Daily Politics Update (2023-4)

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No agreement on any bill

BURGESS EVERETT and SARAH FERRIS, 9/28./23, Politico, Romney polled Senate Republicans. They want a clean funding bill, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/09/28/senate-republicans-clean-funding-bill-00118549

Mitt Romney polled his fellow GOP senators during a private lunch on Wednesday: How many of them would prefer a clean government funding patch over the bill the Senate is taking up this week, which is stocked with billions of dollars in emergency spending on causes like aiding Ukraine? A clear majority of hands in the room shot up to support the clean bill. On one level that might sound encouraging: There is apparently majority support among Senate Republicans for a no-frills, no-cuts bill to keep funding the government. But it’s hardly enough to stave off a shutdown. In fact, Romney‘s informal whip count, described by two attendees at the GOP’s Wednesday lunch, encapsulated the deep divisions that are plaguing Republicans on both sides of the Capitol. Many Senate Republicans support Ukraine aid and disaster funding, but they are now trying to triangulate legislation for House Republicans that can seemingly find no agreement among themselves. The Senate GOP is desperate to find a way to avert a shutdown and crafted a bipartisan legislative package this week with that goal in mind. The idea behind it was passing something that Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s members might ultimately be able to accept as they flailed across the Capitol. But the Senate’s plan also included components like new funding for Ukraine — a red line for some of McCarthy’s members — and disaster relief money. ‘Zero confidence’: Members sound off on GOP leadership Now that McCarthy has rejected the Senate’s legislation, Senate Republicans are plainly ambivalent about it, as Romney’s informal poll suggested. House Republicans have also spurned a clean government funding bill, the other option in Romney’s poll. That leaves the GOP without any obvious path forward in either chamber — and the risk of carrying all the blame.

Biden will have to use capital to protect Ukraine aid

Payne, 9-24, 23, Andrew Payne is the author of War on the Ballot: How the Election Cycle Shapes Presidential Decision-Making in War (New York: Columbia University Press, 2023) and is a lecturer in foreign policy and security at City, University of London, The Times, What drives US support for Ukraine? Joe Biden’s strategy explained, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/joe-biden-us-strategy-ukraine-support-weapons-russia-war-2023-xsnj5pfwg

President Zelensky was in Washington last week to shore up declining Congressional support for his country’s war with Russia. It was his second visit to the US capital since the conflict broke out in February 2022. The Ukrainian leader’s latest diplomatic mission was rewarded by the White House with the announcement of a new military package providing significant air-defence capabilities, as well as a commitment to provide a small number of long-range missiles — the Army Tactical Missile System. But Republican opposition to the administration’s request for an additional $24 billion in aid has cast doubt on President Biden’s ability to deliver on assurances of long-term support for Ukraine. The episode brings into sharp relief the obstructive potential that Congress holds in the realm of foreign policy. And it is a harbinger of tough political sledding ahead. Traditionally, presidents are thought to enjoy a relatively free hand in matters of war and peace. And it is true that in recent years the legislative branch has been reluctant to exercise its formal oversight responsibilities in this area. But in an increasingly polarised political environment, with a presidential election just over a year away, the war in Ukraine is emerging as a significant campaign issue. There is a now very real threat that political opponents in Congress will use their control of the purse strings to frustrate the administration’s policies. This is just one component of a much broader story. Historians tended to emphasise the national interest, ideology and the influence of interest groups such as the oil and defence industries when examining the drivers of American interventionism. In practice, domestic political considerations have also long shaped the way in which presidents have approached foreign wars. This decades-long record contains both echoes of what is happening today and gives clues as to how things are likely to unfold. Of course, the exact contours of the debate will also evolve in response to developments on the battlefield. Assuming that the present stalemate continues in some form, it is likely that there will be an intensification of the current dynamic, whereby the strength of opposition in Congress depends on the balance of power between rival factions in the Republican party. This is not the first time that these political currents have shaped the course of US involvement in conflicts overseas. During the Korean War, an early bipartisan consensus in support of military assistance began to unravel over time, much as we are seeing with regard to the conflict in Ukraine. Then, the battle between internationalist and isolationist factions within the Republican party contributed to President Harry Truman’s decision to escalate the war in Korea for fear of appearing weak in response to Kremlin-backed aggression. Today, unlike in the 1950s, it is those who are sceptical of America’s overseas commitments that are ascendent. For now, Biden seems confident that Republican leaders in Congress will come through in their support for the pending request for additional aid for Ukraine. But with Kevin McCarthy, Speaker of the House of Representatives, under renewed assault from the right wing of his party, there is no guarantee that this fragile legislative coalition will hold. This was further demonstrated in the recent Republican primary debate, in which two prominent candidates for president, Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy, questioned the need for continued security assistance to Ukraine. These positions were challenged by others on the debate stage. But they reflect the stance of former president Donald Trump, whose grip on the party remains strong. And even within Biden’s own party, there are significant progressive voices who remain uncomfortable with the idea of open-ended support for Ukraine. These dynamics could create incentives for Biden to follow in the footsteps of other presidents who responded to similar pressures by instead delaying or watering down commitments to foreign wars. Lyndon Johnson, for example, repeatedly kicked proposals to escalate US involvement in Vietnam into the long grass until after the 1964 election. Instead, the president authorised covert operations and other “disavowable” actions — not because he believed they could turn the tide of the war, but because they might just be enough to keep the enemy off balance in a way that attracted less political controversy at home. Of course, we are some way away from discussions of sending US combat troops to Ukraine. But under a similar confluence of pressures, Biden might seek to delay future requests for supplemental funding, ask for less than he believes is necessary, or choose to embrace alternative policy tools in an effort to avoid a damaging spat with Congress that would further erode his political capital. Things can change quickly in both politics and war, however. In the event that Ukraine achieves a major breakthrough on the battlefield, for example, the political winds could yet shift in favour of a much more aggressive US policy aiming to roll back Russian influence, leading to volatile and potentially highly dangerous outcomes.

Ukraine aid will pass but support is tenuous and must be maintained

Brad Press, 9-23, 23, The Hill, Zelensky visit shows McCarthy walks ‘thin line’ on Ukraine aid, https://thehill.com/homenews/house/4219177-zelensky-meeting-shows-mccarthy-walks-thin-line-ukraine-aid/

Speaker Kevin McCarthy publicly gave a cold shoulder to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during his visit to Washington on Thursday, denying the wartime leader’s request to address Congress — but that’s not the whole story. McCarthy’s allies said he’s committed to arming Ukraine, despite growing skepticism within his caucus. And Zelensky said the speaker delivered a similar message during their private meeting Thursday. Zelensky’s visit highlighted the balancing act McCarthy faces on Ukraine, especially during a broader spending fight that has exposed the deep divides within his narrow majority. Bill Monahan, senior director for policy at Foreign Policy for America, said McCarthy is walking a “thin line” between supporting Ukraine and appeasing a growing share of House Republicans disillusioned with the war. “He wants to be supportive of Ukraine, but he also has to [address] this faction that is kind of disrupting U.S. policy,” said Monahan. “I think he’s trying to keep his eye on what really matters, which is the Ukraine supplemental. He’s trying to hold together the bipartisan support for that.” But Monahan argued that if McCarthy continues to push the Ukraine issue aside, it could lend more power to skeptical House Republicans. “This remains a very vocal minority, but it may be getting larger,” he said. “McCarthy is going to have to step up and help make the case for this aid and its wider implications for national security.” While Zelensky addressed the majority of the Senate during his Thursday visit to Capitol Hill, he only met with a bipartisan group of senior leaders in the House. McCarthy denied a chance for Zelensky to address Congress jointly because they “didn’t have time,” which effectively blocked the Ukrainian leader from even trying to convince critics in the House to approve more aid. Still, McCarthy appears to have had a positive meeting with Zelensky. The pair posed for pictures, and Zelensky himself said McCarthy showed support for future Ukraine aid. “I started my day in the American Capitol with Congress, with very frank, detailed conversations,” Zelensky said in a video message posted on X. “I felt trust.” In turn, McCarthy told reporters on Thursday he had a good discussion with Zelensky over his concerns about accountability of U.S. weapons and battlefield developments. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said McCarthy asked questions to help convince his colleagues that the Ukraine war was winnable, according to the New York Times. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chair of the same House panel, said the Zelensky meeting went well and that despite the skeptics in the House, he expects the majority will support another Ukraine package.

Shut-down could destroy the economy

Sam Sutton, 9-22, 23, Politico, Washington and Wall Street economists are in rare unison on the economy’s prospects. That could spell trouble., https://www.politico.com/news/2023/09/22/shutdown-poses-economic-threat-headwinds-00117474

“The good news is that the economy is internally robust,” said Mohamed El-Erian, president of Queens’ College, Cambridge and chief economic adviser at Allianz, who thinks skeptics have been “sidelined” in the growing economy. “The bad news is it can be derailed by mistakes, from a politically driven shutdown to another Federal Reserve policy error.” Fed policymakers, who have raised interest rates to a 22-year high to kill inflation, offered a surprisingly optimistic view on Wednesday that the economy can avoid a recession. And Jared Bernstein, a top adviser to President Joe Biden, said at a POLITICO event this week that the economy is in “a good place,” with low unemployment, continued job growth and strong consumer spending. “The idea that anyone would throw any size wrench … into that equation is political malpractice,” he said. Fed holds interest rates steady for second time this year But little by little, the odds of a mistake are starting to mount. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon has repeatedly argued in recent weeks that a combination of geopolitical tension, fiscal challenges, and elevated energy and borrowing costs have put him in a “heightened edge of caution.” Economists at Goldman Sachs — which lowered the chances of a recession in the next year to just 15 percent — recently identified a government shutdown, a prolonged auto strike and the resumption of student loan payments as a “pothole” that could drag down growth. While stock markets have fallen in recent days, that’s largely a reflection of Fed Chair Jerome Powell signaling on Wednesday that rates will stay higher for longer amid signs that the economy remains on solid footing and inflation isn’t yet beaten. A government shutdown would likely cast even more of a cloud over consumer sentiment, which has remained chilly since the emergence of Covid-19 in 2020, according to researchers at the University of Michigan.

No link and turn—McCarthy can just get Democratic votes to avoid a shut-down

Alexander Bolton, 9-21, 23, https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/4215386-senate-gop-predicts-mccarthy-will-go-to-democrats-for-votes/, The Hilll, Senate GOP predicts McCarthy will go to Democrats for votes

Senate Republicans are predicting that Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will need to reach out to House Democrats to get the votes to prevent a government shutdown at the end of next week. GOP senators don’t think McCarthy will be able to unify his entire GOP conference behind any measure to prevent an Oct. 1 shutdown and will have to rely on Democrats to keep federal departments and agencies open. But they predict the Speaker won’t reach out across the aisle until the last possible moment to avoid a backlash from House conservatives, who are threatening to offer a motion to essentially dump him as Speaker if he does not hew to their demands for major spending cuts. The reality, they say, is that the only spending measure that can pass both the Senate and House is one that has bipartisan support. “He’s a new Speaker, this is a test of his Speakership,” said one Republican senator who requested anonymity to discuss party strategy. “Sooner or later he’s going to have to go to [House Democratic Leader] Hakeem Jeffries [N.Y.] because we’re going to get a CR on this side and what will pass here just is not going to get 218 Republicans in the House.” After House Republicans scrapped a Tuesday vote because of divisions within their conference, Republican senators said they now expect the Senate to move first and approve a clean continuing resolution (CR). The measure would have to pass with at least 60 votes in the Senate and then be sent to the House to avoid a government shutdown. Under such a scenario, McCarthy would certainly need Democratic votes to make up for a small group of conservatives who have vowed to oppose any spending bill without steep spending cuts or reforms to U.S. asylum law or Department of Justice and Pentagon policies. “The ultimate outcome will be 218 Republicans and Democrats [who] will pass something that doesn’t have conservative leaning to it,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), a member of the Appropriations Committee, voiced concern about the looming government funding deadline. “I hope they have a plan,” he said. “I have no idea how they get to where they need to go but they need to get there.” Other Republican senators voiced frustration over McCarthy’s inability to pass a procedural rule necessary to approve the annual defense appropriations bill, legislation that has always been a signature achievement for the party that traditionally prides itself for being strong on defense. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called the failure to advance the defense bill “very disappointing.” “I’m going to leave it up to him,” Graham said of McCarthy, adding, “The world is a very dangerous place, and we need to get our national defense infrastructure well funded to deter aggression.

Close on a CR now

David Morgan, 9-21, 23, https://news.yahoo.com/us-house-republicans-look-restart-100300862.html, Reuters, US House Republicans look to restart spending agenda as shutdown looms

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will try to restart his stalled spending agenda on Thursday with a procedural vote his Republicans have already twice failed to advance, raising the risk of a government shutdown in just 10 days. A vote to open debate on an $886 billion defense appropriations bill is expected in the House of Representatives, a day after McCarthy’s fractious 221-212 majority met for 2-1/2-hours seeking common ground on legislation to avert a government shutdown beginning Oct. 1. “We’re going to be voting,” McCarthy told reporters late on Wednesday. “I think we’ve got a plan to move forward.” McCarthy said Republicans were also “very close” on a short-term funding measure known as a continuing resolution, or CR. To avert a government shutdown, the House and the Democratic-led Senate must agree on short- or long-term spending legislation Democratic President Joe Biden can then sign into law. The partisan measures Republicans hope to begin passing soon face stiff opposition from Democrats in the Senate and the White House.

Trump pushing shut-down

Basu, 9-21, 23, Axios, Trump lobs new grenade into GOP’s government shutdown debate, https://www.axios.com/2023/09/21/trump-lobs-new-grenade-into-gops-government-shutdown-debate

Former President Trump called on Republicans in Congress to “defund all aspects” of the “weaponized” Biden administration ahead of the Sept. 30 government shutdown deadline, declaring it their “last chance” to halt his “political prosecutions.” Why it matters: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is desperately trying to unite his conference around a new plan to fund the government for 30 days, following a series of rebellions by GOP hardliners. Trump’s intervention could further complicate his efforts to pass the so-called “continuing resolution.” “Trump opposes the continuing resolution,” tweeted Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a key Trump ally and McCarthy critic. “Hold the line.” “[Republicans] failed on the debt limit, but they must not fail now. Use the power of the purse and defend the Country!” Trump posted on Truth Social Wednesday, hours after a GOP conference meeting appeared to produce the first signs of a breakthrough in weeks.

CR could pass, new momentum. Moderate Republicans key

EMILY BROOKS AND MYCHAEL SCHNELL – 09/20/23, The Hill, House GOP reports progress in spending talks as some holdouts relent, https://thehill.com/homenews/house/4215464-house-gop-reports-progress-in-spending-talks-as-some-holdouts-relent/

House Republicans reported major progress charting a path forward on a partisan bill to avert a government shutdown and a Department of Defense spending bill — two measures that suffered public setbacks just a day before — after Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) hashed out a new framework for a GOP-only stopgap proposal in a House Republican conference meeting that lasted more than two hours on Wednesday. Republicans now plan to move forward on the Pentagon appropriations bill on Thursday after two of the five members who blocked the bill on Tuesday by voting against the rule — which allows consideration of the measure — said in the meeting that they changed their position. And McCarthy got wide approval on a new framework for a stopgap funding measure called a continuing resolution (CR) after more than a dozen Republican members had rejected a proposal developed by leaders in the Main Street Caucus and House Freedom Caucus. Conservative opposition forced leaders to pull a planned rule vote on the continuing resolution on Tuesday. It is not clear, however, whether Republicans have the votes to move forward on the latest plan. The new CR plan discussed in Wednesday’s conference meeting, according to multiple members in the room, would extend funding until Oct. 31, with discretionary spending cuts for that duration of that due to a topline spending level of $1.471 trillion — the number from the House GOP’s “Limit, Save, Grow” partisan debt limit bill from earlier this year that was consistent with fiscal year 2022 levels. That is in line with a suggested change from Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), chair of the Republican Study Committee. The CR would als include the bulk of House Republicans’ H.R. 2 border crackdown bill – minus its provisions on E-Verify – and create a commission on the national debt to examine both mandatory and discretionary spending. In addition to that, Republicans would have a commitment from the Speaker to mark up the rest of thee regular fiscal year 2024 appropriations bills at a topline level of $1.526 trillion. “We’re very close there,” McCarthy told reporters when asked about the proposal following the meeting. “I feel I just got a little more movement to go there.” Even if the CR passes the House it is expected to be widely rejected and drastically changed by the Democratic-controlled Senate. But Republicans who support it argue that passing the bill gives them the most leverage possible before negotiating with the upper chamber. Conservative Reps. Bob Good (R-Va.) and Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), who were not in favor of the previous proposal unveiled on Sunday, said they could support the new framework. Norman said a key factor that pushed him to accept the new plan was the threat of moderate Republicans working with Democrats to force a vote on an alternative plan that would be far less conservative. Members of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus are working on an alternative agreement. “I wasn’t willing to turn it over to them,” Norman said. The Speaker, however, is not out of the woods: three conservative Republicans emerged from Wednesday’s meeting telling reporters they are not on board with the new proposal. “I’m still a no,” Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) told reporters following the meeting. “I don’t think it’s the proper way to fund government. I think we need to pass a budget and do it right like we’re supposed to,” he added. Rep. Cory Mills (R-Fla.), who previously said he would never support a CR, said his stance has not changed. “I’m a never CR,” he told reporters. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who has threatened to force a vote on ousting McCarthy, echoed that sentiment. “I’m not voting for a CR,” Gaetz said following the meeting. In the House Republicans’ narrow majority, just a handful of “no” votes could block the proposal, depending on attendance. Gaetz told members during the closed-door meeting that he thinks there are about seven people who will never vote for a CR, a source in the room told The Hill. But after the meeting, he said he “miscounted” and that “there are a couple more.” “More than seven,” he responded when asked how many. In a bright spot for Republicans, however, McCarthy said the House will move ahead with the Pentagon appropriations bill on Thursday after two conservatives who helped sink the rule for the legislation the day before flipped their stance. “We’ll come in tomorrow, we will move the rule on the DoD approps bill and start on all the approps and start moving forward with the DoD approps,” McCarthy told reporters following the meeting. A band of five hardline Republicans broke from convention and voted against the rule for the funding measure on Tuesday, which was enough to tank the effort. The final vote was 212-214, blocking the legislation from moving forward to debate and a final vote. The hardliners said they opposed the procedural vote because they had not yet received the topline numbers across all 12 appropriations bills, which they have been requesting for months. They were also frustrated that the House has not advanced more individual appropriations bills. But emerging from Wednesday’s closed-door meeting, two of those conservative defectors — Norman and Ken Buck (R-Colo.) — said they would vote for the rule. Norman said he would support the procedural vote because there was a “strong commitment” from leaders that the conference would work to move the 11 remaining appropriations bills. Buck confirmed that he would support the rule but would not say if he plans to vote for the bill on final passage. Commitment to vote for the rule is a small — yet significant — victory for McCarthy, who has struggled to move that legislation amid conservative demands and opposition. The House was initially scheduled to vote on the rule for the appropriations bill last week, but leadership scrapped those plans after hardliners said they planned to oppose the effort. Then on Tuesday, the rescheduled vote failed. “I think we made tremendous progress as an entire conference, we had a great discussion,” McCarthy told reporters after the meeting. “I think we’ve got a plan to move forward, going to DoD and then going to a number of other appropriation bills.”

