We Need the For the People Act of 2021 (HR 1)

H.R. 1, the For the People Act of 2021, was introduced and referred to House Committees on January 4. It is a bill intended “To expand Americans’ access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics, strengthen ethics rules for public servants, and implement other anti-corruption measures for the purpose of fortifying our democracy, and for other purposes.”

I can’t tell you how much we need this bill to pass.

It’s a huge bill, so I can only provide a few highlights. If my discussion doesn’t include your favorite voting reform idea, that doesn’t mean it isn’t in there, somewhere. And of course the committees are going to tinker with it for awhile, but here is a brief discussion of what’s in this bill’s three divisions — Voting, Campaign Finance, and Ethics.

Voting

Here’s a bullet list of the voting section I copied from Common Cause.

  • Automatic voter registration
  • Online voter registration
  • Same day voter registration
  • Make election day a federal holiday
  • Voting rights restoration to people with prior felony convictions
  • Expand early voting and simplify absentee voting
  • Prohibit voter purges that kick eligible voters off the registration rolls
  • Enhance election security with increase support for a paper-based voting system and more oversight over election vendors
  • End partisan gerrymandering by established independent redistricting commissions
  • Prohibit providing false information about the elections process that discourage voting and other deceptive practices

Note the part about ending partisan gerrymandering. That by itself would go a long way toward forcing the GOP to sober up and act like a grown-up political party again, IMO.

One section reaffirms the commitment of Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act. I’ll quote this part —

The Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision gutted decades-long Federal pro3 tections for communities of color that face historic and continuing discrimination, emboldening States and local jurisdictions to pass voter suppression laws and implement procedures, such as those requiring photo identification, limiting early voting hours, eliminating same-day registration, purging voters from the rolls, and reducing the number of polling places. Congress is committed to reversing the devastating impact of this decision.

From there, the bill discusses specific examples of discrimination from recent elections. The bill would ensure that federal civil rights laws protect citizens from these discriminations. There are also provisions aimed at protecting access to voting for Native Americans and people with disabilities.

There’s a section calling for D.C. statehood. It also calls for uniform standards in federal elections.

Campaign Finance

Here’s the bullet list for this section:

  • Require secret money organizations that spend money in elections to disclose their donors
  • Upgrade online political spending transparency rules to ensure voters know who is paying for the advertisements they see
  • Create a small donor-focused public financing matching system so candidates for Congress aren’t just reliant on big money donors to fund their campaigns and set their priorities
  • Strengthen oversight rules to ensure those who break our campaign finance laws are held accountable
  • Overhaul the Federal Election Commission to enforce campaign finance law
  • Prohibit the use of shell companies to funnel foreign money in U.S. elections
  • Require government contractors to disclose their political spending

There’s a long section that takes direct aim at the Citizen’s United decision that’s worth reading on it’s own. It starts on page 533 on this pdf.

There’s a section dedicated to closing loopholes that allow foreign money into our elections. There’s language prohibiting deepfakes and otherwise deceptively edited audios or videos unless there’s a clear disclaimer, e.g., this video has been manipulated. A candidate who is the subject of deceptively edited audios or videos can sue for damages.

Ethics

  • Slow the revolving door between government officials and lobbyists
  • Expand conflict of interest law
  • Ban members of Congress from serving on corporate boards
  • Require presidents to publicly disclose their tax returns
  • Overhaul the Office of Government Ethics to ensure stronger enforcement of ethics rules
  • Require members of the U.S. Supreme Court abide by a judicial code of ethics

I’m sure you already know where all those provisions are coming from.

The Common Cause page has more information and links to other summaries. See also:

Center for Responsive Politics, Democrats prioritize campaign finance overhaul with ‘For the People Act’

Matt Keller, The Hill, Trump actions illustrate why Congress must pass the For the People Act

Center for American Progress, Momentum Builds for Democracy Reform as Schumer Designates the For the People Act as Senate’s First Bill

This bill is what we need to stop the continued erosion of democracy by right-wing plutocrats and fascists and Trump wannabees, never mind Trump himself  It is absolutely vital to restoring democracy. Without it, I fear we’re going to continue to lurch toward ruin and dictatorship.

But of course, the catch is that there is no way this bill will pass in the Senate unless the Dems kill the filibuster. Ed Kilgore, New York magazine:

To put it bluntly, the lesson many Republicans took away from their former president’s attempted theft of the presidential election is that the voters who defeated him need to be discouraged from returning to the polls in the future. As Ron Brownstein notes, there’s a new frenzy of voter-suppression measures underway in Republican-controlled states that may hold the balance of power in upcoming elections: …

… The urgency of these measures should be obvious, with red states narrowing the path to the ballot box and with the decennial redistricting about to begin. And unlike many other measures facing a filibuster, voting rights and democracy-promotion legislation does not qualify for inclusion in a budget-reconciliation bill that can be enacted with a simple majority. So in many important respects, it’s now or never for voting rights. …

… In any event, Democrats in Congress and the White House and their advocacy-group and grassroots supporters need to come to a quick consensus about how to test the willingness of Democratic filibuster defenders like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, and relatively independent Republicans like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, to make some new exceptions to the disreputable old institution. Voting rights might offer the most compelling case for limited filibuster reform, and for Democrats, the cause without which all others may ultimately fail.

