Feds Charge the Deciding Vote That Made Kevin McCarthy Speaker

I have to admit I was wrong about something.

For most of Nancy Pelosi’s period as the Democratic Leader in the House (whether Speaker or Minority Leader), I mocked the way that Republican leaders in the House could not count votes without her help. I continued that mockery as Kevin McCarthy struggled to win the Speakership through 15 rounds of voting, until he won finally because six radical Republicans, including Matt Gaetz and Andy Biggs, voted present rather than against McCarthy finally.

But since then, McCarthy has managed a series of close votes with far greater success than Paul Ryan or John Boehner. Most remarkable was the vote on April 26 to hold the debt ceiling hostage, which Republicans passed with 217 yes votes, 215 no votes (including a handful of GOP flamethrowers, including Biggs and Gaetz), and 3 people — two Democrats and one Republican — not voting.

It undoubtedly surprised President Biden as well. He seemed to be counting on continued GOP dysfunction and so didn’t fully prepare a Plan B if the GOP unexpectedly learned to count votes.

That’s important background to the news — first reported by CNN — that EDNY has charged George Santos.

No one yet knows what the charges are (besides that there was a whole bunch of fraud involved). The abrupt departure of first Santos, then his staffers, from their office yesterday is the most we have to go on right now.

Federal prosecutors have filed criminal charges against New York Rep. George Santos, the Republican lawmaker whose astonishing pattern of lies and fabrications stunned even hardened politicos, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

Santos is expected to appear as soon as Wednesday at federal court in New York’s eastern district, where the charges have been filed under seal.

The exact nature of the charges couldn’t immediately be learned but the FBI and the Justice Department public integrity prosecutors in New York and Washington have been examining allegations of false statements in Santos’ campaign finance filings and other claims.

The congressman’s attorney declined to comment. Spokespeople for the Brooklyn US Attorney’s Office, the Justice Department and the FBI declined to comment.

Santos was en route back to New York Tuesday night, skipping House votes for the evening, according to a source familiar.

A spokeswoman for Santos, Naysa Woomer, would not respond to shouted questions from reporters Tuesday afternoon and abruptly departed the congressman’s DC office with her backpack when asked about the federal charges against him. Prior to her departure from the office, CNN witnessed three staffers for Santos abruptly depart with their bags. They wouldn’t talk when pressed for comment.

NYT reports the staffers have been told to stay away from the office today, as well, which may well be an attempt to give Santos time to read the charges and determine his own next steps.

All this developed while McCarthy was meeting with Biden and other Congressional leaders on the debt ceiling. The meeting did not go well — in part because McCarthy accused Biden of lying when he said that to accomplish the cuts McCarthy demanded would include cuts to Veterans benefits. McCarthy came out of that meeting to the news of the adverse verdict against Trump in New York and the Santos charges.

Regarding Santos, the Speaker said he would not force Santos out of Congress unless he were convicted, which could leave a lame duck member in the seat for months or the balance of Santos’ term.

But, again, no one knows what the charges are, nor do they adequately account for the possibility that some of the conduct could include the Ponzi scheme in which Santos had previously been involved or his significant financial relationship with Andrew Intrater, long suspected of serving as a proxy for his sanctioned cousin, Viktor Vekselberg. When someone has committed as much apparent fraud as Santos has, there’s no telling what the real story behind all that fraud is.

So either McCarthy moves forward with the support — both for his Speakership and for his hostage-taking — of someone under active criminal investigation. Or McCarthy does something to trigger a vote on his continuation in that role.

I’m not, this time, going to underestimate McCarthy’s ability to count votes or his willingness to capitulate to the most radical extremists in his caucus. But that’s sort of the point: McCarthy is not just owned by Marjorie Taylor Greene at this point, he is owned by whatever alleged crimes imposter Congressman George Santos has committed.

34 replies
  1. Rugger_9 says:

    Do we know why the two Ds did not vote? It might be worth pursuing in the next cycle, but also realize that the flamethrowers want to crash the government too but don’t want their fingerprints on the deed. So, if that theory is correct then the two Ds not being present really did not matter except to paint someone into a corner. Jeffries needs to consult with Pelosi on how to muck up GOP plans better.

    As for Santos it depends upon what the charges are and IIRC he still has the Speech and Debate protection while in DC like Aaron Burr did. I see ol’ George (or whatever the nom du jour is) camping out in his DC office (knowing that this part of the political career is finished) in order to delay accountability.

  2. Rugger_9 says:

    I am also interested in the case filed by the unions about declaring the 1917 debt ceiling law unconstitutional relative to the 14th Amendment directive. IIRC, this is the first actual legal test and will doubtless make it to the SCOTUS. If the case gets there, I think the majority rules in support of the law to own the libs ignoring their own activism in overturning long-standing laws they did not like (i.e. Citizens United) but I may be wrong about that.

    If the SCOTUS does do the right thing, then the debt ceiling hostage-taking is mooted and Santos is back to being a political liability for any GOP Speaker. I don’t think Santos resigns because then the feebs will be calling with a housewarming gift of possible jail time.

