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Progressive Democrats Set Conditions For Infrastructure ‘Compromise’

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Democratic leaders are reportedly mulling accepting a bipartisan compromise infrastructure plan as long as the Democratic senators working with Republicans on the plan agree to another massive investment package later that would include the care giving and climate infrastructure investments.

According to Politico, they are open to passing a compromise bill with $579 billion in new investment in transportation, broadband, and water system infrastructure being shopped by a group of five Democrats and five Republicans. But they would only do so if they got assurances from those Democrats that they will later support passing more spending through the budget reconciliation process, which would not require any GOP support.

On CNN on Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed a similar sentiment: "We must build back better. So if this is something that can be agreed upon, I don't know how we can possibly sell it to our caucus unless we know there is more to come."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said last week, "We all know as a caucus, we will not be able to do all the things that the country needs in a totally bipartisan way. But we're not going to sacrifice the bigness and boldness in this bill. We will just pursue two paths and at some point they will join."

President Joe Biden initially proposed a $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan that would invest in transportation, water systems, broadband, climate change, clean energy, child care, and caregiving infrastructure. He also asked Congress to pass a $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, which would provide free community college and expand access to affordable child and health care.

Republicans have objected to both plans, calling them "socialism," not really infrastructure, and too expensive. They also unanimously opposed his proposals to pay for the investment by keeping his campaign promises to raise taxes on corporations and those making $400,000 and up.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), one of the 10 senators pushing the compromise package, said Sunday that the bipartisan infrastructure plan would contain no tax increases and would be funded mostly by repurposing unspent pandemic relief funds and charging new fees to drivers of electric cars.

Two of the most conservative members of the Senate Democratic caucus are also part of the bipartisan group: Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Both have refused the go-it-alone Democratic strategy in the narrowly divided chamber, pushing to work with Republicans.

Several other Democrats have spoken out against accepting a plan like theirs that does not include investment to address climate change.

"No climate, no deal," warned Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey on June 9.

With "nothing on climate change," said Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden the next day, the package would be "a complete nonstarter."

But if the conservative Democrats promised to support a subsequent bill that included vital investments that were excluded from the infrastructure package, those concerns could be assuaged.

"There would have to be clarity that we're getting the second package. Manchin and Sinema are going to have to give assurances to [Senate Budget Committee Chair] Bernie [Sanders]," an unnamed Democratic source told Politico.

For that to happen, however, at least 10 Republicans would have to agree to the infrastructure proposal. So far, only Sens. Bill Cassidy (LA), Collins, Lisa Murkowski (AK), Rob Portman (OH), and Mitt Romney (UT) have endorsed it.

If that does not come about, the Democrats could pass the entire plan without a single GOP vote using the Senate's budget reconciliation rules if all of them were to vote in favor.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Barr And Rosenstein Must Answer In Subpoena Scandal

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

When Donald Trump wanted to talk about the investigation being conducted into how his campaign colluded with Russian agents, he used a term that was meant to demean and delegitimize. He called it "spying." Trump also accused the Obama administration of "wiretapping" his offices, which—no matter what Trump says—was in no sense true. But as more information emerges about the efforts of the DOJ to chase down supposed intelligence leaks, it's hard to think of more appropriate terms. The Justice Department may not have been technically spying, and seeking to crack open metadata from cell phones isn't really wiretapping, but the DOJ was absolutely surveilling member of Congress and their families, including their minor children.

Unlike the investigation of Trump, which was begun because the intelligence community was presented with evidence that Trump's team was engaging in efforts to gain Russian assistance in altering the outcome of the election, the effort to obtain phone data from California Reps. Eric Swalwell and Adam Schiff, as well as members of their families, seems to have been launched for no reason other than because Trump wanted it so. And, despite spending weeks finding no evidence, subpoenas were issued at least three times. Then the effort was revived months later and additional resources were added.

