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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: congress

House Passes Abortion Rights Bills, But Senate Approval Unlikely

Washington (AFP) - The House of Representatives adopted two bills on Friday aimed at protecting access to abortion after the Supreme Court ruled that individual states can ban or restrict the procedure.

The legislation passed by the Democratic-controlled House is unlikely, however, to advance in the Senate, where 10 Republican votes would be needed to bring the measures to the floor.

"Just three weeks ago, the Supreme Court took a wrecking ball to fundamental rights by overturning Roe v. Wade," Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, referring to the landmark case that enshrined legal access to abortion.

"That is why today, our pro-choice, pro-women Democratic majority stands resolute," Pelosi said. "We will take further action to defend women's reproductive freedom."

The first bill, the "Women's Health Protection Act," adopted only with Democratic support, would legalize abortion throughout the United States.

The House passed a similar bill last year but it failed in the Senate.

The other bill adopted on Friday would provide legal protection to women who leave one state to undergo an abortion in another.

Several conservative states have already banned abortion since the Supreme Court ruling, and about half of the 50 US states are expected to impose near or total bans in weeks or months to come.

Democratic President Joe Biden denounced last month's abortion ruling by the conservative-dominated Supreme Court and has urged Americans to turn out in large numbers to vote in November's midterm elections.

The party in power tends to perform poorly in the midterms, however, and Democrats risk losing their majority in the House and their slim hold on the Senate.

Senate Gun Measures Gaining Support Despite Limited Scope

Washington (AFP) - Two horrific massacres in recent weeks have succeeded in bringing Democrats and Republicans close to the most significant federal legislation addressing US gun violence in three decades.

Twenty senators -- 10 from each party -- reached a deal Sunday to put through legislation that would tighten some rules on gun sales and put more resources toward mental health treatment.

The 10 Republicans are just enough to ensure that the legislation could overcome Senate rules that have allowed the party since the 1990s to block almost every single measure aimed at controlling the flood of personal firearms on the US market.

Their agreement comes less than a month after two shocking mass shootings: first, when 10 African Americans were killed on May 14 at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and then less than two weeks later when 19 children and two teachers were shot and killed at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

Those tragedies also brought into focus smaller, but more frequent instances of gun violence across the United States.

Chris Coons, a Senate Democrat who led the chamber's bipartisan effort, said the legislation could be introduced within days and possibly passed in early July.

"In the wake of the horrifying recent shootings in Buffalo, Uvalde, and across the country, Americans have demanded that the Senate take meaningful steps forward on this issue," said Coons.

"This framework will save lives. If it becomes law, it will lower the risks of mass shootings, of lethal domestic violence incidents, of violence we see too frequently on our streets."

Modest Measures

The senators' agreed measures are modest, and far short of what US President Joe Biden called for following last month's tragic killings.

They include:

  • Enhanced background checks for people under 21 buying a gun, allowing a review of juvenile crime and mental health records
  • Funding and incentives for states to pass "red flag" laws to keep guns out of the hands of people deemed a danger to themselves or society, and perpetrators of domestic abuse
  • Tougher penalties for "straw purchasers" of guns for others that feed illegal firearms trafficking
  • Closing loopholes on gun dealer regulations
  • Federal support for state investments in school security and mental health programs

But they did not approach demands from gun control advocates, including an outright ban on assault rifles, as was in place from 1994 to 2004, a ban on gun sales to people under 21, mandatory waiting periods in all gun purchases, and bans on high-capacity magazines.

Both the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings were by 18-year-olds using high-powered AR-15-style semi-automatic rifles.

Moreover, whatever gains that come with the legislation could be dealt a setback by a Supreme Court ruling due this month that could overturn state restrictions on carrying guns in public.

  • 'Breaking the logjam' -

Even so, gun control advocates cheered the measures, recognizing the potential for a significant shift towards breaking the gun industry's stranglehold.

"We applaud this historic step forward for gun violence prevention -- one born out of the recognition that this nation needs change and action to save American lives from preventable gun violence," said Kris Brown, president of the Brady: United Against Gun Violence group.

"We're breaking the logjam in Congress and proving that gun safety isn't just good policy -– it's good politics," said Shannon Watts, founder of the group Moms Demand Action.

