Saturday, June 26, 2021

Last Call For The Big Lie, Con't

Arizona Republicans have made good on their threat to strip election-related powers from Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and give them to state GOP Attorney General Mark Brnovich with a bill expected to be signed by GOP Gov. Doug Ducey next week.

The Republican-controlled State Legislature in Arizona voted Thursday to revoke the Democratic secretary of state’s legal authority in election-related lawsuits, handing that power instead to the Republican attorney general.

The move added more discord to the politics of a state already roiled by the widely derided move by Senate Republicans to commission a private firm to recount the vote six months after the November election. And it was the latest in a long series of moves in recent years by Republicans to strip elected Democrats of money and power in states under G.O.P. control.

The measure was part of a grab bag of proposals inserted into major budget legislation, including several actions that appeared to address conspiracy theories alleging manipulated elections that some Republican lawmakers have promoted. One of the items allotted $500,000 for a study of whether social media sites tried to interfere in state elections by promoting Democrats or censoring Republicans.

The State House approved the legislation late Thursday. It now goes to Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, who has the power to accept or reject individual parts of the measure.

Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Attorney General Mark Brnovich have sparred before over election lawsuits, with Mr. Brnovich arguing that Ms. Hobbs would not adequately defend the state against suits, some of them filed by Democrats, that seek to broaden access to the ballot. Ms. Hobbs has denied the charge.

The bill approved on Thursday gives Mr. Brnovich’s office exclusive control of such lawsuits, but only through Jan. 2, 2023 — when the winners of the next elections for both offices would be about to take power. The aim is to ensure that the authority given to Mr. Brnovich would not transfer to any Democrat who won the next race for attorney general.

On Friday, Ms. Hobbs called the move “egregious,” saying Republicans were “weaponizing the process to take retribution against my office.”

The move against Ms. Hobbs continues a Republican strategy of weakening elected Democrats’ authority that dates at least to 2016, when the G.O.P.-controlled legislature in North Carolina stripped the state’s executive branch of political appointments and control of state and county election boards just before Roy Cooper, a Democrat, took over as governor.

Lawmakers said then that Democrats had behaved similarly in the past, citing a Democratic governor’s decision in 1976 to oust 169 policymakers hired by Republicans. But similar tactics have since been employed to weaken new Democratic governors in Kansas, Wisconsin and Michigan. Democrats in many states with Republican-controlled legislatures have fought efforts to curb their governors’ emergency powers to deal with the pandemic.

Most recently, Georgia Republicans have been in the forefront of G.O.P. attempts nationwide to exert more control over local election officials. In both Georgia and Kansas, legislators even voted to defang the offices of Republican secretaries of state who had defended the security and fairness of elections.

Most other election provisions in the Arizona budget legislation are billed as safeguards against fraud, almost none of which has been found in the past election. One orders a review of voter registration databases in counties with more than a million residents — that is, the counties that are home to the Democrat-leaning cities of Phoenix and Tucson.

A new Election Integrity Fund would dole money to county election officials to toughen security and to finance hand counts of ballots after elections. That would appear to open the door to more fraud investigations like the Republican-ordered review of November election ballots in Maricopa County, which was carried by President Biden and Arizona’s two Democratic senators.

That effort has been mocked by experts for its high-resolution examination of ballots for evidence of fakery, including bamboo fibers and watermarks that, according to a QAnon conspiracy theory, are visible only under ultraviolet light.
The move is purely to strip a Democratic elected official of legal power as a punitive measure. I hope Hobbs sues the bejesus out of them and wins, but that's unlikely given the makeup of Arizona's state Supreme Court, having all been appointed by Ducey and his predecessor, Republican Jan "Wagging her finger at the Black president" Brewer.

The bigger issue is the continued efforts by the GOP to reduce elections to nothing more than a joke where Republicans are simply declared the winners 100% of the time. Wins by Democrats in GOP-controlled states will be nullified because of "fraud" in 2022, I guarantee it. 

What happens from there determines whether or not we survive as anything other than an authoritarian regime.


The Return Of Retribution Execution, Con't

The Former Guy™ begins his summer name and shame tour to drive out all the Republicans who voted to impeach him, starting across the river in Ohio with his first target for annihilation, Rep. Anthony Gonzalez.

Donald Trump on Saturday will kick off his revenge tour against Republicans who defied him in the aftermath of the 2020 election and January 6 insurrection, hoping to convince his supporters to fire Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez
The effort to oust the Republicans who crossed him will be one of the biggest tests of Trump's post-presidential power, assessing whether the former President still has the sway with base Republican voters that he enjoyed during his four years in the White House. Trump's trip to Northeast Ohio is expressly meant to remind voters in the area of Gonzalez's vote to impeach the Republican president earlier this year, and boost Max Miller, a former Trump aide who is challenging the congressman in the district's Republican primary next year. 
Trump cheered as Republicans in the Ohio congressional district erupted in anger after Gonzalez, a two-term congressman who had largely toed the Republican line, voted in favor of impeachment. Some voters accused him of doing the "unthinkable," while others fumed that they had to wait until 2022 to oust him. 
But time has helped Gonzalez, with even his most ardent opponents admitting that the furor around his vote has since dissipated, as voters go about their daily lives and, in part, forget about the outrages of early 2021. 
"If the election was (months ago), I do believe Gonzalez would have lost," said Jim Renacci, a longtime Ohio Republican who is mounting a primary challenge against incumbent Gov. Mike DeWine. "If the election was today, he is probably still in a danger zone... I think it would be a very tough race for him today, but he has got a year to prove himself out and voters do forget." 
Trump's goal this weekend is to make sure that doesn't happen. 
"President Trump will aggressively campaign against any and all RINOS who do not represent the will of their voters," Liz Harrington, a spokeswoman for the former president, said, referring to "Republicans in Name Only." 


Republicans are hoping that Gonzalez survives, but there's zero chance of that. It's a swingish Cleveland suburban district, but the bloodlust will change everything after today, and Trump will start the process of collecting another head. Best case scenario for Gonzales is that he's allowed to go about his days without any violence targeting him or his family, as Trump has months and months to rage against him, and the dam will break.

Best case for America is of course that Max Miller, the Trump thug who will certainly crush Gonzalez in the GOP primary next spring, will lose to a Democrat. I'm hoping Trump becomes the deciding factor...for the Democratic Party to keep the House, that is.


Infrastructure, Construction Or Destruction?

To hear Team WIN THE MORNING tell it, President Joe Biden has his infrastructure deal, one that can get 60 Senate votes with significant GOP cooperation, and one that will pass the House as well.

PRESIDENT AHAB: Well, we’ll be damned. JOE BIDEN appears to have all but secured that elusive bipartisan infrastructure deal that both parties have been prattling on about for years. The core group of 10 Senate centrists working on the proposal emerged from a meeting with White House officials Wednesday night and declared that they had a working framework.

TODAY members of that group have been invited to the White House to meet with the president.

Republican Sens. ROB PORTMAN (Ohio) and SUSAN COLLINS (Maine) cautioned that there are still a few details to iron out. But a well-positioned administration source tells us this thing is basically cooked. All that’s left are the handshakes.

SO NOW WHAT? While lawmakers draft up the text, expect the White House to start leaning on Democrats to get in line. We know that so far at least 11 Senate Republicans have agreed to back this plan, but just as many Democrats have expressed reservations, creating tricky math for leadership.

Sen. CHRIS MURPHY (D-Conn.) alluded to this predicament on CNN on Wednesday night. “That deal has 20 votes — not 60 votes,” he said, noting that the group of 21 that wrote the plan will now need to sell this to their colleagues.

The whipping campaign will heat up at a time when party tensions are on the rise. Sen. BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vt.) — who, at least in the immediate term, looks like the loser in this deal — fumed Wednesday on national television that he’s sick of talking about Sen. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.). (We hear you, senator!) Our colleagues Laura Barrón-López and Nicholas Wu have a story up today about how Biden’s honeymoon with the left is over, as progressives are now calling him out by name.

The winners, aside from Biden? Manchin and Sen. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.) top the list. The Democratic duo comes out of this with not only their bipartisan deal, but also effective veto power over the massive reconciliation bill that Sanders et al. are drafting. Neither moderate senator has offered an assurance they’ll back it, despite demands from liberals.

Indeed, the big remaining question about the almost-done deal — which we’re told includes $559 billion in new spending — is whether progressives will go along. It’s one thing to issue threats via the media, another to reject a personal plea from your president. But progressives will also be taking a risk if they do abide. The list of priorities they’d like to pack into the reconciliation bill runs off the page: paid family leave, child care subsidies, climate investments, free community college, an expansion of Medicare, corporate tax hikes. And who knows what Manchin and Sinema will insist on axing after the thing they wanted most — infrastructure — will already be signed into law.

The optimistic view of the situation, from the White House perspective, goes something like this: Manchin and Sinema will be under enormous pressure to support a reconciliation bill after Biden bucked his left flank to make a bipartisan deal on infrastructure. They also point out that by first moving $1 trillion of infrastructure spending through a bipartisan bill, it reduces the price tag of the reconciliation bill by that same amount, making it easier for moderates to support it. There’s also an argument that with $1 trillion of infrastructure removed from the bigger bill, progressives have some more room now for their other priorities.

Seems a bit rosy, but then again, we would not have predicted the bipartisan talks would go this far.

