Biden wins on Ukraine as House GOP faces big decision about its future

President Joe Biden and Democrats won big in the House Saturday, when it voted resoundingly in support of Ukraine aid. This could mark a turning point for Republicans, leaving them with a choice: to admit defeat and start governing, or to keep fighting with each other.

For months, both former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and current Speaker Mike Johnson have catered to Donald Trump and the MAGA wing of the House GOP on Ukraine aid, insisting that it could not pass without a harsh immigration and border security bill. Once they got that, they turned it down at Trump’s request. Now there’s Ukraine aid and no border deal—a big loss for far-right Republicans and Trump.

This could signal that the fever has finally broken among the governing bloc of the GOP … or not. What it has done is unleash a torrent of anger against Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and the extremist Freedom Caucus by some non-MAGA members.

Before the vote, Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas slammed his colleagues, saying, “I guess their reasoning is they want Russia to win so badly that they want to oust the speaker over it, I mean that’s a strange position to take … I think they want to be in the minority too, I think that’s an obvious reality.”

Even Biden impeachment zealot Rep. James Comer denounced Greene’s efforts to oust Johnson in an interview on Fox News.

“Now Mike Johnson walked into a bad situation,” Comer said. “It’s gotten a lot worse since he’s been here. But changing speakers is not the right business model.”

Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas completely unleashed his anger toward his MAGA colleagues on Sunday, calling them “scumbags” who “used to walk around in white hoods at night. Now they’re walking around with white hoods in the daytime,” during an interview on CNN.

But Greene and her accomplices are showing no signs of backing down.

“There is more support,” for her efforts, Greene said Monday. “It's growing. I've said from the beginning, I'm going to be responsible with this ... I do not support Mike Johnson. He's already a lame duck. If we have the vote today in our conference he would not be speaker today.”

Greene’s cosponsor Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky said Friday, "We want Mike Johnson to resign. We don't want to go speaker-less. So the goal is to show him, through co-sponsorship, how much support he's lost and hopefully he'll get the message and give us a notice so that we have time ... to replace him.”

That’s a tacit acknowledgement that they’d lose on the House floor if they tried to force Johnson out, since enough Democrats would vote to keep him now that he’s finally done the right thing. So it’s really up to the rest of the Republicans to decide. Will they squash Greene and her team once and for all? Will they accept that anything they accomplish in the remainder of this election year will have to involve Democrats and finally stop with the ridiculous messaging nonsense? (Fat chance.)

Meanwhile, most of Biden’s major priorities have been successful, including the securing of a debt limit deal with McCarthy. Despite the maniacs’ best effort, the government did not shut down and was funded at adequate levels. Now Ukraine will finally get the critical aid it needs to stave off Russia once the Senate passes the bill on Tuesday. 

On top of all that, the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas collapsed, and the Biden impeachment is dead in the water.

House Democrats hold Johnson’s fate in their hands, and everyone knows it—including the majority of Republicans. Has the fever broken in the GOP? Not as long as Trump is alive and kicking, though his political days might be numbered.

There are likely still big fights to come over next year’s budget, and it’s going to be up to the House GOP to figure out how to salvage something out of its tiny majority before the election.

Donate now to take the House back from Republicans! Chipping in $3 apiece to help flip these 16 vulnerable Republican seats scan help take back the House in 2024!


House passes aid for Ukraine and Israel after months of struggle

Republicans get Ukraine demands met, so of course they change their minds

Mike Johnson owes everything to Democrats, and it could cost him his gavel

Senate inches closer to border deal. Will House GOP and Trump kill it?

Senate negotiators made some progress in talks over the holiday break on a potential border and immigration deal, which was the Senate Republicans’ requirement for agreeing to a vote on President Joe Biden’s Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan supplemental funding package. Over the weekend, the lead Republican in the talks, Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford, said text could be released soon. The fate of that agreement, however, lies in the hands of his fellow Republicans and their fealty to their de facto leader, Donald Trump.

“Text hopefully this week, to be able to get that out,” he told Fox News on Sunday. “This agreement has to work. Everyone’s counting on this actually working.” Senate leaders were cautiously positive on Monday. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a floor statement that “it’s been a very promising few days. We have made more progress in the past couple of days on the border than we have in the past few weeks.”

“I was encouraged to see that Senator Lankford and our Democratic colleagues made progress toward an agreement to put meaningful border security policy at the heart of this supplemental,” said Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. “Russia is openly mocking the fickleness of Western support for Ukraine,” he intoned with a shocking lack of irony, since it’s entirely congressional Republicans’ fault that U.S. support to Ukraine is endangered. "The Senate cannot afford to get this wrong," McConnell declared.

As Monday wore on, Lankford tempered his optimism and his revised deadline for delivering text to next week, with a Republican conference on the negotiations hastily scheduled for Wednesday to brief skeptical conservatives, showing the cracks that could make Senate Republicans get this very wrong.

Ukraine aid needs at least 10 Republican senators to support it, and they are skeptical at best right now, both on Ukraine and on the immigration deal Lankford is trying to secure. Last month, Republican senators voted unanimously to keep Ukraine aid from moving to a floor vote over the border issue, and now there is a contingent of Republicans who seem intent on torpedoing Lankford’s efforts.

One of them is McConnell’s previous number two, Sen. John Cornyn, who is taking a hard line in the talks on the president’s authority to provide immigration parole to people who have financial sponsors coming from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Haiti. These immigrants are not crossing at the southern border; they fly into the country. Cornyn and others want to severely restrict, if not end, Biden’s humanitarian parole authority. “We can’t fix asylum and then just have them release people on parole,” Cornyn told The Washington Post. “That would be a disaster politically, and otherwise.”

