Trump Touts New Push To 'Repeal And Replace' Obamacare

Trump Touts New Push To 'Repeal And Replace' Obamacare

Donald Trump is once again living in the past, trying to resurrect a Republican political debacle that even the Freedom Caucus has abandoned: Obamacare repeal. “The cost of Obamacare is out of control, plus, it’s not good Healthcare. I’m seriously looking at alternatives," he spewed on Truth Social on Saturday.

"We had a couple of Republican Senators who campaigned for 6 years against it, and then raised their hands not to terminate it,” Trump whined. “It was a low point for the Republican Party, but we should never give up!”

Republicans absolutely gave up after the last gasp for “repeal and replace,” Trumpcare, failed to make it to the Senate floor in 2017. That’s after they spent seven years and at least 70 votes on trying to kill the Affordable Care Act, the program that has provided health insurance to more than 40 million Americans.

Health care was the top issue in the 2018 midterms, the election that won the House for Democrats. It’s no wonder that Republicans abandoned repeal as a campaign promise in 2022, and even the Freedom Caucus hasn’t tried to resurrect it with the GOP back in control. They don’t want to have to run on it again for good reason.

But Trump is either trying to make the nation’s first Black president his foe in 2024 because he’s a racist and wants to keep his racist base fired up, or he’s living in the past in his addled brain. Either way, the health care of more than 40 million people is on the line in the next election. Again.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Tommy Tuberville

'Patience Is Wearing Thinner': Bipartisan Senate Veterans Warn Tuberville (VIDEO)

A handful of Republicans kept the Senate in session into the early hours of Thursday morning, making sure Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) started his long Thanksgiving break on a sour note. The Alabama Republican is under increasing pressure from all sides to end his tantrum and lift his blanket hold on more than 400 officer promotions.

The same group of senators, all veterans, who confronted Tuberville last month faced him down again Wednesday night and into Thursday morning. “I made a commitment to the men and women in uniform that I would continue to try to move them. I keep my commitments,” Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, a Republican, told Politico.. Since February, Tuberville has been protesting the Pentagon’s policy of providing paid leave for service members who are forced to travel out of state to obtain an abortion. None of the officers he is preventing from advancing had anything to do with formulating or implementing that policy, which apparently makes no difference to Tuberville. "Why punish people who have seriously sacrificed for America—more than probably anyone else here on the floor certainly—over a policy they had nothing to do with?" Sullivan asked on the floor.

This happened against the backdrop of the resolution passed by the Senate Rules Committee this week to create a temporary bypass of Tuberville for the remainder of this congressional term. Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told the Senate—and Tuberville—that the resolution will come to the floor if Republicans fail in their efforts to stop the blockade. The warning came with an unusually sharp and personal rebuke from Schumer.

“[T]here's been a lot of negativity and dysfunction in the Senate these days, but Sen. Tuberville has single-handedly brought the Senate to a new low,” Schumer said. “He should be ashamed of himself. Patience is wearing thinner and thinner with Sen. Tuberville, on both sides of the aisle.”

“We still hold out some small hope that in the next little, short while, our Republican colleagues can persuade Tuberville to back off, but if it does not happen, we intend to move this resolution to the floor of the Senate,” Schumer concluded.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina added some weight—and a deadline—to that threat. "I promise you this—this will be the last holiday this happens. If it takes me to vote to break loose these folks, I will," Graham said. That’s the same Lindsey Graham who once threatened to “use all the tools in the toolbox to stop” Democrats from changing rules to stop GOP obstruction.

That’s just how frustrated and angry Tuberville’s colleagues are—other than Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), that is. He spent about as much time as he could on the floor pontificating with “lengthy filibusters” in support of Tuberville’s right to shut the Senate down with his obnoxious crusade.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Kevin McCarthy

GOP Congressman Says Kevin McCarthy 'Elbowed' Him From Behind

It’s hardly the “shot heard ‘round the world,” but the “shot to the kidney” former Speaker Kevin McCarthy sneakily delivered to Freedom Caucus foe Rep. Tim Burchett was the buzz of the Capitol Tuesday. It all started here:

That’s intrepid NPR reporter Claudia Grisales, who documented the atrocity and joined in the chase with Burchett after McCarthy’s low blow—in this case, an elbow to the kidneys while Burchett’s back was turned.

“He needs to go back to Southern California,” Burchett told reporters afterward, adding some tough talk. They should settle this in “the parking lot” he said, adding that “it would be a very short fistfight.” He said McCarthy is “a guy who throws a rock over the fence when he's a kid and runs home and hides behind his mom's skirt,” pointing out he still has his security detail.

And Burchett’s milking this for all it’s worth. “I can still feel it. … It was a clean shot to the kidney.”

What would another episode of “As the GOP Turns” be without the ever-present Rep. Matt Gaetz? “This is wild,” he tweeted. “McCarthy resorting to pushing people in the halls. What a weak, pathetic, husk of a man.”

Democrats weren’t going to miss out on the fun.

In case you were wondering just how petty and how small Kevin McCarthy could be, here you go.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.


Study Shows Republican Policies Killing The Voters Who Support Them

Republicans aren’t just at war with each other in the U.S. House of Representatives: They’ve been quietly at war with their own constituents for decades. The Washington Post has a lengthy case study of what this has meant for one state taken over by Republicans: Ohio. One study the Post cites estimates that roughly “1 in 5 Ohioans will die before they turn 65…. a similar life expectancy to residents of Slovakia and Ecuador, relatively poor countries.”

The Post looks at Ashtabula County, Ohio, and compares it with its neighbor across the Pennsylvania border, Erie County, and the next county over, Chautauqua in New York state. The three counties have all experienced the same economic woes over the past several decades, as industrial jobs disappeared and wages fell. “But Ashtabula residents are much more likely to die young, especially from smoking, diabetes-related complications or motor vehicle accidents, than people living in its sister counties in Pennsylvania and New York, states that have adopted more stringent public health measures,” the Post found.

The primary difference: Democratic versus Republican lawmakers and leaders. Democratic states have enacted legislation to protect public health—including measures like seat-belt laws, high tobacco taxes, and more generous Medicaid and safety net benefits. Ohio and other Republican states have not. The Post cites a study by Ellen Meara, a health economics and policy professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in which she looked at geographic disparities in premature mortality over recent decades. It’s not just geography, she told the Post. It’s politics.

Meara’s paper doesn’t explicitly say that. Instead, she and her fellow authors say that “health disparities across states may arise from long-run changes in state policies or health ‘investments,’” including things like “anti-smoking policies, expansions of Medicaid, income support, and norms around health behaviors.” In other words, the kinds of investments blue states—like California, Pennsylvania, and New York—have made.

Three decades ago, California and Ohio had comparable health outcomes, ranking in the middle of all the states. Since then, the more proactive and progressive California has seen its premature-death rate fall significantly. Ohio has not. “By 2017, California had the nation’s second-lowest mortality rates, falling behind only Minnesota; Ohio ranked 41st,” the Post’s analysis found.

