ChrisWeigant.com

Reform Moves To Center Stage For Democrats (Part 1)

[ Posted Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020 – 17:32 UTC ]

Democrats were always going to run their 2020 campaign on a platform of "Reform!" They have made no secret of this fact. The very first bill Nancy Pelosi took up in the House of Representatives after regaining control of the chamber -- "H.R. 1" -- was a sweeping reform bill that is almost breathtaking in its scope of ethics and other governmental reforms. So from the very start, Democrats have signalled that this is going to be a key part of their agenda moving forward. Today, they followed up on this by introducing another sweeping reform bill, one that specifically addresses executive branch reforms which are now necessary after President Donald Trump's widespread abuses of power.

This is a winning issue for Democrats, so it is good to see them getting out in front of the issue in such a major way. Major parts of the federal government are now so broken that they are crying out for repair. Reforming all sorts of things about the way Washington works (or doesn't) is absolutely critical if Democrats want to move the country forward in any way next year. Even if Joe Biden wins the presidency and Democrats take back control of the Senate and retain control of the House, things could still grind to a halt with the rules that are in place now. So changing the rules to fix obviously broken things is a pretty easy sell to the voters.

How easy? Well, after H.R. 1 was introduced, polling showed that 82 percent of all voters said the would support reforms to tackle corruption in Washington. That's a pretty strong number, in these divided times.

Of course, reforming the Supreme Court is what is on everyone's mind right now. But this is such a big subject that I have decided to address it separately, in tomorrow's "Part 2" column. So there's that to look forward to. Today, let's focus only on reforms to the other two branches of government -- which is also a pretty big subject to cover.

 

H.R. 1

Introduced in January of 2019, the first bill filed in the new Democratic House was billed as an anti-corruption act, but it actually addressed all kinds of problems beyond mere corruption in Washington. Vox had a pretty good rundown of what this "For The People Act" legislation stood for, back when it was introduced:

  • Supporting a constitutional amendment to end Citizens United.
  • Passing the DISCLOSE Act, pushed by Rep. David Cicilline and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, both Democrats from Rhode Island. This would require Super PACs and "dark money" political organizations to make their donors public.
  • Passing the Honest Ads Act, championed by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (MN) and Mark Warner (VA) and introduced by Rep. Derek Kilmer (WA) in the House, which would require Facebook and Twitter to disclose the source of money for political ads on their platforms and share how much money was spent.
  • Disclosing any political spending by government contractors and slowing the flow of foreign money into the elections by targeting shell companies.
  • Restructuring the Federal Election Commission to have five commissioners instead of six, in order to break political gridlock at the organization.
  • Prohibiting any coordination between candidates and Super PACs.

Ethics

  • Requiring the president and vice president to disclose 10 years of his or her tax returns. Candidates for president and vice president must also do the same.
  • Stopping members of Congress from using taxpayer money to settle sexual harassment or discrimination cases.
  • Giving the Office of Government Ethics the power to do more oversight and enforcement and implement stricter lobbying registration requirements. These include more oversight of foreign agents by the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
  • Creating a new ethical code for the US Supreme Court, ensuring all branches of government are impacted by the new law.

Voting rights

  • Creating new national automatic voter registration that asks voters to opt out rather than opt in, ensuring more people will be signed up to vote. Early voting, same-day voter registration, and online voter registration would also be promoted.
  • Making Election Day a holiday for federal employees and encouraging private sector businesses to do the same, requiring poll workers to provide a week's notice if poll sites are changed, and making colleges and universities voter registration agencies (in addition to the DMV, etc.), among other updates.
  • Ending partisan gerrymandering in federal elections and prohibiting voter roll purging. The bill would stop the use of non-forwardable mail being used as a way to remove voters from rolls.
  • Beefing up election security, including requiring the director of national intelligence to do regular checks on foreign threats.
  • Recruiting and training more poll workers ahead of the 2020 election to cut down on long lines at the polls.

Remember, this bill was introduced at the start of 2019 -- a full year before the coronavirus pandemic hit. And because time has passed, some of it has actually happened. But it's a good framework to build upon.

 

The Protecting Our Democracy Act

Today, House Democrats announced another sweeping reform bill, which specifically targets the executive branch abuses we've all seen under the current president. It too is pretty broad in nature, as it was a collaboration between several committee chairs:

The package, which its architects have informally referred to as "post-Trump reforms," includes measures to restrain the president's power to grant pardons and declare national emergencies, to prevent federal officials from enriching themselves and to accelerate the process of enforcing congressional subpoenas in court. It also includes provisions to protect inspectors general and whistleblowers, increase penalties for officials who subvert congressional appropriations or engage in overt political activity and safeguard against foreign election interference.

. . .

In a joint statement, seven committee chairs signaled their legislation is intended to "prevent future presidential abuses, restore our checks and balances, strengthen accountability and transparency, and protect our elections."

"It is time for Congress to strengthen the bedrock of our democracy and ensure our laws are strong enough to withstand a lawless president," the statement says. "These reforms are necessary not only because of the abuses of this president, but because the foundation of our democracy is the rule of law and that foundation is deeply at risk."

. . .

The package mirrors several measures to better regulate the relationship between the White House and Justice Department, which Democrats believe has been too cozy under the leadership of Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr. It reflects a proposal from Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) requiring the attorney general to keep a log of certain communications with the White House and periodically share it with the DOJ inspector general and Congress, and a bill from Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) exempting the time a president or vice president spends in office from the statute of limitations for any federal crime. Nadler's measure seeks to ensure that the Justice Department's policy against indicting sitting presidents does not become a means for avoiding prosecution entirely.

