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Tag: congress

GOP Suffers Major Setback In Quest To Control House

Between President Joe Biden’s weak approval ratings, gerrymandering, and voter suppression, many pundits have been predicting that Republicans will retake the U.S. House of Representatives in November. But that remains to be seen, and Republican gerrymandering was dealt a blow in the Midwest this week when the Ohio Supreme Court — including Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor — struck down the congressional map that Ohio Republicans had in mind for the Buckeye State.

On top of that, Rep. John Katko of upstate New York has announced that he won’t be seeking reelection — which is more bad news for the GOP. Katko is one of the Republicans who is moderate enough to fare well among centrist Democrats and swing voters in his state. Neither of these problems is necessarily decisive for control of the House, but if 2022 ends up being close, a few seats on the margin could make all the difference.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled, 4-3, that the map violated the state’s constitution by drawing the districts to unfairly favor one party over another. Columbus Dispatch reporters Jessie Balmert and Laura A. Bischoff note that the map “could have given Republicans as much as a 12-3 advantage in a state that voted for President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump twice.”

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Michael Donnelly, who was part of the majority opinion, argued, “When the dealer stacks the deck in advance, the house usually wins.”

Article reprinted with permission from Alternet

New Poll Has Republicans Losing Ground Ahead Of Midterms

For months, Republicans have been saying they expect to win back control of Congress in the November midterm elections and plan to obstruct President Joe Biden's agenda if they do. But American voters may not agree with that plan, according to new polling released Tuesday.

A November USA Today/Suffolk University poll found that in the next congressional election, registered voters preferred a generic Republican candidate over a generic Democratic candidate 46 percent to 38 percent. But when the same outlet posed the same question in December, the generic Democratic candidate led 39 percent to 37 percent — a 10-point swing to the left from the previous month.

Other polling seems to confirm this shift in public opinion. A recent Economist/YouGov poll found Democratic candidates led by 43 percent -- 36 percent on a generic congressional ballot question. A December Reuters/Ipsos survey found Democrats leading by a similar margin, 40 percent -- 33 percent.

Nonetheless, Republicans in Congress have continued to talk up their chances of winning back control of the House and Senate in November. "We're going to have a hell of a year," Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), who chairs the National Republic Senatorial Committee, told the Associated Press on Friday. "Every state that Biden won by less than 10 is now a battleground state."

In a 2022 kick-off letter to his GOP House caucus, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy wrote that he hopes to "earn the majority" this year to "define what our country will be for the next decade."

If Republicans do regain control of Congress, they would work to obstruct the agenda on which Biden was elected by more than seven million votes. Since Biden's inauguration last January, Republicans in Congress have stalled votes on his nominees, unanimously opposed most of his major investment plans, and have tried to run out the clock on COVID safety measures.

Republican leaders have promised that if they regain the majority, they will seek to retaliate against Democratic lawmakers for governing by majority rule and holding GOP members accountable for violent extremism. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in June that a GOP majority would likely block Biden from filling Supreme Court vacancies, as it did with President Barack Obama in 2016.

McCarthy vowed in November that he would restore the committee seats of Reps. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), both of whom lost their assignments in this Congress due to their extreme rhetoric, and said they may even "have better committee assignments" in the future.

Last week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said he was 90 percent confident in a GOP House majority and 50/50 on a GOP Senate as well. He suggested on his podcast that if Republicans regained control of the House in November, they would likely move to impeach Biden as retribution for House Democrats impeaching former President Donald Trump.

"What is good for the goose is good for the gander," Cruz said. "I think there are potentially multiple grounds to consider for impeachment."

Article reprinted with permission from The American Independent

McCarthy Delays Vote On Build Back Better With Weird, Hours-Long Rant

Washington (AFP) - The leader of the minority Republicans in the US House frustrated Democratic efforts to pass President Joe Biden's historic package of social welfare reforms Friday with an hours-long, disjointed tirade that drew mockery and angry boos from the opposite benches.

