Nel's New Day

March 30, 2021

DDT Loyalists: Where Are They Now?

Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) can’t quit causing trouble. Recently, he  claimed the election—in which he lost by about 7 million popular votes and 74 Electoral votes (232-306)—was “stolen” from him. Fox network won’t let him spew his lies about the election because of billion-dollar lawsuits so he falsely claimed no danger from the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol killing five people. He told Laura Ingraham:

“Right from the start, it was zero threat… Some of them went in, and they’re hugging and kissing the police and the guards, you know? They had great relationships. A lot of the people were waved in, and then they walked in, and they walked out.”

Among 140 police officers suffering injuries were an eye lost, cracked ribs, smashed spinal discs, concussions, and others from being beaten by a flagpole, sprayed with bear spray, punched, dragged, and trampled. Some officers said that their January 6 experiences were scarier than combat during two tours in Iraq. Almost 400 people have been charged for the attack. DDT, who called on his followers to incite violence in the insurrection, now sits like a deposed king in his Mar-a-Lago club, while his servile political sycophants gather at his feet, planning to bring him—and themselves—back into control. Some of his enablers who fell from power after the election are searching for their own ways to plan the GOP future:

Mike Pompeo went from a Kansas member of the U.S. House to fronting DDT’s “America First” foreign policy, alienating all the nation’s global allies. During his four years with DDT, he served first as CIA director and then as Secretary of State, leading DDT’s antagonistic policies with China. This cartoon from “Dr. Seuss” about the U.S. from 80 years ago well illustrates DDT’s position. In Iowa, Pompeo made his first “campaign event” of his 2024 presidential race in Iowa, over 1,000 days before the election, according to media sources. As usual, he ignores the appearance of political nonpartisanship, traditional for people who leave an administration. While Secretary of State, he hosted invitation-only, taxpayer-funded “Madison dinners” for wealthy GOP elites at the agency’s headquarters. 

Stephen Miller, another “America First” fanatic who created DDT’s inhumane migration policies, emerged from a relatively unknown speechwriter for Jeff Sessions to his powerful role shaping DDT’s policies and messages, starting with DDT’s “American carnage” inauguration speech on January 20, 2016. Currently, Miller is leading the charge to elect DDT-wannabe Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) in his campaign for U.S. Senate. He spends the rest of his time attacking Biden and defending DDT’s cruel immigration record on Fox network. In his spare time, he is creating America First Legal to file lawsuits and organize GOP attorneys general opposing what they see as executive branch abuses. Unlike other far-right legal groups such as Judicial Watch, Alliance Defending Freedom, and the Immigration Reform Law Institute, Miller’s group will broadly focus on administrative law and executive overreach, a conservative type of ACLU. Involved in the project are former DDT stars such as Ken Starr, Gene Hamilton, and Mark Meadows. Other DDT minions, including Larry Kudlow and Russ Vought, participate in groups promoting DDT’s policies.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, former White House press secretary and daughter of Mike Huckabee, either alienated journalists or didn’t hold press conferences while trying spin her way out of lying to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team by blaming Democrats. She has long been running for governor of Arkansas, her father’s old job.

Sean Spicer, the first of several White House press secretaries, has followed a diverse path since he was fired, including a bad performance on Dancing with the Stars. He may be most remembered for arguing with the facts, beginning with the size of the crowd at DDT’s inauguration, becoming more famous for Melissa McCarthy’s satire of him on SNL. Since then he’s written a slim-in-content memoir about his eight-month job in the White House and had a few short gigs before hosting Spicer & Co. on the pro-DDT network Newsmax embracing the GOP “big lie” about DDT’s election loss.

Kayleigh McEnany, another White House press secretary, began by saying she would never lie to the media—“you have my word on that”–and then proceeded to spew DDT’s lies throughout the pandemic. Up to Biden’s inauguration, she defended DDT “big lie” that the election was “stolen.” Fox network’s devotion to her words led to her employment as an on-air commentator, allowing her to defend DDT, attack Biden, and delight Twitter followers with her spelling gaffes. For example, the Harvard Law School Graduate wrote that Biden’s “touting the rate of vaccines being administered [was] a feet solely made possible by President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed”—another lie and the reason behind Merriam-Webster explaining the difference between “feet” and “feat.” One charming tweet connected “feet” and “solely.”

Jason Miller, a senior adviser for DDT’s transition team and then for DDT’s 2020 campaign, last appeared in defense of DDT at his second impeachment trial because DDT struggled to persuade lawyers to represent him. Miller’s time with DDT was marked by his lying to columnist A.J. Delgado about being separated from his wife and have her illegitimate child in 2017. In 2019, Miller lied about leaving the strategy firm Teneo after his profane Twitter tirade at Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) so h could stop child support payments to Delgado. He is still DDT’s senior adviser, giving his wisdom to the press and helping with DDT’s, possibly mythical, new social media platform. Newsmax has also taken on Miller as a contributor.

Kellyanne Conway left DDT’s side after her family situation blew up, but she was a major cause in electing DDT and the queen of “alternative facts,” her definition of lying she began using on his inauguration day. Both she and her liberal husband, George Conway, claimed they were leaving politics for the sake of their four children, but conflict between Kellyanne and her 16-year-old daughter continued for months, accelerating to nude, possibly hacked, photographs of Claudia on Kellyanne’s Twitter account. Although they may have reconciled—Kellyanne appeared after Claudia on American Idol—an ongoing investigation is looking into the daughter’s claims of abuse. Kellyanne reportedly signed a deal with over $2 million advance for a tell-all book about her time in the White House with DDT. Kellyanne still defends DDT, and George still lambasts him.

Brad Parscale went from web designer to mastermind of DDT’s 2016 win and then out of a job after supposedly liberating huge amounts of money from DDT’s second campaign for his lavish lifestyle. After being demoted from DDT’s campaign manager, he behaved so erratically with a loaded, cocked gun in his home that his wife called the police. He resigned from the campaign and promised to forego politics, instead flipping houses. Soon after, he reneged on his promise and started Nucleus, a platform for a super PAC to raise—and spend—more unlimited dark money for the 2022 elections of pro-DDT candidates and support DDT’s new social media.

Deborah Birx, a leading member of DDT’s coronavirus task force, is trying to whitewash her part in the hundreds of thousands of U.S. deaths from mismanagement of the pandemic. She now claims they could have been prevented, but a year ago, she effusively praised DDT on the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) by his being “so attentive to the scientific literature and the details and the data.” While DDT was denying the seriousness of COVID-19 to the public, she added, “I think his ability to analyze and integrate data that comes out of his long history in business has really been a real benefit.” Throughout Birx’s tenure on the task force, DDT refused to listen to science-based health information and disseminated disinformation to keep the economy appearing positive. Birx chose numbers from less-populated states to support DDT’s claims that cases declined in the U.S. while they were actually increasing, and she covered up for bad decisions. She didn’t protest DDT’s suggestion about drinking disinfectant could be a cure for the disease, but DDT turned on her last August when she suggested people should wear masks.

After saying she would like to be on Biden’s coronavirus team, Birx took the job as chief medical and scientific adviser for Texas-based ActivePure Technology (claiming to make air purifiers to kill the coronavirus), joined the George W. Bush Institute as a global health fellow, and became a board member for the biopharmaceutical company Innoviva. About the 400,000 people who died in summer, fall, and winter, she said “it didn’t go as well as it should have.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, who was more forthcoming about his disagreements with DDT while on the task force, is now Biden’s chief medical adviser.

Mark Meadows, who faithfully lied for DDT while his chief of staff, now works at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI). He may also appear in an Atlanta court for his part in trying to force votes onto DDT’s side as part of the White House attempt to obtain the state’s electoral college votes. Meadows made a late-December trip to Cobb County, hoping to watch the audit of voter signatures with no advance notice, but was blocked from entering the room. His trip was followed by demands by DDT and his allies to “find” the votes DDT wanted. Georgia’s extensive examination of ballots and signatures found no fraud.

Watch for these people and more “Trumpers” to crawl out for the 2022 election.

March 29, 2021

Whither the GOP Filibuster

For the first time in four years, more voters, 46 percent, believe the U.S. is on the right track than the opposite. The economy is heading in the right direction, according to the 42-percent plurality of voters, a 13-percent improvement since January. Approval of President Joe Biden is still at 61 percent, and the pandemic management approval is 71 percent, up three points since February, all according to the new Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll. In January, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) received a 56-percent approval for the economy, his only rating above 50 percent, but Biden now has an approval of 60 percent on the economy and the same percentage for administering the government, compared to DDT’s rating of 49 percent approval.

Conservatives also struggle with the current popularity of For the People Act, the voting bill passing the House and waiting for Senate attention. A policy adviser for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and research director for the Koch-run advocacy group Stand Together, Kyle McKenzie, discovered “people were very supportive” by learning a “very neutral description” of the bill. McKenzie stated:

“The most worrisome part . . . is that conservatives were actually as supportive as the general public was when they read the neutral description. There’s a large, very large, chunk of conservatives who are supportive of these types of efforts.”

Even conservatives don’t want wealthy people buying elections through huge anonymous political donations. Unable to find persuasive arguments against voting rights, McKenzie told conservative activists the GOP senators need to use “under-the-dome” tactics to kill the bill. The bill could pass the Senate with a majority vote, but the current filibuster, enacted by any one senator sending in an email to protest a bill obstructs democracy by requiring 60 percent of the vote.

A simple Senate majority can change—even eliminate—the filibuster, but some Democrats are reluctant to agree. With Republicans determined to be intransigent enough to cause permanent gridlock for the 117th Congress, at least one senator, Angus King (I-ME), may be reversing his negative position toward a shift. In a WaPo op-ed, King wrote that he decided to support the filibuster because an opposing party could use it to erase important legislation as the Affordable Care Act. According to King:

“But this argument is sustainable only if the extraordinary power of the 60-vote threshold is used sparingly on major issues or is used in a good-faith effort to leverage concessions rather than to simply obstruct.”

King cited the voting rights protection to oppose the GOP “nakedly partisan voter-suppression legislation pending in many states” as a reason to fight the filibuster. He continued:

“If forced to choose between a Senate rule and democracy itself, I know where I will come down. As new Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) noted on the floor recently, ‘It is a contradiction to say we must protect minority rights in the Senate, while refusing to protect minority rights in the society.’”

Biden now supports the “talking filibuster,” opposition to a bill lasts only as long as the filibustering senator stands on the chamber floor and talks, and said the 60-vote requirement for any bill is “being abused in a gigantic way.” One exception to the filibuster, he said, is for laws “elemental to the functioning of our democracy—like the basic right to vote.” The biggest holdout to changing the filibuster, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) might be willing to move to the talking filibuster.

The Senate has radically changed since Biden defended the filibuster as a new senator. Once rare, filibustering obstructionism is business as usual. The 44 cloture motions filed during the first two years of Biden’s senate career were relatively high for the time, but Republicans almost doubled in 1993-94 to kill Clinton’s agenda. In the 2007-2008 Democratic Congress, McConnell saw 139 filibusters filed, and the number topped 200 in 2013-2014 during President Obama’s second term. The 2019-2020 Congress saw 339 cloture motions in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) may have found a way around filibusters to fund Biden’s policy initiatives. The Senate allows budget reconciliation only once a year to permit a majority of senators to pass a bill, and the Democrats used the one time to pass the $1.9 trillion stimulus relief law, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Passed in 1974, Section 304 of the Congressional Budget Act, however, allows a simple majority to revisit and amend an already-passed budget resolution, such as ARPA. The parliamentarian will decide whether Section 304 permits more reconciliation bills tied to revenue, spending, and the public debt during Fiscal Year 2021, ending the end of September.

McConnell’s first response to doing away with the filibuster—which he did to get three far-right justices on the Supreme Court—was to threaten a “scorched earth” in the Senate, highly punitive actions to block every bill. Then he joined other senators such as Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Graham to play victim. Biden agreed with former President Obama about the filibuster being “a relic of the Jim Crow era”; and McConnell claimed the filibuster “has no racial history at all. None. There’s no dispute among historians about that.” Historians taught McConnell he was wrong.

Both the longest single-speaker filibuster and the longest multiple-speaker filibuster in U.S. history tried unsuccessfully to block two non-discrimination laws, the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1964. The latter filibuster lasted 60 days before a bipartisan coalition stopped it. The 1957 law, the first federal civil rights legislation in almost 90 years, established a DOJ civil rights division and other measures to support the right to vote for Blacks. Virulent segregationist Strom Thurmond, a South Carolina Democrat until 1964, personally filibustered for 24 hours and 18 minutes, the longest speaking one by a single senator.

Other failures during the past century show the racist and bigoted use of the filibuster:

  • During the Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction periods, senators filibustered against civil rights bills.  
  • Bills outlawing racist lynching, first introduced in 1922, didn’t pass until 2018, but the GOP House refused to take action.
  • The Voting Rights Act of 1965 survived a filibuster, but Jesse Helms’ (R-NC) brief filibuster destroyed an extension to strengthen its provisions after a Supreme Court decision required proof of discrimination by covered jurisdictions. Even that weaker provision of the Voting Rights Act disappeared in John Roberts’ court, the 2013 decision permitting rampant racist discrimination by laws sweeping across the U.S.

Newly-elected Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), elected before his state passed a draconian set of anti-voting laws hurting his 2022 re-election chances if not overturned, described nationwide anti-voting laws as “Jim Crow in new clothes.” In his first speech on the Senate floor, he said about the requirement for 60 percent of senators to pass any legislation, “No Senate rule should overrule the integrity of our democracy.” He explained:

“I’m not here to spiral into the procedural argument over whether the filibuster in general has merits or has outlived its usefulness. I’m here to say that this issue is bigger than the filibuster. This issue, access to voting and preempting politicians’ efforts to restrict voting, is so fundamental to our democracy that it is too important to be held hostage by a Senate rule, especially one historically used to restrict expansion of voting rights.

“It is a contradiction to say we must protect minority rights in the Senate while refusing to protect minority rights in the society. We must find a way to pass voting rights whether we get rid of the filibuster or not.”

Warnock denounced the 253 voter suppression bills in 43 states introduced since January as “democracy in reverse” and attempts by Republican politicians to “cherrypick their voters.” Warnock declared, “This cannot stand.”

Other losses from the filibuster:

  • A bipartisan piece of popular legislation including gun background checks from Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) after the horrific Newtown massacre.
  • Government shutdowns resulting from huge omnibus bills with multiple “riders” designed to get around filibusters.
  • Bad legislation from the reconciliation process, created by Ronald Reagan in 1981, to use a simple majority for passage.  
  • GOP refusal to undertake any bills alleviating climate change.

Norm Ornstein, a Democratic at a conservative think tank, suggests ways to honor minority rights instead of using the filibuster “as a weapon of mass obstruction.”

“Instead of having 60 votes required to end debate, have 41 required to continue with 41 members… Make the minority have to debate the actual issue. No reading Green Eggs and Ham to waste time.  You’d have to talk about why you are blocking, say, a universal background check bill supported by 94% of Americans.

“…Return to that ‘present and voting’ standard.  So it matters how many Senators actually show up.  If 20 of them don’t show up, you only need 48 votes to end debate. Again, make the minority do the work…

“Reduce the threshold to end debate outright. You could reduce it down to 55 Senators. But you could also be more creative. Former Senator Tom Harken’s idea was to step down the threshold as you debate a bill. So start with a level of 60 votes for a couple of weeks. And then lower the bar to 57, and then 54, and then 51. So ultimately the majority is going to have the ability to act, but there’s plenty of time devoted to the minority.”

The Senate is already rigged for the minority: the 50 Republicans currently in the Senate represent 41 million fewer people than the 50 Democrats. The Senate has been marked for inaction for years. It’s time to legislation to more forward, to do more than Republicans putting highly conservative and frequently inexperienced judges on the federal bench. And it’s time for Republicans to constructively work for elections rather than employing a system to “cancel voters.”

March 28, 2021

Biden’s Progress – March 2021

In this great piece, attorney and author Teri Kanefield addresses how dangerous the anti-voting Georgia law could be for Republicans. Her position is that the GOP attempt to win elections by carefully selecting voters could backfire on them. For example, after Wisconsin created voting hurdles in its primaries last April, people showed up in much larger numbers than normal to elect challenger Jill Karofsky over conservative incumbent Daniel Kelly for a state Supreme Court seat. Even conservative courts refused to overturn legal votes when Republicans tried to subvert the will of the people.

Kanefield points out that federal legislation can override draconian GOP laws because Congress has the ability to regulate federal elections, according to Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution. In addition, the 14th and 15th Amendments block states from racial discrimination.

Cook Political Report editor Dave Wasserman posits that citizens are less likely to vote for a party passing “mean-spirited and anti-democratic laws.” What does it say about a party that prevents giving water to voters kept in lines of many hours?

Republicans trying to argue that President Joe Biden has dementia, were crushed by his first press conference in which he made no gaffes in his composed delivery. Some highlights: denying his policies are responsible for a surge of immigrants; keeping an “open mind” about the filibuster if the GOP consistently throws roadblocks in front of voting rights; and expecting to run for re-election with VP Kamala Harris. Biden called the massive GOP attempt to restrict voting access “un-American.” 

Biden called on 10 of 25 journalists during the press conference but hurt Peter Doocy’s feelings when he failed to call on him. (Biden also didn’t answer questions for The New York Times, Reuters, NPR, and Politico.) Fox network’s attempt to make its journalist a martyr to Democratic discrimination didn’t play well with the media outside its own house. In Doocy’s interview with White House press secretary Jen Psaki, he had to agree that she took questions every time he was in the briefing room, Biden has taken questions from Doocy, and for the third time in a few months she will be doing Fox News Sunday the next day. The martyrdom complaint came on the same day that Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit for $1.6 billion for lying to viewers about a stolen election, making it appear like a deflection.

In the Dominion lawsuit, Fox could use the same “Tucker Carlson Defense” that former lawyer for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), Sidney Powell, employs. In Dominion’s $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit against Powell for her lies about the stolen election from DDT, she is claiming no one would take her claims seriously. A DDT judge has already ruled against a defamation lawsuit regarding Carlson by saying that no one should believe anything he says. About her frequent and public accusation about Venezuela being part of an election-rigging scheme, Powell said “no reasonable person would conclude” her statements were factual. Author Grant Stern tweeted:

“In deploying The Tucker Carlson defense, Sidney Powell is admitting that her credibility is completely nonexistent.”

If Fox network takes that approach, then everyone will know the truth: no one can trust anything said on the network.

Fox must be worried about Dominion’s lawsuit because host Laura Ingraham cut off DDT when he started delivering his lies about the election being stolen from him. She said he didn’t want to “relitigate” the election. DDT moved on to damn the U.S. Supreme Court which rejected three cases to invalidate election results in states he lost. Ingraham pointed out the high court had “a lot of Republicans.” In addition to Dominion’s $1.6 billion lawsuit against Fox, Smartmatic, a company making voting machines, filed a $2.7 billion suit against Fox for hosts’ lies about the company fixing machines to elect Biden.

