Nel's New Day

September 11, 2021

Biden Clashes with Conservatives about Protecting People

Millions of people in the U.S. oppose the COVID vaccination because of the disinformation from far-right conservatives, and millions more refuse vaccinations because they think they are sabotaging President Joe Biden. Continuing COVID could wipe out Biden’s economic progress and make him more unpopular. The GOP problem is not that the vaccine won’t work; it’s that it will work.  

According to a new report, unvaccinated people are over ten times more likely to be hospitalized of COVID and 11 times more likely to die of the disease than fully vacinated people. Children comprise almost one-fourth of new cases, largely mild but leaving 15 percent of them with “long-haul” symptoms of fatigue, “brain fog,” pain, depression, and more for weeks and even months. COVID has killed over 675,000 people in the U.S. with about 1,500 average daily deaths for the past eight days—over 2,000 deaths in the U.S. The Delta variant accounts for over 99 percent of new infections. The Moderna vaccine is more effective in preventing hospitalizations than those from Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson although all three are collectively 86 percent effective in preventing hospitalization. 

On Thursday, President Joe Biden ordered vaccination mandates on all federal workers, workers at companies with over 100 employees, and 17 million health care workers at facilities receiving Medicare and Medicaid funding—hospitals, home care facilities, and dialysis centers. People can avoid vaccinations by weekly testing, just as the Fox network does. About the 80 million people fueling the virus by not getting vaccinated, Biden said:

“We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us. While America is in much better shape than it was seven months ago when I took office, I need to tell you a second fact: We’re in a tough stretch and it could last for awhile.”

Ignoring history, Republicans created a hue and cry about how Biden’s mandate for private businesses is illegal and unconstitutional. On her September 9, 2021 MSNBC show, Rachel Maddow said:

“Why does your car have a seat belt? Maybe the company that made your car, that private entity, didn’t want to put in seat belts. But nevertheless, your car has a seat belt. Why is that? Why is the ground beef you bought for dinner tonight government inspected? Meat producers do, in the private sector, have every incentive to only produce meat that people like and doesn’t make anybody sick, right? We don’t need the government sticking its nose in and telling you that’s actually cow you’re eating and not roadkill. Why is there government inspection of that privately produced product?”

Despite opposition from conservatives, President Lyndon Johnson not only created Medicare but also used it to desegregate 2,000 whites-only hospitals in the South.  used Medicare “to desegregate 2,000 whites-only hospitals in the South overnight.” Biden can give federal contractors orders about vaccinations just as he ordered them to pay $15 minimum wages. GOP President Richard Nixon signed the OSHA law, mandating safety in private companies.

People who concealed the pandemic realities, such as former VP Mike Pence, still want to increase deaths and hospitalizations from COVID by objecting to mandatory vaccinations, a mark of any Republican running for president in 2024. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott demanded “Texans’ right to choose,” but he was talking about vaccinations—not women’s health care. Like other GOP governors aiming for the White House such as Ron DeSantis (Florida) and Kristi Noem (South Dakota), Abbott believes his anti-vaccine approach will get him the 2024 presidential vote. A poll of five swing states—Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—indicates strong support for vaccination mandates, some of them over two-thirds of the respondents in favor of Biden’s order.

A month before Biden’s order, a governor told his state to get vaccinated. “A bunch of people will die,” he said. “We could have stopped this.” That Republican governor is Jim Justice of West Virginia, where Sen. Joe Manchin is accepting large donations from the fossil fuel industry and blocking help for his people from the infrastructure bill. This week Justice said:

“For God’s sakes a livin’, how difficult is this to understand? Why in the world do we have to come up with these crazy ideas—and they’re crazy ideas—that the vaccine’s got something in it and it’s tracing people wherever they go? And the same very people that are saying that are carrying their cellphones around. I mean, come on. Come on.”

Of the 13,800 public schools and 34,600 private schools in the U.S., problems are evident in at least Mississippi, Texas, Florida, and Tennessee, states with skyrocketing cases and quarantines, search for alternatives to in-person instruction, and school closings regularly noted in the media. During the first month of school, Mississippi has 18,825 children with COVID and another 15,000+ in quarantine. The state has one of the worst vaccination rates in the nation, only 46 percent of people 12 and older.

Wyoming, with a population under 600,000, had 7,358 students and 60 staff testing positive at the end of the first week of school compared to slightly larger Vermont, using public health advice, having only 81 cases in its schools. Vermont has at least 77 percent of its population with at least one dose compared to 30 points less in Wyoming with 47 percent receiving one dose. Almost three times as many youth under age 18 have been vaccinated in Vermont as in Wyoming. Both states have Republican governors.

The courts have gone back and forth about DeSantis ban on mandating masks in school. Two judges appointed by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) in the 1st Circuit Court overturned a lower judge who reversed his own earlier decision Wednesday. That judge’s newest order was to block DeSantis from banning mask mandates in public schools. After a massive number of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths in Florida, including among children, the lower judge pointed out that children are at risk and said, “We are not in normal times. We are in a pandemic.” DDT’s judges allow the pandemic to rage throughout schools. The Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Education Department is investigating Florida’s possible violation of rights for students with disabilities at greater risk of severe illness because of DeSantis’ ban. The federal government also has probes in Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah.

The first major school district to issue vaccination mandates, the Los Angeles public schools, ordered all students 12 and older to be fully vaccinated by January in order to enter school campuses. About 80,000 of the district’s 225,000 students in the nation’s second largest district are not yet vaccinated. New York City has ordered its school athletes in high-contact sports to being vaccination before competition. Like Chicago, it also mandates vaccinations for employees.

In another Biden administration decision, the Department of Justice is suing Texas, stating that the state use of vigilantes enforcing the six weeks limit on pregnancy terminations was enacted “in open defiance of the Constitution.” The lawsuit asks a federal judge to declare the law invalid because it violates the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution putting federal law ahead of state laws. According to the lawsuit, “it is settled constitutional law that ‘a State may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability.’” The DOJ seeks an immediate injunction to block the enforcement of the Texas law.  

Another Texas law controls large private social media platforms by mandating they must publish any “political viewpoints,” no matter how false or dangerous. The QAnon obsession with sex-trafficking may have led to an ex-Marine killing four members of a Florida family and seriously wounding another, people he didn’t know, because “God” told him they were sex-traffickers who had kidnapped a girl named Amber.   

Thursday, a federal judge temporarily blocked DeSantis and three Florida sheriffs from enforcing the GOP so-called “anti-riot law” as defined in the new statute because it “encourages arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.” The law enhanced criminal penalties for protests turning violent, even if the person wasn’t being violent, and classified a “riot” as three or more people. The judge stated DeSantis couldn’t “credibly” argue that the definition of a riot was not intended to empower law enforcement officers against anyone who criticized their legal authority. The law’s “vagueness permits those in power to weaponize its enforcement against any group who wishes to express any message that the government disapproves of,” according to the judge. He added about “Floridians who welcome the chilling effect … on the plaintiffs …, next time it could be their ox being gored.”

GOP lawmakers may oppose mandatory vaccinations, but polling from the conservative Gallup poll shows they disagree with the majority of people in the U.S. who support these mandates:

  • 61 percent: flying on airplanes
  • 56 percent: going to work
  • 53 percent: staying in a hotel; dining in a restaurant
  • 58 percent: attending event with large crowds

Of those who oppose vaccinations, 75 percent to 80 percent are unvaccinated, and 71 percent to 79 percent are Republicans.

 

September 6, 2021

Texas Anti-Choice Law Faces Backlash

By now, almost everyone in the U.S. is aware of the new Texas law which went into effect on September 1—and tens of millions of people around the world—recruiting vigilantes to collect bounties on anyone who communicated with a woman about the termination of her pregnancy after six weeks. Constitutionally, the U.S. permits abortions up to three months and under limitations for the next six months. The Dallas Observer printed some of the tweets it received, and the Houston Chronicle published the editorial, “Texas Women Just Lost Jurisdiction of their Bodies.”  

As in other states unconstitutionally blocking abortions, lawmakers maintain fetuses have audible “heartbeats” at six weeks, but medical authorities find this assertion inaccurate because a fetus has no developed heart at that time. The so-called heartbeat that lawmakers claim can be heard is a sound from the ultrasound equipment. What legislators call a heartbeat is actually an inaudible “flutter” from “a group of cells” which have “the capacity to fire electrical signals,” according to Dr. Saima Aftab, medical director of the Fetal Care Center at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami.

