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House Democrats: You Can’t Preserve The Filibuster And Protect Voting Rights

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is concerned about the lack of movement of any kind in the Senate on H.R. 1, the sweeping elections reform bill. They're preparing a more narrow strategy in hopes of getting quick action: sending the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to President Joe Biden's desk by September. They believe a bill named for their colleague and hero, the late John Lewis, has a better chance with a Senate that is deadlocked 50-50 and is being held hostage by Mitch McConnell, with the help of Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.

The urgency is real. States are starting the process of congressional redistricting, and without a law which restores the key sections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act gutted by the Supreme Court, there will be no curb on states drawing discriminatory districts. The Supreme Court struck down the VRA's pre-clearance formula in 2013, a requirement that certain states and localities with histories of racially discriminatory voting practices—including drawing of electoral maps—had to get pre-approval from the U.S. Department of Justice to make changes to the voting process.

"If you want to play into [Republican] hands, you do nothing at all and let them pass redistricting maps that absolutely don't have to be pre-cleared where they can do whatever the hell they please, and they can discriminate at will. Or, you step up your game and you do what needs to be done," said Rep. Marc Veasey, a Texas Democrat, of the effort to get this bill passed. "If you don't pass" this voting rights bill, he said, "you're basically giving them a green light to just go ahead and discriminate against Black and Hispanic voters."

"I certainly think our focus ought to be on [the Lewis bill] and voting rights," said Rep. Anthony Brown of Maryland, a member of the CBC. "You would think that that would provide a real good opportunity for a handful of Democratic senators who want to hold onto the filibuster [to say] 'Yes, we can do it on this John Lewis Voting Rights [Act].'"

You would think that, and this could be the bill that puts the necessary pressure on the filibuster holdouts in the Democratic conference in the Senate—for their own job security, if nothing else. As of March 24, 361 state bills to restrict voting have been introduced in 47 states, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, which has been keeping track. They are not slowing down, either. "That's 108 more than the 253 restrictive bills tallied as of February 19, 2021—a 43 percent increase in little more than a month. Forty-seven states is almost all of them, including the ones that have Democratic senators. Their majority in the Senate only exists because of Vice President Kamala Harris. It could be gone very easily in January 2023 if states have free rein on keeping Democratic voters out of voting booths.

The House Judiciary Committee is responding, with its Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties holding a hearing Thursday to discuss the need to restore the VRA. "Congress cannot continue to let these challenges to the VRA go unanswered," Judiciary chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler said during the hearing. Nadler isn't a member of the subcommittee; he crashed the hearing, perhaps in order to emphasize how serious he is about moving this legislation forward. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro testified Thursday.

"In my home state of Texas today there is an all-out assault on the right to vote. For generations,
Texas has been a testing ground for devious ways to restrict access to the polls," Castro said. "Since the Shelby decision in 2013, the state has cut more polling locations than any state in the nation. Texas enacted a strict voter ID law that permits firearm licenses to be used to vote, but prohibits the use of student IDs. And lawmakers have used things like voter registration deadlines, restricted voting hours, and limitations on early voting to chip away at the franchise of millions of people."

He reminded the committee that "Congress knew in each of the four times they reauthorized the VRA that we must protect the rights of voters and reaffirm the American principle of anti-discrimination." Since 2013, however, Senate Republicans have prevented restoration of the VRA, looking ahead to this moment—the 2020 census and their chance to gerrymander Democrats out of power and suppress enough Democratic voters in perpetuity to have a permanent stranglehold on government. It's why they packed the courts with Trump judges.

Castro had a message for lawmakers in his testimony, directed particularly at those in the Senate who put their so-called principles about a bipartisan Senate over the "timeless truth" of our democratic system. "[T]his timeless truth: the right to vote shouldn't depend on the color of one's skin, how much money one has, or what state one lives in."

"It's a right guaranteed to every eligible American citizen. It's the cornerstone of our democracy. And it's what the late Representative John Lewis—for whom the new Voting Rights Act is named—described in his final letter as 'the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society.'"

Democrats Introduce DEJOY Act To Thwart Postal Service Sabotage

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Postmaster Louis DeJoy has made a very powerful enemy: the U.S. Congress. Well, the Democrats who control the House, anyway. A group of House Democrats has introduced the "Delivering Envelopes Judiciously On-time Year-round Act." Yes, the DEJOY Act, which is a crime against legislative nomenclature. But the lawmakers are serious, intent on blocking DeJoy from implementing the service changes he intends, including slowing delivery of first-class mail to as long as five days.