Other Republican senators like MAGA star J.D. Vance of Ohio are egging the House extremists on in their threats to shut the government down over immigration. “I think that we have a real fiscal crisis in our country, but I think the most significant crisis we have is what is going on at the southern border,” Vance told the Post. “And I encourage my Republican friends in the House to use all the negotiating leverage they can to solve this problem politically.” Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas will reportedly try to force a “no confidence” vote on Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in support of the House’s impeachment effort, which won’t advance in the Democratic Senate.

It seems like the most fervent Republican backer of Ukraine, McConnell, is following rather than leading his fellow Republicans at this point, going along with the demands from his hardliners on immigration. That’s a problem for the future of Ukraine, particularly with House Speaker Mike Johnson taking hard line on talks, insisting that the extreme House immigration bill passed last year is a “necessary ingredient” for the deal. He also moved forward with Mayorkas’ impeachment, despite the lack of cause.

When it comes to immigration, Johnson is catering to the Freedom Caucus. That group hasn’t backed off last week’s government shutdown threats over immigration, and are now even more adamant after Johnson’s agreement for a government funding deal with Schumer.

Hanging over all of this is Trump: Republican lawmakers’ fealty to him; his increasingly bombastic, Hitleresque immigration rhetoric; and his admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin. He would likely end all support to Ukraine and hand the country over to Russia if he got back into office.

The specter of Trump hangs over Congress and over Ukraine. There need to be enough Republicans willing to buck Trump for the bleak outlook for Ukraine aid—and thus Ukraine’s future—to improve.


House GOP kicks off a new year of dysfunction with another impeachment

Senate Republicans hand Putin a propaganda victory

Senate Republicans do Trump's bidding on Ukraine, immigration

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Congress wraps for the year, after giving Putin a Christmas gift

The Republican House got out of town in record speed Thursday morning with its last vote of the year, passing the final $886 billion defense policy bill agreed to by Senate and House negotiators earlier this month. The Senate cleared the bill Wednesday, so it’s off to the White House for President Joe Biden’s signature.

Speaker Mike Johnson is slinking out of D.C. without giving the traditional end-of-year press conference. He hasn’t had a stellar few months in leadership, having already pissed off the hard right in his conference, so it’s hard to blame him for avoiding the ritual listing of accomplishments. That and he hasn’t really had any to talk about, other than the impeachment circus. In contrast, ousted former Speaker Kevin McCarthy celebrated his last day in Congress with a photo line for members and staffers.

What that means is Congress will leave for the year without providing aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan because of Republican opposition. Senate Republicans have refused to consider the aid package, extorting extreme immigration concessions for their votes. They have been dragging out the negotiations, seemingly plotting with Johnson and House Republicans to ensure that the issue be pushed off to January. Once the House adjourned for the year, any agreement the Senate came up with couldn’t be passed anyway, Republicans argued.

That’s after Biden made an offer conceding to many of the Senate Republicans immigration demands. Nothing was in writing, and Republicans initially scoffed at the offer. The problem for Biden is that the delay means opposition to his immigration concessions can harden among Democrats. The 42-member Congressional Hispanic Caucus held a press conference Wednesday to voice their opposition and tell Biden to reject the Republicans’ demands.

“Republicans are pitting vulnerable groups against each other to strong-arm policies that will exacerbate chaos at the southern border,” said Caucus Chair Nanette Barragán of California. “We are urging the Biden administration to say no. Do not take the bait.” Barragán also pointed out that the “negotiations are taking place without a single Latino at the table, without a single CHC member at the table, and not even consultation or engagement with our Latino lawmakers.”

Sen. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico reiterated that issue in an interview with Punchbowl News. “I do not see any Latino or Latina advocates at that table who are part of this conversation that are shaping this policy,” said Luján, who has also expressed his concerns about Israel’s war in Gaza.

The only one who is happy right now seems to be Russian President Vladimir Putin, who crowed in a press conference Thursday that "Ukraine produces almost nothing today, everything is coming from the west, but the free stuff is going to run out some day, and it seems it already is.”

Merry Christmas, Mr. Putin, from your friends in the GOP.


White House engages on Ukraine/immigration stalemate

Zelenskyy meets brick wall of Putin-backing Republicans

Senate Republicans hand Putin a propaganda victory

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Zelenskyy visit highlights fraught week in Congress

If Congress sticks to its established schedule, this will be the last work week for the year, and it will be a consequential one. That’s particularly true for Ukraine, which is why President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been forced to drop everything and come to Washington, D.C., to plead for his country.

Zelenskyy will be in D.C. Tuesday, meeting with President Joe Biden, senators, and House Speaker Mike Johnson. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced the visit Sunday, saying the president’s meeting is intended to “underscore the United States’ unshakeable commitment to supporting the people of Ukraine as they defend themselves against Russia’s brutal invasion.”

“As Russia ramps up its missile and drone strikes against Ukraine, the leaders will discuss Ukraine’s urgent needs and the vital importance of the United States’ continued support at this critical moment,” Jean-Pierre’s statement concluded.

For Republicans, that message is likely to fall on deaf ears. CNN cites Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, who tweeted Sunday, “America has sent enough money to Ukraine. We should tell Zelensky to seek peace.” Seeking peace means Russian occupation of Ukraine, and Republicans making that argument damn well know it.

