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Tag: senate republicans

As America Mourns Gun Victims, Republicans Block Domestic T​​error Bill

Washington (AFP) - Republicans in the US Senate prevented action Thursday on a bill to address domestic terrorism in the wake of a racist massacre at a grocery store in upstate New York.

Democrats had been expecting defeat but were seeking to use the procedural vote to highlight Republican opposition to tougher gun control measures following a second massacre at a Texas elementary school on Tuesday.

There was no suggestion of any racial motive on the part of the gunman who shot dead 19 children and two adults at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

But the shock of the bloodshed, less than two weeks after the May 14 murders in Buffalo, New York, has catapulted America's gun violence crisis back to the top of the agenda in Washington.

"The bill is so important, because the mass shooting in Buffalo was an act of domestic terrorism. We need to call it what it is: domestic terrorism," Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer said ahead of the vote.

The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act would have created units inside the FBI and Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to combat domestic terror threats, with a focus on white supremacy.

A task force that includes Pentagon officials would also have been launched "to combat white supremacist infiltration of the uniformed services and federal law enforcement."

Schumer had urged Republicans Wednesday to allow the chamber to start debate on the bill, offering to accommodate Republican provisions to "harden" schools in the wake of the Texas murders.

Just ahead of the vote, Schumer said he had wept while studying pictures of the young victims, calling the state's pro-gun governor, Greg Abbott, "an absolute fraud."

Abbott has made efforts to loosen gun restrictions in Texas, including signing into law a measure last year authorizing residents to carry handguns without licenses or training.

The domestic terrorism bill's 207 co-sponsors included three moderate Republicans in the House.

But there was not enough support in the evenly split 100-member Senate to overcome the Republican filibuster -- the 60-vote threshold required to allow debate to go forward.

Republicans say there are already laws on the books targeting white supremacists and other domestic terrorists, and have accused Democrats of politicizing the Buffalo massacre, in which 10 Black people died.

They have also argued that the legislation could be abused to go after political opponents of the party in power.

Democrats are looking for Republicans to support a separate gun control bill, and said Wednesday they would work over the coming days to see if they could find common ground with enough opposition senators to circumvent a filibuster.

"Make no mistake about it, if these negotiations do not bear fruit in a short period of time, the Senate will vote on gun safety legislation," Schumer said

McConnell: Senate Will Vote Wednesday On $40 Billion Ukraine Aid Package

(Reuters) -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Sunday that he expects the Senate to vote on Wednesday to approve about $40 billion in proposed aid to help Ukraine resist Russia's invasion, after holding a related procedural vote on Monday.

"We expect to invoke cloture -- hopefully by a significant margin -- on the motion to proceed on Monday, which would set us up to approve the supplemental on Wednesday," McConnell told reporters on a conference call from Stockholm after visiting the Ukrainian capital on Saturday. He was referring to a procedural "cloture" vote that caps further debate on a matter at 30 hours.

President Joe Biden requested $33 billion in aid for Ukraine on April 28, including over $20 billion in military assistance. The U.S. House of Representatives boosted the sum to roughly $40 billion, adding more military and humanitarian aid.

Speaking from the capital of Sweden, which along with Finland plans to seek membership in NATO, McConnell voiced strong support for both countries joining the 30-member Western military alliance created to deter Soviet aggression.

"They have very capable militaries, both of them," McConnell said. "They will be important additions to NATO if they choose to join, and I think the United States ought to be first in line to ratify the treaty for both these countries to join."

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed in St.Paul, Minnesota, and Doina Chiacu in Washington; editing by Matthew Lewis and Jonathan Oatis)

Senate Republicans Insist They Won't Ban Abortion, Despite McConnell Gaffe

For decades, Republicans have assailed pro-abortion Supreme Court rulings — for instance, 1973’s Roe v. Wade and 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey, among others -- but with the end of Roe reportedly imminent, conservative Congressional representatives are quickly dialing back their anti-abortion rhetoric, fearing public reaction could cost them in the midterms.

Despite secretly meeting with leading anti-abortion activists to brainstorm plans for a federal ban on abortions nationwide, GOP lawmakers were quick to dismiss Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s weekend suggestion that the party could soon turn its sights to enacting a total abortion ban.

"I don't think it's really an appropriate topic for Congress to be passing a national law on," said Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), according to CNN.

Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), a religious rightist, echoed Cornyn, telling Newsweek, "No, I don't support a federal ban on abortion after Roe vs. Wade, if it's overturned in the first instance."

