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'Big Lie' Extremist Budd To Face Beasley In North Carolina Senate Race

On Tuesday, North Carolina Republicans selected Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC), a far-right extremist who has pushed false claims about the 2020 election, to be their Senate nominee. He will face Democratic nominee Cheri Beasley, a former chief justice of the state's Supreme Court.

As of Wednesday morning, Budd had received more than 58 percent of the GOP primary vote. Former Gov. Pat McCrory received just below 25 percent of the vote, while former Rep. Mark Walker received about nine percent of the vote.

Budd was a vocal backer of efforts to overturn President Joe Biden's victory over former President Donald Trump, baselessly claiming that Americans had no faith in the results due to "legitimate concerns over voter fraud, machine irregularities, and mail-in ballots."

Budd voted to overturn North Carolina's Electoral College results, citing "irregularities & constitutional violations" and defended that move as recently as Monday.

Though Budd did once admit that Biden was the legitimate president, Trump endorsed Budd anyway, telling supporters he was "someone you’ll be very proud of. He'll fight like hell."

Since getting elected to the U.S. House in 2016, Budd has repeatedly embraced extreme positions. He joined the far-right Freedom Caucus, voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, urged the Supreme Court to reject LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections, and praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as "a very intelligent actor."

In 2019, Budd refused to say that it was inappropriate for a U.S. president to ask other countries to meddle in American elections, calling it a "tricky question."

The following year, he suggested that stay-at-home orders to curb the COVID-19 pandemic were being pushed by Democratic politicians with a "socialist bent."

Last June, Budd pushed to cut $111 million in transportation funds earmarked for his own state, calling it "pork-barrel spending."

As a candidate, Budd has presented himself as an outsider who "can't be bought by the swamp," despite receiving significant funding from lobbyists and lobbying firms.

Democratic voters selected Beasley as their nominee. After years of working as a public defender and a judge, she was appointed to lead the North Carolina Supreme Court in 2019 — becoming the first Black woman to hold that post.

Her campaign has focused on justice for all, affordable health care, women's rights, and safeguarding the right to vote. Unlike Budd, she strongly supports codifying Roe v. Wade.

North Carolina has been a swing state in recent elections. The state narrowly voted for Trump in 2020 (49.9 percent to 48.6 percent), while also re-electing Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper (51.5 percent to 47 percent).

The seat is open because Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) is retiring. The Cook Political Report and Sabato's Crystal Ball both list the seat as leaning Republican in November.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Ignoring Evidence, Senate Republicans Blame Immigrants For Increasing Violent Crime

Studies show that immigrants are less likely to commit violent crimes than those born in the United States.

Senate Republicans who continue to oppose measures that would make it harder for criminals to obtain and keep firearms are blaming immigrants for a rise in violent crime in the United States, despite having no evidence to support their accusations.

On Monday, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced a resolution "urging the development of a strategy to counter the rise in violent crime across the United States."

"If there was ever a time that the American people want to know that the president and Congress are working together to defeat the scourge of crime, the time is now. This resolution is to send the message that combating crime is what we are focused on," Cassidy told Fox News in a statement.

The text of the resolution, which specifically calls out what it terms "gun violence in major, Democrat-run cities and States," accuses the Biden administration of pursuing an "alleged violent crime reduction strategy is actually a gun control strategy and wrongly puts lawful gun owners and dealers at the center of enforcement efforts instead of focusing on the criminals perpetuating violence, insecurity, and fear across the United States." It claims that "drug cartels have overburdened Border Patrol resources by surging illegal immigrants into strategic locations so that the cartels can traffic narcotics and other contraband into the United States undetected" and notes that "violent crimes related to illegal immigration and the illegal drug trade must stop for the sake of the sovereignty of the United States and the safety of the people of the United States."

The resolution expressly notes a correlation between violent crime and higher levels of undocumented immigrants, with no evidence whatsoever that one caused the other. It asserts that "rising violent crime in the United States can be directly correlated to a surge in illegal immigration at the southern border of the United States and a surge in the sale, distribution, and consumption of illegal drugs."

The text calls for a resolution "that it is the sense of the Senate that the President should work with Congress to develop and execute a strategy, drawing on the multiple instruments of power and resources of the United States to counter the rise in violent crime across the country by reinforcing strong criminal justice policies, by laying blame on the perpetrators of violent acts, and by securing the southern border."

Data shows that immigrants, documented or undocumented, are less likely to commit violent crimes than native-born citizens.

A study published by the journal Criminology in 2018 found "that undocumented immigration does not increase violence. Rather, the relationship between undocumented immigration and violent crime is generally negative, although not significant in all specifications."

Even the Cato Institute, which calls itself a promoter of libertarian ideas, reported statistics on crime in Texas that pushed back against Republican talking points: In an October 2020 blog post that repeatedly used the offensive term "illegal immigrants," the think tank referred to a study by its researchers that found:

In 2018, the illegal immigrant criminal conviction rate was 782 per 100,000 illegal immigrants, 535 per 100,000 legal immigrants, and 1,422 per 100,000 native‐born Americans. The illegal immigrant criminal conviction rate was 45 percent below that of native‐born Americans in Texas. The general pattern of native‐born Americans having the highest criminal conviction rates followed by illegal immigrants and then with legal immigrants having the lowest holds for all of other specific types of crimes such as violent crimes, property crimes, homicide, and sex crimes.

The author concluded: "There is more and more evidence that immigrants, regardless of legal status, are less likely to commit crimes than native‐born Americans. However, a substantial number of Americans still think that immigration increases crime. As more evidence builds over time, we can only hope than Americans respond by updating their opinions so that they fit the facts."

The GOP resolution also dismisses — without evidence — the notion that keeping guns out of the hands of violent criminals does anything to reduce gun crimes.

Though Republicans have frequently claimed that Democratic-controlled jurisdictions are the only ones seeing an increase in violent crime, a March report by Third Way, a think tank that says it "champions modern center-left ideas," documented that the 2020 per capita murder rate was 40% higher in red states than in blue ones: "Murder rates in many of these red states dwarf those in blue states like New York, California, and Massachusetts. And finally, many of the states with the worst murder rates—like Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, South Carolina, and Arkansas—are ones that few would describe as urban." It also noted that Republican-run Jacksonville, Florida, and Bakersfield, California, had worse homicide rates than Democratic-led San Francisco.

Democratic lawmakers have pushed to address gun violence through extreme risk protection order ("red flag") legislation and through universal background checks. Both are designed to keep dangerous individuals from obtaining and keeping guns. Research has suggested that red flag laws and background checks may help reduce gun violence and gun deaths, but Republicans have opposed both.