At most, there is a trivial net loss to GDP

Daivd Wessel, Brookings, 9-17, 23, What is a government shutdown? And why are we likely to have another one?, https://www.brookings.edu/articles/what-is-a-government-shutdown-and-why-are-we-likely-to-have-another-one/

A shutdown of a few days is a hassle—and undermines public confidence in the capacity of U.S. politicians to do the people’s business—but is unlikely to have a significant impact on the economy. A prolonged shutdown, however, can cause bigger problems, albeit most temporary. Goldman Sachs estimates that a shutdown would reduce GDP growth by about 0.2 percentage point each week it lasts, and that growth would rise by the same amount in the quarter following the shutdown’s end. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the five-week partial shutdown in late 2018 and early 2019—partial because five of the 12 appropriation bills had been passed—reduced the level of GDP growth by 0.1% in the fourth quarter of 2018 ($3 billion in 2019 dollars) and by 0.2% in the first quarter of 2019 ($8 billion), mainly from the loss of furloughed federal workers’ pay and the delay in federal spending on goods and services. “Although most of the real GDP lost…will eventually be recovered, CBO estimates that about $3 billion will not be,” CBO said. In other words, the GDP in 2019 was estimated to be 0.02% lower because of the shutdown than it otherwise would have been. The CBO estimates did not account for such indirect effects as the inability of some businesses to obtain federal permits or apply for federal loans.

Election a dead heat

Lauren Sforza, 9-20-23, The Hill, Biden lead over Trump evaporates in new poll showing dead heat, https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/4213542-biden-trump-in-dead-heat-poll/

President Biden’s lead over former President Trump has diminished in a new poll that shows the 2024 frontrunners locked in dead heat. The latest YouGov/Yahoo News poll found that Biden and Trump are now tied at 44 percent among registered voters, with 7 percent undecided and 4 percent saying they will not vote. This suggests that support for Biden has dipped as Trump’s support slowly ticked up — under the shadow of four criminal indictments. The previous poll conducted by YouGov/Yahoo News last month found that Biden had a slight edge over Trump, with the sitting president polling at 47 percent compared to the former president’s 41 percent. Now, as questions swirl around Biden’s age and the House Republicans are set to launch an impeachment inquiry, the president is facing more hurdles going into 2024. The survey results also show 77 percent of Americans see Biden’s age as a small or big problem while 64 percent say the same about Trump. Americans are also less likely to say Biden is more fit to serve office than Trump, with just 27 percent saying that Biden can serve another term. When asked whether Trump’s or Biden’s family is “more corrupt,” 41 percent said Trump and 38 percent said Biden. This marks a difference since August, where 46 percent of Americans said Trump and 36 said Biden. The poll also found that Biden’s approval rating came in at 38 percent — slightly above its all-time low at 35 percent recorded in August 2022. Despite positive indicators in the economy, just 34 percent of Americans said they approve of how Biden is handling it. The survey was conducted by YouGov among 1,636 U.S. adults interviewed online Sept. 14-18 and has a margin of error of 2.7 percent.

No plan to avoid a shut-down now

Burgess Everett, 9-15, 23, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/09/15/government-shutdown-congress-gop-00116066, Politico,  Congress is in crisis. There’s no clear escape.

Halfway through September, Speaker Kevin McCarthy has no obvious plan to escape the month without triggering a shutdown that his own members fear could endanger his party’s position — and perhaps even the speaker’s own job — going into the pivotal 2024 election. Even McCarthy’s surprising leap toward an impeachment inquiry this week failed to quell the hard-right rebellion. It’s enough to bring the two parties together in the Senate, where frustration with the House majority is creating unexpected unity. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said he’s not singling out Senate Republicans, many of whom are working with Democrats on government funding, but he had harsh words for the House GOP: “They’re not serious public servants.” “The Senate will not shut down the government,” said Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.). But he added, of the House where he formerly served: “I can’t answer for a place I worked in for 14 years. I don’t know what happens there. I don’t think they can predict either.”

Budget is a thumper to every non-CR DA

Brett Samuels, 9-12, 23, The Hill, White House hammers House GOP over budget proposals as lawmakers return from recess, https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/4198528-white-house-hammers-house-gop-over-budget-proposals-as-lawmakers-return-from-recess/

The White House on Tuesday went on offense against House Republicans, accusing them of breaking an agreement reached during debt ceiling negotiations and pushing budget cuts that would harm the economy and families. Shalanda Young, director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in a memo that while the White House, House Democrats and senators in both parties have stood by the contours of the agreement brokered in May, House Republicans have instead pursued more partisan budget bills. “Their appropriations bills violate the bipartisan budget agreement and instead push the same deep cuts the House Freedom Caucus has been demanding since the start of this year,” Young wrote in a memo to interested parties. “The consequences of these bills would be devastating: raising a host of costs for families; hurting students, seniors, and rural communities; slashing support for law enforcement; undermining our economy; and more,” Young added. “Also, this effort by House Republicans distracts from other top priorities, like the need to act on the President’s request for more funding to fight the fentanyl crisis.” Young’s memo cited various programs that would face cuts if House GOP budget bills were enacted. Those appropriations bills would cut funding for law enforcement, slash funding for schools with low-income students, raise housing costs, undermine government efforts to reduce lead exposure and pollution and reduce support for teachers, Young wrote. The White House and top House Republicans in May reached a deal to lift the debt ceiling for two years and apply new caps on federal spending over the same duration. The White House also planned to release fact sheets for all 50 states diving into how House Republicans’ plans would specifically affect public safety and public health for families living there. The Biden administration has already vowed to veto House GOP spending bills put forward on agriculture, defense and military construction and veterans’ affairs. Those pieces of legislation are unlikely to make it to the president’s desk, as they must pass through the narrowly divided House and Senate. Still, the memo sent out Tuesday underscores the fight over funding that will take center stage in Washington, D.C., in the coming weeks as the threat of a government shutdown looms at the end of the month. The hard-line conservative House Freedom Caucus last month vowed to vote against any government funding bill, including a stopgap measure, that doesn’t include a list of GOP policy priorities.

McCarthy deal with Democrats will cost him the speakership

Sarah Farris, 9-11, 23, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/09/11/kevin-mccarthy-government-shutdown-profile-00114028, Politico, McCarthy pressure hits a boiling point, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/09/11/kevin-mccarthy-government-shutdown-profile-00114028

Kevin McCarthy is facing the greatest peril to his speakership since he clawed his way into the job eight months ago, with multiple factions of his party feuding and a looming revolt ahead during the battle to fund the government. Ultra-conservative members of the House GOP are talking in unsubtle terms about turning on McCarthy if he does not take a hard line in negotiations with the Senate and the Biden administration. More centrist Republicans, too, are increasingly fed up with McCarthy’s efforts to placate the far right. They want him to stop giving ground to lawmakers they see as holding the party hostage to unrealistic demands. McCarthy is a political survivor — even his critics cannot deny that his skilled nature as an accommodator, his persistence in winning over even his most dogged critics and his deep bench of allies have kept him alive in this highly fractured Republican Party. But interviews with more than two dozen GOP members and aides reveal that it would take only a few rogue lawmakers hell-bent on his downfall to risk McCarthy’s fate in an entirely new way, sending their party spiraling into a new period of chaos. And even if those defectors fail to actually eject McCarthy, some of the speaker’s confidantes privately concede there may be no way to recover. Sponsored Video SPONSORED BY ADVERTISING PARTNER Watch to learn more Rep. Bob Good speaks alongside other members of the House Freedom Caucus at a press conference. Rep. Bob Good and members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus have denounced the fiscal year 2024 appropriations process. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo Those volatile, competing forces of McCarthy’s conference will collide this month, and could drive the nation to a government shutdown, while reshaping the Republican agenda for the rest of the Congress. “The speaker faces two choices,” said Rep. Bob Good (R-Va), a vocal McCarthy detractor who says the party shouldn’t fear a shutdown. “[He] stares down the Senate, stares down the White House, forces them to cave and is a transformational historic speaker … Or he can choose to make a deal with Democrats.” If McCarthy chooses the latter option, Good warned, “I don’t think that’s a sustainable thing for him as speaker.”

Shut-down now

Sarah Farris, 9-11, 23, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/09/11/kevin-mccarthy-government-shutdown-profile-00114028, Politico, McCarthy pressure hits a boiling point, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/09/11/kevin-mccarthy-government-shutdown-profile-00114028

GOP hardliners’ biggest priority at the moment is spending cuts. They want to cut funding for the fiscal year to roughly $120 billion less than what was agreed to in the Biden-McCarthy debt deal in May. While McCarthy and his team have generally agreed to those lower levels, there’s no agreement on how to get there via the existing GOP spending bills. That could threaten leadership’s plan to start moving at least one of those bills this week. House Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry speaks during a press conference. Rep. Scott Perry, who leads the roughly 35-member Freedom Caucus, was skeptical that any GOP spending bills could pass this week without an about-face from leadership. | Francis Chung/POLITICO Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), who leads the roughly 35-member Freedom Caucus, was skeptical that any GOP spending bills could pass this week without an about-face from leadership. “The things that we’re asking for … are not unreasonable, and there’s been no movement to address them, in my opinion,” Perry said. Senior Republicans have long known that getting wins from Democrats would be painful in divided government. During the House GOP’s annual retreat last year, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), McCarthy’s closest Freedom Caucus ally, stressed that the House GOP would need to achieve two things with their majority this year: a debt limit deal and spending. And Jordan urged the party to enter those fights with a single unifying demand — like strict new border security — to keep the conference together, according to two Republicans who were granted anonymity to discuss internal discussions. Backers of this approach argue that the high-pressure situation could give them leverage to pull migration policy rightward without big internal spats. But one of the Republicans who confirmed Jordan’s idea acknowledged that members reached no consensus on whether to follow through. House Republicans have generally avoided support for “clean” stopgap bills in recent years. But a push for tougher border security could help lure skeptics of a short-term bill designed to avoid a shutdown — even some in the Freedom Caucus, which formally opposes a stopgap without major concessions including on the border, might get behind it. Its members are currently at odds behind the scenes over how firmly to hold to that position. Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), a Freedom Caucus member who has an up-and-down relationship with the speaker, vowed that the right flank’s demands would win more support from the conference if McCarthy fully committed himself. “If he works half as hard on winning those people over, those congressmen, as he did for the speakership” then there would be enough support for extra spending cuts among the full GOP conference, Norman said. A government shutdown, Norman added, is “pretty likely.”

Policy irrelevant to the ’24 election, it’s about Biden’s age

Alexander Bolton, 9-10, 23, https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/4195015-democrats-express-frustration-with-bidens-moribund-poll-numbers/, The Hill, Democrats express frustration with Biden’s moribund poll numbers

Senate Democrats say President Biden’s moribund poll numbers are “concerning” and “frustrating,” but they are doubtful any messaging shift by the White House will change how voters view him before the 2024 election. They acknowledge the 80-year-old president’s biggest problem is his age, which negatively influences how many voters view his presidency and contributes to a lack of enthusiasm for his 2024 reelection campaign. “You got to be concerned about those poll numbers, you just do,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said. “There’s plenty of time to get them back up. Whether he can or not, I just don’t know but you got to be concerned.” One Democratic senator who requested anonymity said voters at home expressed deep apathy about Biden’s prospective reelection during constituent meetings over the August recess. The senator said the polling data “reflect all the miscellaneous encounters I’m having all the time.” “There’s just no enthusiasm,” the senator said. “It does pretty much come down to ‘Well, he’s done a pretty good job, but he’s just too old.’” Democratic senators dismiss the possibility Biden will face any real competition for his party’s presidential nomination, even though many of their constituents — especially younger voters — are hungry for new faces in leadership. Instead, Democratic lawmakers, who expect a tough fight to keep their Senate majority, are counting on Republicans nominating former President Trump for the top of their ticket, whom they view as a candidate Biden has a good chance of beating next year, despite his weak poll numbers. A CNN/SSRS poll of 1,503 adults nationwide conducted Aug. 25-31 shows Biden’s job approval rating stands at 39 percent, and 67 percent of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters say the Democratic Party should nominate someone other than Biden for president next year. The poll showed 58 percent of Americans have an unfavorable impression of Biden, and nearly three-quarters of respondents say they are concerned about his age. Deep frustration Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) said he’s frustrated that Biden’s poll numbers are so bad despite the strength of the economy and the president’s legislative accomplishments, such as the Inflation Reduction Act, which gave Medicare broad authority to negotiate lower prescription drug prices and provided $370 billion to combat climate change. “It’s frustrating,” he said, citing a disconnect between voters’ view of the economy and inflation and the latest data. “They think inflation is still running away. Inflation has come from 9 percent to 3, now 3.5 percent,” he said. “It’s, relatively speaking, under control. Now we’re not at 2 percent, but we’re darn close,” referring to the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent inflation target. “What can you do? You have to continue to try and find fresh ways of talking about this,” he said. “I think we have to find some fresh ways of letting people know that the reality of what we’re seeing is little short of a miracle.” Hickenlooper acknowledged that, “sure,” Biden’s age is hurting how voters view his job performance but argued it’s not fair. “The age factor shouldn’t sour anyone unless they are seeing results that are not up to what their expectations are,” he said. “My point is the results are pretty darn good.” A second Democratic senator who requested anonymity to discuss doubts about Biden’s political viability acknowledged “everybody is so obsessed about his age or having somebody else” as the Democratic nominee but argued the bottom line politically is “this is a guy that’s gotten more done than anybody half his age.” The senator predicted as the presidential race “moves forward,” Biden’s numbers will improve because he won’t be judged in a political “vacuum” against an ideal alternative but instead will be viewed in comparison to Trump, whom Democrats view as the likely GOP nominee. Some Democrats are expressing frustration with the White House’s economic messaging because an effort to tout the results of “Bidenomics” shows little sign of succeeding. “There’s work to be done, stronger messaging, more aggressive campaigning but we’re still very, very early,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) of Biden’s weak poll numbers. A new Wall Street Journal poll of 1,500 registered voters found that 24 percent of Americans rate the economy as their top issue — well ahead of immigration, abortion rights, inflation or climate change — and only 37 percent rate the economy as “excellent” or “good,” while 27 percent rate it “not so good” and 36 percent rate it “poor.” Only 37 percent of registered voters strongly approve or somewhat approve of Biden’s handling of the economy, while 48 percent strongly disapprove of his economic performance. The poll also found that 73 percent of voters think Biden is too old to seek a second term.

Only 11 days until a CR is needed

Brooks & Schnell, 9-10, 23, https://thehill.com/homenews/house/4195005-house-gops-right-flank-itches-for-shutdown-impeachment-fights/, tps://thehill.com/homenews/house/4195005-house-gops-right-flank-itches-for-shutdown-impeachment-fights/, The Hill, Hard-line House Republicans itching for shutdown, impeachment fights

Lawmakers have precious little time to reach a funding deal. When the House returns Tuesday, there will be only 11 legislative days left before the end-of-month deadlineMost agree a continuing resolution or “CR” will be needed to keep the government open and buy more time to negotiate annual funding measures. 

CR is a thumper to any other politics DA

Brooks & Schnell, 9-10, 23, https://thehill.com/homenews/house/4195005-house-gops-right-flank-itches-for-shutdown-impeachment-fights/, tps://thehill.com/homenews/house/4195005-house-gops-right-flank-itches-for-shutdown-impeachment-fights/, The Hill, Hard-line House Republicans itching for shutdown, impeachment fights

Lawmakers have precious little time to reach a funding deal. When the House returns Tuesday, there will be only 11 legislative days left before the end-of-month deadline. Most agree a continuing resolution or “CR” will be needed to keep the government open and buy more time to negotiate annual funding measures. But even that will be tough because the House Freedom Caucus last month said it would not support a short-term measure to fund the government unless it addresses the situation at the border, the “weaponization” of the Department of Justice and “woke policies in the Pentagon.” Separately, the Republican Study Committee, a group a vast majority of 175 House Republicans belong to, said it wanted to ensure a stopgap measure was filled with “high priority conservative policies” and funded the government at levels in line with the Limit, Save, Grow Act — a spending cuts and policy reforms bill that Republicans passed as a starting point for debt ceiling increase negotiations with Democrats. Some hard-liners say policy concessions won’t be enough. Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) called the policy asks “a distraction and a decoy,” explaining that he did sign on to the Freedom Caucus position even though he is a member of the group. “I told everyone at that time, do you think that these are truly — these policies are truly going to be implemented? And no one said that they thought that they were. And I was like, then let’s be honest with the American people,” Rosendale said. Adding to the funding mess is the White House’s $40 billion supplemental request, which is already causing a stir on Capitol Hill. The White House request unveiled last month includes $24 billion for Ukraine — sparking another controversy. Senate leaders from both parties want to pass the full supplemental, which also includes disaster funding. But many House Republicans in the right flank are vehemently opposed to any more funding for Ukraine. Some conservatives say they aren’t worried about a shutdown, either, if it stops the government from continuing on its current spending trajectory. Yet history suggests if a shutdown is blamed on the GOP, it will not be good politics — particularly for vulnerable Republican moderates in swing districts. Democrats are already working to pin the blame on Republicans if the government shuts down. “I think Leader McCarthy knows that if a shutdown happens, it’ll be caused by House Republicans,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said last week. “It’ll be bad for the country, but it’ll also be very bad for them.” McCarthy has argued against bringing Washington to a screeching halt by saying it would in turn hurt GOP-led investigations into Biden that are fueling calls for an impeachment inquiry. “If we shut down, all the government shuts it down, investigation and everything else. It hurts the American public,” McCarthy said on Fox’s “Sunday Morning Futures” in August. But that line of reasoning is not flying with hard-line conservatives like Rosendale. “I will not be intimidated into falling for this false argument that we can’t continue to pursue impeachment inquiries or issue subpoenas,” Rosendale said. The House this week will resume consideration of individual appropriations bills, with a measure to fund the Department of Defense on deck. More than 330 amendments to the legislation have been submitted. Some hard-liners, however, are signaling they will withhold support from any funding bills unless they see the total spending for all 12 appropriations bills — a figure they have been requesting for months. It all points to a tempestuous September, increased worries about a shutdown and another difficult stretch for McCarthy as conservatives prime themselves for battle.