 Department of Justice AG Merrick Garland has promised to take action to protect women in Texas trying to get abortions. Constitutional scholar Lawrence Tribe said federal laws could use civil rights laws to stop bounty hunters permitted in the new Texas vigilante abortion law. For example, Section 242, passed in 1871 to fight KKK violence, makes it a crime to willfully deprive individuals “of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.” Texas’ new law permits vigilantes to collect penalties of at least $10,000, making them “private attorneys general of Texas.”

Section 241 also makes it an even more serious crime for “two or more persons” to agree to “oppress, threaten, or intimidate” anyone “in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same.”

The nontheist organization, Satanic Temple, is using the evangelical claim of unfettered religious freedom to fight back against the Texas law. Satanists, headquartered in the witch capital of Salem (MA), have written the Food and Drug Administration to demand access to abortion medication for its members’ “abortion ritual” under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The law was passed in 1993 to permit legal access to peyote for Native American religious rituals after two Native Americans were fired and denied unemployment benefits for its use. House members were unanimous in the RFRA vote, and only three senators opposed the bill.

In 1999, a federal judge ruled that RFRA permitted the denial of medical treatment for pregnant women wishing to terminate their pregnancies and for transgender people, no matter what the health issue. The Supreme Court held the law unconstitutional for states in 1997 but upheld the use of illegal substances for religious ceremonies in a 2006 ruling. Santeria is also exempt from laws prohibiting animal sacrifice because of religious privilege. RFRA was further upheld in the 2014 Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores that chipped away at women’s contraception by declaring that the for-profit company is religious. Since then, 23 states have passed their own RFRAs, including Texas. 

Founded in 2013, the Satanic Temple does not venerate Satan as a god, and its members don’t believe Satan is real. Instead, they view Satan as a literary figure who represents rebellion and independence. According to Temple spokesperson Lucien Graves, Satanists hold bodily autonomy and science sacrosanct, and abortion “rituals” are an important part of those beliefs.

In another battle against the Texas law, pro-choicers on TikTok and Reddit flooded an online tip website with fake reports, Shrek memes, and porn. One user said they sent in 742 fake reports of Abbott getting illegal abortions and encouraged others to send in more reports to crash the ProLifeWhistleBlower website. On Reddit, pro-choicers submitted reports sent highways to travel to the procedure for reporting tips. An activist using the name Sean Black gave a script and shortcuts for sending reports; he said almost 8,000 people used his script and 9,000 used the shortcut. Collaborators throughout the U.S. work with him on ten “active branches” of new features in his procedure. GoDaddy has removed the Texas Right to Life anonymous tip website for violating its rules of service, and the organization is searching for another digital home.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s disasters with anti-choice, anti-voting, and pro-lawless gun use has dropped him from 89 percent approval in October 2018 to his current 41 percent. Even Republican approval has dropped below 50 percent to 49 percent. In addition, 52 percent of Texans think the state is headed in the wrong direction, the highest negative number since the poll was initiated in 2009. According to the survey, 56 percent of Texas residents want mask mandates for public school students and staff while at school, and doctors and public health officials have vigorously criticized Abbott for his pandemic response.   

Satirist Andy Borowitz describes Abbott’s—and the GOP—direction for the future in the U.S., a mandated dress code for women: 

“Governor Greg Abbott … said that the dress code would benefit women because “it will give them one less thing to think about when they get up in the morning. ‘I believe in the sanctity of human life, and the best way to protect that life, in the case of a woman, is to free her from the stress of having to choose what to wear,’ Abbott said. Abbott summarized the new dress code, which bars women from wearing skirts above the knee, sleeveless blouses, and most varieties of pants.”

Because five Supreme Court justices ruled that the Texas vigilante law will be in effect until a court ruling—which could be years—other judges cannot completely stop it, but they can block parts of it. A Texas judge issued a temporary restraining order against Texas Right to Life from suing Planned Parenthood. The order includes “any and all parties and persons in active concert and participation with [Texas Right to Life].” The Right to Life in any other state, however, can act as vigilantes.

David Frum has written a piece for the Atlantic entitled “Texas Republicans Got What They Wanted. They May Regret it.” The Texas law has also been compared to “the dog that caught the car.” If the Supreme Court falls in line behind Texas, Republicans have lost their ability to rail against abortion, and they will face tremendous anger from the majority of people in the U.S. One-fourth of women in the U.S. have had an abortion, and 58 percent of the population supports Roe v. Wade. Frum writes:

“Pre-Texas, opposition to abortion offered Republican politicians a lucrative, no-risk political option. They could use pro-life rhetoric to win support from socially conservative voters who disliked Republican economic policy, and pay little price for it with less socially conservative voters who counted on the courts to protect abortion rights for them.

“Pre-Texas, Republican politicians worried a lot about losing a primary to a more pro-life opponent, but little about a backlash if they won the primary by promising to criminalize millions of American women.

“That one-way option has just come to an end. Most American voters have quietly understood for a long time that most politicians who claim to be ‘pro-life’ are hypocrites. These politicians do not really mean what they say, or anyway, they do not really intend to do what they say. You might imagine that this assumption of hypocrisy would hurt. Sometimes it has. More often, though, it has protected politicians from accountability for the policies they advocate.”

As Frum stated, “accountability has suddenly arrived.” Abortion is Texas’ top ballot issue in 2022, perhaps at a loss for the Republicans in the election. The state had a giant victory in 2014 and a massive defeat in 3018. The 2022 election is only 14 months away, and the state’s voter suppression may not save Republicans.

Many Republicans are not celebrating the Texas law, and even Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) won’t say whether he supports the law. In Virginia, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe is airing ads warning watchers the state can “go the way of Texas” if the GOP win the midterms. The governor’s election is less than two months away, and the GOP candidate, Glenn Youngkin, was caught telling an audience he waited until he won the primary to come out with his radical anti-abortion position but now won’t give his opinion about the Texas law. Far-right opponents to California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom are avoiding opinions about the Texas law, but recent polls favor Newsom’s win in two weeks with 66 percent of female voters supporting him. Newsom’s recall was caused by his not wearing a mask at a party in November 2020.

This fall, the Supreme Court will take up state laws designed to overturn Roe v. Wade, a decision from almost 50 years ago permitting abortions. The test case from Mississippi bans most abortions after 15 weeks, long before fetal viability, a law banned from enforcement from the 5th Circuit Court, the most conservative in the nation.The decision is due out by the end of June 2022.

July 27, 2021

January 6 Hearings First Day

The House select committee hearings began today with four police officers who described what they called an insurrection of white supremacists breaking into the U.S. Capitol on January 6 and viciously attacking them—both physically and verbally with racist slurs. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had prevented one of the worst circus performers in the House, Jim Jordan (R-OH), from being on the committee so the circus stayed outside where Republican congressional members supported the domestic terrorists who broke into the Capitol, threatening the lives of congressional members and vandalizing the venerated federal building.

Verbal testimony from four police officers trying to keep the insurrectionists from breaking into the Capitol was supplemented by phone videos and body-camera footage. Sgt. Aquilino Gonell said “nothing in my experience” in Iraq prepared him for the January 6 attack; MPD officer Michael Fanone called the House Republicans’ indifference “disgraceful”; and USCP officer Harry Dunn, called an “angry left-wing activist” by Fox’s Tucker Carlson, talked about being repeatedly called the racist n-word while in uniform.

WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 27: Protestors hold an effigy of former President Donald Trump. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

In the circus outside, supposedly a press conference, GOP leadership tried to blame Pelosi for lack of security on January 6, and GOP Reps. Matt Gaetz (FL), Louie Gohmert (TX), Paul Gosar (AZ), and Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA) complained about the “political prisoners” arrested for storming the Capitol. Protesters shut them down. The four G’s had planned to distribute disinformation about the DOJ’s mistreatment of the insurrectionists, but they called off their press conference while Greene, known for her intimidation tactics, was speaking.

Before the hearing, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) tried to pass a privileged resolution, with precedence over regular business, to condemn Pelosi and force her to reappoint his five picks to disturb the committee progress. Both GOP select committee members, Liz Cheney (WY) and Adam Kinzinger (OH), voted with the Democrats to kill the resolution in the 218-197 vote.

