Friday Talking Points -- Legislative Trains Running On Both Tracks

[ Posted Friday, August 13th, 2021 – 17:55 UTC ]

Astoundingly, the United States Senate just had a very productive week. We know the word "astoundingly" is a bit snarky, but we do try to be honest, after all. After months and months of delays and headfakes, this week the final two legs of President Joe Biden's three-legged economic agenda passed the Senate, just before they left on an abbreviated summer break.

Well, maybe "one-and-a-half legs passed" would be more accurate. The second bill to make it through is nowhere near complete, but due to arcane parliamentary rules it has to undergo a two-step shuffle. The first step is when Congress agrees on how much it's going to spend, and then the second (and much harder) step is when they flesh out all of the details not only of where the money will go, but also how it will be raised. What passed the Senate earlier this week was merely the first step -- the second will be hashed out when Congress gets back from its lengthy summer vacation.

If we get that far, that is. Nine Democrats in the House are currently threatening to gum up Chuck Schumer's "two-track" process in a major way. But we'll get to that in a moment.

The first bill to pass was the long-awaited bipartisan infrastructure bill. Donald Trump promised it was "Infrastructure Week" so many times it became a sad joke (since nothing ever came of any of them), but Joe Biden has managed to get a deal through the Senate only six months after taking office. The deal almost went off the rails so many times the pundits lost count, but after months of seemingly-needless delays, it finally became reality. The deal got an impressive 69 votes in the Senate, including (are you sitting down?) Mitch McConnell's "aye" vote. Can't get much more bipartisan than that, these days.

Immediately after the infrastructure vote was finally taken (it was needlessly delayed an extra week or so due to several Republicans pulling hissy fits), the Senate then moved with lightning speed (for the Senate, that is) to pass a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill written by Senator Bernie Sanders, chair of the Senate Budget Committee. There was surprising unanimity among Democrats, at least right up until the votes were counted. They all stuck together, and the measure passed (under the simple majority rules of reconciliation bills) with a 50-49 vote. A final halfhearted attempt was then made to advance a voting rights bill (which failed), and then the senators all fled Washington for their long summer playtime.

Bernie's bill is simply breathtaking in scope, which we wrote about earlier this week. It's hard to describe it without using the word "transformational," in fact. It would expand the federal government's direct help to the middle class and poor so dramatically that it is rightfully being compared to either F.D.R.'s New Deal or L.B.J.'s Great Society. If Biden actually gets to sign it into law in any form close to the outline that passed the Senate, then schoolchildren in the future will have to remember "Build Back Better" with those other two political monikers. That's how big a deal this would truly be.

It's not really all that surprising, when you think about it. After all, Bernie Sanders wrote it. After being an outsider (or even "bomb-thrower") in the Senate for so long, Sanders now has the seniority to chair a very powerful committee, so he has become the ultimate budget insider. His initial impulse -- which was backed by a majority of his caucus -- was to go much bigger, with a $6 trillion bill. The conservative Democrats (often mislabelled "moderates") forced him to scale it back considerably, but the way this was accomplished seems to have been not to jettison major programs but simply to dial back the amount of time they'll be authorized for. If you start with a bill containing programs A, B, and C -- all funded for the full 10 years of the budget -- the way Bernie scaled it back was not to cut C or maybe even B and C, but instead to only fund all three programs for four or five years instead of ten.

This is definitely a smart move, especially since Joe Manchin (no surprise) announced almost immediately after voting to pass the $3.5 trillion budget bill that he simply could not agree to $3.5 trillion in spending in the final bill. But whatever figure Manchin holds out for (one wonders whether he'd be happy with $3.3 trillion or maybe $3.0 trillion?), in the end it can probably be achieved the same way -- just by scaling back the calendar for the proposals a bit more.

This is dishonest "smoke and mirrors" budgetary math, of course, but such is the nature of congressional sausage-making. What Bernie's betting is that when middle-class Americans start to receive all the new benefits, they'll all prove to be so wildly popular that they'll enter into that magical state of being known in D.C. as "the third rail of American politics." Touch it and you die, in other words. This phrase has been used to describe programs such as Social Security and Medicare because any politician who advocates ending either program is not going to be a politician for very much longer. The programs are too popular with all Americans -- not just those from one party.

Bernie's betting that if parents get a couple of years of having two free pre-K years and two tuition-free years of community college at the other end, then they'll be so grateful and get so used to it that even Republicans won't be able to kill the programs off. It's going to be pretty hard to convince seniors that getting glasses and hearing aids and dentist visits covered by Medicare is such scary "socialism" that it has to be stopped, to put this another way.

