Progressive groups are “fed up” with Biden’s infrastructure playbook

“The White House has already cut its initial $2.25 trillion infrastructure proposal by more than $1 trillion, and proposed significant changes to the taxation plan to pay for the infrastructure plan.
The GOP group, meanwhile, has added less than $100 billion in new spending to its initial proposal. The latest Republican plan totals $928 billion but is proposing just $257 billion in new spending, and repurposing the rest of the infrastructure money from unused American Rescue Plan funds.”

“Still, progressive groups are telegraphing their disappointment, especially after the Senate GOP filibustered a bill for a commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill — a violent event led by supporters of President Donald Trump targeting lawmakers of both parties.

“It’s hard to argue Republicans are good faith negotiations when they couldn’t pass that.” Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party, told Vox of the commission bill. “Democrats are attempting to govern, and Republicans have their eyes on 2022 and 2024 and are seeking to get back into power.””

How Republicans Lost Interest in Fighting Big Spending

“The party has changed and would much rather talk about the border than the budget, and cancellations than Congressional Budget Office scores. Of course, no Republicans will vote for Biden’s proposals and all will strenuously object, but that his plans won’t engender the fierce reaction they would have 10 years ago is yet another way in which the Overton window has shifted on deficit spending.

What happened to the GOP? The short answer is Donald Trump.

Beginning in the 2016 primaries, he demonstrated in vivid fashion that as the GOP coalition had become older and more working class, it didn’t care as much about spending restraint or entitlement reform as the party’s leaders had presumed.”

State-level Republicans are making it easier to run over protesters

“In the wake of last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, Republican lawmakers are advancing a a number of new anti-protest measures at the state level — including multiple bills that specifically make it easier for drivers to run down protesters.

The most recent example of such a law came Wednesday, when Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a new law that effectively allows drivers to hit people with a car in a specific set of circumstances.

Under the new law, an Oklahoma driver will no longer be liable for striking — or even killing — a person if the driver is “fleeing from a riot … under a reasonable belief that fleeing was necessary to protect the motor vehicle operator from serious injury or death.”

The measure also creates new penalties for protesters who obstruct streets or vehicle traffic, including hefty fines of up to $5,000 and as much as a year in jail.”

“If the recent spate of anti-protest measures in Florida, Iowa, and Oklahoma is disturbing on its face, however, context does little to make it better. There is a specific history in the US of the far right using cars as weapons, and it’s not hard to see how bills like the one that is now law in Oklahoma might only make things worse.

The most notable example is from August 2017: Heyer, 32, was struck and killed and at least 19 others were injured when neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr. rammed a crowd of counterprotesters in Charlottesville. Fields has since been sentenced to life in prison.

But it’s more than that single incident. According to Ari Weil, the deputy research director for the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, there were at least 72 incidents of cars driving into protesters over a relatively short span in 2020, from May 27 through July 7.

Examples aren’t hard to find. There’s even a Wikipedia page specifically dedicated to “vehicle-ramming incidents during George Floyd protests.” And as Weil explained in an interview with Vox’s Alex Ward last year, “there’s an online environment that for years has been celebrating and encouraging these types of horrendous attacks.”

“What’s particularly worrisome is where those memes spread,” Weil told Vox. “I know of at least four cases where law enforcement officers were sharing these in Facebook groups. [Fields] shared these memes twice in two months before his attack, and other planners of the Unite the Right rally shared these, too.””

“Even more concerning, it’s not always just random people driving through protests. In several cases, police have also used their cars as weapons against protesters. In Detroit last June, an officer drove his police SUV through a crowd, sending protesters flying; two New York police officers did likewise at a Black Lives Matter protest in May 2020.”

America is making climate promises again. Should anyone care?

“in the context of US politics, it reflects the will of a party that is likely to lose control of Congress in 2022. Even in the best-case scenario, it won’t hold Congress all the way through 2030. It can’t help but rely, for any 2030 goal, on some help from Republicans — which it can’t rely on and certainly can’t promise to the international community.”

