Lazy Caturday Reads

Very Unpleasant Weather, George Cruikshank, 1820

Very Unpleasant Weather, George Cruikshank, 1820

Good Afternoon!!

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.

Cat+in+Rain Tarra Lyons

Cat in the rain, by Tarra Lyons

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.”

c378bdc2b541226b54cc26a199ce5393The 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….

Cats. Rain. by Elena Reutova, 2020

Cats. Rain. by Elena Reutova, 2020

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.” [….]

raining-cats-dogs-4-590x368But 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….

wry39LLvWV_ae0eldW850aOAer0DTaGBRWtOHmhDGPgInvestigators, 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.

raining-cats-and-dogs-sue-tasker

Raining cats and dogs, Sue Tasker

“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!