A few details from Jonathan Blitzer’s article on what Republicans call, the “border crisis.”

The last three men in the Oval Office faced humanitarian emergencies at the southern border; DDT was the most overwhelmed.

Currently, 18,000 unaccompanied migrant children are in U.S. custody, including 5,000 in holding cells, while the country searches for housing space. Silent during DDT’s separation of families, Republicans now shout “Biden’s border crisis” from the rooftops to divert attention from their refusal to help most U.S. residents. Biden is turning away all single adults at the border and 40 percent of asylum-seeing families under DDT’s Title 42 while the media blames Biden for encouraging migrants to come north. For example, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) lambasted Biden’s “humane treatment of immigrants.”

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has announced the border is closed, but about 550 children come to the border each day. DDT had more families and children seeking asylum at the border in 2019: Central America is also facing the pandemic as well as two devastating hurricanes last fall. Families seek escape from violence, poverty, and government corruption. Resolution of an asylum claim requires almost two and a half years, and DDT’s backlog of 1.3 million cases is 500,000 over those under Obama. By the end of his term, DDT left 70,000 asylum seekers in Mexico and turned away almost everyone at the border, including 16,000 children and 34,000 families. Children are not to be left in facilities maintained by HHS, responsible for placing them with family sponsors, for over 72 hours, but these are almost full, including nine more emergency shelters.

Biden’s administration is working on the problem with an intention to provide more aid to Central America and make the assistance circumvent corrupt officials. The government also wants to process children as refugees in their home countries, a program created by President Obama and eliminated by DDT. Biden is paying the price for DDT’s attempts to hide the “Trump border crisis.”

Pieces of Biden’s progress:

Despite opposition from Sens. John A. Kennedy (R-LA), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Marco Rubio (R-FL), Congress passed the extension of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) past the March 31 deadline to the end of May with another month for application processing. Because many large businesses were fraudulently awarded these loans for small businesses under DDT, this law prioritizes smaller businesses, those in low income areas, and community financial institutions. The bill passed 92-7 in the Senate and 415-3 in the House.

DOJ has charged 474 people of COVID-related fraud in attempts to steal over $569 million. At least 120 of these people used lax oversight by DDT’s administration. Business owners inflated payroll expenses to get larger loans, and others revived defunct corporations or purchased shell companies with no operations to get loans. In Texas, a man submitted 15 fake applications for $24.8 million in loans for businesses with no employees or salaries. Other fraud is connected to the Economic Injury Disaster Loans Program with another $580 million seized in Colorado.

DHS, originally created to fight international terrorism, is making policy changes to detect and stop domestic violent extremism. Part of the plan is expanding ties to companies searching public data for intelligence and better using the data already being collected. One method is identifying people from social media behavior to find toxic messaging from foreign governments, terrorists, and domestic extremists, scrutinizing them for violence plans.

Biden has withdrawn DDT’s appeal of an earlier ruling to the DC Appeals Court banning DDT’s draconian work requirements to obtain food stamps. DDT’s rule would have created difficulties in states to waive these work requirements despite the increase of food insecurity for 700,000 people during the pandemic.

Biden wishes to cooperate with Russia and China on climate change at the global leaders’ climate summit where Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping have been invited. Hosting the summit, held remotely on April 22 and 23, he plans to unveil a new carbon emissions target to the 40 world leaders.

The DHS Advisory Council of over 30 members has been dissolved and will be reconstituted with a new model. Gone are DDT’s appointments Ken Cuccinelli and Tom Homan as well as Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano. Priorities of the new council, using a demographic makeup to “look like America,” will be immigration, domestic terrorism, and cyber concerns. The past council providing independent advice to the secretary conducts research and provides policy analysis on security issues. Some former members may be called back.

During his mishandling of the pandemic, DDT forced the CDC to use anti-science disinformation supporting his positions. The current administration is cleaning up the “junk” it inherited. In charge is Dr. Anne Schuchat, the second in command who DDT shut up. She’s searching all CDC COVID guidance and advice published during the last administration to permanently kill it. Unfortunately, the mainstream media is still spreading evidence-free statements from former CDC director Robert Redfield, for example that COVID-19 came from a Wuhan lab. The media hasn’t pointed out that Redfield’s past research, one for a HIV vaccine, used data either “egregiously sloppy” or “fabricated,” according to a doctor at clinical pharmacology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.  

And the Ever Given is still blocking the Suez Canal after five days.

March 27, 2021

Georgia:   Republicans Opposed to ‘Cancel Culture” Decides to ‘Cancel Voting’

People who know nothing about the new voter-prevention law in Georgia are either hiding under a rock or watching Fox network. Passing legislature and signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in one day, state GOP legislators included a large number of provisions, all designed to destroy democracy and elect only Republicans. Yet they claim to try to prevent the non-existent fraud which could not be found by multiple investigations and court cases, many of them by Republicans.

The so-called “Election Integrity Act of 2021,” two pages long in addressing absentee votes, grew to 96 pages in the hour before the voting. Some provisions:

  • Allows state lawmakers to take over local election boards—meaning Republicans can eliminate votes they don’t like with their ability to certify results if Democrats win close race—something DDT failed to do in 2020.
  • Gives GOP-controlled legislature to appoint a majority of members to the State Election Board.
  • Removes the authority of Georgia’s secretary of state from any control over the election (because Brad Raffensperger wouldn’t find 11,000 for Dictator Donald Trump [DDT] to win the state.
  • Criminalizes photographing one’s own ballot.
  • Eases ability to challenge vote eligibility.
  • Prevents anyone from giving even water to people standing in voting lines even if they are forced to be outside for up to ten hours before casting their votes.
  • Blocks counties from having almost all ballot drop boxes during early voting, allowing them only inside early voting locations during business hours.
  • Removes drop boxes during last four days before an election, a time when mail-in ballots are most likely not receive in time.
  • Disqualifies provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct. 
  • Makes counties responsible for deciding Sunday voting but permitted only twice.
  • Moves runoffs to four weeks after general elections with early voting reduced to one week.
  • Eliminates mobile voting vans to alleviate long lines in heavily Democratic Fulton County.
  • Sets up hotline to report election activities in the attorney general’s office.
  • Mandates certification of votes within six days instead of ten days.
  • Requires election voters to count ballots without stopping until they finish.

The only piece missing in the final bill was ending no-excuse absentee voting, a system allowing Republicans to win the elections until the past few months, but the stricter requirements for voter ID with these ballots again creates more problems for minorities and low-income people. Absentee ballots will be verified based on driver’s license numbers or other documentation instead of voter signatures. The law did reduce the time in which voters can request an absentee ballot to 11 days before Election Day and complicated the request process.

The Georgia legislature now permits the kind of voter fraud DDT demanded. In addition to begging Raffensperger for enough votes to win, he earlier asked Raffensperger’s lead investigator, Frances Watson, to find fraud in specific counties, promising she would “be praised” by finding “the right answer.” The GOP search for voter fraud was investigated only in states where President Joe Biden won. DDT pushed Watson to keep looking for votes in his favor until January 6, 2021, when Congress certified the presidency for Biden.

Georgia made more history when state troopers handcuffed state Rep. Park Cannon (D-Atlanta) and charged her with a felony for knocking on the governor’s door while he signed the law in the midst of six other white men. (Right: Cannon – Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Biden called the law an “atrocity” and said the DOJ is taking a look at it. He added:

“If you want any indication that it has nothing to do with fairness, nothing to do with decency—they passed a law saying you can’t provide water for people standing in line while they’re waiting to vote.”

The law directly attacks Black voters.They are more likely to vote remotely and less likely to have the required identification for an absentee vote, formerly allowed through signature-matching. Over 200,000 Georgia voters have no driver’s license or state ID number. The average wait time to vote in Black communities is also far more than in predominantly White communities.

Groups immediately began to file lawsuits against the new law, calling it an effort to impose “unconstitutional burdens on the right to vote.”

Historian Heather Cox Richardson wrote: 

“The United States defeated the Confederacy, outlawed human enslavement except as punishment for crime, declared Black Americans citizens, and in 1867, with the Military Reconstruction Act, began to establish impartial suffrage. The Military Reconstruction Act, wrote Maine politician James G. Blaine in 1893, ‘changed the political history of the United States.’

“Today, as I looked at the photograph of Governor Kemp signing that bill, I wondered just how much.”

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is responsible for the draconian voting law in Georgia and probably other states. Eight years ago, he authored the majority opinion of 5-4 in Shelby County v. Holder which trashed the Voting Rights Act protecting voting procedures from discrimination. Roberts wrote, “Things have changed dramatically [in the South].” He may be right—the South may be able to make discrimination against Democratic voters much worse.

Georgia’s new law is one of 253 measures in 43 states designed to keep the GOP in complete control no matter what. With Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WY) determined to refuse any bills not supported by Republicans, H.R. 1, For the People Act, won’t be able to defend democracy through people’s right to vote.

Journalist Bonnie Kristian points out that a conservative (a real one!) should oppose Georgia’s law. Her definition of conservative is “someone who wants to preserve tradition and institutional stability, to thicken the thin veil that separates our society from chaos.” She quotes psychologist Jonathan Haidt as conservatives have five moral values: Harm/Care; Fairness/Reciprocity; In-Group/Loyalty; Authority/Respect; and Purity/Sanctity. Liberals have only the first two—care and fairness—because they value diversity over in-group loyalty and question authority and traditional notions of social and sexual purity. Georgia’s law fails in-group loyalty in self-governance, lying about trying to stop voter fraud; authority, by diminishing moral authority necessary in popular government; and fairness, the law being a dishonorable act. It is “shameless, disgraceful, a poor loser’s move … changing the rules of the game instead of putting in the work to win it as-is or accepting victory isn’t possible.” Now, someone needs to explain this position to the “conservatives.”