Kevin McCarthy was supposed to talk for one minute ahead of a Thursday evening vote in the lower chamber of Congress to advance the $1.8 trillion Build Back Better Act as he took the floor just after 8.30 pm (0130 GMT).

But he was still going strong at 1.30 am after a rant tackling everything from Biden's spending to the Afghanistan withdrawal, travel to Europe, Elon Musk, Abraham Lincoln, the Hallmark Channel, the Nobel Peace Prize, and the artwork hanging in his office.

Unlike the Senate, the House doesn't have a "filibuster" that allows the minority to scupper legislation by talking for hours, and the vote was merely postponed until 8:00 am.

"I don't know if they think because they left I'm going to stop. I'm not," McCarthy said as Democrats received word that his tactics had worked and began filing out of the chamber.

"I'm really not talking to them. I'm talking to the American people."

The Republican was first laughed at and then angrily jeered as the minutes turned into hours, with his theatrics widely seen as his audition to be the next speaker in 2022 if the House flips to the Republicans.

'Losing The Plot'

Current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office released a statement as McCarthy went into his fourth hour, accusing him of "losing the plot."

"Tonight, Kevin McCarthy previewed Republicans' very best attacks against the deficit reducing, inflation crushing Build Back Better Act," the statement said.

"As he hopefully approaches the end, we're all left wondering: does Kevin McCarthy know where he is right now?"

Democrats had started the evening in a serious mood, determined to approve Biden's giant social welfare and climate bill, the centerpiece of his $3 trillion domestic agenda.

The debate came three days after the president signed off on the first part of his economic blueprint, a sweeping upgrade of the country's crumbling infrastructure.

The legislation is still likely to advance from the House, where Democrats have a majority of three, with only one of their lawmakers indicating he would be defecting to vote no.

It would then go to the Senate -- where it is likely to get an even bumpier ride, with the Democrats' deficit hawks jittery about historic spending as gas and food prices spiral -- before it gets a final rubber stamp back in the House, likely in January.

"Unemployment claims are down nearly 70 percent since I took office. Retail sales are up," Biden said in a statement ahead of the debate.

"I've signed a historic infrastructure law and we have the Build Back Better Act on its way. Things are looking up."

Senate Changes Likely

Build Back Better would provide millions of jobs, according to the White House, although Republicans have characterized it as an example of wildly out-of-control Democratic spending.

But it will likely be watered down in the upper chamber, where Democrats have the narrowest of majorities and moderates are voicing concerns over Biden's spending plans.

Annual inflation jumped to 6.2 percent last month, giving Republicans another cudgel to bash Biden with as they bid to retake both chambers of Congress in next year's midterm elections.

The Senate has been locked in a 50-50 split for one of the longest periods in its history and, with no votes to spare, every Democrat effectively has a veto on any bill as long as Republicans stick together.

Senate progressives are pushing for a national paid family leave program and a bigger expansion of health care benefits, but the latest inflation data could harm those efforts.

West Virginia's Senator Joe Manchin, the biggest Democratic obstacle to getting the legislation to Biden's desk, has indicated he is opposed to family leave, one of the most popular planks of the package.

The fiscal conservative has argued in any case that the Democrats should pump the brakes on spending until inflation is brought under control.

Gallup Poll: Trump And Congressional Approval Ratings Plummet

Both President Donald Trump's and Congressional approval ratings have plummeted in the first half of December, according to a new Gallup poll.

Trump's approval rating has dipped to 39 percent, a 7 point decrease from the last Gallup survey, while Congressional satisfaction dropped 15%, the lowest rating for the 116th Congress, according to Gallup.

The president began December by ramping up political attacks while also increasing his threats to American democracy. His erratic behavior has even started to worry Trump's aides and his closest allies, leading to a "heated" Oval Office meeting with far-right conspiracists Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell. In that meeting Flynn proposed "martial law" to overturn the free and fair election that Joe Biden won by millions of votes.