Kilgore suggests that the foot-draggers might be persuaded to kill the filibuster specifically for voting rights legislation, leaving it intact for other laws. I think that’s a good idea. He also suggests testing the waters by putting the John Lewis Voting Rights Act up for a vote first.

But we absolutely need this bill. I am stick to death of the right-wing nutjobs turning our country into crap. It has to stop.

Reconciliation Can’t Fix Everything

If you missed Rachel Maddow last night, this brief segment is worth a look.

What she’s saying here is that because of a law passed during the Nixon Administration, it is possible to use the budget reconciliation process to bypass the filibuster and pass big bills with a 50 percent vote. This can’t be done multiple times a year; it can only be done with bills written as part of the budget. But since Congress didn’t pass a budget last year and hasn’t passed one this year, we’ve can use reconciliation twice this year.

There are limits to what kind of bill can be passed through reconciliation. The Congressional Budget Act permits using reconciliation for legislation that changes spending, revenues, and the federal debt limit, it says here. Senate rules allow senators to block provisions that are not connected directly to spending, revenue, and debt.

Maddow thinks the Democrats could use reconciliation to pass covid relief/stimulus and a jobs/infrastructure bill. But that leaves out other vital reforms we really, really need. Immigration reform and voting/election reform come to mind.

Do see Ron Brownstein, The Decision That Will Define Democrats for a Decade, at The Atlantic.

The party’s immediate political fate in the 2022 and 2024 elections is likely to turn mostly on whether Joe Biden can successfully control the coronavirus outbreak—restarting the economy and returning a sense of normalcy to daily life. But the contours of American politics just over that horizon, through 2030 and beyond, will be determined even more by whether Democrats can establish new national standards for the conduct of elections through a revised Voting Rights Act and sweeping legislation known as H.R. 1, which would set nationwide voting rules, limit “dark money” campaign spending, and ban gerrymandering of congressional districts. With both bills virtually guaranteed to pass the House, as they did in the last Congress, their fate will likely turn on whether Senate Democrats are willing to end the filibuster to approve them over Republican opposition on a simple-majority vote.

Agreed; there’s no way ten Republicans would be persuaded to vote for this.

That decision carries enormous consequences for the future balance of power between the parties: The number of younger and diverse voters participating in future elections will likely be much greater if these laws pass than if they don’t, especially with state-level Republicans already pushing a new round of laws making it tougher to vote based on Donald Trump’s discredited claims of election fraud in 2020. Given those stakes, the Democrats’ voting-rights agenda is quickly becoming a focal point of the pressure from left-leaning activists to end the filibuster. “Our grass roots will not accept the notion that we had good intentions, but we just failed” to pass these laws, Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, a Democrat who is the lead sponsor of the Senate companion to H.R. 1, told me.

It could be catastrphic for the Dems if they don’t get election reform passed.

More from Greg Sargent:

Congressional Democrats are coalescing around a package of reforms that would dramatically expand access to voting by requiring states to implement automatic voter registration, extensive early voting and same-day registration. It would restrict voter suppression tactics and hurdles on vote-by-mail.

The reforms would also require nonpartisan redistricting commissions — a strike at the next round of GOP gerrymanders — while restoring protections in the Voting Rights Act and blocking states from disenfranchising felons. The reforms would go far in curtailing Republican counter-majoritarian tactics for years to come.

Sargent and Brownstein both think the future of the U.S. is on the line here. Republicans in many states are gearing up to intensity voting restrictions in the wake of the 2020 election. And the Republicans are getting crazier by the minute. Further, thanks to the court-packing by Trump and McConnell, it’s likely voter suppression efforts will be sustained in court challenges.

I don’t think there’s any way to fix our election problems without eliminating the filibuster. And without fixing our election problems, the nutjob Right will continue to destroy America.

GOP Can’t Quit Trump

A few days ago I proposed that the insider Republican establishment, led by Mitch McConnell, would cut Trump loose from the party. Others disagreed. Now it appears they were right and I was wrong, although Mitch isn’t necessarily happy about it.

Nicholas Fandos and Jonathan Martin, The New York Times:

Three times in recent weeks, as Republicans grappled with a deadly attack on the Capitol and their new minority status in Washington, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky carefully nudged open the door for his party to kick Donald J. Trump to the curb, only to find it slammed shut.

So his decision on Tuesday to join all but five Republican senators in voting to toss out the House’s impeachment case against Mr. Trump as unconstitutional seemed to be less a reversal than a recognition that the critical mass of his party was not ready to join him in cutting loose the former president. Far from repudiating Mr. Trump, as it appeared they might in the days after the Jan. 6 rampage at the Capitol, Republicans have reverted to the posture they adopted when he was in office — unwilling to cross a figure who continues to hold outsize sway in their party.

One thing I want to say about the vote on Tuesday — it’s my understanding that the motion voted on this past Tuesday was not whether Trump could be impeached after he had left office, but whether the Senate could vote on whether Trump could be impeached after he left office. Rand Paul made a motion to hold a vote on the constitutionality of the impeachment trial. Then Chuck Schumer asked for a vote to table the motion, and that’s what was voted on Tuesday. That may or may not matter going forward, but I do try to be accurate.

Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey, WaPo, Republicans back away from confronting Trump and his loyalists after the Capitol insurrection, embracing them instead:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced little more than a week ago that the mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol had been “provoked” by Donald Trump. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Trump “bears responsibility” for failing to respond more quickly to the bloody incursion.

But that was then.

The nation’s two most powerful elected Republicans have signaled that they are ready to look past questions of responsibility for the violent effort to overturn the result of the presidential election, an attempt that left a Capitol Police officer and four rioters dead, as they maneuver to avoid a divisive battle within the Republican Party and try to position it to reclaim power in 2022.

The article goes on to say that McCarthy is meeting with Trump in Florida today to “mend relations that were frayed by the Jan. 6 attack.”

As I’ve said already, IMO the Republican Party would be far better off in the long run if they moved away from Trumpism, even though that would put them at a disadvantage in 2022. It hasn’t been that long — four years, I believe — since Republicans were still claiming to be the “party of ideas” and making a show, however fictional, of having policy ideas to address the nation’s problems. In 2020 they didn’t even bother to write a platform, and nobody seemed to care.

If the GOP continues to align itself with nutjobs, terrorists, and Trumpers, IMO the primary effect will be to drive people to the polls to vote for Democrats. But until enough of them get the memo that this ain’t workin’, Republican office holders will continue to do a lot of damage.

Take Marjorie Taylor Greene, who seems to be trying to get herself expelled from the House. Over just the past few hours videos and tweets have surfaced that show Greene calling for the execution of Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi; confronting a survivor of the Parkland high school schooting —

— and she is still pushing the lie that the election was stolen from Trump. And for sheer pig-ugly stupid, you can’t do better than the ravings of Ms. Greene, prior to her election, demanding that representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib re-take their oaths of office on the Bible rather than the Q’ran, because “that’s the law.” Um, no, it isn’t.

(Update: Marjorie Taylor Greene penned conspiracy theory that a laser beam from space started deadly 2018 California wildfire at Media Matters.)

Naturally, House Republican leadership decided to assign Rep. Moron to the education committee. Nancy Pelosi is not pleased.

“It is absolutely appalling, and I think that the focus has to be on the Republican leadership of this House of Representatives for the disregard that they have for the death of those children,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol.

Pelosi said it’s “beyond the pale” that GOP leaders would place Greene on the Education panel.

“What could they be thinking? Or is thinking too generous a word for what they might be doing?” she asked.

And this takes us to Why Republicans Can’t Win on QAnon-Supporting Marjorie Taylor Greene by Philip Elliott in Time:

To say Marjorie Taylor Greene is a challenge to the Republican brand is a massive understatement. Her colleagues know it, too. …

… It’s clear that every moment spent on this is one not making the case to Americans why a conservative counter to the Democrats’ control of the House, the Senate and the White House matters. Greene is not only wasting GOP leaders’ time, she’s creating a rallying cry for the opposition. For years, Republicans have linked all Democrats to boogeymen like Nancy Pelosi, AOC and Hillary Clinton. And it goes both ways. George W. Bush by the end of his term was toxic. Greene may prove lethal.

But does the leadership marginalize her? No, they put her on the education committee. This is going to be the next two years, folks: One party will be trying to govern and the other will be running the Circus of Deranged Clowns.

Jennifer Rubin notes today that the Biden Administration is moving swiftly ahead with policy plans to address the nation’s problems. But Republicans?

Well, over in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took days to agree on an organizing resolution to get the new session underway. The vast majority of Senate Republicans said they do not want to have a trial to hold the instigator of a violent insurrection accountable. (How typical it is for them to stage a vote to tell us what they do not want to do.) They are stalling on the confirmation of a new homeland security secretary. They have no alternative relief package for covid-19. Most of their time seems to be absorbed whining about “censorship” or claiming Democrats are being “divisive.” They are offering no response to any of the multiple crises we face (e.g., climate change, the economy, health care, racial justice, domestic terrorism). Their “big idea” is to wait and see if the pandemic and economy get worse.

But what could they do? What could they possibly do, without betraying the “principles” (e.g., kneecapping government; exploiting working people; protecting the wealth of the wealthy) that guide them? All they’ve got left is stopping the Democrats from getting anything done.

Some of Us Warned This Would Happen

DHS has issued a warning of a “heightened threat environment across the United States” from “ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives.” Trumpers and right-wingers, in other words.

No doubt every rightie in media, social and otherwise, will start screaming that the Biden Administration is unfairly targeting them.

Some elements in DHS have unsuccessfully tried to warn us about the danger of right-wing extremism for years, of course. Remember this one?

In April 2009, federal intelligence officials issued a prescient warning to police departments around the country.

“Right-wing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat,” experts in the Department of Homeland Security wrote. “These skills and knowledge have the potential to boost the capabilities of extremists — including lone wolves or small terrorist cells — to carry out violence.”

It was one of DHS’ most explicit mentions of homegrown terrorists since 9/11, one with a direct connection to the military.

But the call to action was effectively buried after powerful Republican politicians and their allies in the right-wing media launched broadsides against President Barack Obama’s administration and Democrats, alleging that they had disrespected the men and women in the U.S. military while attempting to surveil and silence conservatives. The blowback shifted the debate away from how to actually address the threat and into another partisan public spectacle.