That's the gamble, and it could work exactly as planned. If such programs start up and are enjoyed by tens of millions of Americans, it is going to be extremely hard (if not impossible) for Republicans to kill them off, even if they regain full control of Congress and the White House in the meantime. This will force future Congresses to continue to fund these programs, no matter what Joe Manchin forces Democrats to do right now.

Of course, there's no guarantee all this is going to chug down Schumer's two tracks to their final destination at the Joe Biden Station. Either or both could still derail. The final reconciliation bill is going to be the mother of all budget battles in the Senate, since most Democrats know (to continue the Biden-friendly metaphor) that this truly is going to be one of the last "must-pass" trains to leave the station until the midterm elections. If this is the only chance any particular special interest is going to have, then the fighting among them is going to get pretty fierce, even setting aside the question of what Manchin and other conservative Democrats will allow for the bill's total. So there's no guarantee all of these things can be worked out -- at least not anytime soon.

But this isn't the only danger on those two tracks. As previously mentioned, nine House Democrats are also now threatening to blow the entire process up. They released a letter threatening to withhold their votes on Bernie's bill (the first one, the bill with just the overall price tag) unless and until Speaker Nancy Pelosi allows the bipartisan infrastructure bill a floor vote.

This is not in line with Pelosi's own two-track plan. Pelosi has used the leverage of being in full control of what bills move when in her chamber to force the two wings of the party to fly together. In both the House and the Senate the dynamic is the same: the conservatives really don't want to vote for the $3.5 trillion bill, while the progressives consider the bipartisan infrastructure bill to be woefully inadequate as a standalone measure. So neither side wanted to vote for the other side's bill. Chuck Schumer got them to do so in the Senate, at least on the initial reconciliation bill, by forcing both sides to admit they needed the other:

Behind the scenes, [Senate Majority Leader Chuck] Schumer began to nudge harder than his genial nature suggests. He recalled telling [Senator Bernie] Sanders, the Senate Budget Committee chair and the firmest "no" vote on the bipartisan plan, that "if you want the moderates to vote with the progressive vision, you can't vote no on this. You don't have that luxury." Then Schumer gathered [Senators Joe] Manchin and [Kyrsten] Sinema, his two most critical centrists, and told them of the caucus liberals: "If you won't vote yes on the budget resolution, I can't get them to vote yes" on the bipartisan bill.

The party's two wings "each need each other," Schumer said in an interview, explaining his "two-track" legislative strategy to link it with a party-line spending bill. "The moderates couldn't pass a bipartisan bill without the more progressive wing of our caucus. And the progressives couldn't get a big, bold bill without the moderates."

This week, with the slimmest possible Democratic majority and in the same 16-hour period, Schumer's two wings flew in unison. Sanders and other progressives voted for the bipartisan infrastructure plan, and moderates voted for a budget that sets up a $3.5 trillion spending bill.

Pelosi has used a similar strategy in the House, promising to hold up the vote on the bipartisan bill (which would then put it on Biden's desk, if the House votes on the Senate bill without changing a word of it) until a final vote can be held on the reconciliation bill. She promised to then move both bills on the same day, culminating in Biden getting both of them at once. This is the only acceptable way for the process to work for House progressives -- who count among their number almost half of the Democratic caucus. The progressives will not vote for the bipartisan bill if the reconciliation bill is not ready, period.

Today, a monkey wrench was thrown into this plan. Nine House Democrats threatened to kill the first reconciliation bill if the bipartisan bill isn't voted on first. But the first reconciliation vote only gives both houses the green light to begin negotiations on the final bill's text. It allows them to start writing the final bill. If it does not pass the House, then the entire process will grind to a halt.

Pelosi is in somewhat of a bind because of all this. Forcing her to bring the bipartisan bill to the floor is ridiculous, since it would not pass. If 50 progressives vote against it, it's pretty inconceivable that an equal number of Republicans are going to make up the total to pass the bill. So what the conservative Democrats are demanding is to see their own beloved bill go down in flames.

But all is not lost, not yet at any rate. If there's anyone we trust to navigate this seemingly-impossible conundrum, it is Nancy Pelosi. She understands the power she wields even better than Schumer does. In fact, the whole showdown between the "moderates" and progressives may in fact force both to realize that there truly is only one path open to both which will not eventually lead to electoral disaster for the party. Just because the pundits proclaim the entire process dead does not mean that is going to become true, after all. Maybe Democrats should just take a deep breath and trust their leadership to do what is right.

If you want a bit of optimism to counter all the doom-and-gloom which erupted over the letter from the nine Democrats, try reading this uplifting take on it:

It's time to entertain the possibility that President Biden, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi actually know what they're doing and are really good at their jobs.

