The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

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

Tag: mitt romney

Republicans Blast ‘Embarrassing’ And ‘Stupid’ RNC Censure Resolution

Senate Republicans have finally located their problem, and it's the Republican National Committee. After the RNC last week endorsed the January 6 insurrection as "legitimate political discourse," many congressional Republicans are pretending like the national Republican Party bears no relationship to them.

"I'm not a member of the RNC," Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas said Sunday when asked whether GOP Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois deserved to be censured by the RNC for participating in the January 6 probe. Within the text of that censure resolution, the RNC endorsed the violent January 6 assault that resulted in death and destruction as "legitimate political discourse."

"It could not have been a more inappropriate message," said Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, the uncle of RNC chair Ronna McDaniel. Romney said he had texted with McDaniel after passage of the resolution and described her to CNN as a "wonderful person and doing her very best." But as for the resolution, Romney added, "Anything that my party does that comes across as being stupid is not going to help us."

Stupid is apt—but let's not limit the moniker to McDaniel and the national party alone. Republicans, eyeing an election cycle that should absolutely favor them based on historical trends, had the chance to bury Donald Trump last year during his second impeachment trial and leave much of his political baggage in the rearview mirror. Instead, they breathed new life into him, and now they're pretending like the RNC is solely responsible for his drag on the party.

The RNC censure resolution came at the end of a week that was kicked off by Trump dangling pardons for Jan. 6 convicts during a Texas rally the weekend before. Trump then called on Congress to investigate his former vice president, Mike Pence, for failing to unilaterally "overturn" a free and fair 2020 election.

But the RNC's endorsement of the January 6 violence was just the latest in a years-long parade of Republican efforts to appease and coddle Trump. He has continually demanded absolute fealty from Republicans every step of the way, and they have acquiesced time and time again. With its censure resolution, the RNC was once again mollifying Trump by pursuing his political vendetta against Reps. Cheney and Kinzinger, both of whom voted to impeach him for inciting the January 6 attack.

Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina, also one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, told CNN the House GOP caucus avoided the topic of the censure altogether in its conference meeting Tuesday, suggesting the whole episode was just too cringy to touch.

“It was pretty damn embarrassing,” Rice said.

But Senate Republicans are especially prickly on the matter, particularly those who had a chance to impeach Trump for inciting the attack on the U.S. government and explicitly declined to take it.

"It's just not a constructive move, when you're trying to win elections and take on Democrats, to take on Republicans," said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, as if no one could have imagined Trump would inspire internecine mayhem when he voted to let him off the hook for January 6.

Asked whether McDaniel should step aside, Thune pretended the RNC had nothing whatsoever to do with congressional Republicans. "Oh, I don't know. Ultimately, it will be up to the RNC," he said of McDaniel's fate.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina rolled out the same talking point Senate Republicans have been parroting every time Trump pulls them into some new controversy—2022 is all about the future for Republicans, folks.

"I think all of us up here want to talk about forward and not backward," Graham said. "We want to talk about why we should be in charge of the House and the Senate, and when you're not talking about that, that takes you in the wrong direction."

And by talking about why Republicans should be in charge, Graham means deliberately not releasing a 2022 agenda so voters will have exactly no idea what Republicans plan to do if they retake control of the upper chamber.

The frustration among most Republicans was palpable.

"I think the RNC should be focused on electing Republicans," said Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri.

Even House Republicans, led by Trump hack Kevin McCarthy, sought to distance themselves from the RNC's unforced error.

Asked about the RNC resolution, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise told CNN, "My focus has been on what we need to do to take back the House."

The House GOP campaign chief, Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, added, "We're focused on winning the majority next fall."

It wasn't exactly a full-throated stand for American democracy, but hey, Republicans want control of Congress so they can end this scurrilous investigation into the worst homegrown attack on the Capitol in U.S. history.

"We ought to capture the January 6 committee and convert it to our purposes: pursuing the extent to which federal involvement might have animated violence," Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, floating a totally unsubstantiated right-wing conspiracy theory.

To be fair, some Republicans did join the RNC in defending the insurrectionists.

"There's no doubt that there were tens of thousands of people engaged in peaceful free speech that the press and Democrats try to demonize falsely," said Sen. Ted Cruz, who voted against certification.

Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, who also voted to throw out the election, called the January 6 panel "illegitimate," presumably while pumping his fist.

"They're not following their own rules. And I think, frankly, it's, it harkens back to the House Committee on un-American affairs," said Hawley, engaging the "un-American" topic on which Republicans have become bonafide experts.

Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, firmly ensconced in his bubble, couldn't dig out of his conspiracy rabbit hole long enough to take note of the RNC aligning itself with January 6 terrorists.

