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Why Senate Republicans Have A Raging DeSantis Problem

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

The politics of Florida's raging COVID-19 outbreak under the bankrupt stewardship of GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis are proving to be particularly challenging for Senate Republicans.

Not only has DeSantis become the poster boy for dooming his constituents in service of political gain, but the southern swing state is also home to a dissonant mix of political interests as next year's midterms approach.

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Spooked By Negative Polls, Republican Politicians Now Push Vaccination

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Vaccinated Americans are pretty damn upset about the lagging vaccination rates—mainly among white GOP voters—that have led to a nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases, particularly in red states.

Now Senate Republicans want Americans to know who to blame for the low vaccination rates of GOP voters: Democrats.

In case you missed it, Republicans are now pro-vaccine, and the sudden surge of the Delta variant is all President Joe Biden's fault. At least, that's the bridge Senate Republicans and some GOP governors are selling.

Before we go any further, let's be clear about what the GOP's latest gaslighting effort represents: an all-hands-on-deck clean-up on aisle COVID-19.

"When it comes to COVID, there should only be one message to the American people and that should be: Vaccines work," Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming told reporters Tuesday in the ultimate Johnny-come-lately of pandemic statements. Barrasso then went on to accuse the White House and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) of "medical malpractice" for having chaotic messages on masking, lockdowns, and other coronavirus mitigation efforts. Never mind the fact that the red-state surge is what has landed the country back in masking territory.

Now that Republicans have driven the country back into a COVID-19 ditch, they're planting the keys on President Joe Biden. Indeed, anti-masker and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is pinning the Sunshine State's deadly outbreak on Biden's border policies. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is suddenly a huge promoter of "VACCINATIONS!" And Minority Leader Mitch McConnell—who's 'perplexed' by the vaccine hesitancy mostly coursing through red America—is now funding radio ads urging residents of Kentucky to get vaccinated. Just eight of the state's more than 120 counties have reported vaccination rates above 50 percent, according to recent CDC data.

Here's one thing we can all be assured of: Mitch McConnell doesn't lavish campaign funds on public health for the sake of public health. His campaign expenditure is a sure sign that Republicans—particularly those in swing states and swing districts—don't like what they are seeing in the polling.

In fact, a newly released Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index is offering a window into the motivations behind the GOP's latest blame-shifting campaign. Of the roughly 70 percent of vaccinated Americans, nearly eight in 10 blame unvaccinated Americans for the latest wave of infections. Beyond faulting the unvaccinated, 36 percent of those who are vaccinated blame Donald Trump, 33 percent blame conservative media, and 30 percent blame people from other countries traveling to the United States. In other words, the vaccinated among us overwhelmingly blame Republicans, Trump, and right-wing media for erasing the gains made by the Biden administration's speedy vaccination program. That's exactly why Republicans are so desperate to recast Biden as responsible for the delta uptick.

Congressional Democrats are reportedly seeing something similar in their own polling, according to Washington Post's Greg Sargent. Internal polling by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has shown that "56 percent of likely voters in four dozen battleground districts have serious doubts about Republicans after hearing that they are spreading lies about vaccines to further conspiracy theories." The DCCC is now pushing its candidates to emphasize Republican disinformation on both the vaccine and the January 6 insurrection at their campaign events. In fact, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been offering a master class in how to highlight the radicalization of the Republican Party.

The vaccine message is also a natural for Democrats since the public widely trusts Democrats over Republicans on health care issues. The fact that Republicans are now trying flip public perception of GOP extremism on a public health issue is also telling—they simply cannot afford to chart a new course on the Jan. 6 insurrection, since many of their voters now support the terrorist siege and most adamantly believe the election was stolen from Trump.

But Republicans will have to stage a massive cover-up in order to retroactively recast themselves as part of the solution on taming COVID-19 spread. Rewriting history would be a cinch among Trump cultists and avid Fox News watchers. But the people Republicans need to convince of their rationality are actually rational people—those who still believe in facts and science and might be willing to vote Republican if the party wasn't overrun by extremists.

That's going to be a much tougher sell after congressional Republicans led the charge in sowing doubt and confusion about the vaccines. Republicans comparing the White House vaccination campaign to tactics used by the Nazis wasn't exactly helpful. Neither was Republicans smearing localized vaccination campaigns as "door-to-door" spying. Some Republicans hyped the idea that President Biden's vaccination effort was really a ploy to raid people's homes for their Bibles and guns.