Their fellow Democrats seem to have doubts, because, well, Democrats always have doubts. Dwelling on worst-case scenarios is somehow wired into the party's DNA. Every victory must have some downside; every step forward must lead toward some potential pitfall. If worrying had been an Olympic sport in Tokyo, Democrats would have swept gold, silver and bronze.

This angst is richly nourished by voluminous news media analysis and commentary adhering to the convention of anticipating what might go wrong. What if progressives in the House won't swallow hard and vote for the "hard infrastructure" bill passed by the Senate? What if House moderates insist on a quick vote on the Senate measure and threaten to withhold their votes on the budget with its huge "human infrastructure" spending? What if an asteroid strikes before Biden can sign these transformational pieces of legislation into law?

. . .

So now we're hearing that the hard part actually lies ahead, because Pelosi will inevitably face an uprising by her progressives, her moderates or both. Indeed, this could happen. But I would submit that Pelosi's record demonstrates she knows a lot more about how to get the House to do what she needs than any of the Cassandras predicting her certain failure.

There were plenty of other things happening in the political world this week, including the regular drip, drip, drip, drip of revelations about Donald Trump trying to subvert an election he clearly lost, but the two Senate bills truly overshadowed all else this week (at least for us).

However, we do have two amusing notes to close on. The first came from Arnold Schwarzenegger, who in the midst of an interview told all the anti-vax holdouts exactly what he thought of their intransigence:

"Screw your freedom," [Arnold Schwarzenegger] said. "Because with freedom comes obligations and responsibilities. You cannot just say, 'I have the right to X, Y and Z.' When you affect other people, that is when it gets serious."

Schwarzenegger compared mask mandates put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus to a traffic light.

"You cannot say, 'No one is going to tell me that I'm gonna stop here, that I have to stop at this traffic light here, I'm gonna go right through it,'" he said. "Then you kill someone else, then it is your doing."

Schwarzenegger called on Americans to put aside politics, listen to the scientists and stop griping about the supposed freedom to not wear a mask.

"You have the freedom to wear no mask," he said. "But you know something? You're a schmuck for not wearing a mask."

But shaming Republicans in this fashion might not work, because some of them are so obviously beyond shame. After Kevin McCarthy was called "a moron" by Nancy Pelosi for his anti-masking idiocy, he decided that it'd be a good idea to raise some campaign cash off the episode. So he's now selling shirts with the word "Moron" prominently displayed in big type, with the supposed-zinger: "a term coined by Nancy Pelosi referring to freedom-loving Americans who oppose mask mandates" printed in much smaller type beneath.

So if you by chance happen to see someone walking around wearing a MAGA hat and a shirt that prominently reads: "Moron," you'll understand why. Because the Republican Party is now openly embracing their inner moron. You just can't make this stuff up, folks!


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

Happily, there are many candidates for this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award.

Grudgingly, we have to admit that Kyrsten Sinema even deserves some praise, for being instrumental in dragging the bipartisan infrastructure deal across the finish line. Without Sinema's last-minute negotiations, the whole thing might have collapsed, so we have to give credit where it is due.

Joe Biden certainly got a giant leap forward towards cementing a rather historic legacy this week, with the Senate's actions. But he'll have to wait for his real moment in the sun until both bills cross his desk for his signature. But both Biden and Sinema deserve Honorable Mention awards, at the very least.

We still couldn't make up our mind, so we are going to hand out two Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week awards this week. The first goes to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who very successfully utilized the threat of holding the Senate in Washington when they had planned to be on vacation. Schumer was resolute in countering all the Republican obstructionism and delay tactics with a simple answer: "Well, if you want to do this the hard way, then we'll just take the extra time to do so... but nobody's going home before I get the votes I want. Period."

That takes some backbone. But it still remains the Senate's biggest leverage over individual senators, and Schumer proved he can wield this power masterfully, over the past two weeks, so he certainly deserves a lot of credit for sticking to his guns.

The other winner we have is Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders. Because the Senate was so downright exhausted, Sanders was able to get his incredibly progressive budget blueprint over the first hurdle with minimum fuss and minimum demagoguery from the other side of the aisle. Normally, a bill like the one Bernie put forward would have caused some serious head explosions over on the Republican side, but when it came to debate and vote on it they were so worn out from how the bipartisan battle got dragged out that they just didn't have the energy to do so.

Of course, this is just Round 1 -- when Round 2 rolls around, those heads will likely be rested up enough to explode in spectacular fashion.

Kidding aside, though, up until this year Bernie has been a lone voice crying in the wilderness. He has pushed an unabashedly progressive agenda through two close runs for the Democratic presidential nomination and by being so successful at sparking energy and enthusiasm in the Democratic ranks that he singlehandedly (well, perhaps "with Elizabeth Warren") moved the Overton Window for what was acceptable to contemplate within the Democratic Party.