While violent crime rates are way lower than they were in the 1990s, they have been rising in recent years. The trend began under then-President Donald Trump and has continued under President Joe Biden.

Thomas Abt, chair of the Council on Criminal Justice's Violent Crime Working Group, told the PBS NewsHour in January, "It is hard to tell what drives crime trends, but the experts broadly agree on three main reasons" for the spike. Those were the pandemic, an increase in gun sales, and "less proactive investigation from police" since the 2020 international protests against police violence, Abt noted.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have already been more than 16,200 gun deaths in the United States in 2022. That figure includes 203 mass shootings — more than one per day on average.

On Saturday, an alleged white supremacist terrorist with a gun killed 10 people and injured three more in Buffalo, New York. A 180-page manifesto he apparently wrote professed the debunked "great replacement theory," promoted by Republican lawmakers and right-wing media figures, that white Americans are being deliberately and systematically "replaced" by nonwhite immigrants.

Cassidy's resolution made no mention of the conspiracy theory.

As of Tuesday morning, 35 Senate Republicans — and none of their Democratic colleagues — had signed on as co-sponsors, including Senate Republican Conference Chair John Barrasso and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Rick Scott.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Arizona GOP Senate Candidate Wants To Privatize Social Security

.Arizona Republican Senate candidate Jim Lamon has repeatedly said he wants to save and preserve Social Security. But his own campaign website reveals that he aims to raise the program's eligibility age and to privatize it, leaving millions of Americans to fend for themselves.

In a video message on his website, Lamon claims, "Social Security is headed for a train wreck, for bankruptcy. Politicians who kick the can down the road, we must save Social Security. I intend to be bold in the U.S. Senate to make it happen."

"So we got to get the priorities: national defense, internal security, border control, our law enforcement agencies, those people who can't provide for themselves mentally, physically, and also, of course, Social Security, Medicare," he said in a November radio appearance with Arizona talk show host Jeff Oravits.

But his campaign policy page reveals that his idea of saving Social Security is actually making significant cuts to the program and privatizing it for people who are not yet retired.

After blaming the "deterioration" of the 87-year-old entitlement program on China and abortion, Lamon calls for a series "fundamental systemic improvements."

First, he says, America must "gradually increase the benefits access age" because "47% of people on Social Security are younger than 65; the intent was never to support people still well able to work."

According to the Social Security Administration, workers can access benefits if they are at least 62 years old, disabled, or blind. Dependent family members can also receive benefits in some circumstances. Lamon's plan would force those people to work longer to receive the benefits they are entitled to receive.

A Lamon spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

Lamon also calls for "universal savings accounts" that would allow individuals in invest their money in risky retirement funds rather than guaranteed government retirement benefits. He calls this an "option for every worker to enjoy the benefit from investment in the US economy while also creating a tangible, inheritable asset for their children, instead of the government-controlled trust fund model."

That would turn Social Security from a pension program into a government-endorsed 401(K) plan. Under then-President George W. Bush in the early 2000s and again in 2018, Republicans unsuccessfully pushed similar privatization schemes.

Experts say a plan like this would benefit the wealthiest Americans and put millions of future retirees at the mercy of the stock market. Someone who put their Social Security funds into a bad investment could be left with nothing, leading to exactly the sort of poverty for senior citizens that the program was designed to end.

In a 1997 article, Brookings Institution economist Henry Aaron wrote that privatizing Social Security was "a bad idea whose time will never come."

"It is far and away the most important U.S. antipoverty program," Aaron wrote of the existing system. "Privatization is a bad idea because it places risks on individual workers that they should not be expected to shoulder and that Social Security now spreads broadly among all workers. It would create costly and needless administrative burdens."

Polls show little support for what Lamon wants to do.

An August 2020 survey by AARP found that 96% of American adults said Social Security was either the most important program or one of the most important programs the government operates.

Another poll that month, conducted by Data for Progress, found 54% of likely voters ranked "preventing cuts to Social Security benefits" as their most important issue for the 2020 election.

Lamon has also been open about his desire to cut Social Security and other entitlement programs.

In a January appearance on the right-wing Charlie Kirk Show, he said that he would preserve the programs for those who already rely on Social Security and Medicare, but "after that, Charlie, everything's on the table" for cuts. "And I intend to be brutal," he promised.

In a radio interview that month on Tucson radio station KVOI's Inside Track, Lamon endorsed entitlement cuts to balance the federal budget, saying, "'Oh Jim, are you going to take those?' You're damn right, because that's where the money is."

After Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, released his party's "Rescue America" plan, which includes letting Social Security and Medicare expire every five years and be subject to reapproval by the Congress, Lamon embraced the package. He joked to supporters in March that it appeared Scott could have plagiarized the plan from his own website, claiming, "Looks awfully familiar!"

While Republicans have long wanted to dismantle Social Security and other government entitlement programs, in 2016 candidate Donald Trump ran on a promise to preserve the programs without cuts.

"Every Republican wants to do a big number of Social Security. They want to do it on Medicare, they want to do it on Medicaid," he said in April 2015, just before kicking off his campaign. "And we can't do that. And it's not fair to the people that have been paying in for years."

"I'm not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid," he reaffirmed in May 2015.

As he did with most of his major campaign promises, Trump abandoned this pledge, vowing in January 2020 that he would make major cuts to the social safety net "toward the end of the year" because he had such a great economy.

Lamon was not only a strong Trump supporter; he also fraudulently pretended to be an elector for Trump in the Electoral College after President Joe Biden won the presidential election in Arizona in 2020.

Lamon has a complicated relationship with government programs. In a March fundraising email, he decried COVID-19 pandemic relief legislation, including the Paycheck Protection Program that provided billions in forgivable loans to businesses, as a "socialist spending binge." But DEPCOM Power, an energy company he founded and ran at the time, took $2.6 million in funds from that very program in May 2020.

Recent polling by RealClearPolitics shows Lamon and state Attorney General Mark Brnovich as front-runners for the GOP nomination for Senate, with venture capitalist Blake Masters close behind.

The winner will face incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly on Nov. 8.

Kelly has pledged not to dismantle entitlement programs, saying in a 2020 ad, "I've got a message for Arizonans: I will protect Social Security and Medicare. Period."

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

To Attack Biden, Senate Republicans Whitewash Trump’s Economy

The Senate Republican caucus claimed Monday that the U.S. economy is in trouble today, but that in May 2020 it was booming under GOP control. This is demonstrably false.

"Two years ago, the U.S. economy was soaring. Today, Americans say they are concerned about the economy," the official Senate Republicans Twitter account posted, sharing an image of the words "In this economy, Americans feel stuck."

This is the latest example in the GOP's effort to rewrite the history of the past several years.

