The Surge

Slate’s guide to the most important figures in politics this week.

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Surge, a newsletter that counts as infrastructure and is critical to the infrastructure of the internet and as such should be given $400 billion in the upcoming infrastructure bill.

This week’s edition splits relatively neatly: We open with a look at the important developments with the few people who run the country and then take a relaxing stroll through Clown Town. Just when Chuck Schumer thought he had made a key stride toward allowing the Senate majority to govern, in waltzes Joe Manchin to say, eh. “Antifa Mitch” McConnell hates the corporations; no, he loves them. Former House Speaker John Boehner is preparing a large transfer of wealth from the bank accounts of MSNBC daytime viewers to the bank account of John Boehner. In hell (our planet, on which we live), Mo Brooks is probably going to be the next senator from Alabama and Marjorie Taylor Greene has so, so much more money than members of Congress who actually do their jobs.

But first, chilling news from the Senate, where Elizabeth “the Hammer” MacDonough has joined forces with Chuck “the Sickle” Schumer to unleash an era of Full Procedural Communism.

Chuck Schumer.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Bill Clark/Pool/Getty Images.

Rank 1

Last Week Up from last week #7

1. Chuck Schumer

Unlimited power! (-Ish.)

Last week, we wrote about how Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was bringing a case to Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, known most recently for tersely striking down Democrats’ hopes for a minimum wage increase in the COVID relief bill, that an obscure budget law provision would allow Democrats to use reconciliation—a filibuster-free process for passing budget-related legislation—more regularly. According to Schumer’s office, MacDonough’s response this week was … yes? YES?? Where’s the steely MacDonough that the Surge was trying to make into a running bit? Did she give Schumer a pony too? Hmm. Maybe it’s all a setup. By tempting Schumer to shoehorn more of the Democratic agenda into a budget process, MacDonough’s just setting herself up to adjudicate more of that agenda for compliance with reconciliation rules, to drop bombs left and right. The Hammer’s playing the long game here.

Rank 2

Last Week

2. Joe Manchin

Or maybe this continuous reconciliation agenda won’t happen.

For readers who hope West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s so far steadfast refusal to budge on eliminating the 60-vote filibuster is just a feint, well, the dude has just written a Washington Post op-ed in which he reiterates that “there is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster.” You can try to read wiggle room into that, but staring directly into the sun might be a more productive use of time. The op-ed, if anything, is even more stringent than that headline. “I simply do not believe budget reconciliation should replace regular order in the Senate,” he also writes. “How is that good for the future of this nation? Senate Democrats must avoid the temptation to abandon our Republican colleagues on important national issues.” In other words, he’s not on board with Schumer’s ploy to expand the use of reconciliation, and he’s not yet on board with moving infrastructure through reconciliation. He’s trying to shut down all of the procedural workarounds to force Democrats to the table with Republicans. We’ll allow ourselves to find some wiggle room in that, though, because he also writes that “Republicans, however, have a responsibility to stop saying no, and participate in finding real compromise with Democrats.”

Rank 3

Last Week

3. Mitch McConnell

Anti-corporate turns have gone more smoothly.

The Republican Party is all het up at corporate America. As more and more corporations speak out against Republicans’ restrictive new voting laws across the country, Republicans want the “woke executives” to know that they’re cruisin’ for a bruisin’. But bashing corporate America is a new language for a lot of Republicans. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, typically so exacting with his words, has been fumbling this week in unveiling his new brand as anti-corporate edgelord. In a Monday statement, he said that corporations would face “consequences” the more they waded into heated political matters outside their narrow economic purview. He expanded further on Tuesday, calling on corporate America to “stay out of politics,” saying that it’s “not what you were designed for.” He then added the following caveat: “I’m not talking about political contributions.” This shut-up-and-pay doctrine was so widely mocked that McConnell had to do some cleanup by Wednesday. “I didn’t say that very artfully yesterday,” he said. “They certainly are entitled to be involved in politics. They are. My principal complaint is they didn’t read the darn [Georgia] bill.” Look. What McConnell is trying to say is: Hey, corporations? Enough with the funny business! No, uh, scratch that. The leader believes in corporations’ right to the funny business, protected by free speech, maybe.

