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Tag: joe manchin

Former Senate Leader Reid Urges Democrats To Abolish Filibuster Forver

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Although some centrist Democrats have been vigorously defending the filibuster — namely, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — many other Democrats have been expressing their frustration with it. One of them is former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. In an op-ed published by the Las Vegas Sun this week, the Nevada Democrat lays out some reasons why he would like to see Senate Democrats "abolish the filibuster once and for all."

The 81-year-old Reid explains, "An arcane Senate rule, the filibuster imposes a 60-vote threshold on the majority of legislation, and it allows just one senator of the minority party to effectively block any and all progress by simply sending an e-mail indicating their opposition to a bill. Our Framers envisioned the Senate as a deliberative body where the issues of the day could receive thoughtful consideration, and where a simple majority was needed to conduct most business. What we have today is a gridlocked body where there's more obstruction than debate."

Reid adds that as the Framers saw it, "debate was to be encouraged in the Senate." But in 1917, Reid notes, the "filibuster rule as we know it today was introduced" as a "means of cutting off extended and tedious debate."

"Just as he did in the Obama years when I served as majority leader, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has exploited and weaponized the filibuster, turning it into a tool to stifle President Joe Biden's legislative priorities — a platform that won him the White House by more than seven million votes," Reid laments. "The filibuster has become an anti-democratic weapon wielded by the minority to silence the will of the people."

Whether a Democratic bill is addressing climate change, voting rights or reproductive rights, Reid argues, the filibuster is getting in the way of Biden's agenda.

"Just as he did in President Obama's first term with nominations, Mitch McConnell and his fellow far-right Republicans are again making clear that they will stop at nothing to steamroll Democratic priorities — even when it means grinding the Senate's proceedings to a halt," Reid writes. "The sanctity of the Senate is not the filibuster. The sanctity of the Senate — in government as a whole — is the power it holds to better the lives of and protect the rights of the American people. We need to get the Senate working again. It's time Senate Democrats act with the urgency that this moment demands and abolish the filibuster once and for all."

Judge Upholds Coal Magnate’s Lawsuit Against Donald Trump Jr.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Although Donald Trump Jr. and former coal baron Don Blankenship have a lot in common — both are far-right bullies, both are extremists, and both are aggressive defenders of fossil fuels — there is a considerable amount of bad blood between the two of them. And in West Virginia, a 95-year-old federal judge has refused to throw out Blankenship's defamation lawsuit against Trump Jr., according to Law & Crime.

The lawsuit stems from comments that Trump Jr., the son of former President Donald Trump, made about Blankenship during West Virginia's 2018 U.S. Senate race, which found Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin being reelected.

The 71-year-old Blankenship is the former CEO of the coal company Massey Energy, and he served a year behind bars because of his role in a 2010 coal mining disaster. In his lawsuit, Blankenship argues Trump Jr. wrongly defamed him by describing him as a convicted "felon"; Blankenship was incarcerated because of a misdemeanor conviction, not a felony conviction.

In one of his anti-Blankenship tweets, Trump Jr. said of Manchin, "He's probably never run against a felon." That tweet, according to Law & Crime reporter Elura Nanos, appears to have been deleted.

U.S. District Court John T. Copenhaver, Jr., who was appointed by President Gerald Ford back in the mid-1970s and is now 95, ruled that Blankenship's lawsuit can move forward.

Copenhaver wrote, "Based on this article that Trump Jr. himself cites within his own quote tweet, there is a plausible inference that he had knowledge of the plaintiff's conviction history in association with the mine explosion, and in particular that the conviction was a misdemeanor, not a felony."

The bitter rivalry between Trump Jr. and Blankenship started in 2018, when Blankenship ran for the U.S. Senate in West Virginia and Trump Jr. — pointing out that Blankenship had been incarcerated — predicted that centrist Democrat Manchin would crush Blankenship in the general election if Blankenship received the GOP nomination. Although West Virginia Republicans rejected Blankenship in the primary as Trump Jr. hoped and Republican Patrick Morrisey won the nomination, Manchin won the general election. The centrist and relatively conservative Manchin, like Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, has often been a source of frustration among more progressive Democrats. But he is popular in West Virginia, a deep red state.

Blankenship, who left the Republican Party in 2018, is now a member of the right-wing Constitution Party — and in 2020's presidential election, he received the Constitution Party's nomination and ran against then-President Donald Trump, now-President Joe Biden, Libertarian Party nominee Jo Jorgensen, and Green Party nominee Howie Hawkins.

Senate Republicans Whining Over Biden’s ‘Two-Track’ Infrastructure Plan

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Senate Republicans are upset that President Joe Biden plans to enact other spending legislation after striking a deal with them on infrastructure.

