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Daily Archives: February 23rd, 2023

CreativeA whodunit that gripped Washington and echoed across the nation has officially turned into an unsolved mystery. But while the culprit in this particular malfeasance remains at large, we have more than enough evidence to determine guilt for an even greater outrage — the brazen assault on decency, judicial temperament, and honorable jurisprudence by the current iteration of the United States Supreme Court. Simply put, the court has become a mess — less a hallowed marble edifice to constitutional probity than a dangerously petty and unrestrained mosh pit of dysfunction. Get your house in order, indeed. The black robes aren’t fooling anybody. The court’s investigation into the leak of a draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade was a stunning failure of mission. The inquiry’s stated goal was not just to identify seriously lax practices at the court around information and technology (which the report did do). We were supposed to learn the name or names behind one of the gravest breaches of court protocol in history. And there, we got nothing. When the draft opinion overRoe was leaked, it created a firestorm. It was rightly seen by those on the political left as representing a dangerous break in precedent, weak legal reasoning, and, most importantly, an attack on women’s health and basic rights. In response to the leak, there was no shortage of public handwringing on the part of court watchers and many of the justices themselves. Public speculation quickly jumped to who might have been the leaker and what might have been their motives. Perhaps not surprisingly, Republicans blamed Democrats, and Democrats blamed Republicans.As we now know, the draft document ultimately ended up presaging the final decision. Was the leak a way to lock in wavering votes, as many people speculated, or to undercut the legitimacy of the majority, as others contended? The leak investigation report only creates more questions and elevates the plausibility of theories that had seemed far-fetched. Could it be that some of the justices didn’t want to find out the truth? And might it have been one of those justices (or one of their spouses or assistants) who was responsible for the leak? What has encouraged this speculation is that the justices were not subjected to the same scrutiny in this investigation as everyone else at the court. If the justices think that’s acceptable because they are above reproach, that is only more evidence of how out of touch they are. The real conclusion is that the leak report is far from thorough. In the wake of the report’s release, many observers started floating the names of Justices Alito and Thomas (as well as Thomas’s wife, Ginny) as the most likely leakers. In this case, the conjecture is purely circumstantial — the idea being that these anti-abortion hardliners had the most to gain by locking in the draft decision. Although both justices have shown a lack of ethical restraint in other matters. In an attempt to tamp down this conjecture, the woman overseeing the investigation, United States Supreme Court Marshal Gail A. Curley, issued the following statement: “During the course of the investigation, I spoke with each of the Justices, several on multiple occasions. The Justices actively cooperated in this iterative process, asking questions and answering mine. I followed up on all credible leads, none of which implicated the Justices or their spouses. On this basis, I did not believe that it was necessary to ask the Justices to sign sworn affidavits.”Let us note that one of the court’s own, its “Marshal,” did the investigating. There was no independent investigation. And none of the justices was asked to testify under oath.Is this, the whole summation, really sufficient? If the justices are upset that many Americans think it isn’t, they have only themselves to blame. We have a court that is losing the trust of a large swath of the American people. It is a court in which the ends increasingly justify the means, settled law counts for next to nothing, societal upheaval is trivialized, and self-described “conservative” objectives that would never pass in national legislation are turned into the law of the land by judicial decree. We also have a majority of the justices on the court appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote (including three by the twice-impeached former holder of the office). We have had Supreme Court picks blocked (Merrick Garland, chosen by President Obama) and others rushed through (Amy Coney Barrett, appointed by President Trump) based solely on political expediency. As for Ginny Thomas, she is a known supporter of the Big Lie around the 2020 election. The strange and as yet unsolved case of the Supreme Court leak, plus the lame investigation around it, leaves the court with a long, hard road to restoration of its reputation and authority.And as bad as the leak was, it is a symptom of far more systemic rot. Respect must be earned. And it must be earned again once it has been squandere