"I did not pay any attention to that," said Johnson, who's up for reelection this year.

But Johnson was upstaged by House GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who coughed up an entirely fictional explanation of the RNC's resolution.

“What they were talking about is the six RNC members who Jan 6th has subpoenaed, who weren't even here, who were in Florida that day," McCarthy said—something that was never even mentioned in the censure resolution.

Romney And McConnell Whine Over Proposal To Tax Billionaires

Democrats in Congress are proposing a new tax on American billionaires as part of President Joe Biden's Build Back Better jobs package.

Originally, Democrats had proposed a plan that would have raised taxes on corporations and individuals earning $400,000 or more.

Read Now Show less

Domestic Terror Threats Have ‘Exploded’ Since 2020

FBI Director Chris Wray told members of Congress on Tuesday that the number of domestic terror cases in the United States has "exploded" over the past year and a half, confirming many suspicions surrounding the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

On Tuesday, Wray told members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that the FBI's domestic terrorism caseload has "more than doubled" since the spring of 2020, "from about 1,000 to around 2,700 investigations."

Read Now Show less

GOP Senators Torpedo Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal They Endorsed

Reprinted with permission from American independent

Senate Republicans used the filibuster rule on Wednesday to block consideration of a bipartisan infrastructure deal — weeks after several of them endorsed the $579 billion package.

Every member of the Democratic Senate majority backed beginning consideration of H.R. 3684, a procedural step needed to debate and pass the bipartisan framework, but because Senate rules require a three-fifths supermajority for this type of legislation, the Republican minority was able to block it.

President Joe Biden proposed a $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan in March, asking Congress to improve the nation's transportation, water systems, broadband, clean energy, climate change, and caregiving infrastructure.

On June 16, after lengthy negotiations, a bipartisan group of senators agreedon a deal, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, to invest $579 billion in "core infrastructure" programs only, including transportation, broadband, and water systems.

Republican Sens. Richard Burr (NC), Bill Cassidy (LA), Susan Collins (ME), Lindsey Graham (SC), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Rob Portman (OH), Mitt Romney (UT), Mike Rounds (SD), Thom Tillis (NC), and Todd Young (IN) all signed onto a joint statement with 10 members of the Democratic majority, affirming their support for the deal.

"We support this bipartisan framework that provides an historic investment in our nation's core infrastructure needs without raising taxes," the statement read. "We look forward to working with our Republican and Democratic colleagues to develop legislation based on this framework to address America's critical infrastructure challenges."

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) endorsed the plan later that day.

On June 24, Biden signed on to the bipartisan plan and has been urging its passage since.

"We should be united on one thing: passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, which we shook hands on," he said on Monday. "We shook hands on it."

But not long after the agreement, some Republicans began to have second thoughts.

Some objected to acknowledgements by Biden and Democratic leaders in Congress that they would later try to pass some of their other priorities — including the omitted climate change, child care, and caregiving "human infrastructure" provisions — through a separate budget reconciliation process, without any GOP support. Graham complained that this plan amounted to extortion.

They then abandoned one of the key provisions that financed the bipartisan agreement: a crackdown on wealthy tax dodgers who are not currently paying their fair share. Portman said Sunday that they had dropped the provision due to "pushback" from Republican senators who did not want to give more money to the understaffed Internal Revenue Service to enforce the tax code.

Again, Graham protested the deal he'd backed, telling Axios on June 30, "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?"

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer moved to bring up the framework on Wednesday as a way to speed up the bill writing process. "I understand that both sides are working very hard to turn the bipartisan infrastructure framework into final legislation, and they will continue to have more time to debate, amend and perfect the bill once the Senate votes to take up this crucial issue," the New York Democrat explained to colleagues on Monday. "But they have been working on this bipartisan framework for more than a month already, and it's time to begin the debate."

Republicans said they were not ready to move forward.

Senate Republican Whip John Thune — who memorably ran for his seat in 2004 by lambasting the Democratic incumbent for using his position "to slow down, to obstruct, to stop" then-President George W. Bush's agenda — opposed even beginning debate on the bipartisan infrastructure framework. "I can't say we will have every Republican, but he [Schumer] is not going to get 60," he vowed Monday.

On Wednesday, all of the 11 Republican backers who supported the bipartisan deal previously — along with the rest of the Republican minority — voted against debate on the matter.

Schumer voted "no" as well, for procedural reasons.

"At the end of the vote, I changed my response [from a yes] to a no so that I may move to reconsider this vote at a future time," the majority leader explained, moments after the vote failed, 49 to 51.

Due to Schumer's last-second maneuver, the Senate is still able to reconsider the vote in the future. Alternately, the Democratic majority could simply add the provisions to a budget reconciliation package and pass it with a simple majority, if they can remain united.

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.

Romney’s ‘Deal’ Would Tax Working Families, Not Corporations

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

A new infrastructure plan being pushed by Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and a bipartisan group of senators would not increase corporate taxes at all. Instead, it would raise taxes on every American who buys gasoline — running afoul of the president's promise not to raise taxes on working families.

The group of 10 senators said Thursday they had agreed on a blueprint for $579 billion in new spending on transportation and broadband infrastructure. It would reportedly not include any immediate tax increases but would index the gas tax to inflation, meaning consumers would likely pay more each year.

Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rob Portman (R-OH), Romney, Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Mark Warner (D-VA) called their plan a "realistic, compromise framework to modernize our nation's infrastructure and energy technologies" in a joint statement.

This plan is a bit more new spending than was offered by a GOP-only group — led by West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito — which failed to reach an agreement after lengthy negotiations with President Joe Biden.

After initially proposing just $189 billion in new investment above the existing baseline spending (adjusted for inflation), her group would go no higher than $330 billion.

But this proposal is still way less than Biden requested in his American Jobs Plan. He initially proposed $2.25 trillion in new spending on transportation, water systems, broadband, caregiving, child care, climate, and clean energy infrastructure, funded by increased taxes on corporations. Biden's package enjoys widespread popular support, with 68% of American adults backing it in a late April Monmouth University poll.

In late May, Biden offered to bring the total down to $1.7 trillion. Still, not a single congressional Republican has indicated support.

Biden ran on a campaign promise not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 annually. GOP lawmakers, who oppose raising taxes on the rich and businesses, have instead urged an increased gasoline tax.

But the White House has reportedly objected to this idea, noting that it would raise little new revenue and would violate Biden's promise.

Most Americans back the idea of funding infrastructure investments with more corporate taxes. The same April Monmouth University poll found 64 percent for the idea.

Even Rep. Don Young (R-AK), the longest-tenured member of Congress, included a four percent increase in the corporate tax rate in his own infrastructure proposal on Thursday.

Because many people who make under $400,000 a year drive cars, the gas tax increase would put much of the burden on lower- and middle-income Americans.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who caucuses with the Democrats and chairs the Budget Committee, opposed the idea last month.

"Unbelievable but true: The same Republicans who voted for trillions in tax breaks for the top 1% and large corporations," he tweeted on May 15, "now want to increase taxes on working families through user fees, more toll roads and higher gas taxes while cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid."

Even the right-wing Americans for Prosperity has been critical of indexing the gas tax to inflation.

Michael Lambert, a policy analyst for the dark money group, wrote in the Hill last year that such a proposal is "a tax hike on workers and families" and that "raising the already regressive gas tax would disproportionately hurt those who can least afford it."

Unlike Biden's proposal, the senators' counterproposal would do little to address the climate change crisis. Last week, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached its highest monthly average in recorded history — a huge threat to the climate.

Some Democratic senators are pushing back.

"No climate, no deal," warned Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts on Wednesday.

Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse complained on Monday that "Climate has fallen out of the infrastructure discussion, as it took its bipartisanship detour. It may not return."

On Thursday, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon — chair of the Senate Finance Committee — told MSNBC that because the Romney group's proposal includes "nothing on climate change" and no corporate tax increase, it is "a complete nonstarter" and the White House "won't accept it."

He said it is time for Democrats to pass Biden's plan through budget reconciliation, a budget process that would let the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate enact a plan without a single GOP vote — if they stay united.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Senate Republicans Block Vote On Bipartisan Jan. 6 Commission

A total of 44 Republicans on Friday stopped the Senate from even considering a bipartisan proposal on creating an independent commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The bill had passed the House last week with 35 Republican votes.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer offered a cloture motion on Friday to take up the proposal, which would have established an evenly divided bipartisan panel to look into the deadly attempt to overturn the 2020 election. But due to the Senate's filibuster rules, doing so required a 60-vote supermajority, and the Republican minority was able to block it.

35 of the 50 Senate Republicans voted against the cloture motion. Another nine simply skipped the vote, which had the same effect as voting no.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Mitt Romney (R-UT) said earlier this week that they'd back the bill. Susan Collins (R-ME) said she would demand some changes, but would vote to at least allow debate to begin.

They and Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Ben Sasse (R-NE) joined all the Democrats present in voting to proceed. Two Democrats missed the vote.

Last week, 35 House Republicans voted for the bipartisan commission plan. It was almost identical to a January proposal offered by 31 GOP representatives and modeled on the panel created in 2002 to investigate the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

House Democrats had initially proposed an investigative panel with a Democratic majority to study this year's attack. After Republicans demanded bipartisan parity, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy enlisted New York Rep. John Katko, the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Homeland Security, to reach a compromise with Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the committee chair.

