Posts

Politicians Warn Of Recession If Debt Limit Is Hit In Coming Weeks

Numerous democratic politicians have taken to addressing their concerns that if the debt limit is hit in the coming weeks, it could spell a crippling recession for the U.S. economy.

Speaking with CNBC, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen explained that she sees Oct. 18 as the deadline for the debt ceiling to be addressed by Congress. If the ceiling isn’t dealt with, the U.S. would default on their debt for the first time in history.

“I do regard Oct. 18 as a deadline. It would be catastrophic to not pay the government’s bills, for us to be in a position where we lacked the resources to pay the government’s bills.”

The debt limit had previously been suspended back in 2019 until July 31 of this year. On Aug. 1, the debt limit reset to $28.4 trillion.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY.) has echoed Yellen’s sentiments, and announced on Twitter that he has filed cloture on legislation passed by the House in order to suspend the debt ceiling, and that the Senate will be voting on moving forward Wednesday.

Schumer had previously attempted to gain approval of a debt ceiling increase multiple times, but failed due to the filibuster blockade that the GOP put in place back in June, which requires 60 majority votes.

Embed from Getty Images

Yahoo! Finance explains that as of now, the 100 votes are split evenly between the two parties. The Democrats have been able to reach just 51 votes thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote.

Schumer expressed his desire to “avoid irreparable economic harm to people and families.” Schumer also called for Republican senators to show they don’t have to “link arm in arm with those extreme members of their conference” by voting in favor of suspension.

The tense situation has been muddled with mudslinging between the two parties, with President Joe Biden accusing Republicans on Monday of playing “Russian roulette” when it comes to the debt ceiling, and that the GOP needs “to get out of the way” in order for the U.S. to avoid a financial crisis.

Biden also explained that the Trump administration is at fault for the need to raise the debt limit because of “the reckless tax and spending policies” that occurred during that time. “In four years, they incurred nearly eight trillion dollars,” Biden said.

In his press conference, Biden gave America an idea of what economic problems would arise if the government is forced to default on its debt.

“Defaulting on the debt would lead to a self-inflicting wound that takes our economy over a cliff and risk jobs and retirement savings, social security benefits, salaries for service members, and benefits for veterans.”

Embed from Getty Images

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY.) has shown no inclination for the GOP to help Democrats through their votes in order to raise the borrowing limit, while also accusing Democrats of “sleepwalking” towards a debt default.

Yahoo! Finance discussed a majority of ways this debt ceiling bout could end, one of which is the filibuster being lifted by McConnell if Schumer continues his strategies. Another involves Schumer moving to ban to the use of the filibuster in regards to the debt ceiling, although it is noted that maneuver would carry some risks with it due to the senate containing a number of filibuster advocates.

While the general belief is that a positive resolution, no matter what party it comes from, is more likely to occur as opposed to a debt default, the latter is still an intimidating possibility that could send the U.S. financial status spiraling.

Washington DC

McConnell Says He Has Votes to Start Impeachment Trial Without Witnesses

Although Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi continues to withhold the articles of impeachment from the Senate with no indication of when she plans to transfer them to the Republican-controlled half of Congress, the outlines of how the trial will proceed are beginning to take shape as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has told Republican colleagues that he has the votes to begin the trial with no guarantee that witnesses will be called. Democrats believe that their case against the president is already ironclad, but that calling additional witnesses like former national security advisor John Bolton and White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney will further bolster their case and convince the American public of the president’s wrongdoing.

Republicans, on the other hand, have not presented a defense of the president’s conduct on the merits of the case but instead have tried to shift attention to the president’s political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter, alleging that the younger Biden’s conduct in Ukraine as a member of the board of an oil company constituted impropriety as his father was Vice President at the time. Accordingly, McConnell and Senate Republicans have announced their intention to work with the White House to ensure that the political damage the trial inflicts on Trump’s presidency is minimized. As such, Republicans are pushing for a rapid trial involving no witnesses and documents, consisting only of a presentation from the impeachment managers selected by the House and a defense from the president’s legal team followed by a vote which is all but certain to result in an acquittal, giving the president ammunition in his claim that he is being unfairly prosecuted by Democrats.

Embed from Getty Images

McConnell has argued that the Senate trial should begin in accordance with the rules that governed the 1999 impeachment trial of Bill Clinton, which did not guarantee the presence of documents or witnesses but allowed senators to vote to call witnesses, who appeared virtually via videotape, as the trial proceeded. As Republicans hold a majority in the Senate and are fairly united in their opposition to the impeachment of Donald Trump, it is unlikely that they will decide during the trial to call witnesses like Bolton and Mulvaney who have firsthand knowledge of the scandal that led to the president’s impeachment, though they may push to call witnesses like Joe and Hunter Biden to testify about the unrelated, manufactured conspiracy theory that alleges without evidence misconduct on the part of Democrats.

