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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.

Democrats Must Begin Jan. 6 Investigation -- Now

Framing his diplomatic visit to Europe within a broader historical mission, President Joe Biden rightly warns us that authoritarians are eager for democracy to fail. He knows very well that democracy's enemies are active here as well as abroad. Now, he and the leadership of his party must act to fully expose the most overt assault on our system of self-government since the Nixon era.

Congressional Democrats should move swiftly, with Biden's support, to establish a select committee to investigate the January 6 insurrection.

Like many Americans, including Democrats, Republicans, and independents, the president previously expressed his preference for an independent bipartisan commission, empowered by Congressional legislation, to conduct that investigation. But that path was closed last month when Senate Republicans killed the January 6 commission bill that had already passed the House. They did so at the bidding of Donald Trump, the principal investigative target, and of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who articulated one of their more absurd arguments against the commission.

"I think we will know everything we need to know. We were all witnesses," he said. "We were right there when it happened and I simply think the commission is not necessary." When a shattering crime occurs and a major witness then insists that an investigation is "not necessary," suspicion immediately arises concerning that person's consciousness of guilt.

The devious McConnell has aimed to prevent or discredit an investigation of January 6 not because we "know everything we need to know," but because he's scared to death of what we will learn — about the former president and other members of their party. On Trump's orders, the minority leader instructed his caucus to vote down the commission, despite its perfectly bipartisan composition, its pre-midterm deadline and a host of other features demanded by House Republicans.

Of course, this isn't the first time that Republicans have tried to evade scrutiny of a national catastrophe for which they were culpable. The bill establishing a commission to investigate January 6 was modeled on the 9/11 Commission — but that probe itself was nearly killed by aides to President George W. Bush, who feared that he would be blamed for failing to curtail the al-Qaida plot.

Then-Vice President Dick Cheney made a threatening phone call in the spring of 2002 to Senator Tom Daschle, the Democratic majority leader, warning that any investigation of 9/11 would be seen as a partisan maneuver and a hindrance to the "war on terror." Cheney's intervention is ironic in hindsight since his daughter Liz is among the handful of Republicans who urge a thorough investigation of the Capitol insurrection.

Congress ignored Cheney's whining; Bush reluctantly signed the enabling legislation; and the 9/11 Commission discharged its duties honorably, issuing a report that escaped the "partisan" taint. Now, however, the Republicans have only themselves to blame for shutting down the option of an independent commission on which they would have shared equal authority with Democrats.

Instead, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can and should create a select committee to investigate the events of January 6. With the House Republicans behaving as if nothing untoward happened that day, the select committee ought to operate with a Democratic majority and a tough chair who will dismiss obstruction and distraction from the minority. And unlike the commission that Republicans stupidly killed, it would have the power to issue subpoenas without their consent.

No doubt some Democrats in Congress, as well as the White House, fear that any investigation of January 6 will suffer from accusations of partisanship. In a moment of comical hypocrisy, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy — who boasted about the partisan gains achieved by the Benghazi select committee in 2015 — has already leveled that charge against the bipartisan commission. Republicans are never more indignant than when they're faking it.

But who cares what McCarthy thinks anyway? What will matter in this investigation is an orderly, comprehensive, and undaunted finding of facts. It is indeed possible that such an investigation will benefit Democrats in the midterm elections and beyond. That's why Republicans want to stop it at all costs.

Too bad for them. Unearthing the truth about a violent assault on our Constitutional procedures — nothing less than an attempted coup d'etat — is a fundamental duty of Congress that cannot be evaded. Tempted by authoritarianism, the Republicans have chosen to dishonor their oath and cover up a crime against our country. There must be consequences for that, or we will forfeit our democratic heritage, perhaps forever.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Trump For House Speaker Is A Bannon Brainstorm

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Following former President Donald Trump's June 4 remark that the idea of becoming speaker of the House after the 2022 midterm election is "very interesting" to him, political media has been abuzz with speculation. The idea has been making rounds in right-wing spheres in various iterations since January, when it was first championed by former White House chief strategist, election conspiracy-theorist-in-chief, and enchanted pile of dirty laundry Steve Bannon.

On January 21, conservative influencer Rogan O'Handley, who goes by "DC Draino" online, appeared on Bannon's show War Room: Pandemic to discuss his tweet, in which he had proposed that "Trump run for Congress in Florida in '22" and become speaker of the House, after which he can "impeach Kamala" -- a remark that suggests Biden would not be president in 2023.


During the show, Bannon effusively praised O'Handley's idea. He said the possibility of Trump, the only former president to incite an insurrection, becoming speaker in 2023 means "we don't have to wait until 2024 to have a presidential election. This nationalizes the midterm elections" and "gives a unifying message" for Trump's base to rally around.

Bannon also correctly noted that Trump could be elected speaker without being a member of Congress, and he endorsed focusing on winning "the House of Representatives, [which is] what thwarted Donald J. Trump" in his last two years in office. O'Handley implored Trump to not "let them end your presidency by what they did to you, get revenge plus take back the country." (Just over a month after this appearance, O'Handley was permanently banned from Twitter for "repeated violations of its civic integrity policy.")

