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Bipartisan Bill Has One Foot in the Grave (and the Other on a Banana Peel)

Yesterday, we noted that The Hill was reporting that the bipartisan infrastructure bill was in trouble, while CNN was reporting that things were looking up. We sided with The Hill, since CNN's take did not seem to make much sense. It turns out that we, and The Hill, were right.

At this point, defections have made the bipartisan bill untenable. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) announced on Monday that the proposal would not get his vote, and on Tuesday, he was joined by Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), who said they will not support any plan that does not address climate change. That's right, it was a Markey-Merkley one-two punch. Devastating. And undoubtedly, some of their progressive colleagues are not far behind. Meanwhile, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) signaled that she is not optimistic that she can get the bipartisan bill through the House, which is a fair assessment, since she would need the votes of at least a dozen members who feel as the Senators do.

In view of these developments, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said yesterday that he will begin the reconciliation process today. Meanwhile, the White House has told Congressional Democrats to prepare to "go it alone" on infrastructure, and to expect that there will be no deal with the Republicans.

It is at least possible that, by making moves in this direction, Democrats will light a fire under the Republicans and will extract some sort of workable deal. We doubt it, however. The GOP has absolutely dug its heels in on a total figure that is far below what Joe Biden and the Democrats want. They have dug their heels in even further on funding, and are absolutely unwilling to consider anything that involves corporations paying more taxes, even if those taxes are still lower than rates were in 2017, when the Republicans passed their tax bill. They are not likely to revisit those positions, and if they don't, then there's nowhere for them to go from here.

We continue to be mystified, incidentally, by the Republican stance here. They are not going to get everything they want and, in particular, "no changes at all to corporate tax rates" is a non-starter. But if they negotiated seriously, and in good faith, they could probably wangle a bill that they hate only 60% of. Instead, they're likely going to get a bill that they hate 100% of.

It is possible that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) & Co. have some sort of inside information, and are really counting on a Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) or a Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) to torpedo reconciliation. If so, we will soon learn. Alternatively, the GOP could be hanging its hat on the idea that voters want bipartisanship, and that people will dislike this bill because it's not bipartisan. If so, that is foolishness bordering on political malpractice. Voters may say they want bipartisanship but it's like balancing the budget or reducing the national debt—it sounds good, but people don't actually back that position with their ballots. And to the extent that people do want bipartisanship, what they really mean is that they want the other party to compromise and/or they want their party's leaders to at least make an attempt at reaching across the aisle. However, the three most important things to voters are, in order, (1) results, (2) results, and (3) results. If the Democrats run in 2022 on "look what we did for roads, and bridges, and broadband, and childcare, etc." and the Republicans run on "yeah, they did that stuff, but it wasn't bipartisan," well, one side has the stronger side of that argument by a mile, and it ain't the party that is represented by an elephant and a turtle. (Z)

1/6 Realities Diverge in Congress

It is possible that, in the past, we've made a "Star Trek" reference or two. We are waiting for the report to come back from the staff archivist to confirm that. In any event, folks who are fans of that franchise know that the show has often played around with the idea of realities that are mostly or entirely separate, but that exist in parallel with one another. For example, the recent big-budget "Trek" films are, per canon, considered to document an entirely different narrative of the characters' lives than the 1960s television show, despite the fact that it's the same characters and the same ship. Due to a specific event presented in the first of the 2010s "Trek" films (a genocidal bad guy from the future arrives and destroys a planet), the films' timeline and the show's timeline permanently diverged.

More and more, the events of 1/6 have a similar sort of feel, as Democrats (and many Republicans) exist in a world where that was an insurrection and an attempt to overthrow the government, while the rest of the Republicans (and many of their enablers in the media) exist in a world where the events of that day were actually an Antifa conspiracy. Or maybe an inside job from the deep state. Or possibly just some tourists who got a little boisterous. It depends on whom you ask, and which day you ask them. All of these have been put forward by multiple Republican members of Congress, and multiple hosts on the right-wing "news" channels.

On Tuesday, the House voted on whether or not to award Congressional Gold Medals to the police officers who helped defend the Capitol on January 6. This would seem to be a slam dunk; after all, these police officers literally saved the members' lives. And indeed, the bill passed the Senate unanimously. However, 21 Republicans in the House voted against the measure. You probably don't even need us to tell you the names, since anyone who reads the site, or who follows politics in general, can guess a fair number of them. But, just in case, here they are: Andy Biggs (AZ), Lauren Boebert (CO), Michael Cloud (TX), Andrew S. Clyde (GA), Warren Davidson (OH), Matt Gaetz (FL), Louie Gohmert (TX), Bob Good (VA), Paul A. Gosar (AZ), Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA), Andy Harris (MD), Jody Hice (GA), Thomas Massie (KY), Mary Miller (IL), Barry Moore (AL), Ralph Norman (SC), Scott Perry (PA), John Rose (TN), Matthew M. Rosendale (MT), Chip Roy (TX), and Greg Steube (FL).

