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Daily Archives: September 7th, 2021

September 6, 2021Heather Cox RichardsonSep 7This week, lawmakers will begin to construct the details of the $3.5 trillion infrastructure package they declared their intention to pass. On August 11, the Senate approved a budget resolution telling committees to hammer out the details of a bill that will deal with the “soft” infrastructure not covered in the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that dealt with roads, bridges, broadband, and other “hard” infrastructure needs. The larger bill will focus on child care, education, elder care, health care, and climate change.If this measure passes, it will expand the ways in which the government addresses the needs of ordinary Americans. It updates the measures put in place during the New Deal of the 1930s, when Democrats under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt shored up nuclear families—usually white nuclear families—by providing unemployment insurance, disability coverage, aid to children, and old age insurance.After World War II, people of both parties accepted this new system, believing that it was the job of a modern government to level the economic playing field between ordinary men and those at the top of the economic ladder. Republican presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon expanded government action into civil rights and protection of the environment; Democrats Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Jimmy Carter expanded education initiatives, health care, anti-poverty programs, civil rights, and workers’ rights.But opponents insisted that such government action was “socialism.” In America, this word comes not from international socialism, in which the government owns the means of production, but rather from the earlier history of Reconstruction, when white opponents of Black voting insisted that the money to pay for programs like schools, which helped ordinary and poorer people, must come from those with wealth, and thus redistributed wealth. They demanded an end to the taxes that supported public programs.They elected Ronald Reagan president in 1980 to reject the post–World War II “liberal consensus” that used the government to level the economic playing field, focusing instead on cutting taxes to return power to individuals to make their own decisions about how to run their own economic lives. Over the past forty years, that ideology has cut the national safety net and moved economic power dramatically upward.True to that ideology, opponents of the $3.5 trillion infrastructure package are already calling it, as Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) said, a “freight train to socialism.” But more than 60% of Americans want to invest our money in our people, as lawmakers of both parties did from 1933 to 1981.Grover Norquist, a former spokesman for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who rose to power by pushing the opposite idea, that economic development depended on consistent and complete tax cuts, told Michael Scherer of the Washington Post, “We are really on this precipice, this knife’s edge, and each party goes, ‘If I just push a little bit harder I can control politics for the next 20 years.’” The conservative activist added, “And it’s true.”But what Norquist didn’t spell out was that Democrats are trying to win control by protecting the ability of Americans to have a say in their government, while Republicans are trying to make their ideology the law of the land by skewing the mechanics of our democracy to permit a minority to rule over the majority.Scherer laid out what this skewing looks like. Since 1988—the year George H. W. Bush was elected—Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of nine presidential elections. And yet, Republicans have taken the White House through the Electoral College and have appointed 6 of the 9 justices now on the Supreme Court.The concentration of Republicans in rural states with smaller populations means that the Senate is also skewed toward the Republican Party. Public policy scholars Michael Ettlinger and Jordan Hensley crunched the numbers to show that today’s 50 Democratic senators represent 26% more people than Republican senators: 202 million compared to 160 million. They go on to say: “A Black American is 16% less represented in the Senate than an American on average; [a] Latinx American 32% less.”Ettlinger and Hensley note that, as the Senate has become less representative, Republican senators have relied on arcane rules to let a minority stop popular legislation. “In the current Senate,” they report, “41 Republican senators representing as few as 75 million people can block most legislation from even coming to a vote—thwarting the will of a group of Democratic and Republican senators representing as many as 270 million Americans.”In the House of Representatives, gerrymandering allows Republicans to hold more seats than their share of the popular vote. In 1996 and 2012, Republicans lost the national vote tally but controlled Congress nonetheless.The skew in state legislatures is also large. Scherer points out that the Michigan legislature, for example, has a Republican majority although Democrats have won a majority of the popular vote there for a decade. In North Carolina in 2018, Democrats won 51% of the popular vote but got only 45% of the seats.After the 2020 election, Republican-dominated legislatures in states where Democrats likely make up the majority—Georgia, Texas, and Florida, for example—have worked aggressively to restrict voting rights. More than a dozen states have enacted more than 30 new laws to suppress votes. Tonight, Texas governor Greg Abbott announced that tomorrow he will sign another major voter suppression measure in his state.Noting “how far the [Republican] party has fallen on fundamental matters of democracy,” the Washington Post editorial board today called on Democrats to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore and expand the Department of Justice’s protection of the right to vote, gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013 and 2021.The board continued: “They should merge it with other provisions designed to promote fairness at the ballot box, such as universal voter registration, protections for absentee voters, standards to guard against rampant gerrymandering and restrictions on partisan interference with vote counting. They should dare Republicans to vote down a package that unambiguously enhances democracy, with no extraneous measures. If Republicans continue to unify against it, they should consider ways to reform the filibuster rule blocking urgent democracy reform.”At stake is whether our government will work for ordinary Americans who make up the majority of our population—including in 2021 women and minorities as well as white men—or whether it will serve an entrenched minority.—-Notes: E. Elias

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US Capitol attack

Hugo Lowell in Washington

Mon 6 Sep 2021 02.00 EDT 


Top Republicans under scrutiny for their role in the events of 6 January have embarked on a campaign of threats and intimidation to thwart a Democratic-controlled congressional panel that is scrutinizing the Capitol attack and opening an expanded investigation into Donald Trump.

