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Category Archives: postings from others

January 30, 2023

Heather Cox Richardson

3 hr ago

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 The administration has asked Congress repeatedly to fix our outdated immigration system, but Republicans derailed the effort in the previous Congress when they objected to a path to citizenship for so-called dreamers: people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.


Aaron Fritschner @Fritschner

In December incoming House Republican Majority Leader Steve Scalise announced 11 bills the GOP majority would “bring to the House Floor in the first 2 weeks.” Half haven’t gotten votes yet, and none are on the schedule for the current week, which is Week 5 of the 118th Congress

Steve Scalise @SteveScalise

🚨 Sent a letter to my colleagues outlining bills the GOP Majority will bring to the House Floor in the first 2 weeks. We’re ready to hit the ground running to do what we promised on the border, crime, energy, inflation, Life, taxpayer protection & more. PM ∙ Jan 30, 2023345Likes113Retweets

Story by Tommy Christopher • Yesterday 7:47 AM


CNN’s Don Lemon told Daniel Dale he’s “going to be busy” after Dale’s thorough fact-check of Republican Kevin McCarthy’s first 2 weeks as Speaker of the House.

Two weeks ago, McCarthy’s tumultuous bid to become speaker amid a revolt from House conservatives finally culminated in victory on the fifteenth try late on a Friday night into Saturday morning after failing to secure a win in fourteen consecutive votes.

On Tuesday morning’s edition of CNN This Morning, Dale took on McCarthy’s first two weeks since securing the post and found his claims not only false and misleading but in one case, even the opposite of the truth:

DON LEMON: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has had his hands on the gavel for just over two weeks now. And if you’re a person in power, you better believe your expert. Your expert fact checker, Daniel Dale is watching your words. Daniel, good morning. You found some of McCarthy’s claims misleading and some are just plain wrong. So let’s start with the speaker using Nancy Pelosi’s name to defend his position on the debt ceiling. Listen.

KEVIN MCCARTHY: When Trump was president and Nancy Pelosi was speaker, they became a debt ceiling agreement and it was a cap agreement for two years to cap the spending and make those decisions.

DON LEMON: Daniel, what did you find.

DANIEL DALE: Don, this stuff is highly misleading. McCarthy is trying to say, look, why is it crazy for us Republicans to impose a spending cap? Nancy Pelosi, Democrat, did a spending cap in 2019, but that is not actually what happened. What this 2019 Pelosi deal actually did was loosen, soften, raise a pre-existing spending cap that was already in effect because of a 2011 law known as the Budget Control Act. So Pelosi got the government to spend tens of billions of additional dollars over and above the cap that was already in place at the time, and her deal ensured that these discretionary spending caps would expire after 2021. So that Pelosi example is not at all the same as what McCarthy and the conservatives in his caucus are now talking about, which is cut government spending by creating a new spending cap. In fact, Don I think it’s basically the opposite.

DON LEMON: Daniel, we’ve also been hearing Speaker McCarthy repeat the Republican talking point about getting rid of tens of thousands of IRS agents. Listen to this.

KEVIN MCCARTHY: We put out a commitment to America to tell them exactly what we would do if they gave us the power. And in this first week, we continue to keep that commitment. We repealed 87,000 IRS agents.

DON LEMON: Is that accurate?

DANIEL DALE: Don, McCarthy is wrong in two ways here. First of all, House Republicans didn’t actually repeal anything. They did vote to repeal. They passed a bill to repeal more than 70 billion in new IRS funding. But that bill is not going to get through the Senate or President Biden. So they have not changed the law. Second of all, this frequent Republican talking point you hear about how Democrats are hiring 87,000 new IRS agents is just not true. It’s an exaggeration. The Inflation Reduction Act that Biden signed into law last year includes 80 billion in additional funding for the IRS that will very possibly allow the IRS to hire tens of thousands of additional employees, but not even close to all these employees, Don will be agents. The people who conduct audits and investigations sometimes frighten people. Non-agents make up the vast majority of the IRS workforce, and many of the newly hired employees we know will be in things like customer service and operations, in I.T. And experts tell us that many of the new hires will be making up for attrition, filling posts left by tens of thousands of retirements, departures, not taking newly created jobs. So the image McCarthy and other Republicans are trying to conjure, Don, of this army of 87,000 new agents coming to get you is not based on the facts.

