Heather Cox Richardson

uly 21, 2021 (Wednesday)

The story that grabbed headlines today was that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) rejected two of the five people House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) chose to put on the House select committee to investigate the January 6 insurrection. McCarthy immediately withdrew all of the five people he had appointed, accusing the Speaker of partisanship.

But let’s call this like it is. The Republicans killed a bill to create a bipartisan select committee to investigate the insurrection. Then, when Pelosi set up a select committee instead on the exact same terms that Republicans had used to set up one of their many Benghazi committees, McCarthy tried to sabotage the process by naming as three of his five picks men who bought into former president Trump’s Big Lie and challenged the votes on the night of January 6.

One of those men, Jim Jordan (R-OH), is known for disrupting hearings; another, Jim Banks (R-IN), after being selected to sit on the committee, said that Pelosi “created this committee solely to malign conservatives and to justify the Left’s authoritarian agenda.” Banks has repeatedly tried to blame Pelosi for the response of the Capitol Police on January 6, when, in fact, it is overseen by a three-person Capitol Police Board. It is likely that McCarthy chose Jordan precisely to push Pelosi into rejecting him: McCarthy did not make Jordan the ranking member on the committee despite his seniority.

Pelosi refused to accept Jordan and Banks but did accept Troy Nehls (R-TX), who also voted to challenge the results of the 2020 election. Nonetheless, McCarthy made a show of pulling all his appointees from the committee, saying “this panel has lost all legitimacy and credibility and shows the Speaker is more interested in playing politics than seeking the truth.”

But, of course, one of Pelosi’s own picks is Republican Liz Cheney (R-WY), who voted with Trump 92.9% of the time, but who recognizes the insurrection as one of the most dangerous threats to our democracy in our history. She responded today to McCarthy, her party’s leader, supporting Pelosi’s decision and telling reporters that the Speaker had “objected to two members and the rhetoric around this from the minority leader and from those two members has been disgraceful. This must be an investigation that is focused on facts, and the idea that any of this has become politicized is really unworthy of the office that we all hold and unworthy of our republic.”

Cheney said she is “absolutely confident that we will have a nonpartisan investigation.”

On January 13, of course, McCarthy said: “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action by [Trump] to accept his share of responsibility.” Now, six months later, Republicans have lined up behind the former president and are seeking to sabotage the investigation into the January 6 insurrection, clearly unhappy about what that investigation will reveal.

In the Senate, a vote to advance the $579 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill failed today, but 11 Republicans eager to make the deal work delivered a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) indicating their intention to vote for such a bill once it is hammered out. Schumer has promised to bring the procedural process up again if it has the votes to pass. If Republicans refuse to join the measure, Democrats can simply fold it into the larger bill they’re hoping to pass through reconciliation without the Republican votes necessary to break a filibuster.

McConnell has taken a stand against the Democrats’ infrastructure plans. In a speech on July 6, he focused on the larger package, saying: “The era of bipartisanship on this stuff is over…This is not going to be done on a bipartisan basis. This is going to be a hell of a fight over what this country ought to look like in the future and it’s going to unfold here in the next few weeks. I don’t think we’ve had a bigger difference of opinion between the two parties.” But many Republicans recognize that the infrastructure package is popular, and they would like to have their names on it rather than giving another win to the Democrats. Schumer has given them more time but has made it clear he will not let them run out the clock.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters today that no Republican senators will vote to raise the nation’s debt ceiling when a deal cut two years ago to suspend the ceiling ends on July 31. McConnell wants to see spending cuts to bring down the deficit. (It is worth noting that the Republicans just demanded that funding to beef up the IRS to catch tax cheaters be stripped from the new infrastructure bill, although the commissioner of the IRS, Charles Rettig, estimates we lose $1 trillion a year in unpaid taxes.)

During the Trump administration, Congress voted at least three times to raise the debt ceiling. Under Trump, the nation added $7.8 trillion to the national debt, about $23,500 for every person in the country. The bulk of this debt came before the coronavirus pandemic. Trump’s 2017 tax cuts, which chopped the federal tax rate from 35% to 21%, hurt revenues at the same time that administration spending increased dramatically. And then the pandemic hit.

Under Trump, the deficit rose 5.2%. The only presidents to raise it faster in their terms were George W. Bush, under whom the deficit rose 11.7% as he cut taxes and started two wars, and Abraham Lincoln, under whom it rose 9.4% as he paid for the Civil War.

The Democrats are treating McConnell’s threat to shut down the government as political posturing. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said: “We expect Congress to act in a timely manner to raise or suspend the debt ceiling, as they did three times on a broad bipartisan basis during the last administration,” and Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) tweeted: “We are not going to have a ‘big fight’ over the debt ceiling. We are just going to handle our business like grownups.” Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) added: “We don’t bargain over the debt ceiling. We just do our jobs. And if you choose not to do your job, then you answer for the consequences.”