Hawley added, "I think it would be better for states to debate this, allow it to breathe and for Congress to act where there's national consensus."

Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), the third-ranking Senate Republican, noted that the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion suggested that states should regulate abortion. "I want to see the states have that opportunity and the authority to do so," Barrasso said when asked for his thoughts on a potential federal abortion ban.

Republicans in Congress are trying to keep focus trained on inflation, crime, and border security, as recent polls show that most Americans oppose national legislation to ban abortion. So they want to talk about almost anything else.

“You need — it seems to me, excuse the lecture — to concentrate on what the news is today,” McConnell himself said last Tuesday. “Not a leaked draft but the fact that the draft was leaked.”

Last week, in an interview with USA Today, McConnell promised that Republicans, if they win back the Senate, won’t scrap the filibuster for a total abortion ban by a simple majority vote.

"If the leaked opinion became the final opinion, legislative bodies — not only at the state level but at the federal level — certainly could legislate in that area," the minority leader told the paper. "And if this were the final decision, that was the point that it should be resolved one way or another in the legislative process. So yeah, it's possible."

However, McConnell dodged questions from CNN on whether he’d bring an abortion bill to the floor of a Republican-controlled Senate.

Democrats immediately decried McConnell’s abortion ban suggestion, and GOP lawmakers, sensing a rapidly spreading wave of public outrage at attempts to overturn abortion rights, have expressed little interest in it or noted that there wouldn’t be enough votes to enact such a ban.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) played down the notion his party would have the votes for a total national abortion ban. "It's about as possible as this vote we will take on Wednesday," Graham told CNN, referring to an upcoming Democratic effort to codify in federal law .

"Let's see what happens. I'm not going to get into what-ifs," Senator Shelley Moore Capito said, declining an opportunity to weigh in on the matter.

Senator John Thune (R-SD) declared his support for an abortion ban with exceptions, but noted that his stand might not be a consensus within his party. "That's my personal position," Thune said. "That's certainly not a caucus position. I don't think we have any idea at this point about any of that."

Despite sudden Republican back-pedaling on abortion, Democrats have signaled their intention to use the looming Supreme Court ruling to ask voters to punish Republicans in November.

Shilling For Putin, Republicans Like Rand Paul Undermine The West

Russian President Vladimir Putin is an autocrat with a near unilateral control of his country and what little freedom of expression its people have. Yet, his popularity in the Republican Party has grown unimpeded for years.

Russia’s sudden invasion of Ukraine and the mounting allegations of war crimes leveled against it — including accusations of repeated rape, unprovoked executions, and looting, among other crimes — have not dampened support for Russian amongst GOP leaders and lawmakers, including former President Trump..

Trump — as a candidate for president, president, and twice-impeached former president — has heaped praise on Putin, calling him, amongst other things, “savvy,” “strong,” and a “genius.”

“[Putin] is taking over a country for two dollars worth of sanctions. I’d say that’s pretty smart,” Trump said in February at a Mar-a-Lago event. “Now they laugh at us. That’s why you have Ukraine, that’s why you’re going to have China. Taiwan is next, and you’re going to see the same thing,” Trump later added.

Taking a cue from Trump, some Republican voters now view Putin more positively than they do President Biden, Vice President Harris, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, according to a January YouGov poll.

But it doesn’t end there. In early April, 63 GOP lawmakers voted against a resolution to express support for NATO. A subsequent vote simply asking President Biden to collect evidence of Russian war crimes was, shockingly, rejected by six House Republicans: Reps Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Warren Davidson (R-OH), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Scott Perry (R-PA), and, to no one’s surprise, Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).

Greene, who played a prominent role in inciting the January 6 riot, has publicly voiced her support for Russia’s invasion. “You see, Ukraine just kept poking the bear, and poking the bear, which is Russia, and Russia invaded,” Greene said on a far-right radio show. “There is no win for Ukraine here. Russia is being successful in their invasion.”

The Georgian congresswoman isn’t the only Republican lawmaker to make controversial statements about Ukraine. After Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed both chambers of Congress in March, Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), who arrived late and missed a large portion of the speech, called Zelensky a “thug.” He added, “Remember that the Ukrainian government is incredibly corrupt and it is incredibly evil and has been pushing woke ideologies.”

But that’s still not all the Putin-loving GOP members of Congress. In a heated exchange with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken at a congressional hearing Tuesday, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) blamed Russia’s invasion on the United States’s support for Ukraine to join NATO.

Paul said the United States has for many years, and under Democratic and Republican leadership, been calling for Ukraine to join NATO, a move Moscow has long since labeled a “red line.”

