Monday Reads: Fired up! Ready to GO!

Rev Al Sharpton and Trans Activist Ashley Marie Presley introduce Senator Elizabeth Warren to the Power Stage (my photo)

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I had the opportunity to attend the 25th annual Essence Fest this weekend.  It was a great experience and a good way for me to hear some of the Democratic Presidential candidates in person.  There were unexpected visits by Colorado Senator Bennet and New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio.  They addressed those of us assembled in front of the Power Stage.  Later, I heard Senators Kamala Harris, Corey Booker, and Elizabeth Warren who spoke and then took questions from a panel led by Rev Al Sharpton.  There were a lot of things going on, as usual, all over the Morial Convention Center but I want to make sure you got to hear and see a bit of what I saw in these candidates as they addressed the crowds.

Just a few notes. I left before Beto hit the stage and did not come back Sunday for Mayor Pete.  Biden and Bernie were no shows which I believe was a serious mistake.  I’m not sure about the others but Biden and Bernie made the usual “previous commitments” out

I have to admit that there were several moments that really thrilled me including the short speech from Auntie Maxine who was introduced by my former mayor Marc Morial.  Congresswoman Maxine Waters is a national treasure.  From the Essence: “Rep. Maxine Waters Reminds Black Women At Essence Festival: ‘We Don’t Take S— From Nobody’”.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters brought the heat to the Essence Festival Power Stage on Saturday afternoon. In a stirring address, she told thousands of attendees that the time for Black women is now.

As the nation readies for the 2020 elections, Waters did not mince words about the power of the specific voting bloc and the community as a whole. The veteran politician from California also used herself as a blueprint for what needs to be done to remove Donald Trump from office.

“I’m not intimidated. I’m not afraid,” Waters said about opposing the man in the Oval Office. “All of my life I have been trained to deal with demagogues like him. I will take him on any day of the week. And so what I want to leave with you today is this is our time, ladies.”

Waters pointed to the many ways in which Black women have proven that they are ready to step up to the challenge of not only removing Trump from office but also taking on the harmful policies that have been created since his election.

“Black women are moving forward,” Maxine triumphantly stated before adding that we are getting elected to public office in record numbers, remaining civically engaged in our organizations, leading the fight in our educational institutions, and being all-around change agents in our cities and neighborhoods.

“Don’t be discouraged.

“Don’t be disgusted.

“Don’t give up.

“Show Donald Trump who we are!” Waters said to cheers.

All of the candidates spoke to empowering black women to become entrepreneurs by giving better access to capital for their business ventures. There was also a lot of emphasis on closing the gap between wealth accumulation of white and black families with each candidate having a somewhat similar approach. Corey Booker suggested “baby bonds” be available to all families on the birth of a child with income-indexed contributions provided each birthday until that child is 18.  This would be available to all babies born in the US.  The two women definitely brought the excitement to the audience but Booker was well-received.  He also had the home court advantage since he was born and raised here.

This is also from Essence.

Even with this shifting demographic, Black women still overwhelming vote Democrat, and still have the power to determine election outcomes, something of which Booker is keenly aware.

“Black women are going to be the highest voters in this country, then the agenda of African American women has to be at the center of the Democratic Party’s agenda…because right now the reality is unacceptable,” Booker insisted from the Essence Festival Power Stage to loud applause.

Reading from his notes, Booker itemized the oppression of Black women in this country:

“Black women have the highest level of workforce participation. Eighty-percent of Black mothers are the breadwinners for their families. But still the pay gap for Black women making only 61 cents of every dollar that a white male makes is unacceptable in our country. The fastest growing group of entrepreneurs are African American women who don’t get the access to capital that they deserve. Black women have four times the maternal mortality rates of white women. This is unacceptable.

Channeling James Baldwin, who wrote in Notes of a Native Son (1955), “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually,” Booker located Black women’s pain within the larger white settler-colonial project known as the United States, telling the Essence Festival audience, “If America hasn’t broken your heart, you don’t love her enough.”

In his closing pitch, the senator from New Jersey set his sights on Donald Trump, the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., saying, “We are in a time right now where a person in the White House is spewing bigotry and racism…a person pushing policies that hurt communities of color.”

“But, the existence of demagoguery and hate has never defined us as a nation,” Booker claimed. “What defines us is how we choose to respond to the challenges before us.”