If history is any indication, it’s only a matter of time before the full details of the administration’s conduct in connection with the scandal about Ukraine are revealed to all

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has accused McConnell and the Republicans of engaging in a cover-up by refusing to hear from Bolton and Mulvaney, among others, particularly given the magnitude of the evidence that has already been uncovered by House investigators despite the White House’s near-total obstruction, which has understandably raised additional questions about the administration’s response to the president’s request of Ukrainian President Zelensky for assistance in his domestic political campaign.

Embed from Getty Images

Though the likelihood of the presence of witnesses at the president’s trial decreases by the day, John Bolton has complicated the process by saying he’d be willing to testify if he receives a subpoena from the Senate, despite his prior refusal to comply with a House subpoena on the basis of his claim that that his conflicting orders from Congress and the executive branch constituted a critical separation-of-powers issue that had to be resolved by the courts.

Political observers believe that Bolton’s announcement is not sincere, but instead strategic, as the former White House national security advisor is well within his rights to discuss what he knows about the president’s conduct in a public forum, and in fact may do so in a book that he is planning to sell. That being said, pundits disagree over the end-game of Bolton’s political strategy, which remains unclear to everyone except him and his legal team. In any event, if history is any indication, it’s only a matter of time before the full details of the administration’s conduct in connection with the scandal about Ukraine are revealed to all, whether or not witnesses are called during the forthcoming trial. 

Impeachment Trial

Should Senators Vote Secretly in Impeachment Trial?

To say there exists little historical precedent for presidential impeachment trials would be an understatement. Before Trump, only two presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, have ever faced an impeachment trial in the Senate, and the circumstances in each trial were very different. During Johnson’s trial, for instance, 41 witnesses testified, whereas Clinton’s trial only featured a handful of witnesses. If Senate Republicans get their way, however, Trump’s trial will feature neither witnesses nor subpoenas for documents, and it will end quickly with an acquittal. The Constitution gives Congress the freedom to determine its own rules for how to handle impeachment trials; this fact, combined with the relative lack of historical precedent, makes it difficult for anyone to predict how the trial will proceed. That being said, the trial will likely be shaped in large part by partisan allegiance to the president, as several Republican senators have already said they’re not interested in acting as impartial jurors and Mitch McConnell has predicted a “largely partisan outcome.” Because hyperpartisanship threatens jurors’ impartiality, and thus the integrity of the trial, some political strategists have suggested that the senators should cast their ballot in secret, protecting them from the political ramifications of their vote and encouraging an independent decision.

Embed from Getty Images

According to Juleanna Glover, a Republican strategist, it would be fairly easy for the Senate to ensure a secret ballot. Creating rules for the trial requires only a simple majority vote in the Senate; assuming Democrats vote in lockstep in favor of a secret ballot, only three Republicans would have to defect to reach the 51 votes necessary to effectuate the rule. Though they don’t publicly admit it for fear of the political repercussions, many Republican senators strongly oppose the president in private, according to various reports. In fact, former Republican senator Jeff Flake has said that he believes that there are at least 35 GOP senators who would vote to remove Trump if the votes were private; such a result would make Trump the first president in US history to be removed by the impeachment process. A secret ballot, however, would break with Senate tradition and expectations of transparency surrounding Senate proceedings, particularly in the extreme case of deciding whether to remove a sitting president from office. That being said, the atmosphere of hyperpartisanship, combined with an overall dislike of the president among lawmakers, may be enough to convince more than half of the Senate to institute such an unusual rule.

Few people predict that Trump will be removed from the White House before the 2020 election, but we live in an era in which unprecedented and unpredicted political events are borderline commonplace. 

While American politics has long been characterized by partisanship, the current political environment is arguably more partisan than ever before, with the vote in the House to impeach Trump passing almost entirely along party lines. The Senate is often considered to be a more impartial chamber than the House, but by most accounts it is still more partisan than it’s ever been. In Clinton’s trial, Republicans and Democrats collaborated to determine the rules, resulting in unanimous consent among all 100 senators—such an outcome is nearly inconceivable in today’s Senate. This very partisanship, though, is precisely what may motivate some senators to support a secret ballot. And while there exists a certain demand for transparency for actions taken by the Senate, grand jury proceedings, which the Senate trial will essentially function as, allow jurors to deliberate and vote in secret. 