In another act of destruction, McCarthy had earlier removed all six GOP representatives from the special committee on economic disparity. One of the Republicans removed, Byron Donalds (FL) had written:

“While serving on this committee, my priority is to empower families, support American workers, and to strengthen and bolster our economy with pro-growth legislation.”

At today’s hearing about January 6, Cheney called for an end to the cover-up. She said:

“On January 6 and the days thereafter, almost all members of my party recognized the events that day for what they actually were. One Republican, for example, said, quote, ‘What is happening at the U.S. Capitol right now is unacceptable and un-American. Those participating in lawlessness and violence must be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.'”

She was quoting Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), now trying to discredit the investigation. Pelosi had refused to put Banks on the January 6 committee after McCarthy picked him. Another committee member, Kinzinger, called the “counter-narratives” and conspiracy theories undermining the insurrectionist violence “toxic” and “a disservice to the officers and their families.”

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), chair of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, announced his plans for “a rules change that would expel any member of the GOP conference if a House Republican accepted a committee assignment from Democrats.” Complaining about Cheney and Kinzinger accepting posts on the January 6 select committee, he tweeted that they “have effectively removed themselves from the Republican Conference. We should help them out the door by formalizing their departure.”

In a blow to Deposed Dnald Trump (DDT), the DOJ informed him that his attempts to get the DOJ to overturn the 2020 presidential election is not protected by executive privilege and officials serving in his administration may give “unrestricted testimony” to investigative committees into the January 6 insurrection. The letter from Bradley Weinsheimer, a top-ranking career official in the deputy attorney general’s office, stated DDT is trying to use the DOJ to advance his “personal political interests.”

David Corn pointed out that most behind the scenes’ witnesses for the January 6 insurrection are DDT’s sycophants. He gave a partial list of these GOPers:

Former Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC):  DDT’s White House chief of staff on January 6, he could explain whether DDT was really excited about watching the violent rioters try to stop the election certification, as CNN reported.

Reps. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), and Mo Brooks (R-AL): According to Ali Alexander, an organizer of the pro-DDT “Stop the Steal” movement, he worked with the three legislators on a January 6 event putting “maximum pressure” on Congress while voting to certify Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA): A question could be about details between McCarthy’s furious, expletive-filled phone call with DDT after the beginning of the insurrection when DDT said he wouldn’t call them off.

Kimberly Guilfoyle: Alexander said he talked with the former DDT campaigner and Trump Jr’s girlfriend late on January 5 when she encouraged his efforts. What did she say and was her message from anyone else?

Caroline Wren, Guilfoyle’s deputy at the fundraising campaign Trump Victory, and Katrina Pierson, DDT’s 2016 campaign spokesperson and senior adviser to DDT’s 2020 reelection bid: They were involved in the planning of the rally near the White House before the crowd violently stormed the Capitol, and Pierson acted as liaison between the White House and the organizing conservative groups of the pre-attack gathering. How much was the White House involved in the rally and subsequent march, and how much did they know about the violent plans?

Roger Stone, DDT’s longtime adviser: He was seen with people charged in the attack and accused of conspiring to create the raid; several of those people provided security for him. Stone also raised money for “private security” and equipment for January 5 and 6 events in Washington before the raid. He has already been convicted of lying to Congress before DDT commuted his sentence.

Rudy Giuliani, DDT’s former lawyer and dirt-digger:  At the pre-riot rally, he cried out to the crowd, “Let’s have trial by combat.

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump: McCarthy begged Kushner, DDT’s son-in-law and top aide, for help stopping the assault in the afternoon of January 6, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) phoned DDT’s daughter Ivanka for assistance while she was in the Oval Office

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL): He received a call from DDT during the midst of the insurrection which mistakenly went to Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). The call was to get Tuberville’s help in overurning the Electoral College, but the senator said he can’t remember the conversation’s details.

Kellyanne Conway: DDT’s former senior adviser called an aide standing next to DDT during the attack. What was said?

Kayleigh McEnany, White House press secretary on January 6: With DDT during the attack, she supposedly pleaded with him to oppose the violence.

Former AG Bill Barr: He refused to support DDT’s lies about election fraud. What did DDT want Barr to do?

Pat Cipollone, White House counsel while DDT was trying to overturn the election results: How was DDT trying to block the democratic process? Jerry Rosen, Barr’s acting successor, and Jeffrey Clark, senior DOJ official immediately before the end of DDT’s term, should also be asked about DDT’s attempts to invalidate the Georgia election results and keep DDT in the White House.

Former VP Mike Pence: Although he didn’t talk to DDT during the attack, his chief of staff, Marc Short, communicated with DDT.

DDT: It was his riot.

Using the election, the insurrection, the vaccines, and congressional rules, Republican legislators are moving forward in their strategy to destroy democracy in the United States. Their moves:

  • Blame the insurrection on Pelosi. And the FBI. Antifa. BLM. And Hillary.
  • Call the COVID-19 vaccine the “trump vaccine” and blame Biden and immigrants for the unvaccinated masses of the Tepublican stripe.
  • Call the COVID-19 virus the “Fauci virus” and keep attacking him.
  • Keep pushing for recounts and recounts of recounts in AZ, GA, PA, wherever.
  • Keep filibustering in the Senate every bill including the upcoming infrastructure bill.
  • Remove Republicans from positions and blame Democrats for not letting them be involved in decisions.
  • Maneuver to shut down the government over the debt ceiling.
  • Relentlessly push voter suppression and voter disfranchisement efforts.
  • Keep sucking their supporters dry with incessant demands for donations.

In one more victory for democracy, the DOJ refuses to support Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) in a lawsuit brought by Sen. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) regarding Brooks’ part in the insurrection. Brooks had claimed his part in DDT’s rally belonged to his duties when he said, “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking a**.” Apparently, the DOJ thinks planning a coup against a U.S. election is not part of a Congressperson’s official responsibilities. The General Counsel for the House of Representatives has also declined to represent Brooks.

July 26, 2021

January 6 Select Committee Begins

On January 6, 2021, tens, perhaps hundreds, of millions of people watched in horror as supporters of then-Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) attacked and vandalized the U.S. Capitol, threatening to hang VP Mike Pence and menacing congressional members and their staff. Even Republicans cowered in the building and begged DDT for help while he praised his followers and withheld assistance for several hours. The “football” with launch codes for nuclear attack was seconds away from being captured by the insurrectionists who wanted to overturn the 2020 presidential election putting Joe Biden in the White House.

 

 

 

 

Within the past six months, GOP members of Congress have attempted to create a revisionist history, first accusing progressives of the attack and then lying about the FBI being behind the danger. Losing that tactic, the Republicans now maintain that it was a loving gathering, people just wandering through the Capitol looking for the gift shop, despite hours of video to the contrary, arrests of over 550 of the 800 people filmed there, and guilty pleas from participants. Of those arrested for crimes that day, over 165 are accused of assaulting or impeding law enforcement.

The same Republicans originally terrified for their lives now fight any investigation into the events of January 6. Although six GOP senators supported an independent commission a late-May vote of 54-36, the filibuster, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) required 60 votes to even debate the bill on the floor. Patterned after the commission to investigate the 9/11 foreign attacks in the U.S., the ten-member panel would have had an equal number of each party’s members who would have subpoena powers. In the House, 35 Republicans joined all Democrats for the 252-175 vote to support the commission after Republicans made suggestions for its provisions and approved them.

Bipartisan legislation to establish an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has failed in the Senate, as Republicans staged their first filibuster since President Biden took office to block the plan. Opposing Republicans were afraid the investigation would hurt them in the 2022 election.

Republicans moved on to oppose a House select committee passed by the Democratic majority. That committee begins its investigation into the January 6 insurrection this week, but at this time with the only two Republicans who voted for the committee, Liz Cheney (WY) and Adam Kinzinger (OH).  After Pelosi rejected two of five GOP members selected for the committee by House Minority Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), he promised retribution against any Republicans supporting the committee, perhaps stripping them of committee assignments, something he refused to do to QAnon Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), despite her support of violence against Democratic members of Congress.

Of the five Republicans McCarthy selected, three voted to overturn the Electoral College vote, and all five voted against the select committee. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) could be brought before the committee because he helped organize the plans for the “protest” on January 6. He also blames Democrats for the insurrection because of their protests against DDT and police brutality. Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), another choice, ridiculed any investigation and accused Pelosi of not keeping the Capitol secure from rioters.