    CROSS-POST   Friends, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen just announced that the federal government will hit the limit on total federal debt on January 19, just two days from now. After that, the Treasury Department will be forced to take “extraordinary measures” to avoid defaulting on the debt, which would likely trigger a global financial crisis. Congress could defuse this bomb by simply raising the debt limit, as it has dozens of times under presidents of both parties for decades. But the MAGA radicals now in control of the House of Representatives are refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless President Biden agrees to devastating cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and other key programs. I was involved in a similar fight over the debt ceiling fight twenty-eight years ago, which holds some lessons for what happens now. In November 1995, Republican refused to raise the debt ceiling unless Bill Clinton agreed to a package of sweeping spending cuts, welfare overhaul, restraints on Medicare and Medicaid growth, and a balanced budget within seven years. I and other Clinton advisers urged him not to negotiate. Even if the public didn’t understand that the debt ceiling had less to do with the nation’s future debt than with obligations the United States had made in the past, we couldn’t allow the Republicans to hold the economy hostage. The full faith and credit of the United States was at stake. It should not be negotiable. Clinton agreed. “If they send me a budget that says simply, ‘You take our cuts or we’ll let the country go into default,’ I will veto it,” he said. He called the Republican tactics “economic blackmail,” which they were. When the Republican House then passed a bill increasing the debt ceiling through December, as well as a continuing resolution that included higher Medicare premiums and other spending cuts, Clinton vetoed both bills. “America has never liked pressure tactics, and I would be wrong to permit these kind of pressure tactics to dramatically change the course of American life,” he said. “I cannot do it, and I will not do it.” What happened next? The government shut down. And as you may recall, the American public was furious — with the Republicans, who paid dearly in the subsequent midterm elections. The budget standoff was resolved in early January 1996 but the debt ceiling issue remained. When Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin wrote to Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich that Congress had only until March 1 before the Treasury defaulted on its obligations, Moody’s rating agency announced it was considering downgrading the rating on U.S. Treasury bonds. Republicans quickly folded, offering to raise the debt ceiling in return for a few modest measures. The debt ceiling fight of 2011 was different. The Obama administration did negotiate with House Republicans, resulting in the Budget Control Act of 2011. When the debt ceiling had to be raised again in 2013, Obama returned to negotiations. During this standoff, the government was partially closed down. Here again, Republicans took the brunt of the blame. In these fights, some Republicans presented a fallback position: Instead of raising the debt ceiling, the federal government should prioritize which bills to pay — starting with interest payments to lenders to the United States (holders of federal bonds). That way, they argued, there’d be no technical default. The idea never went anywhere because such prioritization would still spook credit markets. It would also cause the economy to tank and the stock market to plunge because of the sudden elimination of huge amounts of government spending. But now, so-called “debt prioritization” is back. According to Friday’s Washington Post, it was part of the secret agreement Kevin McCarthy made with his detractors to support him for Speaker. They agreed that when Republicans hold firm on not raising the debt ceiling, they’ll pass a bill instructing the Treasury to prioritize: 1) first, debt service payments, 2) next, Social Security, Medicare and veterans benefits, and 3) third, military funding. Everything else would be sacrificed — including critical federal expenditures such as Medicaid, food safety inspections, border control and air traffic control. The U.S. would be forced to halt payment for as much as 20 percent of money it already promised to spend. This could be the most economically irresponsible backroom deal in Republican history (even conservative economists are warning that the consequences could include a stock-market spiral and significant job losses). It’s also the most politically foolish. It would, in effect, put the interest of bondholders — including Chinese lenders to the United States — over the wellbeing of Americans. As George W. might say, “bring ‘em on.”

January 30, 2023

Heather Cox Richardson

The news today illustrates a dramatic difference between governing and garnering votes.

President Joe Biden was at the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel in Baltimore, Maryland, today to celebrate the bipartisan infrastructure law, passed in November 2021, that is investing about $1.2 trillion in fixing our highways, bridges, internet access, and so on. In Maryland it will devote about $4 billion to fixing and expanding the 150-year-old Baltimore and Potomac railroad tunnel, which has become a bottleneck for the 9 million commuters who pass through it as they travel the vital link between Philadelphia and Washington.

The law is formally known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and Biden noted that fixing the tunnel is expected to create 20,000 jobs over the next ten years. He also announced that it, along with all the Amtrak developments on the Northeast Corridor, would be built by union labor.

Tomorrow, Biden will speak at the West Side Rail Yard in New York City to talk about how funding for the Hudson Tunnel Project from the bipartisan infrastructure law will improve reliability for the 200,000 passengers a day who travel through it on Amtrak and New Jersey Transit.

The passage of the measure in late 2021 took months of careful negotiations even as former president Trump—whose own inability to pass an infrastructure measure became a running joke—tried to scuttle the talks. Biden’s victory lap is not undeserved.

The administration today also called attention to the effects of its new border enforcement measures providing migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela a legal path to obtain a two-year visa so long as they have a U.S. sponsor and a thorough background check. The new system will admit up to 30,000 migrants a month.

New data shows that the number of migrants from those four countries has dropped 97% since the program went into effect. Overall, migrant encounters at the border have dropped by half, although migration from Ecuador and Peru, which are growing unstable, has increased. The administration has asked Congress repeatedly to fix our outdated immigration system, but Republicans derailed the effort in the previous Congress when they objected to a path to citizenship for so-called dreamers: people brought to this country as children. Now almost twenty states led by Republicans say the administration’s new program violates the law, and they are suing to stop it.

