Is the U.S. Military for Hire?

One of the weirder news stories today tells us that a guy who became a billionaire selling junk auto parts is paying South Dakota to send National Guard to the Texas border. Seriously.

Josh Marshall:

Josh Kovensky managed to get on the phone with Willis Johnson, the auto-salvage billionaire who is paying for the South Dakota state national guard – yes, a state that almost borders Canada – to go to the border with Mexico to patrol the situation.

On the one hand, we don’t want GOP megadonors going full warlord and renting state militias for this kind of stuff. On the other hand I think another just as likely scenario, quite possibly more likely though no less worrisome, is this. Kristi Noem’s political advisors said, hey we need to get in on this for the 2024 primaries. All the big 2024 contenders who run a state government are sending personnel to the border for these kinds of cosplay adventures. But South Dakota is a small state – budget and personnel-wise. And that created a budgetary headache. So they called up one of her donors to make that problem go away.

One might ask, as Steve M did, is this legal? I don’t know that it’s specifically illegal. It appears there is no precedent for somebody paying a state governor for a National Guard deployment, especially a deployment in another state.

Gov. Kristi Noem is sending 50 troops to support some kind of border protection theater being run by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Abbott, working as hard as he can to use his border with Mexico as a political asset,  asked for other states to send  Guard to patrol the border rather than rely on the Border Patrol. Putting aside for now whether Abbott is usurping the authority of the federal government, I believe there is precedent for the governor of one state to send Guard to another state at that governor’s request. But the fact that the deployment is being underwritten by a private citizen is just … weird. It seems wrong.

And while the National Guard, when not federalized, is under the command of state governors, they are also part of the Department of Defense.  And a wealthy Trump supporter is paying for them to pull some kind of political stunt. At the moment, it isn’t clear where they will be deployed or what their mission will be, which suggests they aren’t needed all that much. But is this something states should be doing at all? Where does the Border Patrol come in? Who will these troops report to?

Further, the exact amount of the donation, and exactly what’s being done with the money, or what conditions were made for its use, are being kept hidden for “security” purposes. Right.

Paul Waldman is calling this, um, thing part of the GOP’s new rebellion against federal authority.

Imagine you’re a member of the National Guard, and your commanding officer informs you that you’re being activated for duty. New orders from Washington? A natural disaster? Nope. It seems a billionaire from another state gave your governor a bunch of money so she could send you and a few dozen of your colleagues to Texas to do border enforcement, something you’re not trained for.

While the details are still coming into focus, that’s essentially what is happening in South Dakota: Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, who has her eye on the White House in 2024, is taking money from the foundation of Tennessee auto auction magnate Willis Johnson to deploy her Guard troops to Texas because she thinks the federal government isn’t doing its job. …

… Noem is essentially saying that she and other Republican governors can usurp the federal government’s responsibility over the border — and not only that, they can have conservative megadonors fund the operation.

Border security is definitely a federal responsibility, part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection within the Department of Homeland Security. State law enforcement does work in cooperation with federal enforcement, but I doubt state law enforcement engages in its own border enforcement actions and policies independent of the feds. That would be chaotic.

IMO the Department of Defense ought to pull the plug on this before other states come up with creative political uses for their Guard.

South Dakota National Guard Soldiers from the 153rd Engineer Battalion of Huron greet Gov. Kristi Noem at Barnes Canyon Camp during Golden Coyote training exercise in Custer State Park, S.D., June 14, 2019. Stars & Stripes

***

I don’t know if this is available to non-subscribers, but if you can watch it, please do watch this video at the New York Times showing the January 6 insurrection/riot in detail. “The Times’s Visual Investigations team spent several months reviewing thousands of videos, many filmed by the rioters themselves and since deleted from social media. We filed motions to unseal police body-camera footage, scoured law enforcement radio communications, and synchronized and mapped the visual evidence,” it says. Most of the video footage was taken by rioters. From this you can get a sense of what was happening at the same time in various parts of the building, with diagrams showing exactly what part of the building you are seeing. It’s also pretty graphically violent.

Life, the Nation, the Planet: What’re They Worth to Ya?

If you’ve been following the unfolding news about the collapsed Champlain Towers condo complex in Florida, you’ll know that there had been warnings that the complex was structurally challenged going back to a 2018 engineering assessment. Repairs were scheduled to begin this week, starting with the roof.

Today the Miami Herald published photos taken by a contractor just 36 hours before the collapse. The photos show standing water, cracked concrete, and exposed rebar in the parking garage below the pool deck, which is where the structural failure is believed to have originated. Residents who parked in the garage must have seen this.

From several news stories I get the impression that the only reason the condo board was preparing to address the problems (at an estimated $15 million) is that the building had a county mandated 40-year recertification coming up. Otherwise they may have ignored them longer.

I do not know anyone on the Champlain Towers board personally, and I may be judging them unfairly. But I imagine (I do not know) that some board members urged that repairs be made more quickly, and they were ignored by the majority who didn’t want to spend the money until they absolutely had to.

If someone could have warned them that the building would collapse and people would die, would they have acted more quickly?  If a year ago they were shown videos of the collapse, what would it have been worth to them to avoid disaster? Every penny they could get their hands on, I suspect.

And to me that Champlain Tower condo board looks a lot like Congress.

One of the many questions about the bipartisan infrastructure framework is, how will this be paid for if we can’t raise taxes? Because, you know, taxes on income and investments may never be raised and may only be cut, according to GOP dogma. Jeff Bezos may have so much money he literally doesn’t know what to do with it, so he has yachts to support his yachts and is planning to launch himself into space next month, but heaven forbid he has to pay any taxes. (See also The real crisis for American democracy is our cowardly inability to tax the rich by Will Bunch.)

Jeff Stein reports at WaPo that one agreement made by the bipartisan frameworkers is that they would take $70 billion out of unemployment compensation to pay for new infrastructure spending. However, benefits would not be cut. They are going to get the $70 billion by eliminating “waste and fraud.”

People familiar with the unemployment compensation program say that’s nuts. Waste and overpayments may add up to $35 billion — which is alarming enough — but $70 billion, no way.

The fuzzy math on unemployment benefits is just one of the debatable assumptions the Senate and White House dealmakers made in claiming they are paying for more than $500 billion in new infrastructure spending with new revenue.

No issue emerged as a greater obstacle to the bipartisan infrastructure negotiations than how to pay for it, as lawmakers were hemmed in by political realities that constrained their options.

Republican lawmakers have refused to raise taxes on corporations and the rich, which ruled out the White House’s preferred proposals. The White House, meanwhile, refused to raise taxes on Americans earning less than $400,000 a year, which led them to rule out a gas tax that some of the lawmakers had pursued.

Do read the whole article for the entire list of where the bipartisan frameworkers expect to get their revenue. Experts who have gone through the framework carefully say that the “pay fors” in the framework are wishful thinking. Remember Paul Ryan and the Underpants Gnomes?

The Underpants Gnomes are back! One suspects they never went away.

Another compromise made for the “bipartisan” bill was to eliminate anything related to climate change as infrastructure spending is planned. Currently Mother Nature is providing a nice example of why that’s stupid. It was 116° F in Portland yesterday, a place where the average high temperature for June is 73° F.

Roads are buckling. Power cables are melting.

One family felt their home shake, so they ran outside. The road in front of their house had cracked and risen six to eight inches. One suspects that building materials used in Portland were not chosen to withstand extreme heat, just as Champlain Towers may not have been designed with rising oceans in mind. At the very least, from now on engineers will have to factor climate change into their calculations, or our infrastructure repairs may not last long.

I can’t find a video clip now, but I remember seeing Mitt Romney, discussing the ongoing infrastructure negotiations, announcing that all the climate change stuff had been taken out. There was clear disdain in his voice for the “climate change stuff.” If the GOP has an official position on climate change — kind of hard to know, since they didn’t bother writing a new party platform last year — it’s to ignore it. Here’s a Brookings report from last month on how the Republican party is holding back the nation on climate change policy. The American Petroleum Institute (API) is actually more progressive than the Republican party on reducing carbon emissions.  A snip:

Many Republicans legislators still reject the science of climate change, a position not held by other mainstream parties in democratic countries, but rising among far-right parties in Europe. Their positions have not kept up with their constituents, or even some business groups with which they are typically aligned. After the API made its announcement, Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, issued a statement saying, “Proposals that impose a cost on carbon will hurt American families.” In April, Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania announced at a hearing of a subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that he planned to introduce a bill to withdraw the United States from the United Nations Framework Commission on Climate Change. He introduced his bill, which has no chance of passing, on Earth Day.

It’s like a clique of high schoolers who all have to wear ripped jeans, get their noses pierced, and make fun of the cheerleading squad to stay in the clique. Rep. Perry is the guy who want to be especially cool, so he slashes the tires on the Pep Club bus. It’s all about impressing one’s peers.

I look at these bozos and wonder that if they could see a video from 2023 showing a bridge collapse in their districts — even better, if their grandchildren were in a car on that bridge — they would suddenly feel a tad more urgency.  And they could look at news stories from 2032 about how crumbling infrastructure and the fragile power grid is destroying the U.S. economy, even as climate refugees — since few places within 500 miles of the Equator are habitable, and the “dead zone” is growing — are crossing the southern border to go north. Canada may be building a wall. And then we could go forward a few more years, and they could watch their adult grandchildren struggle — and perhaps failing — to survive on a destabilized planet. Fun stuff.

What would you spend to change that future, Senator? Congressperson? When do we finally get to stop burning the planet so that the most entitled members of the capitalist class can get richer? And can we do that before there are mass extinctions? What’s it worth to ya?

Your Guide to Infrastructure Kabuki

In our last episode of Infrastructure Kabuki, President Biden had committed to tying the fate of the piddly little bipartisan infrastructure bill to the much more robust reconciliation infrastructure bill. This gave hope to many progressives that Dems weren’t going to be hosed again and forced to give up legislature they consider essential in order to placate Republicans and blue dogs, who will then end up hosing them again anyway.

Republicans then put on their best fake outrage faces and hollered about being double crossed (because their plan to double cross Dems had been stymied). The beltway press mostly went along with the Republicans and reported their Kabuki drama as real news. Josh Marshall wrote on Sunday:

We started with Biden stating openly what all the parties to the proposed bipartisan legislation know, which is that for Democrats it’s a package deal. Democrats know that. Republicans know that. The reporters know that. And yet the same folks have decided to take the feigned Republican freakout entirely at face value regardless. Politico of all places was closer to the mark on Friday when they noted that it took a day for Republicans to realize they were upset and what about.

And it’s actually accelerated over the weekend.

Yesterday the conventional wisdom among DC reporters was that yes this was all known. But Biden stated it too openly. So it was excessive candor that upset a fragile bipartisan coalition rather than any change of strategy or position. But hear Annie Linskey in the Post last night: “President Biden on Saturday reversed a stand he had taken forcefully just two days earlier …” The weekend clarification statement has now gone from being a fuzzy and ambiguous statement muddying up linkage to an abject surrender after a forceful assertion of a new policy.

See also David Dayen at The American Prospect, Washington Isn’t Used to the Left Setting the Agenda.

Biden, responding to press questions after signing off on a bipartisan infrastructure agreement reached with ten senators, explained that it was just one half of an agenda that also included a separate public-investment bill, the American Families Plan, which included spending on education, welfare benefits, the care economy, and more. Both halves would “move through the legislative process promptly and in tandem,” Biden said. He then added that if the two bills didn’t arrive at his desk, he wouldn’t move forward with just the bipartisan measure. “If this is the only thing that comes to me, I’m not signing it,” he concluded.

Washington, or at least the part of Washington wired for Republicans, went berserk. It was called “extortion,” and a “double cross.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) left the bipartisan gang in a huff, and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) tried to get moderate Democrats to sabotage the reconciliation bill.

The caterwaul led the White House to walk back the statement, although careful perusal doesn’t show all that much walking back. Biden said in a statement that it was “certainly not my intent” to give the impression that he was threatening to veto the bipartisan bill absent a follow-up. But he added that he would still move forward with a second bill under budget reconciliation. “Our bipartisan agreement does not preclude Republicans from attempting to defeat my Families Plan,” Biden said; “likewise, they should have no objections to my devoted efforts to pass that Families Plan and other proposals in tandem.”

In other words, Biden is saying yes, he will still pursue a second bill, and Republicans can go ahead and try to stop it, even though they don’t have the votes, since reconciliation bills can go forward with a bare majority in the Senate. GOP members of the bipartisan gang appeared satisfied with this take on the Sunday shows, even though it’s not all that different from what Biden said extemporaneously at the press conference.

The usual bullshit. But whatever President Biden might have said, Nancy Pelosi has vowed the bipartisan bill doesn’t get voted on in the House before the reconciliation bill passes in the Senate. And none of this could possibly have been news to anybody inside the Beltway. I was writing here about the two bills being tied together at least ten days ago.

Note that neither bill is a bill yet; they’re both just frameworks at the moment.

Today, Mitch McConnell (in the Kabuki role of Aragoto) is still working the refs to get the two proposed bills decoupled. Mitch has assigned himself the role of arbiter of what’s proper and what’s not among Democrats, and he is demanding that Democrats in Congress drop the reconciliation bill. Kate Riga writes at TPM:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) insisted Monday that Democratic leadership drop its so-far effective strategy to link the bipartisan and reconciliation infrastructure bills, to make it easier for him to extract a win on the former and watch the latter die. …

… “Unless Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi walk-back their threats that they will refuse to send the president a bipartisan infrastructure bill unless they also separately pass trillions of dollars for unrelated tax hikes, wasteful spending, and Green New Deal socialism, then President Biden’s walk-back of his veto threat would be a hollow gesture,” McConnell wrote in his Monday statement.

Yeah, how dare Democrats set their own agenda! The nerve! Paul Waldman:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared on Monday that to win Republican support for the bipartisan infrastructure bill being negotiated in the Senate, Democratic leaders must renounce any plans to pass a partisan bill via the reconciliation process, one that would go further to “human infrastructure” needs such as pre-K and elder care. …

… But here’s the crazy part: McConnell is telling Biden what he can and can’t do to pass the very bipartisan bill that McConnell will filibuster to defeat. It’s like the Yankees manager running on the field to tell the Red Sox pitcher he’s not allowed to throw curveballs or sliders.

Given that McConnell will not only vote against the bipartisan bill himself but will do everything in his power to kill it, who cares what he thinks?

Mitch’s preferred scenario is for neither bill to ever become law, of course.

Related news: It was a bleeping 112 degrees on Portland, Oregon, yesterday. The heat in Eugene was so bad the Olympic track and field trials were suspended several hours. Note that one of the major differences between the bipartian infrastructure bill and the reconciliation bill is that the bipartisan committee refused to consider any climate change mitigation measures as part of “infrastructure.” See 6 crucial climate actions the Senate left out of its infrastructure deal. Republicans (and Dem “moderates”) aren’t going to lift a finger to stop climate change until it affects them personally, and then they’ll blame progressives for not fixing it sooner.

Lotsa News Today

First, the Trump Organization could face indictments next week. This would be charges from the Manhattan D.A. office. Maybe. We’ll see.

Derek Chauvin has been sentence to 22 1/2 years for the murder of George Floyd. He is expected to face 15 years.

Remember the Trump trains from last summer? Remember the episode in which a “train” tried to run a Biden campaign bus off the road in Texas? Well, some former Biden campaign workers are suing.

In their complaint, the plaintiffs recalled that Trump supporters “terrorized and menaced the driver and passengers on the Biden-Harris Campaign’s bus” for at least 90 minutes on Oct. 30. The plaintiffs also claimed that the defendants yelled death threats and were “bragging about their aggressive driving.”

“They played a madcap game of highway ‘chicken,’ coming within three to four inches of the bus,” the lawsuit alleges, referring to the defendants. “They tried to run the bus off the road.”

The lawsuit also alleges that the plaintiffs have suffered “ongoing psychological and emotional injury” as a result of the incident.

The Biden campaign canceled an event last October after claiming that its bus was swarmed by Trump supporters on a Texas highway.

The Trump supporters listed in the lawsuit include: Eliazar Cisneros, Hannah Ceh, Joeylynn Mesaros, Robert Mesaros and other unnamed defendants — many of whom were identified through their social media posts of the incident that showed their license plate numbers.

Even better — the Department of Justice is suing Georgia over voting restrictions. Gov. Kemp is whining about far-left agendas and government overreach. The usual stuff.

Speaking of whining — see Graham: Biden made GOP look like ‘f—ing idiots’ at Politico. Miz Lindsey figured out that the Dems didn’t fall for the GOP trap. See also How Dare You Prevent Us From Screwing You, GOP Cries at TPM.

Next Steps: Infrastructure and Voting Rights

President Biden announced he has signed off on the bipartisan infrastructure bill. We don’t yet know exactly what’s in it. Greg Sargent writes, “The emerging bipartisan deal, which Biden just endorsed, would spend around $1.2 trillion on roads, bridges and other concrete infrastructure, with around $579 billion or a shade less being new spending. It won’t be paid for with corporate tax hikes (which Republicans despise).” However, he says there are no taxes on gas, either. Other than that, it’s kind of a blur.

The plan is still to go ahead with the reconciliation bill to cover whatever the bipartisan bill leaves out. This is, apparently, to placade Joe Manchin and probably Kyrsten Sinema as well, so that they will be willing to vote for the reconciliation bill. It’s a deal that is part of another deal. But we don’t know if it will work. Sargent again:

The rub for progressives is that once Manchin extracts his pound of flesh, there’s no certainty that the reconciliation package will ever pass. As Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) puts it, progressives must insist on a “guarantee” that it will happen and will be sufficiently ambitious.

What happens if Manchin and other moderates pull their support or insist on something far too small, stabbing the left in the back?

It’s also the case that many progressive legislators probably think the bipartisan deal stinks out loud, so its passage is far from certain. It’ll also be fun to see how many Republicans will refuse to vote for the bipartisan bill, including some who claimed they would. Maybe it won’t survive cloture. But if it does, and if the progressives are persuaded that passage of the bipartisan bill makes the reconciliation bill more viable, perhaps the bipartisan bill will pass.

As for voting rights, here is the latest I’ve heard. Ronald Brownstein writes at The Atlantic,

Advocates are betting that a combination of what might be called inside proof and outside pressure will yield their best chance of persuading the last Democratic holdouts to restrict use of the filibuster that Republicans employed on Tuesday to block consideration of the Democrats’ sweeping voting-rights and political-reform legislation.

The inside proof is a sustained effort to demonstrate to those reluctant Democrats, particularly Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, that no federal voting-rights bill can attract the 10 Republicans currently required to break a filibuster. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, a lead sponsor of the legislation that Republicans filibustered Tuesday, told me that Democrats intend to quickly negotiate a new, slimmed-down bill based on the compromise principles Manchin offered last week—and to task him and Sinema with assessing whether any, much less 10, Republicans will sign on.

Democratic advocates want to bookend these intra-Capitol maneuvers with outside mobilization. An alliance of some 70 progressive groups supporting federal voting-rights legislation earlier this month announced plans for more than 115 upcoming events in 32 states. Some of the organizations have unveiled plans for substantial media buys promoting federal action. “The goal is to have a strong showing for the importance of democracy this summer,” Meagan Hatcher-Mays, the director of democracy policy at the liberal advocacy group Indivisible told reporters in a conference call this week.

Go to the Indivivisible website to see how you can help.

Manchin and Sinema are being tasked with finding the 10 reasonable Republicans to force them to personally confront the reality that there aren’t any, Brownstein says. Seems to me that if they haven’t figured that out already they’re too stupid to be outside an assisted living facility without supervision. It’s more likely they already do know this, and don’t care.

In other news, Rudy Giuliani has had his New York law license revoked. John McAfee, the anti-virus software guy, is dead and appears to have committed suicide. Nancy Pelosi will launch a select House committee to investigate January 6.

The Maricopa County, Arizona, “fraudit” is supposed to be winding down; “results” pending. Do see Inside the ‘shadow reality world’ promoting the lie that the presidential election was stolen at WaPo. An entire, complex ecosphere has formed around the Big Lie, and we can be certain some people are making a lot of money from it even if it doesn’t go anywhere politically.

Update: See also Kate Riga at TPM, Senate Progressives Determined Not To Get Hosed By Moderates On Infrastructure.

Sinema and Manchin

St. Louis Sues Missouri Over New Gun Law

This is big. Not long ago the state of Missouri passed a “Second Amendment Preservation Act” that nullfies any federal law that the state decides violates the 2nd Amendment, which would probably be just about anything. Now St. Louis city and county are suing to block implementation of the law.

The county and city say the law is confusing and would prevent state and local cops from working with federal law enforcement. There are ongoing joint federal-city task forces at work addressing the gun violence problem, and the wording of the bill complicates that work. Can federal officers such as ATF agents operate in Missouri at all? It’s not clear. Someone on the television news last night said that the law would not stop federal agents from enforcing state law, but they couldn’t enforce federal law.

From KSDK, St. Louis:

The law would subject law enforcement agencies with officers who knowingly enforce federal gun laws to a fine of about $50,000 per violating officer. It also states that any federal laws, executive orders or other federal regulations to track or take away firearms from law-abiding citizens will be considered void in Missouri, the Associated Press reported.

From today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

The law prevents local or state police agencies from enforcing federal laws deemed unconstitutional. It subjects agencies to a $50,000 fine if an officer violates the law. The same fine applies if an agency hires an officer who previously violated the Missouri law as a federal agent.

Critics have said the law will negatively affect working relationships with the federal government, including on anti-crime task forces. They also say the law will effectively defund the police by subjecting them to the fines.

States cannot nullify federal law. This was a matter settled back in 1832, during the Andy Jackson administration, you might recall. But note:

[Govenor] Parson and [Attorney General] Schmitt argued that Missouri “is not attempting to nullify federal law” but was instead “defending its people from federal government overreach by prohibiting state and local law enforcement agencies from being used by the federal government to infringe on Missourians’ right to keep and bear arms.”

Yeah, that makes no sense at all. I haven’t been able to find the text of the bill online, but one of the sponsors says “The Second Amendment Preservation Act declares all federal laws, rules, orders or other actions which restrict or prohibit the manufacture, ownership and use of firearms, firearm accessories or ammunition exclusively in Missouri will not be enforced by state law enforcement, state municipal officials and other state officials.” How is that not nullification? Especially if federal law enforcement isn’t allowed to enforce federal law, either?

See also the U.S. Constitution, Article VI, second paragraph.

In 2017 the state eliminated any restriction on carrying firearms. You don’t even need a permit. We’ve got “stand your ground” and the works here now. After that law went into effect in January 2018, the rate of gun violence in the state shot up. Since then St. Louis has become a shooting gallery. Every single blasted day there are news stories about gun fights or drive by shootings or what not. Even small children get killed.

One would think that any judge knows enough law to see how blatantly unconstitutional the “protection act” is.  But now the bench has been stocked with inconpetent Trump judges. So who knows?

See also Red State, Blue City.

 

 

Kyrsten Sinema vs. Reality

Today is the day Senate Republicans will block debate on the voting rights bill so that it cannot be voted on and become law. I don’t think this has happened yet as I write this, but there is no question it will happen.

Yesterday Kyrsten Sinema published an op ed in the Washington Post argung that preserving the filibuster/60 vote cloture rule is more important than voting rights or the environment or anything else. Well, that’s not her argument, but that’s what her argument boils down to.

We cannot end the 60-vote cloture rule, she says, because even if end it to protect democracy, some future majority in Congress might be able to pass bad legislation that ends democracy over the objections of a minority. But as Greg Sargent’s points out, that’s already happening in the states. “In short, the rules of political competition are already being rewritten by one party all over the country, with an eye toward entrenching partisan advantage and minority rule,” he writes.

I had been thinking that Sinema is like someone whose house is burning down but who doesn’t call the fire department because water hoses might damage the furniture. But maybe she’s more like someone whose house is burning down and she rushes in to save the house keys. If the house burns down, nobody needs the keys. If we can’t stop the takeover of democracy in the states, in years to come nobody is going to care about the damn filibuster.

Sinema wrote in her op ed:

“To those who want to eliminate the legislative filibuster to expand health-care access or retirement benefits: Would it be good for our country if we did, only to later see that legislation replaced by legislation dividing Medicaid into block grants, slashing earned Social Security and Medicare benefits, or defunding women’s reproductive health services?”

See Jonathan Chait, Kyrsten Sinema’s Filibuster Defense Is Factually Untrue. Chait points out that a Republican majority in Congress could bypass the 60-vote cloture and pass most such legislation — Social Security is an exception — through budget reconciliation already. The only thing that has stopped Republicans from making the rest of those changes when they’ve had the majority is that those programs are very popular, and touching them is a serious political risk. Chait continues,

The federal government is filled with functions that the modern version of the Republican Party would never agree to create. The 1970 Clean Air Act, creating the Environmental Protection Agency, passed both chambers by a cumulative vote of 447-1, an unimaginable outcome today. And yet those programs and agencies generally earn broad public support and prove impossible to uproot.

A system in which both parties can advance their popular beliefs when they have control of government therefore benefits Democrats disproportionately. Republicans may have some measures they could pass in the absence of a filibuster but not otherwise, yet over the long run, Democrats have far more. That is why, when they controlled government, Republicans frankly confessed that filibuster was “what’s prevented our country for decades from sliding toward liberalism.”

If Republicans have policies they can pass with majorities in both chambers, then they should pass them. If those policies attract broad public legitimacy, they will stay in place. If they are as repellant as Sinema fears, they will be repealed when Democrats have their turn in power. There’s simply no reason why preventing Republicans from trying out their preferred policies is so vital that it justifies handicapping Democrats in the same fashion.

