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(Z) thanks everyone who sent their best wishes on a speedy recovery. As you can see, there has been enough of a bounce-back to resume blogging duties. That does not mean "100% recovered," though, so please be gentle as you read today.

Toto, I Have a Feeling the Problem Isn't Just Kansas Anymore

It's true that Dorothy Gale dressed in blue, but that was back when blue was the Republican color, so we think it works. Yesterday was a big day at the ballot box; we'll take it state by state, starting with the biggest result of all:

Next up is Tennessee, on Thursday, and then Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont and Wisconsin next Tuesday. (Z)

She Went There

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that she planned to visit Taiwan during her trip through the Far East. China pitched a hissy fit and said she better not. So, she went. China responded with an even more impressive hissy fit, sending warships to surround Taiwan while she visited.

Taiwan is an extremely important diplomatic and trade partner for the United States, and many Americans have close ties to the nation. China has been increasingly assertive about infringing on Taiwanese sovereignty, and making clear that the U.S. government knows that and is not happy about it was the purpose of the trip. The Speaker explained as much in the op-ed she published yesterday. When the Chinese government insisted that Pelosi not come, well, that 100% guaranteed that Pelosi would make the trip. The U.S. simply cannot allow the message to be sent that the Chinese get to dictate American diplomatic affairs.

Vast numbers of people on the right, and some on the left, have criticized Pelosi's alleged recklessness. That appears to be a misreading of the situation to us. Yes, Joe Biden made frowny faces when asked about the trip, but he pointedly made no public statement asking Pelosi to call it off. Further, even if he did not want to publicly embarrass her, he could have made one phone call and asked her not to do it, and she surely would have complied. You don't get to be speaker if you're a maverick. So, of course she was working as a de facto emissary of the White House. However, she's far enough removed from Team Joe to give the president plausible deniability. And although she's a very high-ranking official, her career at the loci of power is about to come to an end. So, it's not like asking, say, Mark Kelly, to assume the risk that this could be an anchor around his neck for years. (Z)

Republican Senators Try to Clean Up Their Mess

Several months back, the Senate passed the Honoring our PACT Act of 2022 by a vote of 84-14. It expands healthcare access for 3.5 million veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits. The House took up the legislation, made a few adjustments to clarify some of the language therein, and passed it as well. Then, it headed back to the Senate where, somehow, 25 senators had a change of heart. So, the bill was suddenly subject to a filibuster.

The official story from the right side of the aisle is that they filibustered in order to add some amendments to the bill. Maybe that is true, although it doesn't explain why those amendments were not a concern the first time the bill came to the Senate floor for a vote.

There's also an alternate explanation. The re-vote in the Senate took place about an hour after the CHIPS bill was passed and then Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced they had worked out a reconciliation bill after all. In other words, the re-vote happened at a time when Republicans were hopping mad. And the video showing several Republican senators fist-bumping after successfully imposing the filibuster does not jibe well with the "we just wanted to add some amendments" argument.

The blowback was massive, from Democrats, from veterans' groups and from... TV comedian Jon Stewart, who has taken a rather sizable role in lobbying for the bill. It would seem that the Republicans decided the optics here were not too good, and so when the bill came up for a vote yesterday, it passed 86-11.

In the end, the truth of the situation doesn't matter nearly as much as what voters believe. At very least, the sequence of events makes it look like the Democrats wanted the bill and the Republicans were reluctant. More probable, we think, is that it will look to many voters like Republican politicians were willing to sacrifice injured veterans in a fit of pique. Note, incidentally, that the two senators most clearly fist bumping in the above video are Steve Daines (R-MT) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), neither of whom has come within a country mile of serving in uniform. (Z)

U.S. Government Sues Idaho

This isn't as dramatic as opening military bases to abortions, or other such ideas, but it is an option that has a decent chance of succeeding, long-term. Yesterday, just hours before the news out of Kansas (see above), the Department of Justice filed suit against the state of Idaho, arguing that the state's new anti-abortion law is in conflict with federal law.

The specific federal law in question is the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act of 1986, which requires that anyone who visits an ER must be stabilized and treated. The argument, obviously, is that if doctors are forbidden to perform abortions necessary to saving a mother's life, or are subject to prosecution when dealing with things like miscarriages, then those doctors cannot abide by the federal law.

Idaho was targeted because their law is particularly extreme. However, the basic argument should be viable in quite a few red states. And the Department of Justice's case is pretty strong. That said, this will eventually end up before the Supreme Court, and with this Court, who knows?

In other abortion-related news, Joe Biden is expected to sign an executive order today directing the Dept. of Health and Human Services to figure out how to help women who need to travel out of state for an abortion. A federally financed Abortion Express bus service would violate the Hyde Amendment, so Secretary Xavier Becerra will have to put on his thinking cap and come up with something else.

For geographically inclined readers, we refer you to the map of the U.S. above. Now that abortions are going to stay legal in Kansas, we note that three states that are going to ban abortions, Nebraska, Missouri, and Oklahoma, border Kansas and another one (Iowa) is pretty close. No doubt Kansas will get some pregnant visitors from those states in the coming months and years. (Z)

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