That's pretty much a "who's who" of what you might call the House Trumpublican Caucus. That said, we suppose there is a certain logic to their position. If there was no insurrection/dangerous event, then there was nothing to defend against. And if there was nothing to defend against, then there was no heroism. And if there was no heroism, there is no need for giving out medals that recognize heroism. If we were talking about June 6 (1944) instead of January 6 (2021), one can imagine these folks saying, "Does a guy really deserve a medal for spending a lovely summer morning visiting a French beach?"

It goes further than that, though. The folks in the Trumpublican Reality are growing even more wild in their claims. Gosar, a man so odious that six of his siblings once recorded an ad begging people not to vote for him, questioned FBI Director Christopher Wray during a committee hearing on Tuesday, wondering if the Director knows "who executed Ashli Babbitt" (the woman killed by police officers on 1/6), and decreeing that the Capitol police were deliberately lying in wait, just looking for someone to kill.

Conspiracy enabler Tucker Carlson took it from there, using the Tuesday evening edition of his program to compliment, of all people, Vladimir Putin for asking "fair questions" about the Babbitt shooting, and then moving on to suggest that the insurrection may actually have been the work of FBI operatives. We must be very old, because we remember a time when Republicans opposed Russia and supported the FBI.

Of course, the Democrats are not going to stand by and let nutty right-wingers dictate the narrative. After a couple of weeks of behind-the-scenes maneuvering, to see if enough Senate votes might be had to break the filibuster and establish a joint 1/6 commission, Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that the House will take the lead in investigating the incident, and strongly suggested that the creation of a House Select Committee on the Insurrection is imminent. Obviously, the Tucker Carlsons and Paul Gosars of the world won't accept the conclusions of any House investigation, even if it's countersigned by George Washington, Jesus Christ, and the MyPillow guy. But the majority of people, the ones who live in the non-Trumpublican reality, presumably will. (Z)

Surprise! White House Pressured DoJ to Help Overturn Election

And now we have an item about some fish e-mails. No, not phishing e-mails. Fish, as in "a fish stinks from the head down." Since Friday, there has been a stream of news about shady business involving the Donald Trump-era Dept. of Justice. And on Tuesday, the House Oversight Committee released 230 pages of e-mails from folks in the Trump administration that were intended to get then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and other DoJ officials to get involved in helping to overturn the presidential election result, particularly by investigating alleged "voter fraud." Rosen, et al., did not play ball.

On one level, this is big news, because it adds to a picture of corruption that is still being drawn, and yet already outstrips any presidential administration in American history by a longshot. On another level, it's not news at all. Team Trump was (and still is) desperate, has zero sense of boundaries, and regarded the DoJ as the President's personal defense firm (a sentiment very much encouraged by AG Bill Barr). So of course the White House tried to get DoJ lawyers involved. Especially since the lawyers who work for the DoJ are a fair sight better than Rudy Giuliani, Lin Wood, Sidney Powell, and the other lawyers who were actually willing to work on overturning the election. And we mean "fair sight better" in the same sense that "The Godfather" is a fair sight better film than "Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol."

Incidentally, from examining the tranche of e-mails, it's clear that Trump does not, himself, write e-mails. No surprise there; he's lazy, and a terrible typist/writer, and he prefers to let others stick their necks out so that his neck remains well-protected. It's also clear how very many enablers surrounded him in the final days and months of his term, encouraging his conspiratorial thinking. In particular, then-chief-of-staff Mark Meadows was a frequent and pushy e-mailer of the DoJ. Whether that means he has legal exposure here is not clear. Pressuring the DoJ to investigate one's pet concerns is not so much illegal as it is inappropriate, though it could fit into a larger pattern that is criminal, like conspiracy. (Z)

Many Things Are Coming Up Roses for Progressives

The progressive wing of the Democratic Party did not get the candidate they wanted in 2020; that would be Bernie Sanders. And they were not enthused about Joe Biden, who seemed to them to be a bland old white man (as opposed to an exciting old white man like Sanders). However, since the President took office, they have found much to like.