In 2016, Donald Trump won the presidency on a promise to create five or six percent economic growth. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, he never came close to those goals — and once the virus started to spread, his economy tanked. Since defeating Trump in 2020, President Joe Biden has overseen a historic economic rebound.

Two years ago, in May 2020, much of the country and its economy were shut down due to Trump's botched handling of the coronavirus pandemic. As Trump lied to the nation about the severity of the problem and forced workers to continue to work in unsafe conditions, millions of Americans lost their jobs.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment in May 2020 was a stunning 13.3 percent, its highest level since the Great Depression. Trump left office in January 2021 having lost a net three million American jobs during his term.

Thanks in part to passage of Biden's American Rescue Plan, all of those net lost jobs and more have been added back to the economy. As of April, the unemployment rate was just 3.6 percent, the lowest point since the start of the pandemic, and Biden has added 8.3 million jobs to date.

While global food supply chains continue to be disrupted due to the pandemic and Russia's war in Ukraine, in May 2020 many Americans were unable to get meat, flour, disinfectants, and other supplies at their local grocery stores.

Childhood hunger was at historically high levels two years ago. A May 6, 2020, report released by the Brookings Institution noted, "it is clear that young children are experiencing food insecurity to an extent unprecedented in modern times."

Passage of Biden's relief plan, which included a one-year child tax cut and relief checks, had an immediate impact on hunger, and levels of food insecurity have continued to drop under the Biden administration.

The nation's gross domestic product has also increased significantly under Biden. In May 2020, it was $20.74 trillion; as of March 2022, it was up to $24.54 trillion, an increase of more than 18 percent.

What one economist called the "Biden boom" has exceeded Trump's missed growth goals. In the final quarter of 2021, America's real GDP increased by 6.9 percent, while the average GDP for the first year of Biden's term was 5.7 percent. Though Trump often falsely claimed to have created "the greatest economy in the HISTORY of America," he never achieved four percent growth for any quarter until late 2020, when the nation saw a partial rebound from the pandemic's 31 percent contraction.

While Republicans have blamed Biden for the current inflation rate of 8.5 percent, experts say it is mostly the result of global factors outside Biden's control — and Republicans have blocked his efforts to combat it.

Congressional Republicans frequently touted monthly jobs and unemployment figures at or below levels under Biden when they were reached under the Trump administration. But now that a Democratic president is in office, they are downplaying his economy and gaslighting the American public about Trump's.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Poll: Vast Majority Backs Biden On Climate Action, Drug Prices

President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats are still trying to work out an agreement on a compromise Build Back Better investment package. A new poll shows the vast majority of Americans want them to pass its key components.

The new survey, released Wednesday by the political advocacy groups Data for Progress and Invest in America, found that likely voters strongly back legislation to lower health insurance premiums and prescription drug copays and invest in clean energy. Those polled backed such a bill by a 75 percent -- 17 percent margin; Republicans supported it 65 percent -- 25 percent.

Biden proposed these and other human infrastructure investments as part of his Build Back Better framework in October. His $1.75 trillion plan would have paid for the new spending by raising taxes on those earning $400,000 or more and cracking down on wealthy tax cheats. It passed the House in November — over unanimous GOP opposition — but stalled in the Senate after every Republican opposed it and moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) objected to its price tag.

The Biden administration and Manchin have reportedly been trying to reach an agreement on a smaller package that would focus mostly on climate change infrastructure and addressing prescription drug costs while collecting more revenue from the richest Americans and reducing the budget deficit.

Despite Republicans and their allies spending millions of dollars on ads to convince the public that the Build Back Better agenda is a "reckless spending spree" and a step toward socialism, the original package itself was popular with voters. A December Monmouth University poll found 61 percent of American adults backed the plan.

"We're very happy with these results," TJ L'Heureux, press secretary for Invest in America, told the American Independent Foundation. "These numbers clearly show that Americans want investments that lower energy costs and lower health care costs, all of which would be incredibly popular."

"President Biden's American Rescue Plan and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law have been a game-changer for the economy and he's created more jobs in his first year than at any point in US history. But to make the economy work better for everyone, we need to keep momentum going and get these policies over the finish line," L'Heureux added.

Wednesday's poll shows the popularity of the main elements being considered.

Asked if they supported "giving Medicare the power to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs" and "capping out-of-pocket costs for insulin at $35/month," 83 percent of respondents said yes and eight percent said no to each.

By a 71 percent -- 20 percent margin, voters backed "raising taxes on the wealthiest 0.02 percent of Americans." An identical number favored "increasing funding for the IRS to make sure that the wealthiest Americans and large corporations pay all the taxes they owe."

Those surveyed also backed "ramping up the use of clean energy, like solar and wind power," by a margin of 68 percent -- 23 percent.

"These findings make clear that President Biden's investment package — including its key provisions and pay-fors — isn't just popular: it's bipartisan, too. Congressional lawmakers should feel confident that pushing for Biden's bill will improve, not harm, their standing with voters," Lew Blank, a political analyst with Data for Progress, said in an emailed statement.

Under budget reconciliation rules, the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate could pass a package containing each of those key items without any Republican votes — if they stay united.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Johnson Is America's Most Unpopular Senator (Except For McConnell)

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) is deeply unpopular among his own constituents, according to a new poll released Monday. In fact, the only current senator with a lower approval rating is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has infamously blocked hundreds of popular pieces of legislation.

According to a Morning Consult Political Intelligence survey of all 50 states, just 37 percent of registered Wisconsin voters approve of Johnson, while 51 percent disapprove. The remaining 12 percent said they did not know or had no opinion.

This made him the second-most unpopular senator out of the 100 currently serving, after only McConnell; Kentucky voters disapprove of him by a 60 percent -- 33 percent margin.

Though Johnson's 37 percent approval rating in the poll is dismal, it is actually slightly higher than in other recent polling. Some recent surveys put his approval at 35 percent, while a March Marquette University Law School poll found him at just 33 percent support.

The Republican is currently seeking reelection to a third term, breaking a promise to serve no more than two.

He has refused to take responsibility for his unpopularity, claiming in January that it is all the news media's fault. "First of all, I'm not a polarizing figure. It's just that people in the legacy media call me one and all of a sudden, you become one. I'm not a polarizing figure at all. I'm just trying to convey the truth. I've done a really good job as Wisconsin's United States senator," he told Milwaukee television station WISN.

But in fact, he has been quite polarizing.

Johnson has come under fire in recent months for his votes to cut taxes for himself and his very rich donors while backing "most of" National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Rick Scott's 11-point "Rescue America" proposal — which includes a large tax hike for more than 100 million lower-income and retired Americans — and fighting against efforts to make child care more affordable. In October, Johnson said that the top 1% of earners already pay "pretty close to a fair share."