After Pelosi’s rejection of two selections by McCarthy, he suggested he would create a GOP-only commission to investigate the Capitol riot, saying “Republicans … will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts.” His suggestion reinforces the belief that he has no interest in finding out After their initial horror at the insurrection, Republicans rapidly switched to avoidance after they recognized their political allies caused it. An alternative investigation from Republicans might hide the discovery of who was behind the attack and how badly it was handled. Banks called the select committee an effort to “malign conservatives.” Having him on the committee would be like putting hijackers on the 9/11 commission.  

Before the committee was created, McCarthy mandated changes for negotiation. The Democrats conceded to them, and McCarthy came out against the deal. Furious with Pelosi rejecting two of his choices, McCarthy then pulled all five selections. In his outrage, he called Pelosi’s action unprecedented; she responded by saying that the insurrection was unprecedented.

McCarthy might join Jordan as a witness because early in the insurrection he was heard begging DDT for help for hours with no results.  He now lies about not trying to overturn the presidential election in favor of DDT and flipped on his blaming DDT for the January 6 insurrection by saying, “I don’t believe [Trump] provoked.” 

In a prologue to the investigation, four police officers, two each from the Capitol Police and the D.C. police, will testify publicly before the committee about verbal and physical abuse during their attempts to protect the Capitol. Some of them earlier lobbied congressional members to create the independent commission.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) said the committee will investigate “why we were not prepared for the president to unleash the violence against us and what that means in terms of security.” He added the panel hopes to discover “what groups and political forces came together to do this, how did they operate and why did they do this, what was the purpose of it.” Another purpose is how “to prevent this from happening again.” Last month, a Senate committee released a report about who took part in the insurrection and why law enforcement wasn’t prepared but didn’t address how DDT was responsible for the riot. 

Throughout the country, judges gave a mixed bag of reactions to arrests for insurrection from releasing them with no bail to keeping them behind bars, even a former New York Police officer who complained about the conditions in a D.C. jail. Violence promised by these GOP-called “tourists” to the Capitol presented extreme danger, for example, the Texas militiaman who parked two blocks away from the building in a truck full of guns, Molotov cocktails, and bombs. Carrying two handguns, he was seen conferring with the other insurrectionists. Some of the arrested insurrectionists told judges they did it because of DDT’s persuasion, mental illness, or “Foxitis” (news from the Fox network) and called on their GOP representatives and senators to protect them. 

By refusing the independent commission, Republicans lost their opportunity to control the investigation. The current select committee is still bipartisan thus far with seven Democrats and two Republicans. Four positions are still not filled. Republican leaders no longer want to investigate: McCarthy deliberately selected his five members as an act of sabotage for the probe after visiting DDT before making his picks. Unlike the Senate committee investigation, scheduled to finish by the end of the year, the House select committee has no end date and can have at least until the end of the 117th Congress—the end of 2022—to do its work.

Questions to be answered:

  • How much were DDT and his insiders aware in advance of the riot’s danger?
  • How much communications did the White House have with agencies before January 6?
  • How did these interactions affect the ways in which the agencies handled—and didn’t handle—the crisis?
  • What flaws contributed to the failure of the Capitol Police and intelligence to identify potential rioters as a threat?
  • How could they have prepared?
  • What was the security response to the insurrection on the House side of the building, not addressed because the office of the House sergeant-at-arms would not cooperate?
  • Will that office cooperate more with the House than with the Senate?

DDT, the self-identified man of “law and order,” has turned against the Capitol Police and celebrates Ashli Babbitt, an insurrectionist who was shot and killed while breaking into the Capitol. He called her a “wonderful, incredible woman” and invited her mother to his recent rally in Arizona.

During the first committee hearing, three of four participants of the insurrection—Reps. Mat Gaetz (R-FL), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA)—plan a protest supporting domestic terrorists

DDT’s delusion that he will be returned to the White House during the current year is likely to result in continued violence from people who DDT calls a “loving crowd” and Republicans call “tourists.” 

Republicans claim they want no investigation because people need to “heal.” They’re just avoiding any bad publicity for their campaigning.

July 2, 2021

Texas Continues To Be Disaster

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 11:49 PM
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Texas keeps getting publicity, the most recent an event cancellation at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. Right-wingers, supported by Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and two GOP state lawmakers censored an appearance by Chris Tomlinson about his book Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth. The book explores the Battle of the Alamo as a fight to maintain slavery, legalized in the original Texas constitution. Conservatives maintain 180 rebels defended Texas from Mexico in an heroic battle. Texas legislators recently passed “The 1836 Project,” advocating for the “patriotic education” of Texas history.

Abbott has asked other states to deploy their National Guards—including from Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota—to block immigrants from coming across the Southern border. Three of the governors consider runs in the 2024 presidential election: Abbott, Ron DeSantis (FL), and Kristie Noem (SD). Noem has a twist to deploying her state’s National Guard: she obtained a sizeable donation from Willis Johnson, a Tennessee-based billionaire whose company auctions used cars, to pay for her state’s deployment, turning them into mercenaries.

Rep. Adam Smith, Armed Services Committee chair, wants Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to look Noem’s actions, objecting to the Guard being treated like a “private militia.” Smith said:  

“This is unbelievably dangerous to think that rich people can start using the U.S. military to advance their objectives, independent of what the commander in chief and the secretary of defense think they ought to be doing.”

Nobody knows if Noem’s actions are legal, including current legislators in South Dakota and a former state AG. Geoffrey Corn, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and professor at the South Texas College of Law Houston, said he’s never heard of private funding for U.S. military activity.

Abbott promised to finish the wall started by Deposed Donald Trump (DDT), starting with slashing prison funds. Crossings are slightly up after DDT’s punitive protocols forced immigrants to wait in Mexico. The influx of asylum-seeking children increased from the COVID border closure backlog. This past week DDT and Abbott addressed an audience to foment hate about President Joe Biden.

The disaster declaration of emergency fund transfers has been questioned because immigration issues are under the federal government’s jurisdiction. The $250 million raised thus far through these transfers and crowd-funding may build at least five miles of wall. Abbott also wants to put $15 billion of federal COVID funding into his wall project.

Abbott would better spend state’s money on the state’s failed power grid. During the cold wave last winter, three million people had no heat or electricity, and hundreds of people, possibly a thousand, died from the loss. Abbott claimed the highly unusual situation would never happen again. Four months later, the heat wave arrived with power outages. To avoid publicity about this problem, Abbott defunded the legislature and any agencies connected to it by vetoing part of the budget because state Democratic House legislators walked out on the last day to block the anti-voting bills. One of the bill’s provisions would allow Texas judges to void people’s votes if someone accused the election of being fraudulent.

Abbott now faces a lawsuit from Texas House Democrats, legislative staffers, and the Texas AFL-CIO to override the budget veto. The Democratic petition reads:

“Gov. Abbott’s veto is an attempt to coerce, and thereby direct, how the Legislature discharges its functions—far exceeding the usual mechanism of the veto as a check on legislative excess. If accepted, it would allow the governor to indirectly commandeer the Legislature by making its very existence contingent on its willingness to enact the governor’s preferred agenda. And it would set the precedent for the governor to do the same to the judiciary.”

The budget veto included the Legislative Reference Library and the Legislative Budget Board, and Abbott also killed bail legislature he claimed was a priority. If Democrats return for a special session, they face not only the anti-voting bill but also redrawing the legislative district maps and dealing with the money Abbott wants to move into his wall.  

To protect the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the operating agency for the state’s faulty electricity grid, the state’s AG Ken Paxton, under indictment for securities fraud charges, ruled ERCOT is not subject to the Public Information Act. Therefore it won’t release documentation associated with last February’s disastrous grid failure. No texts, no emails, no recorded phone calls. Nothing. After Paxton released his ruling, an ERCOT spokesperson promised the agency would continue its “robust and transparent process.”