. . .

The bill incorporates several other pieces of existing legislation as well, such as Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam B. Schiff's (D-Calif.) measure requiring the administration to give Congress materials related to any pardon within 30 days and expressly prohibiting self-pardoning. It also includes Administration Committee Chairwoman Rep. Zoe Lofgren's (D-Calif.) measure requiring political committees to report attempted foreign influence operations to the FBI.

Schiff, Nadler and Lofgren are co-authors of the bill, along with Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), Budget Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), and Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.).

Finally, the package includes a new measure inspired by the recent parade of Trump administration officials using their federal office to engage in overt campaigning, a practice that was on stark display during last month's Republican National Convention. The bill gives the Justice Department's Office of the Special Counsel express authority to investigate suspected violations of the Hatch Act, and issue fines of up to $50,000 for every violation that the president fails to discipline himself.

That's a pretty good start, you've got to admit. The only thing I might suggest adding to this package would be an expansion of the Hatch Act specifically designed to protect government scientists and governmental science departments from any political influence whatsoever. This would make what happened in "Sharpiegate" illegal, not to mention the continuing onslaught of political influence over the federal government's pandemic response. Sadly, such a law has never before been necessary, but it now most certainly is.

But even this sweeping bill is only a starting point. Assuming that Democrats wind up in full control of government after November's elections (which is an enormous assumption to make, I do realize, but for the purposes of this column if Democrats don't achieve this, then everything else discussed here will be rendered moot).

 

Drop The Third Nuke

Moving forward, Democrats are now contemplating several meaningful reforms, should they win back the Senate. First and foremost among these would be Chuck Schumer beginning his term as Senate majority leader by eliminating the filibuster forever.

In Washington terms, this will be seen as "dropping the third nuke." The first so-called "nuclear option" was triggered by Harry Reid, back when he ran the Senate. Republicans had ground the process for confirming federal judges to an absolute halt, and Reid finally had had enough. He held a party-line vote and they jettisoned the possibility of filibustering judicial appointments in the Senate -- up to (but not including) Supreme Court justices.

This, incidentally, is why Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump have been able to confirm a record number of federal judges. But Democrats may get their innings in this fight if Joe Biden wins the White House and Schumer wins control of the Senate. Liberal judges will be confirmed at the same accelerated pace as the conservatives have been under McConnell, which will help to balance things out in a major way.

The second nuke was dropped when McConnell gained control of the chamber and held his own party-line vote to get rid of the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. We are paying the price for that now -- if this nuke hadn't been dropped, Trump would not now be able to jam through a nomination mere weeks before an election.

These two nuclear-level events left the legislative filibuster untouched, though. Filibusters (or "cloture votes," more properly) are still possible for any piece of legislation except for certain budgetary measures (which can only require a majority vote under "reconciliation" rules). But this is going to seriously hamstring a new Democratic president and Senate in the exact same way it did when Barack Obama took office. Senate Republicans are going to oppose absolutely everything that Democrats want to get done, and there will be no comity across the aisle on any of it.

If the filibuster remains, nothing will get done even with Congress and the White House in Democratic control. Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi could rant and rave all they wanted, but Senate Republicans would block everything under the sun, just because they could get away with it.

Chuck Schumer recently darkly warned that, if McConnell jams through the Supreme Court confirmation before January, then "everything will be on the table." He has not specified what this threat means, but first and foremost it almost has to mean dropping the third nuke and jettisoning the filibuster forever. I say "forever" because of the political mechanics involved -- what future partisan majority will ever decide to hand back such power to the minority ever again? As I wrote over a year ago:

If the filibuster is abolished, it will likely never return, for the same reason it has not for presidential appointments and judicial picks. The only party who gets upset, after all, is the "out" party -- and they don't have the power to change things at all. Once they win back the Senate and become the "in" party, they want to get their own licks in under the new rules. Partisan control has already flipped once since Reid dropped the first nuke, and while at the time Republicans swore up and down that they'd reinstate the judicial filibuster, once they won control they conveniently forgot about those pledges. After all, they'd just retaken the majority, so why should they immediately lessen their own power out of some sense of fair play? But sooner or later -- in 2020 or beyond -- the Democrats will win back control once again. McConnell's second nuke -- abolishing Supreme Court nomination filibusters -- is likely not going to be changed back by the new Democratic majority.

Likewise, if the legislative filibuster is done away with -- if the third nuke is launched -- it will likely never return again. For better or worse, American government will have shifted to a fully majority-rules Congress once again. There would be very little the minority party could do to stop the "tyranny of the majority" that Alexis de Tocqueville warned us all about. Much of the gridlock in Washington would be unlocked, and if one party held both houses of Congress and the White House, then they could move their agenda forward boldly and swiftly.

This idea has been kicked around by Democrats for a long time, but it has gained enormous support under Trump -- and even more since the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has come out publicly for getting rid of the legislative filibuster. So has former President Barack Obama, who even called it a relic of the Jim Crow era. Joe Biden has so far not been a big fan of doing away with the last vestige of the filibuster, but he might change his mind once he's sitting in the Oval Office and contemplating how little he will be able to accomplish with the filibuster still in place.

 

Voting Rights Act

This might be what changes Biden's mind on the filibuster question. Ever since the Supreme Court gutted the current Voting Rights Act, Democrats have been trying to rewrite it (which, admittedly, it really needed even before the court ruled against it). The new plan is to name it the "John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act" and to make it a centerpiece of the Democratic agenda next year. If Pelosi moves quickly and hands it over to the Senate (the legislative language already exists, so it would only need minor revisions to update it), then the first big filibuster showdown could come over voting rights.