As might be expected, Republicans are already being dismissive about the whole affair, with multiple claims that investigating Congress over potential intelligence leaks is nothing new. However, attempting to obtain phone records of Congress members without their knowledge is certainly a new thing—much less trying to get the records of their spouses and children. It's clear that the DOJ went to extraordinary efforts to find something they could bring back to Trump as evidence that either Swalwell or Schiff had done something wrong.

But the most extraordinary thing about the whole sorry affair, may be the way that no one seems to be owning it. Former attorney general Jefferson Sessions says he didn't start it. Former attorney general Bill Barr says he didn't know about it. One of these men is absolutely lying. The other may be. But there's a third man who almost certainly was involved in both the beginning and the end of this effort to … sure, why not … to spy on the families of representatives. That man is former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein.

As the story of the attempts by the DOJ to subpoena Apple into providing phone records of members of Congress unfolded on Friday, Sens. Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin demanded that both Sessions and Barr appear in public testimony before Congress and explain the extent of the leak investigations.

However, according to The Daily Beast, Sessions has already claimed that "he wasn't aware of, nor was he briefed on" the subpoenas, and that he was unaware of the entire leak investigation. On Friday, POLITICO reported that Barr also claimed that he was "not aware of any congressman's records being sought in a leak case."

The statement from Sessions is vaguely possible. Sessions recused himself from DOJ activities related to the Russia investigation in March of 2017, earning Trump's undying rage in the process. Since the information released was connected to that investigation, it's possible that Sessions was not involved. And besides, though his actions were not always in the news, Sessions stayed busy during his time as attorney general. Among other things, he rewrote hundreds of pages of federal guidelines, striking such rules as those which avoided placing excessive fines on the poor. He made it easier to ship guns across state lines. Sessions shredded rules that were designed to make the justice process accessible to the disabled. He also spent a lot of personal time going over drug cases and insisting that prosecutors seek the maximum penalties. He was one busy little elf.

On the other hand, the statement from Barr is, as might be expected, pure bullshit. As has been widely reported, Barr was not only aware of the investigations, he revived them when he took office in 2018. Even though attempts to pin intelligence leaks on Congress had come up dry, and investigators were indicating that the whole thing was a dead end, Barr expanded the investigation. He added more staff and, as CNN notes, brought in a prosecutor expressly to handle the leak investigations. Barr didn't just revive these cases, he "found a set of aggressive career prosecutors" who were "willing to take extraordinary steps to try to complete the probes." Which apparently included taking another crack at getting past Apple.

Like hell, Bill Barr "can't recall."

And then there's Rosenstein. When it comes to the revelations on Friday, The New York Times reports the Rosenstein has "refused to comment." But if there is anyone who needs to be dragged before the Senate and compelled to testify, it might be the former deputy attorney general.

There was a time in the spring of 2017 when Rosenstein seemed like the one person at the DOJ who was holding some semblance of justice together. He authorized the Mueller investigation after Sessions recused himself. The New York Timeseven reported that Rosenstein considered secretly recording Trump, and discussed whether enough Cabinet members could be persuaded to invoke the 25th Amendment. There was genuinely a point where Rosenstein seemed to be the one essential man; the one person in power at the DOJ who saw Trump for who he was.

But by the spring of 2018, Rosenstein appeared desperate to show he was fully on Team Trump. He instructed the DOJ to increase prosecutions of refugee families. As The Guardianreported, it was Rosenstein who argued that children should be separated from parents, even if they were infants. That fall, Rosenstein was reportedly crying after a call to Trump and then-chief of staff John Kelly, in which it appeared he might be forced to resign. He begged for his position, telling Trump that "I can land the plane," and suggested that keeping him in place gave the Russia investigation "credibility."

Once Barr came on board, Rosenstein was reliably at his elbow, providing cover for Barr's actions. That included signing off on the conclusion that Donald Trump not be charged with obstruction in spite of the mountains of evidence in support of that charge.