DON LEMON: McCarthy also echoing Trump’s claim that federal law enforcement was wrong for executing a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago resort, something the FBI says resulted in the recovery of more than 100 government documents marked as classified and hundreds of other government documents as well. Is this claim true, Daniel?

DANIEL DALE: We know it’s not true, Don, that the government could have just come to Mar-a-Lago at any time, as McCarthy says, without executing a formal search warrant and gotten all the government documents there. The feds, first the National Archives, then DOJ, had been trying for more than a year at the time of the August search to get government records back from Trump without a warrant. It did not work. We know that. The Trump team didn’t even give back all the records marked classified after DOJ went beyond asking and issued a subpoena for them in May. The Trump team hadn’t even given all records back at the time a Trump lawyer signed a certification in June saying they had all been given back. And there was actually a day, June 3rd, where reps from the FBI and DOJ went to Mar-a-Lago without a search warrant. What happened? While, according to a DOJ court filing and I quote, “the former president’s counsel explicitly prohibited government personnel from opening or looking inside any of the boxes that remained in the storage room, giving no opportunity for the government to confirm that no documents with classification markings remained.” So McCarthy claims that they could have just come and gotten these documents in Mar-a-Lago without a warrant. Well, they were there. They weren’t even allowed to look, let alone take anything Don.

DON LEMON: Daniel Dale, you’re going to be busy in the coming weeks and months and years. Thank you very much. Appreciate that.

Watch above via CNN This Morning.

“Both-sides”ism is rampant. And it’s seriously misleading the public.

Robert Reich

Jan 24



Few things make me as furious as the mainstream media’s reluctance to tell the public what the Republican Party is doing — and instead hide the truth behind “both sides” rubbish. How the hell can democracy work if The New York Times, CNN, and even National Public Radio obscure what’s really going on?

Let me state five central truths about the pending fight over the debt ceiling and show you how the mainstream media is distorting each of them.

Truth #1: The fight is being waged solely by the Republican Party. The Democrats did not pick this fight. When Trump occupied the White House, Republicans voted to increase the debt limit three times without incident. Over the last quarter century, it has been raised over a dozen times.

You wouldn’t know this from the way it’s being covered. Last Thursday’s Times, in an article titled “Months Before a Potential Crisis, Both Parties Kick Off a Fiscal Blame Game,” leads with the wildly false equivalence that:

“Members of both parties are intent on painting the opposition as culpable for the turmoil that would result from a catastrophic default on the debt this summer….

Administration officials say Republicans are provoking an unnecessary crisis by insisting on deep spending cuts …. [But Kevin McCarthy] has started early trying to lay the blame at the feet of Democrats instead. As Republicans vow to extract spending cuts in exchange for an increase in the debt limit, Mr. McCarthy insists it is Mr. Biden and his allies in Congress who are acting cavalierly by refusing in advance to negotiate on such reductions, and they who are risking upheaval if they do not shift their position. The clear inference is that whatever happens will be the fault of Mr. Biden and Senate Democrats.

CNN is no better. Anchor Erin Burnett has framed the fight as “a dangerous game of chicken,” in which “Republicans refuse to raise the debt ceiling without any strings attached,” while “the White House — well, they are going to the opposite extreme.” 

White House going to the opposite extreme? Hello?

CNN congressional correspondent Lauren Fox even describes Republicans and Democrats as “retreating to their corners” and “sticking to their political talking points.”

Truth #2: The fight has nothing whatever to do with controlling the national debt. It has to do with paying the nation’s bills. The “debt ceiling” is merely an accounting convention. The national debt is comprised of obligations already incurred. If Republicans were serious about controlling the national debt, they’d be willing to consider tax increases — including repeal of the giant Trump tax cut that went mostly to big corporations and the very rich. But the national debt isn’t on their minds.

Yet the mainstream media is intent on treating this as a fight over the national debt.