Joe Biden will easily be able to see that an important piece of legislation will never actually happen unless the Democrats somehow manage to win back a 60-vote majority in the 2022 midterms. This would mean his first two years in office will see no important bills make it through the Senate. Biden may dither for a bit -- he may try to personally call up his old Republican buddies in the Senate and plea for them to put country before party -- but that had no noticeable effect for Barack Obama's entire time in office, and in a post-Trump world it will not likely have the slightest effect next year.

Biden will be faced with the prospect of (1) supporting the end of the filibuster and going down in history right next to L.B.J. when it comes to getting voting rights legislation passed, or (2) getting little to nothing done on any issue whatsoever for his entire term in office. That seems like a pretty easy choice to make, no matter how much Biden may revere his outdated views of the serious-minded and collegial nature of the Senate. Sooner or later he's going to smack into the hard reality that that sort of Senate just does not exist anymore. It didn't exist when he was vice president, and no matter how much he thinks it'd be a great idea if it returned, it now should be seen as pretty close to an absolute guarantee that it just isn't going to in his first two years in office.

Guaranteeing and strengthening voting rights for everyone (minorities most especially) would be a great way for Biden to kick off his presidential legacy. He knows this. So even though he doesn't actually have any direct control over the process (it is merely a rules vote within the Senate, not a piece of legislation that Biden would have to sign), Joe Biden might see the light on jettisoning the filibuster if it meant starting his agenda off with the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act.

 

DC statehood

This one is a rather obvious move, although it would also require the filibuster to be killed. Washington D.C. has been pushing for statehood status for decades now. They even put the Revolutionary War motto: "Taxation Without Representation" on their vehicle license plates, just to remind every member of Congress driving around the District of the issue, on a daily basis.

For the first time ever, though, the House of Representatives has now actually passed a D.C. statehood bill. Mitch McConnell is ignoring it, of course -- but Schumer won't. By making D.C. a new state, Democrats would bulk up their power in the Senate by two additional seats. No Republican is going to win an election there any time soon (since the Republican agenda is so detrimental to the lives of the people who live there -- which is entirely the Republican Party's fault, I might add), so this would beef up the Senate to 102 members while simultaneously adding both of these new members to the Democratic ranks.

It's really hard to see any downside to this for Democrats. As a bonus, it would cause Republicans' heads to explode everywhere. Also, it could never be undone. All around, a pretty easy choice for Schumer to make, all things considered.

 

Puerto Rican Statehood

This is also mentioned whenever the D.C. statehood subject comes up, but it's nowhere near as cut-and-dried an issue. In the first place, there would almost certainly have to be a clear and unequivocal referendum on the issue on Puerto Rico itself. Past referenda have been flawed (one was complex, with a two-part question almost designed to confuse everyone, and other referenda have been boycotted by major political parties on the island). So a new vote will likely be required.

Even if the citizens do vote to become a state, would the Democrats move quickly on the issue? Politically, Puerto Rico is nowhere near as monolithic as Washington D.C. In other words, it wouldn't be a guarantee that both new senators would be Democrats. Puerto Rican politics are different in many ways from the politics in the states, so there could be a reshuffling of party lines if they achieved statehood. But, again, there's no guarantee that this would automatically mean "two more Democratic senators, for the foreseeable future."

 

Criminal Justice Reform

There is going to be a very strong push for further criminal justice reform under President Joe Biden. Obviously, the Black Lives Matter movement has shoved this to the center ring of American politics this year. And if Democrats achieve a sweep of both the White House and Congress, the expectations are going to be high for serious reform efforts.

However, police reform and prison reform will likely remain largely a state and local matter. The federal government doesn't hire and fire the cops in any given town, city, or county, after all. So most of the reform efforts -- the most important of them, at any rate -- will have to be fought at lower levels of government.

That's not to say Congress can't move the ball forward, by laying down federal guidelines and restrictions. The federal prison system could be a big target of this effort, because that is one thing that Congress does control. So private for-profit federal prisons may go the way of the dodo, just for starters. I have no real idea exactly what might be in the final draft of a criminal justice reform bill next year, but I know for certain that this is going to be extremely high on the Democrats' agenda. And, once again, to get anything done on it will first require jettisoning the filibuster.

 

National Popular Vote

And finally, a "shoot for the moon" reform idea. While it could be argued that certain parts of all the other reform efforts might not be possible by federal legislation, this one is firmly out of bounds. In other words, getting rid of the Electoral College and moving to a "national popular vote" presidential election can only be achieved with a constitutional amendment. The Electoral College would have to be entirely written out of the Constitution, and a national popular vote installed in its place. There simply is no viable shortcut for Congress to take here.

This is almost certainly doomed to fail, but it sure might be fun to try. After all, very few people are deeply in love with the Electoral College, and it's pretty easy to explain why "one person, one vote" should be the standard by which we choose our presidents. It's pretty self-explanatory, in other words.

But Republicans are simply not going to go for it -- not now, at any rate. They have lost six of the past seven presidential elections in the popular vote. Bill Clinton won twice, we had Bush v. Gore, and then George W. Bush managed to win outright in 2004, after 9/11. Since then, Obama has won twice and Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by three million votes the last time around. So it's pretty easy to see that while congressional Democrats might be in favor of jettisoning the Electoral College once and for all, it will be almost impossible to get the three-fourths of the states required to ratify such an amendment. Such a thing will likely not be politically possible until a Republican candidate wins in the popular vote but then loses in the Electoral College -- a scenario which is not likely to happen any time soon, obviously.

 

Conclusions

Joe Biden started off his campaign by promising a return to normalcy. Other Democrats scoffed at the idea that, in a post-Trump world, Republicans would suddenly revert back to being sober-minded consensus-seekers. Joe Biden reportedly is not even convinced right now that Trump and McConnell are going to seat another Supreme Court justice by the end of this year (which everyone else rightly now sees as almost a certainty). Biden still clings to the belief that GOP senators will suddenly rediscover the spirit of compromise -- or as Abraham Lincoln put it: "The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature." Yeah, that'd be nice, wouldn't it? But I'm not exactly holding my breath, if you know what I mean.

Biden, more recently, has been talking about being a truly transformative president, in the mold of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Now, emulating F.D.R. has been the gold standard for Democratic Party presidents for a very long time, but Biden is right that he might just be dealt the cards to sign some very sweeping changes to federal law. But this is all going to hinge on killing the Senate filibuster once and for all -- because Biden will have only limited tools to act without legislation to back him up. Oh, sure, he can (and will) easily overturn all of Donald Trump's executive actions (which he should really do in his first month in office), but reforming the government at large is going to require new federal laws.

Republicans have been playing the hardest of hardball pretty much ever since Barack Obama took office. Their new political style might be accurately called "Take no prisoners!" in fact. They remained firmly in opposition to everything Obama tried to do -- even after Obama continually "reached out his hand" to them to try to assuage their legislative concerns. They laughed at such efforts and voted as a bloc against all such legislation. They have ground the Senate to an absolute halt. They have no shame whatsoever in naked exercises of power, as most recently (but certainly not uniquely) seen in their absolute reversal on their "the American people must decide the next Supreme Court justice at the ballot box" sanctimonious nonsense from 2016. Republicans are playing for keeps.

It is time Democrats started doing the same. Softball and collegiality has already flown out the window. Chuck Schumer, for one, seems to have realized this. So has Harry Reid and Barack Obama. Joe Biden may come around to such thinking after an initial attempt to restore comity to the Senate utterly fails, on whatever first contentious bill the House passes.

The federal government is in dire need of reform. This is patently obvious. All three branches, in fact. Never again can we the American people allow someone like Trump to get away with absolutely ignoring all rules of governmental conduct, whether written or unwritten. For those that are unwritten, it is time to write them down and pass them into law. For those that are written, better and quicker enforcement methods are sorely needed.

The American people are open to a clear-cut reform agenda. Maybe that doesn't include everything on the list above (different issues will poll differently, obviously), but the general concept is sound. "Reform now!" can be a powerful rallying cry for all Democrats seeking office this year. And, as the House Democrats proved today, they seem eager to move this issue forward in a way not seen since the aftermath of Richard Nixon. That is precisely what will be needed, next year.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

61 Comments on “Reform Moves To Center Stage For Democrats (Part 1)”

  1. [1] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    The only way Biden can even start to clean up behind Trump is to adopt as much of your recommendations as possible.

    And Joe won't do that until he realizes that meeting the RepubliCONs halfway as Obama tried will just result in the same underwhelming results.

    I believe Obama's negatives were higher than they would have been if not for so many of us Progressives being sooo disappointed in Hope and Change.

  2. [2] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    This country is too effed up for half measures.

  3. [3] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Half measures- like Joe Biden?

  4. [4] 
    Mopshell wrote:

    Trump intends to use dirty tricks to retain power and Americans don't believe it could possibly happen to them so they won't be prepared for it.

    He's telling the public about his plans. He's saying, "throw out the ballots" and there won't be a transfer of power, "there'll be a continuation."

    He's hellbent on seating another justice who will go along with his dictatorial scheme of calling in SCOTUS to declare him the winner.

    He's also shown you that he has the police, ICE, border security, militias and the media on his side.

    He's told you; he's shown you you, yet you all still believe in the fantasy of a fair election.

  5. [5] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Deathocrats have signaled that reform is going to be part of their agenda moving forward.

    No they haven't.

    They have once again shown they will pass all sorts of things to create that impression when they know Republikillers will not let it become law.

    Perhaps you missed all the times the Deathocrats did not pass legislation when they had the opportunity to make it law. That's a pretty hard signal to miss.

    Another signal that is hard to miss that the Deathocrats will again find excuses if they gain control in 2020 is that they continue to finance their campaigns with big money and the big money interests have no interest in reform, they just need the Deathocrats to create the impression there will be reform to keep real opposition from gaining support.

    Another signal that is hard to miss.

    The bottom line is that no matter who is in control no real reform legislation will be passed. Anything that is passed will be a sham that will take years to pass and longer to find out it is a sham.

    So if you think Trump is so bad that you have to vote for Biden, then you need to recognize that voting for candidates like Biden is why Trump is in office now and send Biden, Pelosi and the rest a message in 2020 that this sham will no longer be tolerated.

    Around 90% of congressional and senate races are already decided. So 5-10% of voters voting for Biden and/or Trump while participating in One Demand in 2020 working with those that will not be voting for Trump or Biden also voting this way for Congress will not have an effect on the balance of congress.

    This will build a base and a connection between these voters that the CMPs are trying to keep divided.

    It will either scare the hell out of the CMPs and get them to improve their performance and make it possible to replace them if they do not improve.