Rank 4

Last Week

4. John Boehner

The #Resistance book of the year, from the former Republican House Speaker.

Trump may not be president, but there’s money yet in anti-Trump literature. Next week, former Republican House Speaker John Boehner delivers his memoir. From the way it’s being marketed, it does not appear on its path toward becoming a bestseller the typical way Republican politicians’ books are: from conservative groups buying copies in bulk. Consider the snippets that have emerged so far. Last week, a clip of him ad-libbing “P.S. Ted Cruz: go fuck yourself” in the audiobook recording circulated. The first published excerpt, in Politico, was a section about how cuckoo his party and right-wing talk radio had become. Another early report found Boehner pinning the blame of the Jan. 6 insurrection squarely on Donald Trump, who helpfully fired back with a statement trashing Boehner. John Boehner, welcome to (the last-gasp cash grab of) the Resistance.

Rank 5

Last Week

5. Mo Brooks

But was it worth it? Yeah, duh, he’s going to be a senator now.

What might Boehner be talking about when he talks about the incentives for lunacy in his party? For a contemporary version, let’s look at Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, one of the most conservative members of the House. In the 2016 race, he didn’t endorse Donald Trump, saying he could never endorse someone “who I know to have such huge character flaws and who is dishonest.” He came around, as most of them did. But those quotes were weaponized against him in a 2017 special Senate election, in which he lost to Roy Moore. So when another Alabama seat was preparing to open up as Sen. Richard Shelby eyed retirement, Brooks abandoned whatever remaining self-respect he had and became the first Republican to say he would challenge the Electoral College results in Congress. On Jan. 6, he spoke at Trump’s rally, urging the assembled supporters to “start taking down names and kicking ass.” An insurrection ensued. When Shelby did announce his retirement, Brooks entered the Senate race to replace him. And this week, Trump endorsed Brooks. And that should more or less seal him up as the next senator from Alabama! (Especially as one of his perceived rivals, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, announced the same day that he wouldn’t seek the office after getting busted for lying about an affair.) So far there is no counterweight in red-state GOP politics to the fact that if you do whatever Donald Trump wants you to do, however stupid and dangerous, you are helping your career. Mo Brooks made what was unquestionably the correct decision for his political career in being one of the leading congressional enablers of the Capitol riot. Well hrmm how is that news? you savvy readers (bless you) ask. We don’t know. It just sucks!

Rank 6

Last Week

6. Marjorie Taylor Greene

Ooh, another example.

Marjorie Taylor Greene is a nutcase who’s entertained conspiracy theories about satanic pedophile cabals controlling the Democratic Party and Jewish space lasers causing forest fires and 9/11 being an inside job and school shootings being fake. Before she was in Congress, she harassed teen survivors of the school shootings she thinks could be fake and Muslim members of Congress who didn’t take their oaths of office on the Bible. Congress voted to kick her off of her committees, and she’s spent her time since annoying everyone by calling for tedious votes to adjourn at the beginning of the workday. And in the first three months of the year, she raised $3.2 million for her reelection, a sum that blows everyone else out of the water.

Rank 7

Last Week Down from last week #1

7. Matt Gaetz

Please give me a preemptive blanket pardon, for, uh, you know, the stuff that maybe my enemies would make up.

The Florida congressman continues to be under federal investigation for sex trafficking violations related to an alleged relationship with a 17-year-old. Just not a great situation, and now a trip to the Bahamas has brought in an international wrinkle. We might even go so far as to call this an actively bad situation for Gaetz, who denies any wrongdoing. What’s so odd is that someone who, by his own account, has only lived a good, clean life spent the last days of the Trump administration urging the former president to issue him a blanket, preemptive pardon for “any crimes he may have committed,” as the New York Times reported this week. Trump, however, didn’t end up issuing any preemptive pardons on advice of his lawyers. Gaetz played this all wrong. If he did something illegal, such as that which the Justice Department is investigating, he should have performed a citizen’s arrest on himself and quickly confessed to charges so that Trump could’ve issued the pardon. Ah, well, live and learn.