Senate Committee Approves Climate Treaty

“Overall, the presence of these coolants in the atmosphere accounts for about 11 percent of the rise in global average temperatures attributed to man-made increases in greenhouse gases.

Negotiations for the Kigali Amendment phasing down the usage of these gases by 85 percent over the next 15 years were completed in 2016 in Rwanda, and it has, so far, been ratified by nearly 130 other countries.

Bipartisan comity over what is essentially a treaty addressing climate change has been largely achieved because American manufacturers are the leading developers and suppliers of replacement coolants with significantly lower GWPs.

“The business community applauds the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for its bipartisan vote approving the Kigali Amendment for consideration by the full Senate,” reads the joint industry press release. “This is an important step in ensuring the U.S. joins this global effort while accessing international markets that will grow American jobs. It is a win for the economy, the environment, and U.S. leadership.”

Ingesting the proverbial grain of salt, a 2018 industry analysis found that implementing the Kigali Amendment would slightly reduce U.S. consumer cooling costs. Since it is estimated that unabated HFCs would add 0.4 degrees C to projected man-made warming by 2100, ratification would be a relatively cheap way to address the problem of climate change.”

What’s in the Senate’s new gun control bill

“Under the legislation, $750 million would be allotted over the next five years to help states implement red flag laws, which allow authorities to temporarily confiscate guns from individuals deemed a threat to themselves or others. (Similar laws already exist in 19 states and the District of Columbia.) The legislation allows for the implementation of these programs through mental health, drug and veterans’ courts.

Republicans involved in the negotiations pushed to make sure no one is flagged without “the right to an in-person hearing, an unbiased adjudicator, the right to know opposing evidence, the right to present evidence, and the right to confront adverse witnesses,” as well as a right to bring counsel to the hearing.

“Under this bill, every state will be able to use significant new federal dollars to be able to expand their programs to try to stop dangerous people, people contemplating mass murder or suicide, from being able to have access to the weapons that allow them to perpetrate that crime,” Murphy said in a floor speech.”

“While spouses, co-parents or cohabitating partners convicted of domestic violence are already banned from purchasing firearms, abusers in relationships between people who are not married and live separately are still able to purchase guns, creating the so-called “boyfriend loophole.” (According to Everytown, a gun safety advocacy group, about 70 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner every month.)

Under the new legislation, anyone convicted of domestic violence against a former or current dating partner would be banned from purchasing a weapon.”

“The legislation calls for an expansion of background checks into buyers under 21 years of age, providing three business days for the check into their criminal and mental health history to be completed. If that background check finds something questionable in a potential buyer’s record, the legislation would provide for an additional seven business days to look into the buyer.”

“The bill provides funding for expanding access to mental health services, including making it easier for Americans on Medicaid to use telehealth services and work with “community-based mental health and substance use disorder treatment providers and organizations.” And it would provide additional funding for the national suicide prevention hotline (since guns accounted for a majority of suicide deaths in 2020) while schools would receive funding to increase the number of staff members providing mental health services.”

“The bill also provides $300 million for the STOP School Violence Act for increased security at schools, although some Democrats had expressed concern about this aspect of the bill.”

“The legislation would also require more sellers to register as “Federally Licensed Firearm Dealers,” including anyone who sells guns to “predominantly earn a profit.” These sellers would in turn be required to run background checks on potential buyers and keep records of the sales.

The bill would also impose penalties on “straw” purchasers who buy guns for people who can’t pass a background check.”

Gun safety deal puts Cornyn’s Republican cred on the line

“Cornyn hoped to get as many as 20 Republican votes for his legislation, which would enact new enhanced background checks on people younger than 21, grant states money for red flag laws and crisis intervention and close a loophole on domestic abusers’ firearm access. On Monday the vast majority of the conference voted against advancing the legislation, with 14 Republicans voting to advance the legislation and supportive Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) absent.”

“Faced with a chorus of boos and a rebuke from the Texas GOP over the weekend, Cornyn got a taste of what the reaction could be on the right for Republicans who vote for the Senate’s bill designed to curb mass shootings in America. What’s more, on Monday evening the NRA announced opposition to the package crafted by a quartet of senators that includes Cornyn, whose A+ rating from the gun group is probably about to take a downgrade.”

Biden’s dismal poll numbers imperil Dem Senate control

“Acutely aware of the need to get distance from the president, the four most endangered Democratic incumbents — Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly, Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock, Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan — are increasingly taking steps to highlight their independence from the president and underscore their differences.

Their public pushback against Biden’s plan to lift the Trump-era border restriction known as Title 42 is the most visible expression of the effort to get distance from the president. But the four Democrats are also finding other ways of signaling to voters. They’ve visited the border wall and blocked his nominees. A month before a Trump-appointed judge struck down Biden’s mask mandate on mass transit, three of the four voted in favor of a Republican bill to do just that.

On social media, where they shy away from praise of the president and instead focus on their efforts to prod the White House to action, it’s hard to tell they’ve voted in line with Biden no less than 96 percent of the time.

“In these four states, these are senators just doing the work, keeping their head down, getting things done for their states while the Republicans are obviously tearing each other apart in these primaries,” said Martha McKenna, a Democratic ad maker who previously worked for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

“They are not people who go looking for conflict, they’re not grandstanders. They’re hard working senators willing to say, ‘Yes, I agree with Biden on child tax credits or health care, but look, I’ve got an issue on this issue, or that issue.’””