In February, Bannon floated the idea in remarks he gave to the Boston area West Roxbury Ward 20 Republican Committee. According to the Boston Herald, Bannon said Trump's base will "totally get rid of" House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in the midterms "and the first act of President Trump as speaker will be to impeach Joe Biden for his illegitimate activities of stealing the presidency."

In April, right-wing publication the Washington Examiner ran a piece with the headline "Buzz: Trump for speaker and Pence unlikely to head Heritage." The opinion piece cited former CNN commentator Ed Martin, who said, "I'm serious. We need the Trump voters. … With the possibility of having Donald Trump as speaker, conservative voter turnout would be through the roof nationwide."

Trump's June 4 remarks to his friend and conspiracy theorist Wayne Allyn Root calling the idea "very interesting" thrust the simmering rumor back into the spotlight. On June 5, Fox contributor Jason Chaffetz noted on Fox & Friends Weekend that "you don't need to be a member of Congress to be elected the speaker of the House," saying Trump becoming the speaker "would make for great TV."

On the morning of June 7, Fox Business' Stuart Varney asked Trump about a potential run in 2022, to which Trump said it was "highly unlikely" he would seek a seat in the House of Representatives.

Still, Bannon remains bullish on the idea. The same day as Trump's comment to Varney, Bannon appeared on right-wing radio personality John Fredericks' show and said, "Donald Trump will take over, at least on an interim basis, as speaker of the House to take the gavel from Nancy Pelosi and then to gavel in the impeachment panel to impeach Joe Biden." He credited O'Handley for originating the idea and said, "I helped take it to the next level. He wanted him to run for Congress. You do not have to be a member of Congress to be speaker."

Steve Bannon Predicts Trump will Become U.S. House Speaker in 2023 www.youtube.com

Not everyone in Trump's orbit is in line with Bannon's latest scheme. For his part, dirty trickster Roger Stone, who has despised Bannon for years, said in a video posted online on June 6, "So, sloppy Steve Bannon thinks that former President Trump should run for the House of Representatives, become speaker, and lead the impeachment of Joe Biden. Here's the problem with this plan: What happens if Trump himself is elected to Congress, but the feckless, gutless, weak-kneed Republicans fail to take a majority?"

Pelosi: ‘Democrats Will Proceed To Find The Truth’ About Insurrection

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Senate Republicans filibustered a bipartisan independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, with 35 Republicans able to vote down 48 Democrats and six Republicans to block the investigation from going forward (11 senators did not vote). So now Democrats turn to Plan B, most likely a select committee.

"Honoring our responsibility to the Congress in which we serve and the Country which we love, Democrats will proceed to find the truth," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday, following the Senate vote. She didn't say the words "select committee," but in the past she has suggested as much, saying last week, as the House voted on the commission, "I certainly could call for hearings in the House, with a Majority of the Members being Democrats, with full subpoena power, with the agenda being determined by the Democrats. But that's not the path we have chosen to go." At the time, she said "I don't want to" have the investigation run through a House committee controlled by Democrats, but "It's a question of if they don't want to do this, we will."

They (Republicans) didn't want to do this (establish an independent commission), so the ball is in Pelosi's court.

Democrats made huge concessions on the shape of an independent commission in an effort to win Republican votes, and got 35 House Republicans in addition to those six senators. They won't have to make so many concessions on a select committee, but Republicans will fight the entire time to have it be seen as a partisan witch hunt, no matter how far Democrats bend over backward to be fair.

The thing is, if Republicans didn't like the way an independent commission was going, they would have fought the entire time to have it be seen as a partisan witch hunt, even after appointing half of its members. That's how they operate. So Democrats shouldn't feel all that constrained by what Republicans are going to say, and should always, always answer any questions from reporters about perceived partisanship by beginning with, "Well, Republicans refused to allow a bipartisan independent investigation, so we went forward with the only option they left us." And then they can get to the specifics of the question, if they so choose.

But Democrats must—they must—press forward and find out as much as possible about how the attack on the Capitol unfolded, from the earliest planning stages to the days immediately leading up to it to the attack itself to the aftermath and any cover-up attempts. That means getting to the bottom of failures to gather and respond to intelligence about what the crowd of Trump supporters was planning, how the Capitol Police were so unprepared, and why the National Guard was delayed. It includes what Donald Trump was doing during the attack. It includes what Trump told House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who has been so opposed to an investigatory commission. It includes which extremist groups were involved, and how, and how far-reaching their conspiracies were.

These questions are just the beginning of what must be answered. We saw people beating down the windows and doors of the U.S. Capitol to stop Congress from certifying an election. They were explicitly trying to disrupt the peaceful transition of power. They carried Confederate flags through the seat of the U.S. government, seriously wounded and even killed police officers trying to protect the Congress, chanted about their desire to hang the vice president, broke into the speaker of the House's office, left congressional staffers and indeed members of Congress deeply traumatized. This isn't something that can be allowed to be brushed off, as convenient as that might be for Republicans.

We. Need. To. Know. And we need the media to report the facts, not Republican accusations that Democrats are being unfair, when Republicans and Republicans alone are responsible for the fact that there is no independent commission.

"Democrats will proceed to find the truth," Pelosi said. Great. Proceed with all due haste, please.