"This is the best way to kill your business," Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, the Illinois Democrat and lead sponsor of the bill, said. "To basically say to your customers, 'We're not going to meet your expectations. You're going to meet our service realities, regardless of what ends up happening.'" Krishnamoorthi told The Washington Post that this "particular change, going from 100 percent of first-class mail being delivered one to three days to only 70 percent, would be a nonstarter, in my opinion, with the American people."

DeJoy's response to Congress in a hearing before he released his plan doomed the reception of it. While DeJoy wasn't quite as obnoxious and insulting to members as in previous outings, he still angered many of them. DeJoy actually said "Does it make a difference if it's an extra day to get a letter?" as if people weren't relying on the mail to get their prescriptions, to pay their bills, to receive checks. Then he had the chutzpah to say, "I would give myself an 'A' for bringing strategy and the planning and effort to here."

It's not just Congress that is set against DeJoy. Pennsylvania's Attorney General Josh Shapiro threatened legal action if DeJoy's changes "illegally come at the expense of those who rely on the mail for everything from paychecks to medications." The Postal Service, he reminds us, is a public service and "Changes to its universal service guarantee must go through a process that is designed to protect the public interest." Shapiro's office told the Post that "it was encouraged that DeJoy recognizes the legal obligations to secure limited regulatory approvals, but said it remained concerned about timely mail delivery."

DeJoy wants to slash service, cut USPS post office hours, and increase postage costs for consumers, delivering worse service for higher cost in his attempt to save $160 billion over 10 years. That's along with legislation from Congress that is likely to pass that will repeal the 2006 law forcing the USPS to pre-fund retiree health benefits 75 years in advance. It's the only agency that Congress has ever required to do that, a decision made when cooking the books to make the deficit look better.

The USPS is an off-budget entity—its operating expenses don't come out of the Treasury, but its payments into the federal health benefits system do, so this intergovernmental agency pumping funds in for retiree health benefits could be counted as revenue for the federal government. It was so much book-cooking but had real consequences in burdening the USPS. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, has legislation that would both repeal the 2006 law and enroll future retirees in Medicare. They're now in the federal employees benefits plan, where all that pre-funding money has been going.

DeJoy's planned price hikes and service cuts are getting panned by consumer groups—including business groups that rely on the mail. There are lawsuits in the works to force a stop to the changes. "In the entire fifty-eight pages of the plan there does not appear to be any effort to retain mail volume," PostCom, a national postal commerce advocacy group, wrote. "Apart from price increases and service reductions, there is little about mail in the plan at all. That's inaction." Another group, the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, said "the plan will drive mail volume down to levels not seen since before it reached 100 billion in 1980. […] If we mailers win our federal lawsuit, the plan is sunk."

DeJoy has to be stopped before he can implement these changes. He should have been gone before now—when his disqualifying conflicts of interestsurfaced. The fact that the USPS Board of Governors picked DeJoy—who was unqualified, had never worked in the Postal Service, and who got the job after making big donations to Trump's convention—without any vetting process means they have to go, too.

Biden should fire the board. The Senate should make confirming Biden's new board members a top priority. The Postal Service is too critical an institution to let this malfeasance continue.

Trump Holdovers Blamed For Delay In Social Security Survival Checks

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The Internal Revenue Service, which has some longstanding problems of its own, has another recent, urgent one: a backlog of survival checks meant for millions of disabled and retired Americans. They can't send out the $1,400 checks authorized by the American Rescue Plan President Joe Biden signed into law two weeks ago, on March 11. The reason they can't get those checks out to some of the millions who aren't regular tax filers is because they need the Social Security Administration (SSA) to send them the information to do it. And the hold-over Trumpers at the head of the SSA, commissioner Andrew Saul and deputy commissioner David Black, are likely the problem.

A handful of House Democratic committee chairs including Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal are on the case, demanding immediate action from SSA commissioner Saul to fix this. "We are aware that the IRS asked SSA to start sending payment files two weeks before the American Rescue Plan became law on March 11, 2021," wrote the chairmen. "As of today, SSA still has not provided the IRS with the payment files that are needed to issue EIPs to these struggling Americans. We demand that you immediately provide the IRS this information by tomorrow, March 25, 2021."

It's unclear if the AWOL Saul was actually at work to receive the letter. He has a storied history of not bothering to show up at work, just one of the problems the people who work at SSA have with him. Someone, however, got the message. According to an agency spokesperson, the letter was received, because they told HuffPost they'd get those files over to Treasury by Neal's deadline of Thursday. "Social Security staff is working day and night with Treasury and IRS representatives to ensure that the electronic file of Social Security and SSI recipients is complete, accurate, and ready to be used to issue payments," the spokesperson said.

