WASHINGTON — With the midterm elections less than two weeks away, Republican candidates appear to be making gains in races for the Senate and House.
While holding on to control of the House was considered highly unlikely for Democrats, keeping control of the Senate appears now to be also dicey for the party.
The latest polls show Democrats who once had comfortable leads in some Senate races have seen their advantages evaporate and others that were considered toss-ups now lean Republican as high inflation persists.
Losing control of both chambers of Congress would profoundly change what President Biden could accomplish in his last two years of his current term, and he’d likely have to pull out his veto pen if the filibuster does not stop GOP initiatives in the Senate.
Control of the Senate could come down to the outcomes of six very competitive races. Those key races are in Nevada, Ohio, Georgia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Wisconsin. (None in Minnesota as its Democratic senators are not on the ballot this year.)
In what was billed as a “pep talk” at Democratic National Committee headquarters this week, Biden warned that a Republican congressional majority could force a government shutdown over demands for deep spending cuts, creating “chaos” and damaging the economy.
Emmer v. Tucker Carlson
Donald Trump, Jr. entered the fray in the highly competitive race for the No. 3 spot in the leadership of the House, attacking Minnesota’s Rep. Tom Emmer, one of three candidates for the position of majority whip.
Republicans are favored to take over the House in the general election on Nov. 8. While that hasn’t happened yet, the battle for the No. 3 position in the House Republican leadership has heated up. It’s the most competitive GOP leadership race as Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is expected to win the position of speaker of the House and Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., is expected to ascend from whip to majority leader.
Emmer, however, faces two tough rivals, Reps. Jim Banks, R-Ind., and Drew Ferguson, R-Ga.
Trump is backing Banks, and Trump, Jr. accused Emmer’s staff of planting negative quotes in a story in the Daily Beast about Fox host Tucker Carlson’s son, Buckley Carlson, who is the communications director for Banks.
Trump Jr. and Tucker Carlson, who called Emmer asking for an explanation, were angered by an anonymous quote in the Daily Beast story supposedly tied to Emmer who said Buckley’s hire is an example of Banks’ faulty MAGA support.
“Deep down, he (Buckley) dies to be liked by the establishment. He hires Tucker Carlson’s son, a 24-year-old kid, to be his communications director,” the unknown strategist said.
That brought a sharp response from the former president’s oldest son.
“Why did Tom Emmer tell his consultants to run to the leftwing Daily Beast to trash Jim Banks, Tucker Carlson and Tucker’s family? Does he really think that’s a winning strategy for a Republican House leadership race? Pathetic!” Trump Jr. tweeted.
Emmer’s team at the National Republican Campaign Committee, which he heads, have vehemently denied any involvement in the Daily Beast story.
“Chairman Emmer and his staff have never attacked any other members’ staff. Period,” said NRCC spokesman Michael McAdams. “These baseless accusations are meant to distract and divide Republicans. Our focus is on retaking the majority and firing Nancy Pelosi.”
According to Axios, Carlson phoned Emmer demanding to know who spoke to the Daily Beast “or the Fox host would assume Emmer himself was to blame for the quote.”
In any case, Emmer has drawn the wrath of the nation’s most powerful right-wing television show host as he battles to win the U.S. House for his party and rise in the ranks of GOP House leadership.
Emmer v. PayPal
Emmer, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, raised concerns about some of PayPal’s “terms of service” language saying in a tweet that it is “vague and seems like it could be weaponized to control speech.”
Republicans have criticized several social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook, of unfairly policing their posts for evidence of harmful disinformation.
Well, it seems that under its “terms of service” PayPal says it prohibits users from “false, inaccurate or misleading information.”
The company also said it will fine violators $2,500 per incident for violations, with the money taken out of a violator’s account. Furor ensued and the company quickly retracted that policy.
Emmer was one of several Republican on the House Financial Services and House Energy and Commerce Committees to send a letter last week to PayPal President and CEO Dan Schulman asking a number of questions, including how the policy originated, who approved it and whether the Biden administration was involved.
The GOP lawmakers gave Schulman a Thursday deadline to comply with what Emmer called their “investigatory letter.”
Omar: ‘Bad timing” of Ukraine peace letter
Facing political headwinds, the last thing congressional Democrats needed was for progressives in their party, including Minnesota’s Rep. Ilhan Omar, seeming to agree with Republicans like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy who suggested limiting U.S. military funding of Ukraine’s war effort.
Omar was one of 30 House progressives who signed a letter sent to President Biden this week urging him to “make vigorous diplomatic efforts in support of a negotiated settlement and ceasefire,” and “engage in direct talks with Russia.”
Biden had been pushing back against McCarthy, saying the only way Russian President Vladimir Putin could win the war is for the United States to weaken its support of Kiev.
So the letter written by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., the head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, seemed to undermine Biden’s hardline approach and provoked an immediate backlash from other Democrats.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., tweeted, “There is moral and strategic peril in sitting down with Putin too early. It risks legitimizing his crimes and handing over parts of Ukraine to Russia in an agreement that Putin won’t even honor. Sometimes, a bully must be shown the limits of his power before diplomacy can work.”
Omar said she had signed the letter earlier in the year when things were different in the war.
“This letter was drafted earlier in the summer, in response to reports that Ukraine was being pressured by Washington not to negotiate,” Omar said. “I have fully supported the president’s efforts to support Ukraine against Putin’s illegal war of aggression and will continue to do so.”
Anger in the Democratic caucus over the letter prompted Jayapal to retract the letter within 24 hours of its release.
“The letter was drafted several months ago, but unfortunately was released by staff without vetting, Jayapal said in a statement.
She said that because of the letter’s timing – it was sent on Monday – “our message is being conflated by some as being equivalent to the recent statement by Republican Leader McCarthy threatening an end to aid to Ukraine if Republicans take over.”
“The proximity of these statements created the unfortunate appearance that Democrats, who have strongly and unanimously supported and voted for every package of military, strategic, and economic assistance to the Ukrainian people, are somehow aligned with Republicans who seek to pull the plug on American support for President Zelensky and the Ukrainian forces,” Jayapal said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Meanwhile, Amanda Yanchury, spokeswoman for Rep. Betty McCollum, D-4th, the head of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, said the lawmaker will continue to support U.S. military aid to Ukraine.
“She’s (McCollum) a strong supporter of aid for the Ukrainian people and their fight for democracy” Yanchury said.