And instead of it all being pie-in-the-sky dreams and aspirations, this week Bernie was finally able to take the first step towards making a lot of the proposals he's been championing for so long into reality. If Bernie's budget passes -- even if only 75 or 80 percent of it makes it into the final bill -- it will be a stunning and monumental achievement. The history books will likely chalk this achievement up on Joe Biden's legacy tally, but in reality it will have been Bernie Sanders who made things like adding vision and dental healthcare to Medicare an actual reality.

Bernie's been saying all along, to anyone who would listen: "This stuff is wildly popular and Democrats would benefit politically from passing some of it." That premise may become reality, in the next election cycle.

For also sticking to his guns and changing the course of how the public thinks of what the federal government should prioritize, Bernie Sanders more than deserves a Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award.

[Congratulate Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on his Senate contact page, and Senator Bernie Sanders on his Senate contact page, to let them know you appreciate their efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

We have two Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week awards to hand out this week, as well as one (Dis-)Honorable Mention. We'll start with the latter.

Senator Joe Manchin enjoys being the center of attention in Washington, we all know this. He (with good reason) sees himself as the sole legislative kingmaker for the Democrats, since if he comes out against anything it's pretty much dead in the water. Oh, sure, with only 50 Democrats in the Senate, it means that any of them could play this grandstanding game, but at least 48 of them have chosen not to. The only other Democrat who actively seems to enjoy this game is Kyrsten Sinema, but thankfully she was quiet this week.

Manchin, on the other hand, was apparently annoyed that he had been forced to vote to advance Bernie's budget reconciliation bill, so almost immediately after the vote was held Manchin released a statement saying he could not possibly support the bill he had just voted for. He threw in a whole bunch of Republican talking points (for good measure), but what was telling was that he did not express any ideological objection to any of the bill's provisions, he instead objected to the overall price tag as being "too expensive." He -- and other detractors of the bill -- want to blur everyone's thinking on the package, so that the public will start thinking of it as "Democrats recklessly deficit-spending again" even though the bill will be fully paid for. That's a big difference, but people like Manchin want the public to ignore it.

What it all means is that when the Senate returns in September, Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders are going to have to go to Manchin (with cap in hand), and beg him to support something close to what had already been agreed upon. They'll be strengthened by the resolve of the House progressives, who are swearing not to support Manchin's pet bipartisan infrastructure bill unless the full $3.5 trillion is spent in Bernie's bill. So it's doubtful Manchin will be able to force the price down all that much, in the end. But we've still got to go through the whole dance in the meantime, once again. For reminding everyone of this fact immediately after the vote on Bernie's bill, Manchin deserves at least a (Dis-)Honorable Mention.

But our two winners of the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week are both much worse. One because he was so high-profile and even while exiting the stage had to prove all over again what a pig he truly is, and one obscure state-level legislator, just for the egregious nature of what he's been accused of.

The first, of course, is (soon-to-be-former) Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo finally realized this week that he had absolutely nobody in his corner and that he was well on his way to becoming impeached and being removed from office by the state legislature. He had no chance of wriggling out (which he really should have realized last week).

So Cuomo announced his resignation... in two weeks (for some reason). But he also gave a textbook example of the "non-apology apology" on his way out the door. Here are just a few cringeworthy quotes from his performance:

In my mind, I've never crossed the line with anyone, but I didn't realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn. There are generational and cultural shifts that I just didn't fully appreciate, and I should have no excuses.

Got that? Cuomo was just fine with being a pig, back when being a pig was acceptable enough to those who have power. He just didn't realize that piggishness was no longer acceptable. "I'm sorry I'm no longer allowed to get away with this stuff" might be more accurate, in other words. And yeah, you should have no excuses, but you seem to actually have a whole bunch of them, don't you? Like, for instance:

I have slipped and called people honey, sweetheart and darling. I meant it to be endearing. But women found it dated and offensive.

Ya think? Cuomo glosses over what was revealed in the attorney general's report, which included saying things like: "It's about time you showed some leg" or that he wanted a girlfriend that could "handle pain." Or asking an aide whether she'd be willing to cheat on her partner. That's a wee bit beyond calling someone "honey," (soon-to-be-Ex-)Governor.

At public events, troopers will often hold doors open or guard the doorways. When I walk past them, I often give them a grip of the arm, a pat on the face, a touch on the stomach, a slap on the back. It's my way of saying: "I see you, I appreciate you and I thank you." I'm not comfortable just walking past and ignoring them. Of course, usually they are male troopers.