The takeaway from today is that McConnell and McCarthy seem to have lost control of their caucus, while the Republicans’ posturing is increasingly out of step with the national mood. Pelosi called McCarthy’s bluff, Schumer warned his Republican colleagues that he will not let them sabotage Democratic priorities by running out the clock, and Democratic lawmakers are taking advantage of the erratic behavior of Republican lawmakers to suggest that they, the Democrats, are currently the only adults in the room.

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July 22, 2021 (Thursday)

The backdrop of everything political these days is the 2022 midterm election.

The most immediate story in the country is that coronavirus infections are rising rapidly. The seven-day average of Covid-19 cases is rising about 37,700 cases per day, and the seven-day average of hospital admissions is about 35,000 per day. The seven-day average of daily deaths has also increased to 237 per day, about 19 percent higher than it was in the previous seven-day period.

The vast majority of these hospitalizations and deaths are among the unvaccinated as the new, highly contagious Delta variant spreads. Today, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, warned that the Delta variant “is one of the most infectious respiratory viruses we know of and that I have seen in my 20-year career.”

Three states with lower vaccination rates, Florida, Texas, and Missouri, had 40 percent of all the nation’s cases. At a White House press conference, Jeff Zients, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, noted, “For the second week in a row, one in five of all cases [occurred] in Florida alone.”

Republican lawmakers and right-wing pundits have cast doubt on the vaccines and hardened opposition to them as part of the stoking of a culture war, but now, quite suddenly, many of them are urging their supporters and listeners to get vaccinated. They have not offered their reasoning for the about-face, and perhaps they are suddenly concerned about coronavirus deaths.

But as news outlets repeat that hospitalizations and deaths are overwhelmingly among the unvaccinated, Republican lawmakers must also realize that their voters will at some point resent the anti-vaccine advice that is singling them out for death.

Republicans seem to be trying to rewrite their past attacks on the vaccine by now blaming the people who refused the vaccines for their reluctance to get it. Today, for example, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, who has been a strong Trump supporter, blamed the unvaccinated for the spike. “Folks are supposed to have common sense. But it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the vaccinated folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down,” she said.

The Republicans have another problem, too. Candidates vying to win Republican primaries are trying to pick up the Trump base by sticking closely to him and to the lie that he won the 2020 election. But the same stances that will win primary voters will alienate voters in the general election.

Candidates are staking out their pro-Trump ground in part because they are holding out hope that the former president will choose to pour money into their campaigns; however, news broke today that Trump has taken in about $75 million in the first half of 2021 on the promise that he is fighting the results of the 2020 election but has spent none of that money on those challenges.

At the same time that news about House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s picks for the January 6 commission put a spotlight on the possible involvement of Trump Republicans in that insurrection, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) is using the Senate Rules Committee, which she chairs, to highlight the voter restrictions that legislatures in Republican-dominated states are imposing on their citizens. The committee is holding field hearings this week in Georgia.

There, Georgia State Senator Sally Harrell (D) told the committee about begging for copies of voting rights bills so she could read them before voting, about bills being switched at the last minute, and of not being able to stop the Republicans from undermining voting rights. Harrell told the committee that state lawmakers need the help of the federal For the People Act to protect voting rights.

Mounting pressure on Republican lawmakers to try to shore up their voters showed in the July 20 Senate vote on the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law today. Originally passed in 1984, the measure gathers fines and penalties paid by convicted federal criminals into a fund that spreads money to organizations helping the victims of crimes. But the amount of money in the fund has dropped 92% since 2017, as “non-prosecutorial agreements” and “deferred prosecution agreements” kept money from going into the fund.

This measure is vital for domestic abuse survivors and their children, and the new bill directs money from those agreements into the fund to replenish it. The Senate, which generally opposes social welfare legislation, backed it 100–0 in what looks like an attempt to reach out to the suburban women Republicans need to win in 2022 and 2024.

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To be mildly fair, I don’t know that Gov. Ivey was in the camp of casting doubt on vaccines. Back in April she was encouraging people to get them:

She also maintained a mask mandate longer than other [R] states. She’s got a lot of issues, but vaccine resistance hasn’t been one of them.

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Then she needed to grow a spine back in March 2020 and start opposing Trump instead of kissing his ass.

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That would have been great, sure. But when I see an overweight person do a Couch-2-5k, I don’t give them crap for not running a marathon. I give them the praise they deserve, and then urge them onward. She’s never going to be a liberal, nor even a centrist. She should be given some kind of credit, and then urged to do better, keeping in mind the framework in which she operates.

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She could have been all of the above and still countered 45’s anti-mask, anti-vax bullshit. That’s what people with spines do. But she doesn’t, so she didn’t.

I’m much more cynical about GQP politicians suddenly getting on board with vaccinations like this Gov and Yurtle. It’s not because they actually give a shit about people. They are covering their ass in anticipation of the blowback that’s coming.

