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House Passes D.C. Statehood Bill

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 51, a bill to make D.C the 51st state. The vote was 216-208, strictly along party lines. This is only the second time such a bill passed either chamber of Congress. It will now go to the Senate, where its passage will be a lot more difficult.

Every Republican there will oppose the bill bitterly because they all realize that within 6 months of D.C.'s becoming a state, they will get two new Black Democrats as colleagues. The Republicans understand the argument about "no taxation without representation" and also know that D.C. has more residents (725,000) than either Vermont or Wyoming. However, their solution is to cede most of the District back to Maryland, thus making it an even bluer state than it already is, but not adding any new senators.

The bill calls for the new state to go by the ungainly name of "State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth." That would mean two states would be called "Washington." The intention is to honor abolitionist Frederick Douglass, but simply calling the state "Douglass" would be a lot simpler. The bill would shrink the District of Columbia, which would remain the national capital, to a 2-square-mile enclave containing the White House, the Capitol, various federal buildings, and the National Mall. The rest of the District would be the new state. Here is how that looks on a map:

Map of 51st state, which would be
straight on three sides and would follow the Potomac River on the fourth, creating a shape that looks like a waffle with a big 
bite taken out of it.

D.C. statehood used to be a local issue, mostly of concern to Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and residents of the District. Now it has become a crucial national issue due to the 50-50 tie in the Senate, not to mention the Democrats' general sense that they represent more people, and so should have a built-in advantage when it comes to control of the upper chamber. If D.C. becomes a state, it is virtually certain that (1) Democrats would get a 52-50 majority in the Senate within months, (2) the Republicans would have almost no chance of recapturing the Senate in 2022, and (3) Kamala Harris could sleep in late every day if she wanted. Also of note is that if H.R. 51 were to pass the Senate, the new state would be the state with the largest proportion of Black citizens of any state.

Republicans will fight H.R. 51 with everything they've got. On Wednesday, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) released a memo raising issues of the constitutionality of the bill, the District's finances, and some scandals involving former officials. It concludes that the District does not deserve statehood. This is presumably meant for an audience of two senators, one of whom represents West Virginia, and one who represents Arizona, and both of whom hold D.C.'s fate in the palms of their hands. (V)

Biden Announces Ambitious Plans on Climate Change

At a virtual climate summit on Earth Day, Joe Biden addressed 40 world leaders and said that the U.S. will commit to reducing carbon emissions by 2030 by as much as 52% compared to 2005. When Barack Obama was president, his goal was to cut emissions by up to 28% by 2025, so Biden's plan is far more ambitious than that of his former boss. Biden didn't get into the specifics of how the U.S. would meet these goals. As usual, the devil is in the details, and some of the details are not going to be popular since they will affect the fossil fuel, transportation, and other big industries in a major way. Biden also said he would like the U.S. to hit zero emissions by 2050. Biden called upon the world leaders to set similar goals for their countries.

One thing that Biden has already done is repeal the Trump-era rule that prohibits states from setting stricter tailpipe emission standards than the national standard. California and thirteen other states want to do that. Now they will be able to. Together they represent 36% of the U.S. auto market. The car manufacturers really don't want to design and manufacture "California cars" and "Texas cars," so the net result is probably going to force them to meet the stricter California standards on all their cars. They don't really mind the standards so much as long as all auto companies have to meet them, creating a level playing field. After all, there is no inherent reason why General Motors can't sell electric cars instead of gasoline-powered cars as its main product. The real loser here will be the oil companies unless they can quickly transform themselves into energy companies.

Biden did make it clear how he plans to sell his program to the country: It will be all about jobs. He emphasized how moving to a cleaner economy will create millions of new jobs. If he can convince people—especially people who will lose their jobs when their industry is phased out—that the future is rosy, he has a much better chance of getting bills through Congress than if a large number of people don't see much of a future for themselves in a green America.