Embed from Getty Images

Already, cracks are starting to form in the Republicans’ solidarity in their support of Trump; Republican senator Lisa Murkowski, for instance, has said that she is “disturbed” by McConnell’s pledge to coordinate with the White House in defining the rules of the trial, and Mitt Romney has characterized the president’s conduct for which he was impeached as “troubling in the extreme.” A secret ballot, though admittedly unlikely, may be enough for these cracks to cause Republican senators’ defense of Trump to collapse, leading to his potential removal from office. Few people predict that Trump will be removed from the White House before the 2020 election, but we live in an era in which unprecedented and unpredicted political events are borderline commonplace. 

Capitol Building

US Senators Clash Over Impeachment Trial Procedures

Right after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach Donald Trump, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi surprised pundits everywhere by making a strategic move no one saw coming: instead of immediately deciding upon impeachment managers to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate, she decided to withhold the transmission of articles as leverage to coerce Senate Republicans to vote for what she considers to be a fair trial, which includes the calling of witnesses and the production of documents. Currently, Congress is in recess for the holidays, but negotiations surrounding the trial proceed nevertheless, even as lawmakers visit their families and constituents at their homes. 

Embed from Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has called upon four Republicans to vote in favor of allowing documents and witnesses during the trial, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell starkly opposes. As the procedures for the trial will be determined by 51 votes, and Schumer already has all 47 Democratic Senators onboard, only four Republicans would have to defy McConnell to ensure a trial with witnesses and documents. Given the fact that the president himself has said that he’d like to see witnesses during the trial, and almost 2 in 3 Republicans also want top Trump aides to testify at the Senate trial, Schumer and the Democrats hope that pressure from constituents will be enough to convince the necessary four Republican senators to side with Democrats on this matter.

Given the dramatic and historic nature of this impeachment, people around the world are paying very close attention to the U.S. Congress during these critical next few weeks, as the rules of the trial will have to be determined soon for it to begin early next year as intended. Accordingly, U.S. senators, who ultimately will shortly decide whether the president is fit to remain in office for the rest of his first term, are using the media to amplify their message either for or against a fair trial as they try to build their cases. Today, The New York Times published an opinion piece written by Patrick Leahy, a Democratic senator from Vermont, who wrote of the historic implications of the Senate’s upcoming decision, as this impeachment trial, no matter how it ends up proceeding, will set precedent for future impeachments and forever define Congress’s role in checking the misconduct of a duly elected president.

The actions the Senate takes over the next several weeks will at least in part outline the shape of future impeachments and more clearly define the nature of Congress’s power to check the executive branch.

In the piece, Leahy argues that the outcome of the upcoming trial will determine the validity of the Senate itself, and more broadly the importance of truth in our government. Leahy, who has served as a juror on six impeachment trials of five judges and one president, notes that senators must swear an oath to carry out “impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws,” and fears that the Senate will shortly abandon the idea of taking this oath seriously. This is because several Republican senators, including Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, have already said they’ve made up their minds and that they don’t expect to act as fair jurors during the trial.

Embed from Getty Images

Impeachment trials are wholly separate from other types of trials, as they are conducted in the Senate, which briefly operates as a court of law during the proceedings. The Senate has the sole responsibility of setting the rules of its trial, and as the Senate is characterized by the presence of partisan politicians who are unflinchingly loyal to the president, Democrats fear that the trial will end up being fundamentally corrupt. Already, McConnell, who will act as one of 100 jurors, has pledged that “there will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this,” creating a rare case of a trial in which the jurors collaborate with the defendant to ensure the outcome favored by the defendant. Presidential impeachments are rare in American history, and as such there exists little precedent for how they should be carried out; as such, the actions the Senate takes over the next several weeks will at least in part outline the shape of future impeachments and more clearly define the nature of Congress’s power to check the executive branch.

Impeachment

Nancy Pelosi Delays Sending Articles Of Impeachment To Senate Following House Vote

Donald Trump has officially become the third President of the United States to be impeached following the House vote approving the articles of impeachment this past Wednesday (December 18th). While this doesn’t necessarily mean that Trump will be fully removed from office, it still is being recognized as a historic day. 

Now, the vote is up to the Republican-controlled Senate on whether or not Trump will remain in office for the rest of his term. However, they are facing some delays after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced yesterday that she would not commit to sending the articles of impeachment against the president to the Senate. 

“That would have been our intention, but we’ll see what happens over there,” Pelosi said at a post-impeachment news conference when asked about the articles.