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All true except that she’s been telling people to get vaccinated since they came out. Lots to criticize about her, for sure. But vaccine-wise, she’s not “suddenly.”

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Fair enough.

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July 23, 2021 (Friday)

On July 20, 1969, American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first humans ever to land, and then to walk, on the moon.

They were part of the Apollo program, designed to put an American man on the moon. Their spacecraft launched on July 16 and landed back on Earth in the Pacific Ocean July 24, giving them eight days in space, three of them orbiting the moon 30 times. Armstrong and Aldrin spent almost 22 hours on the moon’s surface, where they collected soil and rock samples and set up scientific equipment, while the pilot of the command module, Michael Collins, kept the module on course above them.

The American space program that created the Apollo 11 spaceflight grew out of the Cold War. The year after the Soviet Union launched an artificial satellite in 1957, Congress created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to demonstrate American superiority by sending a man into space. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy moved the goalposts, challenging the country to put a man on the moon and bring him safely back to earth again. He told Congress: “No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”

A year later, in a famous speech at Rice University in Texas, Kennedy tied space exploration to America’s traditional willingness to attempt great things. “Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolutions, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it—we mean to lead it,” he said.

[T]here is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people…. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills….”

But the benefits to the country would not only be psychological, he said. “The growth of our science and education will be enriched by new knowledge of our universe and environment, by new techniques of learning and mapping and observation, by new tools and computers for industry, medicine, the home as well as the school.” The effort would create “a great number of new companies, and tens of thousands of new jobs…new demands in investment and skilled personnel,” as the government invested billions in it.

“To be sure, all this costs us all a good deal of money…. I realize that this is in some measure an act of faith and vision, for we do not now know what benefits await us.”

Seven years later, people across the country gathered around television sets to watch Armstrong step onto the moon and to hear his famous words: “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

President Richard Nixon called the astronauts from the White House: “I just can’t tell you how proud we all are of what you have done,” he said. “For every American, this has to be the proudest day of our lives…. Because of what you have done, the heavens have become a part of man’s world…. For one priceless moment in the whole history of man, all the people on this Earth are truly one…in their pride in what you have done, and…in our prayers that you will return safely to Earth.”

And yet, by the time Armstrong and Aldrin were stepping onto the moon in a grand symbol of the success of the nation’s moon shot, Americans back on earth were turning against each other. Movement conservatives who hated post–World War II business regulation, taxation, and civil rights demanded smaller government and championed the idea of individualism, while those opposed to the war in Vietnam increasingly distrusted the government.

After May 4, 1970, when the shooting of college students at Kent State University in Ohio badly weakened Nixon’s support, he began to rally supporters to his side with what his vice president, Spiro Agnew, called “positive polarization.” They characterized those who opposed the administration as anti-American layabouts who simply wanted a handout from the government. The idea that Americans could come together to construct a daring new future ran aground on the idea that anti-war protesters, people of color, and women were draining hardworking taxpayers of their hard-earned money.

Ten years later, former actor and governor of California Ronald Reagan won the White House by promising to defend white taxpayers from people like the “welfare queen,” who, he said, “has 80 names, 30 addresses, 12 Social Security cards and is collecting veteran’s benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands.” Reagan promised to champion individual Americans, getting government, and the taxes it swallowed, off people’s backs.

“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” Reagan said in his Inaugural Address. Americans increasingly turned away from the post–World War II teamwork and solidarity that had made the Apollo program a success, and instead focused on liberating individual men to climb upward on their own terms, unhampered by regulation or taxes.

This week, on July 20, 2021, 52 years to the day after Armstrong and Aldrin stepped onto the moon, former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and four passengers spent 11 minutes in the air, three of them more than 62 miles above the earth, where many scientists say space starts. For those three minutes, they were weightless. And then the pilotless spaceship returned to Earth.

Traveling with Bezos were his brother, Mark; 82-year-old Wally Funk, a woman who trained to be an astronaut in the 1960s but was never permitted to go to space; and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen from the Netherlands, whose father paid something under $28 million for the seat.

Bezos’s goal, he says, is not simply to launch space tourism, but also to spread humans to other planets in order to grow beyond the resource limits on earth. The solar system can easily support a trillion humans,” Bezos has said. “We would have a thousand Einsteins and a thousand Mozarts and unlimited—for all practical purposes—resources and solar power and so on. That’s the world that I want my great-grandchildren’s great-grandchildren to live in.”

Ariane Cornell, astronaut-sales director of Bezos’s space company Blue Origin, live-streamed the event, telling the audience that the launch “represents a number of firsts.” It was “[t]he first time a privately funded spaceflight vehicle has launched private citizens to space from a private launch site and private range down here in Texas. It’s also a giant first step towards our vision to have millions of people living and working in space.”

