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On the roster: Biden looks to give Senate GOP cover – I’ll Tell You What: Getting our stuff done – Trump to nix defense funds unless Congress zaps Twitter – Georgia Senate debate set – The first rule of raccoon fight club…
BIDEN LOOKS TO GIVE SENATE GOP COVER
Old Washington hands would have taken note of an interesting apparent contradiction from President-elect Joe Biden in his interview with the NYT’s Tom Friedman.
It is first noteworthy that Biden chose Friedman, chairman of the conventional wisdom committee, for the rap session. Given what we’ve heard about the dissent on Biden’s left, one might instead expect to hear him making his case to The Nation or Vox. Maybe a centerfold in Mother Jones?
But, as Biden made clear in the interview, he’s thinking way more about the middle and even the center-right these days.
Friedman asked Biden about the uproar over the former vice president’s selection of famous flamethrower Neera Tanden to be his budget boss. Should the sharp-elbowed partisan be disqualified over her “nasty tweets,” he asked? First Biden deflected with a joke saying, “That disqualifies almost every Republican senator and 90 percent of the administration.”
Biden then turned briefly to defend his nominee – “But by the way, she’s smart as hell.” – before essentially accepting her likely defeat in the Senate.
“Yeah,” Biden said, “I think they’re going to pick a couple of people just to fight [over] no matter what.”
For those who have forgotten what transitions and confirmation processes looked like back in the old days, presidents-elect tend to throw in a couple of loss leaders to get the Senate shoppers in the door. Like the grocery store loses money on milk and eggs to get your patronage in hopes of selling you marked up crumb cakes and light bulbs, new administrations have to make sure they have nominees for the other side to oppose in order to get the rest of their slate through.
This not only allows the president-elect to set members of his party straight on the limits of Senate consent, but also gives cover to members of the other party. If you have been seen defeating a radical nominee for a relatively minor post, you have more flexibility with voters in your own party to approve nominees for more important posts.
Now, there are always going to be senators of the other party who are not looking for ways to get to “yes” when it comes to confirmations. For example, when we read Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., sneering at the Ivy League degrees of Biden’s nominees we got a good sense of how he was going to play the game.
Rubio, though, was quickly outbid by his fellow 2024 potential contender Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who told Politico: “I think that the Democrats deprived President Trump of a working government for four years. I can’t imagine that a Republican Senate would immediately turn around and say that I’m just gonna roll over and give a President Biden – if that’s who should become president – give him whatever he wants.”
Now, Democrats did not control the Senate for a single day of the Trump administration. President Trump’s nomination defeats came at the hands of his own party. But Hawley obviously doesn’t care about that. His message is that he will not be outdone in undermining Biden. Just get a load of that “if that’s who should become president” lulu.
If Rubio, Ted Cruz and other aspiring populist national leaders think they’re going to keep pace with the junior senator from Missouri, they’d better oil the wheels on their roller skates.
Biden is not talking to these folks, though. Rather he’s reaching out to mainstream Republicans with a message that harkens back to an older time: To win a big victory, you have to be willing to give your opponent small successes along the way.
Whether it is cabinet picks, budget deals, court nominations or really most anything that requires bipartisan cooperation between the White House and Congress, you got to give in order to get.
This was not something that Barack Obama was willing to do much of as president. Before he had been matured by eight years in office, he took a my-way-or-the-highway approach to Republicans. His theory was that by refusing to help the mainstream GOP and bolstering radical voices, he would “break the fever” in the Republican Party.
Rather than trying to make a negotiating partner out of John Boehner – which would mean give and take – Obama undermined the GOP mainstream in hopes of teaching Republicans a lesson. He was the Lincoln Project before the Lincoln Project.
What Obama got was no deals on fiscal issues and a health insurance plan that lives on as a hollowed-out shell of its original vision. Yes, we know all about Republican intransigence and the dangers of “dark money” and all that jazz. But we also know that if Obama had it do over again, he would surely have been a better deal maker.
Obama’s successor made things even worse. President Trump can’t even speak to many members of his own party, let alone try to work constructively with Democrats on big deals. We went from weak legislative outreach under Obama to zilch-o under Trump.
Biden, though, is sending a signal that he would like to go back to the days before when George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan all excelled at the kind of dealmaking that could produce significant results. There has to be goodwill, mutual respect and, most of all, the willingness to give a little to get a little.
If it makes Republicans feel better to block Tanden, that’s cool for Biden if it means he will get through his Treasury pick and other key posts with greater ease. He was in the Senate for so long, Biden knows how to play the game.
Now, after a 12-year hiatus, we’ll see if there’s anyone left in Congress who still knows the old rules.