Romney, a Former Opponent of Jackson, Is One of Her Few Republican Backers

“Three Republicans voted to confirm Jackson: Romney, and Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine. Of those three, only Romney voted last year against confirming Jackson to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, often considered the second-highest court in the land.

After meeting with Jackson last month and reviewing her confirmation hearings, Romney changed his mind, saying he had “concluded that she is a well-qualified jurist and a person of honor.” It was an implicit rejection of the narrative that his fellow Republicans had pushed about the first Black woman to be put forward for the Supreme Court, who many of them portrayed during her confirmation hearings as a liberal extremist who was soft on crime.

“While I do not expect to agree with every decision she may make on the court, I believe that she more than meets the standard of excellence and integrity,” Romney said in a statement this week.

He is, at the moment, seemingly in the middle of everything. He just brokered a bipartisan deal to salvage a $10 billion coronavirus response package that had stalled amid partisan haggling, this time fully paid for by previously allocated federal funds. He is part of bipartisan efforts to rewrite the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which President Donald Trump sought to manipulate to keep himself in office after losing the 2020 election.

And Romney has appealed to Democrats to work with him on legislation to support children and families, now that the expanded child tax credit has expired and President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better safety net legislation is moribund. All of that is coming after he helped deliver what might be the crowning achievement of Biden’s first year in office: the $1 trillion infrastructure bill.

As Democrats have struggled to pull together 50 senators to advance social safety net legislation, they may find that Romney is a more persuadable bet for that pivotal 50th vote than Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the Democrat who has stymied their efforts so far.

“Whenever there is a bipartisan effort to tackle an issue, its success is nearly guaranteed,” Romney said in a recent interview. “Bipartisan efforts pass. What does not pass in a 50-50 Senate is legislation crafted entirely by one party.””

Covid deal hampered by GOP opposition to Biden immigration policy

“Conflict over President Joe Biden’s immigration policy is complicating passage of a $10 billion coronavirus bill before a two-week congressional recess.

Just a day after Republican Sen. Mitt Romney and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced a deal on billions for therapeutics, vaccines and testing, GOP senators threw in a wrench that could mean Congress will break with nothing. Senate Republicans say they want a vote on an amendment that would keep in place the Title 42 border restrictions, which allows limits on immigration due to the pandemic. Without one, they say the bill can’t proceed.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday that “there’s going to have to be an amendment on Title 42 in order to move the bill.” Without agreement among all 100 senators, the Senate will be unable to take up and quickly move the bill this week.”

“The impasse could stall for weeks what Biden called much-needed coronavirus aid, unless senators can reach a deal before they plan to leave on Thursday or Friday. Without a breakthrough, the aid won’t be approved until late April or perhaps May. Republicans blocked a vote advance the bill on Tuesday, though Schumer can quickly bring it back up if there’s a deal on amendments.”

“Democrats already think they’ve conceded plenty to the Republicans after Monday’s bipartisan agreement left out global vaccine funding. So there’s not a ton of enthusiasm for giving Republicans their immigration vote.”

How a Simple Twist of Fate Could End Democrats’ Control of the Senate

“States have a range of laws about replacing a departed senator, but the large majority — 37 — call on the governor to pick a successor. Of those, only seven require the governor to pick someone in the same party. So there are 30 states where the governor can pick whatever new senator he or she wants.

What that adds up to, in practical terms, is that in nine states (as of Jan. 15), a Republican governor has the authority to replace either one or two Democratic senators. If a single Democratic senator in any of those states had to leave office, the Republican governor of that state could appoint a GOP replacement that would immediately give the party a 51-49 Senate majority.”

Joe Biden Says He’s Willing To Kill the Filibuster

“”I believe that the threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills,” Biden said. “Debate them, vote, let the majority prevail. If that majority is blocked, then we have no choice but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster.”
Democrats hold the slimmest possible majority in the Senate, which is currently split 50–50 with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as a tiebreaker. But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) says he’s prepared to bring a pair of election bills to the floor in the coming weeks despite nearly unanimous Republican opposition. The Freedom to Vote Act would limit state-level efforts (led by Republicans) to restrict mail-in voting and absentee balloting, make Election Day a federal holiday, impose new rules for the redistricting process, and require more disclosures from political donors. The second bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, would reimplement a portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that was invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013.

On Tuesday, Biden positioned the two bills as a response to Republican efforts (in Georgia and elsewhere) to tighten election laws, and a necessary rejoinder to former President Donald Trump’s craven efforts (in Georgia and elsewhere) to influence the results of the 2020 election.

“That’s not America,” he said. “That’s what it looks like when they suppress the right to vote.”

Those Republican efforts to impose new rules on elections do indeed run the risk of corroding democracy, and Trump’s attempts to overturn the last presidential election were grotesque and condemnable. Even so, it’s not clear that the Democrats’ proposals make sense. If anything, greater federal control over elections might make it more likely that a future president could exercise undue influence over democratic proceedings.

But whether Democrats can pass those bills after suspending the filibuster might be a moot point because it doesn’t seem like there are 50 votes in the Senate for abolishing the filibuster in the first place.”