Meanwhile, December was also a tumultuous month for Congress, as members bickered over a yearly defense spending bill (NDAA), a budget for FY 2021, and much needed COVID-19 relief. Late last night, right before a midnight deadline, Trump finally signed a joint bill which included COVID-19 relief and next year's budget. He also vetoed the defense bill, which Congress is expected to overturn.

Though American's moods are souring towards the current government, the Biden administration is receiving high marks for handling the transition. According to Gallup, nearly two-thirds of respondents reported they "approve" of Biden's actions during the transition.

Poll: Democratic Congress Sees Rising Support For 2020 Re-Election

Roughly six in 10 Americans say their member of Congress deserves to be reelected in November, according to a Gallup poll released Monday. That level of support is almost 10 points higher than in early 2018, when Republicans were still in control of the House of Representatives.

In the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats picked up 40 House seats and won back the House majority for the first time in almost a decade. Many of the Democratic victories came from suburban districts, including areas that were once Republican strongholds like Orange County, California.

“Democrats have a solid majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the elevated 59 percent of Americans saying their member of Congress deserves reelection augurs well for their bid to maintain their majority next year,” Gallup wrote about the poll.

A higher percentage of Americans saying their member of Congress deserves to be reelected correlates with a higher percentage of Congress members who are reelected the following November, Gallup noted. Gallup pointed to high reelection rates from 1998 through 2004, which corresponded with Americans’ relatively high support of their member of Congress.

“It’s gonna be pretty tough for Republicans to get back in the majority,” Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA), a member of the moderate New Democrat Coalition, said in a phone interview in early February, before the Gallup poll was released. Bera pointed to different data to back up his claim: polls that ask Americans if they favor voting for a generic Democrat or a generic Republican.

This type of generic polling is “usually is a good indicator of what folks are thinking,” Bera said.

According to an average of these generic polls from FiveThirtyEight, Democrats currently have a 7-point lead over Republicans, 48 percent to 41 percent. On Election Day 2018, Democrats held a 9-point lead, 51 percent to 42 percent.

If 2019 statewide elections are a precursor for what could happen in 2020, Democrats like Bera have more data points to support their optimism.

Louisiana re-elected Gov. John Bel Edward, a Democrat, in a state Trump carried by 20 points in 2016. In Kentucky, voters ousted Republican Gov. Matt Bevins in favor of Democrat Andy Beshear.

Further, voters in Virginia elected a Democratic majority to the state House and state Senate, giving Democrats control of the legislature and governorship for the first time in 26 years.

“Never say never,” Bera said, “but if I were making a wager, I would say we’re going to retain the House majority.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Graham Promises Senate Probe Of Bidens

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

From the February 2 edition of Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo:

MARIA BARTIROMO (ANCHOR): Schumer this morning signaling that the Democrats will not accept an acquittal as legitimate. Nancy Pelosi hinting that she is going to call Bolton in the House. John Bolton. What’s the dems next move? And how are you going to get anything done, Senator, if you actually got the other side constantly pushing to find out dirt on Donald Trump?

LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Well, the president has been successful in spite of all of this. I hope we can turn the page as a nation and focus on issues important. But as Nancy Pelosi calls Bolton, here is what I would say. They’re impeaching the president for suspension of aid that was eventually received, trying to leverage an investigation that never happened. This is ridiculous. Mueller broke their heart. They won’t let it go. They hate this man. Pelosi is no longer Speaker of the House. Just in name only. I don’t know if they will ever let it go. Here is what I’m going to do. If they talk to Bolton, I will bring in State Department officials, and ask them why didn’t you do something about the obvious conflict of interest Joe Biden had? Joe Biden’s effort to combat corruption in the Ukraine became a joke, when Joe Biden got before the Ukrainian parliament talking about sweetheart deals, and reforming the energy sector, I can only imagine how they were laughing under their breath. What about your son, Vice President Biden, sitting on the most corrupt board in Ukraine, Burisma, receiving $3 million dollars. I can only imagine if a Republican done what Biden had done. But we’re going to get to the bottom of this. And I can prove beyond any doubt that Joe Biden’s effort in the Ukraine to root out corruption was undercut because he let his son sit on the board of the most corrupt company in the Ukraine and we’ll not give him a pass on that.