THE RULEBOOK: TAKE A SEAT
“THE necessity of a Constitution, at least equally energetic with the one proposed, to the preservation of the Union, is the point at the examination of which we are now arrived.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 23
TIME OUT: PERSONAL NET WORTH
Writer Sarah Zhang goes to Denmark, the frontline in the ethical battle over the effort to eliminate Down syndrome through universal testing and abortion. The Atlantic: “Ulla Hartmann, whose son Ditlev was 18, noted that he was born before the national screening program began. ‘We’re very thankful we didn’t know, because we had two twin boys when I got pregnant with Ditlev and I really don’t think we would have been, ‘Okay, let’s take this challenge when we have these monkeys up in the curtains,’ ’ she told me. ‘But you grow with the challenge.’ Daniel Christensen was one of the parents who had been told the odds of Down syndrome were very low, something like 1 in 1,500. He and his wife didn’t have to make a choice, and when he thinks back on it, he said, ‘what scares me the most is actually how little we knew about Down syndrome.’ What would the basis of their choice have been? Their son August is 4 now, with a twin sister, who Christensen half-jokingly said was ‘almost normal.’ The other parents laughed. ‘Nobody’s normal,’ he said.”
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GOT A WILD PITCH? READY TO THROW A FASTBALL?
We’ve brought “From the Bleachers” to video on demand thanks to Fox Nation. Each Wednesday and Friday, Producer Brianna McClelland will put Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt to the test with your questions on everything about politics, government and American history – plus whatever else is on your mind. Sign up for the Fox Nation streaming service here and send your best questions to HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM.
I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: GETTING OUR STUFF DONE
This week, Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss the challenge of vaccine dissemination, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio‘s decision to roll back school restrictions and what Biden nominee may be a stalking horse. Plus, Dana and Chris unload on people who play their music too loud and Chris looks to redeem himself in trivia. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE
TRUMP TO NIX DEFENSE FUNDS UNLESS CONGRESS ZAPS TWITTER
National Review: “President Trump threatened via Twitter on Tuesday to veto the National Defense Authorization Act unless lawmakers repeals Section 230, a law that shields tech companies from publishing liability. The defense bill provides for close to $1 trillion in national security spending, and has been passed annually by Congress for the past 59 years. Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act shields digital publishers from liability for content published by third-party users. The law has come under criticism from Trump and allies who claim Twitter and Facebook have forfeited their right to protection under section 230 by engaging in editorial actions such as censoring posts that cut against liberal political values or would harm Democratic candidates. … Representative Paul Mitchell (R., Mich.), who sits on the Armed Services Committee, said he was ‘disgusted’ by Trump’s threat on Wednesday morning.”
Kelly sworn in – Arizona Republic: “Retired astronaut Mark Kelly was sworn in as Arizona’s new senator at noon Wednesday, narrowing Senate Republicans’ majority by a vote to 52-48 during the final weeks of President Donald Trump’s presidency and unsettled Senate races in Georgia. Kelly, D-Ariz., was escorted to his swearing-in ceremony in the Senate chamber by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who in 2018 became the first Democrat in three decades to clinch a Senate seat in Arizona. Together, the centrist Democrats will become the first Democratic duo to represent Arizona in the Senate since Sens. Carl Hayden and Ernest McFarland served together in the 1940s and early 1950s. Kelly’s wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., walked slowly alongside him into the Senate building with the help of a cane… Kelly took take his ceremonial oath of office administered by Vice President Mike Pence using the Bible of his wife’s maternal grandmother.”
Pergram: Corona complications – Fox News: “The pandemic could drastically impact how the House conducts opening day and swears in its members. Under the Constitution, the new Congress is supposed to begin at noon on Jan. 3. But the 20th Amendment to the Constitution allows the preceding Congress to move the day if it makes a new law to do so. For instance, Jan. 3 fell on a Saturday in 2015. So the 114th Congress didn’t start until Jan. 6, 2015, after Congress passed a law. Jan. 3, 2021, falls on a Sunday. But who knows what Congress will do. Even a recent memo from House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., to all House members of the 117th Congress declared that ‘when the exact date is finalized, Members will be notified.’ Here’s one of several issues the House must resolve: McGovern notes that Members ‘must be physically present’ to be sworn-in. That’s a problem.”
GEORGIA SENATE DEBATE SET
Fox News: “FOX 5 Atlanta anchor Russ Spencer will serve as moderator for the debate this Sunday between Sen. Kelly Loeffler and her Democratic challenger in the Georgia U.S. Senate runoff, Raphael Warnock, announced the Atlanta Press Club (APC). The APC, which made the announcement Monday night, also said that Lisa Rayam, Atlanta NPR ‘Morning Edition’ host and senior producer, and Greg Bluestein, Atlanta Journal-Constitution political reporter, will serve as panelists for the affair, which will take place exactly one month before the Georgia runoffs that will decide which party controls the U.S. Senate in 2021 and 2022. The debate between Loeffler and Warnock will be at 7 p.m. and last one hour. It will follow a 5 p.m. debate where Jon Ossoff, the Democratic challenger to Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue in a separate runoff also scheduled for Jan. 5, will likely have the stage to himself.”