Republicans are working hard to get the subject back to what they see as Biden’s failure of immigration at the southern border. Toward that end, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) took 17 friends, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in armored patrol boats along the Rio Grande for a midnight visit to prove abuse of migrant children. They were also looking for human traffickers taunting border agents across the “open border” and, hopefully, chaos and lawlessness. All they could say was that VP Kamala Harris, now in charge of the immigration situation, should come down to the border as well instead of working on a solution.  

As a British newspaper describes, the 18 mostly White, male Republicans left “Anzalduas Park Mission, on four Texas Highway Patrol power boats, bristling with machine guns, and armed officers.” A woman said she had been birdwatching in the same location where the tour created a false danger with “fancy camo gear and [a] ride in boats with guns,” according to writer Annie Hartnett. Asked about the U.S. being a nation of immigrants, Cruz bragged about his father coming to the county in 1957. Graham bailed him out by telling journalists they should talk to border patrol officers instead of politicians. Sister Norma Pimentel, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, said DDT’s promise to build a border wall caused a jump in crossings.

Next time, Cruz and his far-right colleagues might want to get protection from the birdwatchers. And they aren’t getting the focus off voting rights.

March 23, 2021

Mass Shootings Cover Up Good News from Biden Administration

The focus of the news for the past week has been mass shootings—first the eight in Georgia primarily of Asian-American women and then another ten people killed at a grocery store/pharmacy in Boulder (CA). In these seven days, however, were five other mass shootings, defined as one with four or more wounded or dead casualties, in the U.S.: March 17, Stockton (CA) – five people preparing a vigil shot in a drive-by shooting with no life-threatening injuries; March 18, (Gresham (OR) – four victims taken to the hospital; March 20, Houston (TX) – five people shot inside a club, one in critical condition; and March 20, Philadelphia – one person killed and five injured at an illegal party where 150 people fled for their lives. The U.S. keeps no centralized system or database for firearm victims and mass shootings so no one knows whether an average daily mass shootings is typical. In 2019, almost 40,000 people were killed in firearm-related events.

A county judge revoked a ban on assault-style weapons in Boulder only ten days before ten people were killed, and the perpetrator bought his gun only six days earlier. As usual, Republicans opposed even the most popular remedies such as universal background checks, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced the Democrats are to blame for the shootings because they want control to prevent them. 

White supremacists and the extreme right, DDT’s base of voters, celebrated the Georgia mass shooting, including the murder of six Asian-American women, with posts dehumanizing people of Asian descent and praising the killer. Posts on a neo-Nazi Telegram site advocated for violence against Asian Americans, calling the murders “always a good thing.” A Proud Boys media group ridiculed protests against anti-Asian violence and promoted anti-Asian racism. Users of the main 8chan/pol successor forum also praised the attack, one person hoping the violence would force non-Whites to leave Europe and the U.S. A white supremacist strategy spreads footage of violence against people of Asian descent to brainwash Whites, “especially the youth.” White supremacists also celebrated the second anniversary of the March 15 Christchurch terrorist attack by posting the video of the attack, praises of the 51 murders in mosques, and calls for violence against Muslims.  

Georgia’s GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene had no statement on the mass shooting in her state. Earlier, she had verbally attacked David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland (FL) school shooting killed 17 people and wounding another 17 people for his gun control activism. Greene had also said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) deserves “a bullet to the head.” Colorado’s GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert, who produced a video advertisement with a gunshot at the end, sent prayers in a fundraising email two hours after the killings that encourages people to “tell Joe Biden … HELL NO” to gun control. 

Anyone who believes Boebert’s lie about her reason for carrying a gun needs the true story. She claims a man was beat to death outside her restaurant “by another man’s hands,” and she needs to carry a gun “to protect everyone.” The truth: a man involved in a fight with another man with a prosthetic leg ran from the scene, three blocks away from Boebert’s restaurant. A teenager helped the second man get his leg back, and the second man said the fight was about a woman. The first man ran several blocks away and was discovered after his fall with a glass pipe containing methamphetamine residue. Police saw no blood or other evidence of any deadly fight, and the autopsy report gave “methamphetamine intoxication” as the reason for death.

The news of the two worst mass shootings of the week concealed good news coming out of the White House:

The Affordable Care Act special enrollment period is extended to August 15, 2021, allowing people use the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) with benefits such as the decrease of premiums after advance payment of increased tax credits up to $50 per person per month and $85 per policy per month. Four of five enrollees (up from 69 percent pre-ARPA) can find a plan for $10 or less per month after tax, and over 50 percent (up from 14 percent pre-ARPA) can find a Silver plan for $10 or less per month. One-fourth of ACA enrollees can pay the same or less than formerly to get better out-of-pocket costs. Consumers can use increased premium tax credits on high quality health care plans by enrolling through

President Joe Biden reversed a policy by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) by cancelling about $1 billion in student debt for those defrauded by their colleges. The loan forgiveness to 73,000 people eligible for this relief was reduced by former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who gave only part forgiveness by changing the cancellation calculation. DeVos had also postponed over 200,000 borrower defense claims for four years by refusing to allow those in debt to hear whether they were eligible for relief.

Biden’s new Education Secretary, Miguel Cardona, also granted Puerto Rico immediate access to $912 million in federal funds made unavailable to students in public and private schools by DDT’s restrictions. Funds included $302 million provided by the CARES Act a year ago for COVID-19 relief; other aid came from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund and the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund. All fiscal year 2019 department program grant funds withheld by DDT totaled $522 million. Puerto Rican schools are now beginning to open.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is withdrawing DDT’s rule barring graduate students from joining a union: DDT had declared these students were not employees even if they were paid for teaching or research. DDT’s regulation took collective bargaining rights from 57,500 unionized graduate students and prevented another 1.5 million graduates from unionizing. In 2000, the NLRB gave graduate students at private universities the right to unionize and then reversed the decision in 2004. Twelve years later, the Board ruled graduate students were employees under the National Labor Relations Act and could thus join unions after students from Columbia University petitioned the NLRB. Graduate students can make as little as $20,000 a year, giving their employers the impression they aren’t workers.

In an ongoing GOP attempt to smear Biden, Republicans are running a campaign pushing the recent immigrant “border crisis” as his personal disaster. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) went so far as to say that the reason behind the attempts to migrants to cross the border comes from the current administration’s decision to treat them “humanely.” Conservative Bill Kristol begs to differ: he describes the situation as a recurring problem made worse by DDT. The history of these surges shows decades-old issues, and Biden inherited DDT’s huge mess after DDT dismantled the asylum system. 

A combination of John Oliver’s piece on Last Week Tonight and the murder of Asian-American women may have awakened Meghan McCain, daughter of deceased Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), to the understanding that words matter. After Oliver’s segment on the vast increase on the abuse of Asian Americans, McCain, often delivering her opinions on The View, apologized for repeating DDT’s racist rhetoric about the coronavirus’ relationship to Chinese people while he refused to contain the pandemic in the U.S.  McCain had said that DDT’s reference to “the China virus” was a clever strategy to win votes. When McCain tweeted last week about ending anti-Asian violence, Oliver clearly pointed out her hypocrisy. On his show, Oliver said:

“Oh good! Meghan McCain doesn’t have a problem with it. Listen, not to the scores of Asian Americans telling everyone that the term is dangerous and offensive. Instead, gather around and take the word of a white woman who’s dressed like she’s about to lay off 47 people over Zoom.”

In response, McCain said:

“I condemn the reprehensible violence and vitriol that has been targeted towards the Asian-American community. There is no doubt Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric fueled many of these attacks, and I apologize for any past comments that aided that agenda.”

The U.S. intelligence community has released a report that the U.S. election infrastructure in 2020 stayed secure despite Russian President Vladimir Putin promotion of DDT and Iran’s work to denigrate DDT. The U.S. has no evidence that any foreign actor tried to change any voting technology, “including voter registration, casting ballots, vote tabulation, or reporting results.” Intelligence did discover Putin’s authorization to “influence operations aimed at denigrating President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process, and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the US.” These included lies to undercut Biden.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has asked new AG Merrick Garland to examine how thoroughly DDT’s FBI looked into Brett Kavanaugh for a background check before Republicans confirmed him for the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault and several other misconduct allegations, but the four-day investigation was extremely incomplete. One concern was that witnesses wanting to share the accounts were rejected by the FBI, which had not assigned anyone to accept or gather evidence. Whitehouse also said senators were not given any information about processing or evaluating allegations on a “tip line.” In addition, DDT’s FBI Director Christopher Wray would not answer questions about the investigation.

And there’s more good news! Stay tuned in the next few days.

March 17, 2021

GOP Votes Oppose Help for U.S. People

Wednesday, 172 House Republicans voted in favor of domestic violence and opposed a law’s renewal to protect women. The Violence against Women Act, originally passed in 1994 and periodically requiring reauthorization, faces increasing struggles as Republicans oppose funding to protect women from domestic abuse, sexual assault, and stalking. Objections this year came from ensuring accountability for non-tribal offenders on tribal lands and closure of the “boyfriend loophole,” barring stalkers from obtaining firearms. The bill includes housing vouchers to help survivors in federally-assisted housing to quickly relocate if necessary. Another provision permits people to obtain unemployment insurance if they must leave a job for their safety.

With COVID-19 forcing people to stay at home, domestic violence incidents have sharply risen within the past year, and organizations have offered more flexible texting services and housing assistance. One report shows an eight-percent rise in domestic violence, and another study shows an increase of injuries at emergency room patients from this violence.

The bill requires 60 Senate votes to pass because of the watered-down filibuster. Now, one person can announce a filibuster, and no action is taken until 60 percent of senators move it forward.  Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) has already said that barring a stalker from owning a gun to menace a domestic partner with a gun is unconstitutional.

The lack of GOP support for women came the day after a young white man killed eight people in Georgia, six of them women of Asian descent. The reason, according to the killer, was an attempt to avoid “temptation” for his “sex addiction.” The killer was having “a bad day,” explained the officer, who has posted racist COVID messages on social media. He said that the alleged killer “was pretty much fed up and had been kind of at the end of his rope.” The young man was apprehended on his way to Florida to kill more women. He said he had frequented massage parlors and killed the people, seven of them women, for “vengeance.”

Organizations studying and tracking hate groups and violence described “male supremacy terrorism,” driven by aggrieved male entitlement and a desire to preserve traditional gender roles. Three years ago, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism began tracking male supremacist ideology, and the Anti-Defamation League published a report called “When Women are the Enemy: The Intersection of Misogyny and White Supremacy.” According to the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, the ideology’s two core beliefs are that “men are entitled to sexual access to women” and that “feminists are a malevolent force controlling society at the expense of men.” Men have used these beliefs to justify mass shootings at yoga and fitness studios frequented by women, the slaughter of 10 people in Toronto in 2018, and the 2011 shooting deaths of 77 people in Norway by Anders Breivik, who viewed feminism as a significant threat.

As right-wingers, led by former Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), used racist language to describe the global epidemic, Stop AAPI Hate reported 3,795 hate incidents including name-calling, shunning, and assault in the U.S. against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders during the past year. The number could be much higher because not all incidents are reported. Most were against women, in businesses, and on public sidewalks or streets, the report said. Other events included civil rights violations such as workplace discrimination or refusal of service and online harassment.

Last week, a 75-year-old defenseless Asian man was killed in Oakland’s (CA) Chinatown on his morning walk. A friend had warned him about the danger of being there because Asian people were being attacked. Carl Chan, the president of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, said that seniors were afraid to walk on the streets because of hateful attacks after political statements about the “Chinese virus” or the “kung flu.”

The suspected Georgia killer, who has confessed, was an active member with his parents in the evangelical church Crabapple First Baptist Church in Milton (GA). Brett Cottrell, the youth and missions pastor from 2008 to 2017, talked about the killer’s participation “in everything we did.” Crabapple is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and theologically conservative with mostly white members. The group is opposed to “critical race theory, “intersectionality, and the social justice movement in Baptist circles.

In another House bill, passing by 413-12, the 12 self-professed “law and order” Republicans voted against giving the Congressional Gold Medal to the Capitol Police for their bravery on January 6 when insurrectionists stormed the building. According to the bill, the three medals would be displayed at the Capitol Police headquarters, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department headquarters, and the Smithsonian. Naysayers said they opposed the terrorist attack being called an insurrection. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) lobbied for a bill with no mention of January 6 or the Capitol attack. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) didn’t want the medal to be displayed at the Smithsonian. In February, the Senate voted to grant the Congressional Gold Medal to Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman for putting himself in harm’s way to protect lawmakers and staff during the assault on Congress.

First, Republicans tried to block the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) by unanimously voting against it. Almost three-fourths of people approved of ARPA, including 59 percent of Republicans, so those voting no tried to take credit for it. Now both President Joe Biden, VP Kamala Harris, and their spouses, Dr. Jill Biden and Doug Emhoff, are crossing the U.S. to talk about the benefits while the IRS has already sent out 90 million relief checks of $1,400 each. Republicans and the media criticize Biden for not spending enough time talking with the media, but he has historically talked to both small and large groups of people.  

Republicans hoped voters would turn against the law; now they are concerned Biden will move forward with more approval of his agenda. The real GOP concern is the 2022 election, a little more than a year away.

The RNC struggles with refuting ARPA after supporting deficit-spending such as massive cuts for the wealthy and businesses plus giving hundreds of billions of dollars to large businesses in a bill supposedly to save people from the economic pain of COVID-19. Earlier this year, they were overwhelmed by the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol and DDT’s impeachment for inciting violence.

People like ARPA because it benefits the middle class over wealthy people, helps with vaccinations, and supports the opening of schools. The GOP can only wish people will forget ARPA’s benefits before the election; Democrats are intent on that forgetfulness not happening. When Republicans try to take credit for ARPA benefits, Democrats say, “You voted against it.” Republicans are working on publicity about the immigrants at the southern border, but the issue has no connection to the relief bill.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin benefited Biden’s bill by stashing away “well over $1 trillion” at the end of DDT’s presidential term when he assumed the former White House would pass a sizeable relief bill. Almost 100 million people got their $1,400 checks within two days of ARPA’s signing instead of waiting two weeks as they did with DDT because he wanted his name on the check.

Even the House chaplain supported U.S. people in distress from DDT’s mismanagement of the pandemic. In a prayer, Rear Adm. Margaret Grun Kibben asked God to forgive Republicans:

“For when called upon to respond to a once-in-a-century pandemic that has rocked our country, upended its economy and widened the chasm of partisan opinion, they have missed the opportunity to step above the fray and unite to attend to this national crisis…

“In failing to address the acrimony and divisions which have prevailed in this room, the servants you have called to lead this country have contributed to the spread of an even more insidious contagion of bitterness and spite.”

Her reference to the New Testament’s letter to the Colossians argued that “rather than employing the preventive measures of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience,” lawmakers have set that “armor” aside “in favor of argument, disparaging words and divisiveness.” In recalling the Gospel of Mark’s third chapter of “a house divided against itself cannot stand,” she said Congress stands “in need of healing and reconciliation.”

Kibben concluded:

“Merciful Lord, rebuild this House, that their labor will not be in vain.”

ARPA will stay in the news if Ohio GOP AG David Yost continues his lawsuit against the Biden administration. He claims the prohibition of this federal money to states and municipalities to offset new tax cuts is unconstitutional. Ohio receives $11.2 billion, but GOP Gov. Mike DeWine ordered $390 million in new spending cuts among state agencies. Leaders of 21 other red states wrote Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen that the provision “would represent the greatest invasion of state sovereignty by Congress in the history of our Republic.” A White House official pointed out states aren’t blocked from tax cuts: they just need to replace the revenue without using stimulus funds.

Not all Republicans are stupid about ARPA money. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) told the state’s Gov. Ron DeSantis to refuse all the money to the state. DeSantis has already made plans for spending his $10 billion.

March 13, 2021

Biden Spends Successful Week

In a paraphrase of Charles Dickens—it was the best of speeches; it was the worse of speeches. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) wanted to appear in control. DDT had blocked testing, but the number of coronavirus case was still at 1,267. For a month, he had compared the deadly disease to the seasonal flu, claiming coronavirus  would just disappear and continued that lie for another seven-plus months as the daily number of U.S. cases rose to over 77,000. 

DDT read from his speech in a monotone when he announced a limit on some world travel, suspending travel from Europe for 30 days which added to bans on parts of Italy and South Korea as well as China and Iran. He exempted the UK, with far more cases than many EU countries, and permitted U.S. citizens to return to the U.S., crowding the airports and spreading infections. DDT said, “The virus will not have a chance against us.”

DDT’s speech misrepresented the administration’s policy in “suspending all travel from Europe” and blocking “tremendous amount of trade and cargo,” which also hadn’t been decided. His boast that the health insurance industry agreed to waive “all co-payments for coronavirus treatments” was also a lie. DDT continued his racist assertion about COVID-19 being a “foreign virus” that “started in China.”

Exactly one year later, March 11, 2021, President Joe Biden’s first prime-time speech excelled in empathy for the U.S. people and hope for the future. He announced all adults will be eligible for the COVID-19 virus by May 1, and his promise of 100 million vaccines in his first 100 days will be achieved by his first 60 days. The increase in vaccinations comes from the purchase of 100 million more doses of the one-time shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Biden also mourned the 545,000+ deaths in the past year from the virus, many of the deaths unnecessary because DDT did little or nothing about stopping the disease.

The far-right frantically searched for ways to criticize Biden’s speech. Tucker Carlson, already in trouble for attacking women in the military, came up with his need for “freedom.” About Biden’s statement that people in the U.S. can safely gather in small groups for Independence Day, Carlson ranted:  

“This is a free people. This is a free country. How dare you tell us who we can spend the Fourth of July with?”

Erik Wemple sarcastically wrote that “only a power-hungry radical would suggest that people hang out with ‘your families and friends’ on a holiday.” 

Biden made the speech on the same day he signed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) after its final passage in the House with a 220 to 211 vote. Of the two House Democrats opposing the bill the first time, Jared Golden (ME) voted no the second time while Kurt Schrader (OR) changed his vote to yes.

With the signing a day early before the promised deadline, many of the $1,400 stipends were delivered this weekend. ARPA provides an average tax cut of $3,000 for the low and middle class and a $6,000 cut for families, giving people in this category almost 70 percent of the tax benefits. It will raise after-tax incomes by 3.8 percent. This step is the opposite of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which provided about half the benefits to the top five percent of the population, those who made about $308,000 that year.

Not one Republican voted for ARPA, but at least one of them took credit for it. Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi bragged about the approximately $29 billion bailout for the restaurant industry. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, “It’s typical that they will vote no and take the dough.” Republicans are now moving forward to repeal the estate tax for the remaining 1,900 people not exempted by the 2017 tax cut bill. The current tax covers only estates worth more than $22 million. Their action doesn’t fit Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) description of the GOP as “the party of steel workers, construction workers, pipeline workers, police officers, firefighters, waiters, and waitresses.”

The 657 wealthiest billionaires in the U.S. could pay for two-thirds of ARPA with the $1.3 trillion they acquired in the past year. Three of them—Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg—made enough to pay for the $250 billion of supplemental unemployment benefits of $300 weekly for the upcoming six months. Musk’s increase of $142 billion, a 567 percent increase in assets, could support farmers, small businesses, bars and restaurants, and other industries. Bezos’ $67 billion could fund assistance to renters, homeowners, and veterans with $8 billion left over. [visual – ARPA chart]

Because of current law, the billionaires $4.2 trillion in wealth won’t be taxed during their lifetimes less they sell the underlying assets at a gain. Other laws allow inheritors to escape taxation on the increase.

Biden and the Dems aren’t resting on their laurels after passing ARPA: their next project will be job-creating packages on climate, broadband, and transportation issues. Pelosi expressed hope a transportation system will let them address more needs such as education, housing, and water systems, some of them over 100 years old. With the Senate filibuster requiring at least ten Republicans to support any bills, Democrats ponder another budget reconciliation process for infrastructure and ways to pay for expenditures. One possibility, bringing GOP opposition, is tax increases on corporations and the wealthy, drastically lowered in the 2017 GOP tax cut bill.

More success for Biden during the week came from the Senate confirmation of three more Cabinet members:

Michael Regan: The vote for EPA Secretary, 66-34, allows him to rebuild an agency losing thousands of employees and rolling back dozens of clean air and water protections during the Trump administration. A former EPA employee, he pledged to change years of funding cuts, industry-friendly policies, and rejection of its scientists. Regan has “a special obligation to the underserved and under-represented.” Soon before he took over the agency, the EPA gave his predecessor a 23-page “letter of concern” to Regan’s predecessor reporting racial discrimination from hog-farm pollution resulting from investigation into a complaint. The EPA has “deep concern about the possibility that African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans have been subjected to discrimination as the result of [North Carolina] DEQ’s operation of the Swine Waste General Permit program.”

 Merrick Garland: The new DOJ Attorney General, confirmed with a 70-30 vote, will begin investigating whistleblower allegations about political DOJ hiring by acting AG Jeffrey Bossert Clark in the last days before Biden’s inauguration. In late December, Clark and DDT allegedly discussed a method of unseating then acting AG Jeffrey Rosen to advance DDT’s plans for overturning Georgia’s election before the congressional certification of electoral votes on January 6. Garland was greeted with a standing ovation when he took his oath and promised everyone will be treated by the same set of rules.

Marcia Fudge: HUD Secretary was confirmed with a 66-34 majority, thanks to GOP support including that of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader.  She needs to overcome the actions of her predecessor, Ben Carson, with his massive exodus of career staff, destruction of fair housing enforcement, and failure to address a nationwide crisis in affordable housing worsened by the pandemic. HUD’s aging issue includes 63 percent of employees eligible to retire, including 50 percent of supervisors and managers.

Although the confirmation of Xavier Becerra for HHS Secretary was blocked in committee, the Senate voted 51-48 to bypass the panel for the entire chamber to consider his nomination. Both Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have announced their support of Becerra.

With southern border shelters freed up from some pandemic restrictions, Biden has reactivated over 200 beds for unaccompanied immigrant children and eliminated DDT’s agreement causing the arrest of sponsors who want to take them. The former administration had given sponsors’ fingerprints and other information to DHS.

In another immigration change this week, a program reinstated permission for parents legally in the U.S. from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to ask for their children to come to the U.S.

On International Women’s Day, Biden signed two executive orders. One orders the review of former Education Secretary DeVos’ regulation in handling the process of sexual assault allegations by higher education institution. New Education Secretary Miguel Cardona was directed to consider “suspending, revising, or rescinding” agency actions violating the policy of non-discrimination “on the basis of sex.”

The other order establishes the White House Gender Policy Council. The Council will help Biden “ensure that every domestic and foreign policy we pursue rests on a foundation of dignity and equity for women.” A special assistant to Biden will focus on “policies to advance equity for Black, indigenous and Latina women and girls of color.” Co-chair Julissa Reynoso, first lady Jill Biden’s chief of staff, said that the full participation of women and girls in society is “essential to the economic well-being, health and security of our nation and the world. This is a matter of human rights, justice and fairness.”

To complete Dickens’ beginning to A Tale of Two Cities:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us …”

And thus we have the description of life before and after January 20, 2021.


March 12, 2021

Tucker Carlson’s Misogyny Hits New High

Ratings have been hard on the Fox network in the past year, especially after Deposed Dictator Trump (DDT) largely disappeared into the bowels of Mar-a-Lago. February was particularly brutal for Tucker Carlson when viewers for Rachel Maddow, who provides news on her MSNBC show, outnumbered those watching Carlson’s evidence-free bigotry and hatred.

Monday was International Women’s Day, part of Women’s History Month, and Carlson tried to build his ratings this week by showing the white man’s superiority over women. He presented his warped perspective on his Tuesday program—pregnant women are “feminizing” the military and giving China the opportunity to become more dominant over the U.S. in its world dominance of national defense. 

He also ranted about new updates to Army and Air Force hair regulations:

“So we’ve got new hairstyles and maternity flight suits. Pregnant women are going to fight our wars. It’s a mockery of the U.S. military.”

Part of Carlson’s rage came from President Biden’s Monday nomination of two highly-qualified four-star female generals to lead a combatant command. The pregnant Air Force Capt. Beatrice Horne, serving with the 964th Airborne Air Control Squadron, was selected to vet the flight suit prototype to accommodate pregnancy.

Current and former members of the military, including senior-ranking military officials and members of Congress, were not pleased with Carlson’s denigration of over half the people in the U.S. population and Carlson’s attempt to control military policy. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) sent a strong tweet about Tucker’s insults:

“F–k Tucker Carlson. While he was practicing his two-step, America’s female warriors were hunting down Al Qaeda and proving the strength of America’s women. Happy belated International Women’s Day to everyone but Tucker, who even I can dance better than.”

A retired Army National Guard lieutenant colonel with two daughters, Duckworth lost both her legs while engaging in combat during the Iraq War. Her reference is to Carlson’s brief 2006 appearance on Dancing with the Stars when he was the first contestant to be eliminated. Duckworth is the first sitting senator to give birth while in office and brought her newborn daughter, Maile, to a 2018 Senate floor vote.

Michael Grinston, the top enlisted leader of the Army, tweeted:

“Women lead our most lethal units with character. They will dominate ANY future battlefield we’re called to fight on.”

General Paul Funk, the commanding officer of the Army Training and Doctrine Command, wrote:

“Thousands of women serve honorably every day around the globe. They are beacons of freedom and they prove Carlson wrong through determination and dedication. We are fortunate they serve with us.”

VoteVets tweeted:

“Tucker Carlson doesn’t think women can serve in the military. Pretty bold words from a frozen food heir who couldn’t be bothered to serve himself.”

Tucker Carlson wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but his father stuck one there by marrying Patricia Swanson of the Swanson Frozen Dinner family fortune. He was then able to attend private schools and colleges along with connections to a television career through his father, media executive Dick Carlson who was CEO of The Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The family also gained political clout after the marriage from Sen. J. William Fulbright, part of the Swanson family.

VoteVets is accurate about Carlson never serving in the military, and he failed in an attempt to join the CIA.

Travis Akers wrote:

“As a military officer, I am calling for the ban of Fox News being broadcasted in the workplace on all military bases and installations. The values of Fox News are not aligned with those of the United States military, and undermine good order and discipline among the ranks.”

Work on updates to protect women’s health while serving in the military, a maternity flight suit, permission to wear “ponytails” to stop scalp damage from tight buns, and body armor fitting women for injury prevention were initiated during DDT’s term. A former Secretary of Defense, however, did not recommend the nomination of female generals to lead service members into combat because of the concern DDT would reject women for the position.   

Martina Chesonis, spokeswoman for the Service Women’s Action Network, pointed out that pregnant women, not authorized to fly in combat, will still wear flight suits for daily work including training flights.

“It’s just such a lack of understanding of how wars are fought, how deployments are managed, how women contribute in the military. And what’s unfortunate is that [Tucker Carlson] has that platform.”

Pregnant women are not sent “to fight in our wars.” Women in military aviation often plan pregnancies to occur during regularly scheduled, non-operational jobs for every service member such as being instructors or other non-deployable positions.

Carlson wasn’t satisfied with only smearing women in the military on his Tuesday show: he also ridiculed New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz for accounts of online harassment by saying she has “one of the best lives in the country.” For International Women’s Day, Lorenz asked her Twitter followers to “please consider supporting women enduring online harassment.” Carlson complained about “powerful people claiming to be powerless” and compared Lorenz to women accused of pretending victimhood, listing Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.

The Times called Carlson’s segment “calculated and cruel,” so he returned to attack Lorenz. She is a “deeply unhappy narcissist,” according to Carlson, and he denied she faces online abuse. One of his guests accused Lorenz of “harassing kids and teenagers.” A defense from a Fox spokesperson stated, “No public figure or journalist is immune to legitimate criticism of their reporting, claims or journalistic tactics.”

