The Surge

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

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Surge, the newsletter Vladimir Putin doesn’t want you to read because … well, no particular reason. Just doesn’t like it very much.

This week, Joe Manchin’s love of fossil fuels is once again affecting major nominees and major legislation. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gave a skilled speech to Congress. A bill that would change time forever passed the Senate, maybe by accident? And it looks like next week’s Supreme Court hearings may go off the rails after all, hooray.

But first, let’s neener-neener at Mo Brooks and his very sad attempts to join the United States Senate.

Mo Brooks.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images.

Rank 1

1. Mo Brooks

The saddest timeline.

Let us lay out the sequence of events over the past five years of Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks’ efforts to get to the Senate, and the sadness of it all will speak for itself. In 2017, after Jeff Sessions quit the Senate to become Trump’s attorney general—that’s a whole other sad tale of obsequiousness—Brooks ran for the vacant seat. He came in third, in part because he had criticized Donald Trump strongly during the 2016 election. Never again. A few years later, he was a ringleader on behalf of Trump’s efforts to overturn the presidential election, a move that didn’t help with his legal bills but did get him Trump’s endorsement for the 2022 Senate race. Now, even with the endorsement, Brooks—whose monotone doesn’t make for an electric campaign presence—is still polling in third. This week, Trump suggested he might dump the “disappointing” Brooks. It’s because he doesn’t want to be associated with a loser, but he pretended it was because Brooks had waffled on his support for Trump’s stolen election theory. A couple of days after the interview, Brooks released a new ad observing how he “proudly stood with President Trump in the fight against voter fraud” on Jan. 6. It’s a direct attempt to get back in Trump’s good graces. But if his polling doesn’t go up, he’ll never get there. This is not a fun way to live one’s life!

Rank 2

2. Volodymyr Zelensky

Playing the game of Washington politics while also defending against the Russian army.

Winning Dancing With the Stars, dubbing Paddington 2, leading sitcoms, defending a country as the Russian army is trying to conquer it—what can’t this guy do? During his virtual address to Congress on Wednesday, Zelensky also revealed that he can play D.C. politics. After weeks of begging Washington to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine—aka risking an air war with Russia—and getting nowhere with leaders of either party, Zelensky made a more realistic ask. After restating his request for a no-fly zone, he said that if that “is too much to ask,” then “we offer an alternative”—a request for air-defense systems, like the powerful S-300 systems. New Jersey Rep. Tom Malinowski, a former diplomat, explained to reporters why this was a “brilliant” approach. “The point of the no-fly zone request is to make us feel guilty that we can’t do the no-fly zone, so that we work even harder on everything that we can do.” The U.S. is working on getting those weapons systems to Ukraine.

Rank 3

3. Marco Rubio

Was the daylight saving time bill supposed to pass?

Around lunchtime on Tuesday, your typically ho-hum Senate chamber quickly passed a bill by unanimous consent that would make daylight saving time permanent. It was a big win for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who’s been trying to pass this bill since 2018. But something seemed … off. Its passage was a surprise to most people in the Capitol, for one thing. Also, there is not actually unanimous support in the Senate for this policy change that everyone in the country would notice if it became law. In other words, it had communications screw-up written all over it. As BuzzFeed News reported, some senators who do have problems with permanent daylight saving time may not have been given the necessary heads-up from their staff that this unanimous consent request was coming to the floor and that they might want to object to it. Others hadn’t really ever thought about it? “It’s literally an issue my staff and I had never discussed, and they made an assumption that I don’t really care about daylight saving time,” Delaware Sen. Chris Coons told BuzzFeed. “And I don’t know if I do! I’ve never taken five minutes to stop and think about it.” The Senate is a slowing, grinding, deliberative wasteland for legislation. Unless staffers hide the ball from their bosses … and then anyone can pass anything—they can even change TIME.

Rank 4

4. Josh Hawley

The GOP opposition to Ketanji Brown Jackson sharpens.

Republican leaders don’t want to go too nuts over Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, whose confirmation hearings will be next week. The fate of the court is not in the balance, and the political winds are already at their back ahead of the midterms, so they don’t want to give Democrats talking points about treating the first Black woman nominee to the court with disrespect. But, as we outlined a few weeks ago, there’s a dynamic that could send these hearings off the rails. Several Judiciary Committee Republicans want to run for president and will be looking to show off. That began to play out this week, when Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley went on a tweetstorm citing opposition research to declare that Jackson goes easy on child sex offenders. This line of approach will escalate the proceedings quite a bit! White House press secretary Jen Psaki, when asked about Hawley’s approach, said that she was “not sure that someone who refused to tell people whether he would vote for Roy Moore is an effective messenger." These hearings could be a tediously petty and long couple of days after all.

Rank 5

5. Nancy Pelosi

Still very pissed about the COVID package.

Last week we wrote about how Pelosi was forced to cut a COVID response package from a broader government funding bill after numerous Democrats griped about the way it was paid for. This put her in a very unhappy public mood, and privately, it was much worse. She took out her frustration from that failure in a meeting with House whips and spoke about how people on “good committees” dared threaten to vote against the team on a key procedural vote. “I am really heated up about this!” she reportedly said. Part of the reason for the lingering fury is that a week later, she still doesn’t have a way to pass this $15 billion, and the administration is warning sharply that it will begin running out of supplies necessary to combat the next uptick in coronavirus cases. So … they need to find a way to pay for it that will please recalcitrant Senate Republicans and not anger House Democrats. Good luck.

Rank 6

6. Sarah Bloom Raskin

How to take out a threatening nominee.

The Senate has twice confirmed Sarah Bloom Raskin to top economic positions in the federal government without any drama whatsoever. This week, however, she had to withdraw her nomination as the Federal Reserve’s vice chair for supervision when it was clear her nomination didn’t have the votes. Republicans and their allies have many reasons to oppose elevating a regulator who knows what she’s doing to a top regulatory position at the Fed. What did her in, though, was a belief, as she wrote in an op-ed piece, that the Fed should steer its lending away from fossil fuel extractors. Republicans on the Banking Committee boycotted votes on Raskin’s nomination, stalling just long enough for West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin to come out against her. “Her previous public statements have failed to satisfactorily address my concerns about the critical importance of financing an all-of-the-above energy policy to meet our nation’s critical energy needs,” Manchin said in a Monday statement. He and Republicans have recommended a self-aware barrel of Brent crude as a confirmable compromise candidate, though ideally it wouldn’t be self-aware.

Rank 7

7. Joe Manchin

What if we do a climate bill but with more of a, say, climate-worsening hue?

Yeah, we’ve got more to say about this guy and his cherished friends, the hydrocarbons. A couple of weeks ago, he said he was open to a more tailored version of the bill formerly known as Build Back Better that would preserve its climate spending. But, he said, given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the package would also have to ramp up domestic oil and gas production. This week, Manchin moved the goal posts a little further, saying he was “very reluctant to go down the path of electric vehicles,” because “I don’t want to have to be standing in line waiting for a battery for my vehicle.” When he says stuff like this, it’s difficult for his already-burned Senate colleagues to believe he would ever accept a meaningful clean energy package, and also they probably figure they shouldn’t bother getting their hopes up again. “If it turns out to be, great,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told reporters this week. “Maybe it'll surprise me. But I've been burned by this stove enough times. I'm not going to grab it another time.”