While Ohio is the specific case study for the Post, they found the divide has increased nationwide.

Today, people in the South and Midwest, regions largely controlled by Republican state legislators, have increasingly higher chances of dying prematurely compared with those in the more Democratic Northeast and West, according to the Post’s analysis of death rates.

Those disparities are bound to increase over the coming years. Some of these studies are still looking at pre-COVID-19 statistics. As Charles Gaba has been chronicling for the past few years, the death rate from COVID-19 is higher in Republican-leaning areas. Republicans have made the COVID-19 pandemic a political fight, like in Florida where the actual person in charge of public health calls the vaccine “anti-human” and is urging Floridians to avoid the newest vaccines.

Studies are soon also going to have to account for states that have banned abortion and criminalized reproductive health care. A study last year from the Commonwealth Fund determined that “maternal death rates were 62 percent higher in 2020 in abortion-restriction states than in abortion-access states (28.8 vs. 17.8 per 100,000 births).”

One of the factors behind that is on full display in parts of Idaho, where there are no practicing OB-GYN physicians any more—they’ve left the state over fear of prosecution. That makes giving birth a lot more dangerous. Making it even worse, the state is now going to prosecute emergency room doctors who provide abortions to stabilize a patient’s health.

Gun safety legislation—or the absence of it—is another key difference contributing to higher premature-death rates in red states. In 2021, the states with the lowest rate of gun deaths were Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New York. Mississippi, Louisiana, Wyoming, Missouri, and Alabama had the highest gun-death rates.

In all of these states, the so-called “party of life” has consistently proven that what it’s really about is actively enabling premature death. They’ve proven that by refusing to save lives by expanding Medicaid, by warring against basic science, by keeping people hungry and vulnerable, and by criminalizing doctors. All in the name of so-called “family values,” “freedom,” and the “sanctity of life.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Jim Jordan

Speaker Race: 'Legislative Terrorist' Or 'David Duke Without The Baggage'

The race for the next speaker of the House is on. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Majority Leader Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) have both declared that they want the job. The official launch of the contest will be at a House Republican forum next Tuesday, led by interim Speaker Patrick McHenry (R-NC) and House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY). The voting is expected to begin Wednesday. Who knows when it could end?

Democrats will do what they did both in the first speaker’s election and in the motion to oust McCarthy: unite behind Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). So it’s going to be up to Republicans to figure this one out on their own. And what a decision it will be.


Jordan, currently chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and chief Hunter Biden dick-pic promoter, was the founding chairman of the Freedom Caucus way back when. Jordan is a key architect of the total chaos that’s now the norm for the Republican-controlled House. After being hounded into retirement by the maniacs, former Speaker John Boehner said, “Jordan was a terrorist as a legislator going back to his days in the Ohio House and Senate. … A terrorist. A legislative terrorist.”

Jordan’s pre-legislative career as an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University has been a persistent public-relations problem for him. Former student athletes credibly allege that he refused to intervene when they asked for his help against a team doctor who had sexually abused them. Jordan denies that he knew about the abuse. One of the former students, Tito Vazquez, said that he complained to Jordan, who allegedly replied, “I have nothing to do with this.”

That doesn’t speak directly to Jordan as a legislator, though it is a reflection of his character. What does speak to Jordan in Congress is his record. In 2021, the Center for Effective Lawmaking—a joint project of the University of Virginia and Vanderbilt University—ranked Jordan as 202 out of 205 on the effectiveness scale for congressional Republicans. They put him at 217 out of 222 Republicans in the most recent, complete session of Congress. Lawmaking isn’t really his thing. Yelling for the cameras is.

Jordan was one of the 147 Congressional Republicans who voted to overturn the 2020 election on the night of January 6, 2021, after the hours-long assault on the U.S. Capitol by a violent mob of Donald Trump supporters. A close Trump ally, Jordan is known to have conferred at length with Trump on the morning of Jan. 6. He defied the House committee investigating Jan. 6, refusing to comply even when subpoenaed.

Given all that history, Jordan’s campaign pledges to “fix the institution” and “unify the party” don’t even reach the threshold of laughable.


Scalise, the current House majority leader, would at least have the advantage of knowing how the House is supposed to work and being able to organize it, since he also served as party whip.

Scalise once allegedly told Stephanie Grace, a Louisiana reporter and political columnist, that he considered himself “like David Duke without the baggage.” In 2014, a Louisiana blogger reported that Scalise “was allegedly an honored guest and speaker at an international conference of white supremacist leaders” in 2002. The event was organized by Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

The lawmaker didn’t deny attending the conference when the story broke, but issued a statement calling it “a mistake I regret.” He said he was there “as a state representative, trying to build support for legislation that focused on cutting wasteful state spending, eliminating government corruption, and stopping tax hikes.” In his statement, he also suggested that the international conference of white supremacists was just another “Louisiana group.”

Scalise probably has the edge among members of the GOP conference. He’s both liked among the moderates and a dogged fundraiser, bringing in $170 million in the past decade for Republican candidates. When Scalise says, “I firmly believe this conference is a family,” it will at least be plausible to his colleagues. His sympathy ploy will probably work, too. “When I was shot in 2017, it was members of this conference who saved my life on that field,” he wrote in his statement announcing his candidacy for speaker. “When I was in the hospital for nearly 15 weeks, it was the possibility of getting back to work with all of you that kept me motivated to get better.”

One person to whom Scalise isn’t family is his last boss, former Speaker Kevin McCarthy. There’s bad blood between them going back to at least 2018, when Scalise challenged McCarthy to succeed the previous guy hounded out by the Freedom Caucus, former Speaker Paul Ryan.

McCarthy hasn’t weighed in publicly, but his staff—with or without McCarthy’s blessing—has been making phone calls to Republican lawmakers to boost Jordan. Semafor reports that their source doesn’t refer to the effort as “endorsing” Jordan. Instead, they say it’s “consulting and providing guidance” to Jordan’s team. Sure.

Of course McCarthy would prioritize his petty feud with Scalise over what could be considered better for the party. The hilarious irony:

Meanwhile, the guy who brought McCarthy down, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), calls Jordan—the guy McCarthy is probably backing—his “mentor.” You really can’t make this shit up.

McCarthy could also be trying to stay on good terms with the MAGA crowd, perhaps even envisioning himself on the ticket with Donald Trump in 2024. It’s not like he really has a future in the House anymore, and he’s probably egotistical enough to consider himself a valid contender. For now, Trump is staying out of it, claiming he’s focused on his presidential run (cough, defending himself against 91 felony indictments). There is a rumor going around though that he’ll visit the House Republicans as they work out who should be speaker.