The word “legitimate” runs contrary to the network’s defense for Carlson in a defamation lawsuit last summer. Before he called former Playboy model Karen McDougal a “presidential extortionist,” he told 2.8 million viewers, “Remember the facts of the story; these are undisputed.” The network’s attorney excused Carlson from defamation by claiming no reasonable viewer would believe Carlson’s “reporting” was factual. Erin Murphy said:

“It’s a commentary show, It’s a show that markets itself … as opinion and spirited debate. That context matters.”

Carlson’s show aired two days before DDT’s fixer Michael Cohen and prosecutors granted immunity to the National Enguirer’s parent company after the owner, DDT’s friend, admitted it arranged to conceal any stories about women having had affairs with DDT. McDougal had clearly stated she never approached DDT, and the federal court record supports her claim.

The judge, appointed by DDT, dismissed the defamation suit against Carlson with the explanation he doesn’t tell the truth:

“This ‘general tenor’ of the show should then inform a viewer that he is not ‘stating actual facts’ about the topics he discusses and is instead engaging in ‘exaggeration’ and ‘non-literal commentary.’ … Given Mr. Carlson’s reputation, any reasonable viewer ‘arrive[s] with an appropriate amount of skepticism’ …”

Carlson doesn’t attack everyone. A week ago, he called QAnon conspiracy theory believers “gentle people waving American flags.” He was referring to the mob storming the U.S. Capitol on January 6 with the intent of overturning the legal U.S. presidential election in their attempt to retain DDT in the White House. “They like this country,” Carlson said on his show. One of the five people who died at the Capitol because of the mob was Roseanne Boyland, trampled by the mob while carrying a Gadsden flag, the revolutionary era snake and the words “Don’t Tread on Me.” Carlson not only didn’t talk about these victims but also failed to mention the QAnon belief about DDT being the nation’s real leader against the cabal of Satanic Democratic child-killers and pedophiles.

The 800+ mob members running through the Capitol were looking for people to kill and wound after DDT said to “fight like hell”; Carlson ridiculed the fear of people being attacked in the Capitol. Carlson appears to have confused the “American flags” for the Confederate flag, the symbol flown by treasonous people during the Civil War who tried to overturn the United States. Many people in the Capitol were searching for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) with the intent to commit physical violence against her.

Tucker Carlson’s ratings for March will indicate whether larger audiences reward his hatred toward women and call for violence against them. 

March 7, 2021

COVID Relief Bill Passes Senate

Business in Congress is suddenly booming. While the GOP was in charge, most bills reaching the floor renamed buildings. In the two months since Congress went into session, the House passed at least 70 bills and resolutions. The Senate passed nine bills and resolutions, carried out an impeachment trial, and confirmed 13 Cabinet and Cabinet-level appointments. They also took a week’s vacation before President Joe Biden’s inauguration and worked to restructure the Senate after two elected Democratic senators in Georgia created a 50-50 split in the chamber.

Remarkably, the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, called the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021, passed the Senate despite obstruction from Republicans and, occasionally, a few Democrats. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), trying to decide whether to run for re-election in 2022, tried to get GOP support. Known for his purveying Russian propaganda disinformation, especially while chair of the chamber’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, he forced the entire 628-page bill to be read aloud before debate.  

Passed by Democrats in the House, the modified bill lost the hourly $15 minimum wage before a unanimous vote by the 50 Democratic senators. With Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) absent, the remaining 49 Republicans lost the vote without VP Kamala Harris needing to break a tie. The bill returns to the House for a vote on the minor changes before it goes to Biden for a signature. He promised the bill would be passed before March 14 when the federal portion of the unemployment expires, and he may have succeeded. The increase of 379,000 new jobs last month—Biden’s first complete month on the job—may partly come from an optimism about the bill’s passage, but the U.S. has 9.5 million more unemployed workers than before the attack of COVID-19 who need the bill.

Unemployment benefits caused dissension among Democrats when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) threatened for nine hours to join GOP senators in lessening the bill’s weekly benefits. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) told Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), “The party that claims to want to help workers on their taxes won’t lift a finger.” Earlier in the year, House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had tried to paint Democrats as “anti-worker.” Then Democrats destroyed dozens of GOP amendments to drastically cut spending and assistance for local government. Republicans didn’t plan to vote for the bill; they only wanted to stall the process as they did over a decade ago with the Affordable Care Act. They also accused Democrats of not wanting unity, but the Dems declared unity with the 76 percent of people, including 60 percent of Republicans, who want the bill.  

Johnson’s ploy backfired at the end of staff members’ reading the bill until 2:00 am on Friday morning. The few Democrats still present passed Sen. Chris van Hollen’s (D-MD) motion to cut the debate time from 20 hours to only three; no Republicans were present to object, and votes on the amendments began Friday morning instead of 17 hours later.

Most Senate bills require 60 votes if someone calls for the filibuster, but Senate rules allow one bill each year under reconciliation for each of three categories: spending, revenue, and the federal debt limit. ARPA was passed under this rule. The filibuster requirement for the remainder of bills, mandating 60 instead of 50 votes, has been so watered down that senators use it for almost all bills. The Founding Fathers were opposed to more than a majority required to pass a bill, but the filibuster, or cloture, was formed with a Senate vote over a century ago when Woodrow Wilson wanted to arm merchant vessels in 1917. For decades, filibustering senators had to continue speaking on the Senate floor to stall bills: then-Sen. Strom Thurmond (D-SC) set the record with 24 hours and 28 minutes against the Civil Rights Act of 1957 although the bill finally passed. By 1975, the filibuster rule was almost completely diluted: no 60 percent vote to agree on a filibuster, no talking on the Senate floor, almost no effort.

By the 21st century, one person can continue a filibuster without even being present until 60 senators vote against the filibuster. That’s the reason the number of annual filibusters has gone from about one to hundreds per year.

Contents of the bill:  

  • $1,400 checks per person for individuals making under $75,000 and couples under $150,000.
  • Federal unemployment benefits until September 6 at $300 per week with the first $10,200 of benefits for households earning under $150,000.
  • Extension of a 15 percent increase in food stamp benefits from June to September.
  • Rent aid for low-income households.
  • Increase in federal premium subsidies for Affordable Care Act policies.
  • Provision of $8.5 billion for rural hospitals and health care providers in financial trouble.
  • Child tax credit of $3,000 for each child ages 6-17 and $3,600 for each child under age 6.
  • Designation of $350 billion for states, cities, tribal governments, and U.S. territories.
  • Tens of billions of dollars for COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and vaccine distribution and supply chains.
  • $130 billion for reopening schools.

Added provisions to the House bill:

  • $510 million for the FEMA Emergency Food and Shelter Program to support homeless services providers for overnight shelter, meals, one month’s rent and mortgage assistance, and one month’s utility payments.
  • Expansion of the Employee Retention Tax Credit for start-up companies and other businesses hit by the pandemic.
  • Increase in the federal COBRA health insurance program from 85 percent to 100 percent.
  • A $10 billion infrastructure program to help local governments continue crucial capital projects.
  • Coronavirus-related student loans tax-free.
  • Increase of $200 million for Amtrak relief funding.
  • Education funding of $1.25 billion for summer enrichment, $1.25 billion for after-school programs, and $3 billion for education technology

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) quickly corrected Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) complaining lies about undocumented immigrants receiving money from ARPA. Refusing to yield the floor back to Cruz, Durbin said:

“The statement of the senator from Texas is just plain false… In case you didn’t notice, they didn’t qualify in December when 92 of us voted for that measure, and they don’t qualify under the American Rescue Plan. Nothing has changed, and for you to stand up there and say the opposite is just to rile people up over something that’s not true.”

 Debunking other false claims:

Nothing for schools: As can be seen above, hundreds of billions of dollars are being sent to schools, helping them take CDC steps to safely return youth to schools. The amount is six times what Republicans offered in their version of a bill.

Only 9 percent for health care: The largest parts focus on the pandemic’s economic impact, related to health. At least seven percent is directly related to coronavirus and might be closer to ten percent, depending on the GOP definition of “the health care space,” including the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid. Items such as free lunches for students no physically in school are connected to the COVID crisis. Stimulus checks, government assistance, and unemployment benefits are necessary because of the pandemic. The $140 million originally designated the BART extension, outside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) district, brought bitter complaints, but that sum, 0.0007 of the bill’s amount, has been deleted. Only $30 million for transportation for systems suffering from fee revenue, remains. Airlines alone received $25 from Republicans in the CARES act.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) drew attention to herself with two graceless gestures during the vote for ARPA. One of eight Democrats voting against the hourly minimum wage of $15, she made a dramatic thumbs-down movement similar to that of former Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) when he voted against killing the Affordable Care Act. The difference was clear: Sinema voted against low-income people, and McCain supported them. Seven years ago, she tweeted:

“A full-time minimum-wage earner makes less than $16k a year. This one’s a no-brainer. Tell Congress to #RaiseTheWage!”

Sinema’s other action accompanying her rejection of raising the minimum wage brought up the supercilious remark “Let them eat cake” about 17th and 18th century European peasants living in poverty who had no bread about European peasants living in poverty. She brought a large chocolate cake into the Senate chamber supposedly for staffers forced to read the entire ARPA. The connection between the cake and her thumbs-down for the poor made poor optics for her. Sinema also wants to preserve the filibuster to keep Republicans in control. As an Arizona paper wrote, “Sinema is holding progress hostage.” Sinema complained that criticism about her flamboyant gesture was sexist.  

For the past two years, the Democratic House passed hundreds of important bills and sent them to the boneyard of the GOP Senate. People knew Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate majority leader for those two years, would ignore the bills, which he knew would expire when a new Congress was sworn in. One advantage of having those bills from the 116th Congress, however, is that the 117th Congress can re-pass them much more quickly. Under the “McGovern rule,” bills brought to the House floor by April 1 can skip over markups if the previous Congress passed them. Two major results of this “rule” are H.R. 1 to return democracy to voting through government and elections reform by 220 to 210 and and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act with a vote of 220 to 212. Although both bills have moved on to the Senate, the filibuster may hurt their progress.

The daily cases of COVID-19 and resulting deaths in the U.S. are dropping—58,228 infections and 1,515 deaths yesterday—but the number per capita for cases is above other industrialized nations for cases and still eleventh for deaths.

March 6, 2021

Biden’s Cabinet: Diversity to Guide the U.S.

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 12:12 AM
Tags: , , ,

The 50-50 political split of the Senate is limping through confirmations of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet members. Within the first 45 days, 13 confirmations for Cabinet and Cabinet-level positions leave another nine waiting in the wings with one withdrawal. To help guide the course of the United States, Biden appointed ten women and 13 men which include 11 people of color. Neera Tanden, an Indian-American, withdrew her name from nominee for Office of Management and Budget because of excessive criticisms from GOP senators about her “mean” and “shrill” tweets.  Hearings have been marked by an extremely high level of hypocrisy among GOP questioning and objections.

The nine Cabinet members confirmed since the beginning of February 2021:

Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Transportation: The former presidential candidate’s confirmation vote was 86-13 for the first openly LGBTQ Cabinet member.

Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security: The department’s first Latino and immigrant leader was confirmed by the tight margin of 56-43 after extensive questioning from Republicans about his background. Calling Mayorkas an “ethically compromised partisan lawyer,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told his caucus to vote against Mayorkas who came to the U.S. with his Cuban refugee parents in 1960.

Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of Energy: Former Michigan governor, Granholm garnered fewer than two-thirds of the Senate’s votes with a vote of 64-35. Her experience with the auto industry, especially the development of electric vehicles, made her a strong asset. Since taking her position, the new Energy Secretary found $40 billion, unused during DDT’s term, for loans to boost clean energy. Over $35 billion in loans from the 2009 stimulus funding was paid back by such companies as Tesla.

Denis McDonough, Secretary of Veterans Affairs:  With an 87-7 vote for his confirmation, GOP senators—Ted Cruz (TX), Rick Scott (FL), Tom Cotton (AR), Josh Hawley (MO), Bill Hagerty (TN), Roger Marshall (KS), and Joni Ernst (IA)—didn’t explain their negative votes.

Michael Cardona, Education Secretary: The vote of 64-33 was more supportive than for former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who needed VP Mike Pence to break a tie in her favor. Some Republicans opposed Biden’s “union-focused progressive policies.” Cardona will return oversight on for-profit higher education to the department and help with student debt.

Gina Raimondo, Commerce Secretary: The Rhode Island governor was confirmed by 84-15, but Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) delayed the vote with a procedural move. Her new department includes the Census Bureau, the Patent and Trademark Office, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The 2020 census report is over two months late because of last-minute changes by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Raimondo faces ongoing court challenges regarding the delay of data including a request to order March 31 as the deadline.

Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture: In the 92-7 confirmation vote, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) joined six GOP senators against Vilsack’s appointment because of his corporate ties. Sanders said Vilsack would be “fine” on family farms, just not as strong as he wished. During his confirmation, Vilsack talked about the importance of solving climate change in these “different times.” Some issues he faces.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, UN Ambassador: The 78-20 confirmation vote came after GOP criticisms about a 2019 speech in which they claimed she downplayed China’s expansionist ambitions and investments in Africa. Thomas-Greenfield said she regretted speaking at the Chinese-funded Confucius Institute at Savannah State University as part of her commitment to encouraging Black students in foreign service careers.

Cecelia Rouse, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors: In the most successful confirmation thus far, with a vote of 95-4, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) broke his record of 12 straight “no” votes on Biden’s nominees to vote for Rouse. He still maintains the record, however, of the largest number of negative votes.  

Republicans are stalling on more confirmations, sometimes with their usual hypocritical complaints:

Xavier Becerra: The Senate Finance Committee failed to move Becerra for confirmation as Health and Human Services Secretary with a partisan tie. The 14 GOP naysayers have taken $36.1 million from the health industry, $9.6 million from large pharmaceutical companies. Becerra has taken on corrupt price gouging for drugs, and he promised to expand healthcare access and lower drug prices. The healthcare sector donations are here. Democrats can move him out of committee to a floor vote with “a motion to discharge his nomination and … an additional four hours of debate,” according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). GOP senators already delayed Becerra’s confirmation hearing, and HHS, vital to deal with vaccine distribution and other public health crises connected to the pandemic, has no permanent director.

GOP senators such as Ted Cruz (TX) and Richard Burr (NC) who complained about Becerra not being a doctor voted for DDT’s HHS Secretary Alex Azar, not-a-doctor. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) falsely accused Becerra of suing anti-abortion Catholic nuns when he sued DDT’s administration for its policy exempting employers from signing off on contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Merrick Garland: Sen. Tom Cotton, (R-AK) who faithfully voted for DDT’s attorney general nominees without answers to most questions, stalled Garland’s confirmation by claiming Garland refused “to answer entire basic questions” about immigration, death penalty, and guns. The hold requires another procedural step before a final confirmation vote, perhaps by next week. Garland was voted out of the Judiciary Committee, 15-7, with four GOP votes.

Deb Haaland: As the first Indigenous person nominated for Cabinet, the nominee for Interior Secretary was extensively questioned about her past support to end natural gas fracking and pipeline development. GOP senators complained about her tweet from last October, “Republicans don’t believe in science” and tried to use a study commissioned by the biggest oil and gas trade association against her with information about her position against federal leases. Despite misgivings, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) supported Haaland because of her support from Alaskan constituents, many of them Indigenous people. Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) “apologized” for calling Haaland a “whack job,“ saying he was looking for another word before calling her “a neo-socialist, left-of-Lenin whack job.”

Marcia Fudge: The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs confirmed Marcia Fudge for HUD Secretary by 17-7 with five Republicans voting yes. No Senate action has been taken in almost a month since the vote. Republicans are upset because Fudge has criticized the GOP.

Michael Regan: The Environment and Public Works Committee approved Regan as administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency by 14-6. 

Katherine Tai: The Senate Finance Committee surprisingly moved Tai along for Secretary of Trade with a unanimous voice vote

Isabel Guzman, Small Business Administrator: She passed the committee by 15-5.

Attacks against nominated women of color come from both GOP senators and conservative groups, including one waging a multimillion-dollar ad campaign against Vanita Gupta. She and another civil rights leader Kristen Clarke, appointed for the DOJ, have been described as cop-hating, anti-Semitic reverse racists. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) found it “particularly troubling” that Merrick Garland defended the two women and called them “all about politics.” Both female nominees want laws enforced, unlike the DOJ under the previous administration. Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-UT) questions to Garland concerned only Gupta, who is supported by the country’s largest police union, and Clarke.

Democratic senator Joe Manchin (WV) joined the Republicans in opposing women of color, including his objections about Tanden’s tweets. Yet Manchin voted for DDT’s white males such as Ric Grenell, who ridiculed Newt Gingrich’s weight and asked whether Callista Gingrich’s “hair snaps on.” Grenell also said MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow looked like Justin Bieber and should “take a breath and put on a necklace.” Manchin voted for Ryan Zinke as Interior Secretary after he called Hillary Clinton the “antichrist.” Other Manchin votes were for Mike Pompeo (Secretary of State), who called then-Secretary of State John F. Kerry a “traitor” and “Vietnam’s worst import,” and Jeff Sessions (AG), who called the NAACP a “pinko organization” that “hates white people.”

Granholm, a white woman, was confirmed despite making caustic comments such as calling DDT “a swindler in chief.” Tanden did question possibly excessive compensation for Manchin’s daughter, CEO of EpiPen, after the product cost had a massive increase.

Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) transphobic statements toward the nominee for assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services caused the most disgusting performance in the Senate confirmation hearings thus far. When questioning Dr. Rachel Levine, a trans pediatrician who served as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Rand equated gender-affirming healthcare with “genital mutilation” and accused people seeking gender-affirming surgery because of “the social pressure to conform, to do what others do… as well as the need to be accepted socially and fear of being rejected by the community.” He then accused Levine of advocating “surgical destruction of a minor’s genitalia” before asking if she believes “minors are capable of making such a life-changing decision as changing one’s sex.”

Levine has maintained this treatment is not recommended for anyone under 18 years of age with “some exceptions.” She politely thanked Rand for his interest, saying that “transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field with robust research and standards of care that have been developed.” Rand could not drop the subject, however, saying a British woman who “read something about transsexuals” had “sex reassignment” surgery that she later regretted. Health, Education, and Labor Committee Chair Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) eventually shut him up and thanked Levine for her thoughtful answers, adding:

“It is really critical to me that our nominees be treated with respect and that our questions focus on their qualifications and the work ahead of us rather than on ideological and harmful misrepresentations like those we heard from Sen. Paul earlier.”

A tracker for 800 of the over 1,250 presidential political appointments requiring Senate confirmation. With the current Senate stalling, Biden’s 57 confirmations are far behind his four predecessors.

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