He also has angered Wisconsin workers by refusing to even try to bring home good jobs. He backed a decision by Oshkosh Defense — a large Wisconsin-based manufacturing company and one of his largest campaign funders — to locate over 1,000 jobs in Spartanburg, South Carolina, instead of his state. Johnson said it was not his "job is not to micromanage a private company" and that putting the jobs in a different state would actually "benefit Wisconsin, Oshkosh, and Oshkosh workers."

"It's not like we don't have enough jobs here in Wisconsin," he told reporters in February. "I think when using federal tax dollars, you want to spend those in the most efficient way, and if it's more efficient, more effective to spend those in other states, I don't have a real problem with that."

Johnson has also refused to fight to locate jobs in the United States instead of abroad. Last month, he opposed federal funds to help the American microchip industry compete against China, indicating that he did not want to "have government picking the winners and losers."

President Joe Biden narrowly carried Wisconsin in the 2020 election. The Cook Political Report lists the 2022 Senate race as a toss-up.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Don’t Tell Trump! Walker Walks Back 2020 Election Lies

During his time as co-chair of the President's Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition under Donald Trump, Herschel Walker repeatedly spread Trump's false claims that the 2020 election had been stolen from Trump and that he, and not Joe Biden, had won in Georgia. Now, as he runs for Senate in the Georgia Republican primary, Walker says he has no idea if those allegations were true.

In an interview posted on Gainesville, Georgia, website AccessWDUN on Wednesday, the former pro football player was asked, "Do you believe there were problems with the 2020 election in Georgia?"

"I don't know if there were problems with the 2020 election," he replied. "What I do know is that, right now, I'm gonna win this seat, and, you know, everyone has complained, even Stacey Abrams complained that her race wasn't fair. And I've heard a lot of people saying a lot of things. One thing that I gotta worry about right now, that I'm gonna have a fair election, that people can believe in our election when I run." Complimenting Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, whom Trump is famously working to defeat in his run for reelection, Walker said, "Because I think, one thing that, I give it to the governor, that he's done is just with S.B. 202, securing the drop boxes now, requiring ID. That's gonna be something that's gonna be great for everyone right now. And that's what I'm happy to see that's going on."

This is a far cry from what Walker was saying in the days after Biden's decisive victory in November 2020.

Three days after Biden won, Walker demanded a do-over. "Instead of us fighting and going to court, why don't we have Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin vote again?" he suggested. "We can have it done within a week, and maintain our democracy."

In a December 27, 2020, appearance on Fox News, he falsely told host Jeanine Pirro that Trump had been reelected and questioned the fairness of the results: "Whether this president got 74 million or 80 million people, but I can guarantee you Joe Biden didn't get 50 million people voting for him. But yet, people think that he won this election."

Biden actually received 81,284,666 votes; Trump got 74,224,319.

Days later, Walker tweeted, "After watching the Ga Senate Hearings, there is no doubt there is serious Election Fraud! The whole world is watching."

On January 6, 2021, he falsely claimed pro-Trump insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn Biden's win were actually "Trojan Horses." He tweeted at Trump, "I call on ⁦@realDonaldTrump to find out who these people are as they do not look like MAGA! You have the power right now to see who they really are and to get to the bottom of who stole this election! Prosecute these bad players."

But since announcing last August that he would run for the GOP nomination to challenge Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Walker has noticeably backed off of his conspiracy theory claims and conceded that he has no real knowledge of the matter.

"Everyone want to talk about whether there was voter integrity or not. Well, let's not worry about that right now. Leave that up to our elected officials who's the right people to get something done," he told WDUN on Oct. 21.

Asked by an interviewer with the right-wing website Daily Caller on Jan. 27 whether he stood by previous statements about fraud in the 2020 election, Walker responded, "There's a problem somewhere. Where is that problem at? I don't know. But I think the only way you solve it, whether one person feel that he didn't get to vote or whether two feel, you need to check it out. And I do stand by that no matter what."

Asked the same thing in February, he told podcaster Steve Beecham, "I don't think anyone really knows."

Claiming that different news outlets were conflicted on the matter, Walker admitted, "I don't know what to trust there, but I say this, is that when I go around the state meeting with people, this person may say that he felt that his vote didn't count, this person said he felt that it did. And for Herschel Walker, I don't know."

A Walker spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story. Walker has not yet explicitly acknowledged that his earlier accusations were baseless.

He also happily accepted an endorsement from Trump, who continues to push widely debunked claims that Biden did not really win; Walker said nothing when Trump pushed those lies at a joint appearance in December.

Walker once played for a team owned by Trump in the now-defunct United States Football League and was an unsuccessful contestant on his "Celebrity Apprentice" television show.

Since joining the race, he has also come under fire for exaggerations and flat-out lies about his tenure as a Trump appointee, his education, and his business record.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Pharma CEO Who Endorsed Price Gouging Donated To Dr. Oz

Television personality turned Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz has often tried to present himself as a crusader against the pharmaceutical industry and high drug prices. But he accepted the legal maximum donation from a controversial pharmaceutical executive who once defended massive price hikes as "a moral requirement," according to recent campaign finance documents.

Oz's Federal Election Commission filing for the first quarter of 2022 showed that his campaign accepted $5,800 in donations from Nirmal Mulye, the founder and president of Nostrum Pharmaceuticals, on March 31.

In 2018, Mulye's company decided to more than quadruple the price of its liquid nitrofurantoin — an essential antibiotic used to treat some urinary tract infections — from $474.75 a bottle to $2,392 a bottle.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Mulye defended the price-gouging as market-driven, saying, "I think it is a moral requirement to make money when you can ... to sell the product for the highest price."

Oz has tried to convince voters that he has fought against Big Tech and Big Pharma, despite the fact that he and his wife hold millions of dollars worth of stock in companies representing both industries.

In a November Fox News interview, Oz told host Sean Hannity, "I fought to empower my audience, my patients, and now the voters of Pennsylvania, and I've taken on Big Pharma. I've gone to battle with big tech. I've gone up against agrochem companies, the big ones, right? I've got scars to prove it. And I cannot be bought."

His campaign website claims that as a cardiothoracic surgeon, Oz understands how to fix the health care system:

He’s bravely argued against costly drugs, even as it made him a target of drug companies. As a U.S. Senator, he’ll work to dismantle policies that lead to more expensive prescription drugs for our seniors, and he’ll expand access to private sector plans expanded by President Trump and beloved by seniors for their low costs and high quality that could be available to all Americans who want them.

Earlier this month, Donald Trump endorsed Oz, arguing that his being a celebrity doctor qualified him to serve as a senator. "You know when you're in television for 18 years, that's like a poll," Trump said. "That means people like you."

