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On the roster: Trump edicts put pressure on Pelosi, not Senate GOP – Veepstakes at the finish line – Christie reprises role as Trump debate sparring partner – Will primary voters run to extremes Tuesday? – Bienvenido a Log 

TRUMP EDICTS PUT PRESSURE ON PELOSI, NOT SENATE GOP
The parts of the president’s unilateral economic stimulus that are constitutional would not be very effective and the parts that might be effective are not constitutional.

Of course, almost no one involved cares. If our leaders really cared about efficacy and constitutionality, we wouldn’t be in such a pickle – especially this particular dill chip.

The pressing question in Washington is about whether President Trump’s fiats will work in changing the politics of what had become the latest agony of 2020 for Republicans. Democrats had left a divided GOP holding the bag on the next stimulus package.  

Does this change the political calculus and/or make an eventual deal more likely? That depends on Senate Republicans.

Washington is again deep in a debate over which party will get more blame for probable failure of popular legislation. The last quarter of the Bush presidency, the Obama administration after 2010 and almost the whole Trump era have been dominated by these games of political hot potato.

If you have lived through the 2007 debt-ceiling shuffle, the budget sequestration and fiscal cliffs of the Obama-Boehner period, the Ted Cruz “defund ObamaCare” shutdown, Obama’s immigration power plays and the Trump border wall melodrama you know how these things go.

The advantage belongs to the side that has a) the ability to pass legislation and b) will be less disadvantaged when voters punish their leaders for failure. And Democrats were two for two on the current stimulus fight. They passed a behemoth bill in May and then got to watch Senate Republicans and the White House chase each other in circles for months.

The problem is that the White House is much closer on policy to House Democrats than Senate Republicans. President Trump’s re-election bid depends on an economic turnaround and growing public confidence as the fall begins. Democrats are always down for more federal spending, so aside from a few specifics, Trump and Nancy Pelosi are on the same philosophical page.

But it would be hard to put together a Senate majority on whatever cash gusher Trump and Pelosi could come up with. Certainly vulnerable Republican Senate incumbents would love a multi-trillion-dollar shot of election year economic adrenaline, especially one that came with some bipartisan bona fides. But there are more in the Republican conference who dislike deficit spending and bailouts for government workers, especially when the 2022 Senate primaries are right around the corner.

So facing the growing possibility that they will not be able to deliver on the largest area of concern to voters this year, both sides are trying to make the other the patsy with voters.

A system that bets on failure and then tries to exploit it… so weird that Americans hold their government in such contempt. 

Let’s mop up the administrations’ executive actions.

The big one is Trump’s order for the Treasury Department to stop collecting Social Security taxes from middle-income earners and the working poor. It’s written as a deferral in order to bolster the president’s claim to legitimacy here, but pretty clearly Trump is hoping employers will treat it like a tax holiday and boost employee net wages now. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t and maybe a court will reject the measure outright as executive dereliction.

The president’s most legally and practically sound order waives interest payments on student loans held by the government for the remainder of the year and allows borrowers to defer all payments until Dec. 31. It’s not a huge boost since the money will still be owed, but it is something and it is legal.

Then there’s the supplemental $300 payments for workers filing unemployment claims. Trump here proposes to take money appropriated by Congress for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to respond to natural disasters and give it to the unemployed. And there’s a catch beyond the dubious funding. To get the money, states have to agree to chip in an extra $100 for every recipient. It’s hard to imagine this one standing up given the implications. If presidents can raid existing funds to hand out free money during election years, we can pretty much say Congress is a moot point. 

(Remember when Republicans angrily claimed that Barack Obama bought re-election by giving free phones to poor people? Lolz.)

The final part of the executive suite is an order for officials who work for him to study whether it would be good for the federal government to forbid evictions of those who rent their homes. Trump could have done the same thing in a phone call, so this is the emptiest gesture of the four. 