Embed from Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

The withholding comes as a response to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s rejection of Senate Leader Chuck Schumer’s request to allow four witnesses who work, or formerly worked,  as Trump’s officials to testify as witnesses at the Senate’s impeachment trial. Two of the witnesses include Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton and the acting White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney. Both of these witnesses were working closely with Trump around the time of the phone call to the Ukrainian President, making their role in the trial relevant. 

Pelosi is holding the articles until McConnell agrees to Schumer’s initial request. This withholding also means that it’s unclear as to the timeline of when the Senate’s trial will take place. However, both the Democrats and Republicans seem to be rather relaxed about it. Republicans and McConnell have argued that they’re in “no hurry” regarding receiving the articles and that there’s no advantage in delaying a trial the Senate doesn’t really want anything to do with anyway. Democrats are also taking their time in regards to how to go about the situation, and will be meeting Thursday morning (December 19th) to further discuss the matter. 

Embed from Getty Images

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

The main goal regarding the withholding is to ensure that the Republicans will be offering a fair and thorough trial, and with a Republican-controlled Senate, it’s unclear as to what type of reassurance that would be. James Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat House member, stated that they will be holding the articles “as long as it takes, even if [McConnell] doesn’t come around to committing a fair trial, [we’ll] keep those articles here.” 

McConnell is expected to address the press about the impeachment and the future of the trial Thursday morning as well, and it’s likely that he will discuss the withholding of the letters as a sign that the Democrats are “too afraid to even submit their shoddy work product to the Senate.” He is also expected to announce the date of the Senate trial by the end of the week. However, with Pelosi’s last-minute decision to hold the articles, it’s unlikely that he will make that announcement during his Thursday morning speech. 

Additionally, Pelosi threw another wrench into the trial’s plans by delaying the naming of impeachment managers for the Senate’s trial; the House is likely to make that decision within the next few days as well. 

We cannot name managers until we see what the process is on the Senate side, and we hope that will be soon. So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us, so hopefully it will be fair,”  Pelosi said

Impeachment Trial

Impeachment Trial Plans Begin as Schumer Requests Witnesses

The president will be impeached this week, as the House Judiciary Committee voted to approve  two articles of impeachment for a full vote on the House floor. Because Democrats hold the majority in the House right now and this impeachment is a hyper-partisan affair, it is virtually certain that the House of Representatives will vote to send both articles to the Senate, where a trial of some sort will be held. The Senate is currently controlled by Republicans, who have 53 seats whereas the Democrats have 45. As a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate is required to remove a president from office via impeachment, this outcome is unlikely, particularly because not a single Republican senator has indicated that they’d entertain voting with the Democrats. That being said, the upcoming Senate trial is nonetheless sure to have a significant and difficult-to-predict impact on the political world, particularly in consideration of the fact that the next presidential election is less than a year away.

Embed from Getty Images

Now that impeachment in the House is all but certain, Senate lawmakers have begun publicly discussing the outline and the structure of the trial. Unsurprisingly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has all but confirmed that the outcome of the trial is a foregone conclusion, saying, “there will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this to the extent that we can.” Mitch McConnell wants the trial to move quickly and with little fanfare, even suggesting that witnesses may not be called at all, in the hopes that news about the facts pertaining to the trial will fly under the radar to the greatest extent possible, whereas the president wants the trial to be a bombastic, theatrical affair, believing that such an event would bolster his poll numbers. 

Despite this difference in opinion, though, Democrats were infuriated by McConnell’s suggestion that the trial should be orchestrated in coordination with the defendant in the trial, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer calling it “totally out of line.” During impeachment, senators are assigned the role of juror, and as such are required to swear an oath which reads: “I solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: So help me God.” The Republicans’ coordination with the White House, then, would seem to be a clear and direct violation of this oath, as jurors who have already made up their minds before the trial takes place plainly impede justice.

The decisions senators will make throughout the process are hard to predict and will shed light on these their characters and indeed on the health of the republic generally.

Nevertheless, Democrats are doing everything in their power to negotiate with the Senate majority to make the trial process as fair as they can. Accordingly, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer today wrote a letter to McConnell outlining the witnesses he wishes to call during the trial, which will likely not be held until next year. Given the president’s love of drama and theatrics, it is likely that some witnesses will be called for the trial, though it’s unclear exactly who would be compelled to testify: Schumer specifically requested the appearance of Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former Security Advisor John Bolton, both of whom refused to cooperate with congressionally approved subpoenas during the inquiry at the direction of the White House and may simply continue to ignore further calls to testify; and Republicans likely will seek testimonies of the unnamed whistleblower and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, the former of whom is protected by anonymity statutes and the latter of whom is not a fact or expert witness in this case and thus would have little legal justification for being compelled to act as a witness. 

Embed from Getty Images

Though Schumer knows that he likely cannot change McConnell’s mind, or the minds of Trump’s most ardent defenders in the Senate, he believes he may convince enough Republican senators that at the very least relevant witnesses should be called to testify to secure the 51 votes necessary to pass an agreed-upon set of rules designed to enable a fair trial. When it comes to impeachment trials, there exists very little historical precedent for how they should be arranged and conducted, and impeachment has never before occurred in a political environment as hyper-partisan and polarized as today’s; as such, the decisions senators will make throughout the process are hard to predict and will shed light on these their characters and indeed on the health of the republic generally.

Impeachment

House Panel Votes to Approve Articles of Impeachment

While President Trump has not yet officially been impeached, that historic outcome has become even more likely as the House of Representatives prepares for a full vote on both of the articles that have been presented by the House Judiciary Committee. The full votes on both articles will be held sometime next week, probably Wednesday, and are likely to pass along party lines. Republican members of Congress have shown absolutely no cracks in their resistance to impeachment, as every Republican representative has voted against the process since it began several weeks ago and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that he expects no Republican senators to vote to remove President Trump from office.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Chairman Jerry Nadler, and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff presented the Articles of Impeachment during a press conference on Tuesday, with formal charges including Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress. Democrats opted to keep the focus of impeachment narrow in order to build the strongest possible case in a short period of time; although the Mueller Report outlined several instances of potential obstruction of justice, which has been presented as an article in previous impeachments, the articles that the House Panel just approved involved only the misconduct that become evident in connection to a whistleblower complaint from a few months ago. Considering the President’s misconduct to be a national security emergency, Democrats are undergoing the impeachment process as quickly as they possibly can, choosing not to wait for the courts to decide whether the White House is legally obligated to produce documents and witnesses in accordance with numerous congressional subpoenas.

Embed from Getty Images

While the outcome in the Democrat-led House of Representatives has been highly predictable throughout the impeachment process, the upcoming trial in the Senate, which is led by Republican Mitch McConnell, is less clear. However, McConnell has shed some light on what the Senate trial will look like during a recent interview with Fox News, during which the Senate Majority Leader indicated that the Senate would follow the White House’s lead in defining the parameters of the trial. 

It’s long been predicted that, regardless of how long the Senate trial goes on and how it is defined, Republicans would vote along party lines to protect the President. Now, McConnell has reaffirmed the congressional body’s fealty to the president, as he has taken the historically unprecedented step of allowing the defendant of a high-stakes trial to define the terms of the trial that will determine whether he is found guilty of committing high crimes and misdemeanors. McConnell said that there is ‘zero chance’ Trump is removed by impeachment, and given the Republicans’ unyielding loyalty to the current Commander in Chief, there is little reason to doubt him.

While President Trump will probably not be removed from office after the Senate trial, impeachment is nonetheless likely to have a lasting political impact, as the general election that will determine the next President of the United States will be held in less than a year. Though one can make a fairly confident prediction that Trump will remain the President through 2020, virtually nobody can speak with certainty at this point about the likelihood of his winning reelection next year. Both Democrats and Republicans have said that they hope impeachment will have a positive effect on their political power; Democrats argue that the public process of impeachment helps to inform the electorate about the President’s many abuses of power and thus of the urgency of removing him from office, whereas Republicans see the outcome of impeachment as a victory for the President, who is sure to portray his acquittal in the Senate as a vindication of his position that Article II of the Constitution, which defines the parameters of the executive branch of the federal government, gives him the power to do whatever he wants.

Embed from Getty Images

Perhaps the biggest takeaway of the likely outcome of impeachment will be that Trump’s claim to absolute executive power, unburdened by the Constitution’s centuries-old system of checks and balances, will be correct. At this moment in history, as Democrats have taken pains to point out time and time again, impeachment and the upcoming general election are the only two remaining constitutional checks preventing the President from consolidating his power and transforming the country’s government into a monarchy or dictatorship. 

If Trump is acquitted by the Senate, as he probably will be, Congress will establish a precedent that it is OK for the President to cheat in American elections by coordinating with foreign powers to interfere in the democratic process around which the country’s entire government is built. Though the upcoming presidential election is likely to be compromised as a result of efforts by the President and Republicans to undermine democracy, it will determine whether or not the United States will remain a republic or descend into an authoritarian state, as the president’s last three years of attacks against the institutions of democratic governance have been remarkably effective and are certain to continue to their completion if he is given another term in office.