The infrastructure deal calls for about $579 billion in new spending on transportation, water systems, power, and broadband infrastructure. It does not include most of the climate change, child care, and caregiving funding — described as "human infrastructure" — that Biden requested in his original $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan.

Democrats plan to enact some of these priorities separately — as well as the health care, paid leave, and educational investments from Biden's American Families Plan— through the budget reconciliation process, without any GOP support.

Biden, who ran on campaign promises to enact such legislation, said Thursday he plans to sign the packages together. While most bills — including the bipartisan infrastructure deal — require a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate, a loophole allows passage of some taxation and spending legislation to pass with a simple majority.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lamented soon after that Biden was "caving completely" to the "left-wing base" by doing both.

"Less than two hours after publicly commending our colleagues and endorsing the bipartisan agreement, the president took the extraordinary step of threatening to veto it," McConnell (R-KY) complained, referencing Biden's statement that he would not sign one bill without the other. "It was a tale of two press conferences — endorse the agreement in one breath and threaten to veto it in the next."

McConnell was not part of the bipartisan negotiations or the infrastructure deal that was eventually struck. His endorsed GOP negotiating team — led by West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito — was unable to reach an agreement previously after they offered only a fraction of the new spending Biden had requested.

Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) had similar complaints. "Democrat [sic] leaders, including the president, have undermined their own negotiators and the Republicans who've been negotiating in good faith," he tweeted. "They're holding bipartisanship hostage for partisanship."

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) suggested that the deal was really "no deal" because Biden also planned to enact a reconciliation package. And Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Politico he would oppose the infrastructure plan because Biden's decision to push other legislation separately somehow amounted to extortion.

"The Dems are being told you can't get your bipartisan work product passed unless you sign on to what the left wants, and I'm not playing that game," he said.

Biden, meanwhile, has been clear throughout the process that the infrastructure package is not his only priority and that this deal did not preclude a reconciliation package.

In initial remarks after meeting with the bipartisan group on Thursday morning, Biden told reporters "there is going to be a two-track system" for the two spending plans.

In an afternoon press conference, he noted that this had always been the plan.

"The bipartisan bill, from the very beginning, was understood there was going to have to be the second part of it," he said. "I'm not just signing the bipartisan bill and forgetting about the rest that I proposed. I proposed a significant piece of legislation in three parts. And all three parts are equally important."

"The question is: How much can we get done? And the bottom line is: When all is said and done, does what you agree to preclude, forever, you getting the things you really want?" he added. "Well, I'm not for that. I'm not going to vote for one of those deals."

As long as Democrats stay united, the GOP will have little power to stop those plans.

Democratic senators from across the political spectrum have indicated that they are on board with passing a major "human infrastructure" bill through the reconciliation process.

"I've come to the knowledge, basically, that budget reconciliation is for reconciling budgets. So it's money matters," West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a staunch holdout on many of Biden's more progressive-leaning policies, told NBC News, while endorsing such a package.

"I think we can, we can make that happen. It's going to be either both or nothing," Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders told reporters, noting that the reconciliation package must address "the needs of working families, climate change and progressive tax reform."

Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) concurred. "Ultimately there's two tracks, and both trains have to arrive at the station at the same time," he said, according to NBC News.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Infrastructure Deal Hinges On Additional Climate And Social Spending

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

UPDATE: President Joe Biden hosted the bipartisan Senate group at the White House to confirm the infrastructure deal on Thursday afternoon. "Neither side got everything they wanted in this deal," Biden said. "That's what it means to compromise, and it reflects something important, reflects consensus. The heart of democracy requires consensus." He also said the deal is "in tandem" with an additional bill funding clean energy and human infrastructure programs, to be passed solely by Democrats under budget reconciliation rules -- and that he won't sign one without the other.

A bipartisan group of 10 senators said it had reached a tentative deal with the White House on an infrastructure plan. But while their verbal agreement includes hundreds of billions of dollars in new investment in transportation and water infrastructure, several Democrats are saying they will only support it if it is paired with investments in omitted infrastructure priorities such as climate and caregiving.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) announced on Wednesday, "Republicans and Democrats have come together, along with the White House, and we've agreed on a framework and we're gonna be heading to the White House tomorrow."

"We have a framework and we are going to the White House tomorrow," said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA).

The group also includes Republicans Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Rob Portman (OH), as well as Democrats Joe Manchin (WV), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Jon Tester (MT), and Mark Warner (VA).