So all those “moderate” Republicans have quite a choice facing them: Go with the alleged white supremacist, or blatantly turn the House into an arm of the Trump 2024 campaign. Of course, there’s always the option that consistently got the most votes for speaker during the first 14 rounds of voting back in January: Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Kevin McCarthy

With Republicans In Revolt, McCarthy Fails On Defense Bill Again

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy suffered yet another loss on Thursday, one that no speaker should ever experience. Five of his Republican colleagues rebelled against sending the defense appropriations bill to the floor, and blocked it. Again. These things aren’t supposed to happen in the House. Speakers don’t put a bill on the floor when they don’t have the votes locked up. A controlling bloc of the majority doesn’t vote against leadership. Republicans don’t vote against defense spending.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is right: As speaker, she didn’t lose any rule votes—the procedural vote that kicks off consideration of a bill—because she didn’t put them on the floor without knowing she had the votes locked up. In fact, until McCarthy, it had been more than two decades since a rule vote failed on the floor. McCarthy has managed to do it three times in four months, and twice just this week.

Last week, McCarthy intended to put both the defense appropriations bill and a stopgap government funding bill on the floor in tandem. That quickly fell apart when the extremists in his raucous caucus made it clear they wouldn’t sign on, and he was forced to pull both from the floor—the smart thing to do.

The not-smart thing to do was to come back this week and try to put defense appropriations back on the floor without having worked out a plan with his hard-liners on government funding—or anything else. Which is exactly what McCarthy did Tuesday. He lost when GOP Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Dan Bishop of North Carolina, Ken Buck of Colorado, Ralph Norman of South Carolina, and Matt Rosendale of Montana all voted no.

The really not-smart thing to do was to try it again just two days later. This time around, it was Biggs, Bishop, and Rosendale again, joined by Reps. Eli Crane of Arizona and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia (so much for her being McCarthy’s ally). Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, chairman of the Rules Committee, also voted no in a process move so that he can bring the bill to the floor in the future.

Greene drew a new line in the sand on the bill: All funding in it that might go to Ukraine has to be split out. Now, if McCarthy wants to get Greene back on board, leadership has to go back to the Rules Committee and rewrite it, stripping out anything to do with Ukraine aid. Even doing that is no guarantee that McCarthy can get everyone else on board—or even get enough votes to let the defense bill pass.

Again, this is defense spending. Republicans are hating on the troops. This is the House McCarthy built. House Republicans can’t even fund the military.

At this point, the hard-liners are toying with McCarthy just because they can. Unless he gets wise—and soon—a government shutdown is inevitable. It’s all they will allow. McCarthy’s only option to stop them is to work with Democrats.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Ginni And Clarence

How Ginni Thomas And Leonard Leo Used Dark Money To Build The Far Right

Politico’s Heidi Pryzybyla has new reporting that delves deep into the dark money network judicial activist Leonard Leo has constructed, shining a light on the most pernicious corner of it: his collusion with Supreme Court spouse Ginni Thomas.

There’s a lot of meat in this new report, but the timeline Pryzybyla lays out is the most instructive—and damning—evidence of Leo’s scheme to remake the judiciary and overturn long-standing legal precedents on abortion, affirmative action, and many other issues. He shows how he used Thomas as his “in” to the Supreme Court, turning the court into his tool with the billions he has amassed from anonymous donors. It also demonstrates the extent to which the Thomases are funded by the conservative network.

The timeline is critical, opening up potential new avenues of investigation for Congress and law enforcement. In September 2009, the court’s conservative majority decided to expand the scope of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, from determining whether the anti-Hillary Clinton documentary created by the nonprofit Citizens United violated campaign finance laws to whether they should use it to overturn previous decisions approving campaign finance laws. In November 2009, Cleta Mitchell—yes, Big Lie lawyer Cleta Mitchell—filed paperwork with the IRS to create a new nonprofit: Liberty Central Inc.

Liberty Central was the prototype organization created by the eventual Supreme Court decision, which was handed down in January 2010. It declared that corporations and nonprofits can spend unlimited amounts on political campaigns, using unlimited funds from unnamed donors: dark money.

In preparation for that decision, in December 2009 Ginni Thomas filed the paperwork incorporating Liberty Central in Virginia, with Leo as co-director. They had $500,000 in seed money from Harlan Crow, the megadonor who has also provided Clarence and Ginni Thomas with lavish gifts. The group had all the pieces in place to hit the ground running the minute the decision was handed down.

“Ginni really wanted to build an organization and be a movement leader,” one of Politico’s sources said. “Leonard [Leo] was going to be the conduit of that.” But Ginni Thomas proved to be a liability for the group, taking a far too public and political role. It came to a head in October, 2010 when Ginni Thomas made headlines with a telephone call to Anita Hill, demanding that Hill apologize for the sexual harassment allegations she raised against Clarence Thomas during his confirmation.

In November 2010, reports circulated that Ginni Thomas was going to step down from her leadership role, though Leo issued a denial. At the same time, Ginni Thomas sought and received expedited approval for incorporating a consulting business. That business was Liberty Consulting. Simultaneously, Leo reactivated one of his old organizations, the dormant Judicial Education Project. Leo then began using JEP to direct contracts to pay Ginni Thomas an amount similar to what she had earned at Liberty Central, which was as much as $100,000 between June 2011 and June 2012.

Earlier this year, the Washington Postreported that in January 2012, Leo ordered GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway to bill the JEP $25,000 and then use the funds to “give” Ginni Thomas “another $25K,” emphasizing that the paperwork should have “[n]o mention of Ginni, of course.”

Since 2010, the JEP has spent “at least $25 million” on grants and contracts, Politico reports. The full amount, and where and to whom all that money has gone, is unclear. “Leo and Thomas did not respond to questions about when the arrangement to pay Thomas began, if it ended and how much she was paid or what type of work she did,” Politico reports.

Subsidizing the Thomases isn’t all the JEP has done. It is staffed and directed by former Thomas clerks, and since it was reactivated in 2010, it has been one of the forces behind challenges to the Affordable Care Act, voting rights, affirmative action, etc. It files amicus briefs for the challenges that are detailed and extensively researched, in essence doing the conservative justices’ homework for them when constructing their decisions, Przybyla reports.

In 2020 JEP became the 85 fund, with a subgroup, The Honest Elections Project. That organization used Trump’s Big Lie of a “stolen” election to amplify claims of voter fraud and state elections corruption, and to push for more voter suppression.

The story has many, many layers beyond the dark money that seems to fund Thomas' family. It delves into some of the offshoots in Leo’s network and its murky relationship with the Supreme Court beyond Thomas, including Justice Samuel Alito and the deceased Justice Antonin Scalia. All of it, though, coalesces on the corruption of the Supreme Court by Leo and his anonymous millionaires and billionaires. That provides even more fodder for the probes currently being conducted into Supreme Court ethics in the Senate and the D.C. attorney general’s inquiry into Leo’s dark money network.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court's Approval Rating Drops To Lowest Level Ever

More than two years of highly unpopular decisions and months of exposés detailing scandals and alleged corruption has eroded the U.S. Supreme Court’s approval to its lowest level ever in the years in which Gallup has been tracking it. It dropped from 62 percent in 2000, the first year of the survey, to just 40 percent today. It had a 58 percent approval rating in 2020, before the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and the installation of Donald Trump’s appointee, Amy Coney Barrett. It’s been mostly downhill for the court’s approval since.