In 2021, Bezos paid $973 million in taxes on $4.22 billion in income while his wealth increased by $99 billion, making his true tax rate 0.98%. After his trip into the sky, he told reporters: “I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all of this…. Seriously, for every Amazon customer out there and every Amazon employee, thank you from the bottom of my heart very much. It’s very appreciated.”

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We had quite a few more at the time but they weren’t white men. We gonna fix that problem too Jeff or just mine asteroids and let that get worse?

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Translation:

“Me! Me! Me! Me! Me!”

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Yeah, we’re still not at that point. I’m glad for Wally Funk, sad for Ed Dwight, and mad at the socioeconomic inequality created/supported by TPTB.

Can’t wait to see more targeting of the real problem - corporate welfare kings - as well as reversal of laws and regulations that allow billionaires to avoid paying their fair share.

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Which had been joked about many times at the time on Laugh-In. One example at 1:07 if the time-link doesn’t work.

@MissCellania wrote a blog post about this as well.

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July 24, 2021 (Saturday)

Today was an absolutely perfect July day and I’m not going to ruin it by looking at the news.

Buddy finally broke out the camera again this week, so I’m letting him take the wheel tonight.

I’ll see you tomorrow.

[Photo, “Good Morning,” by Buddy Poland]

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July 25, 2021 (Sunday)

Both Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia and Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio told television hosts today that they expect an infrastructure deal on the $579 billion bill this week. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said that he will delay the Senate’s upcoming recess until this bipartisan bill and another, larger bill that focuses on human infrastructure are passed. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) says she will not hold a vote on the smaller infrastructure bill until the larger bill, which is a priority for Democrats, passes the Senate.

There are a lot of moving pieces in this infrastructure bill that have more to do with politics than with infrastructure.

First, what is holding up the bill in the Senate is a disagreement about the proper ratio of funding for roads and public transportation. When Congress passed the Federal-Aid Highway Act in 1956, starting the creation of 41,000 miles of interstate highways, lawmakers thought that gasoline taxes would pay for the construction and upkeep of the highways. Congress raised the gas tax four times, in 1959, 1983, 1990, and 1993. But, beginning in 2008, as fuel efficiency went up, the gas tax no longer covered expenses. Congress made up shortfalls with money from general funds.

In 1983, in order to gain support for an increase of $.05 in the gas tax from lawmakers from the Northeast who wanted money for mass transit, Congress agreed to establish a separate fund for public transportation that would get one out of every five cents collected from the gas tax. This 80% to 20% ratio has lasted ever since.

Now, Republican negotiators are demanding less money for public transportation and more for roads, sparking outrage from Democrats who note that a bipartisan agreement has stood for almost 40 years and that changing the ratio between public transportation and roads will move us backward. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2019, fossil fuels used in transportation produced 29% of U.S. greenhouse gases.

Portman, the lead Republican negotiator, says that Republicans have made a “generous offer” and that it will provide a “significant increase” in transit money. "Democrats, frankly, are not being reasonable in their requests right now,” he said.

Republicans want to deliver money to rural areas where people depend on driving, even though there are far more people who live in areas that benefit from public transportation. Rural areas, of course, are far more likely than urban areas to be full of Republican voters.

Democrats in the House are eager to address climate change. On July 21, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and 30 Democratic members of the committee wrote to Pelosi and Schumer to urge them to include instead the terms of the INVEST in America Act the House passed on a bipartisan basis earlier this month. That bill offered a forward-looking transportation package that expanded public transportation even as it called for road and bridge repair. “We can’t afford to lock in failed highway-centric policies for another five years,” they wrote.

But there is a larger story behind this transportation bill than the attempt of Republicans to change a longstanding formula to keep themselves in power. Republicans who are not openly tying themselves to the former president want to pass this measure because they know it is popular and they do not want Democrats to pass another popular law alone, as they did with the American Rescue Plan when Republicans refused to participate.

Democratic leadership wants to work with those Republicans to pass a bipartisan bill because it will help to drive a wedge though the Republican Party, offering an exit ramp for those who would like to leave behind the increasing extremism of the Trump Republicans.

Trump Republicans are, indeed, becoming more extreme as the House’s select committee on January 6 takes shape. After the Senate rejected a bipartisan commission to investigate the insurrection, House Speaker Pelosi and the House voted to establish a select committee. Its structure was based on one of the many committees established by the Republican-controlled House to investigate the attack on U.S. government facilities in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012. It permitted the minority to name 5 members, to be approved by the Speaker.

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) tried to undercut the committee by appointing three members who had challenged the counting of the certified votes on January 6, including Jim Jordan (R-OH), who was at a December meeting with Trump and other lawmakers when they discussed protesting the vote count on January 6, and Jim Banks (R-IN), who attacked the committee, saying: “Make no mistake, Nancy Pelosi created this committee solely to malign conservatives and to justify the Left’s authoritarian agenda.” When Pelosi rejected Jordan and Banks, McCarthy pulled all five of his appointees.