Georgia secretary of state warns of shady registration efforts – AP: “Georgia’s top elections official announced investigations Monday into potential violations of election law even as he defended the integrity of the state’s election against what he’s said are baseless attacks. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has repeatedly said there’s no evidence of systemic problems and said during a news conference at the state Capitol that his office investigates any credible claims of illegal voting and election law violations. More than 250 cases are under investigation, but nothing so far seems likely to change the outcome of the election, Gabriel Sterling, a top official in Raffensperger’s office, said during the news conference. Raffensperger said there have been attempts to register ineligible people to vote ahead of a high-profile Jan. 5 runoff election for Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats. He said his office’s 23 investigators also are looking into allegations of absentee ballot problems…”
Jim Galloway: Georgia GOP courts trouble with attack on MLK’s church – AJC: “One of Kelly Loeffler’s first public appearances as a U.S. senator came last January at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. ‘I am so humbled to be here with you today in this sacred place, surrounded by men and women who advanced the cause of freedom,’ Loeffler said from the lectern. Sitting behind her was Ebenezer’s pastor and her future Senate opponent, the Rev. Raphael Warnock. Loeffler is unlikely to be invited back for next month’s ceremony. … Until last weekend, the Loeffler campaign had wisely steered clear of direct attacks on Ebenezer itself. As a cultural touchstone, the storied church once led by King and his father has become — as Loeffler noted — a sacred place. But then U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, a vanquished Republican rival now campaigning at Loeffler’s side, said this about Warnock on Saturday: “There is no such thing as a pro-choice pastor. What you have is a lie from the bed of Hell. It is time to send it back to Ebenezer Baptist Church.”
About all that ticket splitting… – FiveThirtyEight: “The narrative of the 2020 election is that Joe Biden did pretty well … but down-ballot Democrats, not so much. And while this is true if you look simply at the results — Republicans defended most of their vulnerable Senate seats and gained several seats in the House — there wasn’t actually as much split-ticket voting as you might think. … Before Election Day, Democrats were hopeful that strong candidates like Steve Bullock, Jaime Harrison and Barbara Bollier could swim against the partisan tide and pull out wins in Montana, South Carolina and Kansas, respectively. But for all the money they raised, for all of their theoretical crossover appeal, Bullock ran just 4.6 points ahead of Biden, Harrison just 0.8 points ahead and Bollier just 0.3 points ahead. As a result, none came particularly close to winning their very red states.”
TRUMP SAYS 2024 RUN IN THE WORKS
AP: “President Donald Trump teased running again for president in 2024 as he hosted a holiday reception at the White House on Tuesday evening. ‘It’s been an amazing four years,’ Trump told the crowd, which included many Republican National Committee members. ‘We’re trying to do another four years. Otherwise, I’ll see you in four years.’ The video of Trump’s appearance was streamed live on Facebook by one attendee, Pam Pollard, who is national committeewoman for the Oklahoma GOP. It showed dozens of people crammed into the Cross Hall of the White House state floor, standing closely together. Many seen in the video were not wearing masks. The Trumps began hosting holiday receptions this week, intent on celebrating a final season before Trump leaves office on Jan. 20.”
Campaign taking shape already – Axios: “President Trump is likely to announce he’ll run again in 2024, perhaps before this term even ends, sources tell Axios. Trump has already set in motion two important strategies to stay relevant and freeze out other Republican rivals…. Trump has made plain he’ll fight to keep his ally Ronna McDaniel as head of the RNC, giving him tight control over party HQ. The president has raised $170 million for his ‘Election Defense Fund’ and political operation — of which, the N.Y. Times points out, $125 million+ goes to a PAC that Trump set up in mid-November, Save America, and can be used for future travel and other political activity. Trump’s 2024 rivals privately tell Axios they assume Trump’s power will fade post-White House, giving them hope they can still run.”
TRUMP BOOSTERS WANT SUPCO TO TOSS PA. RESULTS
USA Today: “A long-shot effort to overturn the presidential election results in Pennsylvania made its way to the Supreme Court Tuesday. Conservative Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., and others contend state officials had no right under the Pennsylvania Constitution to expand mail-in voting in 2019, and the state Supreme Court was wrong to uphold that statute. The group called it ‘an unconstitutional, no-excuse absentee voting scheme.’ ‘Pennsylvania’s General Assembly exceeded its powers by unconstitutionally allowing no-excuse absentee voting, including for federal offices, in the election,’ the challengers argued in court papers. As a result, the election was ‘conducted illegally.’ The group seeks an emergency injunction from the nation’s highest court to block the completion of any remaining steps in the state’s certification of Pennsylvania’s 2020 election results, which took place last week.”