With no evidence of widespread election fraud, Texas is naming its anti-voting bill the Election Integrity Protection Act. After the state Senate passed the bill on Sunday morning of Memorial Day weekend, it went to the House. The state with the most restrictive voting laws would add these restrictions:

  • Ban drive-thru voting.
  • Prohibit ballot drop boxes and drive-through voting centers.
  • Mandate all weekday early voting take place sometime between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.
  • Bar polling places from being open 24 hours a day.
  • Ban voting on Sundays before 1:00 p.m.
  • Make it illegal for elections officials to send applications to vote by mail to people who did not request one.
  • Bar counties from helping facilitate the distribution of unsolicited ballot requests.
  • Add an additional identification requirement for those legally eligible to vote by mail—the driver’s license number or Social Security number on both the request for a ballot and the return envelope containing their ballot.
  • Bar counties from helping facilitate the distribution of unsolicited ballot requests.
  • Require voters with disabilities by declaring they are “not capable of” voting in person without needing assistance or injuring their health.
  • Mandate people helping voters with disabilities cast a ballot by removing their ability to answer questions.
  • Require people driving voters with disabilities
  • Allow poll watchers to observe “any activity” related to curbside voting for disabled people, even permitting the poll watcher to enter the car where the disabled person is riding.
  • Allow poll watchers “free movement where election activity is occurring,” close enough “to see and hear” election officers’ activities.
  • Guarantee poll watchers can follow election materials, including the sealing and transfer of memory cards and computer drives plus following the transfer of election materials as they are taken from the voting location to the regional tabulation center.
  • Criminally charge an election officer who does anything to make poll watcher activities “not reasonably effective” with no definition.
  • Make “vote harvesting services” (with no definition but presumable taking someone else’s ballot to the post office or drop box) a felony, thereby removing that person’s right to vote.
  • Allow officials to look at old signatures for as far back as six years, allowing for more mismatches.

Republicans may have reconsidered some of the provisions after House Democrats walked out. A ban on Sunday morning voting was called a “typo,” and one of the bill’s sponsors called permission for judges to eliminate legal votes “horrendous.”

On the third day of asking people in Texas to cut back on energy use in mid-June, Abbott said his power grid “is better today than it’s ever been.” With the hottest summer in winter, 68 percent of Texans don’t trust ERCOT and its power grid to not fail during the summer, and 85 percent of Texans say they cannot live without air conditioning. In the land of fossil fuels, 56 percent of the state’s residents are willing to consider a change to renewable energy.

ERCOT refused to give the reason that many power plants were unexpectedly offline in June—enough to power 2.4 million homes. Plants were already down for maintenance in April after the February disaster. In 1999, then-Gov. George W. Bush separated the Texas grid from all the neighboring states to avoid federal overight and put ERCOT in control of the mostly-privatized grid. Since 2004, these deregulated residential consumers paid $28 billion more for their power than rates by the state’s traditional utilities, enriching the investors, power company CEOs, and GOP political campaigns.

To preserve his faulty grid, Abbott has declared his state “sovereign” under the 10th Amendment, and the legislature passed a bill mandating all the state’s entities separating from companies not investing in fossil fuels. The power grid failure last winter was a repeat of the one a decade ago, when El Paso separated from the state power grid. The rest of the state is in hostage to the Republicans and their failure to provide for the people while Abbott takes all the money to build his wall.

Abbott made himself even more unpopular when he vetoed the bipartisan Safe Outdoor Dogs Act which would protect dogs through illegalizing their being tied up with heavy chains out doors as well as leaving them without water or shade. The legislation, passing 28-3 in the Senate and 83-32 in the House, was to expand and clarify the state’s animal cruelty laws. Former Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro tweeted,  “‘Anti-voting rights, pro-animal cruelty’ is a bold re-election message.”

June 19, 2021

Time to Talk Critical Race Theory

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 12:01 AM
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One of the speakers featured at this weekend’s Faith & Freedom Coalition’s annual Road to Majority Conference was Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), spreading more disinformation about critical race theory. He claimed that CRT tells every white person they are a racist and the theory is “as racist as the Klansmen in white sheets.” Then he topped off his damning remarks by how it came from Marxism, that CRT changed the conflict “between the owners of capital and the working men and women” to that of race. Cruz finished by claiming he loves everyone, “whatever skin color you are” before he compared Democrats to the Terminator: they “are soulless, have no brain, and red eyes.” So much for love.

Most people have heard the term “critical race theory,” but most people may not know what it means. For that reason, Christopher Rufo decided it would be the “perfect weapon” against Democrats and created the conflict with falsehoods about it. He took advantage of remote work, making leaked large meetings and emailed documents much easier to access. In July 2020, a Seattle employee sent Rufo documentation from an anti-bias training session, and he sent a report claiming forced education about internalized white supremacy to the center-right Manhattan Institute, once home to white nationalist Charles Murray who talks about Blacks have lower IQs than Whites:

“Under the banner of ‘antiracism,’ Seattle’s Office of Civil Rights is now explicitly endorsing principles of segregationism, group-based guilt, and race essentialism—ugly concepts that should have been left behind a century ago.”

Collecting more stories of anti-racism trainings, Rufo noted they cited popular anti-racism books, for example, by Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo. The books’ footnotes cited academic scholarship from the 1990s by legal scholars arguing current laws and societal rules reflecting past white supremacy which were called critical race theory. Rufo associated CRT with critical-theory, sometimes Marxist, research by the 1968 generation including Angela Davis—aka “red-baiting.” He created language to supplant the former conservative targets such as “political correctness” during President Obama’s second term and “cancel culture” of more recent years. He wrote:

“’Critical race theory’ is the perfect villain. Its connotations are all negative to most middle-class Americans, including racial minorities, who see the world as ‘creative’ rather than ‘critical,’ ‘individual’ rather than ‘racial,’ ‘practical’ rather than ‘theoretical.’ Strung together, the phrase ‘critical race theory’ connotes hostile, academic, divisive, race-obsessed, poisonous, elitist, anti-American.”

On Tucker Carlson’s show, Rufo said, “It’s absolutely astonishing how critical race theory”—emphasizing the last three words by saying them slowly—“has pervaded every aspect of the federal government.” He continued by describing his articles and then said:

“Conservatives need to wake up. This is an existential threat to the United States. And the bureaucracy, even under Trump, is being weaponized against core American values. And I’d like to make it explicit: The President and the White House—it’s within their authority to immediately issue an executive order to abolish critical-race-theory training from the federal government. And I call on the President to immediately issue this executive order—to stamp out this destructive, divisive, pseudoscientific ideology.”

The next day, White House chief-of-staff Mark Meadows called Rufo who immediately helped draft a presidential executive order issued in late September to block contractors from talking about race in federal diversity seminars. Recently, Rufo bragged about how the conservative campaign against critical race theory he invented “came from nothing.”

The farthest right became Rufo’s followers: Carlson hosted Rufo for an hour-long segment on “woke education”; Rufo advised language for over ten bills banning the teaching of CRT; and people like Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) use Rufo’s language. He speaks to Congress and has drinks with Cruz. The Fox network mentioned “critical race theory” 1,300 times in under four months—244 times last week—in order to influence the 2022 election

Rufo’s goal in his personal movement is “to politicize the bureaucracy,” allowing conservatives to take over from the liberals. His laws prevent social studies teachers from explaining current events at all levels. Three months ago, Rufo promised to make CRT “toxic” in the public imagination. He even provided his own definition of the term in a tweet:

“The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think ‘critical race theory.’ We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans.”

Five states passed bills preventing the teaching of CRT—whatever they think it is—and another seventeen introduced bills to ban that education. The bills condemn teaching of historical racism and its impact on modern U.S. society as divisive or racist. Florida, Montana, and Utah have banned CRT through their states’ boards of education.

Law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw explained that in the “post-George Floyd backlash” the anti-CRT campaign tries to change the argument focus from addressing structural racism to the anti-racism seminars addressing structural racism.

Conservatives are delighted with the success of its anti-CRT campaign. The Affordable Care Act hasn’t gone away, the religious right hasn’t yet destroyed LGBTQ rights, and Deposed Donald Trump’s (DDT) involvement in elections frightens Republicans for future elections. Now the far right feels successful because they are banning the teaching of a concept in the schools that has not been taught in schools. They have defeated a threat that doesn’t exist. Instead, teachers are becoming terrified of even mentioning race—a difficult proposition when explaining the newest federal holiday of Juneteenth. Conservatives complain about a new holiday to recognize just one race, forgetting that the original Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July, celebrated only White people. No people of color had “independence” in the United States of the 18th century.

After Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis forced the state board of education to ban CRT in classrooms, the state’s U.S. GOP Sen. Rick Scott proposed a similar resolution in the Senate. It claims CRT “serves as a prejudicial ideological tool, rather than an educational tool, and should not be taught in K-12 classrooms” while encouraging states and localities to take action to discourage the theory. The resolution avoided the truth: CRT is not a defined doctrine, and CRT, taught in graduate school, does appear in K-12 schools. Three senators co-sponsoring the resolution did not provide specific supporting information, and three anti-CRT groups did not explain its problems.