Democrats have been alternately howling that the measures are massive executive usurpations but also somehow meaningless. What they really mean is that they’re not the only ones to forgo governing in favor of dubious, symbolic grandstanding. So, will it work?

There’s lots of pressure on Pelosi from vulnerable House members in swing districts and the candidates who are trying to expand the Dems’ House majority. They want to be able to point to a big legislative win, especially one that comes with another round of stimulus checks.

There’s plenty of pressure on Mitch McConnell, too. He’s got lots of members in trouble, all of whom would benefit from a pre-election infusion of cash into voters’ bank accounts. But he also has a majority of his conference that is basically opposed to deficit-ballooning, pork barrel spending, especially if Republicans believe the aid would go to big, Democratic cities and government workers.

Trump’s measures do indeed recalibrate the politics here. He has a stunt to match Pelosi’s one from May and she, with Chuck Schumer riding shotgun, already sound more eager to make a deal.

But the remaining question is still the same: What stimulus can Trump get Senate Republicans to back? 

THE RULEBOOK: SAME
“Complaints are everywhere … that our governments are too unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.” – James MadisonFederalist No. 10

TIME OUT: STRAIT TO THE TOP
The Writer’s Almanac: “It was on this date in 1519 that the explorer Ferdinand Magellan set off to sail around the world. Although he was Portuguese, Magellan had sworn allegiance to Spain, and he began the journey with a fleet of five ships and 270 men… After crossing the Atlantic, surviving a mutiny, and losing one ship, Magellan reached Brazil and turned south, following the coast until he came to a deep-water strait that separated the rest of South America from Tierra del Fuego. …Magellan became the first European to enter the Pacific Ocean from the east, and he’s the one who named it ‘Pacific,’ because it was much calmer than the Atlantic. … The fleet stopped off in what are now the Philippine Islands, where Magellan … was killed in battle in April 1521, and the remaining fleet continued on without him. They arrived back in Seville — down to one ship and 18 men — on September 8, 1522.” 

Flag on the play? – Email us at [email protected] with  your tips, comments or questions. 

SCOREBOARD 
NATIONAL HEAD-TO-HEAD AVERAGE
Trump: 40.6 percent   
Biden: 51.8 percent   
Size of lead: Biden by 11.2 points   
Change from one week ago: Biden no change in points, Trump no change in points   
[Average includes: Fox News: Trump 41% – Biden 49%; ABC/WaPo: Trump 44% – Biden 54; Quinnipiac University: Trump 37% – Biden 52%; NBC News/WSJ: Trump 40% – Biden 51%; Monmouth University: Trump 41% – Biden 53%.]  

BATTLEGROUND POWER RANKINGS 
(270 electoral votes needed to win) 
Toss-up: (109 electoral votes): Wisconsin (10), Ohio (18), Florida (29), Arizona (11), Pennsylvania (20), North Carolina (15), Iowa (6) 
Lean R/Likely R: (180 electoral votes) 
Lean D/Likely D: (249 electoral votes) 

TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 40.8 percent
Average disapproval: 56.8 percent
Net Score: -16 points
Change from one week ago: no change in points
[Average includes: Fox News: 45% approve – 54% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 40% approve – 58% disapprove; Gallup: 41% approve – 56% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 36% approve – 60% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 42% approve – 56% disapprove.]  

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 [email protected]  

VEEPSTAKES AT THE FINISH LINE
USA Today: “The week Joe Biden will announce his running mate has finally arrived. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Susan Rice, former national security adviser to President Barack Obama, have emerged as the top contenders. Either one would make history as the first Black woman to be a running mate. Biden, who has made it clear earlier he’ll choose a woman as his running mate, is also considering Rep. Karen Bass of California, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Rep. Val Demings of Florida, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois. … On Monday, more than 100 Black male leaders, including political activists, athletes and celebrities, such as rapper Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, signed an open letter saying Biden would alienate the Democrats’ most loyal voting bloc if he decides against choosing a Black woman. ‘Failing to select a Black woman in 2020 means you will lose the election,’ the letter said.” 