In charge of the House, Republicans plan to hold hearings on what they call Biden’s border crisis. Today the White House called out “some elected officials” for “trying to block the Administration’s effective measures because they would rather keep immigration an issue to campaign on than one to solve. If those elected officials succeed,” the press office said, “their actions will lead to more illegal immigration.”

Actually governing is a lot harder than talking about it. On December 30, House majority leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) promised that the House Republicans would “hit the ground running to do what we promised on the border, crime, energy, inflation, Life, taxpayer protection & more.” He outlined eleven bills the party would bring to the floor in the first two weeks of the new Congress. Half have indeed been voted on by now—the fifth week of Congress—but they were only for show. They will never pass the Senate, and no one is trying to negotiate to pass them. The other half aren’t on the calendar.

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin noted today that the Republicans have turned to investigations, abortion, threatening the national debt, and trying to defund the Internal Revenue Service rather than dealing with the issues they insisted were vital in 2022: crime and inflation. She also noted that at the very time the Republicans were hyping those issues, both crime rates and inflation were actually falling.

More demonstrations for the extremist base appear to be coming. As Amy B. Wang noted today in the Washington Post, the Republican National Committee is urging lawmakers to “go on offense in the 2024 election cycle” on antiabortion measures, although since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, voters have made it clear they want abortion rights protected.

Nonetheless, as party leaders have done repeatedly when voters reject their increasingly extremist stands, the RNC suggests that the party did poorly in 2022 not because their stand was too strong but because it was too weak. Candidates were not clear enough about their opposition to abortion. The RNC wants them to demonstrate their conviction by passing strict laws that outlaw abortion at six weeks, before many people know they’re pregnant.

House speaker Kevin McCarthy has, however, backed off on Republican suggestions that they will not agree to raise the debt ceiling without cuts to Social Security and Medicare. On Face the Nation yesterday, he said the party was committed to “strengthening” the programs. In fact, the only proposal on the table right now to strengthen the programs is from the far-right House Republican Study Committee, which calls for strengthening Social Security and Medicare by, among other things, raising the age at which people become eligible for them.

I’d love to hear McCarthy explain how that plan is not a cut in the programs.

Finally, today, former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has applied for a six-month U.S. tourist visa. Bolsonaro entered the United States when he was still president, two days before his successor took office and a little more than a week before his supporters attacked the government and tried to reinstate him. That timing means he came to the U.S. on an A-1 visa restricted to heads of state, which had to be replaced as soon as he was no longer president.

Bolsonaro’s lawyer told Reuters reporter Daphne Psaledakis that Bolsonaro wants “to take some time off, clear his head, and enjoy being a tourist in the United States for a few months before deciding what his next step will be.” In fact, the right-wing leader has made it clear he is afraid of the many investigations underway in Brazil for fraud and now for inciting the attack on the government that might end up putting him behind bars.


February 22, 2023

Heather Cox Richardson

5 hr ago



Last week’s court filing in the Dominion Voting Systems case proved that Fox News Channel personalities knew full well that Joe Biden had won the 2020 presidential election. They pushed Trump’s Big Lie of voter fraud anyway, afraid they would lose viewers to right-wing networks that were willing to parrot that lie.

Since the 1980s, Republicans have relied on a false narrative to win voters. To get rid of the active government put in place after 1933 to put guardrails around the unfettered capitalism that had led to the Depression, they argued that government regulation, the social safety net, civil rights, and investment in infrastructure were socialism and were undermining traditional America. 

Their argument was that business regulation gave the government control over the way a man ran his business, and that taxes to support government bureaucracy, social services, and public investments redistributed wealth from white men to minorities and women. Real Americans, they suggested, must be willing to defend themselves and the country against the “socialist” national government.

Lately, this determination to get rid of the New Deal government has taken the shape of cutting Social Security and Medicare, which led to the brouhaha over President Biden’s charge during the State of the Union address that Republicans would cut those programs. After Republicans booed him and called him a liar, he backed them into agreeing they would take cuts off the table. 

But former vice president Mike Pence brought it up once more this morning on CNBC, saying, “While I respect the speaker’s commitment to take Social Security and Medicare off the table for the debt ceiling negotiations, we’ve got to put them on the table in the long term,” because they were facing “insolvency.” 

Reversing 40 years of Republican tax cuts would also address financial shortfalls, but that approach does not fit the Republican narrative that cutting taxes promotes growth and raises revenue.

As their policies became increasingly unpopular, Republicans ramped up that narrative until we have the extraordinary scenario we saw last night: former president Trump telling a campaign audience that the United States has blown right past socialism and is now a communist, Marxist country. That, of course, would mean that the people’s government owns the means of production: the factories, services, and so on.