Falsehoods used to “support” the resolution:

“Whereas Critical Race Theory’s teachings stand in contrast to the overarching goal of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prevent discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in the United States”: Nope. CRT supporters believe in the Civil Rights Act, hailed as an important step to equality, but think that more is needed to done to achieve its goal of equality “in the polling booths, in the classrooms, in the factories, and in hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, and other places that provide service to the public,” as Lyndon Johnson said. When the law didn’t cause the end of discrimination, Harvard philosopher Cornel West praised CRT’s founders in the 1990s for exposing society’s failure to deliver on the “possibilities for human freedom and equality.” Khiara Bridges’ 2018 book, Critical Race theory: A Primer, showed that Blacks are still disproportionately poor.

“Whereas Critical Race Theory serves to resegregate institutions of education and balkanize students into groups by race and ethnicity”: Nope. No current scholarship advocates resegregating schools. Any desire appears to be extremely limited. Desegregation peaked in 1988, but by 2016, they were returning to segregation. As children see more racism in their lives, they can learn about it.

“Whereas efforts to indoctrinate critical race theory into United States school children are designed to eventually transform the United States by stigmatizing its economic system and creating a hatred of all its institutions”: Nope. Anti-CRT people can’t find any examples of this. Teaching history shows a growth from the nation’s inception when voting was related to owning property and people could be owned. Learning how this is wrong is part of civic reasoning.

“Whereas the 1619 Project, which puts slavery, not the ideal of equality, at the center of our Nation’s storyline, and has been widely debunked by historians across the ideological spectrum, is nevertheless being taught in 4,500 classrooms across the country”: The New York Times edition on the legacy of slavery and racism in America since the arrival of the first slaves in 2019 was revised, and classroom materials are not identical to the piece. In addition, the material is available to classrooms but not mandated.

A definition of CRT from Isaac Saul on the middle-of-the road website Tangle:

“An academic movement that recognizes systemic racism in American society and examines how that racism impacts the law, institutions, and outcomes. It argues that many social problems are influenced more by racial inequity in societal structures than individual or psychological factors. CRT teaches that racism is an everyday experience for people of color, and that white supremacy maintains its power through our systems of government and law.”

He continues:

“If K-12 students are being taught that they are inherently inferior, superior, or racist, based on their race—or otherwise being compelled to espouse those ideas—they are already protected by our country’s laws. And they can use those laws to seek recourse.”

There’s much more to say about critical theory, but basically, as its inventor claimed, its “toxic” and the “perfect weapon.”

June 17, 2021

An Historical Day for the Supreme Court, Congress

The Supreme Court “giveth and … taketh away.” In the giveth, seven justices preserved the Affordable Care Act for the third time by ruling Texas and the other plaintiffs lacked standing in California v. Texas. With no penalty for not having health insurance, no one filing the suit could claim “personal injury.” President Joe Biden lauded the decision: “It remains, as ever, a BFD.” Oddly enough, Clarence Thomas was not one of the dissenters, but Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch disagreed with the failure to rule on the law’s constitutionality. The lawsuit was brought in Texas with the selection of a “friendly” judge. Since DDT appointed 226 federal judges, the people who want to take health care from tens of millions of people have a bigger pool from which to pick. Yet even GOP party leaders still talk about the “failed” healthcare plan, but they have no alternatives and may not want to face a fourth loss.

The taketh away refers to the unanimous SCOTUS ruling in Fulton v. the City of Philadelphia that requires taxpayers to pay for discrimination against same-gender couples wanting to foster and adopt children. According to the decision, Philadelphia violates the constitution’s First Amendment by not sending foster children to Catholic Social Services, a religious organization refusing to certify same-gender couples as foster parents. This decision is in keeping with the shift from a half-century ago to protecting Christians. The change has been worsened by “Project Blitz,” the religious right flooding of state legislatures with “religious liberty laws” challenging the status quo through the Supreme Court. Targets include LGBTQ rights and women’s reproductive rights.

Without support from three progressive justices, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the group “does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else,” and he pointed out that the city’s non-discrimination ordinance does not apply to foster care. The city also allows unspecified exemptions to the ban on discrimination, giving the Catholic group permission to create their own exemptions “without compelling reason.”

Two lower courts ruled in favor of the city, using the Supreme Court’s 1990 decision in Employment Division v. Smith requiring any law infringing on religion to be neutral, not targeted at a specific religion, and equally applied to all. The narrow ruling failed to overturn Smith, much to the distress of Alito, Gorsuch, and Thomas, making it a small win for “religious liberty” and a small loss (except for same-gender couples in Philadelphia) for the LGBTQ community because it sets no precedents. Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote that several justices don’t know what to do if Smith were overturned. A law expert said the win for Catholics was based on the city’s decision-making and not “an automatic right to discriminate.”

Congress passed a bill to make Juneteenth, celebrated for 155 years, a federal holiday on June 19, and Biden signed it earlier today at a White House ceremony. Biden invited Opal Lee (left), who he called “a daughter of Texas, grandmother of the movement to make Juneteenth a holiday,” to the signing and credited the 94-year-old woman’s organizing efforts. With Lee are VP Kamala Harris, the bill’s cosponsors, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Federal employees will have the day off tomorrow or receive time-and-a-half pay.  https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/558937-federal-government-to-observe-juneteenth-holiday-on-friday   Earlier known as Jubilee Day, Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation of slaves on June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers made the announcement in Galveston (TX), the last place in the state to hear slavery’s abolishment after Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomatox two months earlier. A majority of the states ratified the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery on December 6, 1865.

Although the Senate unanimously supported the bill after Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) removed his objection, 14 white men in the House voted in opposition to the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act. The same people crying “cancel culture” and fighting against “critical race theory”—without the ability to define the concept—complained that one more federal holiday was too many, the name uses “independence” instead of emancipation, and honoring the end of the Civil War will “polarize” the country. GOP Rep. Matt Rosendale, Montana’s only representative because of its low population, called it “identity politics … to make critical race theory the reigning ideology of our country.” He said he voted no “since I believe in treating everyone equally.” A chief Senate sponsor of the bill, John Cornyn (R-TX), called the excuse “kooky.”

Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) protested the bill was “creating a separate Independence Day based on the color of one’s skin.” Rep. Brenda Lawrence answered Roy:

 “I want to say to my white colleagues on the other side: Getting your independence from being enslaved in a country is different from a country getting independence to rule themselves.”

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) grumbled that the bill wasn’t passed in a “harmonious” fashion, that Democrats “weaponized” it. Under 3 percent of Congress objected to the bill, and 195 House Republicans voted in favor of it. https://www.theroot.com/tucker-carlson-guest-black-people-succeed-less-because-1847120979   On his show, Tucker Carlson pushed opposition to the holiday, including hosting Charles Murray, who promotes the falsehood that Whites have higher IQs than Blacks by a “dozen” points.  

Biden’s guest at the ceremony, Opal Lee, had a long and arduous journey to passing the bill. When she was 12, Whites burned her Black family’s home. After she retired from being a teacher and counselor, she became involved with the local Black historical and genealogical organization. At 89, Lee started an annual walking campaign in cities between her home in Fort Worth (TX) to Washington, D.C. to promote Juneteenth as a federal holiday. She walked 2.5 miles to represent the 2.5 years between Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and slaves learning they were free. Last September, she brought a petition signed by 1,500,000 people to Congress asking them to legislate a federal holiday. In February, she returned when a bill for the holiday was reintroduced. Tonight, Rachel Maddow’s segment on her show is tear-jerking, especially the scene where the president of the United States kneels before the chair where Lee sits during the White House ceremony.

South Dakota is the only state to not recognize Juneteenth as a holiday or have an official observance of the day, but four states—New York, Texas, Virginia, and Washington—declare it a paid holiday. The 12th federal holiday, Juneteenth National Independence Day is the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983. Six states still combine King’s name with others such as Robert E. Lee, Civil Rights, Human Rights, and Equality.

Twenty years ago, Congress abdicated its constitutional control of the use of force to the president in the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) after the 9/11 attacks. The next year, Congress passed the second AUMF which George W. Bush used to attack Iran after invading Afghanistan with the 2001 AUMF. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) was the only member of Congress to oppose the 2001 law. In 2002, she was joined in dissent by 132 representatives and 23 senators. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) used the 2002 AUMF to justify his airstrike against an Iranian target in Iran.

Lee has repeatedly sponsored measures to repeal both war power bills, thus returning authorization to Congress.  In March 2020, Congress passed a resolution to limit the president’s authority for initiating military action against Iran without congressional approval, but it didn’t repeal the AUMF. The GOP-controlled Senate passed the resolution by 55-45, indicating some GOP support for a repeal.

The House has now passed a bill to repeal the 2002 AUMF by 268 votes, 49 of them Republicans. Perhaps a majority of Congressional members have reached the breaking point in facing non-stop warfare by the United States.

Crazy for the day: According to a new report, about one-third of election workers feel unsafe because of conservative threats, but conservatives are turning on each other. For example, Florida’s competition for a U.S. representative is heating up. A candidate for one of the state’s most competitive seats was secretly recorded when he told an activist he could make his opponent Anna Paulina Luna “disappear” with “a hit squad…, Ukrainians and Russians.” Politico obtained a recording of the 30-minute call when William Braddock warned the activist not to support Luna in the GOP primary. Braddock said he was paying $20,000 for polling before the primary, and “she’s gonna be gone” if the poll makes her the winner. “For the good of our country, we have to sacrifice the few.” Asked about Luna’s win, Braddock said his “hit squad” would send him “pictures of her disappearing” in 24 hours. “No, I’m not joking,” he finished. The activist called the police and Luna, who took out a temporary restraining order against Braddock. He said he may sue the activist. Pro-DDT Luna has been endorsed by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and Braddock sounds crazier than she does.

Question: If GOP legislators like Reps. Matt Gaetz (FL), Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA), and Louie Gohmert (TX) believe Tucker Carlson’s claim that FBI agents are behind the January 6 insurrection, why don’t they want an independent commission to find the answers?

April 10, 2021

GOP Opposes Another Popular Bill

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 12:02 AM
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Republican congressional members maintain they will not vote for any infrastructure bill no matter what—even if they haven’t seen any of the provisions–and lie about it. People need to understand what the word “infrastructure” means. Politico has put together a definition from dictionary resources:

“The system of public works of a country, state or region; also the resources (such as personnel, buildings or equipment) required for an activity.”

The word is derived from “infra,” meaning “below,” and “structure” meaning “an assembling.” Structure refers to both the physical and the social abstract, including resources, organization, and personnel who do the work. The system for building is a type of structure. “Public works” includes highways, bridges, and schools as well as parks, telephone lines, water systems, broadband, and the delivery of energy. It’s anything built for public use, enjoyment, or activity.

GOP legislators are 100 percent opposed to an infrastructure bill, but 79 percent of the U.S. people want repairs to roads, bridges, ports, and railroads. Seventy-one percent want high-speed internet, 68 percent want lead pipes replaced and tax credits for renewable energy, and 64 percent want higher taxes on corporations to pay for this infrastructure. Support for President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan for the infrastructure include 57 percent from Republicans and 67 percent from independents.

Twice as many people, 54 percent, want the infrastructure paid for with people making over $400,000 than without tax hikes; by comparison, 47 percent prefer a raise on corporations with 21 percent less likely to support it with th54% said they supported infrastructure improvements with tax increases on corporations and Americans making over $400,000,  In contrast, 47% of voters polled said that they’d be more likely to support a $3 trillion funded by a corporate tax increase, while 21% said they’d be less likely to support it.

Much has been said about the $2 trillion for the proposed bill, but that amount is covered over eight years. The cost would be about 20 percent of what taxpayers shell out for defense every years.

To kill the bill before it’s even introduced, Republicans claim only 5 to 7 percent is for “real infrastructure.” They deny inclusion of not only home-care services and electric-vehicle incentives but also of water pipes, electric wires, and railways—infrastructure that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) promoted in 2018. In addition, Republicans deny any increase in corporate taxes that DDT shaved from 35 percent to 21 percent in 2017. Infrastructure would require a raise to 28 percent, a 20 percent decrease from pre-2017. Job growth in the last three Obama/Biden era with a 35-percent tax rate was stronger than the first three years of the DDT/Pence era despite the drop in tax rate to 21 percent.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg answered South Dakota’s GOP Gov. Kristi Noem’s complaint that “this isn’t infrastructure—it’s got money for pipes.” He explained people need water to live and pipes have lead poisoning. Broadband is infrastructure, according to Buttigieg, because of school and work via Zoom. Conservatives also slammed Buttigieg for biking from his office to the White House for a Cabinet meeting. They claimed he had “staged” a photo-op instead of using his bicycle for his own transportation. Videos show they’re wrong.

Mississippi’s GOP Gov. Tate Reeves told Biden cutting taxes would pay for infrastructure, the same falsehood used to push through the 2017 draconian tax cuts that gave no help to the U.S. economy. On the other hand, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities reports that raising taxes on corporations will make the tax code fairer and not hurt the economic recovery. The study also pointed out the severe income inequality caused by the tax cuts. A corporate tax increase would fall on the wealthiest “people who have already recovered from (or never experienced) the recession.” “Policymakers [should] prioritize still-struggling households” affected by corporate tax hikes to fund public investments. According to Biden, “Nobody making under $400,000 a year will have their taxes increased.” Note that Republicans, refusing to create jobs through the infrastructure proposal because of giving back only 50 percent of the tax cut four years ago, are trying to pass themselves off as the party of the people.

Using his familiar incoherent language, DDT ranted that Biden was using the infrastructure proposal to “build up” China. During DDT’s term, almost every week was labeled infrastructure, but he completely failed to accomplish any building, let alone the vast rebuilding of U.S. infrastructure he promised. The objection to Biden’s plan is exacerbated by a serious case of GOP sour grapes.

Republicans will need a lot of deflections to convince they are the party of the people by opposing Biden’s American Jobs Plan. When talking about his infrastructure proposal, Biden said:

“In 2019, an independent analysis found that there are 91 … Fortune 500 companies, the biggest companies in the world, including Amazon that use various loopholes so they pay not a single, solitary penny in federal income tax. I don’t want to punish them, but that’s just wrong. That’s just wrong.  A fireman and a teacher paying 22%? Amazon and 90 other major corporations paying zero in federal taxes? I’m going to put an end to that.”

GOP senators represent states desperate for infrastructure help. Mississippi, represented by Roger Wicker, has needs in every area from roads to drinking water, and Missouri, represented by Roy Blunt, said his said the “country need[s] a significant infrastructure upgrade.” They oppose the any idea of tax increases.

Yet 80 percent of the Fortune 500 companies paid an average of 11 percent because of GOP loopholes, exemptions, and giveaways. Last year, 55 of the country’s biggest corporations paid zero federal income tax on over $40 billion in profits while receiving a combined federal rebate of over $3 billion which gave them a tax rate of negative 9 percent. Since the GOP tax cut in 2017, 26 corporations including FedEx and Nike, paid the same zero federal income tax on a combined income of $77 billion.

Republicans ignore the rich history of government infrastructure investment pushing economic growth. In the 1950s, the GOP president successfully promoted the entire interstate project. The Republicans of the Dwight Eisenhower era of the 1950s supported research and development to repair infrastructure as well as developing technologies for future economies. It was a time when government investment was a much higher share of GDP than now and far higher tax rates on both corporations and the wealthy. The top tax rate was 91 percent. Compare the tax rate difference between the Republican infrastructure of the 1950s and Biden’s proposal. 

Long before that, however, New York state built the Erie Canal between 1818 and 1825 for $7 million, the equivalent of a $1 trillion today as the share of GDP. Land grants were behind higher education and the railroads. The first Roosevelt, Teddy, built the Panama Canal, and the second, FDR, provided electricity to rural areas. All these would be considered “out-of-control socialist spending spree,” according to current Republicans. At the same time, DDT’s tax cuts not only didn’t help the economy, but it also gave money to the 40 percent of foreigners who own U.S. stocks. In addition, the 2017 tax cuts encouraged U.S. corporations to invest overseas. DDT and the GOP members of Congress wanted the bill only to save money on their own taxes and get more donations from grateful businesses.

The U.S. ranks 13th in the world for infrastructure quality, and public domestic investment fell over 40 percent since the 1960s as a share of the economy. History proves tax cuts don’t cause economic growth as wealth moved upward since Ronald Reagan, with U.S. billionaires acquiring an additional $1 trillion, a 38 percent increase, in a time of the worst poverty rate for over a half century. 

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has put himself in control of what bills will pass the Senate. With a 50-50 split between the two party factions, the Democrats need everyone in their own party on board. Manchin, however, has announced that he won’t support bills without GOP votes, and Republicans have announced their policy of rejecting every Democratic bill. It’s obvious that Manchin is enjoying all the attention: WaPo has published of his op-ed, and the Senate cannot move forward while he won’t take part. Manchin warned of doing away with the filibuster for a simple majority vote, calling it a “new and dangerous precedent,” but his personal control over every bill in the Senate, including those passed by the House, fits that same description.

Blocking the infrastructure bill will be equally hard on Manchin and the GOP. Although Democratically-oriented cities will benefit, rural communities desperately need broadband access, the deficiencies in those areas heightened during the pandemic when far more activities have moved to remote communication. Other rural benefits would be the huge investment in alternative energy, much of it outside cities and a big income source for Iowa and Kansas farmers. Another provision is two years of tuition-free community college, now quite expensive. The GOP “party of inaction” unanimously voted against the stimulus bill and then tried to take credit for it. If the same thing happens for an infrastructure bill, they could lose all credibility by the 2022 elections.

April 2, 2021

Former GOP Leader Calls Republicans ‘Morons’ Controlled by Media

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 9:06 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

John Boehner was a GOP U.S. House representative for almost 30 years and his party’s leader for eight of them, the last four years the House Majority Leader. Following are excerpts from Boehner’s new book, On the House: A Washington Memoir:

“[In] the 2010 midterm election … you could be a total moron and get elected just by having an R next to your name—and that year, by the way, we did pick up a fair number in that category.”

About trying to teach the 87 people “who’d never sat in Congress [about] governing”: “I had to explain how to actually get things done. A lot of that went straight through the ears of most of them, especially the ones who didn’t have brains that got in the way. Incrementalism? Compromise? That wasn’t their thing. A lot of them wanted to blow up Washington. That’s why they thought they were elected.”

“Some of them, well, you could tell they weren’t paying attention because they were just thinking of how to fundraise off of outrage or how they could get on Hannity that night. Ronald Reagan used to say something to the effect that if I get 80 or 90 percent of what I want, that’s a win. These guys wanted 100 percent every time. In fact, I don’t think that would satisfy them, because they didn’t really want legislative victories. They wanted wedge issues and conspiracies and crusades.

“A lot of them wanted to blow up Washington. That’s why they thought they were elected…

“By 2011, the right-wing propaganda nuts had managed to turn Obama into a toxic brand for conservatives. When I was first elected to Congress [in 1990], we didn’t have any propaganda organization for conservatives, except maybe a magazine or two like National Review. The only people who used the internet were some geeks in Palo Alto. There was no Drudge Report. No Breitbart. No kooks on YouTube spreading dangerous nonsense like they did every day about Obama…

“And of course the truly nutty business about his birth certificate. People really had been brainwashed into believing Barack Obama was some Manchurian candidate planning to betray America. Mark Levin was the first to go on the radio and spout off this crazy nonsense. It got him ratings, so eventually he dragged Hannity and Rush to Looneyville along with him… Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News … got swept into the conspiracies and the paranoia and became an almost unrecognizable figure…

“[Ailes went] on and on about the terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, which he thought was part of a grand conspiracy that led back to Hillary Clinton. Then he outlined elaborate plots by which George Soros and the Clintons and Obama (and whoever else came to mind) were trying to destroy him.

“’They’re monitoring me,’ he assured me about the Obama White House. He told me he had a ‘safe room’ built so he couldn’t be spied on. His mansion was being protected by combat-ready security personnel, he said. There was a lot of conspiratorial talk. It was like he’d been reading whacked-out spy novels all weekend… And it was clear that he believed all of this crazy stuff…

“I have no idea what the relationship between Ailes and [Fox owner Rupert] Murdoch was like, or if Ailes ever would go off on these paranoid tangents during meetings with his boss. But Murdoch must have thought Ailes was good for business, because he kept him in his job for years.

“Places like Fox News were creating the wrong incentives. Sean Hannity was one of the worst. I’d known him for years, and we used to have a good relationship. But then he decided he felt like busting my ass every night on his show…

“Besides the homegrown ‘talent’ at Fox, with their choice of guests they were making people who used to be fringe characters into powerful media stars. One of the first prototypes out of their laboratory was a woman named Michele Bachmann … who had represented Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District since 2007 and made a name for herself as a lunatic ever since…

About his refusal to put Bachman on the powerful Ways and Means Committee: “This wasn’t a request of the Speaker of the House. This was a demand. Her response to me was calm and matter-of-fact. ‘Well, then I’ll just have to go talk to Sean Hannity and everybody at Fox,’ she said, ‘and Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and everybody else on the radio, and tell them that this is how John Boehner is treating the people who made it possible for the Republicans to take back the House.” I wasn’t the one with the power, she was saying. I just thought I was. She had the power now.

“She was right, of course…

“In January 2011, as the new Republican House majority was settling in and I was getting adjusted to the Speakership, I was asked about the birth certificate business by Brian Williams of NBC News. My answer was simple: ‘The state of Hawaii has said that President Obama was born there. That’s good enough for me.’ It was a simple statement of fact. But you would have thought I’d called Ronald Reagan a communist. I got all kinds of shit for it—emails, letters, phone calls. It went on for a couple weeks. I knew we would hear from some of the crazies, but I was surprised at just how many there really were.

All of this crap swirling around was going to make it tough for me to cut any deals with Obama as the new House Speaker…

“Under the new rules of Crazytown, I may have been Speaker, but I didn’t hold all the power. By 2013 the chaos caucus in the House had built up their own power base thanks to fawning right-wing media and outrage-driven fundraising cash. And now they had a new head lunatic leading the way, who wasn’t even a House member. There is nothing more dangerous than a reckless asshole who thinks he is smarter than everyone else. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Senator Ted Cruz. He enlisted the crazy caucus of the GOP in what was a truly dumbass idea. Not that anybody asked me.”

Paul Waldman uses Boehner’s perceptions to describe the conservative world today in which “the media tail came to wag the political dog”:

“Today, conservative media isn’t just a locus of power on the right. Its own needs, preferences and incentives set the party’s agenda to a greater extent than ever.

“That’s why so many of the key voices in the Republican Party today are concerned not primarily but entirely with their next media appearance, rather than the work of lawmaking. While there have always been ‘show horses’ in Congress, the party is now oriented almost entirely toward whatever keeps the Fox viewers from changing the channel.

“So while Democrats pass trillions of dollars in new spending, Republicans spend all their time whining about ‘cancel culture’ and trying to make life miserable for transgender kids. Instead of conservative media amplifying the party’s message, it’s the other way around…

“What Boehner calls ‘the crazy caucus of the GOP’ was already taking over when he was speaker, foreshadowing their increased dominance when the ultimate performative politician—Donald Trump—became president.

“And so, with complete GOP control of Washington in 2017, you didn’t see the emergence of serious conservative policy wonks making lasting and consequential change. While it might have happened here and there—Stephen Miller succeeded at making immigration policy as racist and cruel as possible—for the most part the crazy caucus was still in charge.

“Who were the dominant Republican figures of the era, beyond Trump himself? People like Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), known for their endless Fox appearances and maniacal loyalty to Trump. They weren’t concerned with how to use power to create change; they just wanted to Own the Libs.

“Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), the party’s leader in Congress and nobody’s idea of a telegenic presence, turned out to be an absolute dud as a legislator. After easily passing a tax cut for the wealthy and corporations (not exactly hard to do), he managed no further legislation of consequence.

“In many ways, you can draw a straight line between Newt Gingrich, the central Republican figure of the 1990s, through the tea party, then through Sarah Palin, then through Trump, and finally to the Jan. 6th rioters and far-right extremists like Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.). Boehner shows us how this through line really started to unravel.

“All those figures wanted to make politics as coarse and bitter as possible, and define Democrats as not just wrong but evil. The conflict between the right and the left, Gingrich once told a conservative audience, ‘has to be fought with a scale and a duration and a savagery that is only true of civil wars.’

“…And along the way, the destruction will continue piling up.”

Today the destruction was the killing of one Capitol Police officer and serious wounding by another because right-wing politicians—and media—demanded the outside protective fence around the U.S. Capitol be removed. 

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.”

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