Trump's own FDA commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, once slammed Mulye's comments and approach to pricing.

"There's no moral imperative to price gouge and take advantage of patients," Gottlieb tweeted in response to the Financial Times story. "FDA will continue to promote competition so speculators and those with no regard to public health consequences can’t take advantage of patients who need medicine."

Spokespeople for the Oz campaign and Mulye's company did not immediately respond to inquiries for this story.

Oz, a long-time New Jersey resident and host of the syndicated Dr. Oz Show, announced his candidacy last November for retiring Republican Pat Toomey's open Pennsylvania Senate seat. He is one of several GOP candidates running for the Republican nomination.

An April Franklin and Marshall College poll found Oz narrowly ahead, with 16 percent support. Connecticut-based hedge fund executive turned Pennsylvania candidate Dave McCormick was close behind, with 15 percent.

The general election is considered a toss-up by election experts.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Despite Near Unanimous GOP Opposition, Senate Confirms Jackson In Historic Vote

Forty seven Republican senators voted against approving Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to succeed retiring Justice Stephen Breyer.

The U.S. Senate voted 53 -- 47 Thursday to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court. Over nearly unanimous Republican opposition, Jackson will be the first Black woman to serve on the high court in its 232 -- year history.

Just three Senate Republicans — Maine's Susan Collins, Alaska's Lisa Murkowski, and Utah's Mitt Romney — joined with every one of their Democratic colleagues in support of Jackson's confirmation. On Monday, 47 Republican senators opposed even allowing Jackson's nomination to come to a vote on the Senate floor after the evenly divided Judiciary Committee split along party lines.

In February, President Joe Biden named Jackson to succeed retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, keeping his 2020 campaign promise to appoint a Black woman to the most powerful court in the country. Biden highlighted Jackson's impressive record as a federal appellate court judge for the District of Columbia, a former public defender, and a former Supreme Court clerk for Breyer.

Jackson has promised to be an impartial and fair arbiter on the court. "I decide cases from a neutral posture," she told the Senate. "I evaluate the facts, and I interpret and apply the law to the facts of the case before me, without fear or favor, consistent with my judicial oath."

Jackson was unanimously recommended as "well qualified" for the post by the American Bar Association, the highest rating from the nonpartisan group of lawyers that is praised by Republican and Democratic senators alike as the "gold standard."

The American public also strongly backed Jackson's confirmation, with polls showing her as one of the most popular Supreme Court picks in modern times, with the support of two -- thirds of those polled.

Despite Jackson's eminent qualifications for the role, Senate Republicans went on the attack and spent weeks trying to block her confirmation.

First, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham criticized her for having gotten her law degree at Harvard Law School, although he had previously backed other nominees from the same school.

Then Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley began making widely debunked claims that "Judge Jackson has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes, both as a judge and as a policymaker" and that she had demonstrated an "alarming trend of lenient sentencing."

Finally, GOP senators resorted to what they had previously called "embarrassing antics" at Jackson's confirmation hearings, demanding she weigh in on policy questions that are up to Congress to decide.

Though Jackson has now been confirmed, she will not join the Supreme Court immediately. Breyer's resignation goes into effect at the end of the current term, meaning she will likely be sworn in late June or early July.

She will be just the sixth female and third Black Supreme Court justice in U.S. history.

Biden tweeted a photo of himself with the newly confirmed justice on Thursday, writing, "Judge Jackson's confirmation was a historic moment for our nation. We've taken another step toward making our highest court reflect the diversity of America. She will be an incredible Justice, and I was honored to share this moment with her."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Super-Rich GOP Senate Candidate Says Keep Minimum Wage At $7.25

Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Dave McCormick opposes increasing the federal minimum wage and wants to keep it at its current level of $7.25 an hour, set in 2009, when it was raised from $6.55.

With tens of millions of dollars earned running a hedge fund business, McCormick does not need a higher minimum wage to pay for his basic needs. But for the more than 10 percent of Pennsylvanians who live below the poverty line, a higher minimum wage would make a huge difference.

In an interview on the podcast Politics PA podcast, first flagged this week by the progressive research group American Bridge 21st Century, McCormick was asked whether he supported having any federal minimum wage at all.

"I wouldn't change the minimum wage we have now," the former George W. Bush administration Treasury Department official responded. "But I wouldn't raise it."

Pennsylvania has not opted to raise its state minimum above the federal floor, though Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has increased it for state employees and unsuccessfully prodded the GOP-controlled legislature to do the same for other workers.

But the $7.25 minimum set in 2009 is only worth about $5.34 in 2022 dollars. A person working 40 hours a week at that rate would make about $15,080 a year, well below the $18,310 federal poverty line for a family of two.

McCormick said on Feb. 18, "Inflation across our nation continues to rise — spiking costs for all Pennsylvanians, especially working families, at the store and at the pump." However, instead of supporting a minimum wage increase, he proposes to get rid of President Joe Biden's investments in infrastructure and families, cut taxes, and eliminate federal regulations on businesses.

All of Pennsylvania's neighboring states have opted to increase their minimum wages above the $7.25 level. In total, at least 25 states voluntarily raised their wage floor for 2022.

While recent polling shows about two-thirds of Pennsylvania voters support a minimum wage increase, Republican lawmakers at the state and federal levels have blocked Democratic proposals for a more livable minimum wage.

A McCormick spokesperson did not respond immediately to an inquiry for this story.

But according to a February report by Insider, McCormick is personally quite wealthy.

Between 2010 and 2013, he received at least $70 million in discretionary awards from his then-employer, the Bridgewater Associates investment management firm, according to information contained in his 2015 divorce records.

Had he been working at the minimum wage he does support in a 40-hour-per-week full-time job, it would have taken him more than 4,641 years to earn that much.

McCormick is one of several Republican candidates running in November's race to succeed retiring Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Polls Show GOP Attacks On Judge Jackson Got No Traction

Senate Republicans have spent the past several weeks levying false attacks against Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Joe Biden's nominee for the Supreme Court. But a new poll indicates the smears have not convinced the vast majority of American voters — two-thirds of whom back her confirmation.

A Marquette Law School poll released Wednesday found 66 percent of the nation's adults said they would vote to confirm Jackson — who would become the first Black woman in U.S. history to serve on the high court — if they were members of the Senate. Interestingly, 64 percent of poll respondents who were surveyed before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings began said they supported Jackson's confirmation, compared to 72 percent of poll respondents who were interviewed after the hearings began.

"It is an interesting and meaningful result given that some of the initial criticism before she was picked was, 'Why is Biden narrowing the field to just this demographic group?'" polling director Charles Franklin told USA Today. "Our evidence, at least, is that it certainly looks like a little bit of a net positive."

