They’re out of time, but he’s got the beer

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On the roster: They’re out of time, but he’s got the beer – Loeffler may challenge Biden win in Senate – Administration reels as hack attack revelations grow – Biden taps N.C. environmental chief for EPA – Wonder how he ever ended up divorced?

THEY’RE OUT OF TIME, BUT HE’S GOT THE BEER
We’re not saying that Congress has become totally unbearable, but now they’re popping cold brews on the House floor.

Or at least one of them is. The bro-tastic moment came from freshman South Carolina Congressman Joe Cunningham, a Democrat who sneaked in after a Republican crack-up when President Trump helped unseat Cunningham’s predecessor, Mark Sanford in the 2018 primary.

“For the betterment of this country, we have to come together, we have to sit down and listen to each other, and maybe even have a beer,” he said before reaching into his breast pocket and producing a cold one. “To the spirit of bipartisanship and cooperation. I raise this glass to my colleagues both Democrats and Republicans.”

We don’t know what the House rules are when it comes to suds on the floor – certainly we’ve seen members with BACs high enough to qualify as human open containers. Cunningham doesn’t have to worry, though, because he’s on his way out.

For the same reason, he doesn’t have to worry about saying out loud what is written on the hearts of most members as Congress struggles to meet even the low expectations it has set for itself this year.

As new unemployment numbers show, Americans are in serious trouble as they try to navigate a devastating increase in coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations. As the nation hunkers down for what may be many weeks of isolation over Christmas and into the New Year, the economic outlook is as cold as the offices of Scrooge & Marley.

With another 885,000 jobless claims last week coming on the heels of 893,000 the week before, there’s strong evidence that the nation is going to forgo the typical holiday-season boost.

The word from House and Senate leaders is that they are close to agreement on a deal to not just pass a yearly trillion-dollar stimulus package, but also a government funding bill that would run through the end of September. The stimulus deal sounds like it will include another round of checks, probably $600, for taxpayers, a $300 weekly goose for unemployment payments, another round of business loans as well as money for hospitals, schools and vaccinations.

We hear that negotiators are going to punt on the thorniest issues. Republicans will likely drop their demand for limits on coronavirus-related lawsuits in exchange for Democrats backing off demands for a funding pipeline for state and local governments.

It sounds like Trump is ready to sign off on the deal, despite calls from his nationalist wingmen in the House Freedom Caucus who want a veto on the funding side.

Here’s how things may go. We will likely soon see a short-short-term extension of government funds ahead of Friday’s deadline. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s top lieutenant, told reporters today that he hoped the extension “wouldn’t be more than 24 or 48 hours.”

In that scenario, lawmakers would hammer out their deal over the weekend and be done by the Monday of Christmas week. Weekend sessions make for good dealmaking because there’s less attention and less scrutiny. Remember, there’s overwhelming support for passage, but nobody wants to upset their primary voters.

Scenario two would push things closer to Christmas Eve with a longer stopgap funding measure. But either way, the signs from leadership in both parties say that this sucker is going to get done.

Here’s what we won’t know until after the Georgia Senate runoff and Congress’ confirmation of Joe Biden’s victory in the second week of 2021: Will this deal, brokered by a bipartisan gang, be a lame-duck one-off or be the template for how Congress works in the opening act of the Biden presidency.

If it is, you can bet Joe Cunningham will have a cold one waiting for his former colleagues.

THE RULEBOOK: MEASURE UP
“If we are to be one nation in any respect, it clearly ought to be in respect to other nations.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 42

TIME OUT: NEVER, EVER EVER?
Garden & Gun: “‘Never ever put soap in cast iron,’ warns Isaac Toups of Toups Meatery in New Orleans. In fact, Toups doesn’t even like to use water.  …many believe that soap suds remove the seasoning, or the layers of polymerized oil that have built up over years of use to create a smooth, protected, non-stick surface. … Katie Button, who helms Cúrate in Asheville, North Carolina, keeps an open mind on the subject. ‘If I’m cooking fish or something with a sauce that would impart flavor on the next dish, I do use soap,’ she says. ‘I just use a soft sponge and don’t scrub too hard, and then dry it thoroughly and oil it. But if I’m just searing a steak or something like that, I scrub it out with just water. And if I’m making a grilled cheese, I’ll just wipe it out and put it right back on the stove.’”