The court has been on a spree of unprecedented and radical actions over the last two and a half years, reversing decades of court precedent on abortion, voting rights, civil rights, environmental protection, executive authority, labor law—you name it, up to and including the foundational principles of the Constitution. If the court could reverse a century’s worth of progress in some arena of our public and private lives, they’d do it. For the first year of Trump-appointee dominance on the court, they didn’t even bother to hold hearings on a lot of it. They just tore up decades of progress in the “emergency” or “shadow docket,” where they could do it anonymously and with absolutely no transparency.

Those actions clearly had an effect on the court’s approval rating. There was a brief blip of increased approval—up to 43% in 2022—that was erased this year by the onslaught of scandals and apparent corruption by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

That includes extensive ProPublica reporting on Thomas: the luxurious vacations, the real estate deals including his mother living rent- and mortgage-free in her newly renovated home, and the private school tuition for Thomas’ nephew, all from Harlan Crow, a billionaire mega-donor to the Republican Party. That’s without even considering the involvement of Thomas’ wife, Ginni, in the January 6 insurrection.

Alito hasn’t escaped ProPublica’s investigative eye either. It reported on his private, luxurious, and all-expense-paid fishing trip in which he hung out with a hedge fund manager who has had business before the Supreme Court, cases he heard and ruled on. Other outlets have followed its lead. CNN has investigated Alito’s celebration of overturning abortion rights with his all-expenses paid trip to Rome. Alito’s efforts to slap back at those stories and declare, incorrectly, that he is beyond the reach of Congress aren’t likely to resonate with any neutral observer among the public.

The court isn’t elected, so what the people think of them isn’t of direct concern to the justices. However, the people who have the power to regulate the court are elected, and thus have every interest in dealing with the problem. So perhaps the justices shouldn’t be too smug about their untouchability.

If any of them (cough, Chief Justice John Roberts, cough) truly care about the institution, they’ll see the threat to it in the growing lack of confidence and trust in the court, particularly right now when the rule of law in the nation is on such precarious ground thanks to an insurrectionist former president.

That’s where Roberts might take note of this new result from Gallup because it surveyed his personal approval rating for the first time in eight years. His approval has been relatively flat for the last decade, and now he sits at 43 percent approval. What’s changed is the chunk of the population that is paying enough attention to the court, and to Roberts, to have an opinion about him. In 2015, 44 percent of respondents simply didn’t know enough about him to weigh in with an opinion. This month, that was down to 27 percent.

If you’re a chief justice of the Supreme Court, you don’t want your work to be rising to the level of general public scrutiny. You’re better off with the court not making so much news—particualrly bad news—that more people are paying attention. You really don’t want that ahead of an election year in which your court and its lack of ethics is going to be a key issue.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Clarence Thomas

Is Clarence Thomas Grifting His Former Clerks? Via Venmo?

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is the gods’ gift to investigative reporters. The man has apparently not paid for a goddamned thing in his life since Ronald Reagan installed him in his first government position. His grift goes so deep, according to a new report in from The Guardian, that his powerful network of former clerks had to pay for the privilege of attending his Christmas party.

According to Venmo records reviewed by The Guardian, several former clerks who are now powerful attorneys sent payments to Thomas’s aide, Rajan Vasisht, who was in the job from July 2019 to July 2021 for a 2019 Christmas bash with the justice. The amount of money each sent to Vasisht’s Venmo account wasn’t disclosed, “but the purpose of each payment is listed as either ‘Christmas party’, ‘Thomas Christmas Party’, ‘CT Christmas Party’ or ‘CT Xmas party’, in an apparent reference to the justice’s initials.” Given that Vasisht was Thomas’ aide, scheduling his personal and official calendar and handling his correspondence, there’s no other reason for these high-powered Washington, D.C., lawyers to be sending him money.

Among those who sent money is Patrick Strawbridge, a partner at Consovoy McCarthy, who just secured a big win at the Supreme Court representing the anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions in its suit against the University of North Carolina. He has also worked for the Trump Organization, the Trump family, and Donald Trump, including representing Trump in his failed bid to keep his tax returns from becoming public—his first oral argument before the court. He clerked for Thomas in 2008-2009.

The Consovoy in Stawbridge’s firm is Will Consovoy, who was a fellow Thomas clerk in the same term. Consovoy also worked for Trump, trying to shield his tax records from then-Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. Consovoy was originally lead counsel in the case overturning affirmative action, but withdrew from oral arguments at the court when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. He died earlier this year.

Other former Thomas clerks who sent "party" money include:

Kate Todd, who served as White House deputy counsel under Donald Trump at the time of the payment and is now a managing party of Ellis George Cipollone’s law office; Elbert Lin, the former solicitor general of West Virginia who played a key role in a supreme court case that limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions; and Brian Schmalzbach, a partner at McGuire Woods who has argued multiple cases before the supreme court.

Most of Thomas’ former clerks have landed in extremely influential positions thanks to their association with Thomas, and of course the Federalist Society that helped them get where they are now. A raft of them—about two dozen—ended up with Trump-appointed jobs, either in the administration or in the federal judiciary. In private practice, former Thomas clerks end up in the vast right-wing network of firms that help dark money groups manufacture court cases to do things like overturn decades of precedent in abortion protections, affirmative action, environmental and safety regulation. The Thomas alum are with firms that regularly go before the court and in judgeships on the lower courts, where they can help tee up cases to go to SCOTUS. It’s a right-wing judicial swamp.

Thomas has bragged about how he has the most diverse clerks from all backgrounds. “They are male, they are female, they are black, they’re white, they’re from the West, they’re from the South, they’re from public schools, they’re from public universities, they’re from poor families, they’re from sharecroppers, they’re from all over,” he said in 2017 while talking to students at the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

Thomas’ wife Ginni has also written about how the former clerks are like extended family and she’s the “den mother” to the group. She’s organized big reunions (which the clerks probably ended up paying for) and coordinated them all on Facebook. That ended up extending into soliciting their help with the insurrection, for which she had to apologize. Not that there weren’t insurrectionists in the group: John Eastman is among them. He’s facing potential disbarment in California for his part in the attempted coup, and because he has “repeatedly breached professional ethics.” It’s noteworthy Eastman’s “family” from his days clerking for Judge J. Michael Lutting in the mid-1990s included 2020 elector objector Ted Cruz, one of the only senators to back the 2020 scheme.

Whether the powerful, well-connected group of lawyers who paid for Thomas’ Christmas party breached those professional ethics is murky at this point. Kedric Payne, the general counsel and senior director of ethics at the Campaign Legal Center, told The Guardian that it is possible that this was simply a pay-your-own-way kind of Christmas party rather than them paying Thomas’ expenses. That would be different from a scheme of lawyers paying for access to a Supreme Court justice. “But the point remains that the public is owed an explanation so they don’t have to speculate.”