On CNN’s major political talk show last Sunday, anchor Jake Tapper suggested to Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) that it would be “irresponsible” for the GOP not to force a fight over the debt ceiling, saying, “We have these crazy deficits, crazy national debt. It’s $30 trillion right now … Isn’t it time that Congress takes this seriously? And would the Republicans be irresponsible for not forcing this conversation?” In an interview with the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, Tapper said that it’s “a problem” that “the U.S. government spends a lot more money than it takes in” and that Democrats are unwilling to negotiate. “Republicans say they are willing to come to the table to discuss raising the debt ceiling but they also want to discuss negotiations to reduce future government spending. … Are you willing to at least sit down and see if there is a deal to be made in any way?” 

Truth #3: For the last half century, Democratic administrations have been more fiscally responsible than Republican ones. I was part of Bill Clinton’s administration, which balanced the federal budget after Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush had racked up record deficits. Obama cleaned up after George W. Bush’s runaway spending and tax cuts. The Trump administration added a whopping $7 trillion to the national debt.

Yet if you watch or listen to the mainstream media, you’d think that the two parties are equally fiscally irresponsible and will be equally at fault for whatever happens next.

Introducing a pair of segments, CNN anchor John Berman said “Republicans refuse to budge on demands and Democrats refuse to budge on negotiations.”

Truth #4: The real reason Republicans are waging this fight is they see it as a backdoor way of attacking the two most popular (and largest) safety nets in the federal government: Social Security and Medicare. They dare not take on these programs directly. But the GOP believes that negotiating over the debt ceiling gives them an opportunity to begin to shrink these programs.

The mainstream media barely mentions this underlying strategy. Politico refers to raising the debt limit as a “political stalemate” and describes the positions as: “Conservatives want a deal that includes spending cuts, but the White House says meeting the country’s obligations should be non-negotiable.” 

Truth #5: The act of holding the full faith and credit of the United States hostage is the economic equivalent of aiming a nuclear missile at the American (and world) economies and demanding concessions. It’s not a bargaining tactic. It’s a terrorist tactic.

Yet the mainstream media makes it sound as if Republicans have long used fights over the debt ceiling to counter Democratic spending. Consider this, in last Friday’s The New York Times, in an article titled “A Political Fight is Again Putting the Economy at Risk.”

Republicans, in particular, have used the passage of bills increasing the limit as leverage to try to force spending cuts on Democratic administrations …. If lawmakers have a problem with spending, the debt ceiling offers a way to protest….

The media are even blaming Democrats for not negotiating over the debt ceiling. On NPR’s Morning Edition, political correspondent Susan Davis said, “For now, McCarthy is the only leader at the negotiating table.”

Of course McCarthy is the only one at the negotiating table. The Biden administration and the Democrats are not negotiating because raising the debt ceiling should be non-negotiable.

Friends, I’m not even talking here about Fox News or its many far-right imitators. I’m referring to the so-called “moderate” mainstream media that most Americans rely on for their news.

The pending fight over raising the debt ceiling is complicated. If the mainstream media gets it wrong, how do we expect most Americans to get it right?

When hell freezes over?
Robert Reich

My friends,

As Congress ends its first post-Trump term, the biggest political question hanging over America is this: When will the GOP finally reach its anti-Trump tipping point — when a majority of Republican lawmakers disavow him?

Again and again, it looks like the tipping point is near but the GOP remains under Trump’s thumb.

What about last month’s dinner at Mar-a-Lago, with Ye, formerly Kanye West, the man whose fame as a rapper has been dwarfed by his antisemitic and racist declarations, along with infamous Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes?

It didn’t come near tipping the scales.

What about Trump’s December 3 declaration that the “Massive Fraud” of the 2020 election would allow for the Constitution to be “terminated?”


Both events caused grumbling among a few Republican lawmakers but most avoided criticizing Trump (as they’ve avoided it in the past — as they avoided doing so the moment the furor over January 6 had died down) for fear of his wrath.

But what’s to fear, now? Didn’t the midterms reveal how weak he is?

After all, most of his endorsees flamed out, including celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, Tim Michels in Wisconsin, Blake Masters in Arizona, Adam Laxalt and Kari Lake also in Arizona, and Herschel Walker in Georgia. (Walker’s campaign even asked Trump to stay away in the final weeks.)

Many election-deniers hit the skids. Michigan’s legislature swung to the Democrats for the first time since the 1980s.