Instead, as President Biden pointed out today in response to right-wing attempts to blame his administration for the Ohio derailment, deregulation has moved money upward and compromised Americans’ safety. He noted that he has committed the federal government to make sure Ohio has all it needs to address the crisis. Then he added: “Rail companies have spent millions of dollars to oppose common-sense safety regulations. And it’s worked. This is more than a train derailment or a toxic waste spill—it’s years of opposition to safety measures coming home to roost.” 

That narrative has also enshrined the idea that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, originally intended to limit the federal government’s power over state militias but now interpreted to mean that individuals have a right to own whatever weaponry they want, defines the nation. After a number of right-wing congressional lawmakers have taken to wearing assault rifle lapel pins, Representative Barry Moore (R-AL) this week introduced a bill to make the AR-15 the “National Gun of America.” Moore claims that “The anti–Second Amendment group won’t stop until they take away all your firearms.”

From February 17 through February 19, there were ten mass shootings in the United States. According to Grace Hauck of USA Today, there were “two mass shootings in Georgia and Missouri and one each in Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee, Louisiana, South Carolina and Mississippi.” Thirteen people were killed and 46 injured. At least 15 of the victims were under 20. Mass shootings are up in 2023 compared to 2022: 82 this year, compared with 59 at the same time last year.  

The idea of strangling government programs and saving tax dollars has gotten to the point that we had the extraordinary scene in Alaska earlier this week of Republican state representative David Eastman, who attended the January 6, 2021, rally in Washington, D.C., suggesting that children dying of child abuse would save the state money in the social services those children would otherwise need. 

The Republican narrative to attract voters, as warped as it has become, has now begun to drive the government itself. Today, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Isaac Stanley-Becker of the Washington Post reported that after the 2020 election, Arizona’s then–attorney general, Mark Brnovich, concealed a report produced after 10,000 hours of investigation by his own staff, that said virtually all the claims of fraud leveled against the 2020 Arizona election were unfounded. 

Brnovich was running to win the Republican nomination for a seat in the U.S. Senate. He kept the report hidden and instead released an “Interim Report” saying that his office had found “serious vulnerabilities.” He continued to circulate hints that the vote was off, somehow, despite fact checks disproving those allegations. His office put together a document refuting the idea the election was stolen and saying that none of the people making that accusation produced any evidence. Brnovich did not release that summary. 

In a later memo summarizing their work, investigators noted that none of those making outlandish claims about the election were willing to repeat those claims to agents, when they would be subject to a state law prohibiting them from lying to law enforcement officers.

Brnovich was involved in the Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee case, decided in July 2021 by the Supreme Court, that made it much harder to challenge voting restrictions that make it harder for minorities to vote. Voters replaced Brnovich this year with Kris Mayes, a Democrat, who shifted Brnovich’s “Election Integrity Unit,” which focused on fraud, to address voter suppression. 

The attempt to maintain the Republican narrative is now deeply embedded in the government itself. House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has apparently given to Tucker Carlson of the Fox News Channel exclusive access to more than 44,000 hours of video taken within the Capitol building on January 6, 2021. This amounts to “one of the worst security risks since 9/11,” Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said in protest today, “a treasure trove of closely held information about how the Capitol complex is protected.”

Carlson has repeatedly challenged the official accounts of the riot, blaming the federal government for launching the attack and claiming that FBI agents were behind it. Carlson is also one of the key conspirators in the Fox News Channel promotion of the Big Lie that Trump won the 2020 election, even though they dismissed that notion privately. The expectation is that Carlson will hack whatever videos he can into a version of the Republican narrative. 

But there is more: McCarthy is fundraising off his release of the videos to Carlson, claiming he is delivering “truth and transparency over partisan games” and asking “patriots” to “chip…in” to help House Republicans.


President Biden @POTUS

Rail companies have spent millions of dollars to oppose common-sense safety regulations. And it’s worked. This is more than a train derailment or a toxic waste spill – it’s years of opposition to safety measures coming home to roost.11:14 PM ∙ Feb 21, 20237,381Likes1,731Retweets

Julie Tsirkin @JulieNBCNews

NEW: Schumer writes to colleagues about McCarthy’s release of 1/6 security tapes to Fox News — Says it’s a “treasure trove of closely held information about how the Capitol complex is protected and its public release would compromise the safety of the Legislative Branch.”


9:33 PM ∙ Feb 22, 20231,018Likes512Retweets

Emily Wilkins @emrwilkins

McCarthy fundraising off of giving Tucker Carlson access to 1/6 Surveillance tapes


7:11 PM ∙ Feb 22, 2023373Likes267Retweets

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