The Senate Reaches A Two Year Budget Deal. Can They Jam The House?

The Senate has reached a two year budget deal. It includes:

The deal would raise the spending caps by about $300 billion over two years, according to a congressional aide. The limit on military and other defense spending would be increased by $80 billion in the current fiscal year and $85 billion in the next year, which begins Oct. 1, the aide said. The limit on nondefense spending would increase by $63 billion this year and $68 billion next year.

The deal also includes increased funding for dealing with the opioid crisis, disaster relief, extends CHIP coverage out another four years in addition to the six year funding in the last CR for a total of ten years of funding, and a debt limit increase. It is also includes two years of funding for community health centers, as well as funding for child care. If this passes the House and is signed into law, the Congressional appropriators will have six weeks to appropriate against this years increased funding caps.* The deal does not include a DACA fix. This will, provided the government actually stays open past late Thursday night/early Friday morning, be dealt with under a separate process beginning in the Senate next week.

The Senate appears to be trying to jam the House with this. As in: we passed this, now it is up to you. The Senate didn’t even consider bringing up the narrow deal that the House had passed yesterday. As a result, the House side is where this is going to be much harder to pass. Speaker Ryan will have a difficult time holding his caucus together to pass the Senate bill. The Freedom Caucus members will all vote no. A significant chunk of the Republican Study Group members are likely to vote no as well. And they’ll do so under the war cry of exploding budget deficits, seemingly unaware of the $1.5 trillion increase in the deficit that is the result of the GOP only, partisan tax cut bill passed in December 2017. This means that Speaker Ryan either has to abandon the Hastert Rule and ask Congresswoman Pelosi for the votes to pass this or he maintains obeisance to the Hastert Rule and refuses to bring this to a vote. If it is the former, this gives Congresswoman Pelosi leverage to extract a promise to bring up a clean bill to resolve the problem created when the President rescinded the DACA executive order; similar to what Senator Schumer negotiated in the Senate. If it is the latter, then the government will likely shutdown tomorrow night.

All the action, stress, and flop sweat will now be in the House of Representative. At this point the President is largely irrelevant until such time as he either has to sign or veto a budget bill. Whether we reach that point is now all on Speaker Ryan. Senators McConnell and Schumer have left him holding the hand grenade and they’ve handed Congresswoman Pelosi the pin.

Stay frosty!

Open thread.

* Just a quick note: the DOD, the Services, and their subordinate commands, offices, departments, and bureaus function under what is known as the 80/20 Rule. This means that 80% of their annual budgets must be spent before the end of the 3rd quarter of the fiscal year. Even if this passes and the appropriators work as efficiently as possible, it is going to be very hard for the DOD and the Services to comply with the 80/20 Rule. And that is going to make for a very uncomfortable spring, summer, and fall for the US military.



Tweet, tweet, tweet

First, the bird kind. It’s windy as heck here today, and this little palm warbler (I think) was clinging to a swaying bamboo stalk about 35 feet up, surveying the scene:

This was right after sunrise today. A little while later, same bamboo stand, a blue jay occupied a high perch and considered breakfast options, settling on the bird feeder once the pink monkey with the camera vacated the scene:

Of course, as soon as I turned the camera off and replaced the lens cap, a squadron of Sandhill cranes flew overhead. They fly overhead every morning and evening, like they’re clocking in at the golf course down the road for a day’s bug patrol work. I’ll get a photo of them on the wing one day.

In other yard news, one of the white squirrels (I’m now convinced there are at least two) has lost most of its fur from the midsection up. I hope it’s just a temporary embarrassment and the fur returns. Its appetite seems unaffected. But it looks like a rat wearing white MC Hammer pants now and so is unintentionally comical. Poor thing!

Last and certainly least, the fraudulent orange fart cloud finally addressed the record-breaking stock market plunge that occurred earlier this week. (Was that really this week, not 10 fresh hells ago? I had to check. Yes!) Guess what — someone not named Donald Trump is to blame!

He really has no idea how any of this shit works.