Democrats defied almost all doomsday prophesies as well as the historic pattern of presidents losing midterms — and why? In large part because so many voters fear and loathe the former president. Nearly as many viewed the midterms as a referendum on Trump as who saw it as a referendum on Joe Biden. As Mitch McConnell explained, voters “were frightened” by the Trump-induced GOP rhetoric, “and so they pulled back.”

And it’s only going to get worse for Trump, right?

His business has been found guilty of criminal fraud. Investigators have found more classified documents in a storage unit near Mar-a-Lago. A criminal case is pending in Georgia. The January 6 committee is likely to make a criminal referral to the Justice Department, whose special counsel is already building a criminal case against him. Several leaders of the January 6 attack have already been convicted of seditious conspiracy.

Even the kingpins of the GOP, including the rightwing media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, have switched their allegiance away from him — to Florida governor Ron DeSantis or Ted Cruz or another GOP hopeful.

So why hasn’t the Republican Party as a whole tipped? Why aren’t almost all Republican lawmakers publicly disavowing the former sociopath-in-chief?  

In two words: The base.

Utah’s Republican senator Mitt Romney, no friend of Trump, put it bluntly last week:

“I think we’ve got, I don’t know, 12 people or more that would like to be president, that are thinking of running in 2024. If President Trump continues in his campaign, I’m not sure any one of them can make it through and beat him. He’s got such a strong base of, I don’t know, 30% or 40 % of the Republican voters, or maybe more, it’s going to be hard to knock him off as our nominee.”

That’s the problem in a nutshell, folks.

It’s not so much the size of Trump’s base. Even 40 percent of Republican voters is a relatively small group nationwide, especially considering that fewer than 30 percent of all voters are registered Republicans.

It’s also the intensity and tenacity of their support, which gives them effective control over the Republican Party. They worship him. They won’t budge.

But until they budge, most Republican lawmakers won’t budge either (Romney and Liz Cheney being notable exceptions, and we know what happened to her).

The problem isn’t some highfalutin moral issue, such as Republican lawmakers putting their party over their country. It’s something far more prosaic. They want to keep their jobs.

Which means the GOP continues to rot as a political party, as a governing institution, and as a moral entity. That may be good for Democrats in 2024, but in the larger sense it’s bad for us all.

The Daily Caller

EXCLUSIVE: Ted Cruz Introduces Legislation To Impose Term Limits For Congress

Story by Henry Rodgers • Yesterday 3:47 PM


The Daily Caller

EXCLUSIVE: Ted Cruz Introduces Legislation To Impose Term Limits For Congress

Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz introduced a constitutional amendment Monday to impose term limits for members of Congress.

The legislation, first obtained by the Daily Caller, would limit U.S. Senators to two six-year terms and Members of the U.S. House of Representatives to three two-year terms after the date of its enactment.

“Term limits are critical to fixing what’s wrong with Washington, D.C. The Founding Fathers envisioned a government of citizen legislators who would serve for a few years and return home, not a government run by a small group of special interests and lifelong, permanently entrenched politicians who prey upon the brokenness of Washington to govern in a manner that is totally unaccountable to the American people,” Cruz told the Caller before introducing the constitutional amendment.

“Terms limits brings about accountability that is long overdue and I urge my colleagues to advance this amendment along to the states so that it may be quickly ratified and become a constitutional amendment,” Cruz added.


The legislation has 1o Cosponsors including Sens. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.).

The constitutional amendment needs two-thirds support in both the House and Senate in order to be passed. Also, three out of every four states would need to approve of the amendment