Speaker Johnson might be too preoccupied with moving the House toward a specious and utterly baseless impeachment to be swayed by Zelenskyy. Pursuing a formal impeachment inquiry is the last thing the House should be doing, especially this week, but it’s sitting there as a possibility on Majority Leader Steve Scalise’s calendar, with the Rules Committee expected to consider the resolution to authorize the impeachment on Tuesday.

Senate negotiators continue to work on Republicans’ extortion demands: Ukraine aid in return for permanent and extreme immigration measures. Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, a lead Democratic negotiator, said on “Meet the Press” on Sunday that he expects the White House to become more engaged but that “Republicans have to be reasonable” and relent to allow Ukraine aid in the next few weeks. “We're not going to solve the entire problem of immigration" by the end of the year, he said.

Zelenskyy’s intervention could help convince enough Republicans to fund his country’s war effort. And while that’s happening, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois and a group of fellow Democrats are demonstrating their ongoing commitment to real immigration reform. Over the weekend, they traveled to Guatemala to focus on the root causes of the surge in migration. “We cannot ignore the reality of the numbers and where they’re coming from,” Durbin told Punchbowl News. “We didn’t design the border policies for the volume of this nature. And we have to find a way, as painful as it may be, to bring some order.”

The other primary business slated for the week is finally passing the National Defense Authorization Act, the bill that sets the priorities and allocates the eventual appropriations for defense. As of now, the Senate is slated to pass it as soon as Wednesday and leave on Thursday for the holiday recess. That’s subject to change if something breaks on the Ukraine/immigration front. The House is likely to take up the NDAA under suspension of the rules, which would require a two-thirds majority vote, a move that would thwart the Freedom Caucus—which is officially opposed to it—from blocking it from reaching the floor under regular order.

However this week turns out, it’s setting Congress up for a very rough and contentious few weeks before the first government funding deadline of Jan. 19.


GOP impeachment resolution: A circus without substance

Senate Republicans hand Putin a propaganda victory

Ukraine Update: Trump, Putin prevail with Republican senators

White House warns of impending crisis in Ukraine assistance funding

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Markos and Kerry give their thoughts on what the country is facing in 2024. The Republican Party is running on losing issues like abortion and repealing the ACA—with no explanation of what they plan on replacing it with. Trump has a lot of criming to atone for, and the Republican platform remains set on destroying democracy.

ICYMI: Judge says woman can get abortion, Texas AG loses his mind

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is out of control

Only hours after a judge ruled to allow a Texas woman facing a nonviable, life-threatening pregnancy to seek an abortion, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton threatened hospitals and doctors with both civil and criminal penalties if they comply with the judge’s ruling.

When possible, Republicans have enacted some of the most extreme abortion bans, and Texas has among the worst. But cases like this one, which expose the GOP’s cruel and heartless attitudes toward women, have further galvanized national opposition to the bans. They’re also giving Democrats ammunition heaving into an election cycle with a generally favorable environment.

In fact, Paxton’s unhinged response is beyond absurd, and must be read to be believed.

More top stories

Venezuela is threatening war with Guyana, and the tankies approve

Here is everything you ever wanted to know about the next possible war, this one brewing in South America.

Gov. Tim Walz criticizes GOP's 'obsession' with strange and cruel issues

Yup. See the opening item above.

Carlson turns a sober warning of Russian threat into a false claim of extortion

Word is that Trump wants this propagandist as his running mate.

GOP impeachment resolution: A circus without substance

House Republicans seem hell-bent on moving forward with their sham “impeachment inquiry” against President Joe Biden, but they don’t even pretend to have a reason for doing so.

Senate Republicans hand Putin a propaganda victory

When Republicans aren’t busy inventing fake impeachments, they’re busy handing Russia and its murderous dictator Vladimir Putin propaganda victories.

This week’s most-read stories

  1. In late-night rant, George Santos shows he's determined to light the GOP on fire

  2. The Ziegler story gets more icky, but what it reveals about Republicans is just as bad

  3. Donald Trump is so thrown by his own shaky performance that he thinks it’s AI

  4. The Newsom-DeSantis debate did not go well. For Ron DeSantis

  5. George Santos was just expelled. Here's what happens to his seat

  6. Taylor Swift is Time's person of the year and the far right is big mad about it

  7. Justice Samuel Alito isolated in tax case he refused to recuse from

  8. White House has things to say as Speaker Johnson reverses course on impeachment inquiry

  9. The moment of reckoning: When DeSantis realizes Newsom just cleaned his clock

  10.  A House Republican tells the truth about the push to impeach Biden


More comics.

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Carlson turns a sober warning of Russian threat into a false claim of extortion

Speaking before Congress on Tuesday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned the House Foreign Affairs Committee that failing to stop Russia in Ukraine could mean much greater costs in the future. That included the possibility of deploying U.S. troops to Europe should Putin invade a NATO ally.

Republican representatives present at the event seemed to get it. As The Messenger reports, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul understood Austin’s warning. “If [Vladimir] Putin takes over Ukraine, he'll get Moldova, Georgia, then maybe the Baltics,” McCaul said following the briefing. He noted that the idea of more troops on the ground in Europe was “what we're trying to avoid."

However, by Thursday, fired Fox News pundit and Putin supporter Tucker Carlson had distorted Austin’s words into what Carlson insisted was an attempt at extorting further aid for Ukraine. Writing on X (formerly Twitter), Carlson claimed that Austin threatened to send “your uncles, cousins and sons to fight Russia” unless more money was handed over to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Not surprisingly, every word of this was a lie—a lie even Fox News has debunked.