A key player in saving the planet will be China, which is currently one of the world's worst polluters. Chinese President Xi Jinping said that China would achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. Chinese cities are badly polluted, so there is a good chance that Xi really means it. As a virtual dictator, he has the big advantage that he doesn't have to worry about people who don't like his plan. They can't vote him out of office or put up any actual resistance.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in all said they would reduce emissions in their countries by amounts comparable to what Biden wants. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would modernize the Russian economy for more energy efficiency, although his words should be taken with a bucket of salt since Russia is a major producer of fossil fuels and Putin is a Trump-class liar.

In any event, the summit was a huge departure from the days of Donald Trump, who never saw an oil well he didn't like and who denied the existence of climate change repeatedly. (V)

Democrats Are Also Working to Change the Voting Laws

There has been a huge amount of publicity about how the Republicans in red states are trying to change the voting laws to make it harder to vote. There has been less PR about it, but in the blue states, legislators are working hard to make it easier to vote. That won't offset the damage being done in the red states, but as a matter of public policy it is a good thing, even if it won't swing any states. Further, these new laws could serve as models in swing states should Democrats ever get control in those places. That possibility is not as far fetched as you might think. In Arizona, for example, there will be an open-seat election for governor in 2022 and the Republican majority in the state House is only two seats. The Republican majority in the state Senate is also only two seats. It is at least conceivable that the Democrats could get a trifecta there in 2022, in which case they could enact laws to make voting easier.

When Democrats got the trifecta in New York in 2018, they expanded early voting, and absentee voting, and passed a "motor voter" law. This push was intended to make voting easier for existing voters. This year they are going to work on expanding the pool of voters, starting by reenfranchising felons who have served their time. The State of Washington just did that and bills are pending in at least seven other states.

When Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ) was running for office in 2017, he promised to sign every voting rights expansion that Chris Christie had vetoed. He signed every one that made it to his desk. This year that included bills creating 9 days of early voting and allowing drop boxes for returning absentee ballots.

Virginia just became the first state to enact a voting rights law that brings back some provisions of the original Federal Voting Rights Act. It also includes provisions that allow voters to sue over voter suppression or intimidation. And it allows absentee voting for 45 days prior to an election and implements automatic voter registration for anyone getting a driver's license. (V)

Black Democrats Prioritize H.R. 4 over H.R. 1

The Democrats have two bills relating to voting that they want to pass. H.R. 1 is a massive bill that covers many aspects of democracy, from eliminating gerrymandering to banning dark money in elections. H.R. 4 is a rewrite of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that is intended to pass muster with the Supreme Court and primarily requires certain states to get preclearance from the DoJ before changing their election laws. Up until now, most Democrats prioritized H.R. 1, but a group of Black Democrats are arguing that H.R. 4 should be passed first. Neither will be easy to pass in the Senate, since Republicans oppose both and neither one qualifies for the budget reconciliation process. H.R. 1 has already passed the House although House Democrats are still tinkering with H.R. 4.

Black Democrats want to move quickly on H.R. 4 because this summer, state legislatures will begin drafting and approving new congressional district maps and they want to force states to get DoJ preclearance for them. If H.R. 4 is not passed quickly, many states will try to draw maps that are racially discriminatory. That is one of the things the 1965 law forbade. For this reason, Black Democrats see H.R. 4 as the top priority while banning dark money and related items can wait for a few months. Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), who chairs the House Administration subcommittee that oversees federal elections, wants to get the bill passed by June 30 at the latest, but it has to be buttressed by data so the Supreme Court won't strike this one down as well.

On the other hand, focusing on H.R. 4 now and leaving H.R. 1 until later will make election administrators scream. They say there already isn't enough time left to implement all the provisions (like buying new voting machines), so delaying that law until the fall will just make it worse. This is why politics is so hard: You can't please everyone.

However, both bills have two hurdles to jump. First, the entire Democratic caucus hasn't signed up to sponsor both bills. Second, the Republicans will filibuster both of them, so something has to be done to reform the filibuster before either one can pass the Senate. Democrats are not united on how to do that. (V)

Montana Restricts Voting Rights

The battle between H.R. 1 and H.R. 4 took another turn this week when Gov. Greg Gianforte (R-MT) signed two bills that will make it harder to vote in the Big Sky State. The bills did things that would be banned by H.R. 1.