BARTIROMO: So you’re not going to give him a pass. How are you going to get to the bottom of it? Should we expect your committee to call to testify Hunter Biden, whistle employer, Adam Schiff, all of those names you’ve been talking about. Is this going to happen this upcoming week, then?

GRAHAM: It’s going to happen in the coming weeks. Jim Risch is the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Jim, if you’re watching the show, I hope you are, we need to call chief of staff to John Kerry who was told about the conflict of interest with Hunter Biden being on Burisma’s board early on. Heinz, the stepson of John Kerry was a business partner of Hunter Biden and Devon Archer. And he told the State Department, I’m not part of this deal. I don’t think it is right. George Kent told the State Department it would be a conflict for Hunter Biden to be on the Burisma board. Let’s start there. Let’s call these people in. Eventually, we’ll get to Hunter Biden. And I want to know why the Obama administration did nothing about this obvious conflict of interest. Joe Biden should have given up the Ukrainian portfolio or Hunter Biden should have been taken off the board. Because they ruined America’s ability to effectively deal with corruption in the Ukraine by having Hunter Biden on the board of Burisma. That is just a fact. And we’re going to get to the bottom of it.

Hinting At Trump’s Guilt, GOP Senators Rig Trial For Acquittal

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

On the day it became clear a majority of the Senate would allow the trial of the president to close without hearing from a single witness, Republicans who found themselves protecting Donald Trump started making a surprising admission.

Trump, of all people, might have done something wrong.

The revelations started with Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, whose pending retirement gave him more independence than many of his colleagues to break with the president. But on Thursday night, he revealed that he would join most other Republicans in a vote to block the Senate from hearing witnesses, most notably former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

He offered a perhaps surprising reason for this decision, though: He doesn’t need Bolton’s testimony to know Trump’s guilty.

“There is no need for more evidence to prove that the president asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter; he said this on television on October 3, 2019, and during his July 25, 2019, telephone call with the president of Ukraine,” Alexander said in a statement. “There is no need for more evidence to conclude that the president withheld United States aid, at least in part, to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens; the House managers have proved this with what they call a ‘mountain of overwhelming evidence.’”

He dismissed the second charge against the president, obstruction of Congress, as “frivolous.” But he thinks the Ukraine scheme was wrongful.

“It was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation,” he continued. “When elected officials inappropriately interfere with such investigations, it undermines the principle of equal justice under the law. But the Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year’s ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate.”

To be sure, Alexander is too generous to Trump here. He doesn’t explore the reasons that truly make Trump’s actions so egregious, such as the fact that they were based on nonsense conspiracy theories and were clearly intended to influence the 2020 election.

But he was, at least, finally admitting that what Trump did wasn’t right. He just doesn’t want to say the Senate should remove the president over this kind of conduct.

With this admission, others chimed in.

“Long story short, [Alexander] most likely expressed the sentiments of the country as a whole as well as any single Senator possibly could. Those who hate Trump and wish to take the voters[‘] choice away in an unfounded manner, Sen. Alexander rightly rejected their arguments,” said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a close ally of the president, in a tweet.

Graham also sent the mildest possible message to Trump, who has claimed his phone call pushing for the Ukrainian investigations that sparked the impeachment proceedings was “perfect.”

“To those who believe that all was ‘perfect,’ Senator Alexander made reasoned observations and conclusions based on the evidence before him. He called it as he saw it to be,” Graham wrote. “Well done Lamar!”

Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska bolstered these sentiments further.