This may be the only rational act by Ted Cruz.MA

What the hell to do about Clarence Thomas?
Out him for breaking the law


    Friends, Trump’s legal problems are mounting — with growing probability of criminal prosecutions over his staging an attempted coup, stealing top-secret documents, and illegally avoiding taxes. You know where all this is going to end up, right? The Supreme Court. What are the chance that Trump’s three appointees along with the two rightwing justices already on the high court when Trump was elected, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, will allow the former president to be locked up? I can’t predict. That they were appointed by Trump or another Republican president does not pose an illegal conflict of interest. But I’ll tell you what is clearly an illegal conflict of interest: Clarence Thomas’s continued participation in any case arising from Trump’s attempted coup. A federal law — 28 U.S. Code § 455 — requires that “any justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” If Thomas fails to recuse himself from the Moore v. Harper case currently before the Court, he will be breaking that law. The bogus “independent state legislature” theory at the heart of Moore v. Harper was used by Thomas’ wife, Ginni Thomas, to pressure state lawmakers to overturn the 2020 election results. Given these extraordinary actions by Ginni Thomas in the wake of the 2020 election, surely it’s reasonable to question the impartiality of Clarence Thomas. Let’s be clear: The legal issue here is not whether Clarence Thomas is in fact impartial. The point of the federal law governing judicial conflicts of interest is to preserve the public’s trust in our legal system by eliminating even the appearance of partiality. Thomas’s refusal to recuse himself from Moore v. Harper would further damage the integrity of the Court. The stakes are significant. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs in Moore v. Harper, Republican-controlled state legislatures could pass harsher voter suppression laws, enact even more gerrymandered maps, and potentially even change how electors are chosen in a presidential election — the specific strategy Ginni Thomas urged after the 2020 presidential election. (The Electoral Reform Act would go some way toward preventing this, but a determined state legislature and governor might use Moore v. Harper to justify it nonetheless.) What to do about Clarence Thomas’s illegal conflict of interest? I can think of at least three things (short of seeking to impeach him, which would be a non-starter in the soon-to-be Republican House) that should be done. Chief Justice John Roberts should publicly state that Thomas must recuse himself from Moore v. Harper because his impartiality might reasonably be questioned. The Senate should hold public hearings on Thomas’s apparent violation of law, including asking him to testify. The Justice Department should convene a grand jury to consider whether Thomas has violated the law. None of these will result directly in a legal finding that Clarence Thomas has an illegal conflict of interest. But they will shine a spotlight on it, pushing Thomas either to recuse himself or explain clearly why he won’t. No person is above the law — not even someone charged with interpreting it.

JAN 19

One of the promises House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) made to the extremist members of the Republican conference to win his position was that he would let them bring the so-called Fair Tax Act to the House floor for a vote. On January 8, Representative Earl “Buddy” Carter (R-GA) introduced the measure into Congress.

The measure repeals all existing income taxes, payroll taxes, and estate and gift taxes, replacing them with a flat national sales tax of 30% on all purchased goods, rents, and services (which its advocates nonsensically call a 23% tax because, as Bloomberg opinion writer Matthew Yglesias explains their thinking: “if something sells for $100 plus $30 in tax, then it’s a 23% tax—because $30 is 23% of $130”). The measure abolishes the Internal Revenue Service, leaving it up to the states to administer the tax.

The bill says the measure will “promote freedom, fairness, and economic opportunity.” But a 30% sales tax on everything doesn’t seem to do much for fairness or economic opportunity for all, since it would, of course, hit Americans with less money to spend far harder than it would Americans with more money to spend. And the end of income, gift, and estate taxes would be a windfall for the wealthy.

Such a bill is not going to pass this Congress, and if it did, President Biden would not sign it. Two days after Carter introduced the measure, Biden said to the press: “National sales tax, that’s a great idea. It would raise taxes on the middle class by taxing thousands of everyday items from groceries to gas, while cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans.” He promised he would never agree to any such legislation.

But the measure is illuminating. It explicitly rejects the position, and the principles, of the original Republican Party.

Members of the Republican Party invented the U.S. income tax during the Civil War, and they created the precursor to the IRS to collect it. To find money to fight the war, they raised tariffs on common products but immediately turned to the novel idea of an income tax, and a graduated one at that, to make sure that “the burdens will be more equalized on all classes of the community, more especially on those who are able to bear them,” as Senator William Pitt Fessenden (R-ME) put it.

Justin Smith Morrill (R-VT) agreed. “The weight [of] taxation must be distributed equally,” he said, “Not upon each man an equal amount, but a tax proportionate to his ability to pay.”

The Republicans then quite deliberately constructed a national system for collecting the new taxes. In the midst of the Civil War, they urged their colleagues to imagine what would happen if a disloyal state were permitted to manage the collection itself. A Democratic legislature could simply refuse, and the government might perish for lack of funds to support the troops. The government had a right to “demand” 99 percent of a man’s property for an urgent necessity, Morrill said. When the public required it, “the property of the people…belongs to the Government.”