Yes, we are owed that explanation, and it’s not likely to be forthcoming. At the heart of this is Thomas’ unbounded propensity for grift, his never-ending grudge against everything, and his sense of entitlement—you see, he’s owed the lavish lifestyle his “friends” have provided him. If that includes making his extended “family” of clerks—more like a crime family—pay for the Christmas party he is hosting for them, so be it. He actually has a lot in common with Trump, doesn’t he?

This is precisely what the founders created impeachment for: Clarence Thomas. It is definitely time for Democrats to draw up those impeachment charges, even though it’s not going to happen. It can’t happen because Republicans are just as corrupt as he is. They aren’t going to let a little corruption between friends stand in the way of overturning progress case by case. But by keeping his scandals front and center, Democrats can make Republicans own him and his corruption.

The only solution to the problem of Thomas is a political one: Beat the Republicans and fix this. That means expanding the court to nullify his presence and ending lifetime appointments to the court so the likes of Thomas can’t happen again.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Freedom Caucus

Celebrating Its Chaos, Freedom Caucus Expels Margie

While House Republican leadership is desperately trying to tamp down the narrative of a party in total disarray, the House Freedom Caucus crowd is reveling in the free-for-all. At least, that’s what some of them are telling PunchBowl News. The group “is finding unity in disunity,” Punchbowl reports, which is some bullshit justifying the constant infighting and power struggles that have seen them squabbling on the House floor and fighting over who to purge from their ranks. That internecine warfare is all good, one member says, because it shows their independence or something.

“Unity and conformity are two different things,” Texas Rep. Michael Cloud says. “If everybody thought the same, then you have a lot of duplication that’s unnecessary. So, I see that as a strength.” Unnecessary duplication would also be what you call a governing majority in a parliamentary body, but never mind. The priority of the members of the Freedom Caucus is definitely not governing.

The “identity crisis” in the caucus has been brewing for well over a year with the influx of MAGA members intent on building their own personal brand. The likes of Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, and former Rep. Madison Cawthorne are all vying to be the most outrageous, obnoxious, attention-grabbing far-right personality of the day. They butted up against the old guard, like Rep. Jim Jordan, who wanted to use the tools of the system to … build his personal brand, centered on yelling about the Biden Crime Family in committee hearings.

The latest in-group skirmish is that well-publicized blow-up between Boebert and Greene over who gets credit for trying to impeach President Joe Biden. That gave many in the caucus the excuse they’ve been looking for to take on Greene, which they did just before leaving for the July 4 recess. The caucus held a vote on whether or not to expel her for all the things they’re mad about, mostly that she’s too cozy with Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Because of course any group that wants to see its agenda succeed can’t be caught working with leadership to grease the skids? These people.

The caucus has been trying to keep the result of that vote on Greene’s membership and her status in the group a secret. Of course that didn’t work, these people are too keen on blabbing and sniping about each other to reporters. Maryland member Rep. Andy Harris let the cat out of the bag: She’s out in what he calls “an appropriate action” for her betrayals.

On the one hand, this group’s inability to all row together in the same direction is a good thing for preserving democracy. Their constant stumbling over each other and their inability to say “yes” when they’re getting concessions means a lot of destructive legislation hasn’t happened over the years. At the same time, the chaos combined with a tiny Republican majority in the House gives every single one of them the power to blow things up.

For some reason, this chaos has actually attracted new members. If anything, the growth of the Freedom Caucus is a condemnation of the rest of the House Republican conference, which has the numbers to crush the few dozen-member caucus on votes if the majority of House Republicans would use them. However, that would mean working across the aisle with Democrats. So far, the so-called moderates prefer to let the nihilists call the shots.

They’re following their leader, who is going to cater to—or crater to—the extremists every time. Before they took off for their extended Independence Day break, McCarthy had yet another meeting with the Freedom Caucus, pleading with them to let him do his job and fund the government. That’s an appeal that’s unlikely to work because the misfits seem hellbent on making sure that spotlight is focused intensely on their petty protests rather than actually getting anything done.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Trump-Appointed Judge Promotes Online Disinformation

Trump-Appointed Judge Promotes Online Disinformation

The MAGA/QAnon crowd celebrated Independence Day with one of their own, a federal district court judge in Louisiana who issued a broad injunction against President Joe Biden and a bunch of his administration officials from working with social media companies to combat disinformation. Judge Terry Doughty, a Trump appointee, ruled that the administration likely violated the First Amendment by censoring online free speech about the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 election, and Hunter Biden’s laptop.

Doughty spared no hyperbole in his opinion: “If the allegations made by Plaintiffs are true, the present case arguably involves the most massive attack against free speech in United States’ history. In their attempts to suppress alleged disinformation, the Federal Government, and particularly the Defendants named here, are alleged to have blatantly ignored the First Amendment’s right to free speech.” That’s a hell of a lot of work “if” is doing there.

“Although this case is still relatively young, and at this stage the Court is only examining it in terms of Plaintiffs’ likelihood of success on the merits, the evidence produced thus far depicts an almost dystopian scenario,” Doughty writes. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, a period perhaps best characterized by widespread doubt and uncertainty, the United States Government seems to have assumed a role similar to an Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth.'” Many, perhaps even most, would consider the pandemic a time of mass death.

The defendants are everyone from President Joe Biden on down, including whole executive branch agencies—the departments of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Justice, Commerce, State, and Treasury—as well as their directors. The list includes the entire FBI, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration, Census Bureau, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and dozens of individuals in all of these departments and agencies. Oh, and White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, because she clearly is a part of the “deep state” decision-making process. They are barred from flagging dangerous or problematic posts on Facebook (Meta), Instagram, Twitter, YouTube/Google, and many more social media sites.

To get a sense of how out there this judge is, the notoriously extreme Fifth Circuit has already rebuked him several times over his efforts to force Biden officials to testify, including former Press Secretary Jen Psaki, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly, and White House Director of Digital Strategy Rob Flaherty.

In the case of Psaki, the appeals court judges wrote: “As Press Secretary, Psaki’s role was to inform the media of the administration’s priorities, not to develop or execute policy. Unsurprisingly, then, the record does not demonstrate that Psaki has unique first-hand knowledge that would justify the extraordinary measure of deposing a high-ranking executive official.”

Doughty also blocks agencies and officials from “collaborating, coordinating, partnering, switchboarding, and/or jointly working with” groups including the Election Integrity Partnership, researchers led by the Stanford Internet Observatory, and the University of Washington Center for an Informed Public to identify problematic social media posts. These organizations are working on internet safety, elections protection, and public health. The Stanford group, for example, is studying how to prevent the sexual abuse and exploitation of children online, and now the FBI and Department of Justice are being blocked by this judge from working with that group.

That’s just one of the dangers in this sweeping injunction: the chilling effect it could have for law enforcement trying to fight criminal or terrorist activity. Doughty is still allowing the government to contact the companies about posts that detail crimes, national security threats, or foreign attempts to influence elections, but the guidance he offered on what these exemptions covered is pretty unclear.