    Wake up. Wise up. Rise up.
    Get Real.

  6. [6] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    [3]
    [5]

    Yeah, I know. "Like Joe Biden," said the Bernie Bro.

    But recall our Great Depression. FDR was no wild-eyed Commie but he recognized that nibbling around the edges wasn't going to keep Communism/Socialism from our shores, hence the New Deal. RepubliCONs have spent many of the ensuing years trying to undo the same New Deal.

    Again, I recommend Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich by Kevin Phillips (short Foreign Affairs review.) Considering the subject matter this is an engaging read. He starts out by examining why Northern Europe and North America (as opposed to, say, China) rose to the technological and financial dominance it has enjoyed for 500 years.

    He goes on to show how American government from the Revolution to this day has grown the wealth of the big guys as opposed to the rest of us.

    Phillips points out the cyclical nature of Progressives rising to combat the inequalities of these policies. And conditions are more than ripe for our current Leftward tilt of the Democrats.

  7. [7] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    I completely agree that Biden and his team are going to need to play a New Deal scaled set of reforms in the next two years - if they win the White House and a majority of the Senate.

    End the filibuster, pack the Supreme Court, legislate the actual rules for all the unspoken conventions that Trump and his gang have violated or ignored, prosecute the lawbreakers in the previous administration, relieve the victims of the plague, rebuild the crumbling infrastructure, rebuild relationships with our allies, and most of all, begin the mitigation of the carbon-based economy that is burning the planet alive.

    Two years. That's all they will have.

  8. [8] 
    MyVoice wrote:

    I hope the Congress can turn its attention fairly soon to tightening the rules around "Acting Secretary" to eliminate its use as a way to bypass the Senate's Advice and Consent responsibility. The same goes for "Senior Official Performing the Duties of ..." as a means of bypassing career deputies in favor of political appointees. This kind of "flexibility" should have very limited and tightly controlled use.

    Oh, and no more giving future Mick Mulvaneys extra roles to carry out during lunch. I get that it is Republican doctrine to "prove" that government is the problem, but people at the upper echelons shouldn't hold more than one post at a time.

    I believe that the structure of the government needs to be reviewed, rethought, and revamped from time to time, but I am vehemently against putting people in charge of functions whose mission they don't buy into in the least. Whether it's trying to zero out the budget of the CFPB or The Betsy de Vos kill education dead (or at least make it more profitable for my friends) method, we cannot let our society suffer this way again.

    As for Judicial nominees rated not qualified by the ABA, I'm not in a position to know whether the ABA is sufficiently non-partisan to handle these assessments, but there should be some entity assessing the qualifications of people being considered for lifetime appointments. Candidates not rated as even minimally qualified should not receive a vote.

    Grrrrrrr

  9. [9] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    A historical fact I didn't mention in this article (but which I am likely to bring up pretty soon...), for anyone interested:

    In the 1880s and 1890s, the House had an effective "filibuster" that kept them from doing much of anything.
    Gridlock ruled the day, due to endless "quorum votes" and the like. It took one powerful speaker to change all of that:

    Mr Speaker! by James Grant recounts this bit of history, and how the elimination of the "House filibuster" meant legislation could move forward once again.

    I strongly encourage anyone interested in the subject to check this book out, because it is indeed instructive. It wasn't always the Senate who blocked reforms....

    -CW

  10. [10] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    @cw,

    for about 30 years now the GOP has wielded congressional tradition as a blunt instrument for a sustained grab of power over the judiciary, while the democrats have remained mired in arguments over propriety and partisanship. now that mitch's hypocrisy is laid bare, my hope is that democrats will finally begin to fight back in kind. if not, there will be more like don who come to believe that democratic efforts are just "part of the show."

    donald is certainly exploiting this trend in his attempts to hold on to power, but by no means did he create it.

    JL

  11. [11] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Let's not forget about the postal service.

    On Tuesday, I bought something on eBay from somebody in Chicago. USPS tracking says it's in Podunk, Mississippi now! WTF?

  12. [12] 
    Kick wrote:

    Great article, CW. :)

  13. [13] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    I find it odd that the cops say that Breonna Taylor and Kenneth Walker were standing together in the hallway when they broke down the door. Walker shot once and they responded with a hail of bullets, yet none hit Walker and six hit Taylor.

    In addition, it's interesting that Hankison is charged with wanton endangerment because bullets entered Taylor's white neighbor's apartment, but not for the bullet that entered her black neighbor's apartment.

  14. [14] 
    Kick wrote:

    Mopshell
    4

    Trump intends to use dirty tricks to retain power and Americans don't believe it could possibly happen to them so they won't be prepared for it.

    Excuse me for stating the obvious, but you couldn't be more incorrect. "Americans" obviously know that Donald Trump will cheat and it can happen to them. Did you just crawl out from under a rock or are you just assuming "Americans" did?

    He's telling the public about his plans. He's saying, "throw out the ballots" and there won't be a transfer of power, "there'll be a continuation."

    Yes, we know.

    He's hellbent on seating another justice who will go along with his dictatorial scheme of calling in SCOTUS to declare him the winner.

    Yes, we know.

    He's also shown you that he has the police, ICE, border security, militias and the media on his side.

    The "police" aren't a monolith... nor are any of the other institutions you've listed, and I cannot fathom why you've included "the media" on your "bucket list."

    He's told you; he's shown you you, yet you all still believe in the fantasy of a fair election.

    I would say "you seem a little confused," if not for the fact you appear to be extremely confused. Are all you Aussies this patently ignorant?