One of them, H.B. 176, ends same-day voter registration. It would close voter registration at noon the day before the election. This would primarily affect marginal voters who might suddenly decide to vote on Election Day. It might actually hit more blue-collar whites than minorities, but it is the thought that matters.

The other one, S.B. 169, tightens the rules on what constitutes acceptable ID for voting purposes. In particular, it makes it nearly impossible for out-of-state college students to vote in Montana, as students using a state university ID card to vote would also have to prove that their "home" address is within Montana.

Democrats immediately sued the state, saying that the other various provisions of the two bills would serve no valid purpose and just make it harder to vote, especially for students, older people, disabled people, and Native Americans. The author of the S.B. 169, state Sen. Mike Cuffe (R), said it was reasonable for the state to make sure everyone voting in Montana was actually a Montanan.

The debate over the two bills has spilled over to the U.S. Senate. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) specifically criticized S.B. 169, saying: "We all know what's going on here: Younger voters have been shown to be more Democratic, so Montana Republicans have made it harder for them to vote. It's despicable, just despicable." (V)

Democrats' Ambitions Are Succumbing to Reality

Voting rights and D.C. statehood are not the only things on the Democrats' agenda. The minimum wage, gun control, the Green New Deal, expanding the Supreme Court, and many other items are there, too. But what is becoming increasingly clear to the members of the blue team, especially to progressives, is that the votes aren't there for many of them. Getting 45 or 47 senators to back them doesn't do the trick. In fact, even the infrastructure bill, which is wildly popular with the voters, is proving problematical.

Progressives are arguing that if the Democrats don't pass most of the legislation they campaigned on, they will be punished in 2022, and then they won't be able to pass anything. Even without abolishing the filibuster, Democrats do have some power. They can put up popular bills and force Republicans to go on record voting against them, thus providing campaign fodder for 2022. The trouble is that this also forces Democrats in swing states to take a stand as well, which will surely alienate some of their voters.

Within hours of Sens. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and Raphael Warnock (D-GA) being seated, progressives were loudly demanding that the filibuster be ended and that their agenda be enacted. But with between one and five Senate Democrats only lukewarm on each of the bills, the problem is an internal one as well as an external one. Nevertheless, progressives are getting impatient. Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY) said: "Frustrated is an understatement." Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) said: "Look, for four years, we complained that bills went to the Senate and died and went to Mitch McConnell's graveyard. We can't have these really good bills die in the Senate under Democratic control." But that might well happen since not all Democrats support all the bills, and right now Joe Biden's infrastructure bill is the top priority. (V)

Vanita Gupta Confirmed as Associate Attorney General

Consistent with his promise to put more women and more minorities in his administration, Joe Biden nominated Vanita Gupta, an Indian-American woman, to be Associate Attorney General, the #3 position in the DoJ. Yesterday she was confirmed by the Senate 51-49, almost along party lines, except for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voting for her confirmation. Kamala Harris was on hand to cast the tie-breaking vote, but Murkowski's surprise vote ruined her day. Harris could have gone golfing if she'd known.

While all the other Republicans instinctively voted against a Democratic woman of color (and called her a "radical" to boot), Murkowski actually met with Gupta in advance and asked her "Why do you want this? Is it worth it?" Murkowski was impressed with her answers, so she voted to confirm. Gupta clearly has the background to do the job. She ran the DoJ's Civil Rights Division in the Obama administration, so this is really just a fairly small promotion for her as the Civil Rights Division falls directly under the associate AG. In effect, she is replacing her old boss. Her new portfolio includes not only civil rights, but also antitrust cases, and environmental cases as well. It will be her job to enforce federal laws in these areas.

Chuck Schumer noted that this is the first time a civil rights attorney has held such a high position in the DoJ. He also said her confirmation is "very good news for the forces of equality and justice in the country."