Narrow Political Margin

Yet supporters were not fully confident the measures will pass, knowing that the legislation could be blocked if fewer than 10 of the Senate's 50 Republicans support it.

Working in their favor is that none of the 10 Republicans who agreed to the deal Sunday are standing for reelection in November. Four are retiring, and five won't face reelection until 2026; one other faces reelection in 2024.

The 20 senators "are committed to each other and to this project," said Coons.

But the National Rifle Association, which has wielded powerful influence over Republicans for decades, made clear their fundamental opposition.

"NRA will continue to oppose any effort to insert gun control policies, initiatives that override constitutional due process protections and efforts to deprive law-abiding citizens of their fundamental right to protect themselves into this or any legislation," the group said.

David Hogg, leader of anti-gun violence group March For Our Lives and himself a school shooting survivor, called for action to counter the NRA's political pressure.

"We're going to need a lot of gun owners to speak out and let these Republican senators know that they are supported, that the NRA speaks only for the NRA and not the majority of responsible, voting gun owners," he said.

Ex-Trump Aide Navarro Indicted For Contempt Of Congress

A federal grand jury has indicted Peter Navarro, former President Donald Trump’s onetime trade adviser, after his failure to cooperate with a subpoena issued to him by the House Select Committee last February.

Navarro hit the press junket hard to shill his memoirs months before the subpoena rolled in and in that book, Navarro discussed a strategy he cooked up with Trump’s onetime adviser Steve Bannon to stop or delay the certification of Electoral College votes by Congress on January 6, 2021.

They called it the ‘Green Bay Sweep,’ and according to Navarro, its aim was not to “overturn” the election but rather, the plan was to have such a sweeping number of challenges to the certification launched by Trump’s Republican allies in the House and Senate that it would “put the certification of the election on ice for at least another several weeks,” he wrote in his book, In Trump Time.

Navarro faces two charges in the indictment: one count for failure to produce records to the committee as demanded in the subpoena and another count for failure to appear for testimony.

Incidentally, his indictment is similar to the one that was brought against Bannon—his fellow ‘Green Bay Sweep’ strategist—in November. Bannon’s trial is expected to begin this summer. As for Navarro, he made his first appearance in a federal court in Washington, D.C., on Friday at 2:30 P.M. ET.

NBC News reported that Navarro was taken into custody on Friday. Court records have also indicated that prosecutors sought to seal Navarro’s indictment until he was arrested. They were concerned that he might flee or engage in witness tampering. Navarro’s case will go before U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, the same judge presiding over the seditious conspiracy trial involving a number of Oath Keepers including ringleader Elmer Stewart Rhodes.

Navarro told reporters earlier this week that he received a grand jury subpoena tied to January 6. He clarified that it was separate from the subpoena first sent by the committee. The 72-year-old vehemently argued that executive privilege invoked by Trump barred him from testifying. But there is no evidence to date that Trump asserted privilege over Navarro. The committee has indicated Trump did not invoke privilege over Navarro.

The grand jury subpoena notably zeroed in on the 45th president by name, ultimately asking Navarro for “all documents relating to the subpoena dated February 9, 2022, that you received from the House Select Committee to investigate the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, including but not limited to any communications with former President Trump and/or his counsel or representatives."

The former trade adviser has been a vocal critic of the committee’s work and has referred to investigators as “domestic terrorists” running “a partisan witch hunt.”

He had multiple opportunities to cooperate with the House Select Committee. He was allowed to ask for more time to produce records so long as he could explain why. And if there were privilege issues, per the committee, Navarro could have created a list explaining which documents he would want to be shielded and why.

Instead, according to the seven-page indictment, Navarro opted to ignore the probe, resting on specious executive privilege claims instead.

“My hands are tied,” Navarro allegedly wrote in an email to the committee this spring.

Navarro Indictment by Daily Kos on Scribd

Navarro Indictment by Daily Kos

This back and forth went on for a matter of days, with the committee informing Navarro they could limit questions to his public remarks but his deposition, then scheduled for March 2, was mandatory under the subpoena.

He never showed.

