“On Wednesday, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that the congressional map New York Democrats enacted back in February was a partisan gerrymander that violated the state constitution and tossed it to the curb. The decision was a huge blow to Democrats, who until recently looked like they had gained enough seats nationally in redistricting to almost eliminate the Republican bias in the House of Representatives. But with the invalidation of New York’s map, as well as Florida’s recent passage of a congressional map that heavily favors the GOP,1 the takeaways from the 2021-22 redistricting cycle are no longer so straightforward.
That’s because much of Democrats’ national redistricting advantage rested on their gerrymander in New York.”
“There are still congressional maps that could get struck down in court, like Florida’s. And there are still states that have yet to finalize a map — like, oh yeah, New York!
In its decision, the New York Court of Appeals endorsed the idea that a neutral special master — essentially, an expert in drawing political maps — should draw New York’s next congressional map. That would presumably lead to a relatively fair map, but the details and exact partisan breakdown are, of course, still a mystery; Democrats could still gain seats from New York’s map when all is said and done (just not as many as from their gerrymander).”
“Both the MORE Act and the legalization bill that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) plans to introduce this spring include unnecessarily contentious provisions that are bound to alienate Republicans who might otherwise be inclined to resolve the untenable conflict between federal prohibition and the laws that allow medical or recreational use of cannabis in 37 states.
According to the latest Gallup poll, 68 percent of Americans think marijuana should be legal, including 83 percent of Democrats and 50 percent of Republicans. Even Republicans who are not crazy about the idea should be able to get behind legislation that would let states set their own marijuana policies without federal interference.
Such legislation can be straightforward. The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017, sponsored by then-Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R–Calif.), consisted of a single sentence that said the federal marijuana ban would not apply to conduct authorized by state law. Its 46 cosponsors included 14 Republicans—11 more than voted for the MORE Act last week.
The Common Sense Cannabis Reform Act, which Rep. Dave Joyce (R–Ohio) introduced last May, is 14 pages long. So far it has just eight cosponsors, including four Republicans, but that still means it has more GOP support than Democrats managed to attract for the 92-page MORE Act, which includes new taxes, regulations, and spending programs.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R–Ky.) thinks Congress never should have banned marijuana, because it had no constitutional authority to do so. He nevertheless voted against the MORE Act, objecting to the “new marijuana crimes” its tax and regulatory provisions would create, with each violation punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
The 163-page preliminary version of Schumer’s bill doubles down on the MORE Act’s overly prescriptive and burdensome approach. It would levy a 25 percent federal excise tax on top of frequently hefty state and local taxes, impose picayune federal regulations, and create the sort of “social equity” programs that gave pause even to Rep. Matt Gaetz (R–Fla.), the MORE Act’s lone Republican cosponsor.
GOP support for marijuana federalism is clear from the fact that 106 Republicans voted last April for the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which would protect financial institutions that serve state-licensed marijuana businesses from federal prosecution, forfeiture, and regulatory penalties. The SAFE Banking Act would already be law if it had not been blocked by Schumer, who insisted that his own bill take priority.
Instead of building on the Republican appetite for letting states go their own way on this issue, Schumer is effectively telling GOP senators their views don’t matter. That makes sense only if he is more interested in scoring political points than in reversing a morally, scientifically, and constitutionally bankrupt policy that should have been abandoned long ago.”
“The grinding battle over congressional redistricting is drawing to a close. And, contrary to expectations that the process would result in big Republican gains, the final House of Representatives map may well improve somewhat for Democrats.
The main reason is gerrymandering — redrawing of district lines for partisan benefit. Republicans built on their existing gerrymanders to try to expand their House advantage, but Democrats fired back even more powerfully with gerrymanders of their own.
Basically, Democrats saved themselves by resorting to a tactic they’ve previously denounced as not only unfair but downright unethical — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called gerrymandering “unjust and deeply dangerous” in 2019. But in the absence of national reforms banning the practice, refusing to gerrymander would have meant effective unilateral disarmament, ceding the GOP a significant advantage in the battle for control over the House.
Redistricting has proceeded like a tug of war. As state legislatures, judges, and commissions have approved new maps, creating more safe or swing districts in various states, the underlying partisanship of the median House district has been pulled in one direction, and then the other. The most powerful pulls came from either state legislatures that gerrymandered, or state courts that struck down certain gerrymandered maps”
“it’s entirely possible, perhaps likely, that Democrats will still lose badly in House elections this fall — the party has a small majority, President Biden is unpopular, and the historical pattern is for the incumbent’s party to struggle in the midterms. But unlike much of the previous decade, the underlying map may be at least somewhat less biased in Republicans’ favor.”
“He helped sink one of Joe Biden’s labor nominees, pushed the president to open new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and hammered the administration over lifting pandemic-era restrictions on the southern border.
No, it’s not a Republican. It’s Mark Kelly.
The Arizona Democratic senator is breaking palpably with the president as he pursues a full six-year term this fall in a once-reliable red state that’s recently become fertile territory for Democrats. Though Kelly has at times sought distance from the president on the border and economic issues during his 16 months in Congress, his recent run of schisms with the White House demonstrates that it’s not just Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) calling her own shots in the Copper State.”
