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TL(PM) DIGEST: Default Caucus takes the L
Plus continued concerns about inflation, Trump caught red-handed with classified docs, and oil prices going down, down, down
1. House passes a debt ceiling plan despite a “Default Caucus” of hard-left and hard-right members
What happened? The House of Representatives moved the nation closer to avoiding a catastrophic debt default by passing an agreement to suspend the debt ceiling for two years and establish new spending caps, among other measures.
Why does it matter? After weeks of bickering put the nation’s credit worthiness at risk, a bipartisan majority in the House did the right thing. As the New York Times reports:
The bill would defer the federal debt limit for two years—allowing the government to borrow unlimited sums as necessary to pay its obligations—while imposing two years of spending caps and a string of policy changes that Republicans demanded in exchange for allowing the country to avoid a disastrous default. The 314-to-117 vote came days before the nation was set to exhaust its borrowing limit, and days after a marathon set of talks between White House negotiators and top House Republicans yielded a breakthrough agreement.
With both far-right and hard-left lawmakers in revolt over the deal, it fell to a bipartisan coalition powered by Democrats to push the bill over the finish line, throwing their support behind the compromise in an effort to break the fiscal stalemate that had gripped Washington for weeks. On the final vote, 149 Republicans and 165 Democrats backed the measure, while 71 Republicans and 46 Democrats opposed it.
TLP’s take: President Biden, Speaker McCarthy, and the bipartisan coalition of patriots in the House deserve the nation’s thanks for avoiding a major self-inflicted wound to our country’s prosperity. Conversely, members of the hard-left Progressive Caucus and hard-right Freedom Caucus who voted for national default—rather than support an imperfect deal to avoid it—deserve scorn for choosing ideology over country.
Now it’s up to the Senate to do its job and send this bill to Biden to avoid default and move on from this sordid episode.
2. Americans express greater concern about inflation than default
What happened? A new Fox News poll shows that 9 in 10 voters are extremely or very concerned about inflation and higher prices—consistently high levels of concern from a peak of 93 percent last summer.
Why does it matter? Voter worries about inflation top other high profile and important issues such as crime (81 percent), political divisions (79 percent), the debt ceiling (75 percent), opioid addiction (73 percent), and Iran getting nuclear weapons (71 percent).
TLP’s take: Even with the nation’s political and media elites understandably focused nonstop on the debt ceiling standoff, voters themselves express greater concern about stubbornly high prices—and the high interest rates needed to ward them off. Inflation continues to shape overall negative attitudes about Congress and the president among voters, and explains the consistently dour marks for the national economy.
Until voters feel that their paychecks adequately cover basic living needs and other amenities in life once again, they will not be happy. Incumbents beware.
3. Trump caught on tape talking about classified docs
What happened? CNN reports on new audio uncovered by Special Counsel Jack Smith in which former president Trump verbally acknowledges that he held onto a classified Department of Defense document related to Iran after leaving office:
The recording indicates Trump understood he retained classified material after leaving the White House, according to multiple sources familiar with the investigation. On the recording, Trump’s comments suggest he would like to share the information but he’s aware of limitations on his ability post-presidency to declassify records, two of the sources said.
Why does it matter? This recording severely undercuts two main elements of the blunderbuss defense Trump has mounted for holding on to classified documents that he should have turned over to the government when he left office: he knew he had no authority to declassify information after leaving office and he knew that he had classified information in his possession. That suggests prosecutors can bring a strong criminal case against the former president.
TLP’s take: Lock him up! More seriously, there’s now even less cause for handwringing about indicting Trump for his post-presidency possession of classified material. He knew what he had and knew he shouldn’t have had it, and then refused to return it when asked—making his actions far, far worse than other incidents where former officials of both parties had classified documents laying around in their archives.
4. Oil prices keep on falling
What happened? Despite production cuts by OPEC, oil prices have fallen by some 20 percent since last October according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. OPEC appears unlikely to approve further cuts in its upcoming meeting on Monday, however, and previous cuts have been offset by production from non-OPEC nations and Russia’s need to export oil to pay for its war against Ukraine.
Why does it matter? It may not be a one-to-one relationship, but lower crude oil prices generally lead to lower prices at the pump for ordinary Americans. But they also mean that countries like Saudi Arabia that rely on oil revenues won’t meet their break-even prices—meaning they won’t have as much money to spend on grand nation-building projects as they need.
TLP’s take: It’s certainly good for American consumers that oil and therefore gasoline prices continue to decline, easing one of the main sources of personal economic hardship many individuals experience. But U.S. government officials need to keep a close eye on how the price of oil affects the policies of governments reliant on oil revenues—whether partners like Saudi Arabia or enemies like Russia.
Just one more thing…
A software glitch doomed Japan’s Hakuto-R Mission 1 as it attempted to land on the Moon at the end of April, making the privately-built robotic explorer think it was three miles above the lunar surface as it plowed into a crater at more than 200 miles per hour.