But Pelosi had already established the committee’s bipartisanship when she appointed Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), a staunch Republican who voted with Trump more than 90% of the time but who openly blamed him for the January 6 insurrection. Today, Pelosi added Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) to the committee as well.

Kinzinger is an Iraq War veteran who was one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in January. “Let me be clear, I’m a Republican dedicated to conservative values, but I swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution—and while this is not the position I expected to be in or sought out, when duty calls, I will always answer,” Kinzinger said in a statement.

McCarthy promptly tweeted that the committee had no credibility because Pelosi had “structured the select committee to satisfy her political objectives.”

McCarthy is scrambling, not least because he will almost certainly become a witness for the committee.

But there is more. With Trump out of office, pressure is ramping up on those who advanced his agenda. News broke on Thursday that the FBI had received more than 4500 tips about Brett Kavanaugh during his nomination proceeding for confirmation to the Supreme Court, and had forwarded the most “relevant” of those to the White House lawyers, who buried them, enabling the extremist Kavanaugh to squeak into a lifetime appointment to the court.

In Georgia, law enforcement officers indicted 87 people in what they are calling the largest gang bust ever in the state. Seventy-seven are part of the “Ghostface Gangsters” gang of white supremacists whose network stretched from Georgia to South Carolina to Tennessee. “The gang’s culture, structure, leadership, chain of command, and all involved in the furtherance of this ongoing criminal enterprise have been charged,” law enforcement officers said.

Meanwhile, vaccinated Americans are becoming increasingly angry at the unvaccinated Trump supporters who are keeping the nation from achieving herd immunity from the coronavirus. Some Republicans are starting to call for their supporters to get vaccinated.

As pressure mounts, McCarthy is not the only one who has signed onto the post–January 6 Trump party who is ramping up his rhetoric. This weekend, when presented with a gun, Trump’s disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn told the crowd, “Maybe I’ll find somebody in Washington, D.C.”

Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ), who has been linked to the planning for the January 6 insurrection, suggested at an Arizona rally for the former president last night that the rioters were peaceful and that the real criminals were “insiders from the FBI and DOJ.” It seems likely he is hoping to discredit those organizations before more information comes out.

At the same rally, the former president spoke for almost two hours, reiterating his lie that he won the 2020 election and suggesting he would be reinstated into the White House before the next election. (He was weirdly fixated on routers.) He blamed Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, former Vice President Mike Pence, and Kavanaugh for his loss of the White House, and praised his former lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

“The radical left Democrat communist party rigged and stole the election,” he said.

A final note tonight: We lost a great American, Bob Moses, today. I don’t want to tack him on to tonight’s letter; he deserves his own. So hold this space. Until then, Rest in Power, Dr. Moses.

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July 26, 2021 (Monday)

As the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol starts its work, former president Trump and his supporters are consolidating their power over the Republican Party. Through it, they hope to control the nation.

Trump this morning tried to assert his dominance over the party by issuing a statement in which he demanded that Republican senators scrap the infrastructure bill that has been more than three months in the making. Although he did not note any specific provisions in the bill, he claimed that senators were getting “savaged” in the negotiations because Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “and his small group of RINOs wants nothing more than to get a deal done at any cost to prove that he can work with the Radical Left Democrats.” Trump ordered lawmakers not to do an infrastructure deal “until after we get proper election results in 2022 or otherwise…. Republicans,” he ordered, “don’t let the Radical Left play you for weak fools and losers!”

The term “RINO” comes from the 1990s, when the Movement Conservatives taking over the Republican Party used it to discredit traditional Republicans as “Republicans In Name Only.” It reversed reality—the Movement Conservatives were the RINOs, not the other way around—but it worked. Movement Conservatives, who wanted to get rid of the New Deal and take the government back to the 1920s, pushed aside traditional Republicans who agreed with Democrats that the government should regulate business, provide a basic social safety net, and promote infrastructure.

Now, the former president is doing the same thing: claiming that the Movement Conservatives who now dominate the leadership of the Republican Party are not really Republicans. True Republicans, he says, are those loyal only to him.

He is using the infrastructure bill as a loyalty test. The reality is that an infrastructure package is very popular, and walking away from it will cost Republicans in states that are not fully under Trump’s sway. A new poll by the Associated Press and NORC at the University of Chicago (NORC is the nonpartisan National Opinion Research Center affiliated with the university) finds that 83% of Americans, including 79% of Republicans and 80% of Independents, want funding for roads, bridges, and ports. Sixty-six percent of Americans, including 43% of Republicans and 53% of Independents, want to pay for it with higher taxes on corporations.

Walking away from those kinds of numbers seems like political poison, and yet the discussions to whip the bipartisan bill into shape seemed to veer off track today.