Today’s Republicans are taking a position opposite to the one that the men who formed the Republican Party did during the Civil War. They want to get rid of the income tax and put state governments in charge of the nation’s revenue system. Wording in the measure suggests that this change is because state governments have expertise in sales taxes, but it is no accident that the plan dismantles the federal system that Civil War Republicans accurately noted gives Americans “a sense of personal responsibility in the safety and stability of the nation.”

This radical tax bill strikes a blow for states’ rights, much as the southern leaders the original Republicans stood against did in the 1860s. It is far easier for a minority to take over a state and impose its will on a majority there than it is to do the same at the national level. And Republicans are definitely working to cement their control in the states.

In The Nation yesterday, Joan Walsh pulled together some of the many stories of voter suppression that have come lately from Republican-dominated states. Former Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler recently noted that her state’s 2021 law cutting way back on mail-in ballots helped elect Republicans: Walsh points out that mail-in ballots dropped by 81% between 2020 and 2022, and Black voter turnout dropped.

Robert Spindell, an election commissioner in Wisconsin who was one of Trump’s fake electors in 2020, wrote an email to about 1700 people saying that Republicans “can be especially proud of the City of Milwaukee (80.2% Dem Vote) casting 37,000 less votes than cast in the 2018 election with the major reduction happening in the overwhelming Black and Hispanic areas.” Senator Ron Johnson won reelection in that race over Democratic candidate Mandela Barnes, who is from Milwaukee, by about 27,000 votes.

In Florida, Missouri, and Ohio, Republican lawmakers are trying to make it harder for citizens to use ballot initiatives, as progressive policies like Medicaid expansion, the legalization of marijuana, hikes in the minimum wage, abortion rights, and redistricting by independent commissions have all turned out to be popular.

And on Monday, in New Mexico, Solomon Peña, an unsuccessful Republican candidate for the state legislature last year, was arrested for allegedly hiring men to shoot at the homes of four Democratic elected officials.

By taking control of the states, Republicans can impose their will. Centering taxation there, rather than the federal government, is one more way to try to make people conform to their worldview.

Tucked inside the proposed tax measure is broad government oversight of a state’s poorer citizens. It provides an option for “qualified” families to get a rebate, but each member of the household must be registered annually with the state. Every member of the family over the age of 21 must certify in writing that all family members have been listed, that they are all legal residents of the U.S., and that none “were incarcerated on the family determination date.” Incarceration is defined as anyone “incarcerated in a local, State, or Federal jail, prison, mental hospital, or other institution.”

This measure will not pass in this Congress, but it is striking proof that the modern Republican Party has abandoned not only its original principles, but even its more recent philosophy of “freedom” from an intrusive government.


House Republicans try to choose a speaker


Will Kevin McCarthy become the next speaker of the House? (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Hold on to your hats and sunglasses, folks. There’s a cyclone of crazy swirling among the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives. As they sit precariously perched on the precipice of a very narrow majority, we can expect more fireworks than on New Year’s Eve. And while this show promises to be just as loud, it’s likely to be a lot less pretty. 

There was a time not that long ago (most of the last 100 years, give or take) when Republicans were considered the party of discipline and Democrats the party of “circular firing squads,” civil wars, or whatever other synonym for dysfunction was preferred. These stereotypes were unfair only insofar as they were a bit of an exaggeration, but they were based on some kernels of truth. 

As far back as the 1920s and ’30s, the humorist Will Rogers made a living commenting on Democratic disunity. He famously quipped, “I’m not a member of any organized political party … I’m a Democrat.” And “Democrats never agree on anything, that’s why they’re Democrats. If they agreed with each other, they’d be Republicans.” His quotes have been referenced time and again by political reporters in more recent decades, too. 

We can point to a lot of reasons for the dysfunction. Democrats have become a “big tent” party, and big tents are held up with a lot of different poles. A bigger tent makes room for more religions, races, and social identities, which can bring competing ideologies but certainly different lived experiences and personal perspectives. Democrats are also more liberal and thus challenge the status quo, while conservatives try to preserve it.

We could go on and on — entire political science careers have focused on this issue — but we won’t. Because right now the narrative has flipped more dramatically than an O’Henry short story.

