The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: marsha blackburn

Senate Republicans Shield Super-Rich Tax Cheats — And Democrats Are Silent

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Senate Republicans are dead set on making sure that the rich people who they've been helping to avoid pay their taxes continue to have the privilege of cheating the rest of us. It would appear that the Democrats participating in the sham called bipartisan infrastructure negotiations are okay with that. According to Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, the group is "looking at alternative pay-fors to IRS tax enforcement."

Again, this is about letting the wealthy off the hook for the taxes they already owe. It's not about new taxes. It's not about raising anyone's taxes. It's about continuing to allow the super-rich to cheat the rest of us, who do pay our tax bills every year.

Republicans have been raising holy hell over the idea that President Joe Biden wants to strengthen the IRS enough so that it can go after the really big tax cheats, the ones robbing the nation of hundreds of billions of dollars, instead of the working poor peoplewho are easier to audit, the ones who can't afford lawyers to intervene. Fully funding the IRS and clawing those owed tax dollars out of the hands of people who can damned well afford to pay has been included as one of the ways that the bipartisan group has said they'll pay for their almost $600 billion proposal for hard infrastructure.

That, apparently, is out and apparently Democrats in the bipartisan group are accepting that fact. Even though it's the likes of extremist Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and Marsha Blackburn who are raising hell—extremists who were never going to vote for an infrastructure plan that helps President Joe Biden in the first place. Senate aides working with the group confirmed to The Washington Post that "it is likely to be removed from the deal."

That means that the fire sale of existing infrastructure to the highest hedge fund bidders, who would then be in a position to make the public pay for its use all over again, could still be in. Because they have to figure out how pay for it somehow anyway. Or at least they say they do, which they really don't because borrowing money is still cheaper than dirt. As of earlier this month, White House aides were telling Democrats in phone conversations that was not an option, but we haven't seen a high-level, public denunciation of that idea.

Republicans aren't just having hissy fits over the IRS making them and their buddies pay all their taxes, however; they're outraged that Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wants them to finish their work. A short exhibit of their varied tantrums:

Never mind that they've supposedly been working on this since April, when Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), who is so concerned that there just isn't enough time, started negotiating with Biden. They announced this supposed bipartisan agreement more than three weeks ago. She added that she thought Schumer's scheduling the vote was an attempt "to put pressure on the group to either put up or shut up."

Well ... yes. And about time, too. Because seriously, they've been at this forever. Now, we all know Republicans are awfully rusty when it comes to doing actual work (like writing bills), but there's a bunch of Democrats who could be doing all of that hard part. So what in the hell have they been doing all these weeks, that they can't be ready by next Wednesday?

They've been wasting time, is what they've been doing, hoping to draw this process out and have it die from neglect. And Democrats have been letting them get away with it because "bipartisanship." Now that the $3.5 trillion budget resolution train is getting loaded up, yes, this group needs to put up or shut up. And pay their damned taxes.

Senate Republicans Attack Biden Nominee For Voting Rights Advocacy

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Senate Republicans on Wednesday came out against President Joe Biden's nominee for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, criticizing her support for voting rights and advocacy against the type of voter suppression tactics Republican lawmakers across the country have sought to implement.

The senators said during a Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Myrna Pérez that she would not be able to rule impartially on voting rights issues if she were seated on the court.

Pérez is currently on leave from her role as the director of the Brennan Center for Justice's Voting Rights and Elections Project, where she analyzed and criticized voter suppression laws that have been passed by GOP-controlled state legislatures in the wake of Donald Trump's loss of the 2020 presidential election.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) took issue with Pérez's advocacy against voter suppression laws.

"You have waged litigation campaigns and opposed voter ID laws, you have opposed voter integrity laws, you have opposed prohibitions on ballot harvesting, you have advocated for felons being able to vote," Cruz said, calling her a "radical activist."

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) said she didn't believe Pérez could be neutral, tweeting, "Myrna Pérez is too busy being an activist to concentrate on being a second circuit judge," Blackburn tweeted, sharing a video of her questioning of Pérez.