Senator Booker’s speech is here at MSNBC.  I continue to like the Senator but I’m not sure he has the fire required to do this election.  Both Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris left me with no doubt.

My shot of Senator Bennet. I was in the middle of the room but far away from the stage. Thank goodness for the big screens!!

A good capsule of the weekend can be found at WAPO where, for some reason, Biden still got the freaking headline.  They just can’t help themselves I guess.

Arriving to a smattering of polite applause from the thousands of women in the room, Buttigieg, whose campaign has struggled with black voters, immediately began trying to win over the audience. “I stand here knowing that black women aren’t just the backbone of the Democratic Party, you are the bone and sinew that make our democracy whole,” Buttigieg declared. “When black women mobilize, outcomes change. And we need some different outcomes at a time like this.”

Buttigeig’s appearance came a day after six other candidates spoke at the festival, each appealing to black women in different ways.

Sens. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) pitched policy proposals aimed at closing the racial wealth gap. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio argued for universal health care. Former congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.) championed his support for a new voting rights act. And Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) invoked the road trip he’d taken to the festival through impoverished areas of rural Mississippi to pitch his plan to improve the nation’s education system.

I had the pleasure to sit next to a retired black woman from my families’ home of Kansas City.  She gave polite applause to every one.  Polite applause went to every one including Kamala whose #KHive section was filled with enthusiastic sign waving supporters from the sorority sisters at HBCs.  She was basically for Biden but had also was warmed up to Elizabeth Warren.  I asked her if Biden’s history of supporting state’s rights bothered her.  She shrugged and said it was a long time ago and that if Biden was good enough for Obama that was good enough for her.  She proudly told me that she had paid off her own home and talked about what happened when Kansas City Power and Light–her old employer–got bought out by a private provider.  She was just the perfect example of a Kansas City, church going lady that I saw every weekend we visited the family.  She did remind me that there would’ve been no gay marriage without Joe’s push.  I nodded and said yes, there is that.

Bill DiBlasio was a fiery speaker and made certain he gave a shout out to his wife the first lady of New York.  He came out from behind the podium and addressed a lot of issues in his short period of time. (Via NY1)

Mayor de Blasio looked to raise his profile with black voters Saturday while speaking at the Essence Festival in New Orleans.

The annual event is always one of the largest gatherings of African American women in the country.

After being introduced by the Rev. Al Sharpton on Saturday, de Blasio touted First Lady Chirlane McCray’s mental health initiative, Thrive NYC.

“She is taking away the stigma related to mental health. She is making people realize that we have to do something different in this country and get people the help they need,” de Blasio said. “There is nothing wrong with having a mental health condition. There is something wrong when people can’t get the help they need. Right? So join me in thanking the first lady of New York City, the love of my life, Chirlane McCray.”

Image may contain: 1 person, on stage, standing and indoor

I caught Senator Harris on one of the big screens. You can tell she was having fun and in her element. She’s looking straight at the #KHive

Senator Michael Bennet from Colorado is wonky as it comes. I’m not sure he has a plan for it all but he sure can speak to the issues. This is from Essence.   Bennet’s background is in Public Education and he basically spoke to his strength.

Democratic Candidate Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Col.) took to the Power Stage at the 2019 Essence Festival to remind us all about the importance of education when it comes to transforming the economy and creating a better future.

“There was a time in America when Public Education was the wind at our back in transforming our economy but today, taken as a whole, our education system is reinforcing the income inequality that we have, not liberating people from it,” Bennet told the crowd Saturday morning.

Income disparity and access, Bennet pointed out, are the main issues when it comes to the quality of education a child receives. And unless everyone has access, “equal is not equal,” as he pointed out.

“When one group of children has access to preschool and the other through no fault of their own does not, when one group has access to $1 million house and therefore a quality K-12 education and the other does not, when one group has access to tutors and counselors and parents who went to college themselves and the other does not then even equal is not equal and we need to make a change,” he said.

Democratic Candidate Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Col.) took to the Power Stage at the 2019 Essence Festival to remind us all about the importance of education when it comes to transforming the economy and creating a better future.

“There was a time in America when Public Education was the wind at our back in transforming our economy but today, taken as a whole, our education system is reinforcing the income inequality that we have, not liberating people from it,” Bennet told the crowd Saturday morning.

Income disparity and access, Bennet pointed out, are the main issues when it comes to the quality of education a child receives. And unless everyone has access, “equal is not equal,” as he pointed out.