Republicans Say They Care About Election Fraud. Here’s How They Could Actually Prevent It.

“Republicans care a whole lot about election security these days. Fueled in part by the “Big Lie,” the baseless claim that there was widespread fraud in last year’s election, Republican lawmakers around the country have made an aggressive push to pass new laws to prevent what they saw as a nightmare scenario from happening again. While the motivation to improve election security is spurious, the ostensible goal isn’t — everyone would agree that a secure election is important for democracy. Experts say there’s one very effective way for state legislatures to make the voting process more secure: pass legislation to update voting machines. But instead of prioritizing this effort, many Republicans are instead focused on limiting voter access.”

“The gold standard for voting security is hand-marked paper ballots, according to security experts. That’s because a paper ballot eliminates the risk of technical difficulties or certain kinds of malicious acts (think hacking) that could change or destroy your vote, and any concerns can be addressed with a recount. Because of that, most states currently use hand-marked paper ballots or have voting machines that generate paper records for verification.
But in six states — Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, Tennessee and Texas — some or all voters still cast ballots on machines that have no paper record whatsoever, according to data from Verified Voting. While there’s no evidence that these machines have ever been hacked during an election, it’s technically possible, and they’re also prone to all kinds of undesirable malfunctions, including losing votes. With no paper backup to audit, these machines are the kind of election security liability that politicians say they’re invested in fixing.

Yet according to FiveThirtyEight’s past reporting and additional calls I made for this story, in five of those six states there has been little or no effort in the past six months to prioritize updating machines with a system that includes a paper record.”

“Instead, state legislatures have been flooding the docket with bills relating to the length of early voting periods, the placement of ballot drop boxes and whether volunteers can give voters waiting in line a bottle of water. Meanwhile, just a handful of bills about upgrading equipment — often without any funding attached — have trickled in, only to lose momentum and die before reaching a committee.”

““Unfortunately, I think the idea of security has basically been an excuse to limit access,” said Lawrence Norden, director of the Brennan Center’s Election Reform Program. “If we really want to ensure that our elections are trustworthy and transparent, we can do that without limiting access.””

The GOP whitewash of the Capitol attack shows the need for a January 6 commission

“As CNN and other outlets have reported previously — and pro-impeachment Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) confirmed in a statement in February — McCarthy spoke with Trump while the riots were still ongoing and pleaded with Trump to call his supporters off.

According to Herrera Beutler, Trump “initially repeated the falsehood that it was antifa that had breached the Capitol” on the call with McCarthy.

Subsequently, Herrera Beutler said in her February statement, “McCarthy refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters. That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president said: ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.’”

Other Republicans have corroborated Trump’s state of mind as the attack was unfolding. According to Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), “Donald Trump was walking around the White House confused about why other people on his team weren’t as excited as he was as you had rioters pushing against Capitol Police trying to get into the building.”

If McCarthy is called upon to substantiate Herrera Beutler’s account of the McCarthy-Trump call for the commission, however, it would likely also put McCarthy in an awkward position politically.

That’s because McCarthy’s call with Trump — which reportedly took place as rioters were attempting to break through the minority leader’s office windows — is a reminder of the true severity of the January 6 attacks, and of Trump’s support for the mob, who he described as “very special” in a video later the same day. It’s also increasingly out of step with a Republican conference eager to downplay the insurrection and a former president who is hypersensitive to criticism — and it’s hard to imagine McCarthy looking forward to giving a faithful retelling of January 6 to a potential commission.”

Conservatives Embrace Their Own ‘Wokeness’ With Attacks on Private Businesses

“political news centered on Georgia, where the GOP governor signed a package of election “reforms” that some mainstream media outlets depict as “Jim Crow 2.0”. Those narratives do a disservice to the African Americans that Jim Crow laws actually victimized, but the legislation—a mix of good, bad, and awful—emanates from Donald Trump’s baseless allegations that election fraud robbed him of a second term.