So while it’s true both parties have used the filibuster to block the other party, in effect the rule has hurt Democrats far more than Republicans and has been used to block needed law much more than to block bad law. Instead of eliminating the rule, sinema wants people to “change their behavior.” What incentive is there for Republicans to do that? The rule works great for them as it is.

But this seems too obvious. Why can’t Sinema see this? Is she stupid or corrupt? Could be both, I suppose.

The Missouri Senate Primary From Hell, Update

Here’s the latest on the Missouri Senate Primary From Hell. To briefly recap, right now the three top contenders for Roy Blunt’s Senate seat are former governor Eric Greitens, the gun totin’ personal injury lawyer from St. Louis Mark McCloskey, and state Attorney General Eric Schmitt, all Republicans.

The Kansas City Star reports that Greitens skipped an important meet and greet Republican gathering in Kansas City so that he could hang around with the Cyber Ninjas at the Arizona Audit, but that Schmitt and McCloskey were there. This is the part of the article that really leaped off the page for me — “Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s Friday night hospitality suite featured an accordion player.”  An accordian player? What, are we stuck in an old episode of the Lawrence Welk Show? Seriously?

SchmittFest is happening! Let your freak flag fly!

“As Greitens spurns a Republican establishment that has largely turned against him,” says the Star, “the other candidates are competing to become the dominant choice of party activists, some of whom fear the former governor, beset by scandal, could put GOP control of the seat in danger.”

Why Greitens would scare the chickens more than McCloskey or Schmitt is not clear to me. As far as issues are concerned, or as much as these specimens care about issues, I don’t see much daylight between them. Back to the KC Star:

In a state where Trump remains extremely popular among Republicans, the Senate candidates are looking for any possible way to tie themselves to the former president. They are playing up Trump-era accomplishments, demonizing Democrats and talking the language of cultural grievance deployed by the former president.

The “issues” pages on the Schmitt and McCloskey campaign websites are remarkably similar and could have been dictated by Tucker Carlson. China is bad! Check. Big Tech is mean! Check. Cancel Culture! Check. Religious freedom (by which they mean the opposite)! Check. Save our elections (by which they mean the opposite)! Check. Save jobs (by which they mean screw the environment and support the fossil fuel industry)! Check. McCloskey tosses in supporting Trump, Critical Race Theory, abortion, and the 2nd Amendment as well.

Greitens’s campaign site doesn’t have an issues page, which I do not find comforting.

According to news stories, both McCloskey and Grietens are still saying that Trump won the 2020 election. It’s not clear to me whether Schmitt is still on board with reinstating Trump, but as I wrote on the earler “from hell” post, Schmitt enthusiastically supported Texas AG Paxton’s stupid lawsuit challenging the presidential election results in Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Calls from Schmitt’s office encouraged other Republican state AGs to file amicus briefs in support of the suit, which SCOTUS flushed down the toilet in December.

McCloskey showed up in Kansas City with “Never Back Down” bumper stickers. He did back down recently, however. He and Patricia pleaded guilty to misdemeanors in the infamous protest incident from last summer. They’re paying $3,750 in fines and had their guns taken away. They have new guns now. Stupid plea deal. They should be doing time now for the felonies in the original indictment.

Did I mention that another of McCloskey’s issues is Law and Order? Check.

Oh, and McCloskey is hosting a barbeque and “RINO roast” in St. Louis June 27.

What the “entertainment” is, I do not know. Michael Flynn was supposed to be there  — maybe Flynn plays the harmonica — but he has canceled. Perhaps the McCloskeys can replace him with Eric Schmitt’s accordion player.

Back to Eric Greitens’s pilgrimage to Arizona. The Kansas City Star

Greitens posted multiple videos of his trip to social media and gave numerous interviews to right-leaning media, falsely asserting that the review could lead to decertification of the election.

“I think we’re gonna find out what all of those results are and it’s very clear. If they don’t have the ballots, they don’t have the victory, and then you’re gonna see leaders in Arizona step up to decertify the election. It’s really simple,” Greitens told The Gateway Pundit.

There are other declared Republican Senate candidates; the only one of note is state representative Vicky Hartzler. Hartzler has a long history of campaiging against same-sex marriage and Planned Parenthood. There are Democratic candidates also, but no one I’ve ever heard of, and I’ll have to do some more research on them.

Blessedly, no one is running television ads. Yet.