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GOT A WILD PITCH? READY TO THROW A FASTBALL?
We’ve brought “From the Bleachers” to video on demand thanks to Fox Nation. Each Wednesday and Friday, Producer Brianna McClelland will put Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt to the test with your questions on everything about politics, government and American history – plus whatever else is on your mind. Sign up for the Fox Nation streaming service here and send your best questions to HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM.

LOEFFLER MAY CHALLENGE BIDEN WIN IN SENATE
AJC: “U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler won’t say whether she’ll formally challenge President-elect Joe Biden’s victory when Congress convenes a day after twin Jan. 5 Georgia runoffs to decide control of the U.S. Senate. U.S. Sen. David Perdue won’t have a say even if he wins another term. The two Republicans have refused to acknowledge Biden’s victory and echoed President Donald Trump’s false assertions of widespread voter fraud. They’re under pressure not to alienate the president – and his loyal base – ahead of the high-stakes election. Shortly after she cast her ballot on Wednesday, Loeffler was noncommittal over whether she would join an effort by U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama to challenge Biden’s victory when Congress meets to formally ratify the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6. The effort is doomed to fail. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has congratulated Biden on his victory and told his GOP colleagues Tuesday that he wouldn’t back the push to circumvent the voter’s will.”

In new ad, Biden ties runoff to relief – The Hill: “President-elect Joe Biden released a joint ad for Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in the Georgia runoff elections, arguing that he needs a Senate majority to pass a COVID-19 relief package that has been struggling to move through Congress. ‘Georgia, I know things are tough right now. But I want you to know, help is on the way,’ Biden says in the 60-second direct-to-camera ad. ‘My administration is preparing to beat COVID-19 and get economic relief to the American people,’ said Biden, who added that he was prepared to sign a relief package on his first day in office. ‘Let me be clear, I need Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in the United States Senate to get this done,’ Biden said.”

Registrations rise – AJC: “Nearly 76,000 new voters registered in Georgia since before the presidential election, enough to make a difference in the U.S. Senate runoffs if they turn out. … These voters signed up before the state’s Dec. 7 voter registration deadline and are eligible to participate in the Jan. 5 runoffs that will decide control of the Senate. They’re overwhelmingly young, with 56% of them under 35 years old. Some are new Georgia residents; others just turned 18. None has a voting record in the state. In all, there are a record 7.7 million registered voters in Georgia. The 75,000 new voters signed up between Oct. 5, the deadline to register to vote in the November general election, and Dec. 7, the deadline for the runoffs.”

Ticket splitters key – FiveThirtyEight: “There weren’t too many of these split-ticket voters (Biden outran Ossoff by only 1.6 percentage points statewide), but as you can see in the map below, we have a sense of where Ossoff and Warnock need to make up ground: Suburban or well-educated areas, such as the Atlanta metropolitan area, including Fulton (where Biden did 2.8 points better than Ossoff), Cobb (2.4 points better) and Forsyth (2.1 points better) counties. … The fact that ticket-splitting was higher in upper-class white communities jibes with research by political scientist Ashley Jardina, who studies the individual voting behavior of white voters (though not specifically in the suburbs). Jardina told FiveThirtyEight that Trump’s culture-war appeals and handling of the COVID-19 pandemic have turned off many wealthy, white, traditionally Republican voters, which led some of them to not vote for Trump but to continue to support the GOP in down-ballot races.”

Trump Jr. gets in on the action – Fox News: “Donald Trump Jr. will hold his first in-person events of the Georgia Senate runoffs this week for Sen. David Perdue, adding himself to the long list of boldface political names to descend on the Peach State for the critical Jan. 5 races. Trump Jr. will hold a ‘Defend the Majority’ rally with Perdue, R-Ga., in Irwin County on Friday and will also campaign with the incumbent on Saturday. It is unclear if there are plans for Trump Jr. to campaign with Georgia’s other incumbent, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., but he has already appeared in television and radio ads backing both her and Perdue. The visit from President Trump’s son, who is rumored to have his own future political ambitions, will happen after Vice President Mike Pence stumps for Perdue and Loeffler [today].”

