts to corporations and the wealthy. One voter who responded to a poll was so angry she couldn’t see straight. More.
Republican lawmakers in the Senate say they urgently must pass tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy before the end of the year because of pressure coming from Russia Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. “Would it be better to slow down and better think through our tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy? Of course,” says John Thune (R-S.D.), the Senate whip. “Right now our own analysis is showing a $1 trillion addition to the budget deficit even after projected growth in the economy. So, if we had more time we could craft changes that address that and still give our wealthy donors what they want. Unfortunately, time is a luxury we don’t have.” That’s because Mueller’s investigation is winding down. More.
Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore said accounts of him dating teenage girls whose parents gave him permission to date them when he was in his thirties is fake news. “Let me be clear,” said Moore. “It’s not true that I dated the teenage girls whose parents gave me permission to date them.” Moore also said there’s nothing wrong with him as a man in his thirties walking around shopping malls by himself as the press accused him of doing. “The press is wrong to say I innocently and lawfully walked around malls by myself as a man in my thirties,” he said. Moore, 70, is an evangelical Christian who has been an uncompromising critic of homosexuality. He was the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court before he was removed from office in 2003 for defying a court order to take down a statute of the Ten Commandments he had erected on the courthouse grounds. More.
The U.S. Congress came together in a bipartisan fashion today to condemn the acts of gun violence that will plague the country in the months and years ahead. “We condemn the senseless taking of innocent life that we will experience in the future,” the resolution reads. “We call on all Americans to come together during these times of national trauma that will inflict us, probably twice a year if not more frequently.” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), one of the sponsors of the resolution, says it’s a step in the right direction for lawmakers to get all of their future condemnations of acts of gun violence out of the way at once, because that will free up time for other legislative priorities. More.
Weary lawmakers in the Senate, still bruised and battered from previous repeal and replace bills that swept through the chamber, are gearing up for yet another potential direct hit as the Cassidy-Graham bill strengthens into a Category 5 bill. “We’re already rationing our time and energy to get things done after dealing with the previous three bills—‘repeal-and-replace,’ ‘partial repeal,’ and ‘skinny repeal,'” says Susan Collins (R-Maine), whose no vote on the previous measures has been credited as a key to the chamber’s recovery after the unusually heavy repeal-and-replace season. Storm preparation[/caption]Collins said the Senate was just starting to make progress on other priorities like tax reform after devoting weeks to cleaning up after the previous bills, but that progress could be upended if, as predicted, Cassidy-Graham hits the chamber as a Category 5 bill. More.
California Republican Duncan Hunter, an anti-immigration hard-liner in Congress who said last week that, while President Donald Trump might be an a**hole, he’s at least “our a**hole,” lashed out in anger today at reports that his a**hole has struck an immigration deal with Democrats. “So, my a**hole isn’t my a**hole after all?” he told reporters at the Capitol this morning. “I wake up, look in the mirror, and I find there’s no a**hole attached to my backside and instead find it attached to the backside of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer?” Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Schumer (D-N.Y.) are the House and Senate minority leaders, respectively. More.
After he or someone on his staff liked a porn video on his Twitter account, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said his office had reported the incident to Twitter. “The offensive tweet posted on @tedcruz account earlier has been removed by staff and reported to Twitter,” said Catherine Frazier, Cruz’s communications aide. What else has his office reported to Twitter? We investigate. More.
Crafting Health Bill in Secret Necessary to Keep Cheering People From Delaying Passage, McConnell Says
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says it’s necessary for Republicans to write their bill to replace Obamacare in secret because having millions of people cheering them on while they hammer out the details would unnecessarily slow the legislative process, an injustice to the 23 million Americans waiting impatiently to lose their health insurance. “We owe it to all of the struggling Americans who stand to lose their coverage to move as quickly as we can,” McConnell told reporters at the Capitol today. McConnell said many additional people will see their premiums go up and their level of coverage go down, so it’s understandable that lawmakers don’t want to take any longer than is absolutely necessary to pass the bill. “We still have to reconcile our bill with the House bill, so we’re champing at the bit to get our bill out there,” McConnell said. More.
Rep. Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) in an NPR interview this morning refused to say whether everyone in the United States is entitled to eat food, drink water, occupy space, and breathe air. “People are given bootstraps for a reason,” Smith told NPR’s Scott Simon in an interview about federal budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration. “If we’re not willing to pull ourselves up by them, why do we have them? Why do we have these bootstraps?” “Not everyone is born with bootstraps,” Simon said. “We have people who are born into poverty who don’t get adequate nutrition, don’t have heat in the winter . . . .” “But they have bootstraps,” said Smith, “because God wants us to pull ourselves up by them. Government isn’t a shoe store for poor people.” More.
Exasperated by President Donald Trump’s repeated preference for Russian national interests over those of the United States, all 48 Democratic lawmakers in the Senate sponsored a bill, “The Put America First Again Act of 2017,” to require the President to look out for American interests. “We believe the President of the United States, among all Americans, should put American interests first,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the minority leader in the Senate, said in introducing the bill. “We think it’s the least he can do.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the bill a “desperate act of grandstanding” by the Democrats and said it has as much chance of getting brought up on the Senate floor as a health care bill that would make insurance better and cheaper for more Americans. More.