Pérez responded, "In the great genius of our Constitution, people play different roles," according to the Hill newspaper. "Advocates zealously argue on behalf of their clients in as many forms as they can. I have had the privilege and pleasure of doing that."

Democrats and voting rights groups responded to the Judiciary Committee Republicans as well.

"Sen. Ted Cruz claims that Myrna Pérez is a 'radical' activist because of her advocacy for the right to vote. Guaranteeing access to the polls is anything but radical, and we need judges with civil rights experience like Pérez on our courts," the Alliance for Justice tweeted, urging Pérez's confirmation.

The NAACP's Legal Defense Fund also tweeted support for Pérez, writing, "Federal judges play vital roles in preserving constitutional democracy. It's critical that judges have a demonstrated commitment to fairness and the rule of law. Myrna Pérez has dedicated her career to strengthening and protecting voting rights and our democracy."

Senate Democrats are taking advantage of their slim majority in the chamber to prioritize the confirmation of Biden's judicial nominees.

The pace at which they are confirming his court picks is faster than any president in the last 50 years, according to a report by CBS affiliate WUSA9 in Washington, D.C. To date, seven of Biden's judicial nominees have been confirmed, more than the two judges Trump had confirmed at this same point in his term.

Republicans have yet to block one of Biden's judicial nominees — who have been far more diverse than Trump's picks.

If Pérez is confirmed, she'll be the only Latina to serve on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, and the first since then-Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed to a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

GOP Senator Objects To FBI Mobilization Against Violent Extremism

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) on Monday criticized the FBI for requesting the public's help in combating violent extremism.

Blackburn appeared on the conservative Newsmax TV network's National Report program and was asked by host Emma Rechenberg for her reaction to what she called "a quite controversial tweet" posted on the official FBI Twitter account that read, "Family members and peers are often best positioned to witness signs of mobilization to violence. Help prevent homegrown violent extremism."

The agency is currently in the middle of a massive investigation of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump. Over 500 people have been arrested so far.

Rechenberg said people fear the tweet is calling for "reporting people who might have different views from your own, not necessarily extremist one[s]."

After accusing the FBI without evidence of spying on Donald Trump's presidential campaign, Blackburn told Rechenberg:

Tennesseans are very upset with what they see as a double standard with how the FBI and other federal agencies move forward. But bear in mind, they were there collecting information or surveilling the Trump campaign. And for them to put this out, encourage people to do this — I have some questions about it and many others have questions about it. Of course, everyone wants to do their part to keep out nation safe and to keep our communities safe. But to put this out and to encourage people to begin to snitch on their family members if they have a difference of opinion is something that is a little bit over the top.

Despite what Rechenberg and Blackburn say, the FBI's tweet did not call opinions or political disagreements criteria for reporting concerns about violent extremism. The document linked in the tweet never mentions the word "opinion."

Republicans in Congress have attacked efforts to combat violent extremism, voting in both the House and the Senate against authorizing congressional investigations of the riot at the Capitol.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Republicans Oppose More IRS Audits Of Super-Rich Tax Evaders

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

A provision in the bipartisan Senate infrastructure bill announced on June 24 would provide for investing more money in enforcement of laws targeting top earners who evade payment of taxes. Republican senators are furious.

Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the third-ranking member of the minority party leadership, told Axios on Wednesday that "spending $40 billion to super-size the IRS is very concerning." "Law-abiding Americans deserve better from their government than an army of bureaucrats snooping through their bank statements," he said.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn warned of "a huge potential for abuse": "Bigger government results in more waste, fraud, and abuse."

"Throwing billions more taxpayer dollars at the IRS will only hurt Americans struggling to recover after waves of devastating lockdowns," said Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. "Instead of increasing funding for the IRS, we should abolish the damn place."

Even South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who backed the bipartisan framework, complained, "There's some people on our side who don't like empowering the IRS; I don't mind empowering the IRS if it's a reasonable thing to do. But I mean, how much uncollected taxes can you gather with $40 billion?"

