Finally Friday Reads: Crazy Arizona Woman brings more Chaos to CongressPosted: December 9, 2022 Filed under: just because | Tags: Kyrsten Sinema, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Power stations targeted, Trump Crime Wave, Welcome Home BG!!! 22 Comments
Good Day Sky Dancers!
Just when you thought the Republicans had cornered the market on crazy, weirdly-dressed women in Congress, Senator Kyrsten Sinema says hold my beer. The Arizona Republic features an op-ed written by the Senator this morning. “Sen. Kyrsten Sinema: Why I’m registering as an independent. Opinion: The Arizona senator explains why she has left the Democratic Party.” Every party needs a pooper, and I’m sure Chuck Schumer’s now singing that song about her.
In catering to the fringes, neither party has demonstrated much tolerance for diversity of thought. Bipartisan compromise is seen as a rarely acceptable last resort, rather than the best way to achieve lasting progress. Payback against the opposition party has replaced thoughtful legislating.
Americans are told that we have only two choices – Democrat or Republican – and that we must subscribe wholesale to policy views the parties hold, views that have been pulled further and further toward the extremes.
Most Arizonans believe this is a false choice, and when I ran for the U.S. House and the Senate, I promised Arizonans something different. I pledged to be independent and work with anyone to achieve lasting results. I committed I would not demonize people I disagreed with, engage in name-calling, or get distracted by political drama.
She’s obviously missed the part where Mitch McConnell caters obsessively to his base and donors and isn’t interested in anything else. The White House announced that their relationship with the Senator won’t change. It’s hard to miss the impact this will have on the next two years. At least Joe Manchin has stayed with the party to give them power while firmly rooted in his donors and self-interest. Given the recent results in the Arizona midterms, I wonder what she thought this move would do for her chances of reelection and finding campaign staff to work for her. I can’t imagine she’s not going to lose staff over this decision.
Aaron Blake has this analysis at the Washington Post. “The politics of Kyrsten Sinema’s party switch.”
Three days ago, we wrote about a few reasons the Georgia Senate runoff — and whether Democrats’ majority would grow to 51-49 — mattered, practically speaking. One of those reasons? The possibility of a party switch.
That has already come to pass: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) announced in a series of interviews, a video and an op-ed Friday that she will re-register as an independent. She becomes the first senator to leave her party since Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) in 2009.
Like Specter, Sinema looked set to face an arduous primary if she sought reelection with her former party, given the maneuvering of Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) to run against her. So the move makes some sense for her personally.
That sounds like she would effectively caucus with Democrats — that is, align with them for purposes of organizing the Senate — but for some reason is avoiding saying so directly. And she has said she’s not sure whether her desk will remain on the Democratic side of the Senate. Asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper whether her move would change the balance of power in the Senate, she responded, “that’s kind of a D.C. thing to worry about.”
This question doesn’t immediately matter when it comes to whether Democrats will retain the Senate majority, but it does matter. They will have at least a 50-49 edge as long as Sinema doesn’t caucus with the GOP. But if her plan is to leave the Democratic caucus, that would make Sen. Raphael G. Warnock’s (D-Ga.) win in Tuesday’s runoff potentially hugely significant.
Of course, we’ll never know what Sinema might have done if Warnock hadn’t won. At that point a party switch without caucusing with Democrats would have meant shifting the Senate majority to Republicans. (That has happened before; Vermont Sen. Jim Jeffords left the GOP to become an independent who caucused with Democrats 21 years ago, flipping the Senate majority.) Her calculus might have shifted in that scenario: However little Democratic support she’d get in a potential 2024 reelection bid, imagine her trying to appeal to any of the Democrats who elected her in 2018 after having handed the Senate majority to the GOP.
The first thing to note is that it remains unclear whether Sinema will continue to caucus with Democrats, as two other independents in the Senate do. When asked about this, Sinema spokesman Pablo Sierra-Carmona said merely that “she intends to maintain her committee assignments from the Democratic majority. She has never and will not attend caucus messaging or organizational meetings.”
So, did she just decide to be more annoying than Kari Lake and Blake Masters? Well, it did steal the Arizona headlines from Brittney Griner. Maybe she just needs to make it all about her today. Moving on to Brittney, who is now home with her family. We’re glad you’re home!
Brittney Griner returned to the United States early Friday, nearly 10 months after the basketball star’s detention in Russia made her the most high-profile American jailed abroad and set off a political firestorm.
Griner’s status as an openly gay Black woman, her prominence in women’s basketball and her imprisonment in a country where authorities have been hostile to the LGBTQ community heightened concerns for her and brought tremendous attention to the case. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine after her arrest complicated matters further.
The deal that saw Griner exchanged for notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout achieved a top goal for President Joe Biden. But the U.S. failed to win freedom for another American, Paul Whelan, who has been jailed for nearly four years.
Asked if more such swaps could happen, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that “everything is possible,” noting that “compromises have been found” to clear the way for Thursday’s exchange.\
Biden’s authorization to release Bout, the Russian felon once nicknamed “the Merchant of Death,” underscored the heightened urgency that his administration faced to get Griner home, particularly after the recent resolution of her criminal case on drug charges and her subsequent transfer to a penal colony.
Raw Story’s Travis Gettys reports, “Five power substations attacked in Pacific northwest similar to strike that caused outages in North Carolina. This is looking like a coordinated effort now.
The FBI is investigating at least five attacks on electricity substations in the Pacific northwest similar to one that caused widespread power outages in North Carolina.
Representatives from Puget Sound Energy, the Cowlitz County Public Utility District and Bonneville Power Administration confirmed the attacks took place in November, although the FBI declined to confirm the investigations and it’s not clear whether any of the damage resulted in service disruptions, reported the Seattle Times.
“BPA is actively cooperating with the FBI on this incident and has encouraged other utilities throughout the region to increase their vigilance and report any suspicious or similar activity to law enforcement,” said Douglas Johnson, a spokesman for BPA.
Johnson declined to give details about the equipment that was damaged, but he said a “deliberate physical attack” at a Clackamas, Oregon, substation damaged a fence and equipment over the Thanksgiving holiday.
A spokesman said two Puget Sound Energy substations were damaged last month but declined to provide details, and a spokeswoman said two Cowlitz County Public Utility District substations in Woodland, Washington, were damaged by vandals in mid-November but have since been repaired.
Republicans remain in disarray as they seriously underestimated their chances of a red wave and grabbing a good-sized majority in the House. CNN reports, “House Republicans brace for doomsday scenario if McCarthy falls short of 218 votes for speaker.”
As a right-wing faction threatens to tank his speakership ambitions, House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy delivered a promise: “I’ll never leave,” making clear he has no plans to drop out of the race even if the fight goes to many ballots on the floor.
“I’ll get 218,” McCarthy told CNN, referring to the votes he’d need to become House speaker.
But Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, a conservative hardliner who is challenging McCarthy to be the most powerful member of Congress, doubled down on his commitment to stop the California Republican’s ascension.
“I’m not bluffing,” Biggs told CNN on Thursday when asked if he would drop out.
With the increasing likelihood that the speaker’s race could go to multiple ballots – something that hasn’t happened since 1923 – McCarthy’s allies and foes alike are starting to quietly game out the next steps if he can’t get the necessary 218 votes on the first round and they move into uncharted territory.
McCarthy’s supporters are vowing to keep voting for him on multiple ballots, and GOP sources said there are early discussions about a floor strategy for that potential scenario, including whether to recess the House or let the votes keep rolling – no matter how long it takes.
To prevent that from happening, McCarthy and his team have been engaged in serious talks with a group of conservatives, including over potentially giving them influential committee assignments and more power to drive the legislative process. GOP sources said those negotiations are still early in the process and could ultimately end up giving the group some aspect of what the hardliners desperately want: additional power to seek a sitting speaker’s ouster with a vote on the floor.
Asked if he would drop out of the race if he doesn’t get 218 votes on the first ballot, Biggs refused to say.
“I’m not going to talk about hypotheticals,” said Biggs, who lost his conference’s nomination to become speaker last month after securing 31 votes.
But in the case of a doomsday scenario – where neither McCarthy nor Biggs can get 218 votes on January 3 and neither drops out – some pro-McCarthy Republicans are signaling support for a different approach. Some said they would be willing to work with Democrats to find a moderate Republican who can get the 218 votes to clinch the gavel – a long-shot idea that underscores the uncertainty looming over the speaker’s race.
The chickens are coming home to roost and shit on Donald Trump and his crime syndicate of a family. This is from The Washington Post. “Justice Department asks judge to hold Trump team in contempt over Mar-a-Lago case.”
Prosecutors have urged a federal judge to hold Donald Trump’s office in contempt of court for failing to fully comply with a May subpoena to return all classified documents in his possession, according to people familiar with the matter — a sign of how contentious the private talks have become over whether the former president still holds any secret papers.
In recent days, Justice Department lawyers have asked U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell to hold Trump’s office in contempt, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sealed court proceedings. The hearing is scheduled for Friday, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.
The request came after months of mounting frustration from the Justice Department with Trump’s team — frustration that spiked in June after the former president’s lawyers provided assurances that a diligent search had been conducted for classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago Club and residence. But the FBI amassed evidence suggesting — and later confirmed through a court-authorized search — that many more remained.
One of the key areas of disagreement centers on the Trump legal team’s repeated refusal to designate a custodian of records to sign a document attesting that all classified materials have been returned to the federal government, according to two of these people. The Justice Department has repeatedly sought an unequivocal sworn written assurance from Trump’s team that all such documents have been returned, and Trump’s team has been unwilling to designate a custodian of records to sign such a statement while also giving assurances that they have handed documents back.
I will end the Trump discussion with this piece from Susan Glasser at The New Yorker. “Trump’s 2024 Campaign So Far Is an Epic Act of Self-Sabotage. But is this really the end of an error?”
The official campaign for the 2024 Republican Presidential nomination is barely three weeks old, but there is one clear takeaway so far: Donald Trump is running against himself—and losing. From his low-energy announcement speech at Mar-a-Lago to his dinner with the Hitler-praising Kanye West and the white supremacist Nick Fuentes, Trump has courted more controversy than votes since launching his bid in November. He has held no campaign rallies and hired no campaign manager. He has hosted a QAnon conspiracy theorist and helped raise money for the indicted insurrectionists of January 6th. More classified items have been found in his possession, and his Trump Organization was convicted in New York of a major tax-fraud scheme. He has scared away neither prospective opponents nor prosecutors, and, while openly courting extremists, he seems to be running on a campaign platform that is somehow even more nakedly driven by self-interest than his previous two bids. Just last week, he suggested jettisoning the Constitution so he could be reinstated to the office he was thrown out of by the voters in 2020. “A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution,” he wrote in a post on his social network, Truth Social.
The fact that he actually put his objections to the Constitution in writing is a classically Trumpian flourish—one that seems more likely to be used against him in a court of law than to win him any support. In Georgia, when Trump’s handpicked candidate, Herschel Walker, lost the Senate race in a post-election runoff on Tuesday, Walker made a point of conceding his defeat and urging supporters to retain their faith in the legal order. “I want you to believe in America and continue to believe in the Constitution,” he said, in an implicit rebuff of his patron. You know things for Trump are bad when Herschel Walker, a man whom Georgia’s Republican lieutenant governor called “one of the worst Republican candidates in our party’s history,” has started rebuking him.
Since Walker’s loss, Republicans who spent the Trump Presidency lavishing him with public if often insincere praise have piled on as well, blaming Trump not only for inflicting Walker on the Party but for the G.O.P.’s generally bad performance in the midterms. No wonder the shifting conventional wisdom in Washington is that there’s no point in any of his potential Republican rivals formally jumping into the race anytime soon. Trump is doing more damage with his self-sabotage than any opponents could hope to inflict on him right now. Has there ever been a more awful start to a campaign?
Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene is still making a nuisance. This is from the Washington Post‘s Phillip Bump “There’s a reason Republicans didn’t want Greene on the trail.” She’s also been out insulting Lindsay Graham. All we need is Boebert News, and we’ve got the trifecta for crazy.
Enter Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). The fringe-right legislator appeared on the podcast of fringe-right commentator Stephen K. Bannon on Wednesday to identify a central cause for Walker’s loss: The GOP didn’t have Greene do enough rallies.
“Let me lay this out real clear for everyone to understand — and this is especially for the campaign consultants with the 30,000-foot view, where they look down on Georgia and arrogantly think they know how to win races in this state,” she said. “This is for [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell and [Sen.] Lindsey Graham and the rest of the Republican senators: You guys are the reasons we are losing races all over the country.”
“Let me let you know something, Steve,” she continued. “I was never asked, very often, by the Herschel Walker campaign to come speak at any of his campaign events. They only asked me to come to maybe two, I think? Two or three in my own district when he was campaigning all over the state.” She added that she found this “extremely insulting.”
It’s very easy after the fact to claim that your approach to a campaign would have resulted in victory. People do it all the time in politics; it’s like the guy who always knows how his football team could have pulled out a victory.
This little bit of gossip from Qwerty is wild. “Marjorie Taylor Greene blasts Lindsey Graham for “rudeness” and insulting her.” I recommend Graham lay low because MTG always looks like she’s ready for a wrestling match.
Appearing on the Steve Bannon War Room podcast, Greene whined about not having a more high-profile role in Walker’s campaign.
“This is for Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham and the rest of the Republican senators; you guys are the reasons why we are losing Republican races all over the country.
I am glad we have women in both houses of Congress and in major roles in the Biden/Harris administration. The Trifecta of Crazy, however, is getting far too much attention, and I think that’s what they’re after. I’m not suggesting women have to go back to floppy bow ties and suited skirts to be taken seriously, but a little professionalism and less drama would certainly be appreciated. Also, it’s not all about you ladies!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Tuesday ReadsPosted: October 5, 2021 Filed under: just because, morning reads | Tags: Debt Ceiling, Donald Trump, Fiona Hill, Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, Mitch McConnell, Russia, Vladimir Putin 25 Comments
A new book about the Trump Administration was released today, and this one is likely to be much more serious than the many gossipy Trump books that have preceded it. This one is a memoir by Fiona Hill, who served in Trump’s White House as a Russia expert and then testified in the impeachment hearings.
Here’s the New York Times review by Jennifer Szalai: In a Memoir, the Impeachment Witness Fiona Hill Recounts Her Journey From ‘Blighted World’ to White House.
The arresting title of Fiona Hill’s new book, “There Is Nothing for You Here,” is what her father told her when she was growing up in Bishop Auckland, a decaying coal-mining town in North East England. He loved her, and so he insisted that she had to leave.
Hill took his advice to heart — studying Russian and history at St. Andrews in Scotland, sojourning in Moscow, getting a Ph.D. at Harvard and eventually serving in the administrations of three American presidents, most recently as President Trump’s top adviser on Russia and Europe. “I take great pride in the fact that I’m a nonpartisan foreign policy expert,” she said before the House in November 2019, when she delivered her plain-spoken testimony at the hearings for the (first) impeachment of President Trump. But for her, “nonpartisan” doesn’t mean she’s in thrall to bloodless, anodyne ideas totally disconnected from her personal experience. She wrote this book because she was “acutely aware,” she says, “of how my own early life laid the path for everything I did subsequently.”
Sure enough, “There Is Nothing for You Here: Finding Opportunity in the 21st Century” weaves together these two selves, slipping back and forth between the unsentimental memoir reflected in its melancholy title and the wonkish guide promised in its inspirational subtitle. The combination, however unlikely, mostly works — though by the end, the litany of policy prescriptions comes to sound a bit too much like a paper issued by the Brookings Institution, where Hill is currently a fellow. When recounting her life, Hill is a lucid writer, delivering her reminiscences in a vivid and wry style. As much as I wanted more of Hill the memoirist and less of Hill the expert, I began to sense that giving voice to both was the only way she could feel comfortable writing a book about herself.
Looked at from afar, Hill’s story seems like a triumphant tale of striving and accomplishment. Born in 1965, she grew up in a “blighted world.” Her father followed the men in his family into the mines when he was 14; as the industry started to collapse in the 1960s, he found a job as a hospital porter. Hill’s mother worked as a midwife. As late as the 1970s, Hill’s grandparents lived in a subsidized rowhouse without “mod cons,” or modern conveniences, including indoor plumbing. Her grandfather had been pierced by the “windy pick” — the pneumatic drill — and had to wear a brace around his pelvis “to keep his battered insides in” for the rest of his life.
Read more about Hill’s early life at the link. Here’s a bit about her experiences in the Trump White House.
Instead of making the usual insider-memoir move of fixating on all the brazenly outrageous behavior — the bizarre comments, the outlandish tweets — Hill notices his insecurities, the soft spots that, she says, made him “exquisitely vulnerable” to manipulation. Yes, she writes, the Kremlin meddled in the 2016 election — but unlike the #Resistance crowd, which insists that such meddling was decisive, Hill is more circumspect, pointing out that Vladimir Putin wasn’t the force that tore the country apart; he was simply exploiting fissures that were already there.
Just as concerning to her was the way that people around Trump would wreak havoc on one another by playing to his “fragile ego” — spreading rumors that their rivals in the administration had said something negative about Trump was often enough to land those rivals on what the president called his “nasty list.” Hill says that watching Trump fulminate made her feel like Alice in Wonderland watching the Queen of Hearts, with her constant shouts of “Off with their heads!” In Hill’s telling, Trump’s norm-breaking was so flagrant and incessant that she compares him, in her matter-of-fact way, to a flasher. “Trump revealed himself,” she writes, “and people just got used to it.”
But neither Trump nor Putin — who was the subject of one of Hill’s previous books — is what she really wants to talk about. What she sees happening in the United States worries her. Economic collapse, structural racism, unrelieved suffering: Even without Trump, she says, none of the country’s enormous problems will go away without enormous efforts to address them. Hill the expert points to heartening examples of benevolent capitalism at work. But Hill the memoirist knows in her bones that the neoliberal approach, left to its own devices, simply won’t do.
I cannot wait to read this book. More articles about it to check out:
Yahoo News: Trump’s fixation was on Putin himself rather than Russia, says fmr. WH adviser.
Raw Story: Trump’s former Russia expert has a message for voters if he runs in 2024
Yahoo News: Fiona Hill says Trump was a national security risk because he was ‘so vulnerable to manipulation based on the fragility of his ego’
Financial Times: There Is Nothing for You Here by Fiona Hill — memoir from Trump White House.
Finally, Newsweek has an excerpt from the book: Donald Trump Called Fiona Hill ‘Darling,’ Thought She Was a Press Secretary.
In other news, we’re still facing the possible default of the United States leading to a global financial crisis. Jonathan Weisman at The New York Times: As the U.S. Hurtles Toward a Debt Crisis, What Does McConnell Want?
In March 2006, as the government veered dangerously close to a default, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the No. 2 Republican, let the Bush White House know he was two votes short of what he needed to raise the legal limit on federal borrowing.
Andrew H. Card Jr., then the White House chief of staff, began working the phones. He soon found two Democrats willing to break ranks and vote to put the legislation over the top. But Mr. McConnell was holding out for something else entirely, hoping to extract concessions from President George W. Bush as the price for uniting Republicans around lifting the limit.
“I don’t need your damned votes,” he snapped at Mr. Card. He lifted the debt ceiling with Republicans only.
Mr. Card never learned what the Senate leader wanted, but he tells the story for a reason: Mr. McConnell has long used the periodic need to raise the government’s borrowing limit as a moment of leverage to secure a policy win, as have leaders of both parties.
But two weeks before a potentially catastrophic default, Mr. McConnell has yet to reveal what he wants, telling President Biden in a letter on Monday, “We have no list of demands.”
Instead, he appears to want to sow political chaos for Democrats while insulating himself and other Republicans from an issue that has the potential to divide them.
Mr. McConnell has said the government must not be allowed to stop paying its debts; he has also said he will not let any Republicans vote to raise the limit, while moving repeatedly to block Democrats from doing so themselves. Instead, he has prescribed a path forward for Democrats: Use a complicated budget process known as reconciliation to maneuver around a Republican filibuster that he refuses to lift.
Asked what he wanted, that was his answer: “As I have said for two months, I want them do it through reconciliation.”
So what’s the problem then? Why don’t the Democrats just do it through reconciliation? Of course that is another problem, because Joe Manchin and Kirsten Sinema are standing in the way of the reconciliation bill. And what the hell do they want? A couple of reads on those two:
CNN: Manchin breaks with party leaders over strategy on debt ceiling and Biden’s economic package.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin on Monday pushed back on several politically sensitive positions his party leaders are taking at a crucial time for President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda.
The West Virginia Democrat, who holds a pivotal vote in the 50-50 Senate, indicated to CNN that he disagrees with the strategy top Democrats are pursuing in the standoff with Republicans over raising the national debt limit. Manchin said that Democrats “shouldn’t rule out anything,” including a budget process that Democratic leaders have made clear they will not employ.
Speaking to reporters, Manchin also would not commit to the new timeline set by party leaders to find a deal on the social safety net expansion by October 31. And he sounded resistant to calls from progressives and other top Democrats to raise his $1.5 trillion price tag for the package, which many in his party view as too low to achieve key policy objectives.
On Tuesday, however, Manchin did not rule out a $1.9 trillion to $2.2 trillion price tag for the social safety net package, a range Biden has floated privately. “I’m not ruling anything out,” Manchin said when asked by CNN if he would rule out that number.
In a stark warning sign to progressives, Manchin also indicated the package must include a prohibition against using federal funds for most abortions. “The Hyde Amendment is a red line,” he said. Manchin’s stance puts him at odds with progressives, with Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal saying Sunday she would not support a package that included the Hyde Amendment.
Read more at the link.
Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times: What’s Wrong With Kyrsten Sinema?
In 2003, Joe Lieberman, at the time one of the worst Democratic senators, traveled to Arizona to campaign for his party’s presidential nomination and was regularly greeted by antiwar demonstrators. “He’s a shame to Democrats,” said the organizer of a protest outside a Tucson hotel, a left-wing social worker named Kyrsten Sinema. “I don’t even know why he’s running. He seems to want to get Republicans voting for him — what kind of strategy is that?”
It was a good question, and one that many people would like to ask Sinema herself these days. People sometimes describe the Arizona senator as a centrist, but that seems the wrong term for someone who’s been working to derail some of the most broadly popular parts of Joe Biden’s agenda, corporate tax increases and reforms to lower prescription drug prices. Instead, she’s just acting as an obstructionist, seeming to bask in the approbation of Republicans who will probably never vote for her.
A “Saturday Night Live” skit this weekend captured her absurdist approach to negotiating the reconciliation bill that contains almost the entirety of Biden’s agenda. “What do I want from this bill?” asked the actress playing Sinema. “I’ll never tell.” It sometimes seems as if what Sinema wants is for people to sit around wondering what Sinema wants.
When Sinema ran for Senate, the former left-wing firebrand reportedly told her advisers that she hoped to be the next John McCain, an independent force willing to buck her own party. Voting against a $15 minimum wage this year, she gave a thumbs down — accompanied by an obnoxious little curtsy — that seemed meant to recall the gesture McCain made when he voted against repealing key measures of the Affordable Care Act in 2017.
But people admired McCain because they felt he embodied a consistent set of values, a straight-talking Captain America kind of patriotism. Despite his iconoclastic image, he was mostly a deeply conservative Republican; as CNN’s Harry Enten points out, on votes where the parties were split, he sided with his party about 90 percent of the time.
Sinema, by contrast, breaks with her fellow Democrats much more often. There hasn’t been a year since she entered Congress, Enten wrote, when she’s voted with her party more than 75 percent of the time. But what really makes her different from McCain is that nobody seems to know what she stands for.
Click the link to read more.
There’s lots more news out there. I’ll post more links in the comments. As always, this is an open thread.
Lazy Caturday ReadsPosted: May 29, 2021 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: Capitol insurrection, Filibuster, January 6 commission, Joe Mancin, Kyrsten Sinema, New England weather, raining cats and dogs, Senate Republicans 7 Comments
New England weather is insane!! Just a couple of days ago, it was in the 90s here. Now it’s raining cats and dogs and 46 (feels like 41). I had to turn the heat on in my apartment this morning! Memorial Day weekend is usually the first big weekend on the Cape, but I don’t think it will be that nice down there. The rain and cold is supposed to continue through Monday. On the plus side, it’s perfect weather for reading mysteries. Anyway, here’s what’s happening in the news.
As everyone knows, yesterday Senate Republicans blocked the bill that would have created a bipartisan commission to investigation the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
NPR: Senate Republicans Block A Plan For An Independent Commission On Jan. 6 Capitol Riot.
Bipartisan legislation to establish an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has failed in the Senate, as Republicans staged their first filibuster since President Biden took office to block the plan.
The final vote Friday was 54-35, but Republicans withheld the votes necessary to bring the bill up for debate. Just six GOP senators joined with the Democrats, leaving the measure short of the 60 votes needed to proceed.
The proposed commission was modeled on the one established to investigate the 9/11 terror attacks, with 10 commissioners — five Democrats and five Republicans — who would have subpoena powers. A Democratic chair and Republican vice chair would have had to approve all subpoenas with a final report due at the end of the year.
The House approved the measure 252-175 last week with 35 Republicans joining all Democrats in support of the plan.
But Senate Republicans, led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, were deeply skeptical of the commission in the days leading up to the vote.
McConnell had dismissed the proposal as a “purely political exercise,” given that two Senate committees are already looking into the events of Jan. 6. In remarks from the Senate floor Thursday, McConnell called into question how much more a commission would be able to unearth….
In remarks on the Senate floor after the vote, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., described the outcome this way: “[O]ut of fear of — or fealty to — Donald Trump, the Republican minority just prevented the American people from getting the full truth about Jan. 6.” He added: “Shame on the Republican Party for trying to sweep the horrors of that day under the rug because they’re afraid of Donald Trump.”
Joe Manchin was very upset about the vote, but he isn’t willing to do anything about the systemic problems that allowed a minority of Republicans to defeat the majority. Raw Story:
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) Friday afternoon after failing to help get at least 10 Republicans to join with Democrats to not filibuster a vote on a bill to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection, expressed frustration….
Manchin’s full remarks, which he made to Forbes’ Andrew Solender about Republicans voting to block the January 6 insurrection commission bill:
“This job’s not worth it to me to sell my soul. What are you gonna do, vote me out? That’s not a bad option, I get to go home.”
“If that’s what they wish. But I’m sure not going to sell my soul when I know what’s right. And this is right for us to start healing the country. You’ve got to get this commission.”
Manchin, who has also announced he will not support HR1/S1, the “For the People Act” to protect voting rights, has positioned himself as something of a powerbroker, given his conservative voting record (Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, is ranked more liberal than Manchin.) He absolutely has refused to allow the filibuster (which was designed to block civil rights legislation from passing during the past 99 years, and especially used during the late middle 20th century,) to be killed.
The Nation’s Justice Correspondent Elie Mystal notes “if the filibuster didn’t exist, the 1/6 commission would have gotten 10-15 Republican votes.”
The other Democratic roadblock, Senator Krysten Sinema, supposedly supports the commission, but instead decided to help kill it. The Arizona Republic: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema skips Jan. 6 US Capitol riot commission vote.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema skipped Friday’s procedural Senate vote on establishing a bipartisan commission to study the U.S. Capitol riot.
Senate Republicans, in their first use of the filibuster under President Joe Biden, blocked the legislation from proceeding.
It’s unclear why Sinema, D-Ariz., missed the vote, which took place Friday morning after Republicans forced an overnight marathon session involving separate legislation intended to bolster the U.S.’s competitiveness against China. She was last seen voting Thursday evening on the Senate floor on that legislation.
EJ Montini at The Arizona Republic: The way Sen. Kyrsten Sinema helped to kill the Jan. 6 commission.
Make no mistake, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema helped to kill the bill that would have created a commission to investigate the insurrection of Jan. 6, even though creating such a commission is something she supported.
Just last week Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia issued a statement urging Republican colleagues to vote for the commission.
Sinema and Manchin are staunch supporters of the Senate’s filibuster rule, which requires a 60-vote majority to pass legislation. They were hoping to get more of their Republican colleagues to reach across the aisle to help create a commission….
Essentially, even when there is a bipartisan majority of senators supporting a course of action – as 54 did with establishing a commission – a minority can keep it from happening.
The same fate awaits the For the People Act, a sweeping piece of legislation aimed at combating voter suppression laws being enacted in many state legislatures – including ours.
David Smith at The Guardian: Republicans’ blocking of the Capitol commission shows how deep the rot is.
The question now is not so much whether the Republican party can be saved any time in the foreseeable future. It is what Joe Biden and the Democrats should do when faced with a party determined to subvert democracy through any means necessary, including violence.
On Friday Republicans in the Senate torpedoed an effort to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the deadly insurrection by Donald Trump’s supporters at the US Capitol on 6 January, deploying the procedural move known as the filibuster to stop it even being debated.
Fearful perhaps of what such a commission might uncover about their own role as co-conspirators, most brushed aside personal pleas by Gladys Sicknick, the mother of a police officer who was that day sprayed with a chemical, collapsed and later had a stroke and died….
One of America’s two major parties now falls outside the democratic mainstream – think “far right” in European terms. But are Democrats taking the existential threat sufficiently seriously or sleepwalking towards disaster in the next election cycle? [….]
Minutes after Friday’s vote, the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, seemed to get it, arguing that Republicans acted out of “out of fear or fealty” to Trump and made his false claim of a stolen election their official policy. “Trump’s big lie is now the defining principle of what was once the party of Lincoln,” Schumer said. “Republican state legislatures, seizing on the big lie, are conducting the greatest assault on voting rights since the beginning of Jim Crow.”
But national voting rights legislation that would counter such steps is in deep trouble on Capitol Hill. Biden’s deadline for a police reform law named after George Floyd has come and gone due to Republican objections. His ambitious infrastructure investment is stalling as Republicans seek to shave billions off.
If Democrats can’t get rid of the filibuster, U.S. democracy may be in its death throes.
Michael Kranish, Mike DeBonis, and Jacqueline Alemany at The Washington Post: Democrats grapple with the enemy within: What to do about the filibuster rule that could kill their agenda.
On Friday, for the first time this congressional session, Republicans used the filibuster on a piece of legislation, killing the proposal to form a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the very institution in which they sit. A growing number of Democrats, a group that now goes beyond the liberal wing of the party, believe that if Republicans were willing to use the procedure to kill what once was considered an uncontroversial bipartisan idea, they won’t hesitate to use it on more contentious parts of President Biden’s agenda.
“If you can’t get a Republican to support a nonpartisan analysis of why the Capitol was attacked the first time since the War of 1812, then what are you holding out hope for?” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who is an advocate of reforming and potentially eliminating the filibuster.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) stressed that the filibuster was not in the Constitution, calling it an anti-democratic tool used to “block the will of the majority of the American people.”
“The framers of the Constitution built plenty of checks and balances into our system and they didn’t think we needed a filibuster — it’s a complete invention of the U.S. Senate,” Van Hollen said. “The greater danger to our country right now is our inability to get big things done.” [….]
But some Democratic senators, particularly those who won by narrow margins or are from states won by former president Donald Trump, insist that bipartisanship is not dead. Indeed, skepticism about flatly eliminating the filibuster goes deeper in the Democratic ranks than the much-noted opposition of Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.). Members such as Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said they are dismayed at Republican obstruction, but also believe that the specter of gridlock has been exaggerated by those pushing for rules changes.
“We’re not even six months into this administration. We’ve already passed a major bipartisan bill on hate crimes. We’re about to pass another major bipartisan bill that will address research and innovation,” said Shaheen, referencing bills regarding attacks on Asian Americans and competition with China, while also saying she hopes for bipartisan support for an infrastructure plan. “I think it’s an important message for the American people to see that we’re going to work together in the best interests of the country.”
The result is a party impasse over how to handle the filibuster, which has alarmed activists and lawmakers who fear Democrats are fumbling a make-or-break moment with the midterms and the threat of losing control of Congress looming.
That’s just a brief excerpt. The whole article is well worth reading.
As Senate Republicans and one Democrat were killing the bipartisan commission, the DOJ criminal investigation continued.
CNN: Prosecutors announce fresh charges against ‘Maga Caravan’ leader, others in January 6 insurrection.
The self-proclaimed leader of the “Maga Caravan,” which led dozens of vehicles to Washington, DC, to a rally held by former President Donald Trump, was charged with allegedly being one of the first insurrectionists to assault law enforcement at the US Capitol, the Justice Department announced.
Kenneth Joseph Owen Thomas, 38, of East Liverpool, Ohio, was arrested in Alabama this week for federal charges that include assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers; obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder; and engaging in physical violence on Capitol grounds. Thomas made his initial court appearance in the Northern District of Alabama Wednesday, prosecutors said. He has not entered a plea and information about his attorney was unavailable on Thursday….
Investigators, in documents supporting Thomas’ arrest, describe how he convened the caravan of nearly 60 vehicles around midnight of January 6 to listen to speakers Mike Lindell and Michael Flynn, who were both parroting false accusations of election fraud.
Thomas identified himself in an interview with a local news station as “Pi Annon,” according to the criminal complaint. He later uploaded the videos from the insurrection, including one of the interview to his personal YouTube page where his display name is “Joseph Thomas,” according to the criminal complaint.
Body camera footage from Washington, DC’s Metropolitan Police Department allegedly showed Thomas “advancing toward a line of law enforcement and pushing against their shields … punched and struck the officers with his fist and forearm at least twice,” according to a news release. Law enforcement officers later confirmed the attack and stated the individual in the interview “was one of the first to come in and start hitting [and] pushing officers on the line,” prosecutors said.
Adam Klasfeld at Law and Crime: ‘2 If By Sea’: Oath Keepers Messages Shed New Light on Alleged Plot to Storm D.C. With Guns by Way of Potomac.
Hours before Senate Republicans killed an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6th siege, federal prosecutors disclosed communications about how Oath Keepers allegedly plotted to storm Washington, D.C. with guns by boat by way of the Potomac River.
Those discussions became public in a filing seeking to maintain the strict pretrial release conditions of Oath Keepers member Thomas Caldwell, whom prosecutors allege organized a group of militia members on “standby with guns in a hotel across the river.” In the brief, prosecutors also alleged that a message from the militia’s leader described a “worst case scenario” where former President Donald Trump “calls us up as part of the militia to to assist him inside DC.”
Pulling a line from one of the immortal verses of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the extremist group’s Florida chapter leader Kelly Meggs allegedly imagined the militia members as the modern day equivalent of their American colonial forebears.
“1 if by land,” Meggs allegedly wrote in an encrypted message on the group’s Signal channel, quoting Longfellow’s 1861 poem “Paul Revere’s Ride.”
“North side of Lincoln Memorial,” Meggs’s message continued, according to the government. “2 if by sea[,] Corner of west basin and Ohio is a water transport landing !!”
The alleged Oath Keepers plot to ferry heavy weapons across the Potomac River on a boat was previously reported by the New York Times in February, but prosecutors first made new evidence supporting that claim public on the day Trump’s Republican Party blocked independent scrutiny into the attack.
According to the government’s eight-page brief, the 65-year-old Caldwell allegedly answered Meggs’s call by asking a member of another militia group about procuring a boat for their so-called “quick reaction force,” or QRF.
Read the rest at the Law and Crime link.
That’s it for me today. I’m going to curl up with a good book. I hope you enjoy the long weekend, whatever your weather!
Tuesday Reads: Today’s Blizzard of NewsPosted: November 13, 2018 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Amy Totenberg, arlington cemetery, CNN, Dana Rohrabacker, Donald Trump, Emmanuel Macron, Harley Rouda, helicopters and weather, Jim Acosta, Kyrsten Sinema, Marine One, Matthew Whitaker, Stacey Abrams, Ted Olson, veteran's day 22 Comments
We’ve gone through two years with an unfit, incompetent “president,” but I don’t know how much longer we as a country can deal with this quickly worsening situation. Thank goodness the Democrats won the House and will be able to exert some control over this maniac beginning on January 3, 2019. In the meantime, the government is likely going to continue getting more dysfunctional; and every day we’re hit with so much news that it’s impossible to process all of it.
As comic relief, I’m illustrating this post with photos of dogs’ facial expressions when they’re getting treats. Click the link to Vieler Photography to learn more.
Here is some of what’s going on today.
Robin Wright at The New Yorker: Trump Completes a Shameful Trip to Paris, Just as He Needs the Global Stage.
In unrelenting rain, more than sixty world leaders—Presidents and Prime Ministers, kings and princes, from a third of all the nations on Earth—shared big black umbrellas as they marched together down the Champs-Élysées, in Paris, on Sunday. They gathered to mark the hundredth anniversary of the Armistice that ended the fighting of the First World War, and to express global unity. Donald Trump was not among them. He drove to the ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in the dry comfort of his limousine. Aides cited security. The only apparent threat was from an unarmed topless activist, with the words “Fake Peacemaker” emblazoned across her chest, who tried to run near his motorcade.
The President did the same thing the previous day, calling off a trip to honor the more than two thousand Americans buried in the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, some fifty miles outside of Paris. (All told, fifty thousand Americans died in the First World War.) The White House cited foul weather. The response was fast and furious on the President’s favorite medium. Nicholas Soames, the grandson of the former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and a Conservative Party member of the British Parliament, tweeted, “They died with their face to the foe and that pathetic inadequate @realDonaldTrump couldn’t even defy the weather to pay his respects to The Fallen.” He added the hashtag “#hesnotfittorepresenthisgreatcountry.” Michael Beschloss, the Presidential historian, tweeted a picture of President John F. Kennedy and the French President Charles de Gaulle getting soaked (without umbrellas) in Paris when they honored the war dead, in 1961. There were numerous jibes on Twitter, including one from @votevets, about whether the decision had something to do with Trump’s hair. The same day, despite the rain, the leaders of France and Germany managed to visit Compiègne—also fifty miles from Paris—where the Armistice was signed in a railway car a century ago.
Trump flew his entourage almost four thousand miles for the commemoration but showed little interest in most of it. He lunched with his counterparts and offered brief remarks at a second American cemetery. But, otherwise, it was a dud of a trip. His disdain was all the more striking for the fact that he needs the rest of the world more than ever. The U.S. midterm elections produced a divided Congress, limiting movement on major domestic issues for the next two years. As he mounts his reëlection bid for 2020 Trump will need foreign-policy breakthroughs to appear either productive or Presidential. Yet he seems, instead, to be withdrawing further.
And back in Washington, Trump also failed to visit Arlington Cemetery on Veterans Day. Today, he’s on Twitter making excuses for his behavior.
At the Atlantic, James Fallows questions the “helicopter can’t fly in the rain” excuse:
Why, exactly, did Donald Trump not join Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, and Justin Trudeau at Saturday’s commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the original Armistice Day? I don’t know, and I don’t think anyone outside the White House does at this point.
What I do know is that one hypothesis that has shown up in many stories about his no-show—that Marine One, the presidential helicopter, “can’t fly” in the rain—doesn’t make sense.
As you’re looking for explanations, you can dismiss this one. Helicopters can fly just fine in the rain, and in conditions way worse than prevailed in Paris on November 10.
Fallows is a licensed pilot and flew on Marine One when he worked for Jimmy Carter. Click on the link to read why Trump’s excuse is complete bullshit. I hope someone in the Marines speaks up about this.
Trump is also busy trolling Emmanuel Macron on Twitter. The Washington Post: In a morning tweetstorm, Trump takes repeated aim at France’s Macron.
In the first of several barbs Tuesday on Twitter, Trump again misrepresented what Macron had said during last week’s radio interview and reminded him of the U.S. military’s role in aiding France in World War I and II.
“Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia,” Trump wrote. “But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two — How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along.”
Trump also inaccurately summarized Macron’s comments when he initially tweeted about them Friday while on Air Force One arriving in Paris. Trump said he found Macron’s comments “very insulting” and said that France should “first pay its fair share of NATO.”
In his tweet on Tuesday, Trump again referenced France’s spending, writing: “Pay for NATO or not!”
I won’t bore you with anymore of the “president’s” churlishness, but there’s more at the link.
Matthew Whitaker’s appointment as acting AG is being challenged in court. Charlie Savage at The New York Times:
The State of Maryland is expected to ask a federal judge on Tuesday for an injunction declaring that Mr. Whitaker is not the legitimate acting attorney general as a matter of law, and that the position — and all its powers — instead rightfully belongs to the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein.
Mr. Trump may not “bypass the constitutional and statutory requirements for appointing someone to that office,” the plaintiffs said in a draft filing obtained by The New York Times.
The legal action escalates the uproar surrounding Mr. Trump’s installation of Mr. Whitaker as the nation’s top law-enforcement officer, from criticism of his basic credentials and his views on the Russia investigation to challenges to the legality of his appointment. Last week, Chuck Schumer of New York, the Senate’s top Democrat, sent a letter demanding to know why Mr. Trump chose an “unconfirmed political appointee” as acting attorney general, rather than follow the Justice Department’s statutory line of succession.
Maryland is asking a judge — Ellen L. Hollander of the Federal District Court for the District of Maryland, a 2010 Obama appointee — to rule on who is the real acting attorney general as part of a lawsuit in which it sued Mr. Sessions in his official capacity. Because Mr. Sessions is no longer the attorney general, the judge must substitute his successor as a defendant in the litigation, so she has to decide who that successor legally is.
The stakes are extraordinary. The acting attorney general is the most powerful law enforcement official in the United States and wields tremendous influence, from overseeing criminal and national-security investigations to deciding how to enforce immigration, environmental and civil rights laws.
Rep. Adam Schiff, who will likely chair the House Intelligence Committee next year warns Whitaker in today’s Washington Post: Matthew Whitaker, we’re watching you.
The president and Whitaker should heed this warning: The new Democratic majority will protect the special counsel and the integrity of the Justice Department. Should Whitaker fail to recuse himself — all indications are that he plans not to — and seek to obstruct the investigation, serve as a back channel to the president or his legal team or interfere in the investigations in any way, he will be called to answer. His actions will be exposed.
It is no mystery why the president chose Whitaker, an obscure and ill-qualified official never confirmed by the Senate, which many legal experts believe makes the appointment itself unconstitutional. Trump chose him to protect himself, his family and his close associates from the special counsel’s investigation and other investigations within the Justice Department.
Though I had many profound disagreements with Sessions, he was correct to follow the rules meant to ensure public confidence in the fair administration of justice and recuse himself, even though the president viewed Sessions’s compliance as a singular act of disloyalty. We must demand the highest ethical standards of everyone at the Justice Department, including the attorney general.
There is no indication that Whitaker has likewise consulted with ethics officials, as his past public statements, associations and the manner of his appointment make clear that he should have no role in overseeing the special counsel’s investigation or any matter related to the president and his campaign.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
CNN has decided to quit playing around with Trump and Sarah Huckleberry. NBC News: CNN files lawsuit against Trump administration over Jim Acosta’s press credentials.
CNN has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration for revoking correspondent Jim Acosta’s press credentials, the network said in a statement on Tuesday.
“The wrongful revocation of these credentials violates CNN and Acosta’s First Amendment rights of freedom of the press and their Fifth Amendment rights to due process,” a statement from CNN reads.
The network filed the suit in a Washington, D.C., district court, according to the statement, saying they have asked for “an immediate restraining order requiring the pass be returned” to Acosta.
Listed as defendants in the suit are Trump in addition to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Deputy Chief of Staff Bill Shine, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, and the U.S. Secret Service and its director Randolph Alles and an unnamed Secret Service agent….
The lawsuit says that Acosta and CNN have been favorite targets of the administration, adding that they intend this suit to “ensure that the press remains free to question the government and to report the business of the nation to the American people.”
A number of derogatory tweets and comments made by Trump about CNN are mentioned in the suit. The suit noted that Trump retweeted “a video depicting him tackling and punching a man with a CNN logo superimposed on his face, adding the comments ‘#FraudNewsCNN’ and ‘#FNN.'”
Read more at NBC News. Interestingly, CNN is represented by legendary conservative attorney Ted Olson, who turned down Trump’s attempts to hire him.
Counting of votes from last Tuesday’s election continues in several states. Yesterday, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema was declared the winner of Jeff Flake’s Senate seat in Arizona. Russia-friendly Dana Rohrabacher lost to Democrat Democrat Harley Rouda. The Florida recounts continue, and Democrat Stacey Abrams is still holding out in Georgia.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Judge orders review of provisional ballots in Georgia election.
A federal judge on Monday ordered election officials to review thousands of provisional ballots that haven’t been counted in Georgia’s close election for governor.
U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg’s order calls for a hotline for voters to check if their provisional ballots were counted, a review of voter registrations, and updated reports from the state government about why many voters were required to use provisional ballots.
The court decision comes as votes are still being counted in the race for governor between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp. Abrams trails Kemp and would need to gain more than 20,000 additional votes to force a runoff election.
Totenberg said she’s providing “limited, modest” relief to help protect voters. The order preserves Tuesday’s deadline for county election offices to certify results and the Nov. 20 deadline for Secretary of State Robyn Crittenden to certify the election. The ruling enjoins Crittenden from certifying the election before Friday at 5 p.m.
Amy Totenberg is the sister of NPR’s SCOTUS reporter Nina Totenberg.
That’s it for me. What stories are you following today?