OK, just... no. "A touch on the stomach"? We would personally hand Cuomo $100 out of our own pocket if he can get even one male trooper to publicly say that Cuomo had ever given him "a touch on the stomach" while holding a door open. Or "a pat on the face," for that matter. Once again, Cuomo rationalizes his own piggishness to an astonishing degree.

So here's hoping this will not only be the last MDDOTW we have to hand to Cuomo, but indeed the last time we ever have to use his name here at all. Those two weeks can't pass soon enough, for us.

The second is far more serious, though. Here is the whole sordid story, from a local Arizona media source:

Arizona state Sen. Tony Navarrete was arrested Thursday and faces multiple charges of sexual acts with a minor.

The Phoenix Police Department announced the arrest late Thursday following a brief investigation. In a statement, police said they received an accusation of a molestation, which allegedly took place in 2019, on Wednesday. Police said they had probable cause for an arrest after interviewing two alleged victims and witnesses.

Navarrete, 35, was ordered held on a $50,000 bond at an arraignment Friday afternoon.

A probable-cause statement, released as part of court records shortly after Navarrete's arraignment, reveals details of multiple instances of alleged sexual conduct with two male teenagers.

Police also wrote that they have a recorded phone call between Navarrete and one of the alleged victim [sic], in which Navarrete was asked about the alleged sexual conduct and expressed regret for his actions.

"The victim asked Otoniel if he regrets touching him. Otoniel responded by saying of course I regret any bad actions that I did, absolutely wishing everything could be different. I'm sorry mijo," police wrote in a probable cause statement.

In all, the Phoenix Democrat faces seven felony charges: five counts of sexual conduct with a minor, one count of molestation of a child and one count of attempted sexual conduct with a minor. If convicted on all counts, the charges require a mandatory minimum sentence of 49 years.

Legally, of course, until he's tried and convicted, we all have to use the word "alleged." But that taped phone call sounds pretty damning to us, we have to admit. Even more damning were details provided by the Washington Post, though:

The criminal case against Navarrete came together in a matter of hours, according to the police report. After the 16-year-old contacted police last Wednesday, detectives interviewed him and documented the alleged abuse. The teen told detectives Navarrete first molested him at a home in Phoenix when he was 12 or 13 and continued to do so on several occasions until he was 15.

The next day, investigators spoke with a different 13-year-old boy, who said Navarrete had once attempted to touch his genitals, according to the report.

On Thursday afternoon, police had one of the teens place a phone call to Navarrete, who allegedly apologized to the caller for sexually abusing him. Officers arrested Navarrete later that night.

In other words, even using the word "teenager" to describe the victims might not be accurate. Anyone who would molest a child that was "12 or 13" deserves all that is coming to him. Which includes this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award.

[Because New York Governor Andrew Cuomo gave himself two-weeks' notice, he is still in office and you can contact him on his official contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions, but Tony Navarrete is now a private citizen and our policy is not to provide contact information for such persons.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 630 (8/13/21)

Happy (?) Friday the 13th, everyone! Today was supposed (according to a lunatic who seems to have escaped from an asylum somewhere) to be "Reinstatement Day" when the Supreme Court would vote unanimously to do something which neither U.S. law nor the U.S. Constitution allows for -- declare the last presidential election null and void, and "reinstate" Donald Trump to the Oval Office.

Of course, this did not happen because it is absolute lunacy to even contemplate such a thing.

But we are sympathetic to all the friggatriskaidekaphobes out there, so we'll refrain from commenting further on the calendar's date.

Instead, we present this week's Talking Points, which were heavily influenced by two Democratic strategy documents, one from the Senate Democrats' re-election committee and one from Chuck Schumer. These are messaging documents for Democrats running for election or re-election, in order to herd the Democratic cats into (for once) speaking in unison.

We found all the suggestions persuasive, which is why we so heavily borrowed from both. So here are our suggested talking points for Democrats to utilize over the August recess, when talking to all the folks back in their home states and districts.


   60K per month to 60K every three days

Biden's polling on the economy was strong, but has been slipping of late.

"Under the administration of Joe Biden, the American economy went from only creating 60,000 new jobs every month to creating 60,000 new jobs every three days. That is a record to be proud of. In fact, Biden has shattered all previous records and has seen a whopping 3 million new jobs created since he's become president. That's not just impressive, that's downright historic."


   $10 or less per month

Health care has always been a Democratic strong point, since they're the only ones doing anything about it at a national level. So point it out!

"Joe Biden passed a pandemic response bill very early on -- the American Rescue Plan -- that has allowed two million people to sign up for Obamacare health insurance policies since February, under a special enrollment period. Democrats expanded the Obamacare subsidies too, which now means that four out of five people enrolled in a marketplace plan are only paying $10 per month or less to buy health insurance. Democrats are now fighting to make these provisions permanent, and Republicans are fighting to deny it to the millions of Americans who are now benefitting from it. We passed the American Rescue Plan without a single Republican vote. Democrats are fighting to make healthcare more affordable, while Republicans fight against it. That is the difference between the two parties."