Which is fine, but it will probably take another week for the IRS to get all the information sorted and checks out to the 30 million people who so far have been left out—those who don't normally have to file taxes. The IRS relies on SSA for the information of people who are disabled and retired and are non-filers. The SSA and IRS have already been through two rounds of this, so the procedure wasn't sprung on anybody. On top of that, the IRS gave SSA a two-week notice ahead of the bill being passed and signed essentially to say "get ready, we're going to need to be on this."

Social Security Works, a group that has been advocating for Social Security for years, was not amused. Executive director Alex Lawson slammed SSA's Saul and Black for the delay in an emailed statement, pointing out the real harm of the delay. "As a result, nearly 30 million seniors and people with disabilities—who are among those hit hardest by COVID—still haven't received their relief checks," he wrote. "They are counting on these checks for basic necessities like food and medication."

"Saul and Black were appointed by Donald Trump and have been acting as his agents for years," Lawson continued. "President Biden can't stand for this any longer. He must protect Social Security beneficiaries by firing Saul and Black immediately."

Saul and Black can both be fired by Biden. Since taking office in 2019, they have been working as doggedly to undermine the system as Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has at the U.S. Postal Service. Like DeJoy, they're longtime Republican operatives and big donors. Like DeJoy, destroying beloved institutions seems to be their jam, and making life particularly hard for the most vulnerable among us their goal. The two have not only run roughshod over staff at the SSA, but they have politicized the Social Security disability program, trying to make benefits harder to get and more burdensome to keep by creating all sorts of hoops for disabled people to jump through.

Democrats, including Senate chair of the Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy Sherrod Brown and the members who called out the SSA for delaying checks, have been demanding that President Biden immediately fire and replace the two. They are "incapable of carrying out Democrats' vision of protecting and expanding Social Security," Brown said in his first statement as committee chair. "As agents of the Trump Social Security agenda, they cut the benefits that hardworking Americans have earned, attacked the Social Security Administration's employees, denied beneficiaries due process, and needlessly increased disability reviews during the Covid-19 pandemic," said Brown.

Add unnecessarily delaying critical financial help to 30 million of the most vulnerable Americans to the list. These guys have got to go.

Biden Endorses Reforms To Bring Back 'Talking Filibuster'

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

President Joe Biden, fresh off the massive success of passing a $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, knows the only way to keep the momentum going and get his stuff done is to deal with the Senate. And to deal with the Senate, he's talking filibuster reform. He told ABC's George Stephanopoulos in a Wednesday interview that he's behind an effort to reform it. "I don't think that you have to eliminate the filibuster. You have to do what it used to be when I first got to the Senate back in the old days," he said. "You had to stand up and command the floor, you had to keep talking [...] so you've got to work for the filibuster."

"So you're for that reform? You're for bringing back the talking filibuster?" Stephanopoulos asked in response. "I am," Biden answered. "That's what it was supposed to be. It's almost getting to the point where democracy is having a hard time functioning." That's an understatement. The new message from the president—who flirted with the idea of filibuster reform during the primary campaign but never unequivocally backed it—reinforces what amounted to a declaration of intent from Senate leadership on the filibuster.

This week, Majority Whip Dick Durbin took to the floor with the strongest anti-filibuster speech yet. He spoke at length about returning to a talking filibuster, saying the current procedure "has turned the world's greatest deliberative body into one of the world's most ineffectual bodies."

The filibuster used to require deliberation, or at least it forced the senators opposing a bill to make their case on the floor in debate, sometimes lasting for hours and hours. That's not how it works anymore. All it takes is one senator to say they are opposed to a bill moving forward—they don't even have to say it on the floor—and they've started a filibuster. A bill can't progress in the Senate without 60 senators saying they want it to, no matter whether it has majority support—59 senators could support it, but if they can't find one more, they won't have the opportunity to vote on it.

For example, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin teamed up with Republican Sen. Pat Toomey on a gun background check bill following the 2012 massacre of school children at Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut. Republicans blocked it with just 46 votes—a majority of 54 Republican and Democratic senators supported the bill but it failed. No Republican had to stand on the floor and say why they felt the slaughter of little children did not demand a change that would keep weapons of war out of the hands of domestic terrorists. They just voted "no."