As of mid-May, 100 percent of congressional Democrats reported being vaccinated while a meager 45 percent of House Republicans said they had gotten the shot. And last week, House Republicans spent much of the week railing against mask mandates in the lower chamber—even as their own caucus poses a primary threat to the health of everyone else in the Capitol.

Whatever whopper congressional Republicans and GOP governors are trying to sell now, they carried the mantle on hamstringing Biden's extraordinary vaccination push. Based on the polling, vaccinated Americans seem to both know that and resent it.

Republicans Stirring Up Ugly Smears -- And Lethal Hatred -- Against Fauci

Days after thousands of emails from Dr. Anthony Fauci became public through a series of FOIA requests, Republicans are using portions of those emails—out of context—to ramp up attacks on the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Those emails are being conflated with a series of media-hyped articles about the origins of COVID-19, and the result is a genuinely toxic stew that is being used by Republicans ranging from Josh Hawley to Donald Trump Jr. as a way to stir up hate and rake in cash.

For those not neck deep in OAN, Newsmax, or Fox News, it may be hard to fathom just how much those channels have become a 24/7 assault on the 80-year-old doctor, or how hard they have been pushing the "lab escape" theory as "proof" that the NIAID director is somehow responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. All of these outlets are in heavy rotation with the idea that COVID-19 originated in a Wuhan lab, operated by a friend of Dr. Fauci, that Fauci helped China in covering up that origin, and that this somehow absolves Donald Trump of all responsibility in 900,000 American deaths.

And that's the lightweight version. The version being pushed by multiple "guests" and "experts" appearing on these programs is that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was deliberately engineered to infect people as part of a program that Fauci—and President Barack Obama—approved of and funded. The baseless accusations are so ugly that, even as Republicans like Hawley demand that Dr. Fauci be fired, others, like Trump Jr., are already chuckling over the idea that Dr. Fauci could be murdered.

On Friday evening, Trump Jr. showed that he isn't just expecting Dr. Fauci to be killed by the rabid Trump supporters being pushed to believe that a man who has lived his life in service to both medicine and the nation is some kind of monster. No, Junior is ready to celebrate that murder. In an Instagram post, Trump Jr. posted an image saying "I'm just going to jump ahead on this, and said I don't think Fauci killed himself." Those words were pasted over a smiling image of the odious and sadistic slave owner Calvin Candie from the film Django Unchained.

Sen. Rand Paul started the latest edition of the smear train on Thursday when he issued a fundraising pitch insisting that Fauci "must go" and claiming that Fauci—who was forced to correct Paul over and over in Senate hearings—was "continuously and deliberately misleading the public at every turn." He provided no examples, but insisted that someone must "fire Fauci!"

On Friday, Sen. Hawley explicitly tied together vague claims about Fauci's emails, with equally vague claims about COVID-19. "Anthony Fauci's recently released emails and investigative reporting about COVID-19 origins are shocking." Exactly what in Fauci's emails Hawley found upsetting, he didn't say. But he did call for Fauci to resign, as well as "a congressional investigation" into claims that Fauci somehow covered up the pandemic's origins.

Also on Friday, Donald Trump issued a statement saying that "After seeing the emails, our Country is fortunate I didn't do what Dr. Fauci wanted me to do."

What this means is anyone's guess, but by Saturday morning Sen. Marco Rubio figured he had his marching orders, so he piled on, calling for Biden to remove Dr. Fauci. And again, Rubio's claim went directly back to the idea that Fauci "dismissed the idea that the virus could have come from a lab."

Fauci never made such a dismissal. And the "lab escape" origin of COVID-19 certainly isn't proven. But it has been getting constant fluffing from a series of articles and constant right-wing coverage, all of which features the implication that "Trump was right" about "the China virus."

The Daily Mail that Trump intends to make things even worse Saturday evening, when he makes his first appearance as a private citizen at a North Carolina rally. He's planning to make attacking Dr. Fauci the center of his tirade,

On Friday, President Biden spoke up in support of Dr. Fauci, responding to a question by saying, "Yes, I'm very confident in Dr. Fauci."

But the assault on Anthony Fauci is unrelenting and the level of ugliness demonstrated by the Trump, Jr. message is only getting worse. If Republicans have learned anything from Jan. 6, it's apparently that they really can (and do) inspire and direct deadly hate.