Finally, the Biden-Schumer-Pelosi plan is to move these two bills simultaneously, with each bill needing the other to pass. “We can’t get the bipartisan bill done unless we’re sure we’re getting the budget reconciliation bill done,” Schumer said Wednesday night. “We can’t get the budget reconciliation bill done unless we’re sure of the bipartisan [bill].” Democratic leaders are trying to lash Manchin and the moderates to Bernie and the progressives. The message seems to be: If one side’s bill goes down, so does the other’s.
Lot of chances here for Lucy to yank the football away from Charlie Brown, and Nancy Pelosi's margin in the House is extremely thin. If Kevin McCarthy was as crafty as Mitch, he'd find a way to extort huge cuts in the bill in exchange for support that the Squad couldn't sabotage, for instance,but McCarthy's not that crafty, and Nancy is much better at the job.

We'll see how this pans out. I expect further cuts to the already massively scaled-down bill. But we're about to get a huge helping of "Don't let the perfect become the enemy of the good" again, as our politics have been for all of my adult life on the Democratic side.

Republicans are pretending to be very, very angry about President Biden’s newly-announced plans to pursue infrastructure and jobs proposals on two tracks — one bipartisan, the other via a simple majority “reconciliation” vote.

But behind this display of fake histrionics lies a very real trap, one designed to bait Democrats into turning on one another.

In case any Democrats are tempted to take this bait, don’t. The only response to GOP anger is for Democrats to remain solidly unified, though this situation also illustrates how challenging this will prove.

Biden and House Democratic leaders have announced that they will not pass a bipartisan Senate bill on infrastructure — one in keeping with the newly-reached bipartisan deal — until the Senate completes a second reconciliation package advancing progressive priorities.

In response, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has now erupted in fake-outrage to Politico:

“I’m not doing that. That’s extortion! I’m not going to do that. The Dems are being told you can’t get your bipartisan work product passed unless you sign on to what the left wants, and I’m not playing that game.”

Meanwhile, a senior GOP aide told Politico that in announcing this two-track strategy, Biden “did real damage” to the possibility of passing the bipartisan bill.

This line was also voiced by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who insisted that Democrats are showing their intention to “hold the bipartisan agreement hostage” to getting reconciliation done.

The clear threat here is that Democrats must drop plans to pass a reconciliation package or forget about getting a bipartisan package first. This is empty bluster sitting atop a pile of baloney.

Republicans have long known that Democrats would converge on this endgame. Indeed, Democrats publicly vowed for months to proceed on “two tracks.”

While working toward a bipartisan compromise on bricks-and-mortar infrastructure, Democrats would craft a reconciliation package containing Biden’s other priorities: Child supports, paid family and medical leave, and investments in education, health care and climate.

If the bipartisan deal were reached (as it now has been), Democrats would pass the reconciliation piece by a simple majority. If the bipartisan deal falls apart, they’d pass everything that way. Republicans have always known that even with a bipartisan deal, Democrats will do a lot more alone.

Now Republicans think they can bluff Democrats into killing a whole host of their most cherished priorities as a precondition for their support for something way more modest that largely consists of previously existing highway and covid-19 relief funding? No way.

This is why the GOP threat is an empty one. If Republicans do sink the bipartisan deal, Democrats still have the option of passing a large package by themselves, via reconciliation
The trap here is to try to force Manchin and Sinema to drop the reconciliation bill threat and take the "bipartisan" bill, otherwise Republicans will go on TV and say bad things about them. If Manchin and/or Sinema are dumb enough to fall for this, the game is over, and then Republicans can still scuttle the bill and leave Dems with nothing, blaming Biden It would be a complete victory for McConnell.

But I don't think even Manchin and Sinema are this thickheaded to kill reconciliation even after the GOP pulls the plug on the deal they worked for. It's an empty threat...unless Manchin and Sinema do Republicans' work for them.
However, it may not even make it to the Senate, and increasingly it looks like Pelosi doesn't have the votes in the House.

Progressive Democrats’ concerns that their more centrist colleagues won’t support President Joe Biden’s larger spending and tax agenda are starting to bear out.

Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader, a member of the fiscally conscious Blue Dog Coalition, said in an interview that he’s planning to vote against a budget resolution that would include reconciliation instructions for trillions of dollars in additional spending. Another moderate House Democrat, who requested anonymity to speak freely about a position that would upset party leaders, said the same.

With those two expected “no” votes, Speaker Nancy Pelosi doesn’t have much more room to maneuver on that first step toward passing a big spending bill, let alone the reconciliation legislation itself that would contain all the details.

She can only lose two more Democratic votes and still adopt the budget resolution in her narrowly divided 220-211 chamber, since no Republicans are likely to vote for it, as budget resolutions are designed to be partisan wish lists.

So again, we'll see.

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