“Let me be clear; Lamar speaks for lots and lots of us,” Sasse told reporters, as CNN’s Manu Raju reported.

Sasse was once a vocal critic of Trump from within his own party. But as his own re-election grew closer, he began minimizing his dissent, and he earned the president’s endorsement in his primary. So it wasn’t surprising that, when Raju followed up to ask Sasse whether Trump behaved inappropriately, the senator refused to answer.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) may have gone even further than Alexander, saying in a Medium post of Trump’s alleged abuse of power: “Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a President from office.”

He later said Democrats have not proven their case, but suggested that if they had, Trump’s conduct might warrant impeachment. But he also said that, even if the conduct does warrant impeachment, he still thinks it would be best for the country to leave Trump in office because “at least half of the country would view his removal as illegitimate.” He blamed the Democrats’ “partisan” impeachment process for this fact, while ignoring that Republicans’ steadfast refusal to seriously consider Trump did anything wrong throughout the proceedings was a necessary condition of this partisanship.

He also said: “I disagree with the House Managers’ argument that, if we find the allegations they have made are true, failing to remove the President leaves us with no remedy to constrain this or future Presidents. Congress and the courts have multiple ways by which to constrain the power of the executive.”

But like the other Republicans who hinted Trump might have done something wrong, he proposed no actual alternative to removal for holding Trump accountable.

And that’s what makes all their admissions so shameful. They’ve let Trump declare for months that he’s done nothing wrong and that the impeachment is an unfair witch hunt. They’ve even let Trump continue to engage in the very scheme he was impeached for. They know he will never admit he did anything wrong, which means without external punishment, he won’t be deterred. But they refused to stand up for the impeachment process, refused to admit that the conduct in question really was worthy of serious investigation, even if they didn’t want to remove Trump in the end. Democrats pushing impeachment were relentlessly attacked by right-wing media, and the elected Republicans officials who knew, actually, that the pro-impeachment crowd might have a point said nothing.

They let the impeachment become a purely partisan affair — with the exception of Minnesota’s Rep. Justin Amash, who left the Republican Party because of Trump — and then they blamed the Democrats for not convincing them to join in. Now they say impeachment is too strong a cure for the malady at issue, but they propose no other treatment. They will, undoubtedly, allow Trump to continue thinking that he did nothing wrong and will give him no reason to change his path.

These are clear signs of cowardice and guilt. Not of Trump’s guilt, this time, but their own. They offer their excuses for refusing to challenge Trump, but these paper-thin explanations fail to grapple with the facts and show the lawmakers are lying to themselves. They’re lying to themselves, of course, because they have to. The costs of breaking with the president are far too high — even for Alexander, at the end of his career — and they don’t have the courage to do it.

Republicans Falsely Claim To Have Heard Witnesses In Trump Trial

The Senate Republican majority is all but set to vote to acquit Donald Trump in his impeachment trial, without hearing any witness testimony whatsoever.

Despite this, many senators have been misleadingly suggesting that witness testimony was in fact part of the trial.

The Senate Republican Communications Center, part of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office, posted a list of “Senate Trial Facts” Friday afternoon, intended to demonstrate why the GOP believed it was “time to move on.”

“13 witnesses testified,” they claimed in an infographic, adding that there were also “179 Senator questions.”

While testimony from fact witnesses from the House impeachment inquiry was presented as part of the impeachment managers’ and defense lawyers’ cases, no one testified as part of the Senate trial. And none of the senators’ questions were directed to any of those fact witnesses.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) made a similar misleading argument in a video Friday. “I’m a no vote on additional witnesses,” she said. “We’ve had the testimony of 17 people.”

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) also announced in a video that she would vote no when the Senate considers “whether we have a need to have more witnesses.” She reasoned, “We’ve already had 17 witnesses.”

In a written statement, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) agreed, saying he did not believe “additional witnesses are needed.”

Poll after poll has shown overwhelming popular support for a fair Senate trial that would include witness testimony.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.