    • bmaz says:

      Doubt it would ever get to SCOTUS, I don’t even think they have standing.

      I’ll copy my comment from the previous thread:

      That would be a very bad decision from SCOTUS. The hue and cry to “Use The 14th!” is complete crackpot land. This nonsense has been en vogue, along with the similarly dumb “Mint The Coin!” tripe, for a very long time. I wrote about it twelve years ago, and it still holds true.

      Painful as it really is, there is no substitute to Congress actually doing its job. Gimmicks and tricks are not the answer. Same goes to the similarly ludicrous “Mint The Coin!” garbage I wrote about a year later.

      • Jared Shoemaker Jr says:

        So biden has to cave into McCarthy’s demands. Because they aren’t going to move off their position

        • bmaz says:

          No, he does not. But demanding him to arrogate power he really does not have is not the answer either.

          People always want the magic bullet, when it usually does not really exist.

          • Rugger_9 says:

            With that noted, it would be better to use the law instead of the Constitutional hammer. Rescind it through Congress.

            What does have to happen is that the MSM needs to report accurately who is taking financial hostages here as a cynical power play. They probably will not, based on what I’ve seen.

      • zeke di leo says:

        Going back and reading that post (and the comments) is well worth the effort, although it is depressing to see how little has changed and that about the only difference is that the institutions are in worse shape today than they were then.

      • Rayne says:

        Thank you for that link, harpie! I couldn’t remember enough info about that post to find it and that link to your comments flagged it. Ed only used “Congress, Republicans” for tags; I need to add “House Speaker” and “Kevin McCarthy” to narrow it down. LOL

  3. Peterr says:

    MTG, Gaetz, and the other GOP bombthrowers made it clear in their negotiations with McCarthy that any vote to raise the debt ceiling must include spending cuts. While it’s good that Biden brought McCarthy and other leaders from the Hill to the WH for some face-to-face conversations around the debt ceiling, the indictment of Santos only makes MTG’s hold on McCarthy stronger.

    In Kevin McCarthy’s nightmares, he fears hearing MTG tell him: “I am altering the deal. Pray that I do not alter it further.”

    My prediction: raising the debt ceiling will result in the demise of Kevin McCarthy’s speakership. I can’t even guess whether this will happen before or after the US government defaults on its debt.

  4. joel fisher says:

    No President should ever put the country through this. Yes, I said, “President”. Biden should end this BS with the 14th Amend. and write the checks that Congress promised. Also, he could raise some cash by selling some national parks in red states.

    • John B. says:

      Not sure the Pres can write checks…pretty sure the power of the purse is controlled by the Congress…but I sure wish the Dems would have eliminated this trojan horse of the debt ceiling for once and for all…I’m pretty sure the Senate 60 vote threshold and ManchinSinema would have nixed that until there is 52 Dem Senators…

      • Rayne says:

        This: “I sure wish the Dems would have eliminated this trojan horse of the debt ceiling” is on the voters. Until they manage to flip enough states’ GOP senators to true Dems while avoiding conservaDems, this wish is going to remain unanswered.

        Pick a couple of states and start looking at Democratic senate candidates to support.

      • BruceF says:

        No the President does not write the checks, but when expenditures have been authorized and appropriations made by Congress the President was directed to make payments up to that expenditure level! Language of the 14th Amendment makes clear that our debt should not be questionef by rebels…people like MTG, BoBo and Gaetz! Arriving at future budgets is open to negotiations. Neither party has put forth realistic initial budgets!

        Lets hope that members of the House get real and drop their ransom demand! Our economy, and likely the world economy are at stake!

    • Rayne says:

      It’s not the president putting the country through this because he’s the executive branch, not the branch which under the Constitution has the power to decide the country’s budget and debt:

      Section 8: Powers of Congress
      The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

      To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;

      The president cannot raise cash, it’s not in his job description.

      The president shouldn’t sell off any national parks, either, without Congressional assent, since those lands belong to the nation as a whole regardless of their location. Some states used to be blue and may likely be blue again; selling their national parks shortchanges the future.

      Come on, joel, do better.

      • joel fisher says:

        I’m giving it all I can, Captain. The last sentence was facetious as I wrote it, but then I thought: wouldn’t the executive have to prioritize the obligations? And the US sells stuff all the time; no Congressional approval required.
        And wouldn’t the executive have to pay some things and not others?

        • Rayne says:

          No, joel, Congress does actually have to approve the sale of U.S. assets. You really need to bone up before making statements like that.

          Ditto the executive’s obligations: the budget says what gets paid and that’s established by Congress. The executive executes the payments. That’s the executive branch’s job.

          ADDER: I think you weren’t paying attention during 2019 when Trump broke law trying to put the squeeze on Ukraine by obstructing delivery of materiel already committed by Congress to Ukraine. Or in 2016 when the GOP’s party platform was tampered with because certain foreign influence on the Trump campaign didn’t want the party’s elected members of Congress to commit to weapon sales to Ukraine.

