Saturday, March 6, 2021

Last Call For President Biden Beats President Manchin

The Senate passage of the American Rescue Plan Act is in the books, with both Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema voting for the final bill 50-49, as Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan was out of town.

Chuck Schumer put it bluntly to Joe Manchin: If you side with Republicans, you could jeopardize everything.

The West Virginia senator was delaying consideration of President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan as he mulled whether to back a GOP bid to shave more than a month off the bill's $300 in extra weekly unemployment benefits. Democrats thought they already had corralled Manchin for their more generous proposal.

“We had what we thought was an agreement. But then Joe Manchin looked at it and was unsure,” Schumer explained in an interview as he recalled Friday’s hectic rush to rewrite the massive Covid aid bill. “If Manchin would have approved the [GOP] amendment, the bill probably couldn't have passed the House. And I told him that. And he understood that.”

Manchin gave Schumer the 50th vote on Saturday afternoon, sending one of the largest emergency spending bills in American history on a glide path to Biden’s desk sometime next week. Despite the tension and GOP jeers sparked by Friday's delay, the 50-49 Senate vote was a crucial victory for the New York Democrat. Schumer has graduated from four years commanding the Senate minority against Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump to the successful leadership of a motley but mostly cohesive majority.

Passage of the Covid aid bill validated an argument Schumer has made for more years now, that Democrats erred by trying to bring Republicans on board for a big relief plan during the last economic crisis in 2009. This time around, Republicans weren’t “even in the ballpark” when they offered a $600 billion spending bill as a compromise, said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

So instead of searching for bipartisan support and potentially watering down a historic bill that beefs up pensions, health care and crucial unemployment benefits, Schumer rolled the dice on total party unity — and succeeded.

“If anyone thought it was going to be just a smooth path without any bumps in the road, they don't know how big and important this legislation is and how diverse our caucus is," Schumer said Saturday.

Schumer said he never doubted the package would pass. But its course was not pretty. At times Republicans insisted Biden had to lean heavily on Manchin to stay in the fold (they talked once) and that the Senate would have to recess for Democrats to reorganize after Friday's impasse. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) even predicted Democrats might have to swallow the Republican plan on unemployment benefits.

What did happen were multiple renegotiations between Schumer and his moderates, who forced three changes just this week to the House-passed bill. The Senate's version phases out stimulus checks to some middle-class earners and shifts around the unemployment benefits. Before the final vote, the chamber stalled out several times — including on Friday for what is now the longest vote in modern Senate history.

“This last 24 hours was really chaotic. If this was the first big test, I don’t think he … crushed it. It was a very undisciplined, unorganized process,” said Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) of Schumer.

Yet Democrats argue that the public won't remember Friday's Manchin-infused delay, the partisan vote total or the bumpy process. They will remember that Schumer got Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Manchin to hang together for an economic relief bill that many in the party believe is the most progressive legislation in decades.

“Schumer gets a lot of credit,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who said Saturday was his best day as a senator in his 14-year career. “Democrats realized it doesn’t matter how the Senate lines up. What matters is to deliver what the public wants.”

Throughout the process, Schumer stayed in close contact with Biden, often talking to the president multiple times a day or to White House chief of staff Ron Klain. And 20 minutes after the rescue package passed the Senate, Biden called the majority leader personally to thank him.

After the call, Schumer appeared in as good a mood as he’s been in since thwarting Obamacare’s repeal during the Trump administration. In the interview, he propped his shoe-less feet up on an ottoman as he parried questions. Biden showered praise on him later: "When the country needed you most, Chuck, you led."


And while Schumer may not have had doubts, I certainly did. I've been hard on Schumer over the years and he has dropped the ball time and again. But not this time. This time, he came through.


Kentucky Cancel Culture

The GOP supermajority here in Kentucky's state legislature is headed for a grim harvest of really stupid legislation headed for veto overrides and becoming law even besides the purely political attempt to impeach and remove Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear from office over COVID-19 regulations.

A Republican-led legislative panel dismissed two petitions Friday calling for Gov. Andy Beshear’s impeachment but kept alive another effort by citizens seeking the Democrat’s ouster for his restrictions to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Kentucky.

The rejected petitions were the latest in a flurry of filings aiming to unseat prominent political leaders in Kentucky, an unprecedented phenomenon in the state’s recent history. Another pending petition targets the state’s Republican attorney general.

The two anti-Beshear petitions were dismissed for failing to meet statutory requirements, said Republican Rep. Jason Nemes, the committee chairman.

But the House panel renewed its request for more information from Beshear as it reviews the remaining petition, the first one filed against the governor, Nemes said. Just four Kentuckians signed that petition, though one of them signaled he wants to withdraw. All three petitions claim the governor improperly infringed on individual rights with his coronavirus-related orders.

Kentucky’s Supreme Court ruled last year that the governor had the authority to put restrictions on businesses and individuals to try to contain the coronavirus.

The House impeachment panel previously sought information from Beshear on how his virus-related ban on mass gatherings last spring was temporarily enforced against churches, a move that especially angered conservatives. The committee resubmitted its request Friday that the governor turn over emails, phone logs or other communications related to that order.

In his letter to the governor’s lawyer, Nemes said the records “may be subpoenaed” if necessary. The lack of those records has “delayed the process,” Nemes said.

Beshear’s office said a response will be submitted Monday. His general counsel previously replied that the “extraneous information” being sought “cannot form the basis for impeachment.”