US needs to deter Russia to prevent aggression in Europe, China’s aggression against Taiwan, stabilize the global economy and prevent food price spikes

Joshua C. Humiski is director of the national security space program at the Center for the Study of the Presidency & Congress and a George Mason University National Security Institute Fellow, 9-10, 23, The Hill, A reminder of why Ukraine is critical to US national interests, https://thehill.com/opinion/international/4194308-a-reminder-of-why-ukraine-is-critical-to-us-national-interest/

European stability and security are vital to the United States. Russia’s expanded invasion of Ukraine upset the long-assumed continental stability that underpinned unparalleled economic growth. Returning that stability to the continent is a prerequisite for any future progress. So long as there is an open war in Europe, geopolitical risks and instability will be magnified and have a deleterious effect both on the continent and on America’s interests and economy. While not entirely to blame for America’s inflationary pressures, the war is exacerbating already tumultuous economic conditions. Bringing a swift end to the war would certainly be welcome, but bringing a lasting end to the war that rewards long-term Ukrainian stability and not Russian aggression will return sensibility to the markets. It will also alleviate pressures on grain and food prices, which have markedly increased because of export disruptions from Ukraine and Russia. These latter pressures are already increasing instability in parts of the Middle East and Africa, which will surely create dynamics that will draw American interest. Militarily, a conventionally weakened Russia is also in America’s interest. While far from defeated, a degraded Russian military is one that will pose less of a direct military threat to European security and will be in a weaker position to pursue any predatory designs it may have in the near term. Should the Kremlin find its territorial appetite whetted by any victory in Ukraine, it could well seek to exert its influence further afield. NATO deterrence has held, thus far, but it may not hold in the face of a victorious Russia. However, Moscow may calculate that outcome. Cynically, the longer the war continues, and the more degraded Russia’s military is, the better it is for European and American interests. Yet that comes at a severe cost in terms of Ukrainian lives lost. It is, therefore, morally and ethically incumbent on the West to see the conflict brought to as swift and lasting a close as possible. However, a quick and incomplete peace as some have advocated, is as deleterious as no peace at all. Reaching a disadvantageous, temporary settlement would only see Russia emboldened, creating time and space for rearmament and political pressure, which would likely result in the resumption of the conflict in the future. There is little to suggest that Russia will be satiated by its territorial gains in Eastern Ukraine. Moscow’s success in annexing Crimea in 2014 and the invasion of the Donbas (both directly and by proxy) merely set the stage for 2022’s expanded invasion. Rewarding predation now sets conditions for future aggression. Supporting Ukraine and ensuring that Moscow fails is also an indicator of American and Allied resolve in the face of naked aggression wherever it may manifest. To acquiesce to Russia’s designs is to invite further violence elsewhere. Should American resolve waver or fail, what message would it send to China over Taiwan? Ramaswamy and others certainly find that Taiwan’s defense is only in America’s interest until the U.S. is less dependent on its semiconductor market and, as such, would seemingly be happy with the message that Taipei is in Beijing’s sphere of influence alone. The United States cannot do this alone nor should it expect to do so. America’s allies in Europe must continue their support for Ukraine and must invest in their own defense. So too must Taiwan and America’s allies in the Indo-Pacific. These same partners must themselves be reliable and be relied upon to buttress regional stability and strengthen the international order on which American security and prosperity rely. This then speaks to the broader internationalist arguments of America’s interests. There has always been, and will always be, an isolationist streak in American politics. The siren call of retreating behind America’s oceans and leaving the rest of the world to its fate is alluring. Yet, foreign problems rarely stay on foreign shores. This then is raw, naked interest — American stability and prosperity at home are inextricably linked with what happens abroad. The strategic contest with Russia and indeed China is about the modern manifestation of spheres of influence, a concept that leads to instability. American national interest is in global stability, the free flow of commerce and ensuring that no one country achieves regional hegemony. Such a development is a sure path toward greater conflict and greater instability.

Bipartisanship key to avoiding a shut-down

Aris Folley, 9-10, 23, Lawmakers prepare for shutdown blame game, https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/4195127-lawmakers-prepare-for-shutdown-blame-game/

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a letter to his Democratic colleagues earlier this month that a shutdown would be the fault of “political games” by House Republicans. “When the Senate returns next week, our focus will be on funding the government and preventing House Republican extremists from forcing a government shutdown,” Schumer wrote in the letter. Schumer went after House conservatives again in a speech on the Senate floor last week, calling out their demands and urging both parties to “get on the same page about keeping the government open.” “The only way we will finish the appropriations process is through bipartisanship,” Schumer said. “The idea of both parties working together, not one party, particularly a party governed by an extreme 30 or 40 members filling out a wish list that they know can pass.”


CNN, 9-7, 23, https://www.cnn.com/2023/09/07/politics/house-senate-republican-tension-shutdown/index.html

But first Congress will have to approve a short-term spending bill to avoid a shutdown, but it’s not even clear that will pass by the September 30 deadline.

Colorado Rep. Ken Buck, a member of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, said Wednesday that many Republicans would rebel if McCarthy agreed to even a short-term extension of current funding levels, saying there need to be cuts imposed in the must-pass measure – a position that is a non-starter with Democrats. “I can’t imagine that most (Republicans) are going to want to vote for a continuing resolution of a number that they voted against,” Buck said on “The Lead with Jake Tapper,” referring to the funding levels in last year’s spending law that would be extended under a short-term bill. “So it puts the speaker as you said, between a rock and a hard place.” Texas GOP Rep. Chip Roy, who is demanding more border security measures in the short-term funding bill, dismissed concerns over the possibility of a government shutdown. “Swamp dwellers hand-wringing over a possible shutdown for a week or two … are the same lunatics who shut down your entire American economy, schools, & healthcare for over a year, leaving people to die alone,” he posted on social media. “Spare me.”

CR likely now

Safari Club, 9-6, 23, https://safariclub.org/congress-back-in-session/

ongress left Washington at the end of July for the traditional August recess setting the stage for a busy and difficult legislative sprint to the end of the calendar year. As Congress returns in early September, it will be consumed by the Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations process ahead of the September 30th deadline to fund the government. The House and Senate will have to work through difficult negotiations to pass a bill, and the possibility of a short- or long-term Continuing Resolution to maintain funding levels is high.

Shut-down tanks small business

Burke & Horwitz, 9-5, 23, Madeline Burke is the communications and content adviser of the Alliance for Entrepreneurial Equity, a joint effort between Third Way and the National Urban League. Gabe Horwitz is senior vice president for the economic program at Third Way, https://thehill.com/opinion/finance/4182923-small-businesses-cant-afford-a-government-shutdown/

We are mere weeks away from a government shutdown — and some voices in Congress are actively cheering for it. According to Freedom Caucus member Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), “We should not fear government shutdown. Most of the American people won’t even miss if the government is shut down temporarily.” Not only is that categorically untrue, but it would be disastrous for small businesses in America. If the government can’t pass a budget, American workers and small-business owners will pay the price. There are more than 33-million small businesses across the country. Many of them depend on federal loans, federal contracts and federal support. When the lights of government go out, so do these capital and customers. Take access to affordable capital — it’s essential for business owners, yet many face obstacles or challenges when it comes to financing. According to Federal Reserve data, minority-owned businesses are even more capital-conscious. Black and Hispanic business owners are two to three times less likely to receive all their financing compared to white-owned businesses. Almost half received no financing at all. If the government shuts down, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) stops processing new loans and approving routine small-business loans that the agency backs to ensure entrepreneurs have access to funding. SBA loans are a lifeline for many entrepreneurs, who generally can borrow as much as $5 million to start, buy, expand or run a small business through the agency’s two biggest programs. When the government is operating, SBA covers as much as 90 percent of loan losses, giving an incentive to banks and other financial institutions to finance businesses they might not otherwise serve. If businesses can’t get loans from the SBA, entrepreneurs may have to take desperate measures to keep afloat. Michael Pearce, owner of a retail store and restaurant in Fairfax, Va., was one of many who had to turn to a high-cost, short-term lender because he couldn’t get an SBA line of credit to carry his second location during the last government shutdown. As a result, he had to pay $23,000 in interest and fees on the $50,000 he borrowed to meet payroll. Beyond financing, the US government is the largest customer in the world. It’s legally required to buy from small businesses — that is, if America is open and not shut down. Some small businesses secure contracts with federal agencies to sustain their operations and provide stable employment for their workforce. Others are subcontractors to other larger federal contractors. The House Committee on Small Business reported that a shutdown could cause small businesses to forgo $301.6 million on a daily basis. Beyond immediate financial hardships, the impacts of a government shutdown on small businesses can have lasting consequences. If drawn out, we could expect layoffs and downsizing, further deepening the economic impact on local communities. Entrepreneurs may become wary of starting new ventures, fearing the unpredictable business environment. That loss of new businesses means less intergenerational wealth, fewer jobs and fewer community opportunities.

Many barriers to a Saudi-Israel deal

Natasha Turak, 9-1, 23, A Saudi-Israel deal could dramatically reshape the Middle East — but don’t expect it anytime soon,             https://www.cnbc.com/2023/09/01/saudi-arabia-israel-deal-could-dramatically-reshape-the-middle-east-.html

But major barriers remain in the way of official normalization, which is a major goal of the Biden administration’s foreign policy and one his team is trying to achieve during the president’s current term. One is the issue of Palestinian statehood, and another is the raft of demands that Saudi Arabia has of the U.S., including demands for U.S. security guarantees and support for its own civilian nuclear program. And Israel, currently led by the most right-wing government in its history, is very unlikely to want to meet Saudi demands for concessions to the Palestinians. Momentum – and divides “I think there is finally a lot of momentum from the Biden administration to push normalization forward, but there are very clear challenges that won’t be easily bridged,” Sanam Vakil, director of the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House, told CNBC. “If something is going to develop, it would most likely require broader discussions on Palestine, and in the current climate in Israel, I think that is impossible to achieve,” she said. Saudi Arabia is home to Islam’s holiest sites, Mecca and Medina, giving it a crucial role in the Muslim world where Palestinian statehood is deeply cared about. Israel’s current government led by Benjamin Netanyahu has no intention of giving major concessions to the Palestinians; Netanyahu in early August told Bloomberg TV that any minor gestures on his part toward Palestinians would essentially be “just a box you have to check to say that you’re doing it.” “It’s questionable that there is any potential governing coalition in the Knesset that would be ready, able, and willing to do that, even to secure one of the most significant diplomatic achievements in the country’s history,” Hussein Ibish, a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, wrote in an article for the think tank. The United Nations classifies Israel as an occupier state over the Palestinian territories, whose occupations and annexations following the 1967 Six-Day War remain in violation of international law. Whether or not Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman feels a personal conviction to keep making demands of Israel on behalf of the Palestinians, the perception of his efforts on the Arab street are important for his leadership, Vakil said. “Concessions on Palestine will also be important to Mohammed bin Salman, whose leadership is not just predicated on the transformation of Saudi Arabia, but having broader regional and international influence,” she said. “Abandoning the Palestinian cause completely would not go well in the region, and he does have a broader constituency to think about.” Saudi Arabia wants military promises Another big challenge is what Saudi Arabia is demanding of Washington. Riyadh wants a security guarantee from the U.S. in the face of potential threats or attacks, and it also wants more access to advanced U.S. weapons as well as help with a civilian nuclear program. Such demands will likely face resistance from many members of Congress, particularly progressive left-wing Democrats and hard-right Republicans who both want less American involvement in foreign affairs. But even if a security guarantee and more advanced weapons access demands are met, U.S. backing for a Saudi nuclear program is likely more challenging. The Saudis don’t want to have to abide by the U.S. government’s Section 123 agreement, often dubbed the “gold standard” of civilian nuclear partnerships. Washington already has such an agreement with the United Arab Emirates, which launched the Arab world’s first nuclear energy program in 2020. The 123 agreement prevents countries from developing dual-use technology by barring uranium enrichment and fuel reprocessing.

CR likely to pass now

CNBC, 8-31, 23, https://www.cnbc.com/2023/08/31/white-house-asks-congress-for-short-term-funding-to-avoid-shutdown.html

Leaders of both parties have signaled an openness to a continuing resolution. Both House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer expressed openness to the idea earlier this month.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday said the current budget negotiations are “a pretty big mess.” “I think we’re going to end up with a short-term congressional resolution, probably into December as we struggle to figure out exactly what the government’s spending level is going to be,” McConnell said.

CR is at the top of the docket, will pass now

Reena Diamente, 8-30, 23, https://spectrumlocalnews.com/tx/south-texas-el-paso/news/2023/08/30/republican-rep–chip-roy-talks-terms-for-stopgap-funding–avoiding-government-shutdown-, Republican Rep. Chip Roy talks terms for stopgap funding, avoiding government shutdown

When Congress returns next week after August recess, funding the government will be on the top of the to-do list, with current appropriations set to expire Sept. 30. There is a growing consensus that lawmakers will need to give themselves an extension. But some of the most conservative voices in the U.S. House say their demands need to be met first.

Conservatives won’t agree to a CR

Ja’Han Holmes, 8-29, 23, MSNBC, https://www.msnbc.com/the-reidout/reidout-blog/mccarthy-shutdown-freedom-caucus-rcna102419

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is struggling to get members of his caucus to approve a stopgap spending measure that would stave off a government shutdown. In spite of his efforts, several members of the House Freedom Caucus are threatening to withhold their votes on a continuing resolution that would temporarily fund the government at its current levels as the Sept. 30 deadline approaches. The Freedom Caucus members are demanding that McCarthy agree to tack on a bunch of right-wing priorities to spending bills. Doing this, of course, would essentially make any bill that comes out of the Republican-led House dead on arrival once it reaches the Democratic-led Senate. And McCarthy knows this. Freedom Caucus members seem undeterred by McCarthy’s warning. Appearing on Fox News on Sunday, McCarthy said a shutdown would be bad for the American people, but he seemed to offer far-right Republicans an olive branch of sorts if they fall in line. “I would actually like to have a short-term CR [continuing resolution], only to make our argument stronger,” he said. “If we shut down — all of government shuts it down, investigations and everything else — it hurts the American public.” By “investigations,” McCarthy is referring to the House’s relentless investigations searching for evidence that President Joe Biden engaged in corruption worthy of impeachment. And McCarthy’s statement was a clear warning about the dangers of a government shutdown. With a shutdown looming, many have been threatening for weeks to hold the line if they don’t get what they want in negotiations, like cuts to funding for Ukraine, cuts to the Pentagon’s diversity initiatives and cuts to the Justice Department. And some have downplayed the impact a shutdown would have on Americans. “A lot of people, when the government shuts down, they’re not even gonna know the difference,” Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., said in an interview last week with conservative activist Charlie Kirk. Freedom Caucus members seem undeterred by McCarthy’s warning on Sunday, or the political backlash that could result from a government shutdown. “We are not going to be distracted by a shiny object saying, ‘If you don’t get this continuing resolution passed, we won’t be able to pursue the impeachment inquiry.’ That’s nonsense,” Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., told Fox Business on Monday. Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., shared an article Monday on X, formerly known as Twitter, on the Freedom Caucus aiming to break the “status quo” with its ultimatums on spending bills. In his tweet, Good said it was time to “fight back.” Along with that, NBC News reported Tuesday that several Freedom Caucus members are still hoping to use the appropriations process to defund prosecutions of and investigations into Donald Trump. That includes Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia, who said he will introduce amendments to eliminate funding for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and special counsel Jack Smith. Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia are demanding Smith’s office be defunded as well.

No shut-down now

AFGE, 8-28, 2023, Congress Returns in September with Short-term Funding Deal Expected, https://www.afge.org/article/congress-returns-in-september-with-shortterm-funding-deal-expected,  https://www.afge.org/article/congress-returns-in-september-with-shortterm-funding-deal-expected

Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., who is leading one of the investigations into the Bidens as chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, predicted there would not be a shutdown when current funding expires Sept. 30. He echoed McCarthy’s concerns that an appropriations lapse could force a furlough of employees who are providing documents and information to his panel.

Climate action key to young voters, young voters key to Democrats and Biden

Julia Miller, 8-27, 23, The Hill, Climate activists call on Biden to take more forceful action, https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/4162153-climate-activists-call-on-biden-to-take-more-forceful-action/

Ask young activists about the Biden administration’s efforts to address the climate, and they’re quick to point out the problem isn’t close to being solved. Despite historic climate moves put in motion by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which hit its first anniversary last week, many in the critical voting bloc of young Americans want to see the Biden-Harris administration rein in fossil fuels and declare a climate emergency. “It’s not enough now for the Democratic Party to wipe their hands and say, ‘IRA solved it all.’ We’re still in a crisis. This is still an emergency,” Michele Weindling, electoral director at the youth-led progressive environmental advocacy group Sunrise Movement. President Biden marked one year since “taking the most aggressive action ever on climate energy — ever” with the wide-ranging climate and infrastructure bill. By 2030, the IRA is projected to help triple wind power, increase solar power eightfold, and shift the nation’s electric power grid to 81 percent clean energy, Biden touted to applause. “Imagine the impact on climate and the air we breathe. The law is going to help meet all of my bold climate goals by cutting carbon pollution in half by 2030,” Biden said. Weindling said her movement sees the IRA as a historic step that delivered “an insane amount of climate investment,” but contended that “the reality is, the IRA isn’t enough for young people” in the face of escalating environmental concerns, like the onslaught of extreme weather this summer alone. As Biden lauds the IRA among his administration’s environmental achievements on the 2024 campaign trail — along with rejoining the Paris Agreement, his new national monument designations and the establishment of the new White House Office of Environmental Justice — young activists are re-upping concerns about the administration’s moves to open more land to oil drilling, and stressing that the White House can’t rest with the IRA. “I frankly think that it’s absurd that while … the Biden administration is celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act, it is going unacknowledged that the administration has not done enough to address fossil fuel supply,” Zanagee Artis, a founding member and executive director of the youth-led climate group Zero Hour said last week. The Biden administration controversially approved the Willow Project, an oil drilling operation, in Alaska earlier this year, and pushed forward the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia and West Virginia. The administration also OK’d a Trump-era decision to let Alaska LNG to export liquified natural gas to countries with which the U.S. doesn’t have a free trade agreement. “They’ve done a lot of great work on electrification and the build out of renewable energy. But we think that commitment to environmental justice and the phase-out of fossil fuel production is sorely lacking,” Artis said. Both Zero Hour and the Sunrise Movement are among the youth activist groups calling for Biden to declare a climate emergency, which experts say would give the president more power to act on climate change. The president earlier this month said in an interview with the Weather Channel that he’s “in practice” declared a climate emergency, though the White House has not formally done so. Asked recently about the label, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden “has called it an emergency since day one” and is taking the crisis “very seriously.” She also noted that Biden declared climate “as a basis for emergency action” under the Defense Production Act to set aside funds for bolstering the electric grid and other initiatives. Treating climate change as an emergency is “a completely different thing” than declaring one, Artis said. He also warned against “youth-washing” the issue — which he described as inviting young people to be part of outreach and the celebration of the IRA, but ignoring youth calls to stop the Willow Project or oppose the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The climate is consistently a top issue for the young voter demographic of Americans ages 18 to 29 — who helped Biden to victory in 2020, turned out significantly for Democrats in the midterms and will likely be key for Biden and his fellow Democrats in 2024. Climate change was a “hugely motivating” issue for young voters when Biden won in 2020, said Ashley Aylward, a research manager at the public opinion research firm HIT Strategies — adding that she’s optimistic the matter will be just as mobilizing in 2024. But Aylward said young voters, are not fully recognizing what the White House has accomplished.

Ukraine peace impossible, Russia won’t negotiate

Aris Roussinos is an UnHerd columnist and a former war reporter, 8-22, 23, Will Ukraine recover from its failed counteroffensive?, https://unherd.com/2023/08/will-ukraine-recover-from-its-failed-counteroffensive/

Over the past year and a half, calls for peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia have been widely dismissed by the Ukrainian government and its more maximalist online supporters as either Putinist propaganda or defeatism. Yet the so-far lacklustre results of Ukraine’s long-awaited counteroffensive have rendered the entire debate moot: right now, there is no incentive whatsoever for Russia to enter into negotiations.

As Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov declared last week: “The prospects for negotiations between Russia and the West are non-existent at this stage.” Indeed, Lavrov applies precisely the same argument against peace talks that both Ukraine and its Western advocates made at an earlier stage in the war: that “we regard the Westerners’ hypocritical calls for talks as a tactical ploy to buy time once again, giving the exhausted Ukrainian troops a respite and the opportunity to regroup and to send in more weapons and ammunition”. It takes two sides to negotiate, and even if Washington compelled Kyiv to the table, Moscow will not currently accept concessions distinguishable from surrender, impossible for Ukraine to accept and damaging for America to oversee.\

Western Ukraine aid fails

Aris Roussinos is an UnHerd columnist and a former war reporter, 8-22, 23, Will Ukraine recover from its failed counteroffensive?, https://unherd.com/2023/08/will-ukraine-recover-from-its-failed-counteroffensive/

From Moscow’s perspective, the war is settling into a comfortable rhythm: the modern armour that Ukraine had demanded for so long, whose delivery elicited such angst and drama in Western capitals, is being expended against Russia’s defensive lines to little effect, at least so far. The spring’s flurry of gruesome drone videos showing Russian deaths up close has been inverted, with Russia’s supporters now exulting in the extinction of Ukraine’s increasingly precious reserves of manpower at the hands of cheap FPV drones.

CONTINUES In these circumstances, there is something distasteful about the flurry of anonymous briefings with which the Biden administration is now distancing itself from Ukraine’s ill-starred counteroffensive. Its results have not, after all, come as a surprise to American planners: as the Discord intelligence leaks revealed, back in February, the Pentagon was already warning that the offensive was likely to fall “well short” of its stated goals: Russia’s sophisticated trench fortifications, coupled with Ukraine’s “force generation and sustainment shortfalls” and “enduring Ukrainian deficiencies in training and munitions supplies”, would “exacerbate casualties during the offensive”, while achieving only “modest territorial gains”. While there are serious dissenting opinions, which assert that the attrition of both Russia’s artillery and manpower under Ukrainian assault will eventually bear fruit, the results so far seem to bear out the accuracy of America’s initial assessment.

Capital key to Ukraine aid

Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, 8-21, 23, FED’s Overnight Brief, https://www.fdd.org/overnight-brief/august-21-2023/

Russia’s Defense Ministry said its air-defense systems shot down a Ukrainian drone in the center of Moscow on Friday, the latest demonstration of Ukraine’s ability to conduct strikes deep in Russian territory. – Wall Street Journal Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, 8-21, 23, Overnight Brief, https://www.fdd.org/overnight-brief/august-21-2023/ Presiding over a conference in late July titled “Russia: The Land of Possibilities,” President Vladimir Putin flinched as a tourism official described plans to hold the traditional spring picnics called mayovka. Under the czar, the Bolsheviks had used these seasonal outings as a ruse to conceal their subversive plotting. – Wall Street Journal At least seven people were killed and more than 100 injured in a Russian missile strike on the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv, according to Ukrainian officials. – Wall Street Journal Russia’s war on Ukraine is in danger of becoming a protracted struggle that lasts several more years. The reason isn’t just that the front-line combat is a slow-moving slog, but also that none of the main actors have political goals that are both clear and attainable. – Wall Street Journal A few feet away from a pile of U.S.-made cluster bombs, an earsplitting boom goes off 50 times a day, marking the latest volley from a Ukrainian artillery crew seeking to hold back advancing Russian forces. – Washington Post Ukraine appears to be running out of options in a counteroffensive that officials originally framed as Kyiv’s crucial operation to retake significant territory from occupying Russian forces this year. – Washington Post The Biden administration’s sprint to supply Ukraine with weapons central to its military success against Russia has yielded a promising acceleration of arms production, including the standard NATO artillery round, output of which is expected soon to reach double its prewar U.S. rate of 14,000 a month. – Washington Post In 18 months of war, Ukrainian land has mostly changed hands in sudden bursts, with Russia snatching a mass of territory at the start and Ukraine recapturing chunks in dramatic counterattacks. Now 10 weeks into its most ambitious counteroffensive, with heavy casualties and equipment losses, questions have been growing about whether Ukraine can punch through Russian lines. – New York Times The Netherlands and Denmark said Sunday that they would donate F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine — the first countries to do so — in what President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said was a breakthrough in his nation’s quest to acquire the aircraft considered imperative in the war against Russia. – New York Times The total number of Ukrainian and Russian troops killed or wounded since the war in Ukraine began 18 months ago is nearing 500,000, U.S. officials said, a staggering toll as Russia assaults its next-door neighbor and tries to seize more territory. – New York Times President Vladimir Putin visited the commander of Russia’s operation in Ukraine and other top military brass, the Kremlin said on Saturday, a meeting that came after Ukraine claimed counteroffensive gains on the southeastern front. – Reuters Former Kremlin economic adviser Andrei Illarionov was added to a registry of foreign agents, Russia’s Justice Ministry said late on Friday, a designation the government applies to opponents. – Reuters Ukraine has begun discussing with Sweden the possibility of receiving Gripen jets to boost its air defences, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Saturday after meeting Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson. – Reuters Ukraine is finalising a scheme with global insurers to cover grain ships travelling to and from its Black Sea ports, the Financial Times reported on Monday citing Ukraine’s Deputy Economy Minister Oleksandr Gryban. – Reuters Russia said Ukrainian drones had attacked four separate regions in a flurry of attempted strikes on Sunday, injuring five people and forcing two of Moscow’s airports to briefly divert flights. – Reuters The situation in the eastern Ukrainian region of Kharkiv is “difficult” but Ukraine’s forces are repelling Russian attacks and have re-taken several square kilometres on the eastern front over the past week, a deputy defence minister said on Monday. – Reuters Russia said it foiled attacks by two Ukrainian drones in the Moscow region on Monday but nearly 50 plane flights in and out of the capital were disrupted. – Reuters Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that possession of nuclear weapons protects Russia from security threats and Moscow keeps reminding the West of risks to prevent a conflict of nuclear powers. – Reuters Editorial: Perhaps the President figures ambiguity will give him more flexibility to negotiate a settlement. But if Mr. Biden wants Congress to pass his aid package, he has to make a better case than he has and spend the political capital like the Commander in Chief.

Western arms fail

Burilkov & Satterwhite, 8-21, 23, Dr. Alex Burilkov is a researcher focusing on Russia and the post-Soviet space at the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg in Germany. Alex obtained his Ph.D. on the maritime strategy of emerging powers from the University of Hamburg. Wesley Satterwhite is a U.S. Department of State consultant and a military intelligence officer in the U.S. Army Reserves. He holds a master’s in security studies from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s in diplomacy and international Relations from Seton Hall University. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of any U.S. government entity. With Ukraine’s counteroffensive all but halted, the time has come for Washington to push for peace—particularly given that Russia might launch a new offensive in 2024.

Ukraine’s much-anticipated summer counteroffensive has all but ground to a halt. The dozen new brigades trained by NATO have sustained huge casualties without ever reaching the first line of fixed Russian defenses in strength. Russian forces, fighting a textbook implementation of Soviet maneuver defense, frequently enjoy air superiority and are augmented by increasing numbers of cheap and effective weapon systems such as the Lancet drone. Every passing day draws closer to autumn and the dreaded rasputista—the rain and mud season that impedes maneuver warfare. By all accounts, the Ukrainian counteroffensive is on the clock and unlikely to achieve its major objectives. Western arms deliveries offer little relief. Most of the pledged main battle tanks are already in the theater, and there is limited prospect for further deliveries. Reaching for antiques like the German Leopard 1, first introduced in 1965, won’t be a gamechanger. The “fighter jet coalition” has pledged F-16s, but it’s unclear when and where these will be deployed. In any case, they would be outmatched against an increasingly active and confident Russian Air Force and Russia’s formidable integrated air defense. Stocks of precision weapons are shrinking, which clearly plays a role in the Biden administration’s refusal to provide ATACMS missiles, vital for American security in the Pacific. Given this grim outlook, is a “Korea Scenario” the most likely outcome? This means that by the time the Ukrainian counteroffensive culminates sometime in late August or early September, the conflict freezes at territorial borders roughly corresponding to the frontline. In effect, Ukraine trades significant parts of the four regions annexed by Russia in 2022 for robust Western (American) security guarantees. This certainly wouldn’t be the worst outcome from an American perspective. Washington would be able to gradually defuse tensions with Moscow and reestablish a dialogue on the future trajectory of the European security architecture. Crucially, the United States will finally be able to focus once again on the Pacific. Ultimately, China is the true peer rival to the United States, and has been playing an aggressive diplomatic game in degrading American influence since 2022, in no small part due to the imposition of harsh sanctions on Russia.

Russia won’t negotiate

Burilkov & Satterwhite, 8-21, 23, Dr. Alex Burilkov is a researcher focusing on Russia and the post-Soviet space at the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg in Germany. Alex obtained his Ph.D. on the maritime strategy of emerging powers from the University of Hamburg. Wesley Satterwhite is a U.S. Department of State consultant and a military intelligence officer in the U.S. Army Reserves. He holds a master’s in security studies from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s in diplomacy and international Relations from Seton Hall University. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of any U.S. government entity. With Ukraine’s counteroffensive all but halted, the time has come for Washington to push for peace—particularly given that Russia might launch a new offensive in 2024.

The problem with the “Korea Scenario,” however, is that it assumes that the Russian leadership is desperate for a ceasefire and negotiations. There is scant evidence of this. Not only have the Russians fought the Ukrainians to a standstill in the south, but they launched their own offensive in the north, aimed at capturing the full extent of the Luhansk region, where Russian troops are steadily advancing. Russian society and the economy remain relatively stable, suggesting Prigozhin’s mutiny was indeed an aberration—and his criticism of the war always was that it wasn’t fought hard enough. In fact, the Kremlin might be eager for victory, rather than desperate for negotiations. Andrey Gurulev, former commander of the Central Military District and currently a nationalist Duma deputy, stated that Russia’s rapidly expanding military production was sufficient for the needs of the “special military operation” and the 150,000 new contract soldiers that joined the military since, but that production can be scaled to the needs of a new partial mobilization. Andrey Kartapolov, former commander of the Western Military District and chair of the defense committee in the Duma, made illuminating statements during the parliamentary procedure that increased the conscription age to thirty. Noting that this would increase the pool of trained reserves that could be mobilized, he argued that this amendment to the 1997 law is written for “a big war” and “general mobilization” which while not necessary in the immediate, would be fundamental for the future. Critically, an additional amendment introduces a travel ban, coming into force in October, on anyone whose name appears on the register of both conscripts and reservists. This gives Russian authorities a legal mechanism to prevent an exodus like that of October 2022, where up to 600,000 Russian men fled the country. The Russian leadership has repeatedly stated that the goals of the special military operation have not changed and will be achieved by military means. Moscow views the partition of Ukraine as a key objective, including Odessa—oft-referenced by Vladimir Putin—but also the rest of the Black Sea coast and potentially all the territory east of the Dnieper. Is it possible that the Kremlin is contemplating a second partial mobilization? Victories in the Kharkiv and Kherson regions late last year are what gave Ukraine sufficient political capital to request vastly expanded military assistance from the West. But this mechanism works both ways. The failure of the Ukrainian counteroffensive will grant Putin a significant boost in domestic legitimacy and political capital. Russian nationalist spaces note the similarities between Ukraine’s telegraphed offensive in Zaporizhzhia and the 1943 battle of Kursk, and smugly note that German failure in Kursk was followed by massive Soviet offensives (and victories) in Operation Bagration. Putin could decide to roll the iron dice and spend his domestic political capital on a second round of partial mobilization in October. Putting these men on an accelerated half-year training schedule means that the Russian military enters the 2024 spring campaign season with upwards of an additional 300,000 fresh troops, while Ukrainian forces are gradually attritted during the winter by Russian firepower. The Russian dash to Kiev in 2022 largely failed due to an over-emphasis on mechanized forces over the infantry. A Russian military that enters spring 2024 after two rounds of mobilization will no longer face this constraint. Achieving sufficient mass over an exhausted Ukrainian adversary means the possibility of breakthroughs and the return of maneuver warfare. If Russian forces can drive deep into Ukrainian territory and capture the regions Moscow has identified as its objectives, then the war ends in a significant Russian victory, and crucially one reached by force of arms alone, not a peace settlement mediated by the United States. A Russian victory on these terms is a significant setback for the United States. The reputational damage to American competence and the NATO alliance would be colossal, as the best of NATO hardware and training has already gone into the Ukrainian military, and Russia would be able to make the claim that it stood alone against the West—and won. The Sino-Russian relationship would also strengthen. Finally, the cheap and effective weapons Russia uses to win the war, such as the Lancet, will flow to every regime opposed to American leadership around the world. Therefore, it is imperative that the idea of a peace settlement amenable to all parties in the conflict—including Russia—takes hold and is seriously pursued in Washington. Influential American figures are already engaged in Track 1.5 diplomacy with their counterparts in Russia. These efforts should be encouraged, expanded, and form the basis for sustained engagement in peace negotiations. Only then will the United States be able to focus entirely on containing China, which is of paramount importance to American security and prosperity.

Ukraine aid likely to pass now

Majda Ruge, 8-21, 23, Senior Policy Fellow, European Council on Foreign Affairs, 8-21, 23, https://ecfr.eu/article/primary-concern-trump-ukraine-and-the-republicans-foreign-policy-divisions/

This Republican division contains both good and bad news for Ukraine and Europeans. The good news is that Congress looks set to allow continued US support for Ukraine until 2025. Biden recently asked for an additional $24 billion for Ukraine assistance, which the Senate and House Republicans are likely to pass after attaching additional military support for Taiwan.

Russian aggression means negotiations won’t end the war. And even if they did, it would be temporary

Ishaan Tharoor, 8-21, 23, Washington Post, Ukraine’s hopes for maximal victory look remote, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/08/21/ukraine-counteroffensive-hopes-endgame-victory-difficult/

Talk of endgames in the war, though, remains fanciful. So far, no Russian commitment to good-faith negotiations materialized. “No one is seriously considering or discussing a diplomatic end to the war: a notion that looks to many high-profile Russians like a personal threat, given all the war crimes that their country has committed and the responsibility that the entire elite now bears for the carnage in Ukraine,” wrote Tatiana Stanovaya in Foreign Affairs, referring to the consensus view among the Kremlin elite.

“Peace for Ukraine must at some point involve negotiations with Russia,” wrote Brookings scholar Constanze Stelzenmüller in a recent essay. “But given the Kremlin’s implacable attitude, the burden of proof for the credibility of its negotiating offers would be extremely high. An armistice based on a freezing of the status quo in the form of continued Russian occupation of Crimea and the Donbas would reward Putin’s aggression and merely pause hostilities.”

US can’t supply enough ballistic missiles to win, and that risks escalation with Russia

Mukul SharmaUpdated: Aug 21, 2023, US struggles to keep up with demand of ballistic missiles to aid Ukraine: Report, https://www.wionews.com/world/us-struggles-to-keep-up-with-demand-of-ballistic-missiles-to-aid-ukraine-report-627352

The United States lacks the capacity to furnish Ukraine with sufficient quantities of tactical ballistic missiles that could significantly impact its counteroffensive efforts against Russia, the Financial Times reported. The newspaper also highlighted insights from various experts who questioned the potential efficacy of such weaponry in aiding Kyiv’s counteroffensive. Because Ukraine, a former Soviet Republic, prior to the war with Russia, trained its armed forces to use Soviet-era weaponry it held in its reserve. Even if the Ukrainian side receives as many Western weapons, it’s the limited duration of training (in the middle of a war) that makes the difference. The Financial Times report while referring to unnamed American officials, also contended that the US lacks the production capability for the tactical ballistic missiles Ukraine has requested. Furthermore, the report pointed out that concerns about escalating the conflict with Russia serve as a deterrent to Washington shipping such weapons.

Biden pushing Ukraine aid and it will likely pass, Republicans key

Jonathan Lemire, 8-19, 23, Politico, House Republicans are standing between Biden and his war to save Ukraine, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/08/19/house-republicans-biden-ukraine-00111949