So it seems that Democratic leadership, including Biden, have coalesced behind the idea of a talking filibuster, and that might even have been negotiated with at least one of the recalcitrant Democrats, Joe Manchin. Following his day of obstruction on the COVID-19 relief bill, Manchin made the rounds of Sunday shows saying he'd be okay with making the filibuster "a little bit more painful, make them stand there and talk, I'm willing to look at any way we can."

But here's the rub with that: In subsequent interviews on following days, Manchin made it clear that he still wants to keep a 60-vote margin. He told Politico that there still has to be a 60-vote majority to overcome a filibuster, or a way that forces the opposition to come up with 41 votes to sustain it. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema goes even further, saying: "I want to restore the 60-vote threshold for all elements of the Senate's work," including all judicial and executive confirmations.

That's a problem. Yes, it would force Sen. Mitch McConnell to make sure that he always has 41 Republicans at his beck and call, but he's a spiteful enough bastard with enough spiteful bastards in his conference to do just that. But democracy is not going to be restored unless the most basic principle—majority rule—is restored in the Senate.

Biden was careful in his comments not to saying anything about abolishing the 60-vote requirement, as Durbin pointed out in an interview Wednesday morning. "He didn't say that and as a student and creature of the Senate he certainly knows how to choose his words carefully on this subject. But I think he's acknowledging the obvious: the filibuster has really shackled the Senate." Biden was being "vague" about what exact remedy to use, Durbin said, "but that's alright. I think he is acknowledging the fact that the filibuster has become institutionalized by Sen. McConnell. We now accept the premise that everything needs 60 votes."

It is an accepted premise—a false one. Even the Capitol Hill press corps, who should know better, talk about the 60-vote margin required to pass anything as the norm, as though this has always been how it is. It's not. When Biden entered the Senate in 1973, the filibuster was a rarity. From 1917 to 1970, there had been a total of 49 filibusters. In 53 years, 49 filibusters. Since McConnell's takeover of the Republican Senate conference, there's been an average of 80 votes each year to end filibusters. That doesn't just block legislation, it ties the Senate in knots. Every cloture vote requires 30 hours of floor time, in which nothing else can be done.

So when McConnell threatens, "Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin to imagine what a completely scorched-earth Senate would look like," it's not anything we haven't already seen from him. Which is Durbin's exact response. "He has already done that. He's proven he can do it, and he will do it again."

The filibuster fight is going to happen soon, so we'll see how it plays out. On the Senate floor Wednesday morning, Schumer promised he would bring the elections reform bill, the For the People Act, to the floor. The Senate hearing for the bill is scheduled for next week.

Democrats Can Save Democracy Or Preserve The Filibuster — Not Both

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

A lie repeated often enough doesn't become truth, it gets codified by Republican state legislatures. That's the case with the Big Lie, that voter fraud stole the 2020 election from Donald Trump. Whether or not they actually believe it, Republican lawmakers across the country are acting on it, introducing more than 250 bills in 43 states making it harder for people to vote. That's despite the fact that the most litigated presidential election in history exposed no fraud at all. Trump's legal team couldn't prove it in court after court.

As of now, just three states—Iowa, Arkansas, and Utah—have enacted new voter suppression laws, but the wave of new state laws is likely just cresting. There's a remedy: federal action. It can only be applied, however, with Senate reform of the filibuster. As long as Republicans see that their only hope of ever winning elections again is to limit the voting population, to gerrymander and silo Democratic voters into nonexistence, and to cheat, Republican senators are not going to allow federal legislation to pass. There might be one or two who don't want to be lumped in with the rest of the white supremacists, but there won't be 10 of them willing to pass either the For the People Act, the vast elections reform bill passed in the House this month, or the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

We are facing what one voting rights activist calls "a once-in-a-generation moment." Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United and Let America Vote, told The New York Times, "We either are going to see one of the most massive rollbacks of our democracy in generations, or we have an opportunity to say: 'No, that is not what America stands for. We are going to strengthen democracy and make sure everyone has an equal voice.'"

Which is precisely what Republican state legislatures are fighting, with states about ready to tip blue at the fore. Arizona and Pennsylvania—home to some of the most intense Big Lie litigation—have the most voter suppression legislation under consideration now. It's Georgia, though, that's becoming the epicenter for the fight. The state's flip to electing Joe Biden president and Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock as its two senators, flipping the U.S. Senate to the Democrats in the offing, has resulted in omnibus voter suppression bills in both the state House and Senate. Earlier this month, the House passed legislation to restrict in-person voting; require voter ID for absentee ballot requests; limit absentee ballot drop boxes and require the boxes be inside buildings and thus inaccessible when the buildings close; limit weekend early voting; shorten the absentee voting period; and make giving people waiting in line to vote food or drink a misdemeanor. Last week, the Senate passed S.B. 241, 29-20 legislation that ends no-excuse absentee voting; restricts it to disabled people and people over 65 or who can provide they won't be home on Election Day; and requires ID for absentee ballot requests.

