Congress too tired to even fake it


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On the roster: Congress too tired to even fake it - Bipartisan rebuke for Trump’s Saudi stance - J.V. Last: What if Democrats have to impeach Trump? - Audible: At least it’s not just you - Costanza Claus 

CONGRESS TOO TIRED TO EVEN FAKE IT

We are usually among the last to complain about congressional industriousness.

Maybe there’s truth in what Gideon Tucker, a 19th century New York Democrat said, “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session.” We kid… mostly. 

It’s mostly that we have developed poor metrics for how to evaluate the effectiveness of the legislative branch. 

Somewhere in Washington right now an editor despairing at short staff and the stretch of slow news days ahead is right now encouraging a reporter to whip up a little ditty on how many bills the 115th Congress passed.

We’re not going to look because we do not care if this Congress passed 200 fewer or 300 more bills and resolutions than the one before it. We already know that this Congress was a failure because it was unable to take action on the issues that matter most to the country and are most urgently in need of attention. Whether they did that in more or fewer pieces of legislation doesn’t matter.

Conversely, you could have a wonderfully successful Congress that only passed a handful of bills. If this Congress had only dealt with immigration, health care or our federal debt alone you could easily call it a success if they only worked six weeks out of two years. 

All that having been said, it is particularly galling to see members of Congress leaving for a five-day weekend ahead of an all-but-certain government shutdown. Despite all of the hot words from both sides on funding the government and immigration, there will be no real business done in the House of Representatives until the evening of December 19th.

That will leave them just 30 hours until the government shutdown they seem intent on having comes to pass. 

Now, we should point out that government shutdowns ain’t what they used to be. The institution is a product of budget rules created by then-Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W. Va., in the 1970s. These automatic “shutdowns” were designed as a sanction for both the executive and legislative branches if they failed to pass a budget in a timely fashion. And until the mid-1990s, they were mostly treated as such. 

It was like a late fee on your credit card payment: To be avoided and minimized whenever possible. 

It was not until House Speaker Newt Gingrich and President Bill Clinton tried to “win” a shutdown in December of 1995 that we got to the current inanity. Since Gingrich was deemed to have “lost” the shutdown and since the solons of the punditocracy attributed Clinton’s 1996 re-election in part to the shutdown showdown, these were newly adjudged to be powerful political weapons. 

Given the national atmosphere for most of George W. Bush’s presidency, we didn’t see a repeat of this behavior, just a little funny business with the debt ceiling. But when the Republicans got back in power in Congress with a Democrat in the White House, they were determined to avenge their 1990’s defeat. 

Washington wasted most of its time during the Obama presidency fighting over penny-ante continuing resolutions, “budget sequestration” and fiscal cliff diving. Remember the trillion-dollar coin? *snort* What had been created as a punishment for excessive partisanship was made into a tool of excessive partisans. 

Even before Democrats had taken power again in the House this time, we have more of the same. These shutdown fights are not about policy and do more to allow lawmakers to avoid responsibility then they do to solve any problem at hand. 

The difference between $1.6 billion in border security versus $5 billion is chickenfeed for a government that spends more than $4 trillion a year. While they fight, the debt will hurtle past $22 trillion, a chaotic, confounding system of immigration will go unreformed and new doubts will stalk the customers of the American health insurance market. 

This is like two teams that can’t score a touchdown calling for instant replay review on the coin toss. 

The fact that House Republicans are leaving for a long, long weekend gives away how unserious our Congress and politics have become. We understand that this is a leverage play. By leaving so little time on the clock, House Republicans hope to jam up Senate Democrats (and Republicans) and force them to accept something they wouldn’t have with more time left to deal. 

But it’s really kind of insulting. If they expect us to pretend like what they’re doing is actually legislating, they ought to at least fake it. 