Even though Katko and McCarthy (R-CA) got nearly everything they asked for — an equal number of Democratic and Republican appointees on the 10-member commission and bipartisan agreement required for any subpoenas to be issued — McCarthy refused to support it.

Donald Trump, who was impeached in the House for inciting the January 6 insurrection but acquitted when just seven Senate Republicans voted to convict him, demanded last Tuesday that congressional Republicans "not approve the Democrat trap of the January 6 Commission."

Soon after, the Senate GOP began to speak out against having any commission at all.

On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans would block the bill because there was little left to learn about the riots. "I do not believe the additional, extraneous commission that Democratic leaders want would uncover crucial new facts, or promote healing," he said in a floor speech. "Frankly, I do not believe it is even designed to do that."

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) blasted his GOP colleagues Thursday for their opposition, writing in a statement, "There is no excuse for any Republican to vote against this commission since Democrats have agreed to everything they asked for."

"Mitch McConnell has made this his political position, thinking it will help his 2022 elections," the conservative Democrat observed. "They do not believe the truth will set you free, so they continue to live in fear."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

The Growing Republican Threat To Our Democracy

The American system of government has been around for 232 years, and it has survived wars, depressions, social upheavals and pandemics. But we should not bet that it will survive much longer. The proliferating signs of rot suggest the end may be near.

The election of 1800, in which Thomas Jefferson defeated incumbent John Adams, was perhaps the most important in our history, being the first to involve a transfer of power from one political party to another. It established that both winners and losers would respect the outcome of elections.

"I have this morning witnessed one of the most interesting scenes a free people can ever witness," marveled a woman who attended Jefferson's inauguration. "The changes of administration, which in every government and in every age have most generally been epochs of confusion, villainy and bloodshed, in this our happy country take place without any species of distraction or disorder."

That marvel can no longer be taken for granted. The results of the 2020 election have been furiously resisted by the losing candidate and his supporters. Months later, the contest remains at issue among a significant faction of the electorate.

Some members of that faction took part in the violent invasion of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, intent on preventing the Senate from certifying the results of an election that had been certified in all 50 states.

They attacked Capitol Police with flagpoles, fire extinguishers, stolen police shields, and bear spray. They used illegal means trying to stop Joe Biden from becoming president.

Their rationale was that Biden won only through massive fraud. You can deduce this is nonsense from the fact that Republicans made gains in the U.S. House and in state legislatures. If Democrats stole the presidential election, why didn't they bother to steal the others? Donald Trump's lawyers filed more than 60 lawsuits pressing this claim and lost nearly every one.

Many of his political allies have not only promoted the fraud fantasy but shrugged off the attempted coup. House Republicans voted overwhelmingly against creating a bipartisan commission to investigate what happened. They purged Rep. Liz Cheney from her leadership for daring to speak the truth on the election and the insurrection.

The campaign of falsehoods has worked with a lot of Americans. One poll found that only 23 percent of Republican voters believe that Biden legitimately won. Another found that a majority of them blame the Capitol riot on Democrats, antifa, or the Capitol Police.

What is especially ominous, though, is what this conduct implies for the 2024 election. A lopsided majority of House Republicans voted against certifying the results in Arizona and Pennsylvania. If Republicans gain a majority in the House in 2022 — as past off-year elections suggest they will — they could refuse to certify the results from states won by the Democratic presidential nominee.

In that case, neither candidate would have a majority in the Electoral College, and the election would go to the House, with each state delegation getting one vote. Republicans already dominate in more than half the state delegations — giving them the power to install a president rejected by the electorate.

All this may sound paranoid. But consider the many ways Trump and his supporters have tried to reverse his defeat. Trump called the Georgia secretary of state and pushed him to "find 11,780 votes." He called the speaker of the Pennsylvania House urging him to invalidate Biden's victory there.

He summoned Michigan Republican legislators to the White House in hopes of overturning the state's vote for Biden — prompting Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, to say, "It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American President." Yet the vast majority of elected Republicans have stuck with Trump.

The GOP-controlled Arizona state Senate ordered an audit of votes in Maricopa County — an audit deemed illegitimate by the county recorder, a Republican. Trump allies are pursuing an audit of mail-in ballots in Fulton County, Georgia, though every vote in the state has already been tallied in three separate counts.

The effect of this sustained effort to delegitimize Biden's presidency is to undermine trust in our elections and thus justify efforts to use any weapon to ensure a Republican victory in 2024.

In 2017, The Washington Post adopted the somewhat self-important motto, "Democracy Dies in Darkness." But if American democracy dies, it will be in the clear light of day.

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.