““You could also argue that the countries that [Russia] has attacked were … part of the Soviet Union,” Paul said to Blinken during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, according to the Washington Post.

Blinken rejected Paul’s argument, noting that the United States had tried to assuage Russia’s national security concerns, but the country had invaded Ukraine, anyway. Blinken said that Putin had invaded because he believed “Ukraine does not deserve to be a sovereign nation,” per the Post.

Blinken also defended the United States’s continued support for Ukraine, saying, “We, senators, are not going to be more Ukrainian than the Ukrainians. Our purpose is to make sure that they have within their hands the ability to repel the Russian aggression and indeed to strengthen their hand at an eventual negotiating table.”

Paul, a self-proclaimed libertarian, has been shilling for authoritarian Russia for years. In 2018, disregarding evidence that Russia had interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Paul headed a delegation of Americans to meet in Moscow with the Federation Council, Russia's Senate. Before that he was accused of "working for Putin" by the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) after :Paul blocked a vote on a treaty ratifying Montenegro's accession to NATO.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, has called described the Putin supporters in his party as “lonely voices,” according to the Guardian. But McConnell has repeatedly dodged invitations to say if such Republicans should be booted from the party or, in the absence of party leadership spine, face disciplinary measures.


Suddenly GOP Is On Defensive In Senate 2022 Campaign

The 2022 Senate map is taking shape after outside groups for both parties placed initial ad buys for their top targets totaling nearly a quarter of a billion dollars.

The GOP-aligned Senate Leadership Fund super PAC dropped a record-breaking early investment of $141 million centered on seven states. Democrats' Senate Majority PAC booked ad reservations totaling $106 million in five states. Both parties will surely invest more money later, but below is how the top tier generally shakes out.


One thing that jumps out immediately is the fact that the New Hampshire seat held by Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan is nowhere to be found on either list, which is likely due to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's misfire on recruiting the state's popular Republican governor, Chris Sununu, to run.

Another revelation given a political environment that supposedly favors Republicans by a lot is the fact that they are playing a whole lot of defense to save GOP-held seats. In fact, at $66 million, Republicans are spending roughly the same as Democrats are to defend seats: $68 million. For the GOP, that figure includes open Senate seats in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, plus Sen. Ron Johnson’s seat in Wisconsin. (It does not include Alaska, where Senate Republicans are mainly defending Sen. Lisa Murkowski against Trump-inspired primary challenges.)

Amid all that defense, GOP Senate Leadership Fund President Steven Law is talking up what a “strong” environment it is for Republicans. “This is such a strong year that we need to invest as broadly and deeply as we can,” Law told Politico.

Democrats are protecting three incumbents in Georgia (Sen. Raphael Warnock), Arizona (Sen. Mark Kelly), and Nevada (Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto).

In terms of pickups, Republicans appear to be betting the farm on Georgia, where they are saddled with Trump-backed political neophyte and alleged wife abuser Herschel Walker. Democrats clearly see their best pickup opportunity in Pennsylvania, where Trump recently endorsed fellow TV huckster Dr. Mehmet Oz. In both states, Trump’s meddling has complicated the path for Republicans (not to mention the Trump effect in North Carolina, Arizona, Nevada, and Ohio).

“While Senate Democrats have a favorable map and strong incumbents, Senate Republicans have suffered a series of recruitment failures, and their flawed candidates are locked in vicious, expensive intra-party fights,” David Bergstein, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson, told The Hill. “All of these factors have contributed towards putting the GOP on defense in Senate races.”

Yep, that about covers it. Also, don’t sleep on Ohio, Florida, or North Carolina, where Democrats are fielding strong candidates who could potentially capitalize on GOP missteps.

Published with permission from DailyKos.

Poll: Americans Reject Senate Republican Assault On Judge Jackson

If you watched any of the Supreme Court hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson and found yourself repulsed by Republicans, you weren't alone. In a Quinnipiac University poll released late last week, 52 percent of Americans disapproved of the way GOP senators were handling the historic confirmation process for Judge Jackson's nomination, while just 27 percent approved of it (21 percent didn't offer an opinion).

In contrast, a 42 percent plurality of Americans approved of the way Democrats handled the process, while 34 percent disapproved (23 percent offered no opinion).

Americans also support confirming Jackson to the high court 51 percent to 30 percent, according to the poll.

As The Washington Post's Aaron Blake pointed out, Republicans fared worse in their handling of Jackson's confirmation than Democrats did in their handling of the contentious hearings for Brett Kavanaugh—who faced a credible sexual assault allegation amid his confirmation.