THE RULEBOOK: AIN’T THAT THE TRUTH 
“It will be forgotten, on the one hand, that jealousy is the usual concomitant of love, and that the noble enthusiasm of liberty is apt to be infected with a spirit of narrow and illiberal distrust.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 1

TIME OUT: TWINKLE, TWINKLE
Space.com: “Head for dark, clear skies tonight — overnight Dec. 13-14 — to see the shooting stars of the Geminid meteor shower overhead. The shower is likely to be the best meteor shower of 2018, and it will be visible in both hemispheres — though the Northern Hemisphere will have an advantage. While the August Perseid meteor shower is more famous, experts are saying to get outside for this one as well. ‘Maybe [it's less well known] because it's cold for so many during this shower's peak,’ Diana Hannikainen, Sky & Telescope's observing editor, said in a statement. ‘But the Geminids are often the best display of 'shooting stars' all year.’ According to Sky & Telescope, the Geminids are set to peak at 7:30 a.m. EST (1130 GMT) on Dec. 14, when Earth plunges through the thickest part of the trail of dust and debris left behind by the asteroid 3200 Phaethon as it orbits the sun. That means that the best times to watch are when it's dark in your local time zone surrounding that peak, such as just before dawn on Dec. 14. But if you won't be up in those early hours, you can also start watching a couple hours after sunset; the moon will set at about 10:30 p.m. local time on Dec. 13, and about 11 p.m. local time on Dec. 14, so just look after that on either of those nights.”

Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance 
Average approval:
 41.6 percent
Average disapproval: 53 percent
Net Score: -11.4 points
Change from one week ago: up 1.4 points 
[Average includes: Fox News: 46% approve - 52% disapprove; CNN: 40% approve - 53% disapprove; Gallup: 40% approve - 56% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 43% approve - 49% disapprove; IBD: 39% approve - 55% disapprove.]

BIPARTISAN REBUKE FOR TRUMP’S SAUDI STANCE 
USA Today: “In a historic bipartisan rebuke to the president, the Senate voted Thursday to force the Trump administration to end its military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. The 56-to-41 vote marks the first time the Senate has invoked Congress' war powers to challenge U.S. military involvement abroad. The dramatic step was both a condemnation of Saudi Arabia's execution of the Yemen war – which has killed thousands of civilians and created a humanitarian catastrophe – and the kingdom's role in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. … Senators also unanimously approved a separate nonbinding resolution naming Saudi Arabia's crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, as responsible for Khashoggi's death. The Washington Post columnist was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 by a team of Saudi operatives, many of whom have been tied to the crown prince.”

House, Senate come to terms on harassment rules - WaPo: “More than a year after the ­#MeToo era began, the House and the Senate reached a deal Wednesday to change their policies on sexual harassment and make lawmakers liable for their own misconduct in the workplace. The agreement was brokered after nearly seven months of negotiations between the two chambers and with just days left in the 2018 legislative calendar. Members involved in the talks predicted that the bill would be adopted quickly in both chambers and that the new rules would take effect before January, when the new Congress convenes. While exact legislative language was not released, the Senate Rules Committee confirmed that lawmakers will be required to reimburse the Treasury Department for settlements and awards resulting from harassment or retaliation they commit. Under the current system, settlements are paid for by taxpayers.”

Is there another round of retirements looming for House GOP? - Roll Call: “Life in the minority will be a new experience for most House Republicans next year. And many of them may not remember what happened the last time the GOP lost the House. After the 2006 Democratic wave, about two dozen Republicans opted to retire the following cycle instead of languishing in the minority. And some in the party are worried about a repeat. ‘I don’t know if people have gotten over the shell shock yet, but there ought to be,’ said Rep. Tom Cole when asked if there was concern about potential retirements. The Oklahoma Republican knows firsthand the costs of losing the majority. He chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee in the 2008 campaign cycle and was tasked with convincing Republicans in tough districts not to retire. Twenty-three members ended up choosing to leave. Convincing someone not to retire is a difficult, but important, sell — especially after a huge wave of GOP retirements in the 2018 cycle opened the door to Democratic victories last month. ‘We saw how devastating that was for us this year,’ Cole said. ‘Another round of that would be really bad.’”

J.V. LAST: WHAT IF DEMOCRATS HAVE TO IMPEACH TRUMP? 
Weekly Standard: “With a full weekend to digest the filings on Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort, the picture Robert Mueller’s investigation is assembling has come into better focus. And the news is not great for either Trump or Democrats. Why isn’t it good for Trump? Well, because Mueller continues to be disciplined and methodical and the list of things we now know is troubling. … But as a political matter, the Democrats are inching toward a difficult position, too. Because they don’t want to impeach Trump, but they’re slowly being pushed into a corner in which they may have no choice. And this could turn out badly for them. When I say that ‘Democrats’ don’t want to impeach Trump, I’m talking about Democratic elites. Democratic base voters are desperate to impeach him. Midterm exit polls shows 77 percent of self-identified Democrats saying they wanted to see Trump impeached. Professional Democrats, however, are much less keen on the idea. They understand that impeachment is at best risky and at worst suicidal.”

Trump seeks to discredit Flynn - N.Y. Post: “President Trump turned his ire Thursday toward ex-national security adviser Mike Flynn, charging that he too was ‘making up stories’ about the president to save his hide. ‘They gave General Flynn a great deal because they were embarrassed by the way he was treated — the FBI said he didn’t lie and they overrode the FBI. They want to scare everybody into making up stories that are not true by catching them in the smallest of misstatements. Sad!’ the commander-in-chief tweeted. … Flynn – one of Trump’s most ardent supporters, who’d led ‘Lock her up!’ chants about Hillary Clinton at Trump’s MAGA rallies – held the White House job for only 24 days.”

The Judge’s Ruling: Cohen’s actions ‘at the direction of the president’ - This week Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano writes: “The Department of Justice has accused President Trump of coordinating with, ordering and paying Cohen to commit a federal crime for which Cohen has pleaded guilty. Stated differently, career federal prosecutors who are not in the office of special counsel Mueller have told a federal judge that they have corroborated evidence that the president committed felonies. … Nevertheless, when the president learned of all this, the revelation of which had been authorized by his chosen but unconfirmed acting attorney general, he claimed that this submission, too, exonerated him. I was sorry to learn that.” More here.

PLAY-BY-PLAY
New Jersey Dems stage audacious power grabNYT

North Carolina Legislature passes bill mandating new primary in tainted House race - NYT

Inhofe dumps defense stocks after scrutiny Roll Call

Congress approves farm bill AP

AUDIBLE: AT LEAST IT’S NOT JUST YOU 
“If you’re elected, boy, people are p***ed off at you … [People] just decide [they] don’t like any of us, which isn’t a good state of affairs.” – Outgoing Rep. Ryan Costello, R-Pa., in an interview with Issue One on partisanship today.

BEST OF JOURNALISM 2018 
It’s time again for our annual year-end edition saluting the year’s best journalism, and we need your input. What stories stood out? Which journalists helped you understand the world in a better way? Who did it with integrity and an unflinching commitment to the truth? What about the ones who made you think or laugh? You can read last year’s winners here to get an idea of what we’re looking for. Share your suggestions with us by email at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM 

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

COSTANZA CLAUS 
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “When a fire alarm sounded during a holiday event in England, the Santa Claus on site burst out of his grotto, ripped off his beard and screamed at children to ‘get the (expletive) out,’ - prompting organizers to apologize to parents. The incident occurred Sunday in St. Ives, Cambridgeshire when an alarm at a nearby event caused an evacuation of the building. While parents and children were already evacuating, Santa Claus tore into the room and started causing havoc, a customer said on Facebook. ‘He came changing (sic) in, ripped his hat and beard off in front of 50 odd kids and started shouting and swearing at people to leave,’ the post said. The Santa incident prompted an apology from the event's organizers, who explained that the fire alarm had gone off in an unrelated family-friendly ‘rave’ taking place in the same building, and that Santa had merely been trying to help.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Given their arrogance, pomposity and habitual absurdities, it is hard not to feel a certain satisfaction with the comeuppance that Brexit has delivered to the unaccountable European Union bureaucrats in Brussels. Nonetheless, we would do well to refrain from smug condescension. Unity is not easy.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on June 30, 2016.

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.