Legal battle already underway – Politico: “Federal judges in Georgia will hear arguments Thursday in Republican-led lawsuits to restrict absentee voting ahead of next month’s Senate runoffs — the first salvos in a GOP effort to change voting rules for future elections following President Donald Trump’s loss in 2020. Republicans have filed three lawsuits in the state ahead of the Jan. 5 runoffs, in which hundreds of thousands of people have already voted by mail or in person for races that will decide control of the Senate in 2021. The suits primarily target the use of drop-boxes to return absentee ballots, as well as aiming to raise the threshold for signature verifiers to accept absentee ballots.”

ADMINISTRATION REELS AS HACK ATTACK REVELATIONS GROW
Fox News: “Thomas Bossert, former Homeland Security adviser to President Trump, in a Wednesday op-ed said there is evidence that Russia is to blame for what he called a ‘brazen’ cyberattack on software company SolarWinds through cybersecurity company FireEye. The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) announced the foreign cyberattack involving SolarWinds Orion products, which is now under FBI investigation, on Sunday and directed all federal agencies to inspect their networks. A U.S. official told the Associated Press that Russia is a suspect in the attack that began as early as March. Russia denies any involvement. … The Department of Defense said Thursday it has found ‘no evidence of compromise’ in its information network. … For those targets that Russians now control, hackers will be able to alter or destroy data and impersonate employees, the former Homeland Security adviser said.”

Pence reportedly will bug out after confirming Biden win Politico: “On Jan. 6, Vice President Mike Pence will oversee final confirmation of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Then he’ll likely skip town. As vice president, Pence has the awkward but unavoidable duty of presiding over the session of Congress that will formalize Biden’s Electoral College victory — a development that is likely to expose him and other Republicans to the wrath of GOP voters who believe President Donald Trump’s false claim that the election was stolen from him. But Pence could dodge their ire by leaving Washington immediately for the Middle East and Europe. … Though Pence aides declined to confirm details of the trip, which remains tentative, a U.S. government document seen by POLITICO shows the vice president is due to travel to Bahrain, Israel and Poland, with the possibility of more stops being added.”

BIDEN TAPS N.C. ENVIRONMENTAL CHIEF FOR EPA
NYT: “President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will nominate Michael S. Regan, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, according to three people on the Biden transition team. Mr. Regan became Mr. Biden’s top choice only in recent days, two people familiar with the selection process said. The front-runner had for several weeks been Mary D. Nichols, California’s air quality regulator, but she faced significant criticism from liberal groups who accused her of not doing enough to address issues of environmental racism in her state. Mr. Biden also has been under pressure to make his cabinet choices more racially diverse. If confirmed, Mr. Regan [who is Black] is expected to bring a strong focus on racial equity to the agency.”

Biden picks first Native American to serve as interior secretary – WaPo: “President-elect Joe Biden has tapped Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland, a congresswoman from New Mexico, to serve as the first Native American interior secretary in a historic pick for a department that oversees the country’s vast natural resources, including tribal lands. A member of Pueblo of Laguna, the 60 year-old Haaland would become the first descendant of the original people to populate North America to run the Interior Department. It marks a turning point for a 171-year-old institution that has often had a fraught relationship with 574 federally recognized tribes. The first-term House member, who hails from a top oil- and gas-producing state, has pledged to transform the department from a champion of fossil fuel development into a promoter of renewable energy and policies to mitigate climate change.”

Insiders snipe at Dillon over ‘f—ers’ line – Axios: “Some advisers close to President-elect Joe Biden are frustrated over a Glamour magazine interview in which incoming White House deputy chief of staff Jen O’Malley Dillon referred to Republicans on Capitol Hill as ‘f–kers.’ Biden campaigned for the presidency by promising to ‘restore the soul of America’ and not to question the motives of political opponents, whom he insists aren’t enemies. Fighting words from a high-level staffer could give Republicans ammunition to cast doubt on Biden’s sincerity. After the Electoral College affirmed Biden’s victory on Monday, he promised to ‘turn the page’ on the campaign and ‘heal’ the country. Some donors want O’Malley Dillon, his campaign manager, to apologize — to Biden and perhaps to congressional Republicans.”