Open thread!



Late Night Open Thread: “The Godfather”, But As An Off-Broadway Farce!

Originality is overrated. A touch of Guys & Dolls, some razzle-dazzle from The Music Man — the old standbys always lure the bridge & tunnel crowd. I can remember when it was vaguely scandalous that the GOP was using Vanity Fair as the Reagans’ semi-official promotional organ. Now Gabriel Sherman is one of our better political reporters. “‘He Wants a Killer’: Post-Bannon, Post-Nunes, Post-Kelly Friction, a Frustrated Trump Searches for a West Wing Reset”:

After the much-hyped Nunes memo failed to deliver the narrative reset that the White House hoped for, Donald Trump is discussing a shake-up to his West Wing, three sources familiar with the president’s thinking told me. These people say the president is increasingly frustrated that members of his administration aren’t going to war for him, and he’s being encouraged by his daughter Ivanka to bring in new blood. “The president’s view is that allies on the outside are doing a better job defending him than his political shop,” one Republican close to the White House told me. Another outside adviser who regularly speaks with Trump said that the president is regretting some of his Cabinet choices. “He’s saying he should have put Rudy [Giuliani] at State and Chris Christie at Justice.”

Trump has recently told advisers he wants a “killer” to steer the White House’s response to Robert Mueller’s investigation and craft a midterm election message for him to stump on this fall. For Trump, there’s a growing urgency to fill the role. His efforts to stymie Mueller’s probe have so far failed, and the specter of impeachment looms if Democrats win back the House in November. Ivanka, who’s been frustrated with Chief of Staff John Kelly, has told her father that he needs people around him that will put his interests above their own. “She wants to clean house,” a Trump friend told me. “Her view is J.F.K. had Bobby there to have his back.”

The president’s top choice for the strategist position is Jason Miller, who served as communications director for Trump’s presidential campaign. “He wants a killer, and Jason is a killer,” an outside adviser to the White House told me. Trump had wanted Miller to join the administration during the transition, but Miller withdrew after it was revealed he had an extramarital affair during the campaign with former Trump aide A.J. Delgado…

Without a close confidant on the inside with whom he can plot strategy, Trump has turned to outside advisers for counsel. According to sources, Trump speaks regularly by phone with a braintrust that includes Sean Hannity, Jason Miller, Corey Lewandowski, Reince Priebus, and R.N.C. Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel. According to sources, Miller has advised Trump to push for an immigration deal that shows real progress towards building the Wall, the theory being that getting a win on immigration will mobilize the base in November. Instead, they want him to sign an extension for DACA so that immigration is a midterm election issue (the theory being that putting immigration on the ballot will mobilize the base)…

If Miller doesn’t go to the White House, another scenario being discussed is that Trump could fill the strategist role with Lewandowski and former deputy campaign manager Dave Bossie. Both have the aggressive personality Trump favors. But neither one has anything resembling West Wing experience, and both face stiff opposition from Ivanka and Jared Kushner. “They have blocked Corey at every turn. They kept him from going into [the] family box at the inaugural,” one former campaign staffer told me. “If Corey gets back in, they’re not long for the place…

Open warfare between the Beloved Children and the Fat-Necked White Thugs, with Sean Hannity as The Stage Announcer — there’s a tragicomedy scenario that’s gotta have Pelosi & Schumer quietly chuckling into their lattes…



This Is Only a Test

So, this morning, I’m having my coffee, catching up on the Snarkosphere, etc., when I notice an alert on my iPhone screen:

Never heard of a tsunami hitting the west coast of Florida, but shit, the world quit making sense a while back, so maybe? I clicked through to the Accuweather app, which had the little red exclamation point and the same message on the app screen: tsunami warning for my (low-lying, coastal) area.

I mentally reviewed the location of my husband and daughter (higher ground, both, insofar as there IS higher ground on this accursed peninsula) and started figuring out how to single-handedly catch and crate the chickens and then drag the dog and a crate of chickens up to the roof. Or perhaps chance fleeing in my car with the dog and chickens in the cabin with me? Neither seemed a good option.

