Truth and Consequences
Truth and Consequences
"What Do We Do Now?"

"What Do We Do Now?"

For Kevin McCarthy the hard part was getting elected Speaker of the House ... now comes the really hard part: running the asylum

I’m Michael A. Cohen, and this is Truth and Consequences: A no-holds-barred look at the absurdities, hypocrisies, and surreality of American politics. If you were sent this email or are a free subscriber and would like to subscribe, you can sign up here.

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On Friday, I spoke with Matt Glassman about the Speaker of the House fight, and it was a fantastic discussion. We touched on the congressional procedures, why the Speaker position is so important, the descent of the GOP into nihilism, the surprising unity of the Democratic Party, all the ways that Kevin McCarthy has hamstrung himself, and why he was willing to give away so much to become Speaker. We talked for an hour but could easily have gone on for another two or three. Check it out! You’ll enjoy it.

SPINO … Speaker In Name Only

As I’m sure most of you know, on the 15th ballot early Saturday morning, the House of Representatives chose a new Speaker — and somehow, it was Kevin McCarthy. Most of my thoughts on what this means are in my MSNBC column from last week … namely, this will not end well. 

McCarthy made huge concessions to his opponents, including plum spots for them on the Rules Commission that would basically surrender the policy agenda of the House to the anti-McCarthy contingent. This would be a problem for McCarthy if he cared about policy matters, but he clearly doesn’t. McCarthy wanted the title of Speaker, not the job, and was willing to do whatever it took to reach that goal. Now that he has, the shit show we saw unfold last week is merely a preview of what’s to come.

First, there will be investigations — lots of them. In one of McCarthy’s more ill-advised concessions, he agreed to support the creation of a subcommittee on the “weaponization of the federal government.” This is code for examining the FBI inquiries of President Trump and others. This committee might even include members who currently fall into the “others” category, like Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry, who is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice for his role in trying to steal the 2020 election for Trump. There are separation of power issues that will limit the subcommittee’s reach, but of course, the point is not to garner information but rather to sow doubt about the various probes looking into President Trump’s efforts to steal the 2020 election, as well as the Mar-a-Lago, classified information investigation.

According to Axios, the new panel will kick things off with an investigation into Big Tech companies — which is yet another water-carrying exercise for Trump. And then there is this, “The subcommittee also will look into Anthony Fauci and his approach to COVID misinformation and disinformation ... the Justice Department’s interaction with local school boards on masking and other COVID policies … and the Department of Homeland Security’s failed effort to create a Disinformation Governance Board.

There are also indications that the House may investigate the House’s own January 6 investigation — for the same purpose as above: to try and discredit its findings.

I would also not be surprised if we have one or more impeachments of Biden Administration officials — whether it’s Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, FBI Director Chris Wray, or even President Biden. The ability to investigate the White House and subpoena documents and witnesses is one thing the House can do without the Democratic-controlled Senate weighing in, so I expect that’s where House Republicans will focus their energy.

A Shutdown Is Coming … And Possibly More

Shutdown': An Essential History | Merriam-Webster

Next, there will be crises. You can write it down now — the government will shut down next Fall.

More ominously, there will be a debt limit showdown that will scare the hell out of financial markets and possibly end up in an actual default. However, for various reasons, I’m not as concerned about that happening as others. Don’t get me wrong: it could occur. But I tend to think that either a) McCarthy will try to avoid it, b) less conservative Republicans will potentially join with Democrats to avert it (via what’s called a discharge petition), or c) Biden will finally do what liberals have been advocating for a decade — minting a trillion coin to stop a default from happening. I wouldn’t say I’m entirely confident in that view, but debt limit crises are strange animals in that, unlike government shutdowns, no one wants a default to happen. Republicans hold the debt limit hostage to wring concessions out of Democrats. And while that strategy was successful in 2011, it’s never worked since, and I’m not convinced this time will be different — especially since the key demand in a debt limit fight is usually to cut spending for social insurance programs like Social Security and Medicaid, which are hugely popular. I feel reasonably confident that the Biden Administration will not negotiate with House Republicans over the debt limit, which will limit the GOP’s ability to play brinkmanship politics.

But when it comes to shutting down the government to try and wring the same concessions out of Biden, I feel entirely confident that will happen and will end the same way all government shutdowns usually end — with no one winning.

Other bad stuff will likely happen, but it’ll be somewhat limited because Democrats control the Senate, and they can largely ignore all the ferkakta legislation that will come out of the House over the next two years. Good stuff, like actual legislation and regular order, will definitely not take place. The people’s house will become more divided, and our politics, in general, will be more divisive, but that was practically a given. And there will be really weird and unexpected crises that none of us will predict. It’s going to be a wild ride — about this much, I feel most confident.

One More Thing …

Last week, a few commentators argued that the fight in the House showed that Trump’s influence in the GOP had waned because he couldn’t rally the insurgents to support McCarthy for Speaker. Yeah, how’d that work out? As McCarthy noted in the clip above, Trump helped him close the deal. And even if that’s not entirely true or is exaggerated, McCarthy felt the need to praise him publicly. Why? BECAUSE DONALD TRUMP REMAINS THE MOST INFLUENTIAL FIGURE IN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY. I put this in all caps because many people have forgotten or perhaps want to believe Trump’s influence has waned. While it’s true that his star has faded, he still enjoys the support of probably 30-40 percent of the party’s rank and file — and he’s still the odds-on favorite to be the GOP nominee in 2024.

Don’t kill the messenger. I don’t like it either. But as the Speaker fight showed, Trump remains the 600-pound gorilla in the room — and he’s not going away.

What’s Going On

Movie Interlude

Today’s newsletter title is from this infamous scene in “The Candidate.”

Today In Bob Dylan

This Dylan song seemed particularly relevant today.

So did this one …

Truth and Consequences
Truth and Consequences
Weekly discussions with some of the smartest historians, journalists, and pundits on the latest doing in American politics.