Sanders himself had positive things to say about Biden this week. Sitting for an interview with CNN, the Senator told Gloria Borger that the President's campaign made him feel "very welcome" in 2020, whereas with Hillary Clinton he felt "tolerated." Sanders also noted that he felt Biden was, and still is, open to his ideas and suggestions.

The proof is in the pudding, of course, and thus far Biden has delivered a fair bit of pudding for the lefties in the Democratic party. For example, Lina Khan is an outspoken critic of monopolies and unchecked corporate power. And on Tuesday, she was confirmed to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which thrilled both Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), with the latter describing it as "tremendous news." The vote was 69-28, which may be a little surprising, but makes more sense when you learn that Khan's favorite targets are Facebook, Twitter, and other social media giants, which many Republicans also hate. She was sworn in less than an hour after confirmation, which gave Democrats a majority on the FTC, and allowed them to promptly elevate Khan to chair of the commission.

Another key person who has turned out to be to the progressives' liking is Biden's handpicked DNC Chair, Jaime Harrison. Many of them felt unheard while Tom Perez was running the show, but believe that with Harrison, they have an actual seat at the Democratic table. "This is a whole new experience in terms of the kind of personal outreach he's made to so many different sectors of the party," said one progressive activist. "It's day and night," decreed another, adding: "Now, it feels like we're back on track with someone who understands the party apparatus, and he has an understanding of what it'll take to run a party that has felt so neglected."

Progressives are also hopeful that the advent of the Biden administration could mean a new era in U.S.-Russia relations. This week, in advance of the President's first summit with Vladimir Putin (underway as you read this, most likely), 15 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus wrote a letter encouraging Biden to find ways to work with Russia on issues of concern, particularly arms control and global warming. The progressives are likely to get at least some of what they hope for, particularly since Biden has made clear that an arms control treaty is a top priority.

All of this said, the headline above is "many things are coming up roses," not "all things." One disappointment has been Biden's approach to the federal death penalty. His campaign plank said he opposes capital punishment, but since taking office, he's done little to take action on that. And, in fact, his first high-profile engagement with the death penalty went in the other direction, as his administration just asked the Supreme Court to reinstate that sentence for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, after an appeals court changed his sentence to life imprisonment last summer. Anti-death penalty progressives, who call themselves abolitionists, are deeply disappointed by all of this.

On the whole, though, progressives seem to be feeling represented by the Biden administration and, perhaps equally important, feeling heard. If the President manages to bridge the divide that Hillary Clinton never conquered, then that will be a huge accomplishment, and a huge boon to the Party in both 2022 and 2024, whether Biden runs for reelection or not. (Z)

There's Good News and There's Bad News on the COVID-19 Front

We're going to start with the bad news. On Tuesday, the United States reached another grim milestone, as all the COVID-19 trackers now have more than 600,000 Americans dead from the disease. Here's the table we've run a few times to put things in context:

Event, Date, U.S.
Fatalities, Notes; Las Vegas shooting 2017 58 Worst mass shooting in U.S. history; Tulsa race massacre 1921 75-300 Worst
racial violence in U.S. history; estimated; Oklahoma City bombing 1995 168 Deadliest domestic terrorist attack in U.S.
history; Sinking of the RMS Titanic 1912 238 Overall death toll (including non-Americans) estimated at 1,635; Hurricane
Katrina 2005 1,836 Estimated; Johnstown Flood 1889 2,209 Worst man-made disaster of the 19th century; estimated; Bombing
of Pearl Harbor 1941 2,467 Deadliest military strike on U.S. soil; Hurricane Maria 2017 2,982 Estimated; 9/11 attacks
2001 2,997 Deadliest terrorist attack in world history; San Francisco earthquake 1906 3,000 Estimated; Battle of
Antietam 1862 3,675 Deadliest single day in U.S. history; Galveston Hurricane 1900 6,000-12,000 Worst natural disaster
in U.S. history; estimated; Battle of Gettysburg 1863 7,058 Deadliest battle in U.S. history; H1N1 2009 12,469 Swine
flu; COVID-19, Trump projection 2020 Less than 20,000 Feb. 28; Revolutionary War 1776-83 25,000 Estimated; Normandy
campaign 1944 29,204 Deadliest military campaign in U.S. history; Korean War 1951-53 36,516 Military deaths only;
COVID-19, Trump projection 2020 50,000-60,000 Apr. 21; Vietnam War 1964-71 58,209 Military deaths only; COVID-19, Trump
projection 2020 60,000-70,000 Apr. 28; COVID-19, Trump projection 2020 100,000 May 4; World War I 1917-18 116,516
Military deaths only; Deaths from stroke 2020 145,000 Estimated; #5 cause of death in the United States, annually;
Deaths from respiratory disease 2020 155,000 Estimated; #4 cause of death in the United States, annually; Deaths from
accidents 2020 170,000 Estimated; #3 cause of death in the United States, annually; COVID-19, IHME projection 2020
378,321 Sept. 22; projected through Jan. 1 only; World War II 1941-45 405,399 Military deaths only; COVID-19, actual
2020-21 600,285 June 16; Johns Hopkins figure; Deaths from cancer 2020 600,000 Estimated; #2 cause of death in the
United States, annually; Deaths from heart attack 2020 650,000 Estimated; #1 cause of death in the United States,
annually; Spanish Flu 1918-19 675,000 Estimated; Civil War 1861-65 800,000 Military deaths only; estimated