For several years running, Democrats in the House have been largely united in both the majority and the minority under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi. This cohesion has produced a stunning list of legislative accomplishments (and successful resistance to Republican presidential initiatives like privatization of Social Security). When Pelosi and other senior party leaders stepped down after the 2022 midterms, we might have expected a wild free-for-all for their replacements. But those elections contained about as much drama as the ones in North Korea. 

Instead, it is the Republicans who are being pulled in multiple directions by a caucus wearing chaos as a badge of honor. At the time of this writing, it doesn’t seem that Kevin McCarthy has locked up the votes for speaker. Even if he gets there, he might have had to make so many concessions that his daily hold on leadership would be as tenuous as a candle flame in a hurricane. He has few votes to spare. That’s why his retaining the likes of George Santos, the man who lied about his entire resume and family history, is so important. 

Stepping back from the machinations of House leadership, the battle McCarthy faces and embodies is a symptom of a more fundamental rot within the Republican Party. In the coverage of McCarthy’s winding path to speaker, most of what we hear about is power, not policy. For what does McCarthy stand? What does he want to do with the speakership? What about his supporters? And what about the band of Republican holdouts seeking to exact their pound of flesh?

For that matter, what legislation did the most recent Republican president want to pass with his power? What were his priorities other than a border wall and “owning the libs”? And what of those of Mitch McConnell and other Republican leaders in Congress? Tax cuts, for sure. And stacking the federal judiciary. The courts offer a way for Republicans to get the policies they want without having to legislate — from partisan gerrymandering to abortion bans to gutting environmental regulations. 

Whatever one thinks about the Democrats’ agenda, one cannot deny that they like passing bills and want majorities in the House and Senate to do just that. Using the legislative branch to legislate: what a concept. Democrats have compromised with Republicans to get the votes they needed. They’ve even voted against their short-term political self-interest — as with Obamacare, when many Democrats in Congress supported a bill they knew was unpopular at the time and would be used against them in the upcoming elections.  

You hear almost nothing about legislation from Republican representatives these days. It’s all about who is going to have the power and not how they want to use it to help the American people. We can expect investigations into the Biden administration for sure, along with dangerous games of chicken around the debt ceiling, aid to Ukraine, and other pressing issues. Even Newt Gingrich had his Contract with America. This crowd mostly has their Fox News auditions in mind. 

Perhaps this is why Republicans are having such trouble with the speaker vote. Because when you stand for nothing other than the raw exercise of power, the only thing you’re voting on is power itself. And who wants to give that up?

The current fight over Republican House leadership may strike many Americans as boring, “inside the beltway” blather that in the great scheme of things doesn’t really amount to much. But it does, if you believe that our elected representatives in Washington should be deciding substantive policy issues to benefit the country and acting as responsible participants in our constitutional system of checks and balances.

As far removed as this dynamic may seem from the concerns of daily life, it matters. A lot. And there may be ample proof of that in the months and years to come. 

Out him for breaking the law



Trump’s legal problems are mounting — with growing probability of criminal prosecutions over his staging an attempted coup, stealing top-secret documents, and illegally avoiding taxes.

You know where all this is going to end up, right? The Supreme Court.

What are the chance that Trump’s three appointees along with the two rightwing justices already on the high court when Trump was elected, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, will allow the former president to be locked up?

I can’t predict. That they were appointed by Trump or another Republican president does not pose an illegal conflict of interest.

But I’ll tell you what is clearly an illegal conflict of interest: Clarence Thomas’s continued participation in any case arising from Trump’s attempted coup.

A federal law — 28 U.S. Code § 455 — requires that “any justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”

If Thomas fails to recuse himself from the Moore v. Harper case currently before the Court, he will be breaking that law. The bogus “independent state legislature” theory at the heart of Moore v. Harper was used by Thomas’ wife, Ginni Thomas, to pressure state lawmakers to overturn the 2020 election results.

Given these extraordinary actions by Ginni Thomas in the wake of the 2020 election, surely it’s reasonable to question the impartiality of Clarence Thomas.

Let’s be clear: The legal issue here is not whether Clarence Thomas is in fact impartial. The point of the federal law governing judicial conflicts of interest is to preserve the public’s trust in our legal system by eliminating even the appearance of partiality.

Thomas’s refusal to recuse himself from Moore v. Harper would further damage the integrity of the Court.

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