Thursday, March 11, 2021

Last Call For The Blue Dogs Bite Back

It's not just Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema who understand that they can exercise all the demands they want to when all 50 Democratic senators have to vote, and need 10 Republicans to pass a filibuster. There are plenty of Blue Dog Dem senators waiting in the wings with agendas of their own on upcoming spending bills...and how to pay for them.

At some point we’ve got to start paying for things,” said Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who caucuses with the Democrats and is worried higher interest rates could become an albatross on the economy. “It’s got to be paid for. It’s just a question of who pays. Are we going to pay or our kids going to pay?”

Democrats — and Republicans, at least until Donald Trump left office — have shrugged off oceans of red ink over the past year as the U.S. confronted its worst public health crisis in a century. In just 12 months, Congress will have spent nearly $6 trillion fighting the virus and staving off economic free fall.

With an endpoint potentially coming into view, however, some moderate Democrats say it’s time for Congress to recover some semblance of fiscal pragmatism. That means Biden’s next major legislative priority can’t simply rack up more debt in a bid to remodel America’s crumbling physical infrastructure. And that could make things a lot tougher for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“Some of it needs to be paid for,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who suggested an “all of the above” strategy for paying for an infrastructure package that includes spending cuts and raising new revenues.

“You’re going to remind me of this [later] when none of it’s paid for,” he deadpanned, “but I do think some of it needs to be paid for.”

Generating new revenue for infrastructure typically involves a debate about raising the federal gas tax, an idea so politically toxic that it’s been stagnant since 1993 and already repudiated by the Biden administration. Other ideas include charging fees based on the number of miles traveled, which raises privacy concerns with some politicians, or perhaps embracing unrelated tax increases on the wealthy to raise money for roads, rails and public transportation.

House Budget Chair John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) said Democrats are working under the “assumption” they’ll pay for at least some of an infrastructure measure, but he dismissed the idea that they could cover the entire cost.

“I think that’s unrealistic, given what everyone assumes the size of this is going to be,” Yarmuth said, noting that talks are ongoing.

Biden and top Democrats say they are committed to bringing Republicans on board for their plan. That bipartisan coordination would ensure the GOP helps carry the bill and sell it with the public.

But many senior Democrats are skeptical after such fierce opposition to Biden's coronavirus plan. They don’t trust GOP leaders to be serious in the process, and they're already in discussions about again using the budget reconciliation process to muscle through Biden’s next big bill on a party-line vote, sidestepping the risk of a Republican filibuster.
If even Jon Tester, Angus King, and Kentucky's only Democrat, John Yarmuth are sounding straight-up like Republican spending scolds, it's going to be a grim journey ahead for badly needed infrastructure spending, even if things do go to budget reconciliation and around the GOP roadblock.

Don't expect much from this as far as becoming law.

Have A Merrick New Year

The Senate has confirmed President Joe Biden’s pick for attorney general, Judge Merrick Garland, by a vote of 70-30.

The victory for Garland, 68, came almost five years after his failed nomination to the Supreme Court by President Barack Obama in 2016. The Senate, then under Republican control, denied Garland a hearing or vote.

Garland, who has been a judge on the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals since 1997, received the support of every Democrat and 20 Republicans. Several potential GOP presidential hopefuls voted against Garland’s confirmation, including Sens. Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

Garland encountered little resistance at his confirmation hearing last month, although Republicans pressed him to promise that he would not interfere with an ongoing special counsel investigation into the origins of the FBI probe of alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Garland said he saw no reason to disturb former Attorney General William Barr’s appointment of longtime federal prosecutor John Durham to oversee that review, but the nominee declined to explicitly commit to allowing Durham to complete his work. Republicans also urged Garland to ensure no political intervention in an ongoing inquiry that the U.S. attorney in Delaware is conducting into the tax and business affairs of Biden’s son, Hunter.