Republicans received a 25-point net negative rating from the public (27 percent--52 percent) for the way they comported themselves during Jackson's process, while a CNN/SSRS poll in October 2018 found Democrats received a 20-point net negative rating from the public (36 percent--56 percent) during the Kavanaugh confirmation.

The public also opposed confirming Kavanaugh by 51 percent--41 percent. In fact, the place where Kavanaugh really excelled with the public was in the 33 percent who held a "very negative" view of him. For comparison, eight percent of Americans had a very negative view of Neil Gorsuch and seven percent held a very negative view of John Roberts in CNN polls during confirmation for the two eventual justices.

In any case, the main differences between the Jackson and Kavanaugh confirmations is the fact Jackson is substantially more popular and that during consideration of Kavanaugh, neither party fared particularly well in the public's estimation of their handling of the confirmation process. In fact, Republicans also received a 20-point net negative rating from Americans—35 percent--55 percent—for the way they handled Kavanaugh's confirmation, whereas Democrats won plurality support for their handling of Jackson’s confirmation.

But Republicans clearly aren't concerned one bit that a majority of Americans disapprove of the way they conducted themselves during consideration of a nominee who will likely become the Supreme Court's first Black female justice. In fact, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is currently pressuring his caucus to vote against Judge Jackson’s confirmation.

The only audience Republicans ever really care about—particularly in a pre-midterm environment—is the 27 percent who said they approved of how the GOP has handled the Jackson hearings. It's always about juicing the base for Republicans, who continue to be out of step with the majority of Americans on most issues concerning voters. But it's who shows up at the polls that matters, and Republicans will continue to ignore American majorities as long as they don't face any real electoral consequences for their extreme positions.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Behind Josh Hawley's Disgusting QAnon Slur Against Judge Jackson

Of all the Senate Republicans who regularly engage in gutter politics, none is more likely to scrape bottom than Josh Hawley. The junior senator from Missouri was best known, at least until now, for his pseudo-macho fist-pumping display outside the besieged Capitol on January 6, 2021 — and his seditious attempt to deny Electoral College certification to President Joe Biden on that same day.

But Hawley has found a new way to drag our politics into the partisan sewer with a false, grotesque, and inflammatory attack on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, just days before her Supreme Court confirmation hearings begin. Seizing upon a handful of cases and a comment she made in law school, he has smeared her as "soft on child pornographers."

At the outset of his Twitter thread, Hawley lied: "Judge Jackson has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes, both as a judge and as a policymaker. She's been advocating for it since law school. This goes beyond 'soft on crime.' I'm concerned that this (is) a record that endangers our children."

With that foul smear, Hawley joins an undeniably psychotic element of his party — the growing cohort affiliated with the QAnon conspiracy cult, which proclaims constantly that prominent Democrats and Hollywood stars are sexually exploiting and even murdering children. There is no evidence for these sick accusations, but that hasn't stopped the fascist-leaning wing of the GOP — including no less a figure than Trump's disgraced national security adviser Mike Flynn — from endorsing them.

Before examining the real friends of kiddie porn in American politics, it is vital to unpack Hawley's fabricated assault on Jackson, a highly qualified and upright Black female jurist whose nomination has turned her into a target for the usual collection of racists and misogynists on the Right. What he accuses her of doing is what literally hundreds of judges of both parties have done regularly in sentencing child sex abuse and child pornography offenders. In law school and since, she has made the same observation as many of her fellow judges and even some prosecutors: Federal sentencing guidelines on those crimes require adjustment in the interest of justice.

According to Ohio State law professor Douglas Berman, an expert on federal sentencing policy, the guidelines on child porn are broadly "considered 'too severe' and poorly designed to 'measure offender culpability' in the digital age." Which is why, Berman writes, "federal judges nationwide rarely follow them." In fact, Berman reports that judges deliver sentences below the guidelines in two out of three child porn cases, with "typical sentences of 54 months below the calculated guideline minimum."

Among nine examples cited to support Hawley's smear, five were cases in which the prosecution advocated a sentence lower than the federal guidelines — and reiterated Jackson's point that the current guidelines cannot reflect mitigating factors or congressional intent. (That is why she suggested in law school that they should be revised.) In eight of the nine cases, Judge Jackson's sentence was less than two years lower than what prosecutors recommended.

In short, Hawley's smear shows either that he's too stupid to understand how federal sentencing works or he's deliberately distorting the facts to foster an ugly untruth. Anyone surprised by his behavior hasn't been paying attention.