In the years since, every time someone proposes that there’s a threat of violence from right-wing groups, that person is shouted down. So let’s see what happens this time. But the 2009 report was prescient. Since the January 6 Capitol insurrection, news stories about the number of cops and ex-military who were among the insurrectionists have spread throughout the land, to the surprise of absolutely no one who’d been paying any attention at all.

It’s also the case that many people involved in national security are inclined to give righties a pass. For example, Iveta Cherneva at Salon discusses FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich, who will be retiring soon.

In the spring of last year, when I was a candidate for the office of UN special rapporteur on freedom of speech, Bowdich was quoted, in a memo leaked to the New York Times, reacting to the nationwide wave of Black Lives Matters protests. Bowdich maintained that the protesters should be arrested under an outdated racketeering law from the 1940s. The leaked memo showed that Bowdich considered the social justice movement “a national crisis” comparable to 9/11. The hundreds of thousands of people mourning and marching across the country, unified by the simple concept that no life should be taken lightly, were seen by the FBI’s deputy director as similar to terrorists or members of organized crime operations.

The problem is bigger than Bowdich.

The FBI remains obsessed with dissident or radical voices on the left, while largely ignoring the violent extremists and the real terrorism threat on the far right, as recently revealed by an Intercept investigation that found “glaring disparities between law enforcement’s depiction of groups on the right and the left.”

When it came to analysis of left-wing groups, “law enforcement intelligence was often vague, mixed up in online conspiracy theories or untethered to evidence of suspected criminal activity”. When it comes to the right, on the other hand, the documents showed “law enforcement agencies across the country sharing detailed and specific information on the mobilization of armed groups looking to use the unrest as cover to attack law enforcement and protesters and set off a civil war.”

This suggests to me that right-wing extremism presents a much more tangible, clear, and present danger than anything happening on the left.

It’s also the case that for years, right-wing organizations glorified gun culture and, with the help of right-wing politicians, have managed to erase anything resembling gun control in large parts of the country. So now we’ve got vast swarms of right-wing thugs who are legally armed to the teeth and who have been primed to oppose anything resembling democratic government. Way to go, America.

Please see Out of the Barrel of a Gun by Charles Homans at the New York Times. We are all increasingly at the mercy of angry, heavily armed people — mostly men — who fervently believe they have a constitutional right and patriotic duty to destroy the government and anyone who supports it as the heavily armed people see fit. The “constituion,” in this case, is an amorphous thing that exists in their imaginations and bears no resemblance to the document drawn up and ratified in 1789, but good luck explaining that to them.

The only thing that’s stopped these specimens from being an even bigger threat is that they’ve been more of a culture than a movement, at least until recently. Trumpism and the pandemic have given them direction and focus. Mary McCord writes in the Los Angeles Times:

Since the onset of the pandemic, paramilitary groups have engaged in armed intimidation and threats at statehousesgovernors’ mansions, and public health officials’ homes in opposition to public health orders. They have endangered public safety — with fatal results — by self-deploying to “protect” property from what have been largely false rumors of antifa violence during racial justice demonstrations. Six men involved with a private militia have been charged with plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and try her for treason. These groups are trained and organized for the sort of violence that occurred on Jan. 6. Support for Trump has often been at the core of their online rhetoric, and Trump’s apparent encouragement of their activities has been used to normalize their extremist views for broader appeal.

The Capitol siege reveals something that many have been willing to ignore for too long: the involvement of paramilitary organizations that often refer to themselves as “patriots” with extremists who openly advocate for and commit violent attacks to intimidate and coerce. Many condemn the latter as domestic terrorists, and indeed, the U.S. Code defines domestic terrorism as activities that involve crimes of violence committed with the intent “to intimidate and coerce a civilian population” or “to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.” But few have been willing to acknowledge that some paramilitary organizations and their members have advocated for and committed acts that meet the domestic terrorism definition.

Few have been willing to acknowledge that a bunch of American-born white guys who wave the flag and call themselves “patriots” could be domestic terrorists. But they are, and they have been for a long time. Maybe they’ll finally be recognized as such.

In other domestic terrorism news — Reuters reports,

Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys extremist group, has a past as an informer for federal and local law enforcement, repeatedly working undercover for investigators after he was arrested in 2012, according to a former prosecutor and a transcript of a 2014 federal court proceeding obtained by Reuters. …

… Tarrio, in an interview with Reuters Tuesday, denied working undercover or cooperating in cases against others. “I don’t know any of this,” he said, when asked about the transcript. “I don’t recall any of this.”

Law-enforcement officials and the court transcript contradict Tarrio’s denial. In a statement to Reuters, the former federal prosecutor in Tarrio’s case, Vanessa Singh Johannes, confirmed that “he cooperated with local and federal law enforcement, to aid in the prosecution of those running other, separate criminal enterprises, ranging from running marijuana grow houses in Miami to operating pharmaceutical fraud schemes.”

Oops.

Mitch McConnell’s Big Red Wall of No

The big news today is that it appears Mitch McConnell has backed down on blocking Democrats from assuming the majority in the Senate and will allow the power-sharing agreement to proceed. I say appears because it is now afternoon in Washington DC, and from what I can tell from news reports the deal isn’t done yet.