“When one group of children has access to preschool and the other through no fault of their own does not, when one group has access to $1 million house and therefore a quality K-12 education and the other does not, when one group has access to tutors and counselors and parents who went to college themselves and the other does not then even equal is not equal and we need to make a change,” he said.

So, that leaves me down to Harris and Warren who were basically the two candidates that got the most enthusiasm that I could see.  I sat with a friend my daughter’s age who has been politically active as a New Orleans native.  I also sat in front of a older black couple from Detroit and next to a black woman and her daughter from here.  I was surrounded by Warren Fans.  Literally. Warren’s volunteer desk even was handing out Warren Planners!  She and Kamala definitely had the best swag.  There was a desk in the middle that rotated from Booker to Beto as the day wore on but all my friends were either at the #KHive or All in with Warren.

So, let me just put their speeches up.

 

You can hear the Kamala Chants and feel the excitement as she speaks to things she feels strongly about.  This is from ABC News. “Kamala Harris stars as 2020 presidential candidates pitch African American voters at Essence Fest”.  

Harris, the only black woman running for president, and the only black woman in the Senate, hit the stage to Tupac’s “California Love,” a nod to her home state, and got an enthusiastic “Skee Wee” from the large number of sorority sisters from Alpha Kappa Alpha — a black sorority founded at Howard University, Harris’s alma mater — in attendance.

“Good morning, my beautiful sisters,” Harris said, before launching into her plan to boost home ownership among African Americans.

This is from Essence and takes from the Campaign that has the plans. I also have to say that I met with Warren campaign staff on Friday night. There were two things that impressed me. First, they come from Stacey Abrahms’ campaign. Second, they asked each of us what we want Elizabeth to know about what’s important to our community. By the next afternoon, Warren addressed those items in her speech. The audience for Warren was much older. Both women had a following among white gay men and white women who both showed up in the volunteer desks and in the audience. Both campaigns have diverse volunteers and staff.

“It is good to be at a party with purpose and I am here with purpose. Our purpose is to take back the White House in 2020,” Warren said as she opened her remarks. “We must win, but winning is not enough. When we win we must make real change in this country, and yeah, I got a plan for that.”

Warren started telling her own personal story of grappling with access to childcare as a young professional, struggling to find work-life balance only to have babysitters quit on her and childcare centers not work out. She came out on the other end thanks to the help of one of her aunts. But not everyone has an aunt like she did, Warren acknowledged.

“How many women of my generation were just knocked off the tracks because of childcare, how many women of my daughter’s generation were knocked off the tracks, how many women and how many men today just get knocked off the tracks because childcare today is harder than it was two generations ago,” Warren said. “I’m running for president of the United States and yeah I got a lot of plans because [if] you want to get something done, you better have a plan to do it.”

At the top of Warren’s plans, as many of us already know, is her wealth tax – a tax on the top one-tenth of the one percent which would require the super-rich to give two cents on their 50 millionth and first dollar, and an additional two cents on every dollar after that.

“You know what we can do in America with two cents?” Warren asked, getting visibly excited as she listed the possibilities. “We could start by providing universal childcare to every baby 0 to 5 in this country. We could provide universal pre-K for every three-year-old and four-year-old in this country. We could raise the wages of every childcare worker and preschool teacher in this country.”

“And with that same two cents, we could do more. We could provide tuition-free technical school, community college and four-year college to every one of our kids who wants an education. We could also level the playing field and that means a $50 Billion investment into HBCUs,” she continued. “We could cancel student loan debt for 95% of the kids who got it. We can start to close that Black-white wealth gap.”

In the Q&A segment, speaking to Rev. Al Sharpton, ESSENCE CEO Michelle Ebanks and Founder and Chair of Essence Ventures Richelieu Dennis, Warren expanded on her ideas on the wealth gap, pointing out that it has led to a Black-white entrepreneurship gap.

The big headliner of the Day was former First Lady Michelle Obama.   Here’s USA Today’s coverage of her discussing living through hard hits with Gayle King.

Speaking onstage to Gayle King on Saturday at Essence Festival’s 25th anniversary celebration in New Orleans, the former first lady got real about how she learned to shake off hateful comments.

“It was important to tell that part of the story (in “Becoming,” her 2018 best-selling autobiography) because they see me and Barack now, but they don’t know how many punches it took us to get there,” said Obama, according to Essence. “People from all sides, Democrats and Republicans, tried to take me out by the knees. And the best way they could do it was to focus on the strength of the black woman, so they turned that into a caricature.”

So, this is how I spent my weekend.  I know that every one wants to speak on the breaking news about Jeffrey Epstein and I’m also sure that BostonBoomer will be far better equipped to elabortate on that tomorrow.  But, they  SDNY just gave a presser and it was a doozy.  My suggestion for a read to start that discussion of is this one from New York Magazine: “Everything We Know About the Sex Crimes Case Against Jeffrey Epstein” b

On Saturday, billionaire financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was arrested for the alleged sex trafficking of dozens of minors in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005. In a criminal indictment unsealed Monday, federal prosecutors claimed that Epstein lured underage girls, some as young as 14, to his luxurious homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach under the guise of paying them cash for massages. He then molested them and encouraged them to recruit other young girls to return with them. The victims who returned with new victims were paid a finder’s fee.

“In this way, Epstein created a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit, often on a daily basis,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement.

The hedge-fund manager and former friend of presidents Trump and Clinton faced similar charges a decade ago but escaped federal prosecution via a widely criticized, shockingly lenient plea deal. After a decade of legal efforts by many of his victims — and, more recently, increased scrutiny from lawmakers and the media — Epstein faces prosecution by the notoriously tough Southern District of New York and a long prison sentence if convicted.

Trump’s name comes up several places.  Read the article to find out more.

And now … what’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Saturday Reads: Focus on the Sausage Making instead of the Ham

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 30: Women Democratic senators (L-R) U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) hold a news conference to announce their support for raising the minimum wage to $10.10 at the U.S. Capitol January 30, 2014 in Washington, DC. Thirteen of the 16 Democratic women senators made appearances during the news conference. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Good Afternoon!

Well, the thing from the Orange Swamp has been sucking all oxygen and energy available to Mother Earth and then some. Women Senators and Representatives have been leading the battle to ensure the entire justice thing is done.  Last week the hearings in the Senate were exciting but the focus there let Mitchie and Paulie find ways to circumvent democracy with very little notice or coverage.

I got hit yesterday with weird ass flu and I’m exhausted after spending the day in bed fighting dizziness and stomach ickiness.  I wanted to talk about some of the absolutely sneaky shit going on in the House and Senate as the Republicans rush to cram absolutely bad, unpopular, self-serving laws through both houses using arcane rules and your basic slight of hand. They’re trying to rush through the absolutely cringe-inducing, people killing, death panel empowering Unafforadble Health care replacement to the ACA.

They’re also rushing to rid the country of financial regulations again by repealing Dodd Frank.  What an economist’s nightmare!  These hearings are shocking and important but look what’s going on behind the show tent.

The Hill is calling all this overnight regulation.  The Dodd Frank repeal passed the House in what almost seemed like a clandestine action.

The House of Representatives passed sweeping legislation Thursday that would strip and replace much of the financial regulations passed under President Obama after the 2008 financial crisis.

Don’t expect the measure to become law, though. It’s not expected to pass in the Senate.

The House passed the Financial CHOICE Act on a party line vote, 233 to 186.

Sponsored by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), the CHOICE Act is the most ambitious Republican effort to roll back the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, passed in 2010.

It has a completely Orwellian name too. It’s called the Financial Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs (CHOICE) Act, 233-186. The bill passed strictly along party lines and is not expected to pass the Senate.

Democrats have fiercely defended Dodd-Frank. They say the bill has held Wall Street accountable for the risky investment practices that caused the crisis and protected Americans from predatory lending and abusive financial firms.

“It’s shameful that Republicans have voted to do the bidding of Wall Street at the expense of Main Street and our economy,” said Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. “They are setting the stage for Wall Street to run amok and cause another financial crisis. I urge my colleagues in the Senate not to move on this deeply harmful bill.”

The CHOICE Act would roll back much of the Dodd-Frank regulations long targeted by Republicans. It would allow banks that reach certain cash thresholds an off-ramp from Dodd-Frank, reduce the frequency of federal stress tests and restrain oversight powers of several federal agencies that the 2010 law expanded.

Hensarling’s bill would also eliminate orderly liquidation authority — the process through which the federal government takes over and dismantles a major bank before it collapses — and place strict limits on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

The CHOICE Act would turn the CFPB, which Republicans consider abusive and unaccountable, into the Consumer Law Enforcement Agency. It would no longer control its own budget, its director would be appointed by the president, and it would lose its authority to crack down on “unfair, abusive and deceptive practices.”

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and GOP leaders touted the bill in the weeks before Thursday’s vote. Ryan, a longtime Hensarling ally who served with him on the House Budget Committee, on Wednesday called the CHOICE Act “the crown jewel” of the GOP deregulation agenda.

“This legislation comes to the rescue of Main Street America,” Ryan said Wednesday. “The Financial CHOICE Act makes it possible for small businesses across this country to stop struggling and to start hiring.”

Paul Ryan never seems to get the basic economics lessons that small businesses across the country will not struggle and will hire and expand their business if they have customers that have the basic incomes to afford their products and services.  The smallest contribution to National Income is stuff coming from investments.  The largest source of funds in this country for business is consumption by households.  Turning the national financial services industry back into a gambling establishment with special tax treatment for gamblers who don’t build businesses but speculate on the face value of paper assets isn’t going to help Main Street America.

By the way, their tax program should be a no starter too.  Read up on how red state Kansas is finally getting rid of Koch Brothers/ Grover Norquist economic policies.  It’s killing their state’s education systems and economy.  Voodoo Economics needs the final pin pushed into it whatever vital organ will kill it.  This is from the keyboard of Charles Pierce.

An update on an earlier development: The Kansas state legislature told Governor Sam Brownback to pound sand, overriding his veto and upholding its decision to roll back the radical supply-side tax cuts that were central to Brownback’s demolition of the state’s economy. From those Socialist Agitators at Forbes:

Brownback vetoed the legislature’s first attempt to reverse his tax cuts, but two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate overrode his veto. The measure would boost state taxes by $1.2 billion over two years, in part by raising the top income tax rate from 4.6 percent to 5.7 percent and by once again taxing sole proprietorships, partnerships, and other pass-through businesses. Pressured by Brownback, the legislature had made pass-throughs tax free… Since Kansas enacted tax and spending cuts in 2012 and 2013, Brownback and his allies have argued that this fiscal potion would generate an explosion of economic growth. It didn’t. Overall growth and job creation in Kansas underperformed both the national economy and neighboring states. From January, 2014 (after both tax cuts passed) to April, 2017, Kansas gained only 28,000 net new non-farm jobs. By contrast, Nebraska, an economically similar state with a much smaller labor force, saw a net increase of 35,000 jobs.

Tax cuts balloon deficits and do not lead to growth. Period. This economic theory—to which, it should be noted, the administration and the Republican majorities in the Congress strictly adhere—doesn’t work. It is alchemy. It has no basis in empirical reality. Every argument in its favor has been proven by practical experience to be utter moonshine. It failed under Ronald Reagan and it failed under George W. Bush and, in its purest form, it failed disastrously in Kansas. Its proponents should be drummed out of the respectable national dialogue as thoroughly as Alex Jones has been. Supply-side is the chemtrails of political economies.

Wonkblog thinks that Kansas is going to euthanize its Tea Party.  Are there still any moderate Republicans out there?

Kansas’s moderate ascendance may portend problems for Republicans in Washington, where many in the party, including President Trump, are pushing to adopt federal tax policies similar to the ones Brownback has installed in Kansas. But while Brownback had hoped what he called Kansas’s “real-live experiment” in conservative economic policy would become a national model, it has instead become a cautionary example.

It not only killed Kansas.  Jindal let it kill Louisiana: ‘Louisiana has second-worst economy in U.S.: report’.  Our current lege session was a total clusterfuck as ignorant Republicans continue to swallow the snakeoil that tax cuts pay for themselves.  They do have never and will never do that unless your top marginal tax rate is like way north of like 90 percent.  Even then, it’s not the dampening impact is just not that big of a deal.Just imagine if this shit goes nationwide on that kind of a scale.

Louisiana’s economy ranks second-worst among U.S. states and the District of Columbia when examining a wide range of indicators, including employment, building permits, government spending and growth in science and tech industries, according to an analysis WalletHub released Monday (June 5).

Louisiana ranked only better than West Virginia in the study; the bottom five also included Mississippi, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Meanwhile, Washington, California, Utah, Massachusetts and the District of Colombia ranked the top five.

WalletHub used data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the bureaus of Labor Statistics and Economic Analysis, United Health Foundation, American Legislative Exchange Council, CoreLogic, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the National Science Foundation, among others.

Louisiana did shine in one category: the state tied with Texas and Washington for most exports per capita.

Yeah, that’s because that damned President Obama turned us into a net oil exporter. Damn you Obama!!! Thankfully, we have a few Democrats in the District who are fighting like hell.

We ended the session with a complete meltdown and no budget.

“Nobody can pretend this was a good day for the state of Louisiana,” the governor said. “We now know that the majority of legislators came here determined to fix these problems and to work in a bipartisan way. We now know that it was a minority in the House that prevented that from happening.”

At least some rank-and-file Republicans in the House appeared to agree with the governor.

 

Republican Rep. Kenny Havard and Democratic Rep. Major Thibaut, both of whom voted to consider the Senate budget proposal, in unison described the special session as “embarrassing” to the Legislature. Republican Rep. Julie Stokes said she was “disgusted.”

 

“Petty partisan politics have failed the people of the state today, and it’s time that we grow up and work on solving the people’s problems,” said Stokes, who voted to bring up the Senate budget proposal.

 

House Republican leaders want to spend less than the full state income forecast, as a cushion to avoid midyear cuts in case the predictions were wrong. The Senate, backed by Edwards and House Democrats, want to spend all available dollars, saying otherwise they’d have to make unnecessary, harmful cuts.

 

The state’s income forecast has been too optimistic every year for nearly a decade.

Senate President John Alario, a Republican, said he was disappointed at the meltdown.

“My hope is that we complete our work in this special session. It’s too darn important for the people of this state. Education, health care, public safety: there are too many things that would get hurt if we didn’t come to a consensus and make it work,” Alario said.

Senator Claire McCaskill joined the ranks of women in leadership given the misogynist treatment for acting like a leader.  McCaskill called Shenanigans on the way the Republicans plan to cram TrumpCare into law.

Thursday in a Senate hearing, Americans were finally presented definitive evidence of a plot so nefarious and cunning, it threatens to upend any remaining trust in our democratic institutions. I am referring, of course, to an exchange between Sen. Claire McCaskill and Sen. Orrin Hatch in the Senate Finance Committee on the progress of the Republican health care bill. McCaskill asked Hatch, the chairman, whether the committee would hold hearings on the as-yet-unreleased legislation.

Hatch: Will we?

McCaskill: Yes.

Hatch: I … I think we’ve already had one. But…

McCaskill: No. I mean on the proposal that you’re planning to bring to the floor of the Senate for a vote. Will there be a hearing?

Hatch, searching for a less damning answer than “No,” was silent as a much younger aide—perhaps young enough to be barred constitutionally from holding the seat Hatch is evidently simply keeping warm—sidled up to him and whispered, audibly enough for his microphone, words that Hatch began to repeat almost verbatim.

Aide: …they’re invited to participate in this process and we’re open to their ideas and suggestions.
Hatch: Well, I don’t know that there’s going to be another hearing, but we’ve invited you to participate and give your ideas and…

McCaskill: No! No, that’s not true, Mr. Chairman. Let me just say I watched carefully all of the hearings that went on on the [Affordable Care Act]. I was not a member of this committee at the time, although I would have liked to be. Sen. Grassley was the ranking member. Dozens of Republican amendments were offered and accepted in that hearing process. And when you say that you’re inviting us—and we heard you, Mr. Secretary, just say, “We’d love your support”—for what? We don’t even know. We have no idea what’s being proposed.

McCaskill might not have any idea, but some details have trickled out in recent days on what the bill is shaping up to be. On Tuesday, Jim Newell described the contents of a presentation on the bill-in-progress that had been shown to Senate Republicans:

Like the House bill, the Senate proposal would allow states to waive the Affordable Care Act’s essential health benefit coverage requirements, as well as loosen the ratio of what older people can be charged relative to younger customers. The Senate bill would not, however, allow states to waive community rating by health status, which bars insurers from charging sick people more than healthy ones. The Washington Examiner reported, too, that the Senate was considering allowing the ACA’s Medicaid expansion to linger past the 2020 deadline set forth in the House bill—and that a program to auto-enroll people into coverage against catastrophic losses was still on the table.

The Senate Republicans’ bill thus far, then, includes only modest changes to a set of proposals the Congressional Budget Office has said would lead to 23 million Americans losing their health insurance. That’s the only understanding of the bill we can surmise, since Republicans have taken the process of transforming one-sixth of the American economy—once again—behind closed doors. This secrecy, McCaskill said—in a classic performance of Democratic indignation—was “hard to take.” “You couldn’t have a more partisan exercise than what you’re engaged in right now,” she said, as though Hatch had simply failed to consider this. “Give me an opportunity to work with you.