   Democrats still fighting to make healthcare even more affordable

Once again, Democrats are on the right side of issues that people care about.

"Democrats are not satisfied yet, though -- we are still fighting to make healthcare more affordable in many other ways as well. We're going to force the pharmaceutical companies to stop gouging Americans on the cost of prescription drugs, and we're trying to add financial support for both elder care and child care. That's what the bills Democrats are advancing right now in Congress will achieve. Who could be against such things? Well, the Republicans are fighting us at every step of the way. They don't want affordable child and elder care, for some unfathomable reason. They're against lower prescription drug prices and making obscene spikes in lifesaving medicines like insulin illegal. Democrats are fighting back, and we hope you join us in this fight."


   Fighting for seniors, too

This is perhaps the biggest selling point of Biden's agenda, which Bernie Sanders absolutely demanded (for good reason).

"Democrats are fighting right now to expand Medicare coverage so that every single senior in America can go to the eye doctor, go see a dentist, or get a hearing aid without it costing them a fortune. We think Medicare should cover all health problems. We don't see eyes and ears and teeth as somehow separate from the rest of your body -- if health insurance covers everything else, why shouldn't it cover these things too? This would be the biggest conceptual expansion in Medicare since the addition of the prescription drug benefit. Democrats are fighting hard to get coverage for glasses and hearing aids for everyone's parents and grandparents. Again, who could be against such an obviously good thing? You probably have already guessed the answer to that, because once again it is: the Republicans."


   Tax and spend better than borrow and spend

This needs to be countered before it even gets any traction.

"You know what Republicans are already calling us? 'Tax-and-spend' Democrats. They've used this as a political bludgeon quite successfully in the past, I have to admit. But let me ask you: which is really better? Tax and spend... or borrow and spend? Because no matter what they say when Democrats are running the show, whenever Republicans are in charge they immediately pass another gigantic tax cut for rich people that is not paid for. They throw up some smoke about how their trickle-down idea will pay for itself which has not come true even once. They are borrow-and-spend Republicans, plain and simple. Except, to them, spending only means spending on their fatcat friends, the millionaires and the billionaires and the titans of industry and Wall Street. Every time Democrats propose maybe spending some money on average people -- the middle class, Main Street -- Republicans either try to scare everyone by calling it 'socialism,' or they whine about 'tax and spend Democrats.' Well you know what? Yeah, I'm fiscally responsible, sorry -- if we're going to spend money then I'm going to raise some taxes to pay for it. Guilty as charged. But Democrats are only going to raise taxes on gigantic corporations who, year after year, seem to wind up paying zero in taxes and people who make millions or even billions of dollars a year and pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes as the janitor who cleans their office. Joe Biden has sworn that nobody who makes less than $400,000 a year will see their taxes go up, and he's a man of his word. We're going to tax the ultra-rich and the corporate tax dodgers to pay for a huge investment in the middle class. So call us 'tax and spend' all you like, because that is the reality of the situation."


   Democratic tax cut for American families

Lean on this one for all it is worth, since the checks have already started arriving in mailboxes. Remind everyone who voted for those checks, and who didn't.

"Part of the American Rescue Plan that Democrats made happen is those checks arriving in parents' mailboxes each and every month. We expanded the Child Tax Credit so middle-class families now get up to $300 a month for each child. Already, 90 percent of families with children are receiving an average tax cut of $4,380. That's not peanuts -- that can make the difference in millions of children's lives. It could cut child poverty in this country in half. And of the 40 million households who are eligible for this tax credit, more than 35 million are already receiving monthly benefits. That's a pretty stunning record of success for a brand-new government program, you've got to admit. Democrats want to help American families, so we decided that for once we'd pass a tax cut that didn't help out millionaires the most, and instead directed money to tens of millions of parents across America. Because that is what we, as a party believe a tax cut should do. Help average people out, instead of helping out those who need absolutely no help whatsoever."


   Every Republican

Hammer this home, over and over and over again. It is Democrats' strongest message, but they've got to get it out there for people to hear.