Per the DOJ, each count carries a max sentence of up to one year in jail plus a fine of up to $100,000.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Fox News Ignores Bombshell Story Of McCarthy’s Big Lie

Fox News is ignoring the biggest political story of the day after newly released audio revealed House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said he was planning to push for then-President Donald Trump’s resignation shortly after Trump’s failed coup attempt on January 6, 2021.

The New York Times reported Thursday that in the days following the attack on the Capitol, both McCarthy and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell had privately examined ways for congressional Republicans to join with Democrats in pushing Trump out of politics. McCarthy reportedly told a group of Republican leaders, “I’ve had it with this guy,” and said that he would tell Trump to resign from office rather than be impeached, which he believed had a high likelihood of succeeding. But those same Republican leaders sang a completely different tune in public, opposing the effort to impeach Trump and successfully blocking an indictment in the Senate that would have disqualified him from holding public office ever again. (They have also opposed all efforts to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the coup attempt.)

McCarthy’s lie gets unmasked

McCarthy posted a statement Thursday on Twitter, calling the Times’ report “totally false and wrong.” The problem here is that there’s an audio recording from January 10, 2021, showing that McCarthy just lied. He did voice support for Trump’s removal from office, clearly stating his plan to encourage the president to resign rather than being forced out. You can listen to the audio yourself.

Times correspondents Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns appeared on Thursday night’s edition of MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, during which the host played the audio recording of McCarthy saying, “The only discussion I would have with [Trump] is that, I think this [impeachment] will pass, and it will be my recommendation you should resign. I mean, that would be my take, but I don’t think he would take it, but I don’t know.”

“Mr. McCarthy flat-out and categorically denied that today,” Maddow said. “He denied that he said he would tell Trump to resign. He in fact said exactly that.

Martin contrasted McCarthy’s plan with his later realization that House Republican members were, by and large, not angry with Trump over the events of the insurrection, saying, “McCarthy is down at Mar-a-Lago before the month is out and patching up his relationship with President Trump.”

Burns said, “If past performance is any indicator of future results, what you heard on that tape and then what Kevin McCarthy did subsequently to hold Donald Trump to account — which was nothing — is a pretty ominous story about the future.”

Fox News’ cover-up of the biggest scandal of the day

Fox News has not covered the tape on the air, and late Friday morning its website published a strange article with the headline “McCarthy rebuts reporting on leaked recordings recommending Trump resign as Cheney, Scalise deny involvement.” The article only contained references to events from earlier on Thursday — including McCarthy’s denial — before the tapes actually became public later that night. A person who read only this article would not even know that the audio recording is now in the public record and that McCarthy’s public denial was revealed as a complete lie.

The story about the audio confirming the Times’ reporting has been carried by multiple other news outlets, including The Associated Press, Politico and The Washington Post. On CNN’s New Day, co-anchor Brianna Keilar bluntly declared, “Here he is caught, pretty much, in a lie.”

Even the far-right website The Gateway Pundit picked up the story — to express outrage at McCarthy’s betrayal of Trump. But anyone who gets their news by watching Fox would still not have heard of it.

Fox News has consistently downplayed stories about Trump’s threat to American democracy — something in which the network has played its own part. This latest situation is also eerily similar to Fox’s selective silence five months ago, when the network did not cover an audio recording in which Trump openly defended rioters who had chanted “Hang Mike Pence,” following his failed efforts to cajole his then-vice president into unconstitutionally refusing to certify President Joe Biden’s election victory. (Another shared attribute between two stories: Both have involved mainstream reporters obtaining this information, but then refusing to report it to the public for months — instead saving it for a book launch.)

Printed with permission from MediaMatters.

Watch Marjorie Taylor Greene Get Busted For Lying In Court (VIDEO)

On Friday, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene took the stand to give a foggy recollection’s worth of testimony in an Atlanta court hearing over whether she should be disqualified under the 14th Amendment from running for re-election this fall.

If you have been hiding from the news for a while, Marjorie Taylor Greene is a fake business person who earned her money the old-fashioned way—her parents had a successful business that she inherited and then was bought out of. Since cherry-picking a blood-red enclave of Georgia to lay down her carpetbag, she has risen in the MAGA GOP, in no small part due to her shameless use of invective and fascist oratory.