This poll matches the results of other recent polls, which indicated that Jackson is one of the most popular Supreme Court nominees in decades.

GOP senators started attacking Jackson's record as a judge and lawyer soon after Biden nominated her to the high court in February.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham first criticized Biden for picking someone who attended Harvard Law School, objecting to the fact that eight of the nine current justices earned law degrees from Harvard and Yale Universities — though he had himself voted to confirm six of them.

Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley began pushing widely debunked claims that "Judge Jackson has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes, both as a judge and as a policymaker" and that she showed an "alarming trend of lenient sentencing." As Missouri's attorney general, Hawley had agreed to a plea deal in at least one sex crime case that allowed a sheriff to avoid any jail time.

Republicans then used the very same "embarrassing antics" at Jackson's confirmation hearings to try to undermine her nomination that they had previously decried and vowed not to use.

Specifically complaining that Jackson — like GOP nominees before her — refused to weigh in on policy questions that are up to Congress, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, said last Thursday that he "cannot and will not support Judge Jackson for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court."

Minority Whip John Thune, Republican Conference Chair John Barrasso, Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, and Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker have also announced their intention to vote no.

So far, only one Republican — Maine Sen. Susan Collins — has indicated her support for Jackson.

Thune (R-SD) told The Hill on Wednesday that he does not expect Jackson to get more than one or two more GOP votes. "I think the universe of votes that she could get in the Senate among Republicans is probably similar to what happened in the appeals court," he said, referencing the three Republican votes she received in June 2021.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote next Monday to advance Jackson's nomination to the full Senate.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Trump Pal Herschel Walker Lied Profusely About Fitness Council Post

Republican Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker was removed last week from his position on the President's Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition. In addition to apparent ethical violations, it appears he repeatedly misled the public about the post over his three-plus years on the council.

Then-President Donald Trump named Walker, a former player for the team he owned in the short-lived United States Football League and a contestant on Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice" television show, to a two-year term as an unpaid member of the council in May 2018.

Trump appointed him to be council co-chair for another two years in December 2020 after losing the presidential election.

But according to experts, Walker's decision to run for Senate put him in violation of Biden administration ethics policies and possibly of the Hatch Act, a 1939 ethics law that prohibits "special government employees" from doing their public duties while also seeking partisan political office.

On March 23, the administration asked him to resign or "be terminated."

Rather than comply with the law, Walker played victim. "President Biden is so scared about us beating Raphael Warnock that he has asked me to resign from my unpaid position on the President's Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition," he tweeted Thursday, hours after being removed and replaced. "I'm not a quitter so you are going to have to fire me."

Walker appears to have repeatedly exaggerated and misled about his tenure on the council.

In a Fox News appearance in October 2020, Walker, a prominent Trump backer, attacked Biden's candidacy. In the middle of comments calling out the Democratic nominee for having helped enact several anti-crime laws, he suddenly said, "I think the American people need to know the truth. And that's all he talks about, knowing the truth. Well, the truth is, talk about your son. The truth is I've never been offered a position in Washington from President Trump."

Trump had appointed him to the council more than two years earlier — a fact Walker had bragged about in an interview just weeks before.

A Walker spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

The fitness council, established in 1956 to promote healthy eating and physical activity, includes up to 30 members who agree to work without salary but can receive per diem stipends and travel reimbursements. It is supported by a small staff of typically between two and five full-time employees.

But at a January 2020 rally at Austin College in Texas, Walker falsely suggested it was a much larger operation:

Being in Washington ain't the best thing in the world because I'm in trouble all the time. But let me tell you what's so funny: I have changed some stuff up there and how they do stuff. I have 75 people in Washington work for me, and we work. And right now I have a bill right now already through the Ways and Means, on the Senate floor, that's gonna be passed, that's gonna incentivize people to start working out. And what it is, is, when you pay to play [sic] for your child, uh, play sports, you're gonna be able to write that off.

Though the council had no formal role in responding to the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, Walker seemed to suggest it did. He told interviewers on "The Bigun Rick Show" that June: "We are trying to be active in the youth sports world and a lot of the people out doing different things, and so we have different meetings and different calls from the White House. And so we're active. And with everything going on right now, with the rioting and all that stuff, you know, we're trying to help out as well."

Walker has been endorsed by Trump and by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the Georgia Republican Senate primary to face off against first-term Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA).

So far, Walker's candidacy has been marred by questions about his long-time Texas residency, allegations of repeated domestic abuse, and reports about his ties to racist, homophobic, and antisemitic extremists.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Rick Scott: 'Sunsetting' Medicare And Social Security Will Save Programs

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) said Sunday that his party's plan to make Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security expire every five years was the best way to "preserve" the vital entitlement programs.

In an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Scott was asked about his controversial 11-point "Rescue America" plan for a potential 2023 Republican majority in Congress.

"Two of the big points are, 'All Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount. Currently, over half of Americans pay no income tax,'" host John Roberts pointed out. "It also says: 'All federal legislation sunsets in five years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.'"

"So, that would raise taxes on half of Americans and potentially sunset programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security," he continued. "Why would you propose something like that in an election year?"

Scott first dismissed the direct quotes from his proposals as Democratic "talking points."

Then he argued that talking every year "about exactly how we're going to fix Medicare and Social Security" would somehow keep the programs alive.

"No one that I know of wants to sunset Medicare or Social Security, but what we're doing is, we don't even talk about it. Medicare goes bankrupt in four years. Social Security goes bankrupt in 12 years," Scott predicted. "I think we ought to figure out how we preserve those programs. Every program that we care about, we ought to stop and take the time to preserve those programs."

Scott's plan would do the opposite of preserving the safety net. By making every single federal law expire every five years, his idea would likely paralyze virtually the entire federal government.

In recent years, Congress has struggled to agree on even must-pass legislation to continue funding the federal government. Scott and most other Republicans have voted against even paying the federal Treasury Department's existing debts and averting government shutdowns. With a five-year expiration date on every federal law, this would mean that, without a drastic change in his party's behavior, entitlement programs, civil rights laws, and even federal highway programs could simply cease to exist.

Scott's previous record when it comes to protecting Medicare is also questionable. According to PolitiFact, during his tenure running a hospital company called Columbia/HCA, Scott "oversaw the largest Medicare fraud at the time" in U.S. history.

Scott said his plan, which would raise taxes on more than 100 million American families, is a good idea.

"I'll put my record up against anybody on tax cuts. I cut taxes and fees 100 times as governor," Scott said on Sunday. "But here's what's unfair. We have people that don't — that could go to work and have figured out how to have government pay their way. That's not right. They ought to have some skin in the game. I don't care if it's a dollar. We ought to all be in this together."