They will not. The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Andy Slavitt tweeted Tuesday that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing to have the text of the bill available to the public for no more than two days.

Oddly enough, McConnel’s procedural jujitsu may be blocked by the Parliamentarian.  Guess what issues it’s about?

The Senate parliamentarian has warned Republicans that a provision in their healthcare reform bill related to abortion is unlikely to be allowed, raising a serious threat to the legislation.

The parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, has flagged language that would bar people from using new refundable tax credits for private insurance plans that cover abortion, according to Senate sources.

If Republicans are forced to strip the so-called Hyde Amendment language from the legislation, which essentially bars federal funds from being used to pay for abortions except to save the life of a mother or in cases of rape and incest, it may doom the bill.

MacDonough declined to comment for this article.

Unless a workaround can be found, conservative senators and groups that advocate against abortion rights are likely to oppose the legislation.

Republicans control 52 seats in the Senate; they can afford only two defections and still pass the bill, assuming Democrats are united against it. Vice President Pence would break a 50-50 tie.

Normally, controversial legislation requires 60 votes to pass the Senate, but Republicans hope to pass the ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill with a simple majority vote under a special budgetary process known as reconciliation.

The catch is that the legislation must pass a six-part test known as the Byrd Rule, and it’s up to the parliamentarian to advise whether legislative provisions meet its requirements.

The toughest requirement states that a provision cannot produce changes in government outlays or revenues that are merely incidental to the nonbudgetary components of the provision.

In other words, a provision passed under reconciliation cannot be primarily oriented toward making policy change instead of affecting the budget. Arguably, attaching Hyde language to the refundable tax credits is designed more to shape abortion policy than affect how much money is spent to subsidize healthcare coverage.

The abortion language that conservatives want in the healthcare bill may run afoul of a precedent set in 1995, when then-Senate Parliamentarian Robert Dove ruled that an abortion provision affecting a state block grant program failed to meet reconciliation requirements, according to a source briefed on internal Senate discussions.

Any American should be shocked and awed by Mitchie’s attempts to use Senate bureacray and rules to circumvent the usual process of making law.

Not a word of what Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, says here is hyperbolic or inaccurate. The reason Senator Orrin Hatch is acting like he’s been caught here is because he has. What Republicans are attempting to do to the health care system is the legislative equivalent of a mugging.

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi gave a briefing yesterday that’s causing all kinds of controversy.   She challenged Trump’s stamina and fitness for office.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said President Trump “needs sleep” and questioned his “fitness for office” at a briefing Friday morning. The former Speaker’s statements were made in reference to Trump’s Twitter habits, after he posted one at 6 a.m. The president broke his unusual silence about former FBI Director James Comey’s Thursday testimony, tweeting: “Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication… and WOW, Comey is a leaker.” Pelosi also said of Trump, “Know your blood type. He will throw you under the bus.” Pelosi added, “I think his statements need some discipline. He needs work.” Comey said Thursday he believes Trump fired him because of the bureau’s investigation into Russia ties to his presidential campaign. On Comey’s testimony, Pelosi said Trump “knew what he was doing and he didn’t want any witnesses” when he asked to speak with Comey alone.

I’ve been absolutely shocked by the attempts at many people in journalism and around the political arena to suggest that either Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden are the likely folks to lead the Democratic Party and run for President when so many young women and men are standing up to the current situation.

There are many standouts.

California Congressman Ted Lieu is an outstanding public servant with a keen mind and a prosecutor’s verbal combat skills.

Senator Al Franken is frankly awesome. He’s got an eye for detail, asks damn good questions, and does it with the most wonderful manner that you don’t know you’ve just had your throat cut.  His sense of humor serves him well as he dishes out tough questions that show really insight into the problem at hand.

And one more shout out to Senator Kamala Harris from California. She’s also got that prosecutor thing going.  She’s perfectly aware of what needs to go on the record and that’s a skill we need right now in these committee meetings.  She’s also a damn hard fighter and says what needs to be said.

I’m glad these folks are looking to bring home the bacon because I’m tired of the sausage making and frankly, I loathe the ham.

And no more fucking 70 year old plus white men ruining the world for us. PLEASE!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?