Republican lawmakers in the United States Congress say they’re flabbergasted they couldn’t pull out a win yesterday by passing a bill that no one wanted and that would make the lives of Americans worse. “Who would have thought that a bill that strips health insurance away from 24 million people, raises the premiums for everyone else, and allows insurance companies to pay for less care couldn’t generate enough votes to pass?” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said last night after pulling the plug on his signature health care reform bill. Ryan said he’s stunned that his fellow Republicans didn’t want to commit political suicide by making the lives of their constituents worse by publicly voting “yea” for his bill, called the American Health Care Act. More.
McConnell: ‘Have to do it’Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Congress has little choice but to censure President Donald Trump for accusing his predecessor, without evidence, of conducting surveillance on him during the 2016 campaign. “There has never been a greater debasement of the presidency than what we have seen in the last two weeks,” said McConnell, who as recently as this weekend joined President Trump at a campaign-style rally in Louisville, Ky. “For one president to accuse another of what amounts to a criminal act, and to do so even though all of the country’s considerable intelligence resources are at his fingertips, is to perpetrate one of the greatest violations of our nation’s trust we have ever seen.” More.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the former prosecutor who led the investigation into the Benghazi attacks when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, says he is ready to “pull out all the stops” to learn whether laws were broken when National Security Advisor Michael Flynn held talks with Russia about lifting sanctions while Barack Obama was still president. “If the contacts were in fact about the lifting of sanctions, then that would be a clear violation of U.S. law and appropriate steps would have to be taken,” says Gowdy, who earned a reputation in Congress for his tough prosecutorial approach when he led the special committee on what Hillary Clinton knew and didn’t know about the raid on the U.S. embassy in Libya that led to the deaths of four Americans, including the Libyan ambassador, Christopher Stevens. More.
Saying war with China or any other country will require the combat leadership of a certain seven-year Navy veteran, Senate Democrats this morning introduced the “Stephen K. Bannon Combat Leadership Act of 2017.” Under the bill, Stephen K, Bannon, a top advisor to President Donald Trump and an acknowledged “lover of war,” will have to “lead troops into battle in the first, second, and third waves of attack against enemies of the United States in any theater of war of his devising.” The legislation names “the South China Sea” as a potential “theater of war” but also says other areas of the world would qualify as long as “the lives of U.S. troops are at stake as a result of war started by Stephen K. Bannon.” More.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said the decree by President Donald Trump to institute martial law in the United States “to protect Americans from foreign and domestic enemies” is an unfortunate necessity given the state of the world, but he took issue with the “hasty and sloppy” execution of the law. “Should the Administration have put out guidance earlier to minimize confusion? Yes, I think it could have,” Ryan said. “The order was clearly drafted in haste—I get that, given the threats we face from people who want to harm American liberty and freedom—but the people on the ground that must carry it out should have had detail instructions. The result was the confusion and unnecessary mistakes that characterized the rollout.” More.
After what they call eight years of failed American foreign policy by the Obama administration, House Republican leaders say it’s time to spin off the country’s diplomacy and statesmanship to the private sector. “The United States was built by our world-leading companies,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said at a press conference in the Capitol this morning. “The government doesn’t build Chevrolets. General Motors does. The country doesn’t make computers. Apple does. Today, it’s time to unleash our private sector on our foreign policy and do what our government has never been able to do: create peace and prosperity around the world.” Under the plan Ryan and other leaders unveiled, the heads of GM, AT&T, Citibank, and other multinational corporations would work with leaders of countries around the world to replace war with peace and confrontation with cooperation. More.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) says he has asked Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C) to start the process of impeaching Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton even though she hasn’t won the presidency yet because waiting could enable her to govern should she win more votes in November than her Republican rival Donald Trump. “I acknowledge it’s unprecedented to start impeaching a president before the president is elected, but we live in unprecedented times and we must act to protect the American people before a president commits an impeachable act that we know the president will commit,” says Ryan, who made his announcement at the Capitol this morning. More.
Disgraced former Speaker of the House Denny Hastert says he’s ashamed of his behavior decades ago, when he acted inappropriately with underage boys as their teacher and coach in Yorkville, Ill. But he also defended himself, saying the Republican party has a long history of its members condemning people for marital infidelity and sexual “deviancy” while secretly engaging in the practices themselves. “Everyone knows the Republican party is full of closet homosexuals and serial marital cheaters even though it touts itself as the family-values party,” Hastert, 74, said after his admission in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. “I can show you a list as long as my arm of Republicans in Congress who lie about their sexual identity and cheat on their spouses while condemning others for doing the same.” More.
In a rare moment of bipartisanship, Republicans and Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee yesterday applauded U.S. wildlife officials for their decision not to set aside protected habitat areas for an endangered species of bats. “All of America’s wildlife are important, and we’re as worried about our bat population as anyone, but if we had to let one species go, it should probably be the bats,” Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chair of the committee, said yesterday. “While we hope the Department of Fish and Wildlife can work out a way to protect imperiled bats, if they can’t, we understand.” “Not all animals get protected habitat, it’s as simple as that,” said Jim Costa (D-Calif.), a senior member of the committee. More.
The judge picked to replace Antonin Scalia on the nation’s highest court, Merrick Garland, couldn’t make it more clear that President Obama is intentionally trying to change the country into something most Americans wouldn’t recognize, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said yesterday. “To come forward at this time with a distinguished judge who has been praised by both Republicans and Democrats for his professionalism and meticulous respect for the law exposes Obama for what he is,” said McConnell (R-Ky.). “There should no longer be any question that Obama intends to drive his agenda as far as he can in his remaining months in office, and we need to stop that before he leaves our country permanently changed.” More.