Fox’s chief national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin responded that Carlson’s claim was “100 percent not true.” What Austin said was what many officials have said from the outset: Failing to stop Russia in Ukraine invites Putin to expand his ambitions to other countries in Europe.

None of the language that Carlson used in his post has been confirmed by any other source. That didn’t stop X owner Elon Musk from wading in to reply, asking Carlson, “He really said this?” to which Carlson replied, “He really did. Confirmed.”

Except no. Had Austin actually said this before a Republican-led House committee, Congress members would have emerged from the room boiling mad, and it would have been the major story of the day. They didn’t, and it wasn’t, because Austin never made the statement Carlson claims.

In May, USA Today produced a timeline of Carlon’s extensive love affair with Russia. It includes such highlights as Carlson claiming that American liberals hate America more than Putin and claiming that reporters interfered in the 2016 election more than Russia because they released “the Access Hollywood tapes.” And there’s this:

Carlson is now deliberately attempting to fuel conspiracy theories around U.S. support for Ukraine and weaken the Ukrainian military. As Carlson was posting his false claims, Austin was in Ukraine, where he spoke with Zelenskyy and informed him that no more assistance was forthcoming unless Congress appropriated additional funds.

Warnings like the one Austin delivered in Congress have been a constant feature of military analysis since the illegal, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24, 2022. As NATO Review made clear in July 2022, “Putin’s regime has chosen confrontation with the ‘collective West,’ irrespective of the costs for Russia itself.”

Russian leadership has threatened that the war will continue into Poland, the Balkans, and even Germany and the U.K. Putin wants to crush the West, write his name in the history books, and restore the Russian empire.

What Austin said isn’t extortion, or even controversial. If Putin is allowed to benefit from an illegal invasion, he will do it again. Right now, the Ukrainian army is doing an amazing job of smashing Russian forces and destroying thousands of tanks, armored vehicles, and aircraft. But they are fighting an enemy that vastly outnumbers them in manpower, equipment, and wealth. They cannot succeed without sustained assistance.

If he wins in Ukraine, Putin will next bring the war to an allied nation that the U.S. has sworn to defend using our own forces. The cost of that will be vastly greater than anything being provided to Ukraine and if Congress doesn’t act, that’s where the world is headed.

That’s not extortion: That’s the truth. And it’s why Russian state media is thrilled about what Republicans have been doing to block funding for Ukraine—and why Putin has sent his congratulations to Republicans for their work in blocking Ukrainian assistance.

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Today in Congress: Johnson’s inexperience showing; Ukraine stalemate continues

House and Senate negotiators reached agreement on a major defense and national security policy bill, the National Defense Authorization Act, on Wednesday. It’s likely to be the only legislative accomplishment they achieve before leaving for the the end of the year, if it does indeed pass. The bill authorizes nearly $900 billion in defense and national security, though it doesn’t include funding—it just directs where the eventual funding bill will be spent. What the new House-Senate conference report doesn’t do is overturn the Pentagon’s abortion policy or strip health care from transgender troops.

That’s enough to have members of the hard-right House, which loaded their version of the bill up with all those toxic provisions, howling and vowing to vote against the bill. The bigger problem in the House, though, is Speaker Mike Johnson’s bungling of another provision in the NDAA. The conference committee decided to add a short-term extension of the nation’s warrantless surveillance powers in the bill, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, after several misfires on the issue from Johnson.

In the course of the last week or so, Johnson has taken three different positions on getting that done. On Nov. 29, he said he wanted to include an extension of it until Feb. 2. Then on Tuesday of this week, he told the GOP conference that he would put two competing reauthorization bills—one from House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan and another from House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Turner—on the floor in a head-to-head matchup. Whichever bill got the most votes would be sent to the Senate. Punchbowl News reported that he had instructed the members of the defense authorization conference to keep the FISA extension out of the bill, and “got cheers from conservatives for this statement.” Then on Wednesday, he made a complete about-face, agreeing to include an extension of the surveillance powers until April.

That same day, Jordan’s committee passed his bipartisan overhaul of FISA in committee by a 35-2 margin. Jordan had every expectation of his bill passing and wanted it to go to the floor next week, as he thought Johnson had promised. That’s precisely the kind of indecision and flip-flopping that already has Johnson in trouble with his fractious caucus, and since they are all unappeasable, it’s not going to get any better for him.

The Senate took up the defense authorization on Thursday with the initial procedural vote, which gives Johnson the weekend to try to smooth ruffled feathers and get the bill done on their side next week, likely the last substantive thing that will happen before they leave for Christmas.

That’s the worry for Ukraine and other countries in need of aid: that the House will leave town before the Senate passes its $110.5 billion supplemental foreign assistance package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. There’s been no advance in the stalemate on that issue since GOP senators threw their border security tantrum Tuesday. It’s looking likelier by the day that the urgently needed aid for Ukraine is not going to be passed before the end of the year.

And when Congress returns in January, as Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington reminds everyone, they’re going to have to get serious about passing government funding. Her concern is that Johnson’s supposed fallback proposal—to just extend current funding until the end of the fiscal year—will end up being the default. "It’s dangerous and a non-starter," the Senate Appropriations Committee chair told Politico Wednesday. "Everybody needs to understand that it’s dangerous, and we can’t go there."

She’s right to be worried. The budget agreement that President Joe Biden and former Speaker Kevin McCarthy made back in May tried to avert just that eventuality by levying cuts if lawmakers extended funding with continuing resolutions. The $777 billion now budgeted for non-defense programs would plummet to $704 billion if regular funding bills aren’t passed.