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley tweeted on May 17, this year's Tax Day, "Im all for catching tax cheats +closing tax gap BUT Biden plan 2pump more $ into IRS & expand bank reporting is ripe for overreach + imposes more burdens on small biz/family farms."

Earlier in the year, Biden introduced the American Jobs Plan, a $2.25 trillion transportation, climate, water, broadband, child care, and caregiving infrastructure package, and the American Families Plan, a $1.8 trillion package investment in paid leave, free preschool and community college, and affordable health care. He proposed funding the plans by raising tax rates on corporations and those earning $400,000 or more and by spending $80 million more to enforce existing tax laws.

Republicans unanimously opposed the plans, drawing what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called a "red line" against any tax increases for wealthy Americans or businesses.

Instead, a group of 10 Republican and Democratic senators agreed on a plan to boost enforcement by half of Biden's initial request to help fund $567 billion in new transportation, broadband, and water system infrastructure spending. They proposed that the rest of the funding would come from sources that would include petroleum sales, wireless spectrum auctions, and unused 2020 relief funds.

The White House says $40 billion in spending to improve tax law enforcement would more than pay for itself, bringing in $140 billion. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says it would bring in $103 billion over a decade. All of this is money already owed to the government under existing tax law.

"There's just a ton of money out there that we're not collecting," former IRS Commissioner Charles Rossotti told the Washington Post on Friday. "Why don't we collect some of that before we raise taxes on the people that are already paying?"

In recent years, the IRS has had to cut back on enforcing the law due to massive budget reductions. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, between 2010 and 2018, the budget for enforcement dropped 24%, the number of enforcement personnel drop 31%, and the audit rate for millionaires dropped 61%.

"The steep decline in audits for high-income individuals stemming from IRS underfunding means that low- and moderate-income households claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) are now audited at roughly the same rate as the top 1 percent of filers," Chye-Ching Huang — then the senior director of economic policy with the Center — told the House Ways and Means Committee in February 2020.

An April report by the Center for American Progress noted that while recent official estimates suggest the United States loses about $600 billion a year in unpaid revenue "on April 13, 2021, IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig told Congress that he believes the United States is losing much more revenue—possibly $1 trillion or more every year."

Seth Hanlon, one of the report's authors, told The American Independent Foundation in May that smarter IRS enforcement would mean more compliance for the richest Americans — but fewer audits for everyone else.

"The whole point is it will let the IRS target audits in a smarter way, so honest people are gonna be less likely to be audited. People earning under $400,000 — as long as they're tax compliant — are gonna be less likely to be audited. The audit rate for those earning under $400,000 won't go up," he said.

Polling show strong popular support for making sure richer Americans pay their fair share. An April Monmouth University poll found 65% support for funding Biden's spending proposals with increased revenue from those making more than $400,000, compared to 33% opposition.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Koch Networks Using Dark Money To Kill Voting Rights Bills

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Earlier this year, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives took a stand against voter suppression when they passed House Resolution 1, a.k.a. the For the People Act — a comprehensive voting rights/election reform bill that now faces an uphill climb in the U.S. Senate under the rules of the filibuster, which requires 60 or more votes for most legislation. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and many other Senate Republicans are vehemently opposed to HR 1, and according to the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, "dark money" from "the Koch network" is helping to fuel that opposition.

In an article published on May 28, CREW's Meghan Faulkner and Miru Osuga explain, "There's a whole lot of dark money behind the opponents of democracy reform. The Koch network alone has spent tens of millions backing many of the senators who are opposing the For the People Act, which would overhaul campaign finance rules and enforcement and make it harder for dark money groups, like those in the Koch network, to secretly influence our elections."

Faulkner and Osuga note how much "the Koch network" has spent "backing" GOP opponents of the For the People Act, including $5.6 million spent on Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, $1.3 million on Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, $4.9 million on Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, $4.3 million on Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, $5.7 million on Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and $4.3 million on Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

"All told," Faulkner and Osuga note, "groups associated with the Koch network have spent over $100 million boosting the campaigns of current Republican senators, none of whom are supportive of comprehensive campaign finance reform. That total doesn't even include millions of dollars in additional dark money spending from these groups that was never reported to the Federal Election Commission."