The case was brought by Republican attorneys general in Missouri and Louisiana, fed by all of the big lies that have been concocted by the far right in the past decade. To get a sense of what’s behind this challenge and this decision, here’s Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey in an interview conducted with The Washington Post before the injunction was issued: “The deep state planted a seed of suppression of government censorship, but that seed was fertilized, germinated and grew rapidly once President Biden took office ... There are deep concerns here that the government’s unrepentant attitude demonstrates a willingness to continue to violate the First Amendment.”

A White House official told the Post the Justice Department “is reviewing the court’s injunction and will evaluate its options in this case.”

“This Administration has promoted responsible actions to protect public health, safety, and security when confronted by challenges like a deadly pandemic and foreign attacks on our elections,” the official said. “Our consistent view remains that social media platforms have a critical responsibility to take account of the effects their platforms are having on the American people, but make independent choices about the information they present.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Amanda Zurawski

One Year After Landmark Abortion Ruling, Horrific Impact Is Mobilizing Voters

One year after the Supreme Court struck down federal abortion protection with its June 24, 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the issue is as salient to voters as ever. It still hasn’t faded from view, long past the time the (white, male) pundits insisted it would no longer motivate people.

That’s because the harm that decision has done just keeps multiplying, with every red state that decides to force pregnancy and parenthood on people in increasingly cruel ways. It's because the decision is making all forms of reproductive healthcare harder to access as doctors quit in frustration and fear and clinics close. And it’s because it’s brought the issue out into the sunlight, where people are motivated to tell their stories, everywhere. The fact that there’s something like 64 million women of childbearing age in the U.S. whose lives could be directly affected probably has something to do with it, too.

Abortion and pregnancy complications have gone from a private, doctor-patient only concern to a top story on social media, on the nightly news, and in the magazines in the hair salon. There’s a Reddit forum, monitored by health professionals and advocates, to help people navigate abortion care. The Online Abortion Resource Squad is there to debunk myths and to steer people to the care they need, which the founder of the group, Ariella Messing, admits is pretty fucked up. “This wasn’t how they should be getting care—by a random stranger on Reddit,” Messing said.

There are stories like this recent one that aired on NBC Nightly News, explaining that Georgia’s post-Dobbs ban on abortions after six weeks has forced OB-GYNs out of practice, which is actually endangering pregnant patients with unborn, wanted fetuses. It’s making prenatal care and routine women’s healthcare harder to get—and not just in Georgia, but in many of the states that have put restrictions on abortion.

People like Beth and Kyle Long, Marlena Stell, Amanda Zurawski, Jill Hartle, Kailee DeSpain, and countless others are sharing their stories. They’re making sure that the issue doesn’t go away, and that the politicians who have imposed these horrors on people know exactly what they’ve done. They are telling their stories to anyone who will listen, and that audience is getting bigger by the day.

Since one of those women, Amanda Zurawski from Texas, nearly died last summer because she couldn’t get an abortion, she’s sued the state, testified before Congress, attended the State of the Union as First Lady Jill Biden’s guest, and met with Vice President Kamala Harris. “I’ve heard a lot of other people’s traumatic stories, which has been difficult. But I’m happy to provide a place for people to tell their stories,”she said. “I can speak up. I’m not scared,” she added. “I have all the right pieces in place [to advocate], and so I will.”

Those are the stories people are seeing on Facebook, in People magazine, on the nightly news. The stories they’re hearing from friends and family. The stories they’re living. Unfortunately, there’s going to be a lot more of them: the horror stories of people trying to get abortions to save their lives, the stories of women dying when they can’t get the care they need.

In the coming years, we’re going to be hearing a whole different kind of horror story stemming from this decision. Now that a year has passed, there are “Dobbs babies” in the world, born to girls and women who were forced to carry them and now, in many cases, are being forced to parent them.

“There’s nothing more devastating to me as a provider that is so focused on having people do what is best for them and their families,” Molly Nisen, an abortion provider in Washington state told Jezebel. “I see the amount of distress this causes. … Continuing with a pregnancy that they’re not connected to is really painful for people.”

The stories of these forced pregnancies and these forced families are likely to become mainstream soon, as well.

So that’s why, one year later, 61 percent of voters still disapprove of the Dobbs decision. It’s why support for abortion rights has increased since the decision. It’s why millions of people are going to be just as motivated to vote in 2024 as they were in 2022.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Freedom Caucus

Blowup: Will House Freedom Caucus Purge 'Impure' Margie Greene?

The latest blow-up in the House Freedom Caucus, pitting Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene against Rep. Lauren Boebert in battle for the title of wingnuttiest of them all, is history repeating itself. Since the gang got together after the 2014 midterm blow-out that gave Republicans a big majority during Obama’s second term, the caucus has spent at least as much time on purity tests within its own ranks as it has blowing up everything else.

The group is currently squabbling over whether or not to have a purge, who gets credit for trying to impeach President Joe Biden, if or when they’re going to try to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and whether or not founding member Rep. Jim Jordan has been co-opted and can be trusted. It’s the old story of the gang that just can’t say “yes.”

They’ve arguably got the most power they’ve ever had since they put McCarthy in the speaker’s chair. They have high-profile seats, and sometimes control, over key committees. They’ve shown their ability to shut the House down and bend McCarthy to their will, but they just can’t stop turning on each other.

The Boebert-Greene kerfuffle is par for the course. Boebert is exploiting the fact that many of her colleagues don’t trust Greene since Greene cozied up to McCarthy. In fact, when they’re talking purges—and “at least two hardliners” are, according to Politico—Greene is at the top of the list, along with unnamed others who are “too aligned with GOP leaders and too outwardly critical of the group when it splits on certain issues.”

The current chair of the group, Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, says he’s refused the purge request. That’s not going to stop the infighting. There are too many fracture points, as South Carolina Rep. Ralph Norman was happy to explain. “The speaker’s race, there was some difference in opinion. The debt ceiling, there were differences of opinion. And we had to get 80 percent on any major issue that we take positions on,” he told Politico. “On some big issues, we have not been able to get there … We’re at a critical point right now.” Yes, they’re still fighting with each other over the speaker’s race and the debt ceiling deal.

Some of them are also looking sideways at Rep. Jim Jordan, one of the group’s founders. He was the choice of some of the members for speaker, but he was too focused on getting the powerful Judiciary Committee chair to consider it. He now has the power to hold all the hearings he wants on all the made-up issues he cares about and spend all his time yelling for the cameras, seemingly his goal in life. That’s causing “some conservative grumbling behind closed doors about his hand-in-glove work with McCarthy.”

It’s a good thing for the country that the extreme far-right in the House spend so much time fighting each other and leadership. They work so hard to be anti-establishment, they can’t see when they’re winning.