The case against MTG is a simple one: Is she qualified, according to the Constitution, to hold public office? Today’s hearing is in response to a challenge from Free Speech For People, a national nonprofit organization that seeks to “reclaim our democracy” in the wake of Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruling that allows corporate influence of policy through campaign donations.


Free Speech for People are attempting to establish Greene’s disqualification from holding office in this hearing through Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which stipulates:

“No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

It’s compelling stuff. Rep. Greene is a mediocre liar, at best. In one exchange, Greene attempted to lie before realizing evidence was about to directly refute that lie. She retreats immediately, but the exchange is typical of interactions with Greene, and a clear window into how easily prosecutable people like Greene are.

After affirming that Greene and Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi do not agree on a lot of things, the prosecutor gets to the point.

Lawyer: In fact you think that Speaker Pelosi is a “traitor” to the country, right?

Greene looked off toward her lawyer, presumably, before attempting to evade the question by saying, “I’m not answering that question. It is speculation.” The lawyer for Free Speech For People tries to jog Greene’s memory, “You have said that, Ms. Greene. That she’s a traitor to the country, haven't you?” To which Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene lies:

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE: No. No, I haven’t said that.

At this moment, the lawyer, without words, reminds Greene that she is in a court of law and this isn’t an appearance on some right-wing white supremacist softball news show. Greene shifts in a way that can only be described as “aggressively agitated” as the lawyer asks for a presentation of “plaintiff’s Exhibit 5, please.”

Before we can watch the video below, where Greene says Speaker Pelosi is “guilty of treason” and that her guilt is “punishable by death,” Ms. Greene says, “Oh, no, wait.” That’s the moment in the screenshot atop this story. She then says something about how she did maybe say that when she said Pelosi had violated her oath of office regarding immigration.

How? Who the fuck knows?

Marjorie Taylor Greene busted in lie during hearing over whether to disqualify her from election

The entire exercise we are watching is whether or not our country can enforce our most fundamental laws of democracy.

Printed with permission from Dailykos.

Raskin Squelches Greene And The Republican ’Trump-Putin Axis’

Shortly after a routine congressional outburst Wednesday from a Trump-aligned Republican, Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland uttered a phrase that should quickly become a Democratic staple: the Trump-Putin axis.

The GOP offender was Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. Who knows exactly what she said—who even cares? It's Raskin's response that matters.

"The gentlelady said something about the Russian hoax—I accept the heckling, Mr. Speaker," Raskin said from the well of the House floor. "If she wants to continue to stand with Vladimir Putin and his brutal, bloody invasion against the people of Ukraine, she is free to do so, and we understand there is a strong Trump-Putin axis in the gentlelady’s party."

For the past several months, I have been trying to identify attack lines Democrats can leverage against Republicans ahead of the midterms, and this particular phrase accomplishes so much in so few words—it's just killer.

First, linking Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin passes the smell test. Every reality-based voter (the only ones we can reach) knows that Trump has been a loyal and dedicated Putin bootlicker for many years, including using his White House perch to do Putin's bidding on the global stage for four years. What makes Trump’s actions even more grave now is the fact that Putin has turned himself into a global pariah through his butchery in Ukraine.

Second, "axis" is a potent word that Americans immediately get due to its historical underpinnings. From the disgraced Axis powers of World War II to President George W. Bush's "axis of evil," Americans inherently know "axis" is a word anchored in ignominy. Regardless of whether one agrees with Bush's 2002 adaptation of it, his relatively recent usage helps.

Finally, as GOP congressional members and aspiring candidates continue to embrace Trump across the country, frequent reminders of the "Trump-Putin axis" is very simple shorthand for evoking all the turmoil Trump brought into the White House along with the consequences presently playing out in Ukraine. There's no need to belabor the point, Democratic base voters are crystal clear about Trump's corrosive effect on international relations, and at least some Trump-Biden voters actually defected in 2020 for that very reason. Trump's Putin sycophancy may play well to the GOP’s white nationalist base, but it's pretty cringey to that slice of reality-based Republicans. Some of them even voted for a Democrat in 2020 because of it.

So the term is really a twofer, reminding both the Democratic base why their votes matter and reality-based GOP voters why their party's continued loyalty to Trump has dangerous and despicable real-world consequences. Perhaps those GOP voters, particularly in swing districts, will defect again if they find their candidate too repulsive, or maybe they’ll just stay home. Either one is a win for Democrats.