““I tell them when I think they’re not getting stuff right, like in this case. There’s no plan,” Kelly said in an interview, referring to the Title 42 rollback.
He added that he’s talked extensively to the White House and Homeland Security Department: “They understand that this is a real concern and they’re putting together a plan, I just haven’t seen a plan that looks sufficient.””
“Another question is whether, in going for broke trying to pass their dream bill, Democrats will have missed an opportunity to get less sweeping but still significant reforms enacted. Washington is abuzz with news that some Republican senators want to engage in talks about reforming the Electoral Count Act — the law Trump tried to use to get Congress and Vice President Pence to throw out Biden’s wins in key states. Yet leading Democrats like Schumer have so far voiced skepticism of those efforts.
Whether any GOP reform offer is worthwhile depends on the details, and it’s possible no deal will come together. But right now, the alternative appears to be getting no reforms at all.
The unpleasant reality for Democrats is that they’ll only be in a position to pass the agenda they say is necessary if they manage to win more elections. Yet their prospects for doing that in 2022 look bleak, considering Biden’s grim approval numbers. There’s still a chance to make the bipartisan deals they can now, and try to win more elections later. But the time for tilting at windmills is drawing to a close.”
“”The Build Back Better Act relies on a number of arbitrary sunsets and expirations to lower the official cost of the bill,” explains the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), a nonprofit that advocates for balanced budgets. The group’s newly updated analysis of the Build Back Better plan finds that the package will cost an estimated $4.8 trillion over 10 years if all provisions are made permanent—double the price tag applied by the CBO last month.”
“several key parts of the bill are designed to game the CBO’s method for scoring the cost of legislation by setting arbitrary expiration dates even though lawmakers obviously intend for those policies to be permanent fixtures. Probably the best example is the expanded child tax credit, which would expire after just a single year. Other parts of the bill, including the universal pre-K funding and new subsidies for child care, would expire after six years. Expanded subsidies through the Affordable Care Act would last until 2025.
With all those gimmicks in place, the CBO assessment of the bill projects that it will cost about $1.8 trillion and add about $367 billion to the deficit over the next decade.
If all the Build Back Better plan’s proposals were made permanent, however, the final price tag would be $4.8 trillion, and the bill would add about $2.8 trillion to the deficit, according to the CRFB.
“To be sure, lawmakers may choose not to extend some or all of these provisions,” the CRFB analysis states. “However, if they do, they would need to more than double current offsets in order for the bill and the extensions to be paid for. The alternative would be a substantial increase in the debt.””
“many progressives still seem reluctant to engage in any sort of deeper introspection into why they may have alienated former members of their base. Many prefer to cling to the concept of “asymmetric polarization” that blames the widening split solely on conservatives because Republicans have moved farther to the right than Democrats have to the left.
But that view was challenged earlier this year by Kevin Drum, who cited studies showing that, in fact, it had been Democrats who had drifted to the left on issues like immigration, guns, religion and gay marriage.
It is not “both-sides-ism” to point this out. Like others, I have written hundreds of thousands of words about how the Republicans have not only moved hard to the right, but have also gone mad in the process. So this does not suggest any sort of moral equivalence.
The derangement of the GOP, however, has tended to obscure what happened on the left, where elite Democrats have increasingly lost touch with many of the voters who will determine the outcome of the next few elections.
At soccer matches and PTA meetings, or other gatherings of suburban parents, you won’t hear talk of “intersectionality,” or debates about the proper use of pronouns. The words “autocracy” or “authoritarianism” seldom come up; and if you try to define the terms, it’s as likely as not that people will bring up mask and vaccine mandates, cancel culture and what they see as the overreach of the progressive nanny state. References to “white supremacy” are likely to be greeted or with eye rolls or treated as conversation-ending insults.
At times, it seems as if Democrats are speaking a different language than many Americans.”
“Democrats are reportedly considering a one-year extension of the expanded child tax credit, which pays parents $3,000 annually for every child (and an extra $600 for kids under age 6) and is paid out as a refund even for families that owe no federal taxes. Previously, Biden’s plan called for a five-year extension of the child tax credit. As I wrote in September, the five-year extension was a budget gimmick designed to make the tax credit appear to be roughly $700 billion less expensive than it otherwise would be within the standard 10-year budget window. In short, Democrats were signalling that the expanded child tax credit would be permanent, but they were only accounting for half of what it would actually cost to make it permanent.
A one-year extension would be mashing that same “gimmick” button even harder.
In a similar way, Democrats are also reportedly considering a shorter-than-planned extension of the expanded Obamacare subsidies made available during the pandemic. Instead of being extended permanently, those provisions would technically expire after three years—even though everyone knows they are likely to be extended past that sunset date.
“These proposals don’t actually shrink the package; they just shorten it,” says Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), a nonprofit that advocates for balanced budgets. The CRFB estimates that the twin “blatant budget gimmicks” involving the child tax credit and Obamacare subsidies could hide between $1.5 trillion and $2.4 trillion in future spending, depending on other trade-offs in the final package. Even if the final bill is $1.9 trillion and requires no new borrowing on paper, the CRFB warns that the actual price tag could be as much as $4 trillion with much of the hidden cost financed by adding to the deficit.”