The most recent news, from Mike DeBonis and Erica Werner at WaPo:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Democrats Tuesday that Republicans would counter any attempt to eliminate the filibuster, the 60-vote supermajority requirement to move most legislation, with “immediate chaos” that would grind the chamber — and the Democratic governing agenda — to a halt.

McConnell delivered his admonition less than a day after he signaled he would move forward with a power-sharing agreement governing operations of the 50-50 Senate — only after two Democratic senators made public assurances that they would not support eliminating the filibuster.

Both senators, Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), had previously said they opposed ditching the rule, and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared victory Tuesday — thanking McConnell for accepting “exactly what Democrats proposed from the start.”

“I’m glad we’re finally able to get the Senate up and running,” Schumer said. “My only regret is that it took so long.”

But McConnell, speaking after Schumer, said it was Republicans who had secured a victory, by ensuring that the filibuster is not in immediate peril. He went to on to describe in detail how the GOP would respond if Democrats changed their position and moved to eliminate the filibuster in order to pass their agenda.

Yeah, we can’t let the party that won the bleeping election pass their agenda, can we?

If Dems mess with filibuster rules, McConnell plans to raise objections to routine business and issue frequent quorum calls to gum up the works and stop Democrats from getting anything done. That’s what he said he would do, and I don’t doubt he will do it.

McConnell said Tuesday a further escalation would mean Senate business would move at “a snail’s pace” and “drain comity and consent from this body to a degree that would be unparalleled in living memory.”

Nah, I think McConnell has already done that. I don’t see how it could get any worse than it already is.

The question is, can the Democrats get around McConnell’s big red wall of no? I don’t understand Senate procedures well enough to answer that question. Greg Sargent:

Superficially, it’s of course good news that McConnell backed down. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) correctly judged that McConnell would buckle if Democrats refused to rule out ending the legislative filibuster later. They’ll need to preserve that possibility as a future weapon against relentless McConnell obstructionism.

But the bad news is that en route to this point, two moderate Senate Democrats — Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — further dug themselves in against ending the filibuster at any point. Though that could change, for now it risks weakening Democratic leverage against McConnell’s use of it to frustrate Biden’s agenda.

It’s always possible Manchin and Sinema could change their minds again, I suppose.

Waldman goes on to say that what’s at stake here isn’t just President Biden’s agenda. And it isn’t just getting a relief package to Americans asap. “No, what McConnell is threatening is even worse than all that. By Schumer’s analysis, successful McConnell obstruction would also continue undermining faith in democracy itself, making voters susceptible to another Trumpist demagogue,” Waldman writes.

In short, if Biden’s agenda passes and succeeds, it destroys the anti-government mythology that Republicans have used these past forty years to undermine democracy and turn the U.S. into a plutocracy.  Republican governance is about exploiting America’s people and resources for the benefit of the rich, and that’s that.

Assuming a power sharing agreement goes into effect in the next few hours, that’s just the beginning of the war. If legislation will still require 60 votes to move forward, the big red wall is still in place. They can use reconciliation to get past the 60 vote threshold on some bills, but not all the bills, I don’t believe.

On the plus side, Chuck Schumer insists he has learned the lesson of the obstructed Obama agenda and will not take McConnell’s “no” for an answer. “Schumer pledged that this time, Democrats will not get lured in by GOP bad faith, and vowed that Democrats will respond with procedural aggressiveness against McConnell’s all-but-certain duplication of that performance,” Paul Waldman says. So we’ll see.

Click here to see clips of Rachel Maddow’s interview with Schumer last night.

Take Josh Hawley. Please.

I think we can say that Senator Josh “Mr. Entitled” Hawley doesn’t take criticism well.  Quint Forgey, The Hill:

Sen. Josh Hawley on Monday filed a counter-complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee against the seven Senate Democrats who had previously filed a complaint against him and Sen. Ted Cruz over the two Republicans’ objections to the results of the 2020 presidential election.

“The idea that one Senator who disagrees with another Senator can therefore have that Senator punished, sanctioned, censured, or removed is utterly antithetical to our democracy and the very idea of open, lawful debate,” Hawley (R-Mo.) wrote in a letter to the seven Democrats.

This isn’t so much about one senator disagreeing with another. It’s about one senator supporting the authoritarian takeover of the U.S. by overturning a lawful election. It’s also about one senator supporting a violent takeover of the Capitol building that might have gotten other senators killed.

It may be that Hawley assumed his challenge of the Electoral College votes was a harmless stunt that wouldn’t succeed. It may be that he didn’t realize how violent the attack on the Capitol would get. But stunts like that must not be allowed to become a standard part of our elections. Because eventually they will overturn an election. And the mob already got people killed.

Cristina Cabrera, Talking Points Memo:

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) invoked the ironclad “I know you are, but what am I?” defense on Monday with a formal demand for an ethics investigation into the Democratic senators who requested an investigation into his attempt to overturn the 2020 election.

In a complaint to the Senate Committee on Ethics that was saturated with outrage and self-victimization, Hawley accused Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) of engaging in “improper conduct” by “knowingly submitting a frivolous complaint to accomplish impermissible partisan purposes.”

“The Senate cannot function if its neutral administrative processes are hijacked for bad-faith ends, but that is precisely what is occurring here,” wrote Hawley, who had voted to throw out electors from swing states that went to Joe Biden during what was supposed to be Congress’ procedural ratification of the election results.