In a statement released by the White House, press secretary Jen Psaki said, "White House senior staff had two productive meetings today with the bipartisan group of Senators who have been negotiating about infrastructure. The group made progress towards an outline of a potential agreement, and the President has invited the group to come to the White House tomorrow to discuss this in person."

According to Axios, the plan would call for either $974 billion in infrastructure spending over the next five years or $1.2 trillion over the next eight. About $559 billion of that would be new spending, $20 billion less than was included in the group's earlier proposal.

The senators have not yet announced how it would be funded but claim it is fully paid for.

In March, Biden proposed the $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan, which would significantly boost investment in roads, bridges, water systems, clean energy, broadband, transit, climate, child care, and caregiving infrastructure. Congressional Republicans unanimously opposed the plan, with many complaining that only roads and bridges really count as infrastructure.

The bipartisan group's plan omits virtually all funding for clean energy, climate, child care, and caregiving infrastructure.

The package would require a three-fifths supermajority in the Senate and a majority in the House. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) suggested on Thursday evening that most Democrats have not yet signed off on the plan. "My sense is that deal right now has 20 votes, not 60 votes. We are going to have to take a deep dive into the agreement they have reached, and, you know, square it with the needs of our voters," he told CNN's Anderson Cooper.

Several of his colleagues have objected to the lack of clean energy and climate investment in the proposal and have said they will only agree to back it if enough Democrats agree to address caregiving and the environment in a separate package that could be passed through budget reconciliation without any GOP support.

Such a deal would likely also include investments in health care, paid leave, child care, pre-K programs, and other priorities included in Biden's original $1.9 trillion American Families Plan.

"We have made our position clear, that the possibility of a bipartisan deal depends on a commitment to move forward on reconciliation," Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) told Politico on Tuesday.

"One can't be done without the other," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters on Wednesday. "We can't get the bipartisan bill done unless we're sure of getting the budget reconciliation bill done. We can't get the budget reconciliation bill done unless we're sure to get the bipartisan — and I think our members, across the spectrum, realize that."

"No climate, no deal," vowed Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) on June 9.

The need for investment in both transportation and climate infrastructure was illustrated this week by major news stories across the country.

In Washington, D.C., a pedestrian bridge collapsed on Wednesday onto an interstate highway. Several people were injured.

On the West Coast, climate change has fueled massive heatwaves and drought.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

What Manchin Knows — And What Progressives Could Learn

The 2010 Senate candidate was almost a caricature of the sort of Republican who drives Democrats crazy. He bragged about his endorsement by the National Rifle Association, criticized "Obamacare" and dramatized his support for coal by picking up a rifle and blasting away at a bill aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

But the guy who turned those themes into a victory was not a Republican. He was a Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia. And he's somehow proven to be both the indispensable senator for President Joe Biden and a villain to many in his party.

You might think Democrats would be building shrines to the person who has kept them in control of the Senate. A Democrat has about as much business representing West Virginia — which Donald Trump won by a 39-point margin — as a vegan sandwich has on the Burger King menu.

Of course, Burger King does offer a vegan sandwich — the Impossible Burger. And it has succeeded much as Manchin has, by doing an excellent impersonation of something people like. Impossible Foods offers an appealing oxymoron — "meat made from plants," as it advertises.

Manchin does the same, compiling a center-right voting record from his desk on the liberal side of the chamber. An analysis by FiveThirtyEight found that during Trump's tenure, he sided with the administration 50.4 percent of the time. He scores low with both the American Conservative Union (27 percent) and the American Civil Liberties Union (23 percent). The website GovTrack grades Manchin as more conservative than two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

It's no wonder that liberals differ with him on many issues. But they have let his refusal to support reform of the filibuster or the Democratic election reform bill cloud their minds. Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) called Manchin "the new Mitch McConnell." Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) accused him of complicity in "voter suppression."

The attacks bring to mind what Biden recalls his own father saying: "Don't compare me to the Almighty; compare me to the alternative." It doesn't seem to occur to Bowman that if not for Manchin, the Senate would be under the control of the real Mitch McConnell, who would use a GOP majority to block Biden on almost every front. For Manchin to align himself with Ocasio-Cortez would produce a different type of voter suppression — of West Virginians willing to cast their ballots for him.

It's easy for politicians like these to fault Manchin for being insufficiently progressive, because they don't have to run for office in West Virginia. Bowman's district went for Biden by a 52-point margin; Ocasio-Cortez's by 45 points. They can lurch as far left as they want without fearing defeat at the polls.

A Democratic politician in West Virginia, however, has to carefully balance party priorities with political survival. That Manchin has been able to win statewide over and over is not an achievement; it's a miracle. He's been able to do it largely by consistently staying arms-length from the prevailing ideology of his party.