Republicans Warn That Opposing Racism Is A ‘Communist’ Plot

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) claimed on Tuesday that advocating for dismantling systemic racism is propaganda in service to the Communist Party of China.

On Tuesday afternoon, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan wrote, "On the anniversary of George Floyd's murder, we reflect on the fact that dismantling systemic racism is also a national security priority. The fight for racial justice at home and abroad is foundational to our future & to how the world sees us."

"This tweet is approved by the Communist Party of China," Cotton tweeted in response just minutes later.

Republicans in Congress largely ignored the anniversary of George Floyd's murder. But they have been more vocal about the supposed communist threat of anti-racist policy and education.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Wednesday argued that "social justice" is "often code for social Marxism." Rep. Matt Gaetz said just days ago that "the real threat to our nation is the Marxism and Critical Race Theory that they [the Biden administration] embraces." And Rep. Mo Brooks wrote earlier in May that "Marxism stokes division by fanning the flames of class, race, and gender resentment."

Cotton has repeatedly lashed out at efforts to address systemic racism in America.

In February, he characterized efforts by the Biden administration to address racism as "anti-American" and racist itself.

A month later, Cotton said that acknowledging the existence of racial bias in the country was "slander" against America.

Other Republicans have similarly attacked the concept of systemic racism.

Thirty Republicans in the House banded together this month to push legislation that would prevent the government from addressing racism. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), has argued that "systemic socialism" is more of a "real" problem than racism.

International rivals of the United States have tried to exploit the racial animosity in the country to their own advantage. Citing campaigns by the Russian and Chinese governments to highlight and exploit America's racial divisions, the Center for a Just Security recently noted, "America's competitors view its social division, history of racism, and domestic anti-democratic movements as a vulnerability for the country."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

‘I Haven’t Even Read It’: GOP Senators Clueless On Jan 6 Commission Bill They Oppose

This week the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill by a vote of 252-175 to establish a commission on the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol Building. Rep. John Katko of New York, a conservative Republican, played a key role in crafting the bill, which was approved by all House Democrats and 35 Republicans.

But the bill now faces an uphill climb in the U.S. Senate, where Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has come out against it. And journalist Haley Byrd Wilt, in The Dispatch, reports that most Senate Republicans appear to be joining McConnell in that opposition.

Because of the rules of the filibuster, the bill will need at least 60 "yes" votes. Democrats have a majority in the Senate, but it's a narrow one. The bill needs ten or more Republican votes to become law.

Abolishing the filibuster would make it easier to get the bill through the Senate. But while Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the Senate's most conservative Democrat, is in favor of a January 6 commission, he is opposed to ending the filibuster.

As Wilt explains: "Most Senate Republicans are opposed to the House's proposed independent commission to look into the January 6 attack on the Capitol and the events leading up to it. They're just not exactly sure why."

She argued that nearly all of the arguments Republicans brought up in opposition to the committee are based on misperceptions about what the legislation actually entails:

The legislation the Senate will soon consider was negotiated by the top Democrat and top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee. It's miles apart from Pelosi's first proposal. It follows closely in the footsteps of the 9/11 commission. Members would be limited to those who are not currently serving in government. The panel would be evenly divided and Democrats wouldn't be able to do much of anything without Republican support. The GOP appointees would have equal say in where the probe goes and who gets subpoenaed. These were the two main demands from Republicans, and Democrats agreed to them. It also has a December 31, 2021 deadline for a final report—ensuring it wouldn't drop in the thick of the 2022 midterm elections.
Rep. Don Bacon, one of the 35 House Republicans who bucked GOP leadership to support the commission, summarized it like this: He voted for the bill, he said, because Democrats "basically gave us what we wanted."

Ironically, some of the Republicans say they just want congressional committees to take the lead in investigating the events — even though those committees are much more unilaterally controlled by Democrats than the commission would be.

But mostly, based on the comments to The Dispatch, the Republicans in opposition just seem uninformed and uninterested in the details.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R_FL) told The Dispatch, "If you're going to turn a commission into a political partisan weapon — you know, use it to subpoena people to embarrass them, use it to want to make allegations that might prove useful in the 2022 elections — you're actually contributing to the problem. My general feeling is that if we can have a serious examination of the events leading up to, occurring, and in the aftermath of that day, we should do it."

Rubio also admitted of the legislation: "I haven't even read it," even though, as Wilt explained, it has been available since Friday, it could be easily outlined within minutes by a staffer, and has been the subject of debate for months.