"Every single Republican voted against the tax cut for parents. Every single one of them! For all their talk of 'family values' they couldn't even bring themselves to support a tax cut -- a tax cut for Pete's sake, their favorite thing to do! -- for average parents. Every single Republican voted against the American Rescue Plan even though we were suffering through a once-in-a-century pandemic. If they couldn't support it in the midst of such a crisis, then Republicans are just never going to support true middle-class tax cuts, ever. Democrats would love to have their help -- and their votes -- to help middle-class families even more by making healthcare more affordable and creating millions of jobs, but Republicans are opposed because we're going to do it by raising taxes on their buddies at the country club and on Wall Street. There is the difference between the two American political parties, folks. We are trying to help average Americans, and Republicans are fighting us tooth and nail, every step of the way. So please remember that, the next time you're in a voting booth."

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground


38 Comments on “Friday Talking Points -- Legislative Trains Running On Both Tracks”

  1. [1] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    welcome back!

  2. [2] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    Presidents get the credit for all the good economic stuff that comes along during their administration, and the blame for all the bad stuff, and truth be known, they have damn little to do with either.

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    I'll give you this week's MIDOTW awards - good choices!

    Just so long as you remember who will deserve the MIDOTW award when 'Bernie's budget' finally gets passed into law and president Biden signs it while sitting behind his desk. Ahem.

  4. [4] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    agree completely. and we generally don't even know what was good or bad until ten years later.

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Oh, and, hope your car troubles will soon be over, again. :)

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    This is generally true. But, perhaps, this time around it is a different story.

    How would the economy be doing, among other things, if Trump had actually won in 2020, do you think?

  7. [7] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    CRS [2]

    Yes, indeed. But that's about as sophisticated as millions of voters think. Most 'Muricans are just not much into politics, so "Am I better now than I was four years ago?" er, resonates with this crowd.

  8. [8] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    ...and three, two, one

    Elizabeth Miller has something to say about Joe's presence or absence on the dueling Democrat awards list.

    I can almost set my watch by this force of nature.

  9. [9] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    My best guess is not any better under Trump but quite possible or likely worse.

    Look at how whack the GOP and Trump are. It's madness over there so I don't see how they could do anything but muck things up.

  10. [10] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Because the Republican Party is now openly embracing their inner moron. You just can't make this stuff up, folks!


    Priceless. Simply priceless.

  11. [11] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    You really hit it on the head, and with great brevity. Of course you're right. But it is what it is..

    Please, though, could you suffer us the celebrating when our guy is in and things are going good. Its not like the GOP refrains when it's their turn.

  12. [12] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    Two in a row! Bravo, Chris, that you've given us another excellent FTP column. I can't argue with the awards nor the talking points.

    The introductory essay was particularly good this week. You made the legislative process seem almost understandable. LOL

  13. [13] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    Again, I almost hate to point out a deficiency in the talking points. But the COVID-19 pandemic hasn't ended, despite the way it may seem to Californians. Until the pandemic ends, Democrats MUST NOT let voters forget each week's situation.

    President Biden handed you an excellent talking point(s) this week about the pandemic. Florida, among others, is reporting horrifying numbers each day. And Governor DeSantis is actively working to make matters worse.
    1 - The Biden administration is 'pro schools' and 'for the children'
    2 - DeSantis, a 2024 Presidential hopeful, is awful in everything he has said and done since the virus arrived in the Sunshine State. (It is important to focus on the 'long game', defining your opponents to voters in the other 49 states as early as possible.)
    3 - States with Democratic governors and legislatures are managing the current 'wave' much better than Florida, Texas, and Arkansas.

  14. [14] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    Thank you, Chris, for bringing to our attention the Politico article about how Schumer is successfully herding cats. It contains several interesting tidbits. One that I found particularly noteworthy was Schumer's "slow and steady" strategizing.

    It seems that every liberal pundit and blogger is emulating Veruka Salt ("I want it NOOOOOOOWWWWW!"); there's no hope they will be any more circumspect next time.
    'And it started in early spring with Schumer batting around a “two-track strategy,” the phrase now in common use on the Senate floor.

    In his office early this spring, Schumer and his aides, including Policy Director Gerry Petrella, discussed the two-track idea for implementing Biden’s agenda as the president rolled out his policy platform. Schumer recalled calling the president, as well as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) after figuring out a strategy to lash his party’s two wings together.'

  15. [15] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    i thought i smelled a rainbow. hooray for pie!

  16. [16] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


  17. [17] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    So, now that Afghanistan has reverted back to full form - surprise, surprise ...Welcome, everybody, to the CW Sunday Night Music Festival and Dance Party! where we leave all that crazy shit behind, if only for a few hours.

    Come one and all, whether you are one of our regulars or you are just lurking around - this is our one and only chance every week to leave all the politics aside in favour of good music, of all kinds from all places. Of course, the songs we play may be as political as you wish.