As you can see, COVID-19 will almost certainly surpass the Spanish Flu as the worst pandemic in American history.

And now, some good news. Daily COVID-19 deaths are off close to 90% as compared to January, from 3,000 per day to about 360 per day. That is still a very troubling number, but the significant drop is a clear testament to the efficacy of the various vaccines, and possibly also to better management of the pandemic since, oh, January 20 or so. The other bit of good news is that, as of Tuesday, the two states that have suffered the most COVID-19 deaths have now given at least one shot of vaccine to 70% of their populations. New York (53,500 dead) joined that club yesterday, while California (63,000 dead) cleared the bar a few weeks ago.

In view of their vaccination success, both of those states are reopening, with Tuesday the day that California dropped its statewide mask mandate and its capacity limits on businesses and venues. Anecdotally, at least, it is as if a switch has been flipped. (Z) was at the last Dodgers' game before the policy change (Monday, vs. the Phillies), and it was, of course, lightly attended, with about 12,000 people there. Tuesday night, by contrast, the team drew 52,078 fans, the largest attendance for any professional team since the pandemic began. Similarly, (Z) went to a local shopping center on Tuesday, one that features many mid-range and upscale restaurants, and all of those were jam-packed, with waitlists of an hour or more. The general assumption has been that the waning of the pandemic would unleash a vast torrent of economic activity, and early returns from Los Angeles, at very least, suggest that will be the case. (Z)

Florida Does an End Run around the Rules

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) just signed a new bill into law in Florida. This one mandates that, starting in September, Florida teachers must observe a 1-2 minute "moment of silence" at the start of each school day.

The purpose of this "moment of silence" is not a secret; it's to allow students to pray while in school. In the event that anyone was unclear, the Governor said: "It's important to be able to provide each student the ability every day to reflect and be able to pray as they see fit," immediately after signing the bill. What kind of reflection and prayer does he envision? Well, he also added: "The idea that you can just push God out of every institution and be successful, I'm sorry, our founding fathers did not believe that." It would appear that Zen Buddhist koans and Hindu mantras are not exactly what is being protected here.

As a result of various Supreme Court decisions, particularly Engel v. Vitale, it is not legal for public schools to mandate prayer. Like discriminatory voter-ID laws, the new Florida law is a clear attempt to subvert the rules, since Florida is not technically mandating prayer, they are just mandating a daily period of time which could be used for prayer (and which couldn't be used for much else). Undoubtedly the lawsuits are coming, but they may face an uphill battle, especially with the Supreme Court as currently constituted.

Meanwhile, DeSantis is rapidly ascending the ladder as the Republicans' strongest 2024 presidential candidate. He's shrewd and he actually earned his Ivy League degree, he delivers results for conservatives—anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, school prayer, voting restrictions—and he doesn't have anywhere near the baggage that certain other golf-playing, resort-residing, 2024-aspiring Florida residents have. The Party pooh-bahs would be thrilled to see the Governor carry the GOP banner in the next presidential election, particularly as compared to the alternatives. (Z)

Kushner Signs Book Deal

Former White House adviser Jared Kushner has just signed a book deal with Broadside Books, the imprint used by HarperCollins for conservative titles. The book will be published in 2022, and is being billed as "the definitive, thorough recounting of the administration—and the truth about what happened behind closed doors."