      • Thomas Paine says:

        The President can tell the Secretary of the Treasury to do one of two things. 1) Sell new T-Bills at a Premium interest rate – say 10%. In that manner, Yellen can sell (or exchange) $1000 in Debt (the face value of the bond) for $1500 in cash. Bonds are sold at auction. The “market price” can be manipulated using the coupon interest rate offered by the Treasury. The Treasury gets to select the rate.

        Another approach is to sell Consol or Perpetual Bonds which have no maturity date. These have been used by the US and the UK in the 19th and 20th Centuries to raise cash without adding to the debt. A Consol Bond is really more like equity (stock). It is an offer to pay a dividend every 6 months in exchange for cash.

        According to Paul Krugman (Nobel Laureate in Economics) both methods are perfectly legal and could be used to finance government expenditures up to the FY23 Congressional Appropriation Bill levels at the current level of debt until cooler heads prevail on either rising the debt ceiling, or eliminating the Debt Ceiling Law altogether, (either by defeating it in the Congress or in the courts). The downside, of course, is the amount of cash that has to be paid in interest.

        • Rayne says:

          Hasn’t Yellen been doing the first, offering higher interest rates on U.S.-issued debt? I-series bonds have been well above 6% (thought at one point within the last year they were nearly 9% but I can’t recall).

          The second might be more difficult if there’s any suggestion it’s other than uncollateralized debt, but I defer to Krugman. Whatever of these two options might be implemented, it must be done in a way which does not require Congressional approval because the GOP is useless.

          Bonus: offering a safer investment with higher interest rates might actually slow down inflation a bit.

    • pH unbalanced says:

      I had one accounting job where I was the person who performed transfers between bank accounts. I did not have the *authority* to make transfers, everything had to be signed off on by two executives first, but I controlled the *means*.

      My third week on the job was Thanksgiving week, and on Wednesday morning I realized that without a large transfer into the Payroll bank account, payroll was going to crash. And every executive was on vacation and unreachable, so I could not get approval to fund payroll. So after thinking about it a bit, I decided to fund payroll on my own authority, fully aware that I could be fired for it.

      The next week, my boss was very upset, but about 2 minutes into the dressing down he realized the full situation. He said “I cannot tell you what you did was right, but payroll crashing would have been very bad.”

      IANAL, so I have no idea whether or not the 14th amendment gives Biden the authority to pay Congressionally-authorized disbursements. But if it comes down to it, I think he should instruct the Treasury to do so anyway, because he will be forgiven for that in a way that he would never be forgiven if the economy crashes due to default.

      • bmaz says:

        Tricks and gimmicks do not a government make. Blithely arrogate this power to Biden now, and you will live to regret it in the future under a different President.

        • pH unbalanced says:

          Undoubtedly correct.

          The thing is, I suspect the people who would misuse this particular power would do so whether or not Biden provided the precedent.

          I just think that when their are no good choices, you should be decisive in your bad choice.

          • bmaz says:

            Maybe fair. There are just not good answers at this point. And, if there are, I am not smart enough to know them.

          • Purple Martin says:

            I’ve been following discussions that assume the President is being presented set of debt ceiling circumstances in which he commits a constitutional violation no matter what choice he makes.

            Constitutionally, the Executive must spend the money Congress appropriates
            (see: overturning line-item veto).
            Constitutionally, the Executive cannot borrow money
            (Section 8: Powers of Congress…”To borrow Money on the credit of the United States”).

            I am not qualified to judge whether the underlying assumption is correct. But hypothetically, a President could argue that in the failure of Congress to resolve its own constitutional contradiction (voting for mandated spending while voting to block borrowing to pay for it) the Executive must make the decision which enables the *lesser* of the two violations, and most in the spirit of constitutional requirements—not least being:

            …to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…

            Things like the 14th Amendment argument, while not dispositive, could be advanced as evidential support. Biden hinted at that in mentioning the 14th Amendment yesterday, but with a caveat about triggering legal action that might end up causing a debt default anyway.

            I really hope all this never comes into play because, If SCOTUS must ultimately resolve the question, that resolution is may come too late.

            • AgainBrain says:

              I wouldn’t be surprised to discover Biden had already set everything up to do continue functioning normally. Further, that having reached that decision, already has teams both preparing for the court case, and even preparing to buy time using one of the “other Treasury solutions”.

              Given the magnitude of economic catastrophe at issue, it’d be foolish for him not to prepare every approach available.

    • FL Resister says:

      That indictment is worth the read as a stunning example of fraud at every opportunity all spelled out in paperwork.
      George’s financial fraud covers the gamut!
      What’s next besides forfeitures of all his ill-gotten gains? When will he lose his seat?
      Should we hide our disgust?

      • AgainBrain says:

        Meant as satire, not name-calling, but apologies in advance:

        “Duplicitous George Visits the Bondsman”
        “Duplicitous George Gets Arraigned”
        “Duplicitous George Cops a Plea”
        “Duplicitous George and the Man in the Lower Bunk”

        Definitely NOT children’s books, particularly the last one.

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