Murray is also right to be worried that it’s Johnson in charge of figuring this out for the House. His combination of inexperience and arrogance makes him an unpredictable and dangerous negotiating partner.


Ukraine Update: Trump, Putin prevail with Republican senators

White House has things to say as Speaker Johnson reverses course on impeachment inquiry

The honeymoon is ending for Mike Johnson

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Sunday Four-Play: Zelenskyy seems skeptical that Trump will bring peace, and Mike Johnson lies

For a guy who’s supposedly a multibillionaire, Donald Trump sure spends a lot of his time scrounging for ha’pennies with which to stuff his gross, linty, panko breading–lined pockets. That reality was on lurid display this week as his real estate empire-cum-perpetual grift machine got flayed over and over during testimony meant to establish just how yuuuge a fraud he and his company really are—and always have been.

Would a really rich guy stiff his blue collar contractors? Would he sell tacky NFTs for $99 a pop to a heaving throng of marks who are still hoping their Beanie Babies recover their value? Would he sell mail-order steaks? And would he sell out his country and, by extension, the whole of Western democracy for the chance to build a big tower in a country led by a brutal, murderous war criminal

Trick question! He’d sell out his country for a week-old Wetzel’s Pretzel, and toss in Eric in his official Team CCCP banana hammock mankini.

No, Trump has been pretending. All along. Do you think Warren Buffett lies awake at night trying to figure out how to squeeze ever-more filthy lucre from his fawning fanboys? Of course not. But Trump does—because he apparently has to. And thanks to Trump’s ever-skeevy ambitions, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s interests are now reliably represented by a small-ish, but hugely significant, segment of the Republican Party.

In fact, while House Republicans have swiftly passed an aid package for Israel, whose military is already far superior to its enemy’s, it left out badly needed aid for Ukraine (while also offering a deficit-ballooning helping hand to America’s patriotic, hardly working tax cheats). New House Speaker Mike Johnson claims Ukraine aid is still on the agenda, but it’s hard to take him completely seriously given his recent skepticism on the issue, as well as his declaration that any bill authorizing new Ukraine aid should come with “conditions.”

So why are Republicans far more eager to help the ally that clearly needs less help than they are the largely overmatched ally that’s been bravely defending itself against a much larger imperialist aggressor, and doing so on behalf of the world’s liberal democracies? Because Donald Trump made loving Vladimir Putin fashionable. And why is that? Because he’s is a greedy, soulless prick who adores dictators. 

How do you like that? I buried the lede.

And now, on to the usual nonsense.

RELATED: Sunday Four-Play: GOP still deciding which fanatical, anti-American traitor to anoint as speaker


If this universe really is a simulation—and there’s a fair chance it is, frankly—I really regret buying the “Donald Trump is president” expansion pack. He’s ruined so many lives, after all.

Trump is fond of saying Russia would have never invaded Ukraine had he been president, but it seems far more likely that his lingering presence actually encouraged Pee Wee Putin’s Big Adventure—because Putin knew he had good friends in the USA to rely on if things started to go south. After all, Putin doesn’t need to defeat Ukraine and its president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy; he just needs to defeat Joe Biden. Then Trump will be able to pull the U.S. out of NATO, as he’d planned on doing all along, and end the war in 24 hours, as he’s promised. Of course, any “peace plan” would almost certainly be made on his good buddy Vlad’s terms. Putin would likely get all the territory he’s stolen from Ukraine, along with a 600-foot statue of Stalin peeing in the reflecting pool at the National Mall; Zelenskyy would get a some-expenses-paid weekend trip to Mar-a-Lago and double scoops of ice cream every night during his stay.

Zelenskyy appeared on “Meet the Press” with host Kristen Welker, and Welker asked him about a new NBC News report that U.S. and European officials have begun talking with Ukrainian officials about what peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia might look like

WATCH: @NBCNews reports that U.S. and European officials have quietly begun talks around Russia-Ukraine peace negotiations, but Zelenskyy says he is not ready to begin that dialogue with Putin.@ZelenskyyUa: "We can’t trust terrorists because terrorists always come back."

— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) November 5, 2023

WELKER: “President Zelenskyy, NBC News is reporting that U.S. and European officials have begun quietly talking to your government about what possible peace negotiations with Russia might look like to end this war. Have you personally been involved in these talks, and what’s the status of these talks?”

ZELENSKYY: “A lot of different voices around us, I’ve heard a lot of different voices and emotions and … a lot of different things, but as for me, I don’t have, for today, I don’t have any relations with Russia. And they know my position, that is the position of my country. That is the position of our people. We don’t want to make any dialogue with terrorists, and the president of the United States and Congress, bipartisan support, all of these people, they know that I’m not ready to speak with the terrorists, because their word is nothing. Nothing. We can’t trust terrorists, because terrorists always come back.”

Yeah, they do, don’t they? We’re learning that in this country, too:

This is the GOP's frontrunner for president.

— Republican Accountability (@AccountableGOP) November 2, 2023

Welker also asked Zelenskyy about Trump’s boast that he could end the Ukraine war in 24 hours. At the very least, Zelenskyy seemed skeptical. Feel free to either stare at this picture until you attain satori or, if you don’t have that kind of time, watch the following clip. Either way, you’ll get the gist.

WATCH: Fmr. Pres. Trump — the GOP front-runner — has said he could end the war in Ukraine in 24 hours. Ukrainian President @ZelenskyyUa responds: “If he can come here, I will need 24 minutes … to explain … that he can’t manage this war. He can’t bring peace because of Putin.”

— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) November 5, 2023

I won’t transcribe the entire clip, but Zelenskyy’s big takeaway is this: “If [Trump] is not ready to give [us] our independence, he can’t manage it.”

RELATED: Sunday Four-Play: The elephant in the room plops down on 'Meet the Press'


Republicans want to pass aid to Israel in the wake of Hamas’ terrorist attack, but they also want to make sure wealthy tax cheats can go on cheatin’. What to do? Oh, here’s an idea! Take $14 billion away from IRS enforcement, then pretend that saves the country money, even though it will actually blow another $12.5 billion hole in our budget. But hey, that deal looks pretty sweet to people who don’t pay attention—which includes most voters, unfortunately. After all, it’s easy to scare Americans by shouting “IRS!” Though somehow this video isn’t quite enough to make them shit fluorescent green armadillos till the heat death of the universe:

This is the GOP's frontrunner for president.

— Republican Accountability (@AccountableGOP) November 2, 2023

Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer joined George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” to discuss Republicans’ decision to play silly political games during a fraught moment in our nation’s—and the world’s—history.

After House GOP passes emergency aid package for Israel tied to cuts in IRS enforcement, White House deputy national security adviser Jon Finer tells @GStephanopoulos the move is “without precedent in recent history.”

— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) November 5, 2023

STEPHANOPOULOS: “Finally, the president’s request for aid to Israel and Ukraine and Taiwan and others appears to be the victim of a stalemate right now. House Republicans have passed aid to Israel tied to cuts in IRS enforcement. We have the Republican Leader Steve Scalise on the program next. What’s the president’s message to House Republicans?”

FINER: “I think the message is pretty clear, that it is not good for the United States, good for the region, or good for Israel to tie emergency assistance to Israel to what we consider to be essentially a partisan request for a way to offset that spending. … That is basically without precedent in recent history, and we don’t support it, and are urging the members of our party and the members of Congress from any party not to support it either.”

Well, maybe this particular outrage is unprecedented, but remember, Republicans have long since decided that taking hostages and threatening the economy while a Democrat’s in the White House are acceptable governing tactics. So yeah, shocking but not surprising. Like most everything the GOP does these days.


Ah, Mike Johnson. The new House speaker who’s basically just Mike Pence if you gave him a Howdy Doody wig and steeped him in beef broth for 20 minutes. Johnson appeared on “Fox News Sunday” with Shannon Bream and said some stuff. Spoiler alert: It was mostly lies and deflections. In other words, business as usual.

Wow. Mike Johnson on Fox News Sunday doesn't rule out voting against access to contraception but then says "I really don't remember any of those measures" when asked about his past votes against reproductive health care

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 5, 2023

BREAM: “I want to talk about some social issues. You’ve got a lot of critics who say that you’re wildly out of step with the American people. Let’s talk abortion first. One of the groups opposing you [Emily’s list] says this: ‘He wants a total abortion ban with no exceptions. He supported bans that would not only criminalize abortion but ban IVF treatments and common forms of birth control,’ and that you voted against access to contraception. Where are you on these issues? Is that an accurate assessment of where you are, because that’s not in step with the American people.”

JOHNSON: “No, Shannon, look, I’m pro-life. I’ve said very clearly I’m a Bible-believing Christian. I believe in the sanctity of every single human life. So I come to Congress with deep, personally held convictions. But guess what, so do my 434 other colleagues in the House. Everyone comes to Congress with their deeply held convictions. But the process here is that you make law by consensus, and I have not brought forward any measure to address any of those issues. Right now our priorities are funding the government, handling these massive national security priorities that we have and crises around the globe, and taking care of changing and reforming how Congress works. That’s what we’re going to do. Listen, prior to the modern time—until recently, actually—almost all of our nation’s leaders openly acknowledged that they were also Bible-believing Christians. This is not something that should cause great unrest, okay? It’s just that Washington right now, what you’re seeing, Washington and the … press corps are engaging with a leader who openly acknowledges faith and the foundational principles of our country. I think this a healthy discussion, but it doesn’t affect how we run Congress.”

BREAM: “To be clear, though, have you voted against fertility treatments and access to contraception? Would you?”

JOHNSON: “I don’t think so. I’m not sure what they’re talking about. I really don’t remember any of those measures. I am personally pro-life.”

BREAM: “But do you oppose [crosstalk] IVF?”

JOHNSON: “No, no, of course not. No, that’s something that’s blessed a lot of families who have problems with fertility. Of course that’s a great thing. I would support that. But again, these are not issues that are on the front of the agenda, and we can come with our convictions and we can govern in an accountable, transparent manner for the American people, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Okay, while my admittedly limited Googling has failed to turn up much on Johnson’s voting record regarding fertility treatments, he does have a pretty well-established record on birth control. Uhh ... he doesn’t like it. 

An Oct. 30 Rolling Stone article titled “House Speaker Mike Johnson’s Long Crusade Against Birth Control” laid out some of the gruesome details:

Johnson is known for being among the most anti-abortion lawmakers in Congress, and for railing against the use of “abortion as a form of birth control” before he was in office. But his statements and actions suggest he does not see much difference between abortion as a form of birth control and birth control as a form of birth control.

As a lawyer, Johnson worked on multiple cases representing plaintiffs who refused to dispense, counsel, or provide emergency contraception, which they considered to be abortion-inducing drugs. And as a congressman, Johnson has repeatedly voted against efforts to expand, fund, or protect access to birth control and other family planning services — including for members of the military.