That ID requirement is just one of a litany of barriers for people of color. "That is a burden for people, particularly working folks and poor folks," LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "Any time there are barriers placed on people who are already at an economic disadvantage, what you're going to see is a drop-off in voting." Which is precisely what Republicans intend.

Advocacy groups are now ramping up action to get Georgia's largest national corporations—among them Coca-Cola, UPS, and Delta Airlines—to get involved by stopping their donations to Republican legislators and to speak out. "They spent most of Black History Month peppering us with Martin Luther King quotes, but now that Blacks' future is in jeopardy, they're silent," Nsé Ufot, the chief executive of one participant, the New Georgia Project, said. "We're using digital ads, billboards, direct action at warehouses and call centers—we're serious. This is urgent."

Many of those same corporations succeeded in 2016 in a pressure campaign that resulted in then-Gov. Nathan Deal's veto of an anti-LGBTQ "religious liberty" bill.

That's one of the strategies for fighting the Georgia bills. But there has to be a national strategy for all the other states, one that addresses what's happening in that state and all the others. "Well, first of all, I do absolutely agree that it's racist," Georgia grassroots leader Stacey Abrams told CNN's Jake Tapper Sunday.

"It is a redux of Jim Crow in a suit and tie," Abrams said. "We know that the only thing that precipitated these changes, it's not that there was the question of security." In another interview on Meet the Press Abrams argued for her proposal that Senate Democrats carve out "an exemption to the filibuster for the purposes of protecting our democracy," for passing voting rights and election legislation. "Look, I understand wanting to protect the prerequisites of an institution. I served as minority leader for seven years," Abrams continued.

But I also understand that there were times where we had to look at the fundamentals of our processes and do what was right. And we know the Senate has done so to suspend the filibuster for the purposes of judicial appointments, for Cabinet appointments and for budget reconciliation. I would say protection of the fundamentals of our democracy, which we have seen bloodily debated through the January 6th insurrection, certainly counts.

She argues that the move is justified in the Constitution, which gives the Congress power "that it alone has, which is to regulate the time, place and manner of [federal] elections." Muller agrees. "It is too important an issue and we are facing too big a crisis to let an arcane procedural motion hold back the passage of this bill," she told the Times arguing that the threat to voting rights is an existential threat to democracy. Without a free and fair vote, everything else is lost.

If anyone thinks there's any chance Republicans relent for this, consider the second most likely convert (after Sen. Lisa Murkowski), Sen. Susan Collins. Her Maine colleague, independent Sen. Angus King told News Center Maine that he wasn't thrilled with the idea of getting rid of the filibuster, but "If Mitch McConnell and his caucus are going to be no, no, no, to everything, and everybody's going to be on board, then we've got to get things done for the country." Collins showed her true feeling about "bipartisanship" in response. "I would remind my dear friend Angus that the Democrats could be in the minority two years from now. And they will wish that they had not done away with the filibuster if that happens, that I can assure you."

Add threats to lying, cheating, and reimposing Jim Crow to the Republican toolbox for what they call governing.

At Judiciary Hearing, Garland Vows Tough Prosecution Of ‘Heinous’ Jan. 6 Insurrection

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Merrick Garland finally got his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Monday. Not for the original position for which he was nominated by President Barack Obama—the Supreme Court—back in 2016, but for attorney general under President Joe Biden. The chair and ranking member of the committee, Democrat Dick Durbin and Republican Chuck Grassley, each brought up that contemptible episode when Republicans under Mitch McConnell refused, for eight months, to consider his nomination. "I want to welcome you back to the Senate Judiciary Committee," Durbin said. "I know this return trip has been a long time in planning and you're here, finally."

Grassley was, let's say, less gracious. "It was an election year with a divided Congress," Grassley said, excusing the blockade. Then the nasty. "Yes, it's true I didn't give Judge Garland a hearing. […] I also didn't mischaracterize his record. I didn't attack his character. I didn't go through his high school yearbook." Given that there aren't multiple allegations of rape against Garland going back decades, no, that would not have been appropriate. Ah, unity.