KochPAC is a political action committee funded by employees of Koch Industries and their allies. Billionaire oligarch Charles Koch, the 85-year-old brother of the late David Koch, has been a major supporter of right-wing causes.

According to CREW, one of the things that troubles "the Koch network" is how "popular" the proposals of the For the People Act are. The bill comes at a time when Republicans in state legislatures all over the United States are aggressively pushing voter suppression bills.

"The Koch network and other dark money groups know exactly how popular this democracy reform is and how much it threatens the broken campaign finance system they depend on," Faulkner and Osuga stress. "That's why they're doing their best to defeat it quietly in Congress, aided by the senators whose campaigns they've boosted with millions of dollars of secret money."

Congressional Republicans Frustrated As Biden Rides Strong Approval Ratings

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Congressional Republicans have repeatedly tried to claim that President Joe Biden is already a failure, just a few months into his presidency. But a new poll shows the American public is not buying it.

"It took less than 5 months for President Biden and Speaker Pelosi's Socialist Democratic Agenda to fail," New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, the new chair of the House Republican Conference, tweeted on Tuesday. "Unemployment is up, inflation is rising, & our economy is crippled by unnecessary spending."

Unemployment is actually down since Donald Trump left office in January and the economy is growing.

But that has not stopped numerous Republicans from making similar attacks on Biden.

Tennessee Rep. David Kustoff tweeted Thursday that Biden's "policies are failing the American people. We need a President who will open up our economy and get people back to work."

Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene claimed Friday — incorrectly — that "Biden is failing so fast that his own voters are ready to vote for Trump in '24," apparently unaware of Biden's strong approval ratings.

Some GOP lawmakers have specifically singled out his immigration policies for ridicule.

"The border policies of the Biden Administration are a complete failure and are leading to a massive increase in illegal immigration – with no end in sight," Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina charged on May 11.

Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn on May 6 claimed a drop in deportations was "a failure of leadership."

Others have attacked Biden's handling of jobs and the economy.

"The Dems' 'COVID' recovery plan to pay people MORE on unemployment assistance than they made in their previous job is killing small businesses," wrote Rep. Jodey Arrington of Texas on April 26. "This socialist policy was doomed to fail."

"In just four months, Biden has created four crises," claimed Alabama Rep. Barry Moore, citing the "Biden Border Crisis, Economic Crisis, Energy Crisis, National Security Crisis," as alleged examples. "This administration is failing the American people."

But the repetition of the claim does not appear to have swayed the public.

A new Harvard CAPS/Harris poll, released Monday, found 62 percent job approval for Biden.

His handling of immigration (53 percent approval), the economy (62 percent), stimulating jobs (62 percent) and curbing the pandemic (70 percent) also enjoy broad approval.

This comes as unemployment claims have dropped to pandemic lows and most American adults are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Still, despite the strong public support for Biden, Republicans are fighting against his agenda. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on May 5 that ""One-hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration."

And Republicans reportedly are pulling back from infrastructure talks, upset that Biden wants to spend $1.5 trillion more than they do. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) told Politico on Tuesday that Republicans won't come up to "anywhere near the number the White House has proposed" for the American Jobs Plan.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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.

Senators Voted Big Tax Cuts For Rich But Attack Relief Bill

Several Republican senators who voted "no" on the new bipartisan COVID relief bill passed by Congress on Monday took to Twitter to complain that the bill was too expensive — despite a record of supporting 2017's monumental tax break for billionaires.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) tweeted Tuesday that he voted against COVID relief, calling the bill "wasteful".

"I supported and fought for many of the COVID provisions in last night's bill," he wrote on the platform. "Unfortunately, they were attached to an omnibus spending bill that was thousands of pages long and chock full of handouts to special interests and wasteful spending. I couldn't support it."

Read Now Show less