The impeachment frenzy reflects a willingness by some Kentuckians to shatter long-established political norms in an increasingly bitter political divide. It follows closely on the heels of the second impeachment of former President Donald Trump.

Beshear says there are “zero grounds” for his removal and maintains his COVID-19 orders have saved lives. He portrays the petitioners seeking his ouster as anti-government extremists.

Information compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows that Kentucky has recorded 87.7 deaths per 100,000 people, the 42nd highest per-capita rate nationally and better than neighboring states.

I'm definitely used to Kentucky being 42nd in the nation out of 50 states in basically every conceivable category and criteria, but for once it's a good thing. And as far as getting rid of Beshear, well, that just makes Lt. Gov. Jackie Coleman the person in charge.

A bill moving through Kentucky's Senate would make it a crime to insult or taunt a police officer during a riot. Supporters say the bill targets people who unlawfully "cross the line" but opponents call it a blatant attempt to crush protests and a violation of First Amendment rights.

Senate Bill 211 mandates up to three months' imprisonment for a person who "accosts, insults, taunts, or challenges a law enforcement officer with offensive or derisive words," or makes "gestures or other physical contact that would have a direct tendency to provoke a violent response from the perspective of a reasonable and prudent person."

A person convicted of this misdemeanor charge could also face a $250 fine and be disqualified from public assistance benefits for three months.

The bill also has a provision pushing back on the "defund the police" movement, stating that government entities that fund law enforcement agencies must "maintain and improve their respective financial support."

The bill advanced through the Senate's Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection committee on Thursday in a 7-3 vote, with only Republicans supporting it. It now moves to the full Senate and could be passed there as early as next week, and would then need to be passed in the House. Republicans control both chambers of Kentucky's legislature.

CBS News requested comment from state Senator David Carroll, a Republican and retired police officer who is the bill's lead sponsor. Following publication of this story, he wrote in an email, "After looking at you're headline, I don't think I have anything to say to you. I miss the time when we actually had unbiased journalists!!" [SIC]

CBS News also reached out to the staff of Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat.

Carroll told the Louisville Courier-Journal that the bill is a response to riots that broke out in many cities across the country last summer. Louisville was an epicenter for racial justice protests due to the death of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman killed in March 2020 during a raid of her home by Louisville police officers.

"This country was built on lawful protest, and it's something that we must maintain — our citizens' right to do so," Carroll told the Courier-Journal. "What this deals with are those who cross the line and commit criminal acts."

The ACLU of Kentucky called the legislation "an extreme bill to stifle dissent" and said it would criminalize free speech.
I mean this is almost certainly going to pass, and almost certainly going to be tied up in the courts for years, and maybe that's the point. It's definitely designed to punish Black Kentuckians specifically in response to the Breonna Taylor protests, criminalizing them at the pleasure of police and allowing the state to kick people off "public assistance" for three months to put us in our place, I guess. 

When I say Republicans are white supremacist fascist assholes, this is what I mean.

Unfair And Definitely Unbalanced

After years of effectively being the propaganda arm of the Republican party pretending to be "news", FOX News is making it official, with CEO Lachlan Murdoch declaring the network's sole purpose to be the "loyal opposition" to the Biden administration.

Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch said Thursday it is the job of Fox News to serve as the opposition to the Biden administration, stating clearly the political biases of a network that until 2017 billed itself as "fair and balanced."

Speaking at a Morgan Stanley investor conference, Murdoch said Fox News stood to benefit from Biden's presidency because the network would act as "the loyal opposition" to his administration.

"The main beneficiary of the Trump administration from a ratings point of view was MSNBC... and that’s because they were the loyal opposition," Murdoch said of the rival cable network. "That’s what our job is now with the Biden administration, and you’ll see our ratings really improve from here."

A spokesperson for NBCUniversal News Group, which includes both NBC News and MSNBC, said in response that "our role, and the role of any legitimate news organization — whether it includes an 'opinion section' or not — is to hold power to account, regardless of party." NBCUniversal is the parent company of NBC News.

Murdoch's remark is an on-the-record acknowledgement of something that has long been obvious to fans and critics but never stated so publicly by the executive leadership itself — that Fox News is firmly aligned with Republicans and the right and intends to use its platform to fight against Democrats.

Fox News has sought to cater to a conservative audience since Lachlan's father Rupert Murdoch launched the cable channel in 1996 under the leadership of Roger Ailes, the network's CEO for two decades. But up until 2017, even as its opinion hosts showed a clear bias against Democrats, Fox News billed itself as a "fair and balanced" news organization.

Fox News became an unapologetic bastion of pro-Trump rhetoric over the last five years and often downplayed negative news about Trump, choosing instead to attack his critics or stoke conservative angst about progressivism.

Many of the most notable hosts of Fox News and Fox Business Network also embraced the president's lies and conspiracy theories. Three of those individuals -- Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs, Jeanine Pirro -- have been named in a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit brought by voting technology company Smartmatic over false statements they made while trying to cast doubt on the integrity of the 2020 election. All three of them have filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit.

Murdoch made the remark after being asked about the network's ratings, which took a hit following the 2020 election. "Our audience was disappointed with the election results," he acknowledged, adding that the ratings had already started to normalize and would continue to go up.
Saves him the trouble of defending the place as a news outlet. It's propaganda, and it should be treated as such.
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