In that endeavor, his recent vilification by progressives is more likely to help him at home than to hurt him. It reinforces Manchin's priceless reputation as a different kind of Democrat.

But they have reason to be grateful to him. One reason is that he's not entirely averse to taking political risks on behalf of his party's agenda. The website FiveThirtyEight found he has voted with Biden 100 percent of the time so far.

Without Manchin, Biden would be unable to get many of his judicial nominees confirmed. Republicans would chair all Senate committees and determine the legislative calendar. The president would face a stone wall of GOP opposition. Today's Democratic frustration would give way to outright despair.

What the party needs is not fewer people like Manchin but more. The Democratic approach works well in presidential elections, but it has yet to produce lasting majorities in Congress — and it has been a dismal failure in state elections.

Manchin has demonstrated that it's possible for a Democrat to win in the reddest of states by selectively straying from liberal orthodoxy. If many others would follow his example, Democrats would have a stronger hand, which would make Manchin less of an impediment to their agenda.

Progressives who think they are at odds with him are really at odds with political reality. Manchin never forgets that, as Shakespeare wrote, there is no virtue like necessity.

Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Why Democrats Should Take Manchin’s Voting Rights Deal

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Sen. Joe Manchin's (D-WV) opposition to Democrats' push to expand voting rights has been a deep point of contention that has left the lawmaker on the outs with his political party. However, Democratic lawmakers may want to take a hard look at his latest counteroffer, according to election law scholar Richard Hasen.

In a piece published by Slate, Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, laid out the details of Manchin's counteroffer to the "For the People" bill, HR-1. The lawmaker's proposal addresses a number of the original bill's highest priorities where voting rights and campaign finance are concerned.

According to Hasen, Manchin's proposal includes "a requirement of 15 days of early voting in federal elections, automatic voter registration, limits on partisan gerrymandering, and improved campaign finance disclosure."

The lawmaker is also in agreement on "extending campaign finance provisions to communications on the internet and to currently non-disclosing 'dark money' groups, prohibiting false information about when, where, and how people vote, and an updated pre-clearance process."

While it is clear that the West Virginia Senator's proposal isn't exactly what Democratic lawmakers are advocating, Hasen suggests Democrats should at least consider the offer. He acknowledged that while many of the line items Democrats initially proposed are not included, most of those items are far less pressing.

Hasen explained why:

"Democrats should jump at the opportunity to pass such a bill, but it is also fair to acknowledge it is far from perfect, Many of the darlings in the For the People Act are not on Manchin's list, such as felon re-enfranchisement, public financing of congressional elections, restructuring the often-deadlocked Federal Election Commission, and limiting state voter purges. Not only would the Manchin proposal continue to allow states to engage in voter purges, it also will require some form of voter identification for voting in federal elections, though in a more relaxed form than some of the strict rules some states have enacted."

Hasen also noted that voter identification could actually prove to be beneficial if implemented in a fair manner. Moving forward with Manchin's proposal could also open the door for bipartisan discussions instead of the bill just dying in the Senate.

In Leaked Tape, Manchin Says What He Really Thinks About Filibuster

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

In a private call on Monday that was obtained by The Intercept, Joe Manchin (D-WV) talked to major political donors during a meeting organized by the group No Labels, which The Intercept describes as a big money operation co-founded by former Sen. Joe Lieberman "that funnels high-net-worth donor money to conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans."

Interestingly, Manchin seemed open to filibuster reform -- a private stance that contradicts his public one.

"The call included several billionaire investors and corporate executives, among them Louis Bacon, chief executive of Moore Capital Management; Kenneth D. Tuchman, founder of global outsourcing company TeleTech; and Howard Marks, the head of Oaktree Capital, one of the largest private equity firms in the country," write The Intercept's Lee Fang and Ryan Grim. "The Zoom participant log included a dial-in from Tudor Investment Corporation, the hedge fund founded by billionaire Paul Tudor Jones. Also present was a roster of heavy-hitting political influencers, including Republican consultant Ron Christie and Lieberman, who serves as a representative of No Labels and now advises corporate interests."

Manchin told the meeting's attendees that he needed help getting Republicans to vote in favor of a January 6 commission in order to strip the "far left" of their best argument against the filibuster.

With regard to Missouri GOP Sen. Roy Blunt, Manchin said, "Roy Blunt is a great, just a good friend of mine, a great guy."

"Roy is retiring. If some of you all who might be working with Roy in his next life could tell him, that'd be nice and it'd help our country," Manchin continued. "That would be very good to get him to change his vote. And we're going to have another vote on this thing. That'll give me one more shot at it."

Read the full report over at The Intercept.

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.