A number of private executives, in the tech sector and old-line industries, criticized the new law. For instance, Major League Baseball responded by moving the All-Star Game out of Atlanta. Atlanta-based Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola criticized the legislation. Coke’s CEO, for instance, told CNBC that the law “does not promote principles we have stood for in Georgia around broad access to voting, around voter convenience, about ensuring election integrity.”

Republican officials, who have created a cottage industry out of blasting progressives for their cancel-culture habit of boycotting and shaming people who say and do things they don’t like, went into full cancel-culture mode and railed against corporations. The former president championed a boycott of Coca-Cola in zany press releases. One GOP lawmaker introduced a bill to strip Major League Baseball of its antitrust exemption, which is the type of thing one would expect from Warren.

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.), who has never shied away from accepting corporate donations that advance his agenda, used the Georgia fracas to issue his own warnings to corporate America. “Our private sector must stop taking cues from the Outrage-Industrial Complex,” he said, noting that, “corporations will invite serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country from outside the constitutional order.”

As I understand it, our constitutional order is based on the idea that American citizens—including corporate executives—have every right to express their opinions on political issues even if leading senators don’t like the positions they take. That Constitution allows businesses to operate wherever they choose—and do so without threats from federal officials more interested in fighting culture wars than protecting our freedoms.”

Democrats barely passed a bill to increase security at the US Capitol

“A $1.9 billion emergency funding bill to boost security at the US Capitol in the wake of the January 6 insurrection barely passed the House on Thursday. The measure, which would also provide additional personal security for lawmakers facing an intensifying wave of threats and harassment in Washington and their home districts, received no Republican support, and exposed fissures within the Democratic Party over the issue of increasing funding for any police force.

The bill ultimately passed on Thursday, following last-minute negotiations led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with 213 votes for the bill and 212 against.

Every voting Republican voted no on the bill, claiming that it cost too much money and that there was no guarantee the funding would be properly spent enhancing security. Those votes followed recent statements from Republicans that downplayed or outright fabricated facts about the violence that transpired at the Capitol on January 6.

More strikingly, Democrats were not unified among themselves. Left-wing members of the House, including the members of the so-called Squad, broke from the party out of what could be described as a defund-the-police rationale.”

Texas Republicans want Biden to play the villain. They just need to make it stick.

“The state, which has no income tax, pulls about a third of its budget from the federal government, a higher share than many other states, he said. That’s partly due to agricultural assistance and federal aid disbursed after natural disasters, but also because Texas has a large share of enrollees in entitlement programs like Medicaid.”

Biden is talking to Republicans, but for only so long

“As vice president, Joe Biden was among those repeatedly pushing President Barack Obama to negotiate with Republicans on everything from health care to fiscal crises — even if it led to delays, watered-down policies or nothing at all.

But these days, Biden and his team, many of whom worked in the Obama administration, are taking a different approach: Talking to Republicans, yes, but doing so with more skepticism and firmer deadlines”

““The lesson that this team learned, beginning with President Biden, from that experience is that there is a cost to waiting too long,” said Jay Carney, who worked for Biden before becoming Obama White House press secretary, and is now an executive at Amazon. “I think everyone is much more realistic about whether bipartisan cooperation is possible.”

Biden, the aides and lawmakers say, believes action is more important than bipartisanship, and is convinced Americans will support him in his efforts. He recognizes that his window for this approach may close by the midterm elections. That’s why, the aides and lawmakers say, he may be willing to give up the reputation, cultivated over decades, as a dealmaking lawmaker if he can be a transformative president who pushes through a once-in-a-generation investment in infrastructure and social programs.

The president will talk with Republicans about his new pair of proposed spending plans — a combined $4 trillion in spending designed to ignite economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic — but he is prepared to back a congressional maneuver that would allow Senate Democrats to pass legislation without GOP support, perhaps within weeks, aides and lawmakers familiar with his thinking say.”