Others didn't seem to get the point or the details of the legislation, either, even though previously many Republicans had endorsed the idea of the commission. The truth seems to be just that they don't want the evens to be a focus of public attention because they make the Republican Party look by. They're not interested in addressing the danger posed to American democracy.

Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma told The Dispatch he won't support a bill if its purpose is to "just to go after President Trump." And Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota told The Dispatch that he hasn't ruled out the possibility of voting for the bill, but he didn't sound enthusiastic about it either.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins told The Dispatch she plans to discuss the details of the bill with Democrats but said, "The concept of a commission is a good one and would help answer some unanswered questions as well as give us some lessons learned."

According to Wilt, "There's not much that could change the minds of most GOP senators [about the bill]…. Democrats would need to win over at least 10 Senate Republicans to pass the commission into law. With unified opposition from Republican leaders on Capitol Hill and Trump threatening 'consequences' for those who break with the party line, that's looking unlikely."

Top Republicans In Denial Over Biden Relief Plan’s Immense Popularity

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Congressional Democrats passed the overwhelmingly popular $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan last week without a single Republican vote. Now the GOP minorities in the House and the Senate are having a hard time accepting their defeat.

The legislation, signed into law on Thursday by President Joe Biden, will provide a $1400 relief check and more than $3000 in tax cuts for the average American; expanded unemployment benefits; more than $125 billion to help schools return to in-person instruction; $350 billion for state and local governments; and tens of billions of dollars for coronavirus testing and vaccination.

According to a Morning Consult/Politico poll last week, 75 percent of all registered voters back the massive pandemic relief package, while just 18 percent oppose it. Among Republicans, 59 percent support the legislation and 35 percent do not.

Economists say the law will significantly boost the economy and massively reduce poverty, especially among children. On Sunday, Goldman Sachs boosted its prediction of growth in gross domestic product in the United States for 2021 to eight percent, specifically citing "the latest fiscal policy news" for its bullish expectations.

After unanimously opposing the popular relief plan, Republicans are now reacting in different — and sometimes contradictory — ways to their defeat.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell angrily blamed the American people's stupidity for the enormous popularity of the legislation on Thursday.

"I'm not surprised that the American public's initial reaction to this, before they know what's in it, would be positive," the Kentucky Republican told PBS. "I mean, the thought of many Americans getting a $1400 check, why would they not like that?"

"I understand why the American people's initial response to this is positive. What they do not know is how much of the bill has nothing to do with the pandemic. Less than one percent of it deals with vaccinations. Only about nine percent of it deals with health care," he inaccurately claimed.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio appeared to be in denial about the law's popularity on Saturday, dismissing the polls as "a joke."

"Public polls are only as accurate as the people doing them, the methodology they use and all that stuff," Rubio told The Hill "There's a lot of, a trillion dollars of non-COVID stuff. When people find out about that, they're going to be outraged."

A CNN poll last week showed 85 percent of American adults back the tax credit provisions in the law, 77 percent support the school funding, and 59 percent support the funds for state and local governments.

McConnell also denied that the legislation will stimulate the economy, telling reporters on Wednesday, "The economy's coming back. People are getting vaccine. We're on the way out of this. We're about to have a boom. And if we do have a boom, it will have absolutely nothing to do with this $1.9 trillion."

The No. 3 Republican in the Senate as GOP conference chair, Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, lamented on Sunday the enactment of what he called "what is now known as the most progressive bill in the history of the United States, according to the White House."

"We are not gonna stand with the Democrats as they try to exploit a crisis to send lots of money to big cities and to blue states and to really failed pension plans. This is not supposed to be a bailout, it's supposed to be about helping get the disease behind us," he told ABC News.

Florida Sen. Rick Scott, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, attempted to bargain with the American people, trying to convince them to oppose the legislation. He reportedly told his GOP colleagues last week that they would run ads to weaponize portions of the legislation against Democrats who voted for it.

"The $2 trillion stimulus package that President Biden signed into law today is a historic waste of money that not only puts our economy at risk of inflation but also reflects the increasingly liberal priorities of today's Democrat Party," Scott said in a Thursday press release announcing attack ads against Sens. Mark Kelly of Arizona and Raphael Warnock of Georgia.

At least one GOP lawmaker has accepted the legislation's popularity and tried to claim credit for provisions in it — despite having voted against the package.

Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker tweeted last week that he was proud that the law included a $28.6 billion provision, sponsored by him and Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, to assist restaurants hurt by the pandemic.

Florida Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar on Saturday also came under fire for taking credit for the Biden administration's actions to defer disaster loan repayments. Critics said her claims about a "bipartisan COVID relief bill" misleadingly suggested she had backed the popular $1.9 trillion plan.

A NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released Thursday found that while 41 percent of Americans approve of the job the Democratic majorities in Congress are doing, just 28 percent approve of the GOP minority.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Ivanka Won’t Run Against Sen.  Rubio In 2022 Election

WASHINGTON — After months of speculation, West Miami's U.S. senator won't need to worry about a Republican primary from a future Indian Creek resident. Sen. Marco Rubio's office said Thursday that Ivanka Trump — the daughter of former President Donald Trump and a former White House adviser — has no plans to run against Rubio in the 2022 election. “Marco spoke with Ivanka a few weeks ago, and she offered her support," said Rubio spokesperson Nick Iacovella. A source close to Ivanka Trump confirmed that a meeting recently took place between the two. Ivanka Trump's decision not to run against one...

Republican Senators Joke About Trump’s Deadly Incitement To Rioters

Reprinted with permission American Independent

On the second day of Donald Trump's impeachment trial in the Senate, House managers presented evidence to support the charge of incitement to insurrection on which Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives on January 13.

Republican lawmakers are treating the proceedings as a joke, ignoring the evidence of the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 by Trump supporters that left five dead and deriding the entire thing as a "political stunt."

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) on Wednesday tweeted a video of herself walking toward the Senate chamber for the second day of the trial.

"Day two of the impeachment," she says with a smile. "I'm getting ready to head the floor. What we're going to hear today is the House managers are going to lay out their claims about impeachment and against the president, and we hear that they have produced a Hollywood-type movie for us to see."

Blackburn also tweeted, "The Democrats spoke of unity, but their actions have proven otherwise. This impeachment is a political stunt that will only further divide our nation."

The deadly attack by Trump supporters on January 6 killed five, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, and injured 140 police officers, some seriously. Two police officers have died by suicide in the wake of the attack.

During the attack, rioters chanted, "Hang Mike Pence!" and evidence has suggested that some intended to take hostages.

In his opening statement Tuesday, House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) said that failing to hold Trump accountable for inciting the riot could lead to further violence:

President Trump has sent his lawyers here today to try to stop the Senate from hearing the facts of this case. They want to call the trial over before any evidence is even introduced. Their argument is that if you commit an impeachable offense in your last few weeks in office, you do it with constitutional impunity. You get away with it. In other words, conduct that would be a high crime and misdemeanor in your first year as president and your second year as president and your third year as president and for the vast majority of your fourth year as president, you can suddenly do in your last few weeks in office without facing any constitutional accountability at all. This would create a brand new January exception to the Constitution of the United States of America. A January exception.
And everyone can see immediately why this is so dangerous. It's an invitation to the President to take his best shot at anything he may want to do on his way out the door, including using violent means to lock that door, to hang onto the Oval Office at all costs, and to block the peaceful transfer of power. In other words, the January exception is an invitation to our founders' worst nightmare. And if we buy this radical argument that President Trump's lawyers advance, we risk allowing January 6th to become our future.

"We're one day in to the stupidest week in the Senate," tweeted Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota. He criticized President Joe Biden for somehow failing to stop the trial in another post: "Disappointing. @POTUS went from calling for unity to letting Democrats' partisan impeachment charade continue."

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was one of several Republicans calling impeachment a waste of time that could be dedicated to other work, tweeting, "Democrats want a week of political theater raging at Donald Trump instead of focusing on reopening schools or getting millions of Americans back to work."

Florida's Sen. Marco Rubio also complained Tuesday that the trial was "a waste of our time."

During the gripping 13-minute video Democrats played on the first day of the trial, Rubio and several other Republican senators, including his fellow Floridian Rick Scott and Arkansas' Tom Cotton, would not even watch. Kentucky's Rand Paul reportedly doodled his way through the trial on a pad in his lap.

In an example of how a government can do several things at once, despite Cruz's concern, the Biden administration intends to release new guidance for reopening schools from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week, and the American Rescue Plan proposed by Biden to provide economic relief for those suffering during the coronavirus pandemic has been projected to get the economy back on track as early as the end of the year.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.