Remember the “grand bargain” of 2011, when Republicans were oh-so close to getting President Barack Obama to agree to cuts to Social Security and Medicare? The hardliners—the members who would come together in a few years to become the Freedom Caucus—balked, and wouldn’t let it happen because it came with some tax increases on the rich. The decades-long GOP goal of undermining Social Security and Medicare went down the drain. And with it, the speakership of John Boehner.

And then, in 2017, Republicans were on the brink of repealing the Affordable Care Act, the hated bill that gave Republicans such a big majority in 2014 and helped spawn the Freedom Caucus. The Freedom Caucus was so distrustful of then-Speaker Paul Ryan that they torpedoed the plan. Paul Ryan decided to retire rather than have to keep dealing with this group of misfits.

If the Freedom Caucus and fellow hardliners couldn’t be relied upon to trip over their own feet, Social Security and Medicare would be failing and Obamacare repealed. That’s the upside of their existence. That and the entertainment value of watching them take down one Republican speaker after another.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Kevin McCarthy

House Republicans Outline Their Plan To Kill Social Security And Medicare

Republicans are never going to be known for their eco-friendliness, but there is one thing they are very good at recycling: plots that combine ending Social Security and Medicare with schemes to cut taxes for the rich. They’re at it again with a new fiscal blueprint for the next 10 years reconstituted from the stuff they’ve been scraping up for the last few decades. The Republican Study Committee, the largest caucus in the GOP with around 175 members, just released what they’re calling a budget.

This is not the official 2024 Republican budget—there isn’t one, and while this group has the majority of the Republicans in it, it is not an actual congressional committee that has power to do anything. But this is what the majority of Republicans think should happen: cutting Social Security and Medicare and slashing domestic spending programs to the bone.

Their plan starts with raising the retirement age from the current age of 67 to 69, but wouldn’t kick in until people now aged 59 retire. They’d have to wait three months longer to retire than under the current system. The wait increases incrementally until the people who are now 52 years old retire. They—and everyone younger—would have to work until they turn 69 to get full benefits. Republicans don’t want to risk alienating seniors now, so they’re going after Gen X.

That’s a benefit cut, any way you slice it, for future retirees. “These changes would transform Social Security from an earned insurance benefit, which replaces wages lost in the event of old age, disability, or death, into a subsistence-level welfare benefit,” says Nancy Altman, president of Social Security Works.

The plan resurrects the old Paul Ryan Medicare voucher scheme, calling it “premium support.” As Altman explains it, seniors would be forced to “fend for themselves on the open market with nothing but a coupon to offset as much of the cost of the insurance that they can find.”

Meanwhile, the 2017 GOP Tax Scam, with its “eye-popping payouts for CEOs,” would be made permanent. It’s set to expire in 2025. Enough said.

The White House was quick to respond:

That’s true. In addition to ending Social Security and Medicare as we know it, the Republicans would roll back the new authority Medicare has for negotiating lower drug prices and to force drug makers to curtail price increases. They also want to repeal the cap on insulin costs for Medicare enrollees. Yes, Republicans are the party of unaffordable insulin.

These are the same Republicans who booed and hissed at President Joe Biden in his State of the Union speech for telling the truth about their plot against Social Security and Medicare. The same Republicans who cheered and leapt to their feet when Biden asked them to “stand up and show them we will not cut Social Security. We will not cut Medicare.”

No one expected that to last, to be honest. It kept the programs out of the debt ceiling negotiations, which was great. But they’re never going to give up their goal of destroying the social safety net. Just like they’re not giving up on cutting taxes, slashing services, and privatizing whatever remains for personal profit. It’s all they got.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Matt Gaetz

Ethics Panel Reopens Gaetz Teen Sex Probe As Freedom Caucus Rebels

How do you even negotiate with these puffed up numbskulls?

The rebellion that shut down the House last week shows every sign of continuing this week, with no agreement yet announced between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the 11 nihilists whose tantrum ground House business to a halt. According to The Washington Post, leadership hasn’t tried to engage the group since last Wednesday, when they gave up on accomplishing anything legislatively and sent everyone home. A new development late last week could make matters even worse for McCarthy and team.

According to Punchbowl News, the House Ethics Committee has reopened an inquiry into one of the ringleaders of the revolt, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. The Department of Justice previously asked the committee to back off while it conducted a federal sex trafficking investigation involving underage girls. That investigation concluded without charges against Gaetz, but now the committee has reportedly opened its inquiry back up.

The committee announced the investigation in April 2021 to look into public reports that Gaetz “engaged in sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use, shared inappropriate images or videos on the House floor, misused state identification records, converted campaign funds to personal use, and/or accepted a bribe, improper gratuity, or impermissible gift.” Expect Gaetz to scream that this is leadership’s retribution against him for his role in shutting the House down.

That won’t help McCarthy get the House back on track, though Majority Leader Steve Scalise announced that they’re going to try.

They’ll reconvene late Monday afternoon and work through simple legislation that doesn’t require procedural votes to move forward. Leadership will also try to bring back the rule vote from last Tuesday that kicked off the rebellion. If that’s not blocked—which seems unlikely at this point—the Rules Committee, which is meeting Monday afternoon, will try to advance the items that were blocked last week: securing our freedom to buy gas stoves and other efforts to hobble the Biden administration, including trying to block restrictions on stabilizing braces that can be attached to pistols, transforming them into short-barreled rifles.

That last gun-related bill was one point of contention last week, when the sponsor, Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia, claimed Scalise threatened to tank his bill in retaliation for Clyde’s vote against the debt ceiling bill. Scalise contends that the delay in bringing up the bill is because it’s too controversial among Republicans.

Bringing that bill up this week isn’t going to work to appease them. “It’s kind of disingenuous,” said Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina. He insists the hostage crisis will continue until the group gets what it wants on government spending. “We got a slim majority, but everything fails to pass until we get spending under control,” he added. “Everything.”

The group claims that one of McCarthy’s secret promises to them back in January, the agreement that secured his speakership, was that the House wouldn’t pass any spending bills that were higher than fiscal year 2022 levels. The debt ceiling deal he worked out with President Joe Biden violated that secret agreement with them, they insist, and now they’re going to hold the House hostage until McCarthy backs down.

What that means is the 12 spending bills that are supposed to be voted on this year are in jeopardy, as is a functioning government. If those bills don’t get passed, there will be across-the-board cuts to everything, including defense and veterans’ care, starting January 1. That was included in the debt ceiling deal as a deterrent to the House trying to shut the government down—it would harm their favorite things and be politically damaging. If the far-right nihilists get the level of funding cuts they want, the Senate won’t agree, and the bills won’t pass. Which means McCarthy is going to have to compromise on funding again, and we’ll be right back here with pissed-off maniacs.

Ideally, the funding bills would all be decided upon by October 1, when the new fiscal year starts. Given that there are just 32 legislative days left, that’s not going to happen. The House lost all of last week because of the rebellion, and at this point, this week could be a wash as well.