While Republicans were generally friendly to Garland at his hearing and insisted their resistance to his confirmation to the Supreme Court was based on concerns unrelated to him personally, some later indicated that he had been too vague and evasive in his answers.

On immigration policy, for instance, Garland was essentially mum. He said he wasn’t familiar with questions about whether illegal border-crossing should remain a crime, even though it was an issue debated at some length during last year’s Democratic presidential primary.

Despite some GOP skepticism, Garland won support from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Judiciary Committee's top Republican, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley
Yep. Even Mitch voted for him after denying even a vote for his Supreme Court nomination.  After all, Garland will only stick around for several years, not a lifetime on SCOTUS. Mitch got his win. He can afford to give Garland the silver medal here, just to remind everyone who's really in charge of Washington right now as long as the filibuster remains.

The Greene Bad Deal

House Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, leader of the Q-Nutjob Caucus of the GOP, keeps calling for votes to adjourn the House for the day and doing it on a near daily basis in order to purely disrupt the process of Nancy Pelosi and the Dems doing the business of the people. 

It was cute the first few times when she kept constantly bringing up resolutions to impeach Joe Biden, but now her Republican colleagues are getting sick and tired of the motions since Greene has been kicked off all committee assignments for, you know, being a racist conspiracy theory terrorist white supremacist seditionist and essentially has nothing to do but to cast votes, and they're increasingly voting against her to make the point she needs to shut the hell up and go away.
Forty House Republicans on Wednesday voted against Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s latest motion to adjourn, yet another sign her party is growing increasingly frustrated with the Georgia Republican’s procedural delay tactics.

That figure was more than double the 18 Republicans who voted against her motion last week to end House business for the day.

Some of those Republicans who have bucked Greene and GOP leaders have correctly predicted that the number of “no” votes will only grow as Greene continues to force more of these votes.

They’ve complained that these unexpected votes, which do not appear on the House schedule, have disrupted constituent meetings and congressional hearings and have no purpose other than gumming up the floor.

“I’m just tired of it. We’re doing this every day, and there’s no point. So I’m just done playing,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a Greene critic, told The Hill last week.

Like the other futile Greene votes, Wednesday’s motion to adjourn failed, by a roll call of 149-235.

But most Republicans — nearly 150 on this vote — still stuck with Greene, who began deploying these procedural tactics after Democrats voted last month to strip her of her two committee assignments over offensive social media posts.

Greene on Wednesday said she was trying to stop Congress from passing President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, a “massive woke progressive Democrat wish list.” And she issued a warning that Republicans who crossed her would be seen as siding with the Democratic stimulus.

"We should do everything to stop it. Pay attention if Rs vote to adjourn. Or with the Dems,” Greene tweeted. 

At this point, Greene only exists in Congress to stop it from doing anything, and threatening her caucus if they don't obey her.

After Greene, a Georgia Republican, tried Wednesday to stall the lower chamber's final vote on President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package by forcing a motion to adjourn, Representative David Cicilline (D-R.I.) said he will propose a rule change to ensure it doesn't happen again.

"I'm dead serious," he told reporters.

The rule would mean a member can do a motion to adjourn only if the representative is a member of a committee. Greene was stripped of her committee assignments by House Democrats last month after some of her controversial social media posts resurfaced. In them, she promoted QAnon and other conspiracy theories and advocated violence against Democratic leaders.

"He's trying to come up with a solution for the repeated attempts made by one of his colleagues to go home early from work and disrupt the important work Congress has to do. He plans to discuss this further with leadership and the Rules Committee," said Cicilline's press secretary, Matt Handverger.

Asked about Cicilline's proposal, Greene told Newsweek: "Do you mean Rep. Mussolini? Not only did Democrats unilaterally strip away my committees, now they want to remove any powers I have to represent my district. The Democrats run the House of Hypocrites with tyrannical control."


Mussolini! Boy, what a kneeslapper!

Seriously, all this cartoon villain has is outrage. It's all performative nonsense, and she is all the GOP has right now.

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