While a certain, largely female segment of the Republican party has undertaken efforts to expand access to birth control in the wake of Dobbs, Johnson has not joined those efforts.

And—oh, lookee here—he joined 194 of his Republican House colleagues in voting against the Right to Contraception Act

So let’s take another look at his answer, shall we?

BREAM: “To be clear, though, have you voted against fertility treatments and access to contraception? Would you?”

JOHNSON: “I don’t think so. I’m not sure what they’re talking about. I really don’t remember any of those measures. I am personally pro-life.”

Wait, so that was just a … lie? But Bible-believing Christians never lie! Because lies make Baby Jesus cry

Ah, but don't worry about any of that. Johnson is focused on other priorities. And as we all know, people who’ve been on the job for less than two weeks never get around to doing anything else. The new bill requiring chastity belts for women living within a 500-mile radius of Jason Momoa will be taken up in late March at the earliest. So don’t worry your pretty little heads, ladies! Johnson won't get around to banning contraception until he’s finished screwing up a bunch of other stuff first.

RELATED: Sunday Four-Play: Mike Johnson is a skilled (as in sociopathic) liar, and the GOP still loves Putin


Wait, are Republicans still talking about impeaching President Biden? After that oily ferret orgy of a hearing they held in September? A hearing that was so bad, House Oversight Chair James Comer recently said they don’t want to hold any more hearings

Comer appeared on “Sunday Morning Futures” with Maria Bartiromo and tried to pretend that impeaching Biden is still a hot topic of conversation anywhere outside the musty pingpong room inside Marjorie Taylor Greene's head. 

Comer tells Maria Bartiromo he thinks Biden should be impeached but is leaving it up to Mike Johnson

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 5, 2023

BARTIROMO: “Based on what you know today, Congressman, should Joe Biden be impeached?”

COMER: “I think he should, but that’s going to be left up to the speaker. You know, people ask me why I haven’t put someone in jail yet. All I can do is investigate. The House of Representatives can determine whether or not to impeach, but at the end of the day we’re going to need an attorney general who does the right thing and prosecutes people according to the law and doesn’t have a two-tier system of justice.”

Actually, we probably need more than two tiers in our justice system—if only to accommodate Trump’s dozens of felony charges. But hey, if Comer can find a grand jury to indict Biden based on the fact that he loaned money to his brother and his brother—gasp!—paid it back, he’s welcome to test out his theory that Trump is the most unjustly persecuted individual in the history of whiny little snowflake toddlers.

If nothing else, it should be interesting.

But wait! There’s more!

That’s all for now! Hope you remembered to turn your clocks back and aren’t reading this one hour in the future. But if you are, please let the rest of us know if civilization survived.

Check out Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s four-volume Trump-trashing compendium, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.

The Ukraine War is core to our American domestic politics

I attempted to run this story last Thursday, but a nasty site bug ate most of it, so readers only saw the first couple of paragraphs. Normally, I go into comments to check reaction and note any corrections, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do so that day. So ultimately, the comments were full of confused “this is the shortest Ukraine Update ever!” Sorry about that. Unfortunately, Ukraine is still a big factor in our domestic politics and the original story is still timely, so we’re running it in full. 

It might not be obvious, but the war in Ukraine has always been an issue of utmost domestic importance to the United States.

Ukraine was at the center of Donald Trump’s first impeachment, and featured heavily in internal Republican machinations. Remember, the one change that the Trump camp made to the 2016 Republican Party platform was watering down support for Ukraine.

And then there are the strategic considerations. Russia is a big part of the reason that the United States’ defense budget is north of $800 billion … and fast approaching $900 billion. Not only does Russia’s battlefield defeat have budgetary implications, but it will inform whether we have to fight a hot war against either China or North Korea that would cost trillions of dollars, claim untold lives, and  destroy the world economy.

This is all quite clear to Democrats and old-guard Republicans. But Trump’s MAGA cult has lined up behind their authoritarian pro-Putin leader, rupturing the Republican Party and leading to a seemingly inevitable government shutdown at midnight on Sept. 30. [Edit: the shutdown was averted, but only after all Ukraine aid was stripped from the legislation.]

In my list of Republican presidential debate winners and losers Wednesday night, I listed Ukraine as one of the few winners. It started with the running of this excellent ad from Republicans for Ukraine:

It got even better when the moderators adopted the ad’s narrative when asking the assembled candidates about Ukraine.

“So, Governor DeSantis, let me go to you. Experts say President Putin has ordered assassinations across Europe, cheated on arms control treaties with the U.S., and seeks to work with China to force our decline,” former White House press secretary and debate moderator Dana Perino asked Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. “President Reagan believed that if you want to prevent a war, you better be prepared to fight one. Today the Republican Party is at odds over aid to Ukraine. The price tag so far is $76 billion. But is it in our best interest to degrade Russia’s military for less than 5 percent of what we pay annually on defense, especially when there are no U.S. soldiers in the fight?”

DeSantis, hack that he is, had nothing. “It is in our interest to end this war, and that’s what I will do as president,” he answered impotently, spewing empty words. “We are not going to have a blank check.” He then awkwardly pivoted to border border border. But it did open up the field to more forceful defenses.

“[O]ur national vital interest is in degrading the Russian military,” said South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott. “By degrading the Russian military, we actually keep our homeland safer, we keep our troops at home.” Former United Nations Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley added, “A win for Russia is a win for China.”