While Gupta's confirmation was never in doubt (because no Democrats oppose her), she was the subject of a $1 million negative advertising campaign run by the conservative Judicial Crisis Network. Their gripe with her is that in the Obama administration, she oversaw investigations of cases in which a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed Black person. One of the cases—the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO—got national publicity. As associate AG, Gupta will again be in a position to address police violence against minorities, something the Judicial Crisis Network is not keen on, since those folks would prefer those cases are not taken up by the DoJ. (V)

Trump Is Still Gunning for Kemp

Even though Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) recently signed a draconian election bill that would make voting more difficult, especially for minorities and poor people, Donald Trump is not a guy to let bygones be bygones. So, the former president still wants to see Kemp defeated in 2022. Trump said that the bill did not go far enough to stop voter fraud and he blamed Kemp for that.

Kemp has been censured by multiple county Republican Parties in Georgia, but not all. In 2018, he coasted to the nomination, but that will definitely not be the case in 2022. A Trumpist Republican, former state representative Vernon Jones, has announced a primary run against Kemp. So far, Trump hasn't said anything about him, but since he is Black and was a Democrat until January of this year, don't hold your breath on that. Trump wants former U.S. representative Doug Collins to run against Kemp, but Collins is far more likely to run for the Senate nomination against former senator Kelly Loeffler, thus creating a rerun of 2020.

Chuck Clay, a Kemp ally and former chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, said that Kemp has a problem and that "it's very dangerous for him" because a majority of Georgia Republicans believe the election was stolen. However, Clay also noted that Kemp can't just drink the Kool Aid because that won't bring over the suburban and moderate voters. Of course, a lot depends on who else signs up to run in the Republican primary. Incumbency has its advantages and you can't beat somebody with a nobody. (V)

Giuliani Is Ramping Up His Plans to Run for Governor of New York

No, not Rudy. His son, Andrew. Next week Andrew G. will go down to Mar-a-Lago to kiss Donald Trump's...ring, hoping for his endorsement. It is not certain that he will get it, even though Giuliani Junior served in Trump's White House. Junior's problem is that Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who is also very Trumpy, wants the GOP nomination for governor. And other Trumpists might yet enter the race. As a consequence, Trump is not likely to endorse anyone until the field is complete.

Giuliani has a famous last name, but that may not get him far. In the first 24 hours after announcing his bid, Zeldin raised $1 million and four Republican county chairs endorsed him. He's probably the favorite at the moment. Giuliani's decision to seek Trump's blessing is definitely a two-edged sword. It might help him win the primary, but it will definitely be used against him in the general election. The Democrat's slogan could simply be: "Donald Trump endorsed my opponent." That alone could be fatal in very blue New York. No Republican has been elected to any statewide office in the Empire State since 2002.

Of course, a lot depends on who that Democrat is. With all the scandals around him, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) might decide not to go for a fourth term. Or he might decide to go for it and be knocked off in the Democratic primary. Right now Cuomo is pretty toxic, but the voters have short memories. It wasn't that long ago that everyone (including us) thought Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) would be forced to resign in the blackfacegate scandal. He didn't. Now his approval rating is at 56%, with only 38% disapproving. Cuomo's popularity could easily improve considerably in the course of the next year. (V)

The Grift Goes On

About 3 weeks ago, The New York Times reported that the Donald Trump campaign used various tricks to get donors to give far more than they thought they were giving. We have written about it as well. With the negative publicity the scam got after the Times article, one might think the Republicans would have stopped scamming their own donors.

If one thought that, however, one would have been wrong. The NRCC is still at it. Their key insight is that their donors don't read the Times or The Washington Post or any newspaper, so they are blissfully unaware that they are being scammed.

Case in point: Tim Miller, a writer at the anti-Trump conservative website The Bulwark, got this message this week:

Scam message from NRCC that says 
it is a friend request for Timothy for a meeting on Trump's new social media site in 10 minutes

Miller helpfully pointed out that every word except "Timothy" is false. Trump has not started a new social media website and may never do so. Consequently, there is no need to donate money to it, certainly not in the next 10 minutes. And you can count on their asking again and again and again. In fact, if the marketing people are on their toes, the more you give, the higher up on the list of suckers you are placed and the more they will ask in the future.