The demand for Republican loyalty is playing out as the January 6 committee gets down to business. Organizing that committee has driven a wedge through Republican lawmakers. After an initial period in which leaders like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) expressed outrage and a desire to learn what had created the January 6 crisis, the leaders have lined up behind the former president. Emboldened, Trump’s supporters have become more aggressive in their insistence that they, not those interested in stopping a future insurrection, are the good guys.

After Republican senators rejected the establishment of a bipartisan select commission and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) set up a House select committee instead, McCarthy tried to sabotage the committee by putting on it two extreme Trump supporters out of the five slots he was assigned. He named Jim Jordan (R-OH) but pretty clearly expected Pelosi would toss him and put up with Jim Banks (R-IN), whom McCarthy had named the ranking member of the committee. Banks was on record attacking the committee as a leftist plot, and could undermine the committee’s work while getting enough media time to launch him as a national political candidate (his hiring of Fox News Channel host Tucker Carlson’s son long before this indicated his hope for good media coverage for a possible swing at a higher office).

But Pelosi didn’t play. She refused to accept either Jordan or Banks, prompting McCarthy to pull all five of his nominees. She had already chosen Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) as one of her eight seats on the committee; yesterday she added Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) as well. Both Cheney and Kinzinger are Movement Conservatives, but they are not willing to jump on the Trump bandwagon.

Today, when PBS correspondent Yamiche Alcindor asked McCarthy what he thought of Cheney and Kinzinger’s participation on the committee, he called them “Pelosi Republicans.” He has suggested that they might face sanctions from the party for their cooperation with the committee.

Both Cheney and Kinzinger voted for Trump. Cheney voted with Trump more than 90% of the time. Kinzinger voted with him 99% of the time in the president’s first two years in office. Trying to make them into Democrats because they did not support the insurrection is a double-edged sword. McCarthy is trying to read them out of the Republican Party, for sure, but he is also tying the entire party to Trump, and it seems likely—from Trump’s rising panic, if nothing else—that the committee will discover things that will not show the former president and his supporters in a good light.

Today Representative Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), chair of the select committee and of the House Homeland Security Committee, published an op-ed in the Washington Post. He noted that in a recent CBS News survey, 72% of Americans said they thought there was more to learn about what happened on January 6. He promised that “nothing will be off-limits” as the committee figures out “what happened, why and how. And we will make recommendations to help ensure it never happens again.”

Along with Thompson, Liz Cheney will deliver opening remarks from the committee before it begins to hear the testimony of Capitol Police.

But McCarthy and other Trump supporters are doing all they can to derail the investigation into what happened on January 6. The committee’s work is not a criminal investigation: that is the job of the Department of Justice, which has already charged more than 535 people for their actions in the insurrection. The committee will try to piece together the events leading up to January 6, along with why the response from law enforcement was so delayed. It will look at the response of the White House, as well as the funders and organizers of the rallies of January 5 and 6. It will look at members of Congress, and how they intersected with the events of that day.

Politico’s congressional reporter Olivia Beavers reported that McCarthy will try to counter the committee’s first hearing tomorrow morning with a press conference. Sometime later in the day, Representatives Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ), staunch and vocal Trump supporters all, are planning a press conference outside the Department of Justice, where they plan to demand “answers on the treatment of January 6th prisoners” from Attorney General Merrick Garland.

One of the hallmarks of a personality like that of former president Donald Trump is that he cannot stop escalating. It’s not that he won’t stop; it’s that he can’t stop. And he will escalate until someone finally draws a line and holds it.

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July 27, 2021 (Tuesday)

This morning, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol began its hearings with testimony from two Capitol Police officers and two Metropolitan Police officers.

After Representatives Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Liz Cheney (R-WY) opened the hearing, Sergeant Aquilino Gonell and and Officer Harry Dunn of the Capitol Police, and Officer Michael Fanone and Officer Daniel Hodges of the Metropolitan Police, recounted hand-to-hand combat against rioters who were looking to stop the election of Democrat Joe Biden and kill elected officials whom they thought were standing in the way of Trump’s reelection. They gouged eyes, sprayed chemicals, shouted the n-word, and told the officers they were going to die. They said: “Trump sent us.”

Lawmakers questioning the officers had them walk the members through horrific video footage taken from the officers’ body cameras. The officers said that one of the hardest parts of the insurrection for them was hearing the very people whose lives they had defended deny the horror of that day. They called the rioters terrorists who were engaged in a coup attempt, and called the indifference of lawmakers to those who had protected them “disgraceful.” “I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them and the people in this room,” Fanone said. “But too many are now telling me that hell doesn’t exist, or that hell wasn’t actually that bad.”

