“President Joe Biden signed a bona fide international climate treaty…one that was ratified in the Senate with bipartisan support in a 69-27 vote. Twenty-one Republicans supported ratification in September, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.”
“If fully implemented, the measure would avert upward of 0.5 degrees Celsius — almost 1 degree Fahrenheit — of warming by the end of the century. Keeping in mind that the Paris climate agreement aims to hold the rise in global average temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius, the Kigali Amendment would take a big step toward that goal. And it builds on one of the most successful efforts to prevent an environmental disaster in history.”
“Countries around the world convened to try to solve the problem, and in 1987, developed the Montreal Protocol. It was the first treaty to be ratified by every country in the world. Countries began to phase out CFCs entirely. And it worked. The ozone layer is on track to heal entirely. By 2065, the Montreal Protocol is estimated to have prevented 443 million skin cancer cases, 2.3 million skin cancer deaths, and more than 63 million cases of cataracts in the United States alone, according to the State Department.”
“There was an unanticipated problem as well. CFCs were replaced with another class of chemicals called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in many applications. While HFCs aren’t as damaging to the ozone layer, they are powerful greenhouse gases. The Kigali Amendment, drafted in 2016, aims to zero out HFCs as well.”
“why did so many Republicans back Kigali when they’ve criticized just about every other major international environmental agreement? Recall that many Republican lawmakers cheered when then-President Trump began the process of withdrawing the US from the Paris climate accord.
Part of the reason for Kigali’s success may be that conservative stalwarts Margaret Thatcher, a former chemist, and Ronald Reagan, a skin cancer survivor, were framers of the initial Montreal Protocol.
Another is that the amendment comes packaged with solutions. There are already climate-friendly refrigerants on the market, and appliance manufacturers are eager to deploy them. Some lawmakers see this as an opportunity to play to the US’s strengths.
“This amendment will give American manufacturers the ability to continue exporting sustainable coolants and the products that depend on them,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) in a statement. “Not only does this create tens of thousands of jobs here at home, it protects our markets from becoming a dumping ground for China’s outdated products.””
“Mitch McConnell didn’t know what he was doing when he passed the 2018 Farm Bill. The bill included his provision that legalized industrial hemp, a form of cannabis that can be made into a wide variety of products including cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating cannabis compound commonly called CBD. That part was intentional — the law quickly launched a multi-billion dollar industry that put the once-obscure CBD compound into lattes, seltzers and hundreds of CVS stores across the country.
But after three years it appears one of the law’s biggest impacts was entirely unintentional: It accidentally created a booming market for synthetic THC, marijuana’s primary intoxicant.
The same type of CBD that’s for sale at CVS is now being synthetically converted into THC and packaged into vape cartridges and gummy bears. Thanks to a loophole in the 2018 Farm Bill, these drugs are marketed as a “legal high” and sold online and in states where marijuana remains illegal.
But chemists warn that these drugs can contain hazardous solvents, acids and unknown compounds. When FiveThirtyEight legally purchased hemp-derived THC products for testing, we found illegal levels of THC and a variety of mystery compounds that could not be identified. There are no federal safety testing requirements for these products, and while hemp companies occasionally publish test results, some brands have been caught using fake test documents.”
“The hemp industry has quickly moved past selling just Delta-8-THC and is now offering an increasingly long list of synthetic cannabinoids that they can ship directly to your door.”
“McConnell has spent years fighting for hemp legalization and, in particular, the legalization of CBD in an effort to appease his home state’s farmers. He made hemp legalization a campaign issue in 2013 and, when the Drug Enforcement Agency blocked Kentucky’s farmers from growing CBD-rich hemp under an earlier pilot program, the senator publicly fought the agency until the DEA backed down.
When it came to writing the 2018 law, McConnell apparently didn’t want to take any chances with the DEA. His provision permanently removed hemp from the Controlled Substance Act”
“The five professional chemists we spoke to for this piece were all particularly concerned by the sale of synthetic cannabinoids like Delta-8-THC-O acetate, which are both synthetically made and synthetically designed (unlike Delta-8-THC, which can be found naturally in cannabis). These types of synthetic cannabinoids were first invented by the pharmaceutical industry and can react with our internal cannabinoid receptors in unnaturally strong ways.”
“The idea of a “limit” or “ceiling” on the public debt sounds like an important constraint on borrowing, the kind of thing the Constitution demands to keep a runaway White House in check. In reality, it’s a 20th century innovation, originally intended to give more, not less, authority to the president. A measure born of necessity during World War I and World War II to allow the Wilson and Roosevelt administrations greater leeway in financing government operations has evolved into a partisan noose.
Understanding the origins of the debt limit places into sharp focus how radical its current weaponization really is.
The U.S. government has always borrowed money to finance its operations. The total amount of outstanding debt hovered below $100 million in the years prior to 1860 but rose to over $2.7 billion during the Civil War. By the end of the 19th century, it stood at roughly $2 billion, a figure that more or less remained steady until World War I, when military mobilization necessitated a wave of borrowing, causing the national debt to balloon to $27 billion.