Of course, the obvious candidate to write the true "definitive, thorough recounting" would seem to be Kushner's father-in-law, who responded to Tuesday's news with a statement claiming that he has already been approached by two "major" publishers. This is, as you can imagine, a lie, as each of the United States' "Big Five" publishers (Penguin/Random House, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Simon and Schuster, and Macmillan) say they are not interested. This is very believable, as there would be some significant problems with a potential presidential autobiography:

  • It would be a nightmare from a fact-checking perspective. "If he can't even admit that he lost the election, then how do you publish that?" said one publishing industry insider who talked to Politico.

  • On a related note, if anything written was libelous, the publisher could be on the hook for that.

  • Signing a contract with such an unpopular figure could trigger a rebellion by a publisher's employees and/or by their other authors.

  • Any book would surely be ghostwritten with relatively little input from its subject, meaning it would be something less than authentic and/or revealing.

  • Another person Politico spoke to said that, "He's screwed over so many publishers that before he ran for president none of the big 5 would work with [him] anymore." It is not made clear what that means, but it presumably refers to failures to adhere to contractual conditions, either in terms of deadlines, or the content of the promised work, or promotional activities, or all of the above.

It is also the case that many other folks who served in the White House from 2017-21 are writing books, including Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, and Kellyanne Conway, in addition to Jared Kushner. It could be that those works end up being the historical record for the administration, and that no presidential autobiography is produced. If so, it would be the first time in a century for a president who survived his term. Woodrow Wilson produced no post-presidential book, and if you don't count him because he was incapacitated by his stroke, then the last president to remain silent on his White House years was Grover Cleveland (who did, however, write a book about fishing). (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun15 VP I Is Going to Be a Tougher Challenge than QE II Was
Jun15 Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal Is in Trouble
Jun15 Supreme Court News, Part I: The Calm Before the Storm
Jun15 Supreme Court News, Part II: McConnell Admits What Everyone Already Knew
Jun15 This Week's 2022 Candidacy News
Jun15 Virginia Governor's Race Could Be a Barnburner
Jun15 Adams Looks to Be in the Catbird Seat
Jun14 Biden Doesn't Stomp Out of G7 Meeting
Jun14 McConnell Tries to Exploit Biden's Weakness
Jun14 Collins Clarifies How the Gang of 10 Will and Will Not Pay for Its Infrastructure Bill
Jun14 The States Are Proving Manchin Wrong
Jun14 Justice Dept. Is Going to Look at Barr's Spying on Democrats...and Republicans
Jun14 Nevada Is Helping Iowa Stay First
Jun14 Republicans Are Complaining about 2024 Debates Already
Jun14 Israeli Parliament Approves New Government
Jun13 Sunday Mailbag
Jun12 Saturday Q&A
Jun11 We Have a Deal...Or Maybe Not
Jun11 FBI Is Not Investigating Trump's Role in Insurrection
Jun11 Senate Confirms First-Ever Muslim Judge
Jun11 Omar Ruffles More Feathers
Jun11 Sinema, Boebert May Be Playing with Fire
Jun11 A Possible Answer to the Manchin Mystery
Jun11 Dumbest Member of Congress Unwisely Opens His Mouth
Jun11 California Democrats Move the Goalposts a Bit
Jun11 About Those Vaccine Incentives...
Jun10 Biden Goes to Europe
Jun10 Gang of 10 Wants to Do Infrastructure without Raising Taxes
Jun10 Democrats Can't Figure Out What Manchin Wants
Jun10 Transcript of McGahn Hearing Is Released
Jun10 Report: Police Did Not Clear Protesters for Trump's Photo-Op at Church
Jun10 The Primary Battle Has Begun
Jun10 Special Master Is Appointed to Vet Electronics Seized from Giuliani
Jun10 Val Demings Is Officially Running against Marco Rubio
Jun10 Keystone XL Pipeline, 2010-2021
Jun09 Senate Passes China Bill
Jun09 "Infrastructure, Act II" Has Commenced
Jun09 Senate Releases 1/6 Report
Jun09 Biden Judicial Nominee Confirmed
Jun09 McConnell Will Have His Say on 2022 Nominees
Jun09 Ladies and Gentlemen, Your 2021 Gubernatorial Candidates
Jun09 It's Not EVERY Republican Governor
Jun08 Deus Ex Manchin
Jun08 Unemployment Benefits Will Soon End in Many States (Most of Them Red)
Jun08 Obama Speaks Out
Jun08 Legal Blotter, Part I: Whose DoJ?
Jun08 Legal Blotter, Part II: Everybody's Talkin'
Jun08 Legal Blotter, Part III: Nice Try, Matt
Jun08 Legal Blotter, Part IV: No Mo Ducking Service
Jun07 Manchin Will Vote against H.R. 1