At the outset of the hearing, Durbin acknowledged Garland's unique qualifications for this particular moment in time: his service as a top official in the Clinton Justice Department investigating the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people. "When you are confirmed, Judge Garland, you, along with the rest of this nation, will continue to grapple with the January 6th attacks," Durbin said. "As nation's chief law enforcement officer, you will be tasked with the solemn duty to responsibly investigate the events of that day, to prosecute all of the individuals responsible and to prevent future attacks driven by hate, inflammatory words, and bizarre conspiracy theories," Durbin continued, not really asking a question.

Garland responded that he believes the current situation is "more dangerous" than Oklahoma City, and that the investigation in the attempted coup and insurrection will be his "first priority." He elaboratedon that in answer to a question from Sen. Dianne Feinstein. He called the insurrection "the most heinous attack on the Democratic processes that I have ever seen and one I never expected to see in my lifetime." He said that he will ensure that career prosecutors working on the investigation "all the resources they could possibly require." Garland also pledged to cooperate with congressional probes into the family separation policy from the previous administration. "I think that the policy was shameful. I can't imagine anything worse than tearing parents from their children. And we will provide all the cooperation that we possibly can," he told Durbin.

Grassley had one major concern: was Garland going to keep on with the Trump-era probes by John Durham, the special counsel into that other special counsel investigation by Robert Mueller on Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the investigation by Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss, who is heading an investigation involving Hunter Biden's taxes. Garland was noncommittal in response. He told Grassley "I don't have any information about the [Durham] investigation," and said of the existence of the Durham probe, "I have no reason to think that was not the correct decision. […] I don't have any reason to think he should not be in place." He said he had not spoken with Durham and would only dismiss Durham and the probe for cause. As for whether he might have talked with President Biden about the Hunter Biden probe? "The answer to your question is no." Garland told Grassley that he would leave decisions regarding the Hunter Biden probe to others in the department.

The attacks on the Congress and the rise of the white supremacist insurrectionists are key. In his opening statement Garland pledged "If confirmed, I will supervise the prosecution of white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol on January 6th, a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government." He's well positioned to do so. "This almost feels like a precursor. How much more experience could you possibly have in domestic terrorism?" said Donna Bucella, a former Justice Department official who also worked on the Oklahoma City case. "He'll be very methodical. I think he'll demand it's being done the right way."

Biden Orders Halt To Trump’s War On Medicaid Families

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The Biden administration is ending Medicaid work requirements the previous occupiers of the executive branch foisted on the nation's working poor. Two weeks ago, President Joe Biden signed an executive order instructing officials at the Department of Health and Human Services to remove barriers to Medicaid, and that's just what they are doing.

Three states—Arkansas, Kentucky, and New Hampshire—tried to impose the requirements, but two levels of federal courts have struck them down so the order doesn't have immediate effect. But it means no state will be able to create the needless, humiliating, ridiculous hoop of requiring people to prove they're working, all as a means of keeping needy and deserving people from applying for the benefit.

The proof that this measure is intended just to make life more difficult for poor people is in the fact that 93% of people on Medicaid—who aren't ill or disabled, elderly, taking care of family members, or in school full time—already work. Medicaid is there to help all those people, and work requirements have never been about work.

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According to the draft plan obtained by The Washington Post, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services "has serious concerns that now is not the appropriate time to test policies that risk a substantial loss of health care coverage or benefits." A global pandemic that has sickened millions of Americans and forced millions more out of work is the wrong time to make health care harder to obtain.

The administration said in the document that the Trump administration had given approval to 13 states to impose the requirements, and 10 others had sought approval. But among them, Arkansas was the only state that followed through, and had removed 18,000 people from the program before a federal judge blocked it. The successful challenges against Arkansas and Kentucky in federal courts resulted in a number of states deciding to forego applying for the work requirement waiver, and in other states Democratic governors took office and halted their predecessors' efforts.

Sanders, Wyden Push Back On Cruel Cuts To Pandemic Relief Checks

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Democrats are having a public fight over something that really matters: how much assistance hurting people are going to get from them in survival checks. It's a stupid fight, summed up best by Sen. Bernie Sanders:

He's not alone in this with powerful support from Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, the new chair of the Finance Committee. The other side is being spearheaded by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), with back-up from Mitch McConnell's favorite "bipartisan" water carrier, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). They're trying to keep payments from what they call "high-earning" families.

Look at how Manchin explains this: "An individual of $40,000 income or $50,000 income would receive it. And a family who is making $80,000 or $100,000, not to exceed $100,000, would receive it," Manchin said. "Anything over that would not be eligible, because they are the people who really are hurting right now and need the help the most." Who's missing there? Yeah, everybody making more than $50,001. So he's not even arguing in good faith here, couching this as cutting off payments at $80,000 when that's not what he wants to do.