Could it get delayed again? – NYT: “Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign staff is making plans to introduce his eventual vice-presidential choice to key party constituencies. Donors are readying finance events featuring the still-unnamed running mate — ‘date and time to be announced.’ An in-person reveal is being discussed. But as the political world awaits his announcement, Mr. Biden himself has not appeared to be in a big rush — no surprise to those who know him well. His first self-imposed date for naming a running mate, around Aug. 1, came and went. The first week of August, another timeline he publicly floated, is nearly over, and an aide confirmed that an announcement would not happen this week. Mr. Biden has reached the final stage of his deliberations and is expected to name his choice shortly before the Democratic National Convention, which begins on Aug. 17. And while that is in keeping with the timeline of the two previous Democratic nominees, it is at odds with Mr. Biden’s own words.”

Biden’s choice matters in the big picture – AP: “But ahead of Joe Biden’s imminent announcement, this year could be different. At a minimum, the decision will shift the force of the campaign — at least temporarily — away from Donald Trump’s turbulent presidency onto Biden himself. That’s not a place many Democrats are comfortable given Biden’s proclivity for gaffes and the persistent lack of excitement behind his candidacy. More fundamentally, the choice offers Biden an unusual opportunity to unify a party still reeling from Trump’s 2016 win and solidify its future. He’s already committed to selecting a woman and is considering several Black women. And since the 77-year-old Biden has not committed to seeking a second term, his running mate could be strongly positioned to become the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee in 2024 and shape national politics for the next decade.”

Veep hopefuls enter the fundraising circuit – Politico: “But as the vetting process enters its final stage, there’s another lesser-noticed facet to the veepstakes: how much cash the contenders have raised for him, and their ability to juice donations if they’re chosen. Of Biden’s prospective running mates, Sen. Elizabeth Warren has brought in the most money for him, totaling more than $7.7 million combined from a high-dollar event — which she vocally swore off during her own campaign — and a grassroots event that drew 50,000 participants. … Sen. Kamala Harris — who headlined two fundraisers alongside Biden and appeared at several other events — has raised more than $5 million, according to a source familiar with the total. And Sen. Tammy Duckworth has co-headlined three fundraisers with Joe and Jill Biden, and appeared at other events, bringing in more than $3 million for the campaign. For the VP hopefuls and their donor backers, hosting events that generate eye-popping totals is ‘a flex,’ or a means of showing off their political muscle, said one Democrat affiliated with one of the considered running mate candidates.”

Biden hangs on to the past with Chris Dodd – NYT: “With the biggest decision of his long campaign life looming … he has tasked Mr. [ChrisDodd with helping to lead the selection process. The choice is about comfort and trust for Mr. Biden, his friends and allies say… Yet [Dodd’s] involvement in 2020 has also struck some Democrats as curious, at minimum, from the moment it was announced in April. As Mr. Biden pledges to name a woman to the ticket and works to convince progressive voters that he hears their calls for wide-scale change, he has elevated, in Mr. Dodd, a Washington uber-veteran long trailed by allegations of personal and financial indiscretion. … But in naming Mr. Dodd one of four selection committee co-chairs, Mr. Biden has also revived examinations of his friend’s own checkered résumé. This includes a politically damaging controversy over whether Mr. Dodd received preferential treatment on Countrywide loans. A Senate ethics panel cleared him of serious wrongdoing in 2009 but scolded him for not taking greater care to avoid the appearance of impropriety.” 

CHRISTIE REPRISES ROLE AS TRUMP DEBATE SPARRING PARTNER
Axios: “Two weekends ago, President Trump met with a group of his closest aides in the conference room of his Bedminster golf club to discuss a subject that has been weighing heavily on his mind: the three scheduled debates with Joe Biden. In the room with Trump were his son-in-law Jared Kushner, campaign manager Bill Stepien, senior adviser Jason Miller, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who role-played Hillary Clinton in Trump’s 2016 debate prep sessions. The team agreed to meet at least every 10 days or so between now and the first debate, according to two sources familiar with the results of the meeting. They resolved to keep the group very small. They may bring in different people based on subject matter expertise, but the group would remain five to six people to limit the potential for leaks. The group did not specifically discuss whether Christie will play Biden in debate rehearsals. But Trump has made private comments indicating Christie is likely to role-play Biden as he did Clinton. Trump has told associates that Christie ‘was better than Hillary’ and ‘harder to debate than Hillary’ in 2016.”

At N.J. fundraiser Trump says he’ll handle Iran ‘within four weeks’ if re-elected – Asbury Park Press: “President Donald Trump told supporters at a campaign fundraising event [in Long Branch, N.J.] Sunday that his administration ‘would have a deal with Iran within four weeks’ if he is re-elected in November, according to a video of his remarks. With the election now less than three months away, Trump touched down in Elberon Park in the Marine One helicopter shortly before 5 p.m. and traveled by limousine a short distance away to the Ocean Avenue home of the late Stanley Chera, a friend of Trump’s who died in April due to complications of COVID-19. Admission to the fundraiser cost supporters between $5,600 and $250,000, with perks including photo opportunities and a seat at a roundtable discussion with the president. Trump departed the event shortly after 7 p.m.” 

Trump says he will give political speech on government property – Fox News: “President Trump on Monday said his campaign has ‘narrowed’ the location for where he will deliver his presidential nomination acceptance speech to two locations — the Gettysburg battlefield in Pennsylvania or the White House. ‘We have narrowed the Presidential Nomination Acceptance Speech, to be delivered on the final night of the Convention (Thursday), to two locations – The Great Battlefield of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and the White House, Washington, D.C. We will announce the decision soon!’ Trump tweeted Monday. The president’s tweet comes after Fox News reported last week that his campaign was considering the possibility of having him deliver his convention acceptance speech on the South Lawn of the White House.” 

WILL PRIMARY VOTERS RUN TO EXTREMES TUESDAY? 
Roll Call: “Tuesday’s primaries could help define Democrats’ and Republicans’ ideological extremes in the House, with progressive freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar fighting a challenger in Minnesota and Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, a QAnon supporter who has filmed videos espousing bigoted ideas, in a close runoff for an open seat in the deep-red 14th District.  … Republican leaders in Washington rushed to condemn Greene when the videos surfaced in the weeks after Georgia’s June primaries. … But it is unclear how much sway that will have with voters in the 14th District, in the state’s northwest corner along the Alabama and Tennessee borders. Greene and neurosurgeon and business owner John Cowan are in a runoff for the Republican nomination to replace retiring Rep. Tom Graves. At the other end of the ideological spectrum, Rep. Ilhan Omar, a freshman Democrat in Minnesota’s 5th District, faces a well-funded primary challenger in Antone Melton-Meaux, an attorney who had slightly more than $2 million cash on hand as of June 30. Omar’s cash on hand for the period was about $1.1 million. In the deep-blue district, an urban hub that includes Minneapolis, the primary effectively decides the general election.” 

Kraushaar: ‘Why Iowa is the most important state on the political map’ – National Journal: “There’s no state that will serve as a better bellwether of the political environment this year than Iowa, a mostly rural, racially homogenous state featuring plenty of close congressional races. If President Trump loses further ground in the suburbs but maintains support with his white working-class base, Republicans should fare well in the Hawkeye State and maybe even pick up a House seat or two. But if the GOP’s collapse is all-encompassing, Trump is in danger of losing a political stronghold, and Democrats would be well-positioned to win a majority-making Senate seat. Polls show Iowa is as up for grabs as ever. … The state serves as a reminder that there are still persuadable voters in politics, at a time of rampant political polarization. Iowa features the largest proportion of Obama-Trump voters in the country, comfortably supporting Trump in 2016 after backing Barack Obama by a double-digit margin in the 2008 election.” 