  15. [15] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Kick [14]

    Rupert Murdoch (Aussie import) is on Fat Donny's side.

  16. [16] 
    Kick wrote:

    John From Censornati
    15

    Rupert Murdoch (Aussie import) is on Fat Donny's side.

    Nice guy, that Rupert. His wife is from Dallas and used to be married to none other than Michael "Mick" Jagger.

    I wonder what Murdoch's son James is up to these days? *be right back*

    https://www.cnbc.com/2020/09/09/how-james-and-kathryn-murdoch-became-a-political-power-couple-in-the-trump-era.html

    So I guess they're not all ignorant. :)

  17. [17] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Yeah, I knew about Jerry Hall. I always kind of thought she looked like a drag queen. Quite a strange move to Rupert. I suppose she just likes living large.

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    So, it's be mean to Australia day today, eh? We're all members of the small but strong state of Weigantia - let's try to be nice and take care of each other.

  19. [19] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    [14]

    TWEET!

    (throws yellow piece of cloth)

    "Unnecessary roughness. 15 years from the spot of the infraction. Still third down."

    Aussie (how do you know these things?) Mopshell is only half wrong. S/he is describing the 40-whatever percentage of Americans who fancy themselves to be Patriots for backing Trump and the Repugs. The rest of us, the country, our Constitution and even realities like Covid and Recession be damned -- "winning" is all that counts.

  20. [20] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Bernie is just now delivering a very important speech on saving American democracy - it is really is required viewing!

  21. [21] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I've seen a few speeches delivered by Senator Sanders but, the one which just ended a minute ago is the best I have ever seen him give.

    Bravo, Senator Sanders!

  22. [22] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    MtnCaddy [19]

    Aussie (how do you know these things?)

    She's said she's an Aussie. We're taking her word for it.

  23. [23] 
    Kick wrote:

    Elizabeth Miller
    18

    So, it's be mean to Australia day today, eh? We're all members of the small but strong state of Weigantia - let's try to be nice and take care of each other.

    If Australia infers we're all stupid, we're definitely going to defend ourselves. That goes double for our friends to the North... so, suck it, Canada! :)

  24. [24] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    LizM [18]

    So, it's be mean to Australia day today, eh?

    I'd say that just a little bit of an exaggeration there, eh?

  25. [25] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Perhaps.

  26. [26] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Did you listen to Bernie's big speech today? I especially liked the part where he said, emphatically, that he is a loud and proud Biden supporter. :)

    Gotta love Bernie!

  27. [27] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    I did not, but that's nothing new. In fact, the last time Mopshell showed up here was to say that Bernie had shat on Joe. Kick's assessment was right on.

  28. [28] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    It is possible to make an accurate assessment without being so nasty, you know. :)

  29. [29] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Just like what I do over at Biden's site. It's fun!

  30. [30] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Today's offering Nobody from our bedfellows at The Lincoln Project.

    Ouch!

  31. [31] 
    Kick wrote:

    MtnCaddy
    19

    TWEET!

    You can't do that here; if you want to TWEET, you have to go on the Twitter machine... look for the blue birdie. ;)

    (throws yellow piece of cloth)

    No littering. That's a misdemeanor.

    "Unnecessary roughness. 15 years from the spot of the infraction. Still third down."

    Fifteen years! Cruel and unusual punishment inflicted and unconstitutional:

    Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

    ~ Amendment VIII, United States Constitution

    *
    Aussie (how do you know these things?)

    'Cause I remember stuff, Taras. :)

    https://www.dailykos.com/user/Mopshell

    Mopshell is only half wrong. S/he is describing the 40-whatever percentage of Americans who fancy themselves to be Patriots for backing Trump and the Repugs. The rest of us, the country, our Constitution and even realities like Covid and Recession be damned -- "winning" is all that counts.

    She lumped us in a "you all" category...

    He's told you; he's shown you you, yet you all still believe in the fantasy of a fair election.

    ~ Mopshell

    *
    ... and insinuated we believed in fantasy, and she has no idea who she's talking to so I defended our honor. :)

  32. [32] 
    Kick wrote:

    Elizabeth Miller
    28

    It is possible to make an accurate assessment without being so nasty, you know. :)

    Nasty!?

    Oh, dear. You haven't "seen" me nasty yet. Trust me on this. :)

  33. [33] 
    Kick wrote:

    MtnCaddy
    30

    Today's offering Nobody from our bedfellows at The Lincoln Project.

    That's harsh... but factual. :)

  34. [34] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Nobody should be playing non-stop in FL and PA.

  35. [35] 
    Kick wrote:

    The Texas GOP is suing the Governor of Texas -- a member of the GOP -- and taking it straight to the Texas Supreme Court -- because Abbott extended early voting in Texas due to the pandemic.

    Texans are already forced to vote in person during the pandemic unless they have an excuse (coronavirus isn't a valid excuse), and now the GOP wants to shut a week of that early voting down.

    https://apnews.com/article/election-2020-virus-outbreak-voting-greg-abbott-lawsuits-7cb1e08d94846fad4e5a32f72a15ae0d

    The GOP all over the country are working hard to ensure that Americans are disenfranchised. #pathetic

  36. [36] 
    Kick wrote:

    John From Censornati
    34

    Nobody should be playing non-stop in FL and PA.

    Oh, yasssssssssssssss... and OH! :)

  37. [37] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    I suppose Caputo is really freaking out now. Some might call it bad karma.

  38. [38] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    [31]

    MtnCaddy
    19

    TWEET!

