March 23, 2023

A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo.

Don’t Stop Reading Yet!

I know it’s hard to start your Monday reading about the federal budget, but I’ll keep this one pretty simple even though it’s an important point.

I’ve been getting questions from non-experts in recent days about the difference between the debt ceiling hostage-taking and a government shutdown, about why the House GOP might relent on the debt ceiling until later this year, and about the interplay between the debt ceiling and a government shutdown.

The key point that the casual observers I run into don’t have firmly in their minds is that the federal budget for fiscal year 2023 was just passed last month in the lame duck session of Congress. The $1.7 trillion omnibus bill that President Biden signed on Dec. 29? That funds the federal government through the fiscal year that ends in September.

So to put it succinctly, House Republicans have virtually no say, no control, no forcing mechanism to redo the 2023 federal budget. That ship has sailed. They’re trying to use the debt ceiling to force the Democratic Senate and White House to re-open the books on 2023, even though that was all wrapped up a month ago.

I won’t get into all the reasons now that this is political terrorism, taking the world economy hostage under threat of a default by the federal government. Kate Riga covers that here. But you can see why – given that 2023 is already funded and House Republicans don’t have any other leverage – Democrats are content to tell them to pound sand on the debt ceiling.

How does this all square with a government shutdown?

A government shutdown wouldn’t happen at earliest until October, when the the new fiscal year begins. House Republicans do have leverage there. To fund the government in the new fiscal years requires a new budget to be passed, and that means the House has to play ball. They will of course demand budget cuts and priorities consistent with their preferences, and the Democratic Senate and White House will have to negotiate with McCarthy et al. That’s normal and to be expected. A government shutdown is an extreme threat at the negotiating table, but it’s not as extreme as a debt-ceiling default.

The reporting in recent days that Republicans may kick the can on the debt limit down the road to October and fold it in with the annual budget negotiations reflects the limited leverage they have now and the greater leverage they’ll have then.

I hope this helps clear up any confusion, without offending budget experts by oversimplifying things.

The Week Ahead

President Biden and Speaker McCarthy are scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss the House GOP’s debt limit hostage-taking.

What The Tyre Nichols Video Shows

The NYT has the most comprehensive analysis of the video released by Memphis police that even Donald Trump couldn’t defend.

Matt Gaetz Gets The NYT Treatment

Confess I started reading this article with a sense of dread, but the NYT showed unusual flourish in profiling Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL):

  • “political arsonist”
  • “chief tormentor”
  • “insatiable limelight seeker”
  • “prankish and abundantly coifed”
  • “chubby and bombastic adolescent”
  • “boorish”

The Curious Case Of Charles McGonigal

TPM: Albanian Firm Ties Indicted Former FBI Official To Yet Another Disgraced Former Agent

NYT: How an Oligarch May Have Recruited the F.B.I. Agent Who Investigated Him

DOJ Will Try To Accommodate Intel Committees On Classified Docs Probes

In a letter Saturday to the Senate intel committee, the Justice Department said it was working to provide the committee information on the classified documents found in the possession of Presidents Trump and Biden without compromising the two active special counsel probes.

SCOTUS Has Financial Ties With Chertoff

The Supreme Court’s investigation of the leak of the draft opinion in Dobbs has been a fiasco from the start. Now CNN reports that the firm of former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who gave the internal probe his seal of approval, had contracted with the court in recent years for security assessments.

The Right-Wing Attack On ESG

WaPo: Meet the dark-money group sharpening the GOP attack on ‘woke’ climate policies

Book Banning Is Getting Worse

Anne Lutz Fernandez with a rundown of the current state of play in schools and libraries across the country.

Molotov Cocktail Thrown At New Jersey Synagogue

The attack early Sunday morning was captured on surveillance video but did little damage to the synagogue.

Dozen Killed In Explosion At Pakistani Mosque

The blast in Peshawar killed more than 30 people and injured more than 100 others. Many of the dead were policemen. The mosque was inside a police compound, the WaPo reports.

Israel Strikes Inside Iran

Israel launched a drone strike against a weapons facility in Iran.

Cool Reporting

WSJ: The Covert Polish Repair Shop Patching Up Ukrainian Arms

More Campaign Finance Troubles For George Santos

Mother Jones: We Tried to Call the Top Donors to George Santos’ 2020 Campaign. Many Don’t Seem to Exist.

McCarthy Not So Deftly Dodges The George Santos Question

The speaker of the House talks in circles rather than answering the question about George Santos:

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