Hawaii Dems pick Gabbard successor – Roll Call: “Hawaii state Sen. Kai Kahele is favored to be going to Congress after winning Saturday’s Democratic primary to succeed Rep. Tulsi Gabbard in the deep-blue 2nd District. Kahale, an airline pilot and combat veteran who spent the weeks before the primary deployed with the Hawaii National Guard, was leading a four-candidate field with 77 percent of the vote with 68 percent of precincts counted. The Associated Press called the race at 7:22 p.m. Hawaii time. … Kahele will face Republican Joe Akana, a business development consultant who had 44 percent in a nine-way primary with 69 percent of precincts tallied. The AP declared him the winner at 8:50 p.m. Hawaii time.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY 
Report: Children cases of coronavirus jumped 40% in late July – Bloomberg 

Melee on the Magnificent Mile as Chicago cops shoot it out with looters – Chicago Tribune

Johnson subpoenas FBI in review of Russia probe origin – Fox News 

AUDIBLE: POLITICS IS FULL OF BLOODSUCKERS 
“I will not be able to attend the campaign rally tomorrow morning. I will be getting a rabies vaccine as a precaution after having been bitten by a bat near the start of this campaign tour!” – Libertarian presidential nominee Jo Jorgensen tweeted on Friday. 

FROM THE BLEACHERS 
“No question here, but a big thanks for the civics lesson. I thought I was paying attention in class but the one state, one vote, must have slipped by me. The deadlines were also vague in my recollection. I’m saving this Halftime Report for future reference. In some ways I hope that this mess ends up going all the way to the bitter constitutional end, just so we all get a chance to be reminded that our framers were nothing if not prescient. Bitter divides and political horse trading were nothing new to them. I doubt this will shake loose anyone on either extreme end of the spectrum, but a slightly more engaged and constitutionally aware middle might go a long way in patching things up a bit. If more politicians and media outlets were forced to pander to the middle instead of the extremes, we may still have a chance. I can only hope that we find that this is just part of the cyclical nature of politics and we will heal from this just like we eventually recovered from the extremes of the 60’s. Of course we didn’t see many mayors and governors encouraging the SDS, but I still have faith in the sanity of the vast majority of Americans. Thanks again for the civics lesson, and soldier on.” – Cathrine McLaren, Fredon Township, N.J. 

[Ed. note: You clearly think like a journalist, Ms. McLaren. When I tell friends and family that I would love to see things like another election thrown to the House they look at me like I’m growing horns! But I would love to see the drama unfold. And in this case, you might be right that it would provide a great short course in American civics.

Share your color commentary: Email us at [email protected] and please make sure to include your name and hometown. 

BIENVENIDO A LOG 
Bloomberg: “The sometimes literal nature of automated translation programs has tripped up plenty of tourists — or in the case of Mexico, its entire tourism board. Operators of the Visitmexico.com website were left red-faced on Friday when the English version of the tourism information portal suddenly sprouted a series of comic or literal translations. Confusion escalated to the point where Mexico’s government issued an apology. … State names such as Guerrero and Hidalgo were rendered on the website as ‘Warrior’ and ‘Noble’ — proper English translations for Spanish 101, but not what would appear on a map or when doing a hotel search. As well as the curious but technically accurate translations, other mistakes weren’t so literal. The popular Yucatan resort town of Tulum was rendered as ‘Jumpsuit,’ while the town of Aculco appeared as ‘I Blame,’ and the city of Ciudad Madero became ‘Log,’ according to the Associated Press.” 

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES… 
“[Trump’s] needs are more primitive, an infantile hunger for approval and praise, a craving that can never be satisfied.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Aug. 5, 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.



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