So yeah, Democrats should start hitting the term on the regular forthwith.

Printed with permission from Daily Kos.

Despite Near Unanimous GOP Opposition, Senate Confirms Jackson In Historic Vote

Forty seven Republican senators voted against approving Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to succeed retiring Justice Stephen Breyer.

The U.S. Senate voted 53 -- 47 Thursday to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court. Over nearly unanimous Republican opposition, Jackson will be the first Black woman to serve on the high court in its 232 -- year history.

Just three Senate Republicans — Maine's Susan Collins, Alaska's Lisa Murkowski, and Utah's Mitt Romney — joined with every one of their Democratic colleagues in support of Jackson's confirmation. On Monday, 47 Republican senators opposed even allowing Jackson's nomination to come to a vote on the Senate floor after the evenly divided Judiciary Committee split along party lines.

In February, President Joe Biden named Jackson to succeed retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, keeping his 2020 campaign promise to appoint a Black woman to the most powerful court in the country. Biden highlighted Jackson's impressive record as a federal appellate court judge for the District of Columbia, a former public defender, and a former Supreme Court clerk for Breyer.

Jackson has promised to be an impartial and fair arbiter on the court. "I decide cases from a neutral posture," she told the Senate. "I evaluate the facts, and I interpret and apply the law to the facts of the case before me, without fear or favor, consistent with my judicial oath."

Jackson was unanimously recommended as "well qualified" for the post by the American Bar Association, the highest rating from the nonpartisan group of lawyers that is praised by Republican and Democratic senators alike as the "gold standard."

The American public also strongly backed Jackson's confirmation, with polls showing her as one of the most popular Supreme Court picks in modern times, with the support of two -- thirds of those polled.

Despite Jackson's eminent qualifications for the role, Senate Republicans went on the attack and spent weeks trying to block her confirmation.

First, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham criticized her for having gotten her law degree at Harvard Law School, although he had previously backed other nominees from the same school.

Then Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley began making widely debunked claims that "Judge Jackson has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes, both as a judge and as a policymaker" and that she had demonstrated an "alarming trend of lenient sentencing."

Finally, GOP senators resorted to what they had previously called "embarrassing antics" at Jackson's confirmation hearings, demanding she weigh in on policy questions that are up to Congress to decide.

Though Jackson has now been confirmed, she will not join the Supreme Court immediately. Breyer's resignation goes into effect at the end of the current term, meaning she will likely be sworn in late June or early July.

She will be just the sixth female and third Black Supreme Court justice in U.S. history.

Biden tweeted a photo of himself with the newly confirmed justice on Thursday, writing, "Judge Jackson's confirmation was a historic moment for our nation. We've taken another step toward making our highest court reflect the diversity of America. She will be an incredible Justice, and I was honored to share this moment with her."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


Trump Unable To Answer Simple Question On Republican Agenda (VIDEO)

When former President Donald Trump appeared on right-wing Newsmax TV this week, he was asked about the 2022 midterms and the things he would like Republicans to prioritize if they regain control of the House of Representatives. But Trump didn’t offer any specific policy recommendations should the GOP have a House majority in 2023 and seemed to ignore the substance of the question entirely.

Newsmax TV prides itself on being more right-wing and more pro-Trump than Fox News and Fox Business

"Sounds like the Republicans are going to take back control of Congress," the interviewer asked, "and what would you like to see them do?"

Trump responded, “Number 1: take back. That’s what has to be Number 1; we have to take it back.”

Obviously referring to the Democratic majorities in Congress, Trump continued, “These are radicalized, horrible people that hate our country — what they’re doing with the open borders and the judges and all of the things they’ve been doing is so sad. And then you look at Afghanistan is a topper…. We were coming out strong, with dignity. There’s never been a lower point than what happened with Afghanistan, in my opinion. So, we’ve gotta, Number 1, we’ve gotta win the House — and I think we can win the Senate also.”

Despite Trump's claim that Democrats have enacted an "open borders" policy, Biden has actually preserved many of his predecessor's immigration policies, much to the dismay of some critics on his left. The borders are in no sense "open." Here are some responses to Newsmax’s Trump interview:



Reprinted with permission from Alternet