    You can't do that here; if you want to TWEET, you have to go on the Twitter machine... look for the blue birdie. ;)

    (throws yellow piece of cloth)

    No littering. That's a misdemeanor.

    "Unnecessary roughness. 15 years from the spot of the infraction. Still third down."

    Fifteen years! Cruel and unusual punishment inflicted and unconstitutional...

    Goddamned auto correct -- I SWEAR I typed "fifteen YARDS"

    And where the hell you get my name from? Cain't remember giving it out in these pages, but I gotta disclose that the weed in Countri-Cali does not help the short term memory. Y'all got good weed in Texas-23? And how's that race looking?

  39. [39] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    "Upon further review...there was no penalty on the play."

    Yeah, you go slap them damn Aussies down when they diss us like that. And them Canucks, too!

  40. [40] 
    Kick wrote:

    MtnCaddy
    38

    And where the hell you get my name from?

    ** This guy **

    Cain't remember giving it out in these pages, but I gotta disclose that the weed in Countri-Cali does not help the short term memory.

    Some of us are more detail oriented than others too; I have the skills Donald Trump wishes he had.

    Y'all got good weed in Texas-23?

    Texas 23rd Congressional District

    I don't live there, but it's a huge chunk of land on the border of Texas and Mexico... so there has to be good weed in there somewhere. :)

  41. [41] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    [40]

    So if you don't live in TX-23 where do you live, Victoria?

  42. [42] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Mopshell,

    He's also shown you that he has the police, ICE, border security, militias and the media on his side.

    No, he doesn’t. In fact, he does not even have his supporters full support when it comes to not peacefully turning over power if he loses the election. Surprising no one, Fox News has not really been reporting Trump’s comments on this subject to their viewers, and many refuse to believe that he actually did make such comments. That was the case at Devon’s police department when Devon was talking politics with two Trump supporters. After Devon played them Trump telling the media that he would not promise that there will be a peaceful transition of power if he loses, both of them told Devon that they would be more than happy to help remove Trump from the White House if that is what it came to.

    Again, we see how Fox News viewers are simply unaware of a large number of the offensive and corrupt actions that Trump has made while in office.

    It should also be noted that our military leaders have sent out reminders to our troops that their oath is to our Constitution, not the President.

  43. [43] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    John from Censornati

    I find it odd that the cops say that Breonna Taylor and Kenneth Walker were standing together in the hallway when they broke down the door. Walker shot once and they responded with a hail of bullets, yet none hit Walker and six hit Taylor.

    A couple of things: When the bullets start flying, it is not easy to determine who is still firing and who is not. This is why you will read stories of two shooters firing 3 shots at police and the police returning fire 50 times. Granted, it’s typically 6 - 10 officers firing, but the numbers definitely seem disproportionate. Sadly, that is just how it is. Officers are trained to keep firing until they are no longer fired upon. But with multiple officers firing from different locations, it is not always easy to determine when the suspects have stopped shooting.

    Also, it really seems like the only way Taylor was struck so many times and her boyfriend was not struck at all is if he used her as a human shield. I do not know that to be true, but it is the most obvious explanation.

    Going back to what I was saying earlier: This is why I partly why I believe the officer who shot Jacob Blake is a hero. Officer Sheskey had to realize that Blake’s children were in the vehicle he was trying to get to, as he put himself in the direct line of fire needlessly if not. Moving behind Blake close enough that he could physically grab Blake’s shirt, it prevented any of the other officers from firing on Blake unless he was able to get behind the wheel and try to drive off. If Blake did that, the officers would have been forced to fire into the vehicle to stop him, and it would have put the children’s lives at risk. Sheskey had to stop Blake from getting behind the wheel to protect his own life and the children’s lives. When Sheskey fired on Blake, his children were out of the line of fire and were not at risk of being injured.

    In addition, it's interesting that Hankison is charged with wanton endangerment because bullets entered Taylor's white neighbor's apartment, but not for the bullet that entered her black neighbor's apartment.

    He fired blindly into the house from outside. His charges were justified. From where he was shooting, his bullets only struck the apartment of the person who happened to be white.

  44. [44] 
    Kick wrote:

    MtnCaddy
    41

    So if you don't live in TX-23 where do you live, Victoria?

    I'll narrow it down especially for you, MC: My primary residence is in Texasssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss!

  45. [45] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    [43],

    Wow. Especially the part about the human shield scenario.

  46. [46] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    And, by 'wow', I mean unbelievably crass. I mean, you don't know it to be true, but ... I give up.

  47. [47] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    No, I'm not done quite yet.

    Also, it really seems like the only way Taylor was struck so many times and her boyfriend was not struck at all is if he used her as a human shield. I do not know that to be true, but it is the most obvious explanation.

    You should know whether that is true. Where were the bodies found? Does the forensic analysis of the (crime) scene comport with your "obvious explanation"?

  48. [48] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    This is not helping the cause of the officers everywhere. Yes, their job is not easy. It's very hard. That is a given, not an excuse.

  49. [49] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    @kick [23],

    well, that narrows it down to anywhere but austin.

  50. [50] 
    Kick wrote:

    nypoet22
    49

    well, that narrows it down to anywhere but austin.

    Heh. Correct!

  51. [51] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Liz,

    I apologize for my crassness. What I meant by “I do not know that to be true,” was that I do not know if the boyfriend intentionally used her as a human shield, or if he just happened to be behind her when he fired on the officers. Also, I am curious if the autopsy report said she had six gunshot wounds or if it stated how many times she was actually shot by the officers.