Rosenstein left in 2019, but he didn't pass into obscurity. He went to work as a partner at white-shoe law firm King & Spaulding, where he is in charge of "special matters and government investigations." What investigations might that be? As Reuters reported, the firm worked for Trump's campaign in 2020, including working on efforts to block the use of absentee ballots. Far from being sent into exile, ProPublica shows that King & Spaulding was a revolving door for the Trump White House with at least seven people moved from the firm to government positions during Trump's term. In fact, when Rosenstein helped Trump oust Comey, his replacement, current FBI director Christopher Wray, came from King & Spaulding.

Far from being run out of town, Rosenstein was helped into a nice, soft, lucrative position at a firm with deep connections to Trump. A firm which counts the Trump Organization as one of its largest clients. That's quite a feat for the guy who signed off on the Mueller investigation and reportedly tried to get Trump removed from office. Trump still hates Sessions for simply recusing himself, even though Sessions has slathered Trump with praise nonstop. But Trump appears to have forgiven Rosenstein, in spite of both Mueller and the 25th Amendment report. Why is that?

It's obvious that Rosenstein must had done a lot to earn that spot. And it's obvious that he needs to testify.

He can start by answering questions about his knowledge of the effort to secure the phones of sitting representatives and their families. Sessions might claim ignorance. Barr might feign forgetfulness.

But Rosenstein was there for it all.

Saturday, Jun 12, 2021 · 9:50:01 AM EDT · Mark Sumner

Senate Republicans Block Vote On Bipartisan Jan. 6 Commission

A total of 44 Republicans on Friday stopped the Senate from even considering a bipartisan proposal on creating an independent commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The bill had passed the House last week with 35 Republican votes.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer offered a cloture motion on Friday to take up the proposal, which would have established an evenly divided bipartisan panel to look into the deadly attempt to overturn the 2020 election. But due to the Senate's filibuster rules, doing so required a 60-vote supermajority, and the Republican minority was able to block it.

35 of the 50 Senate Republicans voted against the cloture motion. Another nine simply skipped the vote, which had the same effect as voting no.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Mitt Romney (R-UT) said earlier this week that they'd back the bill. Susan Collins (R-ME) said she would demand some changes, but would vote to at least allow debate to begin.

They and Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Ben Sasse (R-NE) joined all the Democrats present in voting to proceed. Two Democrats missed the vote.

Last week, 35 House Republicans voted for the bipartisan commission plan. It was almost identical to a January proposal offered by 31 GOP representatives and modeled on the panel created in 2002 to investigate the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

House Democrats had initially proposed an investigative panel with a Democratic majority to study this year's attack. After Republicans demanded bipartisan parity, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy enlisted New York Rep. John Katko, the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Homeland Security, to reach a compromise with Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the committee chair.

Even though Katko and McCarthy (R-CA) got nearly everything they asked for — an equal number of Democratic and Republican appointees on the 10-member commission and bipartisan agreement required for any subpoenas to be issued — McCarthy refused to support it.

Donald Trump, who was impeached in the House for inciting the January 6 insurrection but acquitted when just seven Senate Republicans voted to convict him, demanded last Tuesday that congressional Republicans "not approve the Democrat trap of the January 6 Commission."

Soon after, the Senate GOP began to speak out against having any commission at all.

On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans would block the bill because there was little left to learn about the riots. "I do not believe the additional, extraneous commission that Democratic leaders want would uncover crucial new facts, or promote healing," he said in a floor speech. "Frankly, I do not believe it is even designed to do that."

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) blasted his GOP colleagues Thursday for their opposition, writing in a statement, "There is no excuse for any Republican to vote against this commission since Democrats have agreed to everything they asked for."

"Mitch McConnell has made this his political position, thinking it will help his 2022 elections," the conservative Democrat observed. "They do not believe the truth will set you free, so they continue to live in fear."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.