The officers indicated they thought that Trump was responsible for the riot. When asked if Trump was correct that it was “a loving crowd,” Gonell responded: “To me, it’s insulting, just demoralizing because of everything that we did to prevent everyone in the Capitol from getting hurt…. And what he was doing, instead of sending the military, instead of sending the support or telling his people, his supporters, to stop this nonsense, he begged them to continue fighting.” The officers asked the committee to make sure it did a thorough investigation. “There was an attack carried out on January 6, and a hit man sent them,” Dunn testified. “I want you to get to the bottom of that.”

The Republicans on the committee, Representatives Adam Kinzinger (IL) and Liz Cheney (WY) pushed back on Republican claims that the committee is partisan.

“Like most Americans, I’m frustrated that six months after a deadly insurrection breached the United States Capitol for several hours on live television, we still don’t know exactly what happened,” Kinzinger said. “Why? Because many in my party have treated this as just another partisan fight. It’s toxic and it’s a disservice to the officers and their families, to the staff and the employees in the Capitol complex, to the American people who deserve the truth, and to those generations before us who went to war to defend self-governance.”

Kinzinger rejected the Republican argument that the committee should investigate the Black Lives Matter protests of summer 2020, saying that he had been concerned about those protests but they were entirely different from the events of January 6: they did not threaten democracy. “There is a difference between breaking the law and rejecting the rule of law,” Kinzinger observed. (Research shows that more than 96% of the BLM protests had no violence or property damage.)

The officers and lawmakers both spoke eloquently of their determination to defend democracy. Sergeant Gonell, a U.S. Army veteran of the Iraq War who emigrated from the Dominican Republic, said: "As an immigrant to the United States, I am especially proud to have defended the U.S. Constitution and our democracy on January 6.” Adam Schiff (D-CA) added: “If we’re no longer committed to a peaceful transfer of power after elections if our side doesn’t win, then God help us. If we deem elections illegitimate merely because they didn’t go our way rather than trying to do better the next time, then God help us.”

Cheney said: “Until January 6th, we were proof positive for the world that a nation conceived in liberty could long endure. But now, January 6th threatens our most sacred legacy. The question for every one of us who serves in Congress, for every elected official across this great nation, indeed, for every American is this: Will we adhere to the rule of law? Will we respect the rulings of our courts? Will we preserve the peaceful transition of power? Or will we be so blinded by partisanship that we throw away the miracle of America? Do we hate our political adversaries more than we love our country and revere our Constitution?”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) both said they had been too busy to watch the hearing. But the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, John Thune of South Dakota, called the officers heroes and said: “We should listen to what they have to say.”

Republicans are somewhat desperately trying to change the subject in such a way that it will hurt Democrats. Shortly before the hearing started, McCarthy House Republican conference chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who was elected to that position after the conference tossed Liz Cheney for her refusal to support Trump after the insurrection; and Jim Banks (R-IN), whom McCarthy tried to put on the committee and who promised to undermine it, held a press conference. They tried to blame House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for the attack on the Capitol, a right-wing talking point, although she, in fact, has no control over the Capitol Police.

Shortly after the hearing ended, some of the House’s key Trump supporters—Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Bob Good (R-VA), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA)—tried to hold a press conference in front of the Department of Justice, where they promised to complain about those arrested for their role in the January 6 insurrection, calling them “political prisoners.” The conference fell apart when protesters called Gaetz a pedophile (he is under investigation for sex trafficking a girl), and blew a whistle to drown the Republican lawmakers out.

This story is not going away, not only because the events of January 6 were a deadly attack on our democracy that almost succeeded and we want to know how and why that came to pass, but also because those testifying before the committee are under oath.

Since the 1950s, when Senator Joe McCarthy (R-WI) pioneered constructing a false narrative to attract voters, the Movement Conservative faction of the Republican Party focused not on fact-based arguments but on emotionally powerful fiction. There are no punishments for lying in front of television cameras in America, and from Ronald Reagan’s Welfare Queen to Rush Limbaugh’s “Feminazis” to the Fox News Channel personalities’ warnings about dangerous Democrats to Rudy Giuliani’s “witnesses” to “voter fraud” in the 2020 election, Republicans advanced fictions and howled about the “liberal media” when they were fact-checked. By the time of the impeachment hearings for former president Trump, Republican lawmakers like Jim Jordan (R-OH) didn’t even pretend to care about facts but instead yelled and badgered to get clips that could be arranged into a fictional narrative on right-wing media.

Now, though, the Movement Conservative narrative that “socialist” Democrats stole the 2020 election, a narrative embraced by leading Republican lawmakers, a story that sits at the heart of dozens of voter suppression laws and that led to one attempted coup and feeds another, a narrative that would, if it succeeds, create a one-party government, is coming up against public testimony under oath.

"The American people deserve the full and open testimony of every person with knowledge of the planning and preparation for January 6th,” Cheney said today. “We must also know what happened every minute of that day in the White House—every phone call, every conversation, every meeting leading up to, during, and after the attack.” She added: “We must issue and enforce subpoenas promptly.”

