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HCR: Republicans are losing members and will lose even more

Heather Cox Richardson | Letters from an American | February 15

Heather Cox Richardson

Monday federal holidays generally mean that not much gets done. Today was a bit of an exception, since we are dealing with the fallout from the Senate’s refusal to convict former president Trump for the January 6 insurrection.

For the Republicans, that acquittal simply makes the split in the party worse. First of all, it puts the Republicans at odds with the majority of Americans. According to a new ABC/Ipsos poll, 58% of us think Trump should have been convicted, and more than three-quarters of us—77%– think the senators’ votes reflected partisanship rather than the facts.

But Republicans disagree. Trump packed state Republican positions with his supporters because he was afraid he would face primary challengers in 2020, and those loyalists are now defending him. State Republican parties have censured a number of the House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump; of the seven Republican senators who voted to convict, Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Richard Burr (R-NC) have already been censured, and a censure effort is underway against Susan Collins (R-ME), Ben Sasse (R-NE), and Pat Toomey (R-PA). According to a new Quinnipiac poll, 75% of Republicans want Trump to continue to lead the party.

But 21% don’t, and between 24% and 28% blame him for the January 6 riot.

That split means the Republican Party, which was already losing members over the insurrection, stands to lose even more of its members if it continues to defer to the former president. Already, the Democratic National Committee has prepared a video advertisement to circulate on digital platforms, highlighting Republicans leaving their party. It includes a clip from former Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele saying that “when you’re losing Republican members and you’re left with QAnon and Proud Boys, you’ve got to reassess whether or not you are even close to being a viable party.” The video ends with Biden urging Americans to come together and to “help us unite America and build back better.”

For Democrats, the Senate trial put on display for the American public an impressive group. Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD) gave the lead impeachment manager from Trump’s first Senate trial, Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) a run for his money as a model for brains and morals. But Raskin was not alone. Delegate Stacey Plaskett (D-US Virgin Islands) and Representative Joseph Neguse (D-CO), relatively unknown outside of their home districts, got significant positive national attention during the trial, suddenly becoming household names. The entire Democratic team shone and indicated that the young Democrats have quite a deep bench of talent, especially in contrast to the younger Republicans, who seem to excel in media appearances more than in policy.

Democrats recognize that the Senate acquittal means there is considerable interest in an actual accounting of what happened in the insurrection. Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she will urge the House to establish an independent commission, like the one that investigated the 9/11 attacks, to study what led to the storming of the Capitol on January 6. Members of both parties have asked for such a commission.

The Senate trial also gave powerful proof of just how undemocratic the Senate has become. Voting rights journalist Ari Berman noted that the “57 senators who voted to convict Trump represent 76.7 MILLION more Americans than 43 senators who voted to acquit.”

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne noted that the adherence of all but seven senators to Trump “should end the absurd talk that there is a burden on President Biden to achieve a bipartisan nirvana in Washington. If most Republicans can’t even admit that what Trump did is worthy of impeachment, how can anyone imagine that they would be willing and trustworthy governing partners?”

Dionne added that the acquittal made an overwhelming case for getting rid of the filibuster, which in its current incarnation effectively means that no legislation can pass without support from 60 senators. Thanks to the 50-50 split in the Senate, getting to 60 means getting 10 Republican votes. This is impossible, Dionne says, because clearly “There are not 10 Republican Senate votes to be had on anything that really matters.”

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden is simply working around Republican lawmakers, starting with the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. Republicans in Congress overwhelmingly stand against the bill, in part because it calls for $350 billion to provide aid to states and cities. But Republican governors and mayors are desperate for the assistance. Republican voters like it, too.

Last Friday, Biden invited governors and mayors from both parties to the White House to ask them what they needed most. The Republican mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez, told reporters that he had had more contact with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in the first weeks of their administration “than I had spoken to the prior administration in the entirety.”

Biden is about to hit the road to try to convince Senate Republicans to support the relief package, going directly to the people to sell his ideas.

The Democrats also have another trick to lay on the table to get Republican support. Today, Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced they would back the return of a new version of so-called “earmarks,” more formally known as “member-directed spending,” in legislation.