If you click on the link, either because you are a sucker (usual case) or a reporter (Miller's case), you come to a page with this message:

Winred scam page; you are
offered the opportunty to join Trump's social media site and have your donation matched 5x or else to stick with fake news

Of course there is no 5x matching since there is no social media site. The entire thing is a scam. Next up is a repeat of the previous scam: a prechecked box that makes the donation recurring, but tries to hide that fact, albeit not quite as secretly as in the past. Still, many people will be confused by the wording. Here is the warning message:

It says to check the box if you
want Trump to run again and, oh, by the way, you also want to make this a recurring monthly donation

On the NRCC fundraising page, it is even worse. Once again they threaten to tell Trump if you uncheck the box:

NRCC warning that if you uncheck
the box you're a radical leftist and a defector who will anger the dear leader, so you better stick with the monthly recurring donation

The earlier scams also made that threat. It is perhaps a bit odd, but otherwise quite fitting, that WinRed is using Trump as a boogeyman and saying they will loose him on the donors if they don't pay up. It is a combination of the Mafia and a technique used to scare 3-year-olds into behaving. But as far as WinRed is concerned, if dumb yokels are scared by it, good for us. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr22 Well, That Didn't Take Long
Apr22 Senate Democrats: Republican Infrastructure Proposal Is a Non-Starter
Apr22 Whither the Republicans, Redux, Part III: The Conspiracists
Apr22 Whither the Republicans, Redux, Part IV: The Faces of the Party
Apr22 Whither the Republicans by the Numbers, Part I: The Evangelicals
Apr22 Whither the Republicans by the Numbers, Part II: National Trends
Apr21 Guilty, Guilty, Guilty
Apr21 Republicans May Blow their Shot on Infrastructure
Apr21 Whither the Republicans, Redux, Part I: The Environment
Apr21 Whither the Republicans, Redux, Part II: Corporate America
Apr21 Elections Have Consequences
Apr21 Here a Book Deal, There a Book Deal, but Not Everywhere a Book Deal
Apr21 Bush Tries to Remake His Image
Apr20 The Last Piece of the Puzzle?
Apr20 Washington Waits for Chauvin Verdict
Apr20 Greg Abbott Is in Trouble
Apr20 Republican Cranks Are Cranky
Apr20 Kyrsten Sinema Has a Message for...Someone
Apr20 Rep. Steve Stivers Will Step Down
Apr20 Walter Mondale Is Dead at 93
Apr19 U.S. Warns Putin about Consequences if Navalny Dies
Apr19 Manchin Doesn't Like the Infrastructure Bill
Apr19 Was There a Reverse Coattails Effect?
Apr19 Trump's Spy Can't Spy on the Spies Anymore
Apr19 A Hells Angel in the Senate?
Apr19 2024 Fundraising Has Started
Apr19 McDaniel Urged to be Less Trumpish
Apr19 America First Caucus Is Dead
Apr19 Poll: Ending Lifetime Appointments for Justices is Popular
Apr19 People Are Tired of Waiting for Godot
Apr18 Sunday Mailbag
Apr17 Saturday Q&A
Apr16 Bipartisanship Theater
Apr16 About that Court Packing...
Apr16 Chauvin Trial Is Almost Over
Apr16 Pence Gets Pacemaker
Apr16 Nikki Haley for President?
Apr16 Former Cold War Foes News, Part I: Russia Hit With Sanctions
Apr16 Former Cold War Foes News, Part II: Castro to Retire
Apr15 Manchin and Biden Actually Like Each Other
Apr15 Can Democrats and CEOs Be Friends?
Apr15 Gensler Is Confirmed as SEC Chairman
Apr15 Democrats Are Fretting about Stephen Breyer
Apr15 House Committee Approves D.C. as a State
Apr15 Greitens Is Already Causing Trouble for Republicans
Apr15 Kevin Brady Is Retiring
Apr15 McAuliffe Has Huge Lead in Virginia Democratic Gubernatorial Primary
Apr14 Afghanistan War to End Later This Year
Apr14 Biden Will Address Congress Later This Month
Apr14 Pence for President?