    The problem with this case, and so many of the recent ones, are that the media failed to report on them until after a lawsuit was filed. Washington Post’s first big story on Taylor’s death got all of its details from the lawsuit filed by the family/boyfriend against the city. We all know that cities do not talk about pending lawsuits, so the public only learned what those trying to win millions of dollars from their lawsuit wanted us to know about what occurred that day.

    This is why people were so stunned that no officers were indicted. If you have only been told the details from the boyfriend’s point of view, and you believe that those details are all factual, then it would be shocking that the police officers were not charged. I fully understand why people are outraged, and it isn’t easy to change someone’s opinion when they believe that they know the facts of what happened when they have not been hearing the facts.

    One thing that I am hoping cities and police departments will start doing a better job of is explaining the laws, policies, and procedures that the police have to follow...to better educate the public instead of just remaining silent when the media is misinforming the masses. While they cannot share all of the information and details while an investigation is being conducted, explaining how the process is conducted is something most people have never been educated on. Knowledge is power... and is something that the general public is desperately lacking in when it comes to how our legal system works.

  52. [52] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    I may have missed this suggestion, but I think an important one is requiring votes from both houses on any piece of legislation that is passed by one of the houses of Congress. It is wrong that one house can simply ignore all of the hard work that the other house has done in creating the legislation. There is no way that ignoring the very existence of legislation that is passed in one house by the other house was how the Founding Fathers intended Congress to function.

  53. [53] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    LWYH,

    From where he was shooting, his bullets only struck the apartment of the person who happened to be white.

    Not true. His bullets went into three apartments. Taylor's, the white neighbor's, and a black neighbor's.

  54. [54] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    LizM,

    The police filed a report that said Taylor was uninjured. Apparently, six gunshot wounds and death don't count. Tough job.

  55. [55] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    LizM,

    You should know whether that is true.

    We just might if they'd had their bodycams on like they were supposed to.

  56. [56] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    JFC,

    Sorry, I misread your statement. I do not know how the punishment was solely for firing one of the shots but not the other two, i have never heard of that happening, honestly, so I question where you got this info. It is not like he was aiming at either of them, but most importantly, it was that he fired blindly through the house from outside. All of his shots were taken outside of police guidelines.

  57. [57] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    I do not know how the punishment was solely for firing one of the shots but not the other two

    There has been no punishment, just a grand jury indictment. Grand juries don't indict for crimes that are not presented to them. Does that help?

  58. [58] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    All of his shots were taken outside of police guidelines.

    I don't need for you to tell me that he out of line. I'm well aware of that. The issue I was commenting on does not revolve around his conduct.

  59. [59] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    JFC

    I thought it sounded strange that the officer could be punished for bullets going into one apartment, but not the other two that were struck by bullets that day. You got your facts wrong, and on top of that you decided to go and make it about race! Congrats!

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAND) - One of three officers tied to the deadly March 2020 police-involved shooting of Breonna Taylor is now facing charges.

    Brett Hankinson was indicted by a grand jury on three counts of wanton endangerment Wednesday afternoon. The judge said this related to displaying "extreme indifference of human life."

    The indictment showed the charges relate to bullets that were fired into neighboring apartments, not Breonna Taylor's.

    Hankinson was terminated by the police department on June 23.
    https://www.wandtv.com/news/1-officer-tied-to-deadly-shooting-of-breonna-taylor-now-facing-charges/article_74209c32-fdc1-11ea-a5dc-a30524da56ee.html

  60. [60] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    You have once again referenced punishment. Hankison has not been punished other than being fired and, once again, I'm talking about the indictments. Do you not understand that they are different and the firing was not based on the indictment? The city fired him, but the AG & grand jury brought the charges. Maybe police unions consider being indicted a punishment, but it's not.

    It's interesting that you've gone so far as to quote some weird local news source from Podunk, Illinois, but it uses the word apartments which is incorrect. All three charges relate to ONE apartment and it's the one where a white family lives. The people he endangered were identified by their initials in the indictment. There are no charges for his bullets that entered Taylor's other neighbor's apartment, let alone Taylor's.

    And, once again, the grand jury can only consider charges for crimes that are presented to them. That may sound strange to you, but that's how it works.

  61. [61] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    I’m well familiar with how grand juries work, but thanks for your help. Funny, the “podunk” news source uses the same exact language as the NYTimes and WAPO uses in calling them “apartments”. It may be because these houses were rentals and not owned by those living in them.

    In fact, the attorney representing Taylor’s family refers to it as an apartment!

    “ If Brett Hankison’s behavior was wanton endangerment to people in neighboring apartments, then it should have been wanton endangerment in Breonna Taylor’s apartment too,” Ben Crump, the prominent civil rights lawyer representing Taylor’s family, tweeted Wednesday.

    I’m guessing you were the kid at the sleepover that corrected anyone who said, “Let’s ride our bikes tomorrow morning,” with “You mean THIS morning? It’s after midnight so it is already ‘tomorrow’!” You may think you are just being accurate (well, not in this case) but it really makes you seem like an asshole.

    The reason that the indictment did not include Taylor’s home was because the officer was intentionally firing into that apartment but failed to strike anyone. If one of his bullets had hit Taylor, he likely would have been charged in her death. The “wanton endangerment” focused on the innocent bystanders he put in danger with his actions.

    It may be that the only apartment struck that was occupied was that of the husband, wife, and baby. If not, it is must be because Kentucky’s grand jury hates blacks.

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