The chairman of the House select committee into the violent assault on the Capitol, Bennie Thompson, in recent days demanded an array of Trump executive branch records related to the insurrection, as members and counsel prepared to examine what Trump knew of efforts to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election win.

House select committee investigators then asked a slew of technology companies to preserve the social media records of hundreds of people connected to the Capitol attack, including far-right House Republicans who sought to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

The select committee said that its investigators were merely “gathering facts, not alleging wrongdoing by any individual” as they pursued the records in what amounted to the most aggressive moves taken by the panel since it launched proceedings in July.

But the twin actions, which threatened to open a full accounting of Trump’s moves in the days and weeks before the joint session of Congress on 6 January, has unnerved top House Republicans, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, decried the select committee’s investigation as a partisan exercise and threatened to retaliate against any telecommunications company that complied with the records requests.


“A Republican majority will not forget,” he warned, in remarks that seemed to imply some future threat against the sector.

The warning from the top Republican in the House amounted to a serious escalation as he seeks to undermine a forensic examination of the attack perpetrated by Trump supporters and domestic violent extremists that left five dead and nearly 140 injured.

But his remarks – which members on the select committee privately consider to be at best, harassment, and at worst, obstruction of justice – reflects McCarthy’s realization that he could himself be in the crosshairs of the committee, the source said.

Most of McCarthy’s efforts to undercut the inquiry to date, such as sinking the prospects of a 9/11-style commission to scrutinize the Capitol attack, have been aimed at shielding Trump and his party from what the select committee might uncover.

But deeply alarmed at the efforts by House select committee investigators to secure his personal communications records for the fraught moments leading up to and during the Capitol attack, McCarthy went on the offensive to pre-emptively protect himself, the source said.

McCarthy was among several House Republicans who desperately begged Trump to call off the rioters as they stormed the Capitol in his name, only to be rebuffed by Trump, who questioned why McCarthy wasn’t doing more to overturn the election.

Thompson previously told the Guardian in an interview that such conversations with Trump would be investigated by the select committee, raising the prospect that McCarthy could be forced to testify about what Trump appeared to be thinking and doing on 6 January.

The statement from McCarthy asserted, without citing any law, that it would be illegal for the technology companies to comply with the records requests – even though congressional investigators have obtained phone and communications records in the past.

The threat is unlikely to be viewed as a violation of federal witness tampering law, which, as part of a broader obstruction of justice statute, makes it a felony under some circumstances to try to dissuade or hinder cooperation with an official proceeding.

Congressman Jamie Raskin, a member of the select committee and the former lead impeachment manager in Trump’s second trial, said that he was appalled by McCarthy’s remarks, which he described as tantamount to obstruction of justice.

“He is leveling threats against people cooperating with a congressional investigation,” Raskin said. “Why would the minority leader of the House of Representatives not be interested in our ability to get all of the facts in relation to the January 6th attack?”

Meanwhile, other members on the select committee have also seized on McCarthy’s threat as a reminder that Republicans could not be trusted to engage in the inquiry in good faith, according to a source connected to the 6 January investigation.

It also underscored to them, the source said, the nervousness among top Republicans as the select committee ramps up its work, even though the inquiry is still in its early days and has yet to sift through thousands of pages of expected evidence.

Emboldened by McCarthy’s combative stance, Trump denounced the select committee as a “partisan sham”, while Republicans under scrutiny by the panel such as Marjorie Taylor Greene threatened any companies that complied with the records requests would be “shut down”.

The chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, Andy Biggs, is now also asking McCarthy to remove from the Republican conference Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger – the two vocal critics of Trump appointed to the select committee – whom he called “spies” for Democrats.

Biggs on Thursday suggested in a letter, first reported by CNN, that Cheney and Kinzinger should be ejected because they are involved in investigating Republicans over 6 January and the party should be able to strategize without having the pair present at conference meetings.

Still, McCarthy remains unable to shape an investigation likely to prove politically damaging to Trump and to Republicans at the ballot box at the midterms next year, a reality that has come largely as a result of his own strategic miscalculations.

The proposed 9/11-style commission into the Capitol attack had envisioned a panel with equal power between Democrats and Republicans, and McCarthy’s decision to boycott the select committee in a flash of anger inadvertently left Trump without any defenders.


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