House Republicans are standing between Biden and his war to save Ukraine Biden’s $24 billion bid to arm Ukraine forces comes as Americans grow weary of supporting a battlefield stalemate President Joe Biden has placed the defense of Ukraine against Russia’s invasion at the center of his foreign policy, rallying the democracies of the world to help one of their own. The White House’s $24 billion request to arm Ukraine will test the administration’s ability to support Kyiv just as it meets its fiercest resistance from Russia and — for the first time — a Republican-led House holding the purse strings. The request is part of a larger, $40 billion package full of unrelated big-budget items. The West Wing believes the deal will get done, even if the aid package shrinks, and is executing a strategy to make sure that happens, according to interviews with nearly a dozen White House and congressional aides granted anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak about the process. The White House has padded the proposal with numerous big-budget unrelated items — like disaster relief, border security and anti-fentanyl trafficking — that are broadly popular. White House officials believe that will make it hard for Republicans to explain a no vote to constituents, although the packages could eventually decouple. There is an expectation that the Ukraine funding and the continuing resolution to fund the government will be tackled at once, so as to not have to repeat the grueling process twice. West Wing aides have noted that public support goes up for Ukraine funding any time there is a major moment in the conflict. They plan to take advantage of a pair of upcoming international appearances by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to keep the pressure on Republicans. Zelenskyy is expected to attend next month’s G-20 summit meeting in India before returning to the United States to deliver a speech to the U.N. General Assembly. The White House will also ramp up public pressure by hammering home the need to defend democracies around the globe as well as the fiscal necessity to thwart Russia — or any future nation with war ambitions — by pointing out the negative economic impact of the war. “The defense assistance that both parties have come together around has been critical to Ukraine’s ability to beat back Russia’s illegal invasion and to strengthening our alliances in the world,” said White House spokesperson Andrew Bates. “The president has been very clear that this strategy deters wars of choice and the economic disruption they cause and that we will continue to support Ukraine and our own basic principles as a country,” he said. Biden seeking $40B in emergency funds for Ukraine, disaster relief But the funding battle is poised to lead to another standoff between the president and Speaker Kevin McCarthy, one that could shape Biden’s legacy and Ukraine’s success in the war. Biden has placed the defense of Ukraine against Russia’s invasion at the center of his foreign policy, rallying the democracies of the world to help one of their own. The U.S. has spearheaded the effort, corralling NATO and other allies to send billions in military and economic aid. But the jubilation is giving way to fear as Ukraine’s wartime success stalls. Kyiv’s counteroffensive, purposefully slow to preserve troops and weapons as they wade through minefields and operate without air cover, has helped its forces advance foot-by-foot along the 600-mile front with dug-in Russian forces. But that slow pace has led senior U.S. officials to admit they don’t know how to judge the progress. The tactics clearly don’t make good politics. Polls suggest Americans are growing weary of supporting Ukraine’s battlefield stalemate, and Republicans are seizing on what they see as an opportunity. The funding path should be easier in the Senate than the House since Ukraine has been championed by several Republicans, most notably Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell views support for Ukraine as a piece of his legacy and the West Wing believes he will keep his side largely in line — and, importantly, set a tone for the House talks. But a worsening of the 81-year-old senator’s recent health challenges could upend the calculations. Still, the Senate will want to put their fingerprints on any spending bill especially after the way the Senate got jammed by the House on the debt ceiling agreement. When the White House sent its funding request last week, the top Republican and Democratic appropriators indicated they would write their own legislation. For now, McCarthy looms as the White House’s most significant obstacle. He has at times been in the thrall of his party’s far right, which has called for slashing money being sent to the war zone. Former President Donald Trump, the prohibitive favorite to become the GOP presidential nominee, has questioned the need to back Ukraine and repeated a desire to broker a peace deal with Russia quickly. Officials on both sides of the Atlantic assess that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to wait out the upcoming U.S. election, believing that his fortunes in the war could change if a Republican commands from the Oval Office. For now, Speaker Kevin McCarthy looms as the White House’s most significant obstacle. He has at times been in the thrall of his party’s far right, which has called for slashing money being sent to the war zone. Even pro-Ukraine Republicans are hedging against supporting a new deal for Ukraine. Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), the House Freedom Caucus’ sole Kyiv-friendly member, said this week that Ukraine can’t win the war and, therefore, the U.S. should reconsider further stocking its defenses. “It’s not just far-right members,” said a House Republican aide granted anonymity to speak freely. “[Mainstream Republicans are] sympathetic to the cause but we’re throwing money at a conflict that can last for years.” McCarthy’s office did not return multiple requests for comment. Financial support for Ukraine, for the most part, still enjoys bipartisan backing. But there is long-running skepticism among House Republicans about continuing to fund the war in Ukraine, and it’s unclear if McCarthy wants to defy them to strike another spending deal with Biden. White House aides and Democratic congressional negotiators expect that the speaker, in order to appease the hard right, will push to make some cuts and could threaten at any point to blow up the package. Republicans may also ask, according to those close to the process, for some sort of inspector to monitor Ukraine funding to ward off corruption. But Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), a staunch Ukraine supporter and McCarthy ally, said he would only support a Ukraine package that ensures advanced weapons like the long-range Army Tactical Missile System make it to the battlefield. Without that assurance, he sees no point in further depleting U.S. stocks and spending more money to keep Ukraine at a fighting stalemate with Russia. “Why keep giving Ukraine weapons that don’t help them win the war?” the House Armed Services Committee member said in an interview. “I don’t want to give more for a gridlock.” Far-right Republicans are likely to weaponize the domestic-foreign imbalance in the White House’s spending request: $40 billion total, including $24 billion in Ukraine. The emergency supplemental request will bump up against what is expected to be a continuing resolution to keep the government funded for a short, yet-to-be-determined amount of time — another measure unpopular with conservatives. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer argues that consensus is possible. “This is not just Democrats. This is not just Joe Biden. The vast majority of the Republican caucus in the Senate and the Republican leader saying we need this supplemental, and we need it for — we need it for Ukraine,” Schumer said. “And I am hopeful that the House will do that.” Congress has already approved $113 billion in aid for Ukraine including around $70 billion for security assistance; more than 90 percent of it has already been spent or assigned. The new request includes $13.1 billion for military aid to Ukraine and replenishment of Pentagon weapons supplies that have been used for the war effort. An additional $8.5 billion would go for economic, humanitarian and other assistance to Kyiv and other nations affected by the war, while $2.3 billion would be used in an effort to leverage more aid from other donors through the World Bank. But the chorus of Washington voices who think enough is enough has grown louder. “The United States’ current level of support for Ukraine is unsustainable militarily, financially and increasingly politically,” said Dan Caldwell, vice president for the Center for Renewing America, who with his colleagues is lobbying House Republicans to oppose the Ukraine spending request. Proponents argue the need for new funds is urgent. The money Congress initially approved is now down to the single digits at an estimated $6 billion. It’s enough to further provide Ukraine with munitions for Patriot air-defense systems, 155 mm artillery rounds, Javelin anti-tank missiles and spare parts to fix broken-down equipment. U.S. officials say it’s not sufficient, even as the Pentagon finds more dollars in the proverbial couch, to sustain Ukraine for the long haul. “It’s important that we put the national interest here first and that [McCarthy] not continue to be led around by the nose by his farthest right and most extreme members,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). “I am confident that at the end of the day we’ll get something through. I think there’s going to be a lot of — I think there’ll be some bumps along the way.”

Saudi-Israel normalization key to contain Iran and facilitate Israel-Palestinian peace

Hadar, 8-10, 23, Dr. Leon Hadar, a contributing editor with The National Interest, is a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) in Philadelphia and a former research fellow in foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute. He has taught at American University in Washington, DC, and at the University of Maryland, College Park. A columnist and blogger with Haaretz (Israel) and Washington correspondent for the Business Times of Singapore, he is a former United Nations bureau chief for The Jerusalem Post., Normalizing Saudi-Israeli Relations Is in America’s Interest, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/normalizing-saudi-israeli-relations-america%E2%80%99s-interest-206702

A pro-American Middle Eastern bloc powered by the energy resources of the Persian Gulf and Israel’s high-tech industries and scientific centers would be the most effective way to contain the aggression of Iran and its regional satellites. One of the major dividing lines between “idealists” and “realists” in the foreign policy debate during the Cold War and its immediate aftermath was over the centrality of the promotion of human rights and democratic principles in the pursuit of American goals abroad. That debate pitted Kissingerian realpolitik types arguing that geostrategic and geoeconomic interests should be the main considerations guiding American diplomacy against liberal internationalists on the Left and, more recently, neoconservatives on the Right, who countered that the United States should place the goal of spreading its values worldwide at the center of its foreign policy agenda. In reality, when push came to shove—and in particular, over issues of war and peace—realism tended to win the day, even in the case of presidencies infused with idealism, like those of Democratic President Jimmy Carter and Republican President George W. Bush. Those two presidents also demonstrated the way in which preoccupation with human rights and democracy promotion could harm U.S. core national interests. Hence investing diplomatic efforts in pressing the shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, to improve his government’s human rights record, the Carter administration failed to pay attention to the deteriorating political situation in that country and failed to take action to prevent the fall of the pro-American regime in Tehran and the ensuing Islamist revolution in 1979, resulting in a devastating blow to U.S. status in the Middle East. Similarly, President Bush the Second’s fixation with remaking the Middle East along democratic lines steered his administration to pressure the Israelis to allow the holding of free democratic elections in the Palestinian territories in 2006, leading to the victory of the Islamist and anti-Western Hamas movement that remains in power in the Gaza Strip today. Another president who had entered the White House committed to an ambitious democracy-promotion and authoritarianism-fighting agenda but who gradually ended up readjusting his policies to the realities of international power politics has been Joe Biden. Reflecting the bizarre outcome of dogmatic idealism, Biden invited to his Summit for Democracy in 2023 an Islamist and anti-American country like Pakistan because it, well, holds elections. But Singapore, a leading American strategic ally in the Pacific, was not invited because of its supposedly questionable commitment to democratic ideals. Biden’s earlier pro-democracy campaign included also a vow to isolate and punish Saudi Arabia and its crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman (MBS), bashing the Saudis as a “pariah” in response to the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. For a while, that approach seemed to be cost-free as far as U.S. strategic and economic interests were concerned. After all, it was a time when America was becoming a major energy producer and oil prices were falling, and that supposedly provided an opportunity to reassess Washington’s alliance with Riyadh. Ending the alliance with Riyadh was a goal enunciated by members of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which also question the U.S. commitment to its alliance with Israel and its entire strategy of engagement in the Middle East. And disregarding Saudi Arabia’s concern about the threat posed by its adversary Iran, one that it shared with Israel, Biden and his aides decided to move towards renewing the nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic. But then the war in Ukraine happened, and the Biden administration suddenly found itself operating in an international system dominated by a diplomatic and military conflict between great powers over territories and resources. Energy prices rose to the stratosphere, and whether MBS, the leader of the “pariah” Saudi Arabia, raised oil prices or flirted with the Russians and the Chinese mattered now much more than that country’s human rights record. Obsessing with the Saudis’ commitment to liberal democratic values seems in retrospect to be a luxury that a great power like the U.S. could not afford, especially when other great powers—like China and Russia, certainly not concerned about their potential allies’ treatment of political dissidents or religious minorities—are waiting to fill any geostrategic vacuum left by the Americans. From that perspective, pursuing the possibility of a NATO-level U.S.-Saudi mutual security pact—under which the United States would come to Saudi Arabia’s defense if it is attacked, and would involve Saudi Arabia normalizing relations with Israel—makes a realpolitik sense, especially if it leads to progress on the Palestinian-Israeli front. In the aftermath of the Abraham Accords and Israel’s normalization of relationships with several Arab states, a process of diplomatic detente and economic cooperation between two of the region’s leading powers and allies of the United States would be a major coup as far as American interests are concerned. A pro-American Middle Eastern bloc powered by the energy resources of the Persian Gulf and Israel’s high-tech industries and scientific centers would be the most effective way to contain the aggression of Iran and its regional satellites. Such an arrangement is certainly worth the costs in the form of providing the Saudis with the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-ballistic missile defense system, which would be helpful to the Saudis against Iran’s growing mid- and long-range missile arsenal, and helping them develop a civilian nuclear program. There is no doubt that MBS will also demand some concessions from Israel on the Palestinian issues, including stopping the establishment of new Jewish settlements in the West Bank and a clear commitment to the creation of an independent Palestinian state. If Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu takes such steps that would lead to the withdrawal of two extremist right-wing ministers—Itamar-Gvir, the head of the ultra-nationalist Otzma Yehudit, and Bezalel Smotrich, head of the Religious Zionism Party—from the current coalition. That would then leave Netanyahu no choice but to rely on the support of the centrist parties in the Knesset and make with them a deal to end the current crisis over the government’s controversial plan for judicial reform.

No Israel-Saudi deal now

Reuters, 8-9, 23, https://www.reuters.com/world/white-house-no-framework-agreed-yet-an-israel-saudi-deal-2023-08-09/, White House: No framework agreed yet for an Israel-Saudi deal

Aug 9 (Reuters) – The White House said on Wednesday there was no agreed framework to codify a deal that would have Saudi Arabia recognize Israel, adding a lot of talks would be needed before any such agreement could be signed. U.S. officials have sought for months to reach what would be a deal that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says would be a huge step toward ending the Arab-Israeli conflict but that Riyadh has signaled would rest on Palestinian statehood. National security spokesperson John Kirby played down a report in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that said the United States and Saudi Arabia had agreed on the broad contours. “There’s still a lot of discussing to happen here. There’s still a lot of conversations that have to occur before we get there,” he said. “There is no agreed to set of negotiations, there’s no agreed-to framework to codify normalization or any of the other security considerations that we and our friends have in the region,” he continued

Conservatives oppose new spending

ARIS FOLLEY AND MYCHAEL SCHNELL – 07/30/23, The Hill, Frustration emerges among GOP spending ‘cardinals’ as conservatives push for cuts, https://thehill.com/homenews/house/4125826-frustration-emerges-among-gop-spending-cardinals/

The House Republicans who craft the conference’s government funding bills are showing signs of frustration as hard-line conservatives pressure leadership for further cuts to spending that some worry could be too aggressive. Some of the 12 Appropriations subcommittee chairs — the so-called cardinals — told reporters that they are struggling to see where those additional cuts could come from, as September’s shutdown deadline looms. “I just don’t see the wisdom in trying to further cut to strengthen our hand. I don’t know how that strengthens our hand,” Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), a House Appropriations subcommittee chairman, said of conservatives’ push to further cut the already-scaled-back spending bills. “I do think it puts some of our members in a very difficult spot, particularly those in tough districts, because they’re going to be taking some votes that become problematic,” he added. The House left Washington for a long summer recess Thursday after being forced to punt a bill to fund agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. Conservatives are dug in on their demand for steeper spending cuts, to the chagrin of moderates who are wary of slashing funding even more. The chamber has passed just one appropriations bill, funding military construction and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The internal divisions are gripping the party as time is running out: The House has just 12 days in September to move the remaining 11 appropriations measures and hash out their disagreements with the Senate, which is marking up its spending bills at higher levels, setting the scene for a hectic fall that could bring the U.S. to the brink of a shutdown. Those dynamics are putting GOP appropriators in a bind, leaving them searching for ways to appease conservative requests without gutting their spending bills. “We’ve done a lot of cuts, a lot of cuts,” House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-Texas) told The Hill this week. “And so if it’s cuts just for cut’s sake, I don’t agree with it. But if it’s something that we can do without, that’s fine.” Republican appropriators in the House announced earlier this year that they would mark up their bills for fiscal 2024 at fiscal 2022 levels, as leaders sought to placate conservatives who thought the debt ceiling deal struck by President Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) earlier this year didn’t do enough to curb spending. The Senate is crafting its bills more in line with the budget caps agreed to in the deal, but House Republicans are already fuming about a bipartisan deal in the upper chamber that would allow for more than $13 billion in additional emergency spending on top of those levels. House GOP negotiators also said they would pursue clawing back more than $100 billion in old funding that was allocated for Democratic priorities without GOP support in the previous Congress. While that move drew support from hard-line conservatives, the right flank was far from pleased when it heard appropriators planned to repurpose that old funding — known as rescissions — to plus-up the spending bills. In a letter to McCarthy earlier this month, a group of hard-line conservatives called for all 12 appropriations bills to be in line with fiscal 2022 spending levels “without the use of reallocated rescissions to increase discretionary spending above that top-line.”

US pushing for Saudi-Israel normalization

Jacob Heilbrunn, The U.S. Push for Saudi-Israel Normalization, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/us-push-saudi-israel-normalization-206672

Washington wants to push for closer collaboration between Jerusalem and Riyadh, including potentially a normalization of relations. Yet getting there will require tackling a number of thorny questions. The Biden administration has been making efforts to expand the Abraham Accords by brokering an agreement on the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. The Saudis have set out their goals, which alongside their desire for progress on the Israel-Palestinian issue include several major “asks” from the United States: a security guarantee, easier access to U.S. arms purchases, and U.S.-Saudi cooperation on the development of a nuclear power industry.

Biden will invest PC on Saudi-Israel normalization, creating a domino of peace in the Middle East

David, 7-27, 23, Barak Ravid , author of Axios from Tel Aviv, Jake Sullivan meets MBS in Saudi Arabia as part of possible Israel normalization push, https://www.axios.com/2023/07/27/saudi-arabia-mbs-israel-normalization-biden-push

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan arrived in Saudi Arabia on Thursday for talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, two U.S. sources told Axios and the White House confirmed. Driving the news: Sullivan’s trip is aimed at continuing the talks over a possible deal on upgrading U.S.-Saudi relations that would also include a normalization agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel, the two sources said. U.S. officials have previously said the administration wants to try to complete this diplomatic initiative before the presidential election campaign consumes President Biden’s agenda, as Axios reported earlier this year. Such a deal could be unpopular among Democrats and might cost Biden a lot of political capital. But a deal could be a historic breakthrough in Middle East peace, leading to a domino effect of more Arab and Muslim-majority countries normalizing relations with Israel and putting U.S.-Saudi relations back on track. Details: Brett McGurk, the White House Middle East czar, and Amos Hochstein, Biden’s senior adviser for energy and infrastructure, joined Sullivan on his trip, the sources said. The visit was first reported by the New York Times. Sullivan met with MBS and other senior Saudi officials “to discuss bilateral and regional matters, including initiatives to advance a common vision for a more peaceful, secure, prosperous, and stable Middle East region interconnected with the world,” the White House said in a readout of the visit. “Sullivan also reviewed significant progress to build on the benefits of the truce in Yemen that have endured over the past 16 months and welcomed ongoing UN-led efforts to bring the war to a close,” the readout added. “Both delegations agreed to maintain regular consultations and follow up on matters discussed throughout the day.”

Expensive, progressive policies cost political capital

Ted Rall, 7-7, 23, Biden Plays a Progressive on TV. Will Progressives Be Fooled?, https://www.creators.com/read/ted-rall/07/23/biden-plays-a-progressive-on-tv-will-progressives-be-fooled

Winning, as your parents probably told you if they were decent people, isn’t everything. It’s OK to lose or fail, as long as you clearly did your best. President Joe Biden doesn’t understand this truth. He’s trying to attract votes from working-class people next year by marketing himself as some sort of Bernie Sanders-style warrior for progressive policies. This is even though he didn’t lift a finger to turn any of those ideas into actual law — and then only after yielding to pressure from his party’s left flank. Sanders’ three main proposals — increasing the federal minimum wage to $15, Medicare for All and student loan forgiveness — were so popular among Democratic voters that most of his 2020 presidential primary rivals, including Biden, signed on to some or all of them. Biden was never enthusiastic about progressive proposals. If Medicare For All passed both houses of Congress, Biden even threatened during the primaries, he would veto it. He’s still against allowing all Americans to see a doctor. Biden is, however, for adding a “public option” to the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare. Problem is, he’s not willing to spend political capital on it. No speeches, no town halls, no forcing a vote on legislation so that congressional Republicans have to go on the record as being against it. Going through the motions? That, he has covered. I don’t know if Biden plans a major campaign push on health care. But he certainly does on student loan forgiveness, an issue dear to the younger voters who were a key component of his 2020 coalition. “This is a tremendous opportunity for Democrats to course-correct from identity-based issues,” Democratic analyst Ruy Teixeira observed after the Supreme Court ruled that the president doesn’t have the authority to single-handedly forgive billions of dollars in student debt, as Biden lamely tried to do. Pivoting to the politics of pantomime, Biden attacked the GOP over the court decision. “These Republican officials just couldn’t bear the thought of providing relief for working-class, middle-class Americans,” Biden said. “The hypocrisy of Republican elected officials is stunning.” Takes one to know one. Trouble for Biden is, college borrowers have known since the beginning that his executive-order plan was doomed in the courts, that he cynically ginned it up as a placeholder to seduce naive younger voters during the 2022 midterms, that he was never there for them in the first place, which is why his effort had all the hallmarks of a dutiful feint, a bare minimum necessary to get progressives off his back. As a senator from the bank-owned state of Delaware, Biden was a mortal enemy of those enslaved by educational usury and a key backer of the 2005 bill that now makes it impossible to discharge student debt in bankruptcy, no matter how poor or broke you are. In 2021, he wrongly characterized college debtors as graduates of elite institutions — in fact, most went to state schools — and ridiculed the “idea that I say to a community, ‘I’m going to forgive the debt, the billions of dollars of debt, for people who have gone to Harvard and Yale and Penn.'” Everyone knows that Biden is the Chicago Black Sox of the student loan debate, determined to throw the game to the banks who comprised his donor base. It’s the same story with the federal minimum wage. Biden didn’t really want to do anything; he only endorsed an increase to $15 in order to pacify progressives during the 2020 primaries. As with health care and student loans, Democrats blamed their inability to get legislation through the split Senate, where you need 60 votes to get most bills passed, for their refusal to put a living wage up for a vote. Despite Democrats’ lame excuses, there are ways for a determined president to get his way. Democrats could refuse to raise the debt limit or to fund the military unless Republicans gave them what they wanted. They could threaten to target vulnerable Republicans in purple districts with attack ads that portray them as hating young people, minimum wage workers and the sick.

2024 Biden win depends on the Court continuing to issue conservative rulings

Austin Sarat, 7-7, 23, The Hill, Furor over the Supreme Court could be the key to Biden’s reelection, https://thehill.com/opinion/judiciary/4082447-furor-over-the-supreme-court-could-be-the-key-to-bidens-reelection/

In response, Republicans defended the court, claiming that it was protecting “the individual citizen in his constitutional rights” against the threats posed by New Deal collectivism. They promised in their 1936 platform that year “to resist all attempts to impair the authority of the Supreme Court of the United States, the final protector of the rights of our citizens against the arbitrary encroachments of the legislative and executive branches of government. There can be no individual liberty without an independent judiciary.” As with FDR, “compelling the Supreme Court to pay attention to modern conditions” should be reason enough for Biden to take on the high court in the coming presidential campaign. To date, Biden has seemed ambivalent about how to respond to the court and what it has been doing in the years since his predecessor managed to produce a six-justice conservative supermajority. In the past two years, Biden has been more explicit in criticizing specific Supreme Court decisions and increasingly outspoken about the court’s overall direction. Yet he has not gotten on board with calls to add justices or imposing term limits. In 2024, he doesn’t have to go full-bore on court reform to rally his base and remind voters of what the Supreme Court has been doing to roll back rights and favor dark money groups with which it seems to be aligned. In his 2020 campaign, Biden tried to walk a fine line when he talked about the Supreme Court. He agreed that the court was even then “getting out of whack,” but he did not endorse proposals for reform that many activists were advancing. Biden warned Democrats against responding to every bad court decision. In an interview on “60 Minutes” in October 2020, Biden explained, “The last thing we need to do is turn the Supreme Court into just a political football [and] whoever has the most votes gets whatever they want. Presidents come and go. Supreme Court justices stay for generations.” His 2020 campaign promise to appoint a commission to study the court and to examine reform proposals satisfied few, as did the work of the commission itself. Things began to change for Biden in 2022, however, when the Supreme Court refused to block Texas’s infamous SB8, legislation authorizing private enforcement of the state’s anti-abortion laws. In a written statement, the White House denounced “The Supreme Court’s ruling […] (as) an unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights. […] Rather than use its supreme authority to ensure justice could be fairly sought, the highest Court of our land will allow millions of women in Texas in need of critical reproductive care to suffer while courts sift through procedural complexities.” When, last year, the Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the president spoke out himself. He labelled the Dobbs decision the “realization of an extreme ideology and a tragic error.” Biden warned, “This is an extreme and dangerous path the court is now taking us on.” And, in a preview of what he should do in 2024, he urged voters to think about the court when they cast their ballots in the 2022 congressional election. “Roe,” Biden said, “is on the ballot. Personal freedoms are on the ballot — the right to privacy, liberty, equality. […] With your vote, you can act.” His strategy bore fruit as voters rallied to the defense of abortion rights. Responding to last week’s decisions on affirmative action, gay rights and student loan forgiveness, Biden escalated his criticism of the court. In an interview on MSNBC the night after the court handed down its affirmative action decision, Biden alleged, “This court has done more to unravel basic rights than any other in recent history — it’s not normal. … Take a look at overruling Roe v. Wade. Take a look at what it did today. Take a look at how it’s ruled on a number of issues that have been precedent for 50, 60 years sometimes, and that’s what I meant by not normal.” The president also accused the court of ignoring what “the Constitution says: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, all men and women are created equal, endowed by their creator.’” That the phrase is in the declaration, not the Constitution, should not distract us from his larger point that what the current court is doing is un-American. Biden concluded, “The vast majority of the American people don’t agree with a lot of the decisions this court is making.” Initial polls suggest the president is wrong at least with respect to the affirmative action decision, but whether that will be true for the gay rights and student loan forgiveness decisions remains to be seen. We do know that today only 31 percent of respondents in an NBC News poll released this week held a positive view of the court — a record low since the poll first asked about the court in 1992.

Biden won’t spend capital on Israel-Palestine

Ishaan Tharoor, 7-7, 23, Washington Post, Biden muddles along with Israel as West Bank violence spirals, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/07/07/israel-us-biden-west-bank-violence-status-quo/

Earlier this year, Matt Duss and Zaha Hassan of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace decried the “carrot-heavy approach” adopted by the United States over multiple decades of Israeli settlement expansion. They instead called for the moderate use of sticks, including ceasing to offer “blanket political cover” for Israeli policies at the United Nations and the application of existing U.S. domestic law to condition how Israeli security forces use U.S. military aid in the occupied territories.

Duss, a former adviser to left-leaning Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), believes the Biden administration would “find a lot more support than they may expect” for such steps focused on upholding international law and defending human rights. But amid a thicket of other geopolitical concerns, Biden is unlikely to expend much political capital on this front.

“This administration is so heavily focused on great power competition that they have completely deprioritized the focus on human rights,” Duss told me. “Their main goal [vis-à-vis the Israelis and the Palestinians] is that they don’t want to be bothered.”

Biden spending capital to normalize Saudi-Israel relations

Branco Marcetic, July 2023, Jacobin, Saudi Arabia’s PGA Golf Merger Is Proof Its Monarchy Is Untouchable, https://jacobin.com/2023/07/saudi-arabia-pga-golf-merger-liv-monarchy-human-rights

Even so, not only are Saudi royals and their government able to buy soccer teams, lure entertainment promotions for free PR, and enmesh themselves in the world’s premier golf organization headquartered in the United States, they’re regularly feted by Washington, where their powerful lobby buys influence daily and where they are granted glossy whitewashing by some of the nation’s leading newspapers. In fact, at this very moment, the Biden administration is spending significant political capital to try to normalize relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, despite considerable security risks and uncertain upsides. Despite all the dings the Saudi government’s image has taken these past few years, it’s still not even viewed as a global pariah, let alone treated like one by those in power — which is why someone like Portnoy can, in the same breath that he admits he’d take Saudi money if the price was right, say he wouldn’t play in a golf tournament organized by Putin “for $100 billion.”

Ben Samuels, 6-27, 23, U.S. Ambassador to Israel ‘Doesn’t Believe’ Netanyahu Wants to Pass Judicial Overhaul, https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/2023-06-27/ty-article/.premium/u-s-ambassador-to-israel-dramatic-reaction-if-netanyahu-passes-judicial-overhaul/00000188-fda6-d6ce-abb9-fdf7314b0000

“I do not believe we’re gonna wake up and they’re gonna do all this legislation unilaterally. I do not believe that will happen. I don’t believe the prime minister wants this. This was never, in my humble view, the Prime Minister’s major objective becoming a prime minister,” Nides told a Zoom event hosted by the Jewish Democratic Council of America. Biden isn’t reversing Trump’s major settlement move – ye “His coalition partners have a different objective, but I think he himself wants to do big things. He wants to focus on Iran, he wants to focus on normalizing with Saudi Arabia. So my hope is they will not do everything unilaterally. Because I think the reaction here would be quite dramatic,” he added. Nides further addressed the potential Israel-Saudi normalization, acknowledging “it’s very complicated” and “not that simple under any circumstances.” He noted, however, that U.S. President Joe Biden is “willing to expend the political capital and try to see if there’s an opportunity to get this done.”

Israel-Saudi deal has no impact – no war risks

Stephen M. Walt is a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University. Twitter: @stephenwalt, Foreign Policy, A Saudi-Israeli Peace Deal Isn’t Worth It, https://foreignpolicy.com/2023/06/27/saudi-israel-biden-blinken-peace-normalization/?tpcc=onboarding_trending

At first glance, pushing Saudi Arabia and Israel to normalize relations seems like a no-brainer. U.S. leaders have long wanted Israel’s neighbors to accept its existence and reach a permanent peace. That impulse (and the related goal of reducing Soviet influence in the region during the Cold War) helped inspire the Carter administration’s shepherding of the 1978 Camp David Accords and subsequent Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, as well as the later U.S. effort to broker peace between Israel and Jordan in 1994. Unfortunately, subsequent efforts to achieve a “two-state solution” within the framework of the Oslo Accords were dismal failures, in good part because the United States was not an evenhanded mediator and acted as “Israel’s lawyer” instead. Even so, given the long history of Arab-Israeli enmity, it’s easy to assume that normalization between Riyadh and Tel Aviv would strengthen peace and facilitate regional economic development. Why shouldn’t Washington try to get two of its closest regional partners to come to terms with each other? In fact, there are two big reasons why this sudden push makes little sense right now. First, the danger of a serious conflict between Israel and any Arab states is already vanishingly small. The days where Israel had to worry about being surrounded by large, hostile, and more populous Arab coalition—with some members armed and trained by the Soviet Union—are long gone. Let’s not forget that the supposedly outnumbered and vulnerable Israeli David won every one of the wars fought against the mostly mythical Arab Goliath. Today, Israel has the most powerful military in the region, and it is the only country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons. Saudi Arabia isn’t going to attack Israel under any circumstances, and neither are Jordan, Iraq, or Egypt. Syria is still technically a belligerent, but the battered Assad regime won’t lift a finger against Israel either. Indeed, most of these states have been collaborating with Israel against mutual foes—including Hamas in Gaza and of course Iran—for a long time. Don’t get me wrong: Full normalization would be nice—especially for Israel—and arranging it would probably win the Biden administration some plaudits from groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee . But normalization wouldn’t be a sea change in regional politics; it would merely codify and make a situation that already exists more visible. The open secret is that Saudi Arabia (and some other Gulf states) tacitly accepted Israel a long time ago, even if they haven’t been willing to admit it in public. The bottom line is that even if Biden’s long-shot bid were to pay off, the strategic benefits for the United States will be minor. Second, in making this push, Biden and Blinken are spending scant political capital on two of the least grateful clients in America’s portfolio. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a history of treating U.S. presidents with contempt, and his relationship with Biden has been frosty. He now heads the most hard-line government in Israel’s history, one that is streamlining the colonization of the West Bank and facilitating an increasingly violent campaign against its Palestinian subjects (including some U.S. citizens). The Biden administration isn’t happy about these developments, not to mention Israel’s drift away from democracy, but it has confined itself to the usual limp and ineffectual protests. Meanwhile, Israel has remained steadfastly neutral over the war in Ukraine while continuing to receive generous U.S. military and diplomatic backing. Netanyahu and company are just acting in what they think is Israel’s best interest, of course, but their conduct should be a wake-up call for Biden & Co. Saudi Arabia is no more deserving of U.S. diplomatic solicitude. Even if one ignores the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents, Saudi Arabia has been a prickly and unhelpful ally of late. Its military campaign in Yemen was a humanitarian disaster and a blow to America’s image, insofar as U.S. support facilitated a destructive and largely pointless war. Riyadh has also stayed on the sidelines over Ukraine, and it continues to feed the Russian war machine by purchasing Russian oil at bargain prices while exporting more of its own production at a premium. Moreover, the Saudis angered the Biden administration last fall by coordinating a production cut with Russia to keep prices up, despite direct U.S. requests that they not do so. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has moved steadily closer to China, too, and Saudi officials have made it clear that they welcome alternatives to U.S. patronage, especially in the economic realm. Here too: One can argue Saudi Arabia isn’t doing this to spite the administration; its just following its own interests. From Riyadh’s perspective, the fate of Ukraine is not a vital issue, and it makes good strategic sense to reach out to China and reduce dependence on U.S. protection. Fair enough, but then why is Washington wasting time, effort, and potential leverage trying to broker a deal between Riyadh and Tel Aviv? To be clear: If those two states think it makes sense to normalize their relationship at this point, the United States would not and should not object. But why should it expend any effort at all trying to persuade them? It’s possible that Biden and Blinken are worried about declining U.S. influence in the region and alarmed by China’s recent diplomatic achievements. Convincing Saudi Arabia to normalize relations with Israel would show that the United States could still deliver tangible diplomatic results, even if the strategic significance of the move were modest. Convincing the Saudis to shelve their nuclear ambitions as part of the deal would be a genuine achievement, but that’s not very likely. There’s one more big downside to this endeavor, and it might be the most significant. By pushing Israel and Saudi Arabia to normalize relations, Biden and Blinken are in effect helping make the world safer for Israeli apartheid. The Saudis were never going to do very much to oppose the emerging one-state reality, of course, but normalization would be tantamount to their saying that permanent subjugation of the Palestinians is OK by them. Biden and Blinken aren’t going to do anything to halt or reverse this process either, even though it makes a mockery of their claims to take human rights seriously and makes their opposition to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine or China’s treatment of its Uyghur minority look hypocritical in the minds of independent observers. If you’re wondering why much of the world no longer sees the United States as an inspiring beacon of progress, there’s part of your answer. Given all the other items on the State Department’s to-do list, I can’t quite fathom why this long-shot bid is even being attempted.  And for those who believe that it’s at least worth a try, I’d remind them that trying and failing to broker a deal makes Washington look ineffectual, and all the more so when its entreaties are rejected by two states with whom the United States supposedly has a “special relationship.”

Media companies kills social media/big tech bills

Ashley Capoot, 1-1, 2023, https://www.cnbc.com/2023/01/01/more-social-media-regulation-is-coming-in-2023-members-of-congress-say.html, More social media regulation is coming in 2023, members of Congress say

Congress failed to pass many of the most aggressive bills targeting tech in 2022, including antitrust legislation that would require app stores developed by Apple and Google to give developers more payment options, and a measure mandating new guardrails to protect kids online. Congress made more headway this year than in the past toward a compromise bill on national privacy standards, but there remains only a patchwork of state laws determining how consumer data is protected. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said bipartisan support exists for many of these bills, and many have made it onto the Senate floor. But she said the tech lobby is so powerful that bills with “strong, bipartisan support” can fall apart “within 24 hours.” Klobuchar said on Sunday that things are only going to change with social media companies when Americans decide they have had enough.

Biden capital key to alliances and US global leadership

Betsy Klein, 11-13, 22, CNN, Biden celebrates Democrats holding the Senate on second day of Asia summits, https://www.cnn.com/2022/11/12/politics/joe-biden-cambodia-day-two

President Joe Biden landed in Cambodia on Saturday still reveling in midterm election results that have produced an unexpected boost at home for his second two years in office. A day after he arrived in Asia, he got another piece of news from back home that could give him a lift through the rest of his international swing – CNN and other outlets projected his party would retain control of the Senate. “We feel good about where we are. And I know I’m a cockeyed optimist,” he said from his hotel lobby on Sunday after the projection. Yet the scale of the challenges abroad, and the effort to translate 21 months of intensive engagement into tangible results for US alliances, will put the value of that political capital on the international stage to the test even as votes are still being counted. Biden confronted a series of stark challenges in his sit-down Sunday with Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, critical allies in an Indo-Pacific region rattled by an increasingly belligerent North Korea. An assertive and confrontational China, long a central animating issue for the Biden administration, also looms large. “For years, our countries have been engaged in trilateral cooperation out of a shared concern for the nuclear and missile threat North Korea poses to our people,” Biden said at the start of three-way talks. “As North Korea continues provocative behavior, this partnership is even more important than it’s ever been,” Biden said. Biden also met with Kishida and Yoon individually before their trilateral meeting. Biden’s stop at an Asian nations summit comes as advisers see a clear boost from bucking the historical and political trends in the midterm elections. While Biden’s message won’t shift dramatically, the weight behind it is unmistakably more robust after American voters delivered a message that surpassed the hopes of even the most optimistic White House officials. Biden previously met Kishida and Yoon together on the sidelines of the NATO Summit in June, pledging to enhance cooperation – a complicated task for the major US allies that have a historically fraught relationship. But that cooperation is imperative as recent, stepped-up aggression from North Korea will be top of mind for the trio of leaders Sunday. North Korea has conducted missile launches 32 days this year, according to a CNN count of both ballistic and cruise missiles. By contrast, it conducted only four tests in 2020, and eight in 2021. National security adviser Jake Sullivan suggested Saturday the meeting will not lead to specific deliverables, telling reporters aboard Air Force One that the leaders will “be able to discuss broader security issues in the Indo-Pacific and also, specifically, the threats posed by North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs.”

Perceptions of weakness in support for the Ukraine emboldens Putin’s aggression

Colyn Meyn, 10-28, 22, The Hill, Cracks in US support for Ukraine risk helping Putin, https://thehill.com/policy/international/3708471-cracks-in-us-support-for-ukraine-risk-helping-putin/

Cracks are forming in what has largely been a united U.S. response to Russia’s war in Ukraine, with calls rising from the right and left for President Biden to push harder for peace talks. The push from figures ranging from former President Trump on the right to progressive leader Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) on the left has thrust questions about the Biden administration’s strategy toward Ukraine into the fore as Kyiv has seized momentum on the battlefield. Supporters of current U.S. strategy say pressuring Ukraine into negotiations now would only help Russian leader Vladimir Putin. “It helps the Russians and it hurts the Ukrainians. The Ukrainians want the Russians out of their country. And right now they’re on track to do that,” said William Taylor, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine now with the United States Institute of Peace. The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) stirred up a hornet’s nest on Capitol Hill this week with the release of a letter calling for Biden to increase pressure on Kyiv to open negotiations with Moscow, and for the U.S. to explore direct talks with Russia. “The alternative to diplomacy is protracted war, with both its attendant certainties and catastrophic and unknowable risks,” the 30 lawmakers wrote in the letter, which was retracted a day later amid intense criticism from within the Democratic Party. One reason many Democrats were upset with the letter — a point Jayapal acknowledged when she withdrew it — was that it muddied a message the party is trying to send ahead of the midterms about how Republicans are a threat to U.S. unity behind Ukraine. The letter came a week after Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) spurred concerns about GOP support for Ukraine with his warning that a Republican majority would not issue a “blank check” to Kyiv’s war efforts. Former President Trump has repeatedly pushed for peace talks in Ukraine while stumping for candidates ahead of November’s midterm elections. “With potentially hundreds of thousands of people dying, we must demand the immediate negotiation of the peaceful end to the war in Ukraine, or we will end up in World War III and there will be nothing left of our planet, all because stupid people didn’t have a clue,” Trump told a crowd in Arizona earlier this month. Other Republicans, such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and former Vice President Mike Pence, have sought to push back on Republicans casting doubt on further support for Ukraine. Kira Rudik, a member of Ukraine’s Parliament and leader of the liberal Golos party, attributed the strident remarks from U.S. politicians to election season and said that she expected a more united front to return in a few weeks. She said any peace deal that did not include the full restoration of Ukrainian sovereignty and security guarantees preventing Putin from attacking again would be unacceptable. “If I could talk to people who wrote this [CPC] letter … my question would be, OK, so what’s the plan? Because as of right now I have not seen any power or leader in the whole world who would say, OK, I’m taking it on myself that Putin will keep his word and he will not attack Ukraine again,” she told The Hill. “But what we are doing and we will continue doing is we are fighting and we will be fighting because this is our motherland and so far, nobody proved us wrong in terms of how you should act and how you should deal with Putin. You have to fight him back. There is no other way.” U.S. support for Ukraine’s military has been crucial to its successful counteroffensive that started in September and has kept up steady gains in the country’s eastern and southern fronts. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his top officials have often distilled their most urgent need down to one word: weapons. However, some groups pushing for peace say the U.S. is fueling the war by pouring weapons into Ukraine, and that it could pressure Ukraine to find a diplomatic solution by slowing or even freezing U.S. arms shipments. The Biden administration and Democratic leaders in Congress have held a firm line that the U.S. will support Ukraine until the war is won, and let Kyiv decide when it’s time for diplomacy. Medea Benjamin, the co-founder of Code Pink, an anti-war advocacy group, helped lobby for the CPC letter, but said her organization wished it had gone further. She wanted lawmakers to call for freezing U.S. arms shipments and explain that the U.S. should engage in direct talks because it is responsible for “creating some of the context” that led to the war, such as the continued expansion of NATO in Russia’s backyard. Benjamin also cited former President John F. Kennedy’s reflection on the Cuban missile crisis, when he said nuclear powers “must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war.” Putin has stoked fears that he may resort to nuclear weapons, though on Thursday he said Russia has no plans to do so. Russian forces have occupied much of the Donbas in the Ukraine’s east and the Kremlin moved earlier this month to annex four regions — on top of Crimea, which it invaded and illegally annexed in 2014. Ukraine has set a basic precondition to talks that Russia leaves those territories, either voluntarily or by force, and a large majority of Ukrainians are against any territorial concessions in exchange for an end to Russian aggression. Medea said she expects more Ukrainians to soften their position as war casualties mount and after what is expected to be a brutal winter, with Russian missiles doing major damage to Ukraine’s energy system. And she said it’s in U.S. interests to make some concessions to Putin in order to end the bloodshed. “As Biden says, [Putin] needs an off ramp. Well, let’s give him one. I don’t think most Americans, if they were asked directly, do you know or care where that border in Donbas is drawn? They won’t,” she said. Rudik, the Ukrainian lawmaker, said the integrity of Ukraine’s border was a question of life and death, as Ukraine has invariably found torture rooms, mass graves and raped women in areas once occupied by Russia. “The line that we are talking about is the line between human rights and democracy and fighting for freedom, and being stripped of human rights and any ability to exist,” she said. “So it’s incredibly painful to hear, but I also understand that when it is so far away, you can become numb to that. But I’m not numb to the atrocities that are happening to Ukrainian people and this is why we will be fighting.” Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.) this week called the progressive letter an “olive branch to Putin,” and told The Hill Thursday it’s not even worth debating what an eventual peace deal might look like. “I’m not going to prognosticate on that because you don’t negotiate against yourself, OK. What you do is you change the facts on the ground, and the facts on the ground drive the negotiations,” he said. Auchincloss, a Marine veteran, dismissed the argument from Code Pink and others that ending the war now could save thousands of lives. “What’s going to ultimately be most conducive to Ukraine’s prosperity and peace and to the postwar international order that is so critical for the well-being of so many in the world is that we send this stark message to Moscow and to Beijing that might doesn’t make right. And that you need to respect the laws of diplomacy and indeed the laws of war.” Taylor, the former ambassador, noted that a large majority of lawmakers were still aligned with the Biden administration, despite some of the recent criticism. “Ukrainians listen very carefully to what Americans say. They’re comforted. They’re reassured when they observe … overwhelming support for assistance and continued weapons deliveries,” he said. However, even if the majority of U.S. lawmakers remain in sync with Biden’s strategy, the perception of growing dissent in Washington risks emboldening Putin, said Hein Goemans, a political science professor at the University of Rochester who studies war. “These kinds of actions of McCarthy and of the progressive group really actually support Putin in the belief that he can break apart the Western coalition, so I think it’s horribly counterproductive,” he said. “These people should answer the question: What deal do you think Putin would accept and what do you think he would do afterwards? I mean, it’s just so short-sighted.” Goemans posits that for wars to end, both sides need to agree on the likely outcome. And at the moment, Ukraine has every reason to believe it can beat Russia, while Putin is doubling down rather than accepting defeat. He added that it’s incumbent upon the U.S. to communicate to Russia that whatever it does — even if Putin turns to nuclear weapons — the West will not force Ukraine to take a peace deal on unfavorable terms. While lawmakers may ultimately fall in line behind the Biden administration, the divisions and political damage may not fade so quickly. China, Russia biggest challenges under Pentagon’s new National Defense StrategyBiden: If Putin has no intent to use nuclear weapons, ‘why does he keep talking about it?’“On the progressive side, [it] makes them look like they’re weak in the sense of not supporting freedom, not supporting the autonomy of nation states. I don’t think they’re in a good position,” said Melvyn Levitsky, a longtime U.S. diplomat who is now a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ford School.He said the progressive caucus isn’t big enough to be starting such high-stakes debates. However, a GOP majority may prove trickier for Biden to deal with, and would likely use its oversight powers to push its own priorities and strike side deals with Democrats, Levistsky added.“Even if the Republicans take the majority … I don’t think that there will be a push to kind of draw back,” he said. “It’s not a Republican image. But there’s also some leverage in that position as well, and they’ll have leverage in at least one house across the board.”

Weakening Congressional support/aid for the Ukraine critical to force negotiations

Mai, 10-27, 22, Kevin McCarthy Isn’t Wrong About Ukraine, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/kevin-mccarthy-isn%E2%80%99t-wrong-about-ukraine-205588

Pushing back on the Biden administration’s proxy war in Ukraine provides the GOP with an opportunity to demonstrate that its commitment to an America First foreign policy goes beyond rhetorical gestures. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) signaled last week that a GOP majority in the lower chamber would stop, or at the very least, scrutinize, the substantial flow of aid to Ukraine from America. “I think people are gonna be sitting in a recession and they’re not going to write a blank check to Ukraine … Ukraine is important, but at the same time it can’t be the only thing they [the Biden administration] do,” McCarthy said. Along with the looming post-midterm immigration battle, pushing back on the Biden administration’s proxy war in Ukraine provides the GOP with an opportunity to demonstrate that its commitment to an America First foreign policy goes beyond rhetorical gestures. McCarthy did not offer specifics about how a future GOP majority would change congressional policy toward Ukraine, but his message hinted at a fundamental truth: the first duty of U.S. political leaders is to protect and promote the interests of their constituents. To date, both parties have failed to do this with respect to the Russo-Ukrainian War. U.S. national interests in Ukraine can be distilled into three core objectives. As international security scholar Joshua Shifrinson outlined in an analysis for Defense Priorities, these include: preventing an escalation of the conflict that might lead to a direct confrontation between the United States and Russia, avoiding the total deterioration of bilateral U.S.-Russia relations, and limiting the economic fallout from the war. So far, the Biden administration, with the near-total acquiescence of Congress, has failed to secure the last two objectives. More concerning, Washington’s obstinate refusal to negotiate with Russia to end the conflict, or at least enact a ceasefire, on the disingenuous basis that only Kyiv has the agency to do so, is bringing the world closer to nuclear conflict. A GOP takeover of the House could potentially affect the Biden administration’s calculus on pursuing diplomacy with Moscow. If the GOP decided to significantly reduce lethal aid packages to Kyiv, the White House could react by opening direct diplomatic channels with Moscow while Ukraine still holds the initiative on the battlefield. Of course, a smarter strategy would be to do that now before the impact of the Russian troop mobilization is felt and while time and momentum are still on Ukraine’s side. Military analysts have also warned that U.S. aid to Ukraine is depleting some of the Defense Department’s stockpiles. The Biden administration has made multi-year investments with U.S. defense contractors to produce and transfer defense capabilities to Ukraine, but they may not reach the battlefield in time to make a difference. Congressional advocates of foreign policy restraint are vastly outnumbered by their hawkish colleagues. But a changing of the guard means that the party’s right flank, particularly in the Freedom Caucus, will be looking to hold McCarthy’s feet to the fire if he shifts resources away from the conference’s chief domestic priorities. Pre-midterm polls show that Americans don’t consider Ukraine a top political priority and want NATO allies to pick up a larger share of the burden when it comes to supporting Kyiv through financial and military aid. A September poll conducted by YouGov and Concerned Veterans for America found that a combined 85 percent of Americans said Washington should send either the same (51 percent) or less (34 percent) amount of military and economic assistance to Ukraine than wealthy European countries. Currently, this is not the case. According to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, from January 24 to October 3, the United States committed $52.7 billion in government support to Ukraine. By contrast, European Union (EU) members and institutions only contributed $30.1 billion. The bloc’s leaders, Germany and France, have respectively committed a meager $1.2 billion and $322 million in military aid. This imbalance is a direct result of the contradictory goals U.S. policymakers have set for the transatlantic alliance. U.S. presidents going back to the Cold War have complained about the costs and incentives associated with assuming responsibility for European security. Yet, at the same time, U.S. policymakers have also stifled European attempts to pursue strategic autonomy, or independent and self-sufficient defense capabilities. Since February, the United States has stationed an additional 20,000 forces in Europe, raising the total number of U.S. servicemembers on the continent to more than 100,000. Rather than encourage European allies to make serious long-term commitments to their defense and evolve into a capable geopolitical actor, the Pentagon doubled down on strategic overstretch and picked up the tab again. The choice facing a future GOP House majority is clear: either support a policy that is raising the prospect of a confrontation between the world’s preeminent nuclear powers while risking strategic overstretch or prioritize U.S. national interests and push treaty allies to contribute more. McCarthy seems attuned to the obvious contradiction of an America First platform that would commit itself to the former.

Bipartisanship produces regressive, racist legislation

Lehman, 9-30, 22, Chris Lehmann is the D.C. Bureau chief for The Nation. A contributing editor at The Baffler and The New Republic, he was the former editor of both publications. He is the author, most recently, of The Money Cult: Capitalism, Christianity, and the Unmaking of the American Dream (Melville House, 2016).
When future historians seek out a representative scene to distill the essence of our unique age of political folly, it will be hard to surpass Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s recent star turn at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center. The symbolic pageantry of the occasion alone was overwhelming: here was a feckless apostle of political obstructionism for its own sake holding forth at a podium supplied by the era’s most disciplined practitioner of obstruction for ideology’s sake. Both Sinema and Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell are notoriously bankrolled by the most venal and compromising financial interests, and both are militantly proud of that fact. And both, far from coincidentally, profess awestruck devotion to the sacred antidemocratic rites of Senate lawmaking—most especially the filibuster, which began life as a blunt tool of racial suppression and continues to thwart any and all instrumental progress toward the expansion of our formal democracy. To complete the whole dumbfounding picture, Sinema was holding forth on the mythic virtues of bipartisan governance in the intellectual house of McConnell, a man who has redefined the meaning of “scorched earth” when it comes to ramming right-wing Supreme Court nominees through the upper chamber of the national legislature, while blocking Democratic ones. But Sinema’s act of prostration was more than garden-variety hypocrisy—it was a useful limit-test of the hollow pieties of bipartisan comity in a political order that has no earthly use for them in practice. According to political scientist Ed Burmila, author of a new history of Democratic centrism, Chaotic Neutral, the modern D.C. cult of bipartisan legislating owes its origins to the very sort of regressive policy vision that is now Sinema’s calling card. “In the ’90s, Bill Clinton and his allies in the Democratic Leadership Council argued that the only way for Democrats to get back on top and win was to fundamentally accept right-wing arguments, and say Democrats could accomplish those goals better,” says Burmila. “And the only way that could be palatable to Democrats was to redefine success as bipartisan, to say that you can pass legislation with a Republican set of goals, but you can also temper the extremism of a Newt Gingrich.” Hyde Reminds Us That Abortion Is an Economic Justice Issue Over the past generation of congressional Democratic governance, the proceduralist reverence for centrist and bipartisan accords on Capitol Hill has only grown, as Grand Bargains and Gangs of Four, Eight, and Fourteen have solemnly convened to produce new models of adults-in-the-room dealmaking. The mystic spell of the bipartisan ideal continued to exert its appeal among the Beltway set even as those side deals collapsed one after another (the odd occasional breakthrough, such as enabling the continued right-wing capture of the federal judiciary, proving scarcely preferable to collapse). The notion stubbornly endured even while genuine bipartisan agreement on Capitol Hill yielded some of the worst legislation of our lifetime. When you name-check Congress’s great bipartisan breakthroughs, you have summoned forth such unlovely specimens of lawmaking as the Clinton welfare repeal law, the Defense of Marriage Act, and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley and Commodities Futures Modernization Act, which both laid the groundwork for the 2008 financial crisis. You have also invoked the disastrous TARP bailouts that professed to mop up the damage from the 2008 meltdown while directing lavish giveaways and bonuses to Wall Street. (In a particularly grim irony, the TARP bailouts also provided the raison d’être for the ultrapartisan Tea Party movement that would later morph into Trumpism.) And leave us not forget No Child Left Behind, the resolution to invade Iraq and the USA Patriot Act—a multibillion-dollar gift to the national surveillance state passed in a display of bipartisan spirit so overexuberant that almost none of the lawmakers stirringly lined up behind it bothered to read the thing.
By contrast, many of the greatest legislative achievements of modern Washington were achieved in strongly partisan congressional votes. Here I don’t just mean the resolution votes that yielded the Inflation Reduction Act this summer and the Affordable Care Act in 2010. No, the vast body of New Deal lawmaking that is the very foundation of confident liberal governance was fiercely partisan, from the Wagner Act to the Social Security Act to the Glass-Steagall Act fatefully undone by Bill Clinton’s pet pair of laws unleashing deregulation-on-steroids for the financial sector. Lopsided Democratic majorities in Congress gave us Medicare; the party affiliation on voting rights laws has shifted over time, but the overall pattern of strong partisan support for such measures has not. It’s especially worth flagging this latter trend, because Sinema absurdly withheld her support for desperately needed voting rights reforms this winter on the entirely bogus grounds that such measures must get bipartisan backing in Congress. “That’s what you say when you fundamentally don’t believe anything,” Burmila says. “With voting rights, you have two parties, one that says they should be protected, the other essentially saying you shouldn’t have them at all. Just what is the midpoint between those two positions?” Given this dismal track record, what explains the stubborn fealty in the centers of Democratic D.C. power to the household gods of bipartisanship? In her Louisville talk, Sinema predictably bemoaned the “tribal” turn in contemporary American politics and claimed that voters hunger for greater cooperation in Congress. In reality, the public’s fondness for bipartisanship appears to be overblown. Northwestern University political scientist Laurel Harbridge-Yong notes that the popular attraction to the ideal is a decidedly conditional one. “The public does express a general preference for bipartisanship or compromise,” she says. “But it’s not deeply held, and it’s often overcome by desires for partisan victories.” Pace Sinema, results seem to make a far deeper impression on voters than the niceties of legislative byplay. Sinema and McConnell’s shared ardor for the filibuster is a striking case in point. “When the filibuster leads to real deliberation, there’s a case to be made that it serves bipartisanship, but when it leads to gridlock, it’s not what the public wants. People seem very frustrated by inaction.” At the end of the day, Harbridge-Jones adds, “If you want to be the majority, you’ve got to show you’re going to do something with it.” A far more compelling explanation of the vogue for bipartisan thinking is its allure for political elites heavily invested in status quo arrangements. “It becomes a cover for never having to do anything progressive,” says historian Lily Geismer, author of Left Behind: The Democrats’ Failed Attempt to Solve Inequality. As momentum for Clinton-branded policy triangulation built within the Democratic Party, she notes, “progressive voices were forced out of the administration. And that way you had no counterbalancing forces.” In the ensuing decades, this lesson in power and access took firm hold among ambitious D.C. policy insiders; centrist and savvy became the watchwords of political advancement among a liberal political class dedicated to arbitrating just what is, and is not, politically possible. The bipartisan ideal is “only important for people in this 1500-person Beltway reality,” Burmila says. “Anyone who’s going to be designated to survive a nuclear attack on Washington—that’s the constituency for bipartisanship.” An ancillary dogma this class subscribes to is that bipartisanship produces ideological diversity—a necessary asset for any party seeking to carry the day in national elections. In this view of things, senators like Sinema and fellow refusenik Joe Manchin are just part of the pragmatic cost of remaining relevant in a national debate that happens to spontaneously elevate center-right priorities. But with a fascist-leaning right firmly ensconced in the mainstream, traditional notions of centrism are very much a dead letter. “Look at the results,” Burmila says. “How have we gotten to this point if that strategy has succeeded?” It’s the fixation on capitulating to the rapidly vanishing center, he adds, that leaves Democrats flailing. “Look, the GOP has some ideological diversity, but when it comes time to ram Amy Comey Barrett through three days before the election, they’re all on the same page. So maybe the Democrats need to get rid of this arcane procedural rule of the filibuster. Liberals are horrified at the thought of a purity test, but you really need a basic purity test or two like ‘What will you do to help our party survive?’ Yeah, you can have different opinions on entitlement reform, but you can’t on whether we should govern.” The bipartisan pipe dream is ultimately antipolitical—a way of doing politics without actual conflict, clarifying debate, or a coherent strategy extending from one election cycle to the next. Neoliberal political elites cleave to the view “that bipartisanship is somehow supposed to signal a mandate,” Geismer says. “It doesn’t. That’s not where mandates come from. You had, for example, a big vote behind the Civil Rights Act in 1964, but then there’s massive backlash after that. It’s a false narrative about American history, and it’s weird how the Democrats have fed this.” So in one sense, the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center serves as the perfect forum for a shibboleth designed by and for above-the-fray D.C. power brokers who can’t be bothered with the messy business of actual majoritarian politics. The audience at Sinema’s oration was, after all, invitation-only, and she claimed a premium bottle of Old Forester bourbon as part of her honorarium. The only thing the whole set piece appeared to be missing was a hedge-fund lobbyist.


Bipartisan opposition to antitrust legislation

Rory Bathgate, 9-7, 22, IT PRO, US antitrust bill nearing law faces fierce tech opposition, https://www.itpro.co.uk/business/policy-legislation/369007/us-antitrust-bill-near-completion-faces-fierce-tech-opposition

A bipartisan US antitrust bill, which could soon be voted on in the Senate, has reportedly faced an expensive opposition campaign by tech giants. One of several bills included in a wider antitrust proposal, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICO) has been two years in the making and seeks to forbid tech giants from engaging in ‘self preferencing’, using platform data for unfair profitable advantage, and infringing upon the payment or pricing methodology of competitors. Bloomberg reports that Google, Apple, Amazon and Meta, alongside trade groups with which they are affiliated, have spent just under $95 million since 2021 to lobby against support for the bill, which they argue will limit their ability to run platforms effectively. In a similar focus to the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), the AICO would seek to prevent so-called ‘gatekeeper’ firms, those that run the largest online platforms home to many smaller competitors, from abusing their positions of power for financial gain. For example, Google’s promotion of Google Maps reviews when a customer searches for a restaurant or Amazon’s control over which products are listed highest will be put under scrutiny by the bill. “It is really hard to take on these subjects when you have the biggest companies the world has ever known, that control an inordinate part of the economy, opposed to it,” Vox quotes senator Amy Klobuchar, the co-sponsor of the AICO, as having remarked. In a blog post from January, Google’s president of global affairs Kent Walker argued that potential US legislation on this level would be damaging for customers and the tech sector: “Antitrust law is about ensuring that companies are competing hard to build their best products for consumers. “But the vague and sweeping provisions of these bills would break popular products that help consumers and small businesses, only to benefit a handful of companies who brought their pleas to Washington.” Those sponsoring the bill are confident that if voted on, it has the support necessary to clear the Senate. But it remains to be seen if the bill will be raised for a vote in the narrow window before the midterm elections in November, which are likely to change the voting balance within the senate. If enacted, the AICO would give the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), along with the Department of Justice, the authority to sue companies that fail to comply, though what the penalty could look like has yet to be determined. The bill comes to vote as many legislators around the world consider the power that many tech giants exert over their market. The EU has recently opened an investigation into Google’s dominance over the Play Store, which sees it charging high developer fees and limiting the extent to which apps can use alternative billing systems, while in the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has opened an investigation into whether Amazon’s platform gives its retail arm an unfair advantage over third-party sellers. Despite individual reviews of monopolistic practice, however, the UK is not yet pursuing big tech regulation to the same degree as the EU is with the DMA. Set to come into effect in Spring 2023, this will greatly curb the extent to which tech giants can use platforms to unfairly push their services, as well as protect data from being used to damage the competitiveness of the market. In particular, the act seeks to limit the powers of gatekeeper companies. Such firms that fail to comply with the rules will face fines of up to 10% of their worldwide turnover, or 20% on repeat offences. Without lobbying power in Europe as in the US, there is little that Google or any other tech giant can do to halt the implementation of the DMA, and companies may be forced to change their worldwide practice as a result.


Your DA makes no sense in the context of Biden – he doesn’t use capital

Gabrielle Debennedett, 8-31, 22, New Yorker, POLITICS 8:00 A.M. Who’s the Change Agent Now? Joe Biden is delivering breakthroughs that long eluded Barack Obama. Who understands the presidency best?, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/article/gabriel-benedetti-the-long-alliance-book-excerpt.html

From his perch on an island 500 miles north of the White House, Obama spoke with Biden sporadically. As always, their calls were private and no aides listened in. But as the summer wore on, Obama’s small group of confidants gathered that Biden was impatient with his dismal approval numbers, which rivaled Donald Trump’s. They thought Biden seemed sensitive about the fact that among Democratic candidates running for office in November, the 44th president will be a far more coveted surrogate than the 46th. (One private party poll in the battleground state of Arizona showed Biden’s favorability at a putrid 26 percent.) And it seemed to them that the president was annoyed with some members of his own party, especially regarding what he saw as their fatalistic attitude about the midterms. (The White House disputes these impressions.) Given the hit Biden took after the abortion ruling, some of Obama’s close allies were baffled by Biden’s similarly uninspiring reaction to the July 4 mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, that left seven people dead and dozens wounded. As a handful of ambitious Democrats made micromoves that could position them to run in Biden’s stead in 2024, Obama said nothing, either publicly or through back channels. He stayed mum when Illinois governor J. B. Pritzker visited the early-voting state of New Hampshire, and he didn’t reach out to bring Gavin Newsom in line after the California governor rather conspicuously began buying airtime in Florida and newspaper ads in Texas. Much of Obama’s reluctance to engage was tactical; he didn’t want to overshadow the sitting president or get dragged into a new role as Biden’s enforcer, and he’d already determined that he would be most effective as an advocate for the party if he lay low until just before the midterms. Still, coming from the most popular Democrat, Obama’s distancing had the effect of heightening Biden’s isolation, as an idea began to take hold in the public imagination that one of them knew how to be a successful president and the other didn’t. And then, as if out of nowhere, came a very Washington version of deliverance. An agreement between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and the fickle West Virginia senator Joe Manchin to make world-historic climate investments and deflate drug prices headlined a run of nearly miraculous news for Biden’s White House. It was the kind of concerted environmental effort Democrats had dreamed of for years, if not decades, and even progressives who wanted more conceded it would make for a genuine sea change in the government’s approach to the existential threat of climate change. The deal came on the heels of the bipartisan passage of a semiconductor-chip-manufacturing bill, and it cast in a better light a June compromise to enact limited gun-control measures, alongside other legislation of substance. (It didn’t hurt that in this stretch Biden had ordered the drone killing of Al Qaeda’s leader and gas prices fell by more than a dollar.) “There is no way to get around the fact the last month or so has been stellar for the administration,” Charles M. Blow declared in the New York Times. “Joe Biden’s Presidency Is Suddenly Back From the Dead,” Jonathan Chait wrote in this magazine. Bob Shrum compared him to Lyndon Johnson. Nobody was under any illusion that Biden had personally crafted the climate deal or artfully twisted the right arms to get it done. More accurately, it fell into his lap — months after he’d last tried to cut a compromise on his Build Back Better plan with Manchin. If Biden could have made it happen sooner, he would have. But just as presidents can fall victim to external disasters over which they have little control (see gas prices), history remembers even indirect victories as their own, too. What Biden did was leave the door open to a bargain, recognizing the awkward reality that Schumer and Manchin had more space to maneuver without his voice in the mix complicating the politics that faced the prickly moderate from coal country. Biden and Schumer had also allowed Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell to believe the administration’s climate ambitions were toast; the prevailing theory in Washington is that the Kentuckian agreed to the chips bill only because he trusted that the big-ticket ones were dead. If Biden’s abrupt turnaround can be attributed to a style of governance that is still emerging, that style is decidedly un-Obaman. The crown-jewel victory — the Inflation Reduction Act, containing the climate provisions — was painstakingly lashed together in secret by a crew of senators, including longtime denizens of Biden’s old stomping ground. The president’s own hand was nowhere to be seen in public until it was on the verge of passage, an echo of how the maximally precarious gun bill had moved through Congress a few weeks earlier. Whether because of changing times and opposition or recognition of their fundamentally distinct political strengths, Biden has veered far from the Obama model to get things done. It’s been months since he mounted a concerted effort to galvanize public opinion with the presidential bully pulpit, and he has never attempted to use an academic style of persuasion, as Obama often did. Obama was elated to learn of the climate agreement. But as the ex- and current president celebrated, a telling gap began to open. Biden’s West Wing sold the Inflation Reduction Act as the largest climate investment ever, period. Publicly, Obama agreed, calling the law a “BFD” — a nod for nostalgists to Biden’s famous appraisal of Obamacare. Privately, however, Obama saw the legislation as a step forward — a bend in the long arc of history he often cites — and not a transformative leap. It was possible to read this as sour grapes, or at least wry analysis, from a retired president whose own grandest ambitions had been thwarted at almost every turn. Yet no one on earth understood what Biden was facing better than the man who’d held the job for eight years. The two simply saw change-making differently. Obama, in fact, had been getting updates from Schumer all summer and had been quietly musing that a climate plan might be revivable, fashioned from the surviving shreds of Biden’s Build Back Better platform. He just hadn’t necessarily seen the idea as an epochal one — more like a pragmatic concession that Biden’s original ambitions couldn’t work in this version of Washington. The difference in perspective speaks to one of the oldest lines of tension in Obama and Biden’s relationship and a question that is now more pressing than ever: What is the right way to be a Democratic president? Neither man’s approach has been static, especially as Republican opposition has escalated from obstruction to nakedly anti-democratic sabotage. Obama entered office in 2009 with large partisan majorities, confident in his rhetorical abilities to unite the country and persuade voters to enact sweeping change, but GOP intransigence hardened his view of what was achievable and left him increasingly reliant on the unilateral powers of his office. He still used his megaphone to urge the electorate toward pluralism in moments of need, but by 2016, he was giving exit interviews about the difficulty of turning ocean liners more than a few degrees at a time. Biden observed all that from a closer vantage point than anyone, and in 2021, he took the oath of office with an altogether different strategy in mind. Although he had only a minuscule edge in Congress, he was convinced that his long decades in the Senate made deal-making possible again — both with members of his own party and with a small, theoretical group of Republicans eager to get some things done after the embarrassments and incompetence of the Trump years. Finding little success in trying to be the country’s protagonist or pastor, Biden settled into a significantly quieter and less confrontationally progressive posture even as he kept his faith in the legislative process to eventually deliver him big wins. Though his achievements were often overshadowed by a generalized perception of feebleness and unrelenting demonization from Republicans, he began to rack up major policy victories. Seismic as it is, the climate law hardly rescues Biden from his doldrums. The presidency is about much more than legislation, and early polling suggests his approval rating has rebounded only modestly. Yet to a degree that would have been unthinkable in the depths of summer, when Biden seemed all but dead politically, it is now possible to debate whether his first two years or Obama’s were more substantively successful…. As Biden’s polling sank on a Jimmy Carter–esque trajectory, it might have been reasonable to chalk up his initial legislative feats to a smart use of early but limited political capital — especially considering how quickly the Democratic coalition on the Hill then started to crack — and conclude all the other responsibilities of the Oval Office and the vectors of 2022’s unforgiving politics were simply swamping him. Yet that’s also why the climate-focused deal represented a genuine breakthrough for the 79-year-old president, who’d begun facing calls from some elected Democrats in Washington to retire. It appeared to reaffirm Biden’s essential approach to politics and his oft-contested theory of change: Dealmongering isn’t dead after all, no matter the president’s age or his political shortcomings and even if he isn’t the one directly negotiating the lines of legislative text. Presidents set the context. Biden could well continue to suffer low approval ratings and the abandonment of factions of his party, even as he continues to deliver prizes of staggering scale. In late August, he said he would forgive hundreds of billions in student loans. Progressives complained loudly that he could have been even more generous; moderates expressed skepticism about the move’s political wisdom. It’s tempting to imagine what might have gone through Biden’s head after eight years at Obama’s side and now two on his own: Do you think the last Democrat would’ve done any better?

Ukraine saps Biden’s capital

Kupchan, 6-29, 22, CHARLES A. KUPCHAN is a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and Professor of International Affairs at Georgetown University. He is the author of Isolationism: A History of America’s Efforts to Shield Itself From the World, NATO’s Hard Road Ahead: The Greatest Threats to Alliance Unity Will Come After the Madrid Summit, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/ukraine/2022-06-29/natos-hard-road-ahead

The war in Ukraine, along with perpetual congressional gridlock, has sidelined this critical agenda of domestic repair. To be sure, the provision of military and economic assistance to Ukraine enjoys an unusual level of bipartisan support. Nonetheless, time is not on the side of bipartisanship, which is poised to dissipate as the November midterms near. The war, coming on top of the supply disruptions caused by the pandemic, is contributing to economic conditions that are playing into the hands of “America first” Republicans. Inflation is at 40-year highs; the price of gas, food, and other essential items keeps climbing. The stock market is swooning amid talk of an impending recession. The war in Ukraine is hardly the sole cause of these economic tribulations, but it is certainly playing an important role. It is also soaking up the Biden administration’s precious time and political capital.

Iran deal the only way to prevent a fast nuclear break-out

Brewer, 6-17, 22, ERIC BREWER is a Senior Director at the Nuclear Threat Initiative and has served on the National Security Council and National Intelligence Council, Foreign Affairs, Iran on the Nuclear Brin The End of the Deal Would Leave Only Bad Options to Thwart a Dash for the Bomb, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/iran/2022-06-17/iran-nuclear-brink

Last month, Iran’s nuclear program entered dangerous new territory: Tehran now possesses enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb. That material, enriched to 60 percent, would need to be further enriched to roughly 90 percent—so-called weapons-grade uranium—before it could be used in a nuclear weapon. But that process, known as “breakout,” will now take just weeks due to Iran’s advances since 2019, when Tehran began casting off the constraints of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal following the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement. Although this action alone would not give Iran a bomb, it is the most important step in building one. The consequences of this milestone are profound. Until now, the international community has had months, if not years, to prevent any Iranian dash to bomb-grade material—plenty of time to resolve the crisis diplomatically. Should that fail, the United States has always kept military options as a last resort. Indeed, this fact has helped deter Iran from trying to build a bomb. But as U.S. envoy Robert Malley noted last month, Iran’s capabilities have reached the point where Tehran “could potentially produce enough fuel for a bomb before we could know it, let alone stop it.” Given that Democrats and Republicans have long maintained that they will not allow Iran to produce nuclear weapons, the fact that the United States might not be able to prevent an Iranian dash should be deeply worrying. The easiest solution to this problem, and the one the United States appears to still be banking on, would be a return to the Iran nuclear deal. This would buy time by rolling back many of these nuclear gains, putting Iran’s breakout timeline at roughly six months. But talks to revive the accord have stalled over Iran’s demand that the U.S. State Department remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from its designated terrorist list—apparently a bridge too far for the Biden administration. The problem with waiting for a bargain to materialize, however, is that the longer the stalemate drags on, the less likely a deal becomes as its benefits diminish for both Tehran and Washington. Unfortunately, the international community might be faced with an Iran at the threshold of a nuclear weapon for the foreseeable future. Washington will have to think creatively about how to manage this state of affairs if it wants to avoid an Iranian bomb and the negative consequences that would follow. BREAKING DOWN BREAKOUT It is useful to think about the challenges posed by breakout as being governed by three clocks. The first clock measures the time it would take Iran to produce enough material for a bomb. The second, the time it would take international inspectors or Western capitals to detect those activities. And the third, the amount of time required for the international community to respond. Historically, the time on the first clock has been sufficiently longer than the time on the second and third clocks. But today that is no longer the case. According to U.S. officials, Iran would need “a matter of weeks” to produce enough material for a bomb, while some outside experts have estimated that it could be done in about ten days (the first clock). This timeline will probably continue to shrink as Iran’s program advances. Inspectors visit Iran’s enrichment sites about once a week (the second clock). Thus, Iran could time a breakout so that inspectors arrive and find out too late or with just days left before Iran produces enough material for a bomb. Iran could also fabricate an excuse to deny inspectors their normal access and complete production in their absence. Inspectors would report the situation back to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) leaders, but that information would then need to reach Washington. It is also possible, although by no means certain, that the United States or one of its allies would detect preparations for a breakout through their own intelligence collection. Even so, the United States would want to analyze the information and convene senior officials to discuss and debate options—a process that would take more time. With Iran at or near the end of its breakout, Washington would have to quickly respond (the third clock). Unfortunately, there would be no time for diplomacy, and the United States would need to intervene militarily. Whether a military option is available in that time frame would depend on a range of other factors. The United States would probably want to use the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, reportedly the weapon most capable of reaching the deeply buried Iranian nuclear facilities where this breakout would be taking place, which is carried by B-2 bombers based in Missouri. Flight time to Iran could be over 30 hours, possibly too long to prevent a breakout in this scenario. That flight would also require refueling aircraft and presumably multiple B-2s: would those planes be available at a moment’s notice? Iran may be at the threshold of a nuclear weapon for the foreseeable future. Things get even more complicated—and potentially more time-consuming—from there. The United States might want to strike multiple nuclear sites, target Iran’s radar and air defense systems to minimize the risk of U.S. aircraft being shot down, or have missile defense and other capabilities in place in the region to defend against Iranian retaliation. Some of these options would be impossible to execute in such narrow time frames, which could dissuade the United States from acting at all. Rather than trying to break out at known sites, Iran could also try to divert its nuclear material to a covert facility between inspections for further enrichment to 90 percent. To do so, Iran would need to have a clandestine enrichment facility, and there are no indications that it does (although a lack of inspector access to cameras monitoring Iran’s centrifuge production since February 2021 makes that harder to confirm). But unlike in the past, when Iran would be starting from slower, first-generation centrifuges and low-enriched uranium, Iran now has growing stockpiles of 60 and 20 percent enriched material and has mastered more advanced centrifuges. This means that Iran could build a smaller enrichment plant that would be harder to detect, enabling it to enrich the material to 90 percent much faster than before. The United States would need to know the location of the covert facility and the missing nuclear material were Washington to use military power to stop Iran’s march toward a nuclear weapon. Of course, having the fissile material for a bomb is not a bomb itself. Iran would need longer—perhaps a year or two—to build a nuclear device and mount it on a missile. But fissile material production remains the most heavily monitored, and therefore the most detectable, part of building a bomb. Weaponization activities can take place at a variety of scattered facilities, which are not subject to any robust monitoring and carry fewer telltale signatures. The United States may struggle to detect the remaining weaponization processes after Iran produces the requisite fissile material. Even if Iran never produces a bomb or the necessary fissile material, a nuclear-capable Tehran would still generate serious policy challenges. Iranian foreign policy would grow bolder and more aggressive if Tehran believes it can hang the nuclear breakout sword of Damocles over the head of the international community. Iran could also consolidate its nuclear hedge in ways that do not require a full-fledged nuclear weapons program, including by developing intercontinental ballistic missiles. Finally, faced with an Iran on the cusp of a bomb and doubts about Washington’s ability to stop it, countries in the region could embark on their own nuclear hedging efforts or bomb programs, posing a further challenge to the global nonproliferation regime. Those same allies and partners might try to leverage the threat of going nuclear to press the United States for stronger security assurances and defense assistance—a strategy that has been used by U.S. allies in Asia. Washington would find itself caught between two unpalatable options: deeper military commitments in the Middle East at a time when it would prefer to allocate attention elsewhere, or remaining at a distance and risking further nuclear and missile proliferation. WINDING BACK THE CLOCK With the fate of the Iran nuclear deal hanging in the balance, Tehran has little incentive to halt its nuclear advances, which it believes put pressure on the West. That becomes doubly true if talks to revive the deal collapse. While it waits on diplomacy, Washington should therefore focus on what it can control: clocks two and three—speeding up detection and its response. To increase the odds that the international community would detect an Iranian breakout, the United States, its allies, and, if possible, China and Russia should push Iran to allow daily IAEA visits to Iran’s two enrichment sites and nuclear material storage locations. In addition, Iran should resume using online enrichment monitors—an automated technology that continuously monitors enrichment levels when IAEA officials are not present. These measures were in place under the Iran nuclear deal, but Iran has since discarded them. In addition, the United States should increase its own intelligence collection efforts and coordinate with allies to help provide as much warning time as possible. When just days might separate Iran and enough material for a bomb, every second counts. These measures would provide valuable time and help deter a breakout. There are reasons to believe that Iran might adopt such conditions. First, there is a powerful, apolitical argument that these added precautions are necessary for the IAEA to do its monitoring job since Iran is the only country producing highly enriched uranium that does not possess nuclear weapons. Second, these measures could help provide vital assurance to the international community that Iran was not sprinting for a bomb and therefore reduce the chances of a military strike, something Iran would presumably see as in its interests.

Red Flag laws don’t work

Lizette Alvarez, 6-1, 22, Opinion  How Florida’s red-flag law helps stop potential mass shootings, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/06/01/florida-red-flag-law-mass-shootings/

“It provides an opportunity to intervene,” Frattaroli said. “To say, ‘Whatever you are going through right now, we have to figure it out without your access to guns.’” The laws, modeled after domestic-violence orders of protection, are not foolproof. Even though the suspect of the mass shooting in a Buffalo supermarket where 10 died had exhibited troubling behavior in the past and had been referred to police, they didn’t make a red-flag request. More funding for red-flag laws is needed to raise awareness among residents and help inform and train police departments, Carita said. And while the laws can help connect people to mental health resources, shortages of affordable treatment options are often insurmountable. In all, nearly 9,000 orders have been issued in Florida, some for potential suicides, and 2,845 were active as of last week, a relatively high rate. Still, some Florida counties have never issued a red flag. But Carita said the law has saved lives. He remembers one case in which a mother noticed her son’s rage and drove him to a doctor. The young man was hospitalized after he told the doctor he wanted to “kill some people,” as Carita recalled. That’s when the police unit became involved. “We learned he had already purchased an AK-47 pistol, known as a Draco, and it was being held at the gun store on the three-day wait period, so he hadn’t received it yet,” Carita told me. Carita’s unit secured an extreme-risk protection order and worked with his family. Two months later, the man tried to buy another Draco, but the order flagged him and a background check blocked the sale. The man benefited from counseling and the buffer provided by the red flag that had allowed his anger to subside, Carita said. “He is now back with his family, working and living his life.”