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July 28, 2021 (Wednesday)

It appears that it is finally infrastructure week.

Today, negotiators hammered out a deal on a bipartisan bill, which includes $550 billion in new spending. This evening, the Senate voted to move the bill forward by a vote of 67 to 32, with 17 Republicans joining all the Democrats to begin debate on the measure.

The bill is not fully hammered out yet, and the Congressional Budget Office, which examines bills to see how much they will cost, has not yet produced a final number, but it appears that the bill will cost about $1.2 trillion over 8 years. It puts together unspent monies from other programs and from new “user fees” to pay for it, but Republicans demanded that funds to increase funding for the IRS to enable it to crack down on tax cheats, who cost the United States about $1 trillion a year, be stripped from the bill.

The White House said the bill would create about 2 million “good-paying” jobs a year for the next decade. It provides $110 billion for roads and bridges, $39 billion for public transit, $66 billion for passenger rail, $73 billion to upgrade the electrical grid; $7.5 billion for electrical vehicle chargers on highway corridors, $17 billion for rebuilding our ports, $50 billion for addressing climate change and cybersecurity, and $55 billion for clean drinking water.

The bill also calls for $65 billion to expand broadband internet, tying all Americans into the same grid and lowering prices. In the White House statement, Biden explicitly tied the expansion of broadband to the nation’s 1936 expansion of access to electricity through the Rural Electrification Act. Through that act, the government tried to level the playing field between urban Americans who had electricity through private companies and rural Americans who did not because the profit margins weren’t high enough to make it worthwhile for private companies to bring electricity to them.

Electrification not only enabled rural Americans to enjoy the new products created in the early twentieth century, but also created a new industry of consumer products that helped the post–World War II economy boom. Then, as now, federal funding for a vital infrastructure need opened up the door to government oversight and regulation of that utility, a principle that today’s Republicans oppose, especially when it comes to broadband. (It’s an interesting thought, though: could regulation of publicly supported broadband help address the problem of disinformation on social media?)

That is only one of the ways in which this bipartisan bill remains precarious. There are others. It is always possible that the Republicans cannot muster the 10 votes they need to pass the bill, and continuing to tinker with it is simply a way to run out the clock on the congressional session so that the Democrats cannot get the infrastructure deal they want so badly.

From the other direction, progressive Democrats have made it clear they will not accept this bill, which focuses on “hard” infrastructure like roads and bridges, unless it goes along with a larger “soft” infrastructure bill that focuses on human infrastructure. There are not enough Republican votes to pass that second measure over a Senate filibuster, so it will have to pass the Senate through budget reconciliation, which requires only a simple majority. But that means it will need all 50 Democratic votes, and today Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema said she does not support the bill in its current form. She apparently wants adjustments, but what they are and whether progressives will accept them remains unclear.

Still, the idea of this new, sweeping infrastructure package becoming reality is huge. Former president Donald Trump, who wanted badly to pass an even larger infrastructure bill during his own term of office but who couldn’t do so, has responded to the idea that Biden might manage to pull this off with a demand that Republicans scuttle the entire thing. That several prominent Republicans are ignoring him illustrates the potential of this deal to weaken the Trump supporters in the party as the weight begins to shift toward measures that are popular with voters and away from the party’s more common obstructionism.

News of this historic investment in the country happened to come on the same day researchers Laura Wheaton, Linda Giannarelli, and Ilham Dehry of the Urban Institute think tank, established by the Lyndon Johnson administration to study the results of antipoverty laws passed during its years in power, published a study of the effects of the American Rescue Plan.

That $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package, passed without a single Republican vote and signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11, 2021, was projected to reduce the annual poverty rate to 8.7% for 2021—it had been 13.9% in 2018—and to cut child poverty by more than half. The new study shows that, in fact, the poverty rate for 2021 looks to be on track to hit 7.7%. The study’s authors project the 2021 poverty rate to be highest for Hispanic people (11.8%), non-Hispanic Asian American and Pacific Islanders (10.8%), and Black, non-Hispanic people (9.2%). For white, non-Hispanic people, the rate is projected to be 5.8%.

The study pointed to federal stimulus checks as the more important piece of this development. Those checks alone raised 12.4 million people out of poverty. Taken all together, recent antipoverty measures reduced child poverty from 30.1% to 5.6%.

For all that other issues are getting more dramatic headlines, the infrastructure bill marks a sea change from the past forty years of slashing government investment and regulation to the more traditional vision of a government that promotes the general welfare. The latter vision was behind the Rural Electrification Act that, more than eighty years later, still shapes the national economy. Getting today’s Republicans to sign onto such a measure would be momentous indeed.

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Of course they did. What will it take to get the public to pressure pols to change this?

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Honestly, increasing funding for the IRS will never be a winner with the general public. No amount of logic and explanation will make a difference. They are maybe the most despised agency in the government.

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