His proposal to make everyone pay some federal income taxes would punish millions of retirees and low-income working families who make less than $28,000 annually, who already contribute revenue via payroll taxes, gasoline taxes, tobacco taxes, alcohol taxes, and other non-income tax forms of revenue.

And while it may not sound like a lot to charge all Americans $1 in income taxes, the Tax Policy Center notes that this "would effectively repeal refundable individual income tax credits" and could cost the poorest 20% of American families an average of more than $1,000 annually.

As the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Scott is a key member of the GOP leadership and is in charge of its effort to regain a majority in the 2022 midterms.

While many of the Republicans he's working to elect and reelect have been silent on the plan, several have endorsed all or most of it.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

As Prosecutor, Hawley Sentenced Violent Sex Abuser To Probation -- Not Prison

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has spent the past few weeks attacking Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson for her sentencing record, including falsely accusing her of showing leniency for sexual predators. But Hawley's own record as a prosecutor may not match his current rhetoric.

Last Wednesday, Hawley began his assault on President Joe Biden's nominee to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer with a lengthy Twitter thread. The Missouri Republican's widely debunked accusations falsely asserted that "Judge Jackson has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes, both as a judge and as a policymaker" and showed an "alarming trend of lenient sentencing."

This week, Hawley used his time at Jackson's confirmation hearing to grill the nominee — the first Black woman nominated to the high court in U.S. history — over her handling of sex crime cases.

Noting one case, in which an 18-year-old offender received a three-month prison sentence for child pornography violations, he repeatedly demanded to know, "Do you regret it?"

Hawley then asked whether it would "surprise" Jackson to learn that another offender whom Jackson sentenced to 57 months in prison was "a recidivist," meaning that he had engaged in additional crimes later.

Jackson responded noting the totality of her record and observed that "there is data in the Sentencing Commission and elsewhere that indicates that there are recidivism — serious recidivism issues — and so, among the various people that I have sentenced, I am not surprised that there are people who re-offend and it is a terrible thing that happens in our system."

While Hawley has never served as a judge, he does have experience prosecuting sex crime cases as Missouri's attorney general from 2017 to 2019. Although that office has only a small prosecutorial role in the state's criminal justice system, Hawley's brief tenure was marred by criticism of his handling of sexual abuse claims by victims.

In January 2021, the Kansas City Star published a guest column by Pam Hamilton, a former Hawley appointee who questioned his handling of human trafficking cases. "I was on Josh Hawley’s human trafficking task force," the headline of Hamilton's story read. "He sought TV cameras, not justice."

One prosecution Hawley did handle as attorney general was a 2018 sexual abuse and domestic assault case against former Knox County Sheriff Robert Becker. According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol's probable cause statement, Becker was charged with violent sexual encounters against his former partner, who alleged he "choked" her with a shirt in one instance.

Instead of bringing the case to trial, Hawley agreed to a plea deal in which Becker served no jail time and instead received two years of probation and resigned his office.

"There is no place for law enforcement officers who abuse their power," Hawley said at the time. "As a result of today's plea, Mr. Becker can no longer serve in any law enforcement capacity. The Knox County community is safer as a result of today's action."

Hawley stepped down as Missouri's top law enforcement official in January 2019 after he was elected to the U.S. Senate. His successor, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, eventually filed probation violations in court against Becker. In November 2020 a judge ruled that Becker had failed to complete the mandatory sexual offender counseling required under the plea bargain and sentenced him to 20 days of "shock incarceration" — jail time intended to "shock" an offender into avoiding future crimes.

A spokesperson for Hawley did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Senate Republicans Promised ‘Respectful’ Jackson Hearings — They Lied

Senate Republicans have spent the last several weeks promising to teach their Democratic colleagues how to fairly and respectfully treat a U.S. Supreme Court nominee chosen by a president of the opposite party. They have spent the first days of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's confirmation hearings doing exactly what they vowed not to do.

Justice Stephen Breyer announced his pending retirement in January. President Joe Biden named Jackson to replace Breyer, whom she clerked for, making Jackson the first Black woman to be nominated to the high court in U.S. history. Senate Republicans — still angry that some past GOP presidents' nominees had been opposed by Democratic senators over their extreme views and allegations of sexual predation — used the opportunity to relitigate 35 years' worth of grievances by promising to set a higher standard this time.

"The nominee, the Senate, the Court, and the American people all deserve a process that is free of the embarrassing antics that have become the Democratic Party's routine whenever a Republican president nominates a new Justice. The baseless smears. The shameless distortions," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on March 1.

"I'm going to listen to the hearings. And by the way, she'll be treated much better than Democrats typically treated Republican nominees like Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh," the Kentucky Republican told CBS News on Sunday. "It will be a respectful, deep dive into her record, which I think is entirely appropriate for a lifetime appointment."

On Monday, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), also called for "a thorough, respectful process."

"We will conduct a thorough, exhaustive examination of Judge Jackson's record and views. We won't try to turn this into a spectacle based on alleged process fouls," he insisted.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) promised the hearings "won't be a circus."

"There won't be any questioning of where you go to church, what kind of groups you're in in church, how you decide to raise your kids, what you believe, and how you believe in God. Nobody's gonna do that to you. And that's a good thing," Graham vowed on Monday. "The one thing I can promise you: You will not be vilified, you will not be attacked for your religious views."

Those promises did not last very long.

On Tuesday morning, the Republican National Committee tweeted out a racist GIF with Jackson's initials replaced by the letters CRT, baselessly tying the widely respected appellate court judge to critical race theory, an academic framework used mainly in graduate schools to examine the history and structure of racism in the United States.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) focused not on her judicial record and views, but on asking her about critical race theory. He seized on her service on the board of a private school in Washington, D.C., that uses anti-racist books in its curriculum and went so far as to ask Jackson if she agreed with the idea that "babies are racist."

Days before the hearing, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) falsely accused Jackson of showing "a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes, both as a judge and as a policymaker." Hawley used his time Tuesday to grill Jackson about child abuse cases before accusing her of an "alarming trend of lenient sentencing in child pornography cases."

Despite a constitutional prohibition against religious tests for public office and his own promises not to ask about her faith, Graham himself demanded that Jackson tell him her religious affiliation, questioned how often she attends church, and asked, "On a scale of one to 10, how faithful would you say you are, in terms of religion?"

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) pressed Jackson to praise the 1991 nomination of Justice Clarence Thomas, an archconservative who was accused of serial sexual harassment, as a "historic event" worthy of celebration.

Grassley and several GOP committee members also quizzed Jackson on her policy views — matters they previously said were off-limits, as the judiciary does not make legislative decisions.