Hawley also penned an irony-free letter to the Democrats complaining that their request was “utterly antithetical to our democracy.”

In his complaint, Hawley actually accused the Democratic senators of “Fabricating conspiracy theories to attack me for political purposes.”

Gee, imagine anybody fabricating conspiracy theories for political purposes.

Determined to make a fool of himself in public, Hawley also is complaining that free speech is being muzzled in America. Jonathan Chait:

Josh Hawley’s lifelong quest to the presidency was initially supposed to run through elite channels of conventional Republican advancement. During the last four years, the plan suddenly changed, and Hawley fashioned himself a Trumpian populist railing against his own class. Now the blueprint has changed once again. Hawley is casting himself as a dissident, a modern Mandela or Solzhenitsyn.

His manifesto has somehow been smuggled past the censors and published on the front page of the New York Post. Its headline decries “the muzzling of America,” presenting Hawley himself as the most prominent victim of a scourge threatening every American man, woman, and child.

Only in America could someone so oppressed by Big Brother get his complaints published on the front page of one of the top ten (by circulation) newspapers in the country.

Boiled down into plain English, Hawley’s “muzzling” consists of calls for resignation from some of his political opponents (and me; as a constituent I email him regularly explaining what I think of him); several of his donors have pledged to stop giving him money; and Simon & Schuster canceled his book deal, forcing him to take his manuscript to a another publisher. Solzhenitsyn should have had it so good.

Exactly which rights are being violated is a tad murky, but one of them is the infamous Right to Not Be Disagreed With that righties fervently believe is in the Constitution, somewhere. I’ve written about this before, such as here and here. See also Adam Serwer, Tribalism And Constitutional Rights, on this phenomenon.

There is also the deeply held belief in the right to a medium or venue of your choice. But, seriously, I have seen the First Amendment. That ain’t in there. There is no constitutional right to have your manuscript published by Simon & Schuster. There is no constitutional right to a Twitter account. There just isn’t. You can express your opinion freely, but if no one else wants to post or publish it, you may have to do it yourself. The First Amendment only restricts government from censoring you, not private publishing or social media companies.

But Hawley knows this good and well. He is not stupid. He has a fancy-shmancy law degree; he clerked for Chief Justice Roberts. He just thinks he is entitled to not suffer the consequences of his own bad actions.

See also:

Steve Benen, MSNBC, Already in a ditch, Josh Hawley finds a shovel, keeps digging

Is the GOP About to Implode?

Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei at Axios that the GOP really could break apart.

The GOP is getting torn apart by a spreading revolt against party leaders for failing to stand up for former President Trump and punish his critics.

Why it matters: Republican leaders suffered a nightmarish two months in Washington. Outside the nation’s capital, it’s even worse.

Much of the party’s base — including conservative talk radio, TV and social media — are spoiling to fight for Trump in exile.

On top of that, Trump himself is threatening to literally split the party in two with the creation of a new MAGA Party or Patriot Party, The Washington Post reported.

Heh.

The Arizona Republican Party voted yesterday to censure three faces of the Republican establishment — Cindy McCain, Gov. Doug Ducey and former Sen. Jeff Flake — and reelected state party chair Kelli Ward, a fierce Trumper.

The 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump are being hit with swift punishment, including brewing primary challenges, censure votes and public scoldings, the N.Y. Times reports (subscription).

Some House Republicans, egged on by right-wing media, are pushing an uphill fight to oust Cheney from her third-ranking leadership post. In Wyoming, she faces a long-shot primary challenge.

Allen and VandeHei think this will be the reality for Republicans until at least 2024 or “Trump fully exits the scene.” Hmm. And the anti-Trump establishment is “too weak, timid and divided to prevail right now,” they say.

Trump wants to create a MAGA party and primary Republicans who were insufficiently loyal to him.

In recent weeks, Trump has entertained the idea of creating a third party, called the Patriot Party, and instructed his aides to prepare election challenges to lawmakers who crossed him in the final weeks in office, including Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Rep. Tom Rice, R-S.C., according to people familiar with the plans.

Multiple people in Trump’s orbit, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, say Trump has told people that the third-party threat gives him leverage to prevent Republican senators from voting to convict him during the Senate impeachment trial. Trump advisers also say they plan to recruit opposing primary candidates and commission polling next week in districts of targeted lawmakers. Trump has more than $70 million in campaign cash banked to fund his political efforts, these people say.

He may lose interest in this project once the impeachment effort runs its course. However, it’s also possible other party extremists will get Trump’s endorsement to pick up the MAGA ball and run with it into 2022.

In the New York Times, Jeremy Peters writes that because of Trump there are three kinds of Republicans. First, there are the Never Trumpers who have taken a clear stand against Trump since 2016, if not earlier. Then there are the “New RINOs.” Basically, these are establishment Republican office holders who have championed hard-right policies for years but who would not cross the line of supporting Trump’s scheme to overturn the election. These also include the ten Republican House members who voted for the new article of impeachment. And finally, there are Trump Republicans, whose loyalty to Trump overrides their loyalty to the party.

The fight over the future of the Republican Party, Peters writes, is between the New RINOs and Trump Republicans. And this could get dicey. It seems to me that at the moment, momentum is with the Trump Republicans. The New RINOs are playing defense. The question is, will that change as time goes on? Especially if Trump and family find themselves facing financial and legal ruin, which is very possible, at least some of his followers may realize he’s not a demi-god after all. We’ll see.

In the meantime, I am more interested in how this crackup among Republicans might impact the Senate. The editorial board of the Financial Times:

The question is not whether the Republican party can turn over a new leaf; that is off the cards in the near future. It is how Mr Biden’s Democrats should handle an opposition that is vowing to obstruct most of his agenda. Mr Biden faces a dilemma. In his inaugural address on Wednesday, he promised to foster a climate of unity and healing. Yet he also vowed to “reject a culture in which the facts themselves are manipulated, even manufactured”. Since much of the Republican party remains yoked to conspiracy theory — including the ultimate lie that Mr Biden stole the 2020 election — it is hard to see how he can meet them halfway.

One, he can’t. They have to meet him at least halfway, if not three-fourths of the way, or no deal.

Mr Biden should still keep his bipartisan hand outstretched. Should it be spurned, he must level with the US people. Healing is only possible when all parties agree to the basic rules of democracy.

Communication, President Biden. When Republicans are blocking your agenda, go to the people and tell them so. Say “This is what I’m trying to do for you, but Republicans are blocking it.” Get that message out any way you can.

Regarding impeachment, IMO the Republican establishment would be better off in the long run if they convicted Trump and then barred him from holding elected office ever again. And by in the long run I mean four, six, eight or more years from now. They’d probably forfeit any chance to take back Congress in the 2022 midterms, but they might have a shot by 2024. But if the Trump Republicans maintain the upper hand, and keep it, I think it’s possible the GOP could split in two.

A conservative Republican named Krista Kafer writes for the Denver Post, “The question for me is whether I should stay or whether I should leave the Republican Party. I’ve decided that if the Trump influence fades away over the next year, I will stay to help rebuild; otherwise, I will have to find another political home.”

So there we are. The Republican Party is in big trouble. This could play out many different ways.

 

Stuff to Read

Ezra Klein, now writing for The New York Times, Democrats, Here’s How to Lose in 2022. And Deserve It. “Democrats cannot allow a wipeout in 2022 like they suffered in 2010,” Ezra writes.

Katie Benner, The New York Times, Trump and Justice Dept. Lawyer Said to Have Plotted to Oust Acting Attorney General. Lots of buzz around this today.

At Vox, an interview with Eric Foner, the leading scholar of Reconstruction, What Reconstruction teaches us about white nationalism today. Highly recommended.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic, Donald Trump Is Out. Are We Ready to Talk About How He Got In? Also recommended.

In an earlier post I wrote that the Bidens had fired the White House Chief Usher for unknown reasons. That’s what CNN reported. It turns out that the Trumps fired him on their way out the door, also for unknown reasons.

Colin Kalmbacher, Law & Crime, Texas Supreme Court Silently Denies Alex Jones All Forms of Relief: Sandy Hook Families and Others Can Now Sue Conspiracy Theorist and InfoWars into the Ground. Heh.

Holly Brewer and Timothy Noah, Washington Monthly, Can Trump’s Pardons Be Reversed? Some interesting historical trivia.

Mark Joseph Stern, Slate, Biden Gave Trump’s Union Busters a Taste of Their Own Medicine. Heh.

That should keep you busy. Stay warm.

Dems United, GOP Divided?

What Chris Hayes says.

“Democrats are going to have to choose really soon: do they roll over for phony calls for unity that absolve the Republican Party for its trespasses against American democracy? Or, do they wield the rare power they have won through democratic means to repair democracy and people’s lives?” Well, you know where I come down on that.

At the center of the issue is one Mitch McConnell, who is refusing to negotiate in good faith on an organizing resolution that will determine how the 50-50 Senate will function. There’s a good background story explaining this issue at The Week. I’m not going to try to explain it here. See also Now In The Minority, McConnell Fights For Tools To Block Biden’s Bills by Andrew Solender at Forbes.

Mitch is in the middle of many issues these days. The new article of impeachment will go to the Senate on Monday morning. This means the trial must start on Tuesday barring some agreement to delay it. I assume the timing of this was agreed upon between Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. McConnell wanted to delay the trial to give Trump more time to prepare. Maybe the trial is to be used as a bargaining chip, somehow.

CNN reports that Republican insiders are lobbying Republican senators to impeach and convict Trump this time.

As the House prepares to send articles of impeachment to the Senate on Monday, CNN has learned that dozens of influential Republicans around Washington — including former top Trump administration officials — have been quietly lobbying GOP members of Congress to impeach and convict Donald Trump. The effort is not coordinated but reflects a wider battle inside the GOP between those loyal to Trump and those who want to sever ties and ensure he can never run for President again.

The lobbying started in the House after the January 6 attack on the Capitol and in the days leading up to impeachment. But it’s now more focused on Sen. Mitch McConnell, the powerful minority leader who has signaled he may support convicting Trump.

“Mitch said to me he wants Trump gone,” one Republican member of Congress told CNN. “It is in his political interest to have him gone. It is in the GOP interest to have him gone. The question is, do we get there?” …

… While the bar is high, some GOP sources think there is more of an appetite to punish the former President than is publicly apparent.