After tech bro Vivek Ramaswamy claimed that supporting Ukraine was “driving Russia further into China’s arms,” former Vice President Mike Pence made the obvious point that, “Vivek, if you let Putin have Ukraine, that’s a green light to China to take Taiwan. Peace comes through strength.” Remember, China and Russia declared they had a “friendship with no limits” right before Russia invaded. It would take an ignoramus conspiracy theorist like Ramaswamy, who has admitted to not knowing anything about foreign policy until six months ago, to think that supporting Ukraine would bring those two countries further together. They’ve been using the BRICS framework to try and balance out U.S. and Western power for years—since 2001, actually. China and Russia are already allies.

After that exchange, moderator and Fox Business host Stuart Varney teed up a softball for the rest of the pro-Ukraine candidates, asking, “[Former New Jersey Gov. Chris] Christie, President Biden’s first two years have brought China, Russia, and Iran closer together. Are we focused too much on Ukraine, and not enough on this threat from the new world order?” Christie smashed it out of the ballpark: “No, they’re all connected, Stuart. They’re all connected. The Chinese are paying for the Russian war in Ukraine. The Iranians are supplying more sophisticated weapons, and so are the North Koreans now as well, with the encouragement of the Chinese. The naivete on this stage from some of these folks is extraordinary.”

He wasn’t done. “And the fact of the matter is, we need to say right now that the Chinese-Russian alliance is something we have to fight against. And we are not going to solve it by going over and cuddling up to Vladimir Putin,” Christie added. “Look, Donald Trump said Vladimir Putin was brilliant and a great leader. This is the person who is murdering people in his own country. And now, not having enough blood, he’s now going to Ukraine to murder innocent civilians and kidnap 20,000 children.”

This isn’t hard. Ramaswamy is clearly trying to ingratiate himself with the MAGA seditionist crowd, so perhaps his willful ignorance makes sense. But DeSantis? This is one of the most momentous issues facing the world community today, and rather than deliver a forceful defense of the international rule of law and America’s clear interest in defeating Russia, he pulled a Trumpian “I’ll immediately bring peace” and tried to pivot to something else. His weakness permeates everything he does and says, and he can’t mask it with hateful attacks against trans and gay people. He is a small and scared man, and people see through him. That’s why he’s gone nowhere but down in the polls.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has been on an on-again, off-again merry-go-round on whether to include new Ukraine aid in the defense budget, and it is currently out. The House Freedom Caucus’ MAGA-aligned nihilists wanted it stripped out, but there’s no indication that they’ll vote for the clean spending bill anyway, so no one knows how things will proceed without cutting a deal with Democrats.

One person losing patience is Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who must really regret not impeaching Trump when he had the chance. “We’re lined up here against China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran,” McConnell said while speaking at the Center for European Policy Analysis think tank on Sept. 27. “That ought to tell you right from the beginning that you’re on the right side. If Putin is to win this, some NATO country will be next. And I think it’s a lot smarter to just stop this invasion, to push him back.”

It’s smart to message the new China-Iran-Russia-North Korea axis. The MAGA cult pretends that focusing on Ukraine and Russia somehow detracts from China, but they are all one and the same fight. Any future Chinese war against Taiwan would feature strong Russian support, if not outright participation. North Korea would similarly need strong Chinese and Russian support for any sustained war against South Korea.

It is U.S. and Western pressure, and the threat to China’s rickety economy, that is keeping them from overtly supplying Russia with military support. But make no mistake, those repressive expansionist regimes are all working to undermine Western democracies and national self-determination. And even if it refuses to provide direct (and overt) military aid to Russia, China has still offered a lifeline and sanctions evasion to keep Russia’s economy from completely collapsing.

At the other end of the Republican spectrum, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has gone off the deep end into nutso conspiracy land. “And over in Ukraine, Charlie, by the way we haven't even talked about this, the country that Mitch McConnell and Schumer and Lindsay Graham and Tom Cotton and everybody can't wait to give another 100 billion dollars to, Ukraine is one of the worst countries on the Earth for child sex trafficking and they're harvesting children's organs over there,” she said on Charlie Kirk’s radio show, amplifying one of the more bizarre Russian-spread conspiracy theories.

At some point, reason will likely prevail and Ukraine aid will pass through both chambers with overwhelming bipartisan support. But that doesn’t mean the issue will be domestically dead. Expect the MAGA crowd, fueled by an aggrieved Trump, to keep agitating against Ukraine and building more opposition to further U.S. assistance. How it plays in the 2024 presidential election remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t assume it plays to President Joe Biden’s advantage, particularly given how reluctant he and many of Ukraine’s European allies are to provide Ukraine everything it needs to win quickly and decisively.

Slow-rolling Ukraine aid hasn’t served anyone’s interests except for Russia’s, using the delays to further entrench itself in occupied territory.

Ukraine Update: The Ukraine War is a core American domestic political issue

It might not be obvious, but the war in Ukraine has always been an issue of utmost domestic importance to the United States.

Ukraine was at the center of Donald Trump’s first impeachment, and featured heavily in internal Republican machinations. Remember, the one change that the Trump camp made to the 2016 Republican Party platform was watering down support for Ukraine.

And then there are the strategic considerations. Russia is a big part of the reason that the United States’ defense budget is north of $800 billion … and fast approaching $900 billion. Not only does Russia’s battlefield defeat have budgetary implications, but it will inform whether we have to fight a hot war against either China or North Korea that would cost trillions of dollars, claim untold lives, and  destroy the world economy.

This is all quite clear to Democrats and old-guard Republicans. But Trump’s MAGA cult has lined up behind their authoritarian pro-Putin leader, rupturing the Republican Party and leading to a seemingly inevitable government shutdown at midnight on Sept. 30.