But before putting either plan into action, I figured I’d better go straight to the horse’s mouth and make sure this warning wasn’t some Accuweather fuckery and that the U.S. National Weather Service was really predicting a tsunami right here in Cockroach Acres. Turns out, nah:

I appreciate getting severe weather alerts when an actual threat exists, just as I’m sure the folks in Hawaii are glad there’s a way to alert them of incoming ballistic missiles. But maybe we need to take a step back and rethink how these alerts are disseminated.

In Hawaii, perhaps it shouldn’t be possible for one person to fuck up and push the wrong button and send the population into a panic. And maybe the National Weather Service should work more closely with the weather apps that are authorized to push NWS alerts to make sure “this is a test” is part of the alert message when testing the system. Just saying.

Open thread!



No Nunes Is Good Nunes… Wait, What? Time’s Got Carter Page’s Correspondence? Uh Oh!

Oops!

Take it away Time!

Former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page bragged that he was an adviser to the Kremlin in a letter obtained by TIME that raises new questions about the extent of Page’s contacts with the Russian government over the years.

The letter, dated Aug. 25, 2013, was sent by Page to an academic press during a dispute over edits to an unpublished manuscript he had submitted for publication, according to an editor who worked with Page.

“Over the past half year, I have had the privilege to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin in preparation for their Presidency of the G-20 Summit next month, where energy issues will be a prominent point on the agenda,” the letter reads.

In June 2013, the FBI interviewed Page regarding his contacts with the Russians, Page says. The FBI believed that Russian intelligence services had attempted to recruit Page as an agent with promises of business opportunities in Russia, according to the 2015 court documents.

Page told the FBI at their June 2013 meeting that the officers might better spend their time investigating the Boston Marathon bombing, which had occurred the previous April, according to a letter Page sent to Democrats on Nunes’ committee last May. Page says that thereafter the FBI began a retaliatory campaign against him. According to published reports, the FBI obtained a first FISA warrant to eavesdrop on Page’s electronic communications during 2013. And they have been paying attention to him, on and off, ever since.

Two months after his meeting with the FBI, Page sent the letter claiming to be a Kremlin adviser. In addition to his work as an energy consultant, Page has studied and written on Russian affairs, and had submitted a book for publication by the academic press. Page felt frustrated by the fact that he had revised his manuscript about Russian relations is Central Asia and it had not been reviewed again, according to the editor who has worked with Page in the past and who requested anonymity due to the confidential nature of the matter.

The letter to the manuscript reviewer is not the first example of Page touting his relationship with Russia. McClatchy reported last year that in 2008, the U.S. Embassy in Turkmenistan sent a cable to the U.S. State Department describing how Page had met with government officials in the country, which was formerly part of the Soviet Union, about possibly working for their oil companies. The cable described how he touted his work with the Russian-run company Gazprom.

Well how about that bowl of borscht?

Stay frosty or Congressman Nunes will write a memo claiming you’ve violated Kremlin advisor Carter Page’s civil liberties.

Open thread!



Our Long National Nightmare Is Not Over: The Nunes Memo II…

For the love of someone’s, anyone’s Deity or Deities, make him stop!!!!

Someone please tell Congressman Nunes that the only part of the State Department that is part of the US Intel Community (USIC/IC) is the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR). It is one of the smallest, if not the smallest, office within the intel community. Its focus is on leveraging intelligence in support of diplomacy.

INR is a bureau of the Department of State and a member of the Intelligence Community (IC). The Bureau of Intelligence and Research’s (INR) primary mission is to harness intelligence to serve U.S. diplomacy. Secretary of State George Marshall established INR in 1947. INR is a direct descendant of the Office of Strategic Services Research Department and the oldest civilian intelligence element in the U.S. Government. Ambassador Daniel B. Smith is INR’s Assistant Secretary.