    And for anyone new to this wonderful site, just remember that your first song, comment will be held by Chris for moderation but, after that your comments will post immediately. We could really use some new blood around here, particularly of political stripes at the opposite end of the hysterical progressives. Oh, I kid the progressives ... :)

    So, let me begin with some songs from a album released 50 years ago yesterday on August 14, 1971 - It's the Who's 'Who's Next' ...

    According to Roger and Pete, it was the best album they ever did! Some of these songs were to be saved for 'Lifehouse', a Pete Townshend project which was supposed to be bigger and better than Tommy. Well, best laid plans and all that. The project fell apart but, the songs can be found on the big birthday album, Who's Next ...

    Baba O'Riley was to be the final 'cleansing' song on Lifehouse but, it ended up as the opening track of Who's Next. Enjoy!

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Also from Shepperton Studios in 1978, and the last track of Who's Next, Won't Get Fooled Again

    Any Who fans out there? Not THAT WHO! Play your favourites...

  19. [19] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Who knows the story of the Who's Next album cover. Do you!?

  20. [20] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Here I go again on my own, going down the only road I've ever known ... Whitesnake

    Oh, well, this party is just getting started ... the night is young.

  21. [21] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I have many Madonna favourites but, this one may top the list ...

    La Isla Bonita

    Gets me dancin' around the living room all the time, like now!

  22. [22] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:
  23. [23] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


  24. [24] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Okay, get your dancin' shoes on and hook this one up to your big TV screen.

    Enjoy Tom Lavin and his legendary Powder Blues Band, live at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. Tom was an origianl member of PRiSM but after PRiSM's debut album, he left to form the Powder Blues.

    If you ever get the chance to see these guys live, DO IT!

    Powder Blues Band

  25. [25] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Okay, I'm still here ... stumbled into a kind of pool party at my building when I just wanted to take some recyclable garbage out to the bins, so ...

    Anyway, here is one of my favourite Prism tunes ... written by honourary original member of the band (he came in for the second studio album, See Forever Eyes and never left!) and it's called Flyin' ... enjoy!

    Flyin' - PRiSM

    Love the hair and the lace-up leather vest of my most favourite singer, the late and great Ron Tabak, frontman for PRiSM for its first four studio albums. I will say no more ...

  26. [26] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Except to say that Virginia is one of my favourite PRiSM tunes and here is the definitive five on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (Ron Tabak - the Voice, Lindsay Mitchell on guitar, Rocket Norton (his book is must must read!) on drums, John Hall on keyboards, and last but by no means least Al Harlow on bass ...


  27. [27] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    The String Katz are a string quartet (cello, two violins, piano) from Montreal ... they interpret classic rock songs and you really need to get their cd or you can buy their songs on spotify ... I play mine all the time!

    The String Katz - Dream Out


  28. [28] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Time for some Rolling Stones...their phenomenal exhibition UNZIPPED will soon be making its Canadian premiere and only Canadian stop right here in downtown Kitchener at theMuseum. It has already made stops in the US so better get your tickets and plan a visit up here. Come with a group and make the Voodoo Lounge a part of your visit!


    Enjoy Gimme Shelter

  29. [29] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Lately, I've been into Neil Young tunes, big time. And, so... here he is with Crazy Horse ...

    Like A Hurricane

  30. [30] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Toronto's claim to fame is as a place full of wonderful power trios ... Rush is one of them ...

    Spirit of Radio

  31. [31] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:
  32. [32] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Here the boys are performing Spirit of Radio at the 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony ... no one was more deserving of being here!


  33. [33] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Have a listen to Geddy Lee, Neil Peart, and Alex Lifeson as they accept their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ... a trio of speeches you will never forget!

    Rush does us all proud!

  34. [34] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    So, I guess I'll end where I started ... here is the full album with bonus tracks of our birthday album tonight ...

    Who's Next - Full Album

  35. [35] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    As for next Sunday night, we are certainly open for suggestions for a theme or focus or whatever ... anything to get more of us inclined to participate. Because, as I always say, the more the merrier!

  36. [36] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Before we go, I would like to leave you with what should be the official theme song for the Canadian premiere and only stop in Canada for the Rolling Stones' phenomenal UNZIPPED exhibition. I'm working on persuading the powers that be to make it so ...

    "I turned on my boy scout smile; I stood up and gave her my seat; I winked my eye and UNZIPPED my fly and later we went up to her penthouse suite!"

    Nickels and Dimes

    See y'all next Sunday night~

  37. [37] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    You know, you shouldn't fret about Afghanistan.

    It was never going to respond well to attempts to democratize it. What we need here is a little "civilizational orientation".

    Well, that and stay away from American news for a while. Which goes double for MSNBC, apparently - "the news channel for folks who like unpleasant surprises". I love it! :)

  38. [38] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    And, on a final note ...

    but, you don't really care for music, do ya? :(

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