Dems confront hard reality about post-Trump judiciary – NYT: “As Democrats look to the incoming Biden administration to reverse much of President Trump’s work, the conservative imprint he has left on the federal courts is only deepening. Much attention in recent months has focused on the Supreme Court and its newly appointed justice, Amy Coney Barrett. But an analysis of decisions by the country’s appellate bench — where nearly all contested federal litigation ends — shows the transformation of the judiciary under Mr. Trump. Early this year, The New York Times reviewed more than 10,000 published decisions and dissents during the first three years of the Trump administration. It found that the president’s picks for the appeals courts were more likely than past Republican appointees to disagree with peers selected by Democrats, and more likely to agree with their Republican colleagues, suggesting they were more consistently conservative.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Education, not ethnicity plays a bigger role in shifting suburbsFiveThirtyEight

The Judge’s Ruling: ‘What it means to take Christmas seriously’Fox News

Trump admin announces $200M cut to California over abortion policy – The Hill

AUDIBLE: FEELING THE SQUEEZE
“I shook his hand and he gave me a hug and I got holy hell.” – Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., talking to the LAT about her interaction with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at Justice Amy Coney Barrett‘s confirmation hearings.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“This business of Congress arranging benefits and continuing resolutions to expire around Christmas allows our lawmakers to portray themselves as Santa Claus (and to label any opposing Representative or Senator as ‘Scrooge’). Why do we allow this nonsense to continue? Why is the American public so easily manipulated by “public servants” undeserving of the title? Is there anything we can do to restore order to Congress? I look at the 4 candidates in the runoff in my state and none of them, not one, give me an iota of confidence that they would do anything other than vote to continue the broken status quo.” – Michael Friend, Atlanta

[Ed. note: If only the Founders could have imagined how desperately people would wish to get into and remain in Congress. Their assumption was that congressional service would be both an honor and a hardship, and for quite a while that’s how it went. Prior to the 1890s, at least a quarter of members of the House chose not to seek re-election, with some years seeing half or more opting to retire. That number is now about 10 percent and never gets much higher. While there are some distinguished members who build impressive careers and rise to be national leaders, there are lots and lots of barnacles on the ship of state who just keep hanging around. While Americans used to turn out incumbents at a somewhat higher rate, the advantages of incumbency have been in place from the beginning. The voters didn’t change, the character and ambition of the lawmakers did. Imagine what would have to be wrong with a person to want to spend three or four decades just trying to get re-elected and then accomplishing almost nothing beyond the sort of mandatory drudgery and pointless hearings that consume most of Congress’ time. Gross. This is significant because if a lawmaker is primarily interested in keeping his or her job, he or she will not be much interested in taking risks. Add in our despicable primary election system and you have a recipe for disaster, which would be a kind way to describe our Congress these days. I do think you’re overstating the Santa stuff, though. Like the end of the federal fiscal year on Sept. 30, the end of the calendar year represents a cliff which must be jumped. It’s not that they could act sooner and cunningly wait for the end of the year. Thanks to a mix of cowardice and nincompoopery driven by the factors described above, they can’t act until there is a figurative gun to their heads.]

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WONDER HOW HE EVER ENDED UP DIVORCED?
Michigan Live: “A Grand Haven couple will have to pay for disposing of their son’s pornography collection. The only question is how much. David Werking, 42, sued his parents, Beth and Paul Werking, after they tossed out what a judge called ‘a trove of pornography and an array of sex toys.’ U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney in Kalamazoo granted the son’s request for summary judgment in his favor. The parties have until mid-February to file written submissions on damages. … His client had moved into his parents’ home in late 2016 after a divorce. After he left for Muncie, Indiana, he expected them to deliver his belongings. He later realized that a dozen boxes of pornographic films and magazines were missing. His father said in an email: ‘Frankly, David, I did you a big favor getting rid of all this stuff.’ The judge earlier rejected the parents’ request to dismiss the case.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“The idea that the world is an arena of unending conflict repels Americans. It means that a superpower’s work is never done.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in Time magazine on Oct. 22, 1990.

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. 

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.