By mimicking QAnon, Hawley invites an unflattering question: Which political party is actually preferred by child sex offenders? The conspiracist cult has always looked suspiciously like a perfect cover for such predators. The cult began on an internet channel that has long hosted child pornographers — and its apparent founder, Arizona GOP Congressional candidate Jim Watkins, profited from Web domains that were apparently used to promote child porn.

Beyond QAnon itself is a seemingly endless rogues gallery of child porn and sex abuse criminals associated with the Republican Party. Finding them on Google is a simple and revealing exercise. Last year, federal investigators busted an online kiddie porn ring that included Ruben Verastigui, a digital strategist for the Trump campaign, and Adam Hageman, a Trump Commerce Department official, while separate probes busted Republican consultant Anton Lazzaro, as well as Trump's Oklahoma campaign chair Ralph Shortey and Trump Kentucky delegate Timothy Nolan.

Those are only the most recent entries on the docket, which infamously includes right-wing "Christian" TV personality Josh Duggar — the Arkansas pal of the Huckabees who admitted to molesting young girls, including two of his sisters, and is facing child porn charges. (Not long before Duggar's indictment, Huckabee praised him for leading "a responsible and circumspect life.") And let's not forget Trump associate and influence peddler George Nader, who will spend a long time behind bars for trafficking a child into the United States for sex and distributing child porn.

As noted, it's a long and grimy list. And Republicans who try to suggest that their opponents are "soft" on pedophilia and child porn — currently a favorite theme in right-wing media —-should take a hard look at their own gamy milieu before repeating those disgusting slurs.

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.

Fearful Senate Republicans Will Filibuster To Stop Capitol Riot Commission

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

The odds that the Senate will pass a bipartisan commission to study the origins of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol are growing increasingly slim, as Senate Republicans are coming out one by one to say they do not support the probe.

Even Republicans who voted to convict Donald Trump for inciting the violent insurrection say they do not support the commission, twisting themselves in pretzels to justify their decision.

And that makes it increasingly likely that the commission will be the first thing Republicans filibuster during President Joe Biden's tenure. Current filibuster rules say that legislation in the Senate must garner 60 votes in order to proceed. Given that the Senate is split 50-50 along partisan lines, that means Democrats need 10 GOP votes to pass bills.

"I don't think there will be 10 votes on our side for it," Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN), told Politico. "At this stage, I'd be surprised if you're gonna get even a handful."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he will bring the commission up for a vote, whether or not it has enough GOP support to avoid a filibuster — meaning that if 10 Republicans do not vote in favor of the commission, it will be officially blocked.

"Senate Republicans can show everyone if they want to pursue the truth about January 6th or just want to cover up for Donald Trump and insurrectionists," Schumer tweeted on Thursday. "I will bring the House-passed legislation for the January 6th Commission to the Senate floor for a vote."

Republicans who have come out against the commission have falsely claimed it's not bipartisan and will be used as a witch hunt by Democrats.

"The current commission proposed by Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats appears to be a platform to score partisan political points," Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) said in a statement about why he opposes the commission.

The framework of the commission, however, was brokered by the Democratic chair of the House Homeland Security Committee and the GOP ranking member on that same body.

The members of the commission would be equally appointed by Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress, according to the agreement. And any subpoenas would require a majority vote, meaning there would need to be buy-in from the GOP-appointed members.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who came out against the commission on Wednesday, said the arrests by federal law enforcement are sufficient, even though the arrests will not lead to a comprehensive report about what went wrong and how to prevent future attacks like the Jan. 6 insurrection again. That's something a commission would explicitly do.

Even Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), one of the seven Republicans who voted to convict Trump of inciting the insurrection, came out against the commission.

Burr told Politico that part of his opposition to the commission is that it would drag into the midterm elections.

Multiple GOP lawmakers have said that they believe the commission could hamper Republican chances of taking back the House and Senate in November 2022, with Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) saying that a probe could uncover that some Republican lawmakers played a role in the attack.

"I want our midterm message to be on the kinds of things that the American people are dealing with: That's jobs and wages and the economy and national security, safe streets and strong borders — not relitigating the 2020 elections," Sen. John Thune (R-SD) told CNN.

Republicans filibustering a bipartisan commission to probe a deadly attack on democracy gives progressive Democrats who have been railing against the arcane Senate procedure more fuel to their argument that the filibuster must go.

"Filibustering a bipartisan Commission regarding the January 6 insurrection is a three dimensional way to make the point that the filibuster is primarily a destructive force in American politics," Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) tweeted.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.