Hello. It looks like you�re using an ad blocker that may prevent our website from working properly. To receive the best Tortoise experience possible, please make sure any blockers are switched off and refresh the page.

If you have any questions or need help, let us know at memberhelp@tortoisemedia.com

Sensemaker: End time for Bidenism

Sensemaker: End time for Bidenism

What just happened

Long stories short

  • Gavin Williamson reportedly told a senior civil servant to “slit your throat”.
  • Yevgeny Prigozhin, bankroller of the Russian mercenary Wagner Group, admitted interfering in US elections.
  • A new glass barrier successfully protected St Mark’s basilica in Venice from surging flood water.

End time for Bidenism

The midterms have become the mother of all checks and balances. The default outcome is a shellacking for the White House even though its occupant isn’t on the ballot, and polls suggest today’s voting will be on trend. It’s likely to mean

  • a Republican takeover of the lower House; 
  • gridlock in Congress;
  • two lame duck years for Biden; and
  • a more granular sense for Americans of how the end of Roe v Wade affects turnout on each side and whether Trump can win in 2024.

Biden’s term so far has been about plodding into headwinds. War, inflation and a continuing pandemic have narrowed his options. His Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is an historic piece of climate action but he couldn’t even call it that for fear of offending West Virginians. Insofar as these elections are a verdict on his performance it will be one of frustration. 

The Senate is a toss-up, but the Republicans have an 83 per cent chance of flipping at least five seats to win control of the House, according to FiveThirtyEight. Other pollsters forecast a 15-seat gain for the GOP. 

What would that mean?

Paralysis. Legislation has to pass in both chambers of Congress to become law. A Republican-controlled House would vote down most new laws proposed by Democrats. House Republicans can introduce new bills too, but Biden has a veto on new laws and efforts to repeal old ones.

Debt poker. Congress sets limits on what the government can borrow and the debt ceiling routinely has to be raised to fund administration plans. That doesn’t mean House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, in his new job as Speaker, wouldn’t use debt-ceiling negotiations to force funding cuts. He’s done it before, ten years ago, when Biden was Vice President. This time Medicare (expanded by Obamacare) and clean energy (incentivised by the $369 billion IRA) are thought to be on his hit list. 

Oversight. A Republican-led House could stymie implementation of the IRA by alleging wrongdoing, then using its control of the Oversight and Reform Committee to investigate it. Chairmanship of the committee is likely to pass to the Kentucky Republican James Comer, who claims the Democrats’ agenda has opened the door to “waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement”. Conspiracy theorists Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert both want spots on the Oversight Committee too. Expect partisan scrutiny of every federal department involved in enacting the IRA. 

Other investigations will be launched… 

  • Hunter Biden. Republicans want formal scrutiny of Joe Biden’s son’s business dealings in China and Ukraine. 
  • Immigration. Concern about migration across the southern border has been campaign catnip for Republicans, who plan to question Biden’s homeland security secretary so thoroughly he’ll need a “reserved parking spot” on Capitol Hill.

… and scrapped: 

  • January 6th. The committee running the investigation into the plot to overturn the 2020 election will be disbanded if Republicans take the House. 
  • Department of Justice. In the wake of the FBI’s raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, authorised by attorney general Merrick Garland, McCarthy told Garland to “preserve your documents and clear your calendar”. 

There’s also a possibility of impeachment efforts. Despite a lack of evidence of wrongdoing, Republicans have already filed multiple articles of impeachment against leading Democrats, including:

  • 9 against Biden;
  • 4 against Garland; and
  • against Vice President Kamala Harris. 

Staying up late?

House races to watch to gauge how it’s going for the Republicans include: 

  • Virginia – the 7th district was recently redrawn with a new map favouring the Democrats. If Republican candidate Yesli Vega wins against the Democrat incumbent it’ll be a strong sign for the GOP. 
  • Oregon – Mostly reliably blue, Oregon has a few key seats that could turn red. The 5th district is the most likely to flip: if Lori Chavez-DeRemer wins it’ll be the first time the seat has returned a Republican in 25 years. 

Trump says he’ll make a “big” announcement next Tuesday. 


Cyprus accounting

When Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine in February, the accounting firm PwC went beyond the legal requirements imposed by the EU, UK and US and imposed a “sanctioned anywhere, sanctioned everywhere” policy – a decision that had a particular impact on its Cyprus office given the country’s extensive links with Russia. In response, three partners left the firm and set up their own shop, Kiteserve, roughly half of whose clientele has links with Russia. The founders bought themselves out of the usual restrictions on hiring PwC staff, the FT reports, as well as a standard five-year hold on former partners selling tax and compliance services. Theo Parperis, Kiteserve’s managing partner, said the firm was “very selective”, complied with EU, UK and US sanctions and shouldn’t be “singled out”. 


New missile threats

If the West doesn’t strengthen Ukraine’s air defence systems urgently, Russia is likely to carry out the same bombing techniques it used in Syria and turn Ukrainian cities into rubble, according to a new report from the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi). Ukraine’s aircraft fleet is outnumbered and “technologically outmatched”: the only reason Russia’s air force has not carried out huge bombing raids is thanks to Ukraine’s surface-to-air missile systems. The report’s author; Justin Bronk, told the BBC what Ukraine really needs is modern aircraft, such as Nato’s F16 fighter or Sweden’s Grippen equivalent. But the West worries that sending such potent weaponry would cause further escalation. In the meantime, Russia has been firing long-range missiles that have destroyed 40 per cent of Ukrainian energy infrastructure. It reportedly plans to buy Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar ballistic missiles from Iran, which strike targets at much higher speeds and against which Ukraine has no defence. There is no time for complacency, Rusi says, or the Syrian nightmare will repeat across Ukraine this winter. 

Our planet CLIMATE AND geopolitic

Passing the buck

The concept of paying someone else to do the work for you isn’t new. But it also isn’t fair – especially when it comes to cutting emissions. Switzerland, one of the richest countries in the world, is paying poorer nations like Peru and Ghana to reduce their emissions and pass back the credit. Switzerland, which promised to halve its emissions by 2030, has acknowledged it won’t reach that target on its own; it already generates most of its electricity using renewable energy, making further cuts difficult. Instead, it has signed pacts with eight nations (and is in talks with three more) to fund energy efficiency projects and claim the resulting emissions cuts for itself. Such deals are dangerous, say critics, because they shift the responsibility of reducing emissions to the global poor – a particular sticking point at this year’s Cop, where one of the key questions is whether wealthy nations should compensate developing countries for climate damage. Read more in our Net Zero Sensemaker.

The 100-year life health, education AND GOVERNMENT

Pre-eclampsia pill

A once-daily pill that could reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia has become the first pregnancy drug to be awarded a special fast-track licence by the UK’s drug regulator. Pre-eclampsia affects around 8 per cent of pregnancies globally and kills up to half a million babies and 100,000 women every year, says the Guardian, and there are currently no therapeutic treatments. MirZyme Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company, has developed a drug that, when tested on mice, prevented organ damage in the mother and reduced foetal mortality, with no detected negative side effects. The company has now been awarded an innovative licensing and access pathway (ILAP), which was set up last year to help speed up delivery of Covid treatments. The pill will be offered to women considered at high-risk of developing pre-eclampsia and can be taken from the 20th week of pregnancy. 


Trans murders fall

Three hundred and twenty seven trans and gender-diverse people were killed worldwide in the year ending 30 September 2022, a decrease from 375 the previous year, according to research conducted by Transgender Europe. Nearly 70 per cent of these murders occurred in Latin America and the Caribbean, while Estonia and Switzerland reported their first cases with the murders of two migrant, Black trans women. The UK reported one murder. Despite a drop in the number of official reports, it’s believed the true number of trans people murdered is much higher. Transgender Europe said the numbers were a “small glimpse” of the reality on the ground, citing a lack of formal data collection in many countries. In the UK, the Telegraph has reported that Rishi Sunak wants to review rights for trans people in the UK under the 2010 Equality Act.

Thanks for reading. Please share this round, send us ideas and tell us what you think. Email sensemaker@tortoisemedia.com.

Ella Hill

Additional reporting by Giles Whittell, Jessica Winch, Nina Kuryata and Steph Preston

Photographs Getty Images

in the tortoise app today