These “Community-Focused Grants,” as the new lingo calls them, are funds that individual congress members can direct toward their districts. In the past, earmarks were made by lawmakers and were occasionally havens for corruption—which is what people remember—but even at their worst, they made up less than 1.1% of federal spending and tended to actually produce things that districts needed.

Democrats cleaned the system up before then-House Speaker John Boehner declared a moratorium on it in 2011. After the ban, the government still targeted federal money to get votes, but the power to make those calls shifted to the executive branch rather than Congress. For much federal spending, Congress appropriates the amounts but the executive branch decides where to spend it. A 2020 congressional study established that presidents use that money “to influence policy and support their preferred projects without receiving approval from Congress.” To that, we can add that a president targeted federal money to try to buy reelection.  

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Marjorie Taylor Greene ovation shows why Democrats shouldn’t deal with GOP

Republican members of Congress have not shown the necessary respect for their oaths of office to be treated as the loyal opposition.

By Max Burns, Democratic strategist

After a week trying to bring Senate Republicans into a bipartisan deal, Democrats are moving unilaterally to advance President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief plan. In other words, they’re doing what they should have been doing all along.

So long as that unpunished extremism remains, Democrats owe it to the American people to shun the party.

Until congressional Republicans show accountability for their role in the inciteful rhetoric and conspiracies that led to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Democrats shouldn’t be engaging with them. For all of Biden’s laudable talk about unity, and the upsides to passing major legislation in a bipartisan manner, as of now the Republican members of Congress have not shown the necessary respect for their oaths of office to be treated as the loyal opposition.

Seeking bipartisanship with the GOP as it exists today is a threat to good government. Negotiating with the party hitches Democratic — and American — interests to a group whose members include people not only disinterested in but hostile to the workings of democracy.

It’s a far cry from the party of George H.W. Bush, who in 1991 led the GOP in booting Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke over his lifelong white supremacy and unapologetic anti-Semitism. In its place is a party willing to condemn extremism in general while Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a freshman Republican from Georgia, weaves another variation on Duke’s anti-Semitism even as she carries on the fight to undermine trust in the 2020 election. Biden is under no obligation to extend a drop of legitimacy to such demagogues.

The GOP can start the process of reform by expelling Greene from the House. Greene has harassed a teenage survivor of the Parkland mass shooting, endorsed violence against Democrats both generally and by name, and cheered on the right-wing extremists who killed a police officer and injured 140 others at the Capitol. Not only has Greene violated her oath of office, she is mocking its exhortation to protect the United States from “all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Prominent Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have been uncharacteristically direct about the threat Greene poses to both the GOP and democratic norms. In a statement Monday, McConnell criticized Greene’s “loony lies and conspiracy theories,” calling them “cancer for the Republican Party and our country.” (Though even in condemnation, McConnell places damage to the Republican brand ahead of the risk Greene and her fellow insurrectionist apologists pose to the country.) Continue reading

“The federal government has gone dark”

By Heather Cox Richardson 1/10/21

Unbelievably, it was only a week ago—last Sunday—that we learned Trump had called Georgia’s Secretary of State and pressured him to change the results of the 2020 election. Trump demanded that Brad Raffensperger “find” the 11,780 votes Trump needed to win Georgia. The news of the attempt to get an election official to overrule the will of the people was astonishing: at the time, it was the worst domestic attack on our democracy ever, coming, as it did, from a sitting president. 

At the time. 

Over the past several days, the picture of what happened on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, has become clearer, and it’s bad. While Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser gave a press conference Wednesday night, there has been not a single official briefing from the White House, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, or Capitol Police. 

The federal government has gone dark.

What we do know is that on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, egged on by Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Alabama Representative Mo Brooks, Don Jr., and especially Trump himself, Trump supporters stormed the Capitol just as Congress was meeting in joint session to confirm Democrat Joe Biden as our new president. They overpowered the Capitol Police—perhaps with the help of some of the officers—breached the doors, and smashed their way through the historic building, shouting for Vice President Mike Pence—whom Trump insisted was at fault for not overturning the count– House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and “traitors” who were counting the electoral votes for Biden. While many of the early pictures from inside the Capitol showed rioters gawking like tourists, ones released this weekend showed violent thugs, carrying plastic handcuffs and seeming to have information about where to find specific members of Congress. They breached the Senate chamber at 2:16, just a minute after the senators made it out. 

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