The gap between $50,000 and $80,000 includes a lot of people who, as Sanders says, got two checks already from the Trump administration and are expecting the third one everybody is talking about, a point also made by Wyden: "I understand the desire to ensure those most in need receive checks, but families who received the first two checks will be counting on a third check to pay the bills." That's so glaringly apparent that it's hard to understand there is any constituency for this fight, including in the White House.

It gets even worse when you drill down to find out where the impetus for the cut comes from, as David Dayen has done at The American Prospect. The debate is being driven by a paper from Harvard economics professor Raj Chetty and others that showed higher-income households not spending the last, $600 round of checks immediately. Dayen uncovers the fact that the Chetty research is not on household-level income data. Instead, data for about ten percent of U.S. credit and debit card activity sorted into ZIP codes by the address associated with the card. Those ZIP codes are then grouped "using 2014-2018 ACS (The Census Bureau's American Community Survey) estimates of ZIP Code median household income," according to the appendix in the Chetty paper. So, as Dayen says, the conclusion that low-income people spent their checks immediately while higher-income people did not, "is by saying that ZIP codes that had lower-income people in them between three and seven years ago contained a higher level of immediate spending than ZIP codes with higher-income people during this period." A period before the pandemic.

That's a damned big supposition. Claudia Sahm, a former Federal Reserve and Council of Economic Advisers economist, tells Dayen, "I think the paper is unsuitable for the policy discussion. […] It's one paper at odds with 20 years of research. […] I know the sampling error has to be in the thousands of dollars, there's no way it's that precise." What's even worse about this paper is that they didn't even disclose the out-of-date ZIP code basis for their data until late last week, more than a week after it had been highlighted in the traditional media and started taking hold. It's still out there, with The New York Times opinion page giving Chetty and colleagues space to continue their badly sourced argument.

All that's aside from the larger argument: We're in the middle of a global pandemic and the economy is in tatters—just spend the money helping as many people as possible and worry about sorting out who should have to pay any of it back later. Because the need is so great and this isn't a time to skimp. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said as much, and thankfully appears not to be so much on board with this push to reduce payments, though the White House has been vaguely supportive.

"The exact details of how it should be targeted are to be determined, but struggling middle-class families need help, too," Yellen said on CNN this weekend. Asked if she thinks the targeting should be higher than $50,000 per person but less than $75,000, Yellen responded: "Yes, I—I think the details can be worked out. And the president is certainly willing to work with Congress to find a good structure for these payments."

There's also this: They're still going to base the payments on 2019 income unless they have 2020 income filed by the time the relief bill is passed. Which means you need to file immediately if you've had a big drop in income. Which means the IRS is going to be flooded with returns at the same time it's trying to make income determinations and trying to determine who gets what. But at least there is the recognition that a lot of people did not have the same income in 2020 as 2019.

Again, the survival checks have been means-tested already, with the first rounds of checks phasing out starting at $75,000 based on out-of-date data. Compounding that is this new argument based on really bad and irrelevant information. Not that what anybody does with their survival checks really matters right now, anyway. Worry about saving the maximum number of people possible. That will make the economy come back stronger and faster and then the rest can be sorted out, if necessary, with tax reform.

White House Rejects Deficit Trolls As COVID Relief Advances

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19, American Rescue plan is now on a path to completion, following the passage of the budget resolution underlying the process in the early hours of Friday morning. The House will pass the resolution in an expedited rules bill Friday. Now the framework of that resolution, with its instructions to the various committees, will drive the drafting of the whole process, and now is when the deficit peacock trolls will start trying to play the refs.

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Biden Urged To Oust DeJoy And Entire Postal Service Board

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Even though the 2020 election wasn't ruined by sabotage and we now have President Joe Biden, we still have a deeply broke and highly politicized U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Among all the other housecleaning Biden has to do, New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell isn't going to let him forget about it. The Democrat has written to Biden, urging him to "fire the entire Postal Board of Governors for their silence and complicity in trump and dejoy's [sic] attempts to subvert the election and destroy the Post Office."

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Pelosi Confirms House Will Send Impeachment Resolution To Senate Monday

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed a "dear colleague" letter to Democrats indicating that the House will send the article of impeachment of Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday, a "momentous and solemn day, as the House sadly transmits the Article of Impeachment."