The Republican establishment wants Trump gone, I tell you. Not just gone; they want him ruined and neutered and exiled to Siberia, or maybe even Nebraska. They don’t want him continuing to influence elections. They don’t want him to run again in 2024. They especially don’t want him to start a third party, as he’s threatened to do. If he rots in jail the rest of his life, they’d be okay with that. As long as he’s gone. And if he’s convicted by the Senate, that solves their problem. They can stipulate that he never again hold public office in the U.S. So, it could happen. All Senate Democrats plus seventeen Senate Republicans, and he’s convicted.

There are plenty of Republican dimwits in Congress who aren’t getting the memos, but most of them are in the House.

Trump had yet to assemble a legal team, CNN says.

Democrats, including the Biden Administration, actually are more interested in moving ahead with the Biden agenda. I understand President Biden wants to get the trial over with asap. Deocratic senators want to be able to split the Senate’s time between the trial and other concerns. Republicans will fight them on that.

So there are bumps ahead. But Paul Waldman thinks the Republican Opposition Machine may not work as well any more.

That outrage machine works not only by getting conservatives worked up so that, for instance, they’ll turn out to vote in the midterm elections, but also by creating fear in Democrats, fear that alters those Democrats’ behavior. But I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a time when Democrats were less afraid of Republicans.

Yes, there are plenty of moderate Democrats who advocate centrist solutions and worry about ticking off their constituents if they go too far to the left. But as a whole, Democrats now have a deeper understanding of the dynamics of Republican opposition than they used to. That includes Biden himself and those around him.

They’ve learned from the mistakes of the Obama years, including the way his administration and congressional Democrats negotiated with themselves and assumed that substantive concessions and good-faith bargaining could get Republicans to support legislation that would be of political benefit to a Democratic president.

The Biden team is not in the grip of that delusion. All indications are that they start from the assumption that Republican opposition will be total; they’re willing to take a shot at getting some Republican support for, say, a covid-19 relief package, but they won’t waste too much time chasing it.

Let’s hope so.

See also Waldman’s Want to understand the GOP’s problem? Look at its newly elected extremists. “What sells in today’s GOP is performative lib-owning,” Waldman writes. “The most ambitious Republicans, even those who are themselves quite smart and well-educated, see their path to success as pandering to the dumbest and most deluded people in their party.” This means Republicans aren’t likely to become sane or serious anytime soon. But I wonder how a party of grandstanding narcissists, each one dedicated to calling attention to himself by “owning the libs,” can actually function as any kind of party? Especially against a mostly unified Democratic party with a clear agenda?

Here Comes the Sun, We Hope

Wasn’t the inauguration lovely? I can’t say I’ve ever paid such close attention to a presidential inauguration before. The entire day — the speeches, the poem, the music, the ladies’ pretty coats, Bernie Sanders’s home-made mittens — exuded positive vibes of hope for a new day. It struck me how wholesome the entire presentation was. Even Lady Gaga was a wholesome version of Lady Gaga.

Nobody else is talking about this song, but I liked it.

And now, on to work. There is much to do.

For example, CNN tells us that the Trump vaccination plan didn’t exist.

… in the immediate hours following Biden being sworn into office on Wednesday, sources with direct knowledge of the new administration’s Covid-related work told CNN one of the biggest shocks that the Biden team had to digest during the transition period was what they saw as a complete lack of a vaccine distribution strategy under former President Donald Trump, even weeks after multiple vaccines were approved for use in the United States.
“There is nothing for us to rework. We are going to have to build everything from scratch,” one source said.

Another big job is purging MAGA loyalists from key positions. This has begun. Michael Pack, who had turned the Voice of America into a propaganda outlet, was ordered to resign. Kathy Kraninger, who ran the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to protect the financial industry instead of consumers, is out and is to be replaced by Liz Warren protégé Rohit Chorpa. Peter Robb, the anti-union head of the National Labor Relations Board, refused to resign and was fired.

The chief usher of the White House, who was hired by Trump, also has been fired. I don’t know exactly why.

Michael Ellis, who was sworn in as the top lawyer of the National Security Agency on Tuesday, was placed on administrative leave on Wednesday. Ellis’s hiring is under investigation.

However, as of this writing the only Biden nominee to have been confirmed by the Senate is Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence. The Senate vote was 84 to 10. The Ten included The Usual Suspects: Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Mike Lee of Utah, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, James Risch of Idaho, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Mike Braun of Indiana.

Meanwhile, there is a massive unemployment problem.

On the plus side, I take it the White House press corps is practically weeping with relief over the first competent press briefing in four years.

This is somewhat encouraging — see Democrats rebuff McConnell’s filibuster demands by Burgess Everett at Politico.

Senate Democrats are signaling they will reject an effort by Mitch McConnell to protect the legislative filibuster as part of a deal to run a 50-50 Senate, saying they have little interest in bowing to his demands just hours into their new Senate majority.

McConnell has publicly and privately pressed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to work to keep the 60-vote threshold on most legislation as part of their power-sharing agreement. Democrats have no plans to gut the filibuster further, but argue it would be a mistake to take one of their tools off the table just as they’re about to govern.

It’s likely Dems don’t have the votes to eliminate the filibuster entirely.

We’ll see how that goes.