Drawing on all-source intelligence, INR provides value-added independent analysis of events to U.S. State Department policymakers; ensures that intelligence activities support foreign policy and national security purposes; and serves as the focal point in the State Department for ensuring policy review of sensitive counterintelligence and law enforcement activities around the world. The bureau directs the Department’s program of intelligence analysis and research, conducts liaison with the Intelligence Community, and represents the Department on committees and in interagency intelligence groups. The Bureau of Intelligence and Research also analyzes geographical and international boundary issues.

Unless he’s going to claim that INR somehow colluded with the FBI to frame Carter Page who, as we discussed earlier, has been on the FBI’s radar in regard to counterintelligence since 2013 when the Russian intelligence officers that were trying to recruit him decided he was an idiot, I honestly don’t see how he can make more of a fool of himself than he did today.

Here is, specifically, what the Russian intelligence officers said about Page as picked up by FBI surveillance in 2013:

If you’re wondering where the instructions and talking points are coming from, just take a gander at Russia state controlled news media from 13 January 2017:

Finally, former Special Agent Rangappa discovers a very special person, near and dear to everyone here at Balloon Juice’s heart, on social media:

Stay frosty or Congressman Nunes will write a memo about you.

Open thread!



Release The Memo: The Memoing!

Because the President actually did issue a declassification order, I can actually talk about the memo. I’ve now given it a thorough read and other than some insinuations, it seems like a lot of sizzle and no steak.

We went through former FBI Special Agent (for counterintelligence) Asha Rangappa’s detailed explanation of how a FISA warrant is obtained earlier in the week. There is nothing in the Nunes memo to indicate that any of these processes weren’t followed. Moreover, other than providing information that either the initial warrant to surveil Carter Page, who has been on the FBI’s radar since actual Russian intelligence officers trying to recruit him determined he was an idiot in 2013, or one of the subsequent renewals was based on some information from the Steele dossier it doesn’t seem to say much else about what the FBI is doing incorrectly in regard to the counterintelligence investigation of the President and his campaign. It also tells the whole world that Steel had long been a source for the FBI and deemed to be of high credibility because of his work for MI6. Finally, it tells us which DOJ and FBI officials signed off on the initial warrant request and renewals.

I’m honestly not sure what of this material needed to be classified in the first place. We know the process and procedure for requesting a FISA warrant. Including who has to sign off. So figuring out which DOJ and FBI officials signed off was limited to a group of 3 potential officials at DOJ and 2 at FBI who could have signed off. Frankly, unless or until we see the actual FISA warrant and FISA extension requests, hopefully with suitable redactions, all we have is a GOP committee chair who was on the President’s transition team making a political argument: that the FBI and DOJ, those hot beds of socialism and the vanguard of the Clinton machine, didn’t treat the President’s campaign fairly.

The real problem here is that we know that the FBI opened its counterintelligence investigation into the President’s campaign in July of 2016 as a result of information provided by Australian intelligence based on a contact report from the Australian High Commissioner regarding his meeting with George Papadapolous. The timelines of the allegations being made by Nunes and his staff in regard the start of the counterintelligence investigation in their memo just don’t line up with reality. They also don’t fit what we know of the processes and procedures required to obtain a FISA warrant. This reads very much like I have concluded X and am now going to argue backwards to demonstrate X.

I have no idea what really happens now. I know that there will be a partisan push to purge the DOJ and FBI leadership of people the President himself appointed, such as Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein. Or of career DOJ and FBI officials who are SESes in either career track supervisory positions or in appointed leadership positions. Because these latter group of officials are career civil servants, removing them will be quite difficult. Honestly, there is very little to the memo other than it will be used to increase the sturm and drang on Fox, Breitbart, by Rush and Hewitt and Dim Jim, etc, and on alt-right and MAGA social media to create pressure to remove DAG Rosenstein in the belief it will allow the President to then get rid of Special Counsel Mueller.

We are truly off the looking glass and through the map.

Stay frosty!

Open thread.

(Paragraph 3 edited/revised for clarity and to correct incorrect timeline information.)