Less important than how much the government owed was the mechanism by which it raised debt. Prior to World War I, Congress authorized specific debt issuances. During the Civil War the legislative branch passed several bills permitting the Treasury Department to sell bonds at specific maturities and coupons. One popular issuance were 5-and-20s, which paid 6 percent annual interest over a 20-year maturity date, with an option allowing the government to redeem the face value after five years. Hundreds of thousands of Northern citizens purchased the government paper in a show of patriotic fervor. Generally speaking, new debt authorizations were earmarked for specific purposes — for instance, Panama Canal bonds, which could be used only to finance construction of the historic commercial passageway between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Until World War I, the Treasury Department enjoyed little leeway in rolling over or consolidating existing issuances, devising the terms of new debt offerings or moving funds between one committed stream and another. Congress largely dictated the terms; the Treasury Department’s principal role was to market and administer public debt instruments. This disparate system worked well enough when government borrowing remained at modest levels, but during World War I, the sharp spike in borrowing and spending made the old system impractical. The Wilson administration needed flexibility to raise and commit money for war production. In response to this reality, Congress for the first time set aggregate levels of debt financing and granted the Treasury Department more freedom to move money where it was needed. It was the origin of what we know today as the debt ceiling, though specific issuances — for instance, Liberty Loans — still retained their own statutory limits.
Beginning in 1941 the system evolved further, when Congress passed the first of a series of Public Debt Acts that both raised (on several occasions) the overall debt ceiling and consolidated all borrowing authority under the Treasury Department. Going forward, different departments and agencies borrowed what they needed from Treasury, which in turn issued, managed and marketed debt within the statutory limit. It’s effectively how things work today. “
“While McConnell initially seemed genuinely outraged by the riot and the presidential “lies” that “provoked” it, he pretty quickly abandoned any thought of trying to separate the Republican Party from the Trump personality cult.
“Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty,” McConnell said after voting to acquit him (based on the position that former presidents cannot be tried in the Senate). “There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day. The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president. And their having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth. The issue is not only the president’s intemperate language on January 6th….It was also the entire manufactured atmosphere of looming catastrophe—the increasingly wild myths about a reverse landslide election that was being stolen in some secret coup by our now-president.”
But McConnell eventually decided that Trump’s domination of the GOP was inescapable, which meant there was no political advantage to be gained by dwelling on the former president’s reckless conspiracy mongering or the violence it inspired. Based on that assumption, it’s better for the party if any further interest in those subjects can be easily dismissed as blatantly partisan.”
“On President Donald Trump’s final full day in office, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blamed him by name for the riot that occurred at the US Capitol on January 6.
“The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like,” McConnell said Tuesday on the Senate floor.
McConnell has reportedly privately expressed interest in purging Trump from the Republican Party, but this was his sharpest public rebuke yet of a president he stood by through an impeachment, a disastrous pandemic response, and a never-ending string of scandals.”
“While it’s good that McConnell is now willing to call out Trump by name, it’s not like he’s blameless. For one, even though the Trump campaign and its allies were unable to produce any evidence of large-scale fraud, McConnell didn’t recognize Biden’s victory until December 15, when he delivered remarks on the Senate floor congratulating the president-elect and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their victory.”
“The bottom line is the departing president is no longer useful to the soon-to-be minority leader in particular, and establishment Republicans more broadly, who received little help from Trump as their party lost two Senate runoffs earlier this month and thus majority control of the chamber. There are no more tax cuts or conservative judges to be had. On the contrary, McConnell has self-interested incentives for speaking out against a president who has heaped scorn on him, not to mention directly endangered his personal safety.
McConnell tossing Trump under the bus on the president’s way out of the White House is a remarkable thing — but it doesn’t mean he’s turned over a new leaf. Instead, he’s already tried to sabotage Biden by refusing to hold a single confirmation hearing for his nominees during the transition period. With President Trump out of the picture, McConnell is likely to resume the role he had when he was minority leader during the early Obama years: obstructing a Democratic president at every turn.”
“After he voted to acquit Donald Trump of inciting the Capitol riot, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.) explained why the former president was guilty. McConnell explained the apparent contradiction by arguing that the Senate does not have the authority to try a former president. But as he conceded, that is “a very close question,” and McConnell’s rationale for his vote is puzzling in light of what he did after the House voted to impeach Trump a month ago. McConnell’s mixed message reflects the predicament of a party that has built its identity around a reckless, unprincipled demagogue whose influence will continue to weigh down Republicans for years to come.
“Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty,” McConnell said in a Senate floor speech on Saturday after seven of his fellow Republicans joined 50 Democrats in voting to convict. “There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day. The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president. And their having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth. The issue is not only the president’s intemperate language on January 6th….It was also the entire manufactured atmosphere of looming catastrophe—the increasingly wild myths about a reverse landslide election that was being stolen in some secret coup by our now-president.”