Even if McCarthy could appease them on the spending bills, that won’t end the complaints the rebel group has with leadership, real or imagined. One of them, Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee, insisted to Politico that leadership has a nefarious plot to harm them. He says he witnessed an act of intimidation of one of his colleagues by someone he would only identify as “the chairman,” calling it a “beat-down.” And Burchett isn’t even one of the worst of the lot — he supported McCarthy’s speaker bid on every vote and isn’t officially a member of the Freedom Caucus.

McCarthy has somehow managed to alienate a former supporter, and certainly hasn’t figured out how to resolve this standoff with the party’s fringe. Instead, he picked a fight with his own leadership team. Meanwhile, he’s out there on right-wing radio questioning Biden’s ability to lead.

McCarthy needs to spend a little more time on figuring out how to do his own job, and less prognosticating for 2024.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Freedom Caucus Still Whining About Speaker McCarthy's 'Broken Promises'

Freedom Caucus Still Whining About Speaker McCarthy's 'Broken Promises'

Members of the House Freedom Caucus are still seething at Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) for coming to an agreement with President Joe Biden that avoided a catastrophic default. They insist he broke promises made in order to secure that final, 15th round of balloting that put him in the speaker’s chair—promises McCarthy and his team insist didn’t happen.

The Freedom Caucus swear that McCarthy promised he would never let a bill pass with more Democratic votes than Republican. The debt ceiling agreement passed with 165 Democratic votes, and 149 from Republicans. “We were told they’d never put a bill on the floor that would take more Democrats than Rs to pass it. We were told that,” Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona whined last week. Reps. Chip Roy of Texas and Ralph Norman of South Carolina, who extracted coveted seats on the powerful Rules Committee in their deal-making with McCarthy, also insist he promised them nothing would be allowed out of that committee and onto the floor unless it had the unanimous vote of all nine Republicans.

The rest of the Rules Committee and McCarthy’s team deny that he ever made those promises, and there isn’t any public evidence that he did. There is, however, that unresolved mystery of the secret documents that plenty of people said they saw circulating during that chaotic week in January, when McCarthy was wheeling and dealing his way to the gavel. Plenty of rank-and-file Republicans believed at the time that the secret addendum to the rules package governing this session existed, and felt sold out.

There is one promise that he’s not denying, and this one is most dangerous for the future stability of the government: McCarthy reportedly told the Freedom Caucus that he would roll back funding for the 2024 fiscal year to 2022 levels. Colorado Rep. Ken Buck repeated that claim on CNN last weekend. “He promised when he was running for speaker that we would use the 2022 baseline numbers as the appropriation numbers for this year, and then went back on that promise with this particular legislation, where he promised and signed into law the 2023 numbers.”

The danger in this claim, which again McCarthy isn’t denying, is in those 12 spending bills that Congress has to agree to before Oct. 1 to avoid a government shutdown and/or a one percent across-the-board cut to everything starting in January. The topline spending for the next fiscal year was set in this debt ceiling agreement at nearly $1.6 trillion. Where Biden and the Democrats are looking at that as $1.6 trillion in guaranteed spending, the Freedom Caucus and Republicans could very well be looking at that as a cap, with the intention of spending much less.

McCarthy, maybe in a bid to recapture the hearts and minds of the Freedom Caucus, hinted at spending fights to come in the next few months, including getting all the “wokeness” out of government. No. Really.

There’s no denying that members of the Freedom Caucus were the biggest losers in the debt ceiling agreement, but they could still regroup to make that appropriations process impossible and threaten a government shutdown if they don’t see the cuts they say McCarthy promised them. The ultimate threat they have over McCarthy—the motion to vacate the chair and boot him—completely fizzled out this time around. It does, however, still exist as a possibility, and the fight over the 12 appropriations bills is a likely place for it to bubble up again.

One of the negotiators in the debt ceiling deal for McCarthy, Louisiana Rep. Garret Graves, acknowledged that threat on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday. "I'm not ruling out anything. It depends on how reasonable each side is, obviously, in the negotiations. It's very difficult to predict.”

Between now and October 1, when the new funding agreement has to kick in, the House is scheduled to work a grand total of 36 days. That’s subject to change—they can always cancel recess and work.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

House Freedom Caucus Neutered By Debt Ceiling Deal (And They're Furious)

House Freedom Caucus Neutered By Debt Ceiling Deal (And They're Furious)

The deal President Joe Biden made with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy takes the debt ceiling off the table until January 1, 2025, the remainder of Biden’s current term in the White House. No wonder the Freedom Caucus is so wound up about it! The debt ceiling is the best political hostage ever, even if some of those caucus members seem to question whether default or its consequences are actually real. The other thing the bill does, though you’re not seeing a lot of uproar from the Freedom Caucus maniacs about it yet, is make a potential government shutdown much more politically painful for Republicans. McCarthy might have just negotiated a lot of Republican potency away.

One of the key things the agreement does is disincentivize the other hostage-taking action that Republicans love: holding up funding in order to shut the government down. The deal has a trigger mechanism that ensures that if Republicans do try to shut the government down, they end up making cuts to the thing they love most, next to tax cuts for rich people—defense spending. A shutdown would also force automatic cuts to veterans’ health care, the other thing Republicans have insisted is most important to them since Democrats pointed out just how much they would have taken away from veterans with their original debt ceiling offer.

As structured, the deal mostly holds all discretionary funding “roughly flat,” the White House says, for the next two years. That includes all the stuff that’s subject to appropriations bills, as opposed to mandatory spending for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. It does increase funding for defense and veterans’ care, giving the White House what Biden asked for on defense spending in his 2024 budget proposal—$886 billion, up about 3% from 2023. So non-defense spending is held roughly flat for two years, and defense and veteran spending is increased.

With budget levels established for the next two fiscal years, the next job for Congress is appropriating that money. The agreement requires Congress to finish all 12 appropriation bills before the end of the calendar year. If Congress does not complete work on appropriations, it triggers an automatic stopgap funding measure with cuts of one percent across the board—including defense and veterans. Those cuts hold until the appropriations bills are passed.

Yes, the Freedom Caucus is probably still going to want to shut it all down, because that’s what they do, but the rest of the Republicans aren’t going to want to own those immediate cuts that will happen starting January 1 if they don’t finish their work. That includes cuts to defense and to veterans’ care, which would be owned by the Republican majority. That’s a pretty effective hammer to wield against further hostage-taking shenanigans.

How much power, then, does the Republican House have coming out of this deal? McCarthy clearly is giving an awful lot away in terms of leverage. The power of the purse is pretty much the only thing the House has and he’s decided to share it with Biden. He won’t have the threat of a government shutdown to extract much of anything from Biden: It would cause his majority too much pain.

McCarthy might come out of this slightly stronger in his own conference, since the Freedom Caucus doesn’t seem to be able to unify against his leadership. There might be a challenge to his speakership, but it looks like it would fail if for no other reason than there is literally no one else who wants the job. So McCarthy might have consolidated some power with House Republicans by the end of this week, but he’ll have ceded a helluva lot more to Biden and the Senate.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos