January 6th Select Committee's First Hearing Was A Necessary Reminder

[ Posted Tuesday, July 27th, 2021 – 16:39 UTC ]

Today the House's new January 6th Select Committee convened for the first time and held its first hearing. Today's initial hearing was all about setting the stage for what is to come, explaining why such an investigation is necessary, and countering all the Republican gaslighting that has been attempted of late by instead reminding the country of exactly what did happen that day. It was brutal -- the videos played (once again) showed an out-of-control mob hellbent on harming sworn police officers while storming the seat of democracy, in an effort to overturn an election result they didn't like. Just like we all saw with our own eyes on that dark day.

The committee purposefully called four prominent police officers who served on the front lines during the attempted insurrection. All told their firsthand stories, and all expressed their desire that the committee get to the bottom of what happened so it can never happen again. These were not the high brass or the Pentagon officials we've already heard from in much more restricted investigations (much narrower in scope), these were the guys who actually put their own lives on the line to protect not only the congressmen in both chambers, but also all the aides and staffers who work in the building every day. They had a much more visceral story to tell than their bosses, to put this another way.

Much of the day was spent pre-emptively refuting all the Republican attempts to rewrite the past into something different than what every citizen actually saw that day. This parade of nonsense includes: The insurrectionists were "just tourists." They were not armed. They weren't actually supporters of Donald Trump but instead members of Black Lives Matter or Antifa. They greeted the police with "hugs and kisses." Above and beyond all these fantasy stories, Republicans have been urging everyone to just "move on," because investigating the worst attack on the U.S. Capitol since 1814 was somehow not worth the time, to them. Their attitude, in fact, is downright cliché: "Nothing to see here... move along...."

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Deal Or No Deal?

[ Posted Monday, July 26th, 2021 – 15:35 UTC ]

Last week was supposed to be Infrastructure Week. I naively believed this was possible. However, Senate Republicans then blew a big hole in that, leaving in doubt if even this week will prove to be the grand time when bipartisanship reigns once again in the Senate chamber and hands President Biden a big bipartisan gift... or not. Because so far, all the Republicans seem to be proving is that they are capable of Olympic-level stalling. They can always come up with new reasons why something can't get done. They are masters of it, in fact.

It has been almost five weeks since President Biden and a group of bipartisan senators made a big public announcement and everyone shook each other's hands. A deal had been struck! Everything had been worked out! Looking back, it seems more that they all merely agreed that "a bipartisan infrastructure deal would be a dandy thing to have," with absolutely zero actual details. Either that, or the Republicans have been negotiating in bad faith all along (for which there is abundant proof).

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Friday Talking Points -- "We're Just The Guys To Do It!"

[ Posted Friday, July 23rd, 2021 – 17:23 UTC ]

It's like the Republicans all suddenly got put on double-secret probation or something. It seems to have finally dawned on them that the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus is actually real, and it is now killing off an inordinate number of their own base voters. So some of them had, as President Joe Biden said this week, their "altar call" moment.

Of course, hearing "Delta," what popped into our minds for this tectonic shift was Animal House's John Belushi asking his fellow Delts: "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell, no!" Of course, his speech ended when his frat brother stood up and proclaimed: "I think this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part." To which Belushi responded: "And we're just the guys to do it!"

You can see why that sprang to mind this week, as not only GOP congressional leaders and governors but also Fox News stars finally began telling their followers: "Maybe it's not such a good idea to 'own the libs' by not getting vaccinated and running the risk of a gruesome death." At this point, their gesture may prove to be futile (although admittedly it is anything but stupid), but it certainly is a welcome change to see, even if it isn't universal. There are still plenty of Republicans out there telling whomever will listen that the vaccine -- which Donald Trump loves to personally claim credit for, mind you -- is some sort of nefarious plot dreamed up by Joe Biden and his Deep State. You'll recall that in Animal House the "futile gesture" turned out to be an armored car christened the "Deathmobile."

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Biden Torpedoes Half His Agenda

[ Posted Thursday, July 22nd, 2021 – 16:52 UTC ]

Last night, President Joe Biden participated in a town hall in Cincinnati, Ohio, hosted by CNN and moderated by Don Lemon. He made some news there, because when he was directly asked if preserving the Senate filibuster was more important than passing voting rights bills, he sounded like he kind of wanted to have it both ways. He seems absolutely convinced that either: (1) Republicans are going to suddenly magically develop a conscience and a high-minded sense of civic duty and start joining with Democrats to pass good legislation; or (2) that getting rid of the filibuster would somehow "throw the entire Congress into chaos and nothing will get done." The first seems naive, at best. The second, however, is completely backwards.

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Of Course It's Partisan!

[ Posted Wednesday, July 21st, 2021 – 16:09 UTC ]

Republicans in the House of Representatives, led by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, are trying to paint Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Democrats as being somehow "too partisan" about investigating the attempted insurrection at the United States Capitol on the sixth of January. This is supposed to somehow delegitimize the effort, but it is in fact laughable on the face of it. Because when you get right down to it, of course it is a partisan exercise. The reason? Because one of America's major two political parties was complicit in attempting to overturn the will of the people in a national presidential election. One party did that. In a very partisan way. So any investigation of the incident is going to naturally expose this fact in a glaring way, because at this point only one party is even interested in getting at the truth -- the other party doesn't want that at all because they know they are so complicit. It doesn't matter who investigates it, the facts are the facts -- and one party bears the blame. This is precisely what Republicans don't want to talk about, which is why they've attempted to either stop or sabotage the entire effort to investigate 1/6 in any way, shape, or form from the very beginning.

It's not that Kevin McCarthy wants the investigation done in any different way, in other words, it is that he does not want it to happen at all. That has been the Republican goal all along. Ironically, if he follows through on his threat to pull his choices from the select committee, he will make the entire proceedings a lot more serious, sober, and efficient -- which is precisely what he doesn't want to happen.

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Pelosi's Choice

[ Posted Tuesday, July 20th, 2021 – 15:58 UTC ]

The ball is now in Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's court. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy finally named his five picks for the 1/6 Select Committee investigation, but the way the bill creating the committee was written gives Pelosi full veto power over any or all of these suggestions. At a minimum, she should reject at least one of the names put forth by McCarthy. [Editorial Note: This entire article should be read "as of this writing," as Pelosi could act at any time.]

In fact, Pelosi wouldn't even have to give any ideological reason for rejecting the most odious of McCarthy's choices. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. First, here are McCarthy's five picks, in alphabetical order: Representatives Kelly Armstrong, Jim Banks (proposed as "ranking Republican," or lead GOP committee member), Rodney Davis, Jim Jordan, and Troy Nehls. One name rather obviously stands out from this list, n'est-ce pas? But perhaps not as much as you might think.

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Infrastructure Week

[ Posted Monday, July 19th, 2021 – 16:19 UTC ]

It became a running joke in the previous administration (the phrase a mockery since none of it ever came to fruition), but we may now have finally arrived at a real, honest-to-goodness "Infrastructure Week." Or, to put it another way, it's finally time for everyone to stop kidding around. By week's end, we may know what sort of legacy President Joe Biden is going to leave. He could be counted by history as one of the more transformational presidents of the modern era, or it all may fall apart at the last minute. Either way, this week will likely be the pivotal one.

The real question has always been whether Republicans are negotiating in good faith over a bipartisan infrastructure plan, or whether their true goal has just been to waste everyone's time for as long as they can possibly get away with it. That is still an open question, but if Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders remain firm, by week's end it may not matter.

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Friday Talking Points -- GOP Defunded The Tax Police

[ Posted Friday, July 16th, 2021 – 17:00 UTC ]

There were two interesting developments in the congressional sausage-making process this week, both of which Democrats should immediately adopt as their main messages for the next week or so.

The first was that Senators Bernie Sanders and Mark Warner announced they had come to a compromise on the reconciliation bill which will fund the lion's share of President Joe Biden's economic agenda. They settled on a total figure of $3.5 trillion in new spending, which is far less than Bernie's original goal of $6 trillion (just for this bill alone), but also far more than the opening bid of the fiscally-conservative Democrats, which was in the $1.5 to $2 trillion range. It also will mean that Biden got the exact total he asked for in his "three-legged stool" of economic legislation. His first big legislative achievement (the American Rescue Plan) spent $1.9 trillion, and the bipartisan infrastructure deal represents $0.6 trillion more, which will mean a grand total of $6 trillion for all three -- which is exactly what Biden asked for in the first place.

But as we said, there were two interesting developments in the progress of both the reconciliation bill and the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Sanders managed to get one of his highest priorities included in the bill he will now write, and it's a doozy. Medicare coverage will expand to include dental, vision, and hearing insurance. There is no real logical reason why these three items are not considered part of standard American medical insurance in the first place -- they are medical problems which require a visit to the doctor and, sometimes, expensive accessories or treatment -- but for some strange reason in this country they are considered separate from regular health insurance. This means some older Americans haven't been able to afford things like new glasses or a hearing aid. Which is tragic. Bernie aims to fix that problem in one fell swoop. By doing so, he (and by extension all the Democrats who vote to make it happen) will earn the thanks of tens of millions of elderly Americans. This is a monumental and fundamental change that will improve the kitchen-table lives of a whole lot of people, in other words.

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Legalize It

[ Posted Thursday, July 15th, 2021 – 16:17 UTC ]

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced this week he will be moving legislation to the floor of the Senate to legalize marijuana at the federal level. This is an important milestone (even if the measure fails), since such legislation has never had leadership support in the Senate before. The House has passed similar bills already, knowing full well they were all going to die in the Senate. But with Schumer on board, the chances that the federal War On Weed could end have improved considerably.

Senators Cory Booker and Ron Wyden deserve much of the credit for this announcement, as they have been championing legalization for a while now. The three are listed as "Sponsoring Offices" in the document [PDF] Schumer just released.

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Bernie Sanders, Dealmaker

[ Posted Wednesday, July 14th, 2021 – 16:46 UTC ]

Although few are pointing it out today, Senator Bernie Sanders is truly the man of the hour in the Democratic Party right now. Much faster than anyone expected (myself included), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced last night that a deal had been struck within the Democratic caucus over the reconciliation bill that Bernie Sanders is in charge of writing (as chair of the Senate's budget committee). This deal was principally negotiated between Sanders and Senator Mark Warner, who represented the penny-pinching faction within the Democratic Party. But even with this necessary trimming, what was just announced is simply breathtaking in its scope and reach.

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