McConnell rejected the notion that Trump’s rhetoric was typical of the language commonly used by politicians and that it is therefore unreasonable to blame him because some of his supporters took him more literally than he intended. “The leader of the free world cannot spend weeks thundering that shadowy forces are stealing our country and then feign surprise when people believe him and do reckless things,” he said. “Sadly, many politicians sometimes make overheated comments or use metaphors that unhinged listeners might take literally. This was different. This was an intensifying crescendo of conspiracy theories, orchestrated by an outgoing president who seemed determined to either overturn the voters’ decision or else torch our institutions on the way out.”
McConnell also noted that Trump’s “unconscionable behavior” continued after the riot started: “Whatever our ex-president claims he thought might happen that day, whatever reaction he says he meant to produce, by that afternoon, he was watching the same live television as the rest of the world. A mob was assaulting the Capitol in his name. These criminals were carrying his banners, hanging his flags, and screaming their loyalty to him. It was obvious that only President Trump could end this. Former aides publicly begged him to do so. Loyal allies frantically called the administration. But the president did not act swiftly. He did not do his job. He didn’t take steps so federal law could be faithfully executed, and order restored.”
To the contrary, “according to public reports, he watched television happily as the chaos unfolded. He kept pressing his scheme to overturn the election! Even after it was clear to any reasonable observer that Vice President Pence was in danger, even as the mob carrying Trump banners was beating cops and breaching perimeters, the president sent a further tweet attacking his vice president. Predictably and foreseeably under the circumstances, members of the mob seemed to interpret this as further inspiration to lawlessness and violence.”
While Trump urged his supporters to “stay peaceful” in a tweet he posted an hour and 45 minutes after the riot began, McConnell noted, “he did not tell the mob to depart until even later”—more than three hours after the protest turned violent. “Even then,” McConnell said, “with police officers bleeding and broken glass covering Capitol floors, he kept repeating election lies and praising the criminals.”
McConnell’s indictment of Trump, which elaborated on his previous criticism of the former president’s conspiracy mongering and his role in provoking the riot, could have come straight out of the arguments made by the House managers charged with prosecuting the former president. Why did McConnell nevertheless vote to acquit Trump?
“Former President Trump is constitutionally not eligible for conviction,” McConnell said. “There is no doubt this is a very close question. Donald Trump was the president when the House voted, though not when the House chose to deliver the papers. Brilliant scholars argue both sides of the jurisdictional question. The text is legitimately ambiguous. I respect my colleagues who have reached either conclusion. But after intense reflection, I believe the best constitutional reading shows that Article II, Section 4 exhausts the set of persons who can legitimately be impeached, tried, or convicted: the president, vice president, and civil officers. We have no power to convict and disqualify a former officeholder who is now a private citizen.””
“McConnell’s compromise seems to be aimed at appeasing the majority of Americans who supported Trump’s impeachment without alienating the majority of Republicans who did not.”
“Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is no longer holding up the Senate organizing resolution — after two Democrats confirmed that they won’t be blowing up the legislative filibuster any time soon.
In the past few weeks, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and McConnell have been working to negotiate the organizing resolution — which governs committee membership and funding allocation — in the 50-50 Senate. The leaders had previously been at an impasse because McConnell had demanded that Democrats commit to keeping the legislative filibuster intact as part of the resolution — something Schumer was unwilling to do, since it would reduce the party’s leverage in negotiations over future legislation.
Since the organizing resolution could be filibustered — and would need 60 votes to pass — McConnell’s opposition effectively allowed him to block the measure from advancing.
And while he didn’t get the changes to the organizing resolution he wanted, McConnell’s approach still worked, in a way: Amid the impasse over the agreement, two Senate Democrats — Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) — publicly restated that they would not vote to eliminate the filibuster. Without their backing, Democrats simply won’t have the numbers to do a rules change: All 50 members of the caucus would need to get behind a change to the filibuster for it to happen. (This position is consistent with stances both lawmakers have vocalized before.)”
“Twelve of President Ronald Reagan’s nominees were confirmed in his first two days in office, as were 13 of President Bill Clinton’s nominees, seven of President George W. Bush’s, and nine of President Barack Obama’s. President Donald Trump’s cabinet was confirmed more slowly, but the Senate still respected the tradition of holding confirmation hearings prior to Trump’s inauguration.
But so far, no hearings have been held on President-elect Joe Biden’s nominees — meaning Biden could face a serious delay in getting his administration ready to begin governing.
The Senate, which will still be led by Mitch McConnell for a little over a week, is currently out of session and will remain out of session until January 19, the day before President-elect Joe Biden takes office (technically, the Senate will hold brief “pro forma” sessions on the 12th and the 15th, but no business is conducted at these sessions).
As CNN’s Kylie Atwood notes, this is the first time in at least 10 presidential transitions where the incoming president’s nominee to be secretary of state won’t even have a confirmation hearing before that president’s Inauguration Day. And it’s unclear whether any hearings will be held before the Senate is scheduled to reconvene on January 19.”