"Our Constitution and country are well-served by our outstanding impeachment managers – lead manager Rep. Jamie Raskin and Reps. Diana DeGette, David Cicilline, Joaquin Castro, Eric Swalwell, Ted Lieu, Stacey Plaskett, Madeleine Dean, and Joe Neguse," she wrote. She also low-key slammed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had tried to dictate the timing of the impeachment by telling Pelosi to wait until the last half of February to start the process. "The House has been respectful of the Senate's constitutional power over the trial and always attentive to the fairness of the process," she wrote. "When the Article of Impeachment is transmitted to the Senate, the former President will have had nearly two weeks since we passed the Article."

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Federalist Society Leader Helped Foment Capitol Riot

More than 200 judges have been embedded in the federal judiciary by outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump. The huge majority of those judges come from the Federalist Society, the right-wing dark money association that has been working for years to erode civil rights, end abortion, oppose LGBTQ equality, stop gun safety laws, and fight regulations protecting the environment, health care, and worker safety—aka everything achieved in roughly half a century of progress. They are responsible for the current makeup of the Supreme Court and most of the Republican Senate. And they also have at least partial responsibility for the insurrection that happened at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

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McConnell Kills $2000 Checks — And Overrides Trump On Defense Bill

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Moscow Mitch McConnell once again refused to allow $2,000 survival checks to struggling families in a rare New Year's Day session of the Senate. To be precise, he had his minions Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) do the dirty work this time, first blocking Sen. Chuck Schumer's effort to bring up the House bill, then Sen. Bernie Sanders' request to bring both the House bill and the ridiculous McConnell poison bill addressing Trump conspiracy theories. Trump's bluster over the $2,000 survival checks clearly didn't extend to actually doing anything to make it happen, so he lost.

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Georgia Republicans Stunned By Massive Turnout Of Early And Young Voters

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

From the early vote, it looks like Georgia is more than willing to take on the burden of saving the nation by saving the Senate. On Thursday, the crack of dawn on New Year's Eve, and the last day of early voting in Cobb County — look at these people and their commitment to democracy.

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VIDEO: McConnell Blocks $2000 Relief Checks For Struggling Families

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell personally blocked Sen. Chuck Schumer's request for an up or down vote on $2,000 survival checks on Tuesday. Following that, Sen. Bernie Sanders blocked McConnell's effort to get unanimous consent to have a veto override on a defense bill on Wednesday, the other must-pass bill for the week. That sets up a showdown in which McConnell appears to be trying to have the $2,000 survival check but make sure it fails.

A growing number of Republicans, including Georgia Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue (who are desperate because of their runoff races), Marco Rubio, Josh Hawley, and even Deb Fischer are supporting hiking the direct payments to $2,000. Or perhaps more pointedly, supporting the idea of having a vote on $2,000 survival checks. Because that appears to be what McConnell is working toward—allowing the Senate to vote, but poisoning the bill before it happens to make life difficult for Democrats. And millions of Americans, but they don't count to him. Because that's what he does.


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On the floor Tuesday, McConnell showed his hand. He noted Trump's ridiculous statement, issued when he signed the stimulus/spending bill, that Congress was going to "start the process for a vote that increases checks to $2,000, repeals Section 230, and starts and investigation into voter fraud." "Those are the three important subjects the President has linked together," he said. "This week the Senate will begin a process to bring these three priorities into focus." So McConnell is going to try to have the $2,000 survival check vote and poison it, too. He's going to tie Section 230—the Communications Act provision that Trump insists is allowing Twitter to censor him (it's not)—and "voter fraud" to critical assistance to Americans.

Because that's what he does. There's a rarely used floor procedure Democrats could try to stop him nicknamed the "clay pigeon" maneuver. A single senator can call for an amendment that has multiple proposals to be broken into individual components, requiring separate debate and separate votes. The last time it was used was in 2010, when then-Sen. Tom Coburn hijacked a debt limit increase bill, bringing an amendment with 17 spending cuts that had to be considered separately. Prior to that, in 2007, then-Senate Majority Harry Reid used it on a comprehensive immigration bill in an effort to ward off poison pills from Republicans. Democrats could try it with McConnell's surely poisoned survival check bill.

Supreme Court Unanimously Rejects Trump Effort To Overturn Pennsylvania Election Result

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Remember how Donald Trump specifically picked Amy Coney Barrett so he would have a friend on the Supreme Court to make sure he "won" the election? So much for that. With absolutely zero dissents, the court said, basically: "Nope, we're not going to nullify the vote in Pennsylvania for you."


Officially, the court said, "The application for injunctive relief presented to Justice Alito and by him referred to the Court is denied," but same difference. Either way, Trump is still a big loser. To put the cherry and the icing on top: This was his 50th loss in court.