Cruz on board – The Hill: “Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) threw his support behind an effort to get the Supreme Court to hear an appeal of a ruling dismissing a GOP-led challenge of Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting system. Cruz is the first senator to publicly voice support for the appeal, which came after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court shot down a lawsuit protesting the system as a way of overturning the Keystone State’s election results, which showed President-elect Joe Biden defeating President Trump. ‘This appeal raises serious legal issues, and I believe the Court should hear the case on an expedited basis,’ Cruz said in a statement.”
Wisconsin plaintiff says he was named without his permission – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “A Republican candidate for Congress who lost his election on Nov. 3 says his name is being used without permission as a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit to make President Donald Trump the winner of Wisconsin’s presidential election, despite receiving fewer votes than President-elect Joe Biden. Derrick Van Orden, who narrowly lost to U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, said Tuesday he learned through social media posts about the lawsuit that his name was being used. ‘I learned through social media today that my name was included in a lawsuit without my permission,’ Van Orden said in a statement. ‘To be clear, I am not involved in the lawsuit seeking to overturn the election in Wisconsin.’ Former Trump attorney Sidney Powell filed a lawsuit in federal court on Tuesday on behalf of Van Orden and La Crosse County Republican Party chairman Bill Feehan. The suit seeks, among other relief, a new election for Van Orden and wants Gov. Tony Evers to certify the election for Trump instead of Biden.”
FEDS EYE ALLEGED EFFORT TO PAY FOR PARDON
AP: “The Justice Department is investigating whether there was a secret scheme to lobby White House officials for a pardon as well as a related plot to offer a hefty political contribution in exchange for clemency, according to a court document unsealed Tuesday. Most of the information in the 18-page court order is redacted, including the identity of the people whom prosecutors are investigating and whom the proposed pardon might be intended for. But the document from August does reveal that certain individuals are suspected of having acted to secretly lobby White House officials to secure a pardon or sentence commutation and that, in a related scheme, a substantial political contribution was floated in exchange for a pardon or ‘reprieve of sentence.’ A Justice Department official said Tuesday night that no government official was or is a subject or target of the investigation. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.”
Trump measures blanket pardons – NYT: “Mr. Trump has told others that he is concerned that a Biden Justice Department might seek retribution against the president by targeting the oldest three of his five children — Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump — as well as Ms. Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, a White House senior adviser. Donald Trump Jr. had been under investigation by Robert S. Mueller III… The nature of Mr. Trump’s concern about any potential criminal exposure of Eric Trump or Ivanka Trump is unclear, although an investigation by the Manhattan district attorney into the Trump Organization has expanded to include tax write-offs on millions of dollars in consulting fees by the company, some of which appear to have gone to Ms. Trump.”
Consummate Clintonista Doug Band breaks silence after rift, dishes on drama – Vanity Fair
Ivanka Trump plots post-White House political comeback – WaPo
Parscale professes love, loyalty for Trump despite firing – Politico
AUDIBLE: WAIT, DON’T ANSWER THAT
“You lost a big audience the minute you say [‘defund the police’], which makes it a lot less likely that you’re actually going to get the changes you want done. The key is deciding, do you want to actually get something done, or do you want to feel good among the people you already agree with?” – Former President Barack Obama said in an interview with Peter Hamby that aired Wednesday morning. Progressive Democrats took aim at Obama after he argued that political candidates alienate voters when they use ‘snappy’ slogans.
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THE FIRST RULE OF RACCOON FIGHT CLUB…
East Bay Times: “Two [Richmond, Calif.] police officers who thought they were thwarting a burglary in progress ended up face-to-face with about a dozen raccoons engaged in a raucous brawl at the corporation yard on 13th Street. True to their reputation as conniving critters, the naturally-masked procyonids promptly paraded to parts unknown, leaving one unfortunate smaller raccoon to stay and deal with the cops. A Richmond police news release said the remaining raccoon ‘advised officers it was just a family dispute’ and they let him or her go. The fracas got so loud that one employee at the corp yard believed someone was trying to kick down the admin building’s door, police said. The officers had set up a perimeter around the building before discovering they weren’t dealing with humans.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“On September 11, our holiday from history came to an abrupt end. Not just in the trivial sense that the United States finally learned the meaning of physical vulnerability. And not just in the sense that our illusions about the permanence of the post-Cold War peace were shattered.”– Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in The Weekly Standard on Nov. 12, 2001.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.