Debt ceiling drama: Lawmakers leave DC with no deal, some progress made – National & International News – FRI 26May2023



Debt ceiling drama: Lawmakers leave DC with no deal, some progress made.

Texas lawmakers to vote on impeaching state’s attorney general.

Turkey: Erdogan leads ahead of Presidential runoff this weekend.



Debt ceiling drama: Lawmakers leave DC with no deal, some progress made

Congress ended its session yesterday and lawmakers have mostly returned to their constituencies for the holiday weekend. There’s still no deal on raising the debt ceiling, but some negotiating points have taken shape.

Compromises on some spending cuts for federal domestic programs have been reported. Some of these cuts will be backfilled by cutting $10 billion in spending for the IRS. Last year, Congress approved an $80 billion spending increase for the IRS to help the agency pursue tax cheats, which cost the US billions of dollars in lost revenue per year. Despite their focus on the deficit, Republicans have forcefully opposed any increased IRS enforcement.

According to reports, new eligibility requirements for foodstamps and other social programs remain a sticking point. Meanwhile, defense spending will actually increase.

The brinksmanship has already increased US borrowing costs, which will add billions to the deficit. The Fitch rating agency has also threatened to downgrade US debt, whether a default occurs or not. Political squabbles over honoring the country’s debts have shaken markets and consumer confidence. Fitch and other ratings agencies have urged the US to either do away with the debt ceiling altogether or to automatically raise it whenever spending is approved.

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Texas lawmakers to vote on impeaching state’s attorney general tomorrow

Yesterday, a Republican-led Texas House investigative committee voted unanimously to recommend 20 articles of impeachment against the state’s Attorney General Ken Paxton, a fellow Republican. The charges include bribery, unfitness for office, obstruction of justice and abuse of public trust. 

Paxton has been Texas’ Attorney General since 2014 and has won re-election twice. He is known for taking far-right hardline positions on highly visible and emotive issues like immigration, abortion, and LGBT rights. While his positions are largely in line with other Republicans, Paxton himself is a polarizing figure even within his own party.

Paxton’s tenure in office has been plagued with scandals including allegations of corruption and abuses of power. In 2015, a year after taking office, Paxton was indicted on charges of securities fraud, but he has yet to face trial. 

Final straw

Paxton’s conduct has been embarrassing for Texas Republicans who want to style themselves as the part of law and order. Nevertheless, most Republicans have either publicly backed Paxton while many have remained silent on the accusations.

The final straw for Republican legislators came recently when Paxton asked the legislature to pay off a $3.3 million civil judgement against Paxton. The money would have gone to four former aides in Paxton’s office who had sued him for wrongful dismissal. The aides were fired in 2020 after speaking out on Paxton’s corrupt dealings with Austin real estate investor Nate Paul, a major donor for Paxton. The aides alleged that Paxton used his office to interfere with a FBI probe of Paul’s business dealings. The accusations prompted a federal probe of Paxton, which is ongoing.

The Texas House has set a vote on whether to impeach Paxton tomorrow. If they vote in favor, there will be a trial in the Texas Senate, which could oust Paxton from office.

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Turkey: Erdogan leads ahead of Presidential runoff this weekend

Two Sundays ago, Turks went to the polls in a highly-charged atmosphere to decide who would lead the country for the next five years. The chief contenders were the incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan or newcomer Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

Erdogan has led the country for 20 years and has trampled democratic institutions to maintain his hold on power. His reign seemed set to end amid runaway inflation and following the government’s abysmal response to the earthquakes in February that killed over 50,000 people. Ahead of the elections, polls were predicting that Kilicdaroglu might unseat Erdogan. But Erdogan surprised everyone by capturing 49% of the vote to Kilicdaroglu’s 45%.

Since neither obtained 50%, a runoff will take place this Sunday. Polling in Turkey is very unreliable, but many now expect that Erdogan will prevail. Following Kilicdaroglu’s disappointing performance in the first round, much of the reformist zeal that had seized the country seems to have evaporated. 

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