Despite the GOP's attacks on Jackson, polls show the public strongly supports her confirmation to the nation's high court. A Gallup poll released Wednesday found that 58% of Americans believe the Senate should confirm Biden's pick. That is the second-highest level of initial support of any nominee in the poll's decadeslong history.

Ignoring his stated plan not to focus on "alleged process fouls," Grassley and his colleagues began Wednesday morning's hearing by complaining about the way Democrats had handled the first day of hearings.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) then complained about the "inappropriate" and "abhorrent" way Democratic senators treated Donald Trump-nominated Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett during their Senate confirmation hearings before claiming, "I'm so glad that, for the most part, we've behaved in an appropriate manner here."

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Ron Johnson Scheming To Repeal Obamacare In 2023

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said Monday that if his party regains control of Congress in Washington, D.C., it will again push to take away health insurance from tens of millions of Americans.

In an interview with the right-wing website Breitbart — first flagged by the progressive research group American Bridge 21st Century — Johnson was asked what Republicans would do if they win back the majority in the November 2022 midterms.

The second-term Republican replied by noting that as long as President Joe Biden is in the White House, they will be unable to pass much legislation — but could use the next two years "to stop any further slouching toward Gomorrah," a reference to the late extreme right-wing jurist Robert Bork's 1996 book blaming the decline of America on liberalism, and "any future slide toward socialism."

Johnson then noted that if Republicans can win back the White House in 2024 and maintain control of Congress, they need to have a plan in place to "make good on what we established as our priorities."

He specifically cited getting rid of the Affordable Care Act, enacted in 2010 and commonly known as Obamacare, saying, "For example, if we were going to repeal and replace Obamacare — OK, I think we still need to fix our health care system — we need to have the plan ahead of time so that once we get in office, we can implement it immediately, not knock around like we did last time and fail."

Like many other Republicans first elected in the 2010 tea party wave, Johnson ran originally on a promise that he would "repeal and replace" Obamacare.

"Ron will vote to repeal the Health Care Bill and replace it with market-based solutions that will include: portability, malpractice reform, mandate reduction, insurance purchase across state lines, lower costs, and a safety net for those with pre-existing conditions," the issues section of his 2010 campaign site noted.

Donald Trump ran for president in 2016 on an explicit but vague promise to "immediately" replace Obamacare with something "terrific" that would guarantee health insurance coverage to every single American.

Without any actual plan to do that, Trump in 2017 signed on to a congressional GOP health care plan that the Congressional Budget Office said would have kicked 23 million people off of their insurance. Johnson repeatedly backed Trump's proposals, but the Republican majority in the Senate could not muster the needed 51 votes for any of multiple attempts to repeal Obamacare.

Johnson vowed in 2017 that he would not give up on finding a way to get rid of Obamacare. But by 2018, the once-unpopular law had become significantly more favorably viewed by the American public, and Republicans began to scrub their websites of any repeal-and-replace language.

Johnson's own campaign issues page no longer mentions Obamacare at all, and his old "Real Reforms for Health Care" page is now gone.

As of last summer, Department of Health and Human Services data showed that about 31 million Americans now receive health insurance coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation's tracking poll, as of October the law enjoyed 58% public approval and only 41% disapproval.

But Obamacare's success and popularity have not deterred Johnson, whose own approval ratings are in the mid- to low 30s, from his quest to get rid of it.

Johnson's latest comments come just weeks after he said that he did not think affordable child care was society's problem.

The Wisconsin Republican, who in 2018 had an estimated net worth of more than $39 million, told a reporter in January, "People decide to have families and become parents. That's something they need to consider when they make that choice. I've never really felt it was society's responsibility to take care of other people's children."

"If you're proposing that the federal government incur even more deficit spending to provide child care for parents? I mean, I don't see how that's a solution at all," he added.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Mitch McConnell Finds More Rejection In Search For GOP Senate Candidate

Dissatisfied with the current field of candidates running to challenge Mark Kelly (D-AZ) for his Senate seat this November, Republicans in charge of recruitment efforts sought to convince term-limited GOP Gov. Doug Ducey to run. On Thursday, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Rick Scott got a flat rejection.

"If you're going to run for public office, you have to really want the job," Ducey explained in a letter to donors, excerpted by the Arizona Republic. "Right now I have the job I want, and my intention is to close my years of service to Arizona with a very productive final legislative session AND to help elect Republican governors across the country in my role as chairman of the Republican Governors Association."

Ducey had previously expressed his lack of interest in joining the Senate race, but McConnell and Scott reportedly mounted a full-court press to convince him to change his mind before the April 4 filing deadline. He did not change his mind.

This is the latest in a series of high-profile 2022 recruitment failures for the two GOP leaders.

Last month, term-limited Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan — the rare Republican who has repeatedly won statewide in the usually blue state — turned down McConnell and Scott and said he would not challenge Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen.

"I sincerely appreciate all the people who have been encouraging me to consider it," he explained. "Just because you can win a race doesn't mean that's the job you should do if your heart's not in it. And I just didn't see myself being a U.S. senator."

In November, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu also spurned McConnell and Scott, opting to seek reelection rather than run against Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan.

In explaining his decision, Sununu openly acknowledged that he did not want to join a Republican caucus that is singularly focused on obstructing legislation and blocking President Joe Biden's agenda.

"They were all, for the most part, content with the speed at which they weren't doing anything," he said of the Republican incumbents who encouraged him to run for Senate. "It was very clear that we just have to hold the line for two years. OK, so I'm just going to be a roadblock for two years. That's not what I do."

Republican Vermont Gov. Phil Scott also reportedly turned down national-level Republicans and opted to seek a fourth two-year term in his current job rather than run for retiring Sen. Patrick Leahy's (D) open seat.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released a statement Thursday noting the trend:

Once again, Senate Republicans' recruitment efforts have failed, and their top potential candidates are refusing to run against strong Democratic Senators like Mark Kelly. While Senate Democrats are fighting to lower costs for American families, potential Republican candidates know they cannot defend their party's disastrous agenda of raising taxes, ending Medicare and Social Security, and pushing the interests of big corporations and the wealthiest few at the expense of working families.

Rick Scott released an 11-point "Rescue America" plan last Tuesday that called for a tax increase for more than 100 million retired, poor, and middle-income Americans and a five-year "sunset" on every single federal law. If it were enacted, even vital safety net programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid would expire every five years unless Congress could agree on a reauthorization.

Democrats currently are the majority party in the 50-50 Senate due to Vice President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote. With forecasters rating control of the chamber after the midterms a toss-up, these recruitment failures could be a big factor in determining who has a majority in 2023.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent