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Labor, environmental groups warn Biden against ‘watered down’ infrastructure deal

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This is precisely why the majority of Democrats aren’t participating in the bipartisan talks, and why a growing number are demanding a two-part process. They will not support a bipartisan bill that doesn’t adequately address climate change if a budget reconciliation bill that can pass with just Democratic votes isn’t passed simultaneously. While Democrats are demanding that, Republicans are blatantly telling them that they’re just in this whole negotiating process in hopes they can peel off enough moderate Democrats to prevent a reconciliation bill.

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Note that at the same time, no Republican is standing up and promising that they’ll actually vote for any package that might come out of these negotiations. Note also that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell isn’t tipping his hand on this, arguing against any deal. McConnell, just like Moran, has been crystal clear about his objectives. He just said it out loud back in May: “100% of my focus is on stopping this new administration … 100% of my focus is on standing up to this administration.” He promised his caucus is behind him: “What we have in the United States Senate is total unity from Susan Collins to Ted Cruz in opposition to what the new Biden administration is trying to do to this country.”

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How likely is it that the Republicans in this bipartisan group are stringing Democrats along to draw support from a reconciliation bill, only to pull the rug out from under the whole thing and refuse to pass the bipartisan plan? Extremely.

The other expenditures are, according to Politico: “$66 billion for rail; $55 billion for water infrastructure; $65 billion for broadband and $73 billion for power infrastructure. In addition, the group is proposing spending $47.2 billion on climate resiliency, $25 billion for airports, $10 billion on electric buses and $16 billion for ports.” As a benchmark, Biden’s original proposal for $2.25 trillion on the American Jobs Plan includes $115 billion to modernize bridges, highways, and roads. It has another $85 billion for public transit, $80 billion for Amtrak, and $174 billion to build 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations, to electrify 20% of school buses, and to electrify the federal fleet. He’d spend $100 billion on broadband, $25 billion for airports, and $111 billion for water projects.

With Biden ruling out either gas taxes or fees on electric vehicles as revenue measures and Republicans ruling out raising taxes on rich people, how it’s paid for remains the rub. The group now is leaning into the idea that they can strengthen IRS enforcement of current tax law to garner as much as $700 billion. The rest they’ll probably still want to steal from COVID-19 relief funds.

As far as anyone knows, they’re also still talking up those “public-private partnerships” Republicans always love; privatization schemes, in other words. A document circulating from one of the Republicans in the group last week detailed “public/private partnerships” and “asset recycling” and “leveraging private investment,” all of which entail selling infrastructure off to the highest bidder—which was Trump’s big idea back during his many infrastructure weeks.

At American Prospect, David Dayen has critical background for considering just how disastrous this could be, echoing the arguments Democrats made in opposing the idea when Trump was putting it forward. “The biggest money-makers would be favored, they said, and less lucrative projects in rural or impoverished areas shunned,” Dayen writes. “Governments would not only lose ownership but democratic control over roads, water systems, electrical grids, and who knows what else. As companies manage costs, it could lead to less resilient, more dangerous infrastructure. And the public would have a high likelihood of being gouged.”

Every road or bridge you travel that was acquired by private investors could end up a tollway. And if it’s not generating enough revenue, it’s not going to be maintained. It’s also likely to end up costing municipalities—and taxpayers—even more. Dayen provides some recent examples, like Chicago’s decision to sell off 36,000 parking meters to an investment group in 2009. “Chicago drivers will pay $11.6 billion over the 75-year life of the deal to park, and fees are scheduled to rise as much as 800 percent.” When the streets that those parking meters are on are shut down for public events, the city has to pay the private owner of the meters for lost revenue. That’s not a good deal for anyone.

“Communities across the country have been ripped off by public-private schemes that enrich corporations and Wall Street investors,” Food & Water Watch’s Mary Grant said in a statement to Dayen. “It is nothing more than an outrageously expensive way to borrow funds, with the ultimate bill paid back by households and local businesses in the form of higher rates.” It’s not a scheme that any Democrat should be getting anywhere near.


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Thanks to Trump, the GOP’s future doesn’t look very bright to Republican voters

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That 18% sliver of GOP voters who’d like to rid the entire party of Trump has remained notably consistent since the beginning of the year. In February, a Politico/Morning Consult poll found what while 59% of Republicans wanted Trump to play a “major role” in the party, 17% said they “no longer” wanted to him play any role.

Interviews conducted for the AP survey suggest Trump’s divisiveness and baseless election lies could depress GOP voting on both ends of the Trump spectrum—among his most devout followers and never-Trumpers alike.

Nicholas Blethrow, a 28-year old Republican who lives in Orange County, California, called the party “pretty much a disaster” and said its continuing efforts to overturn the 2020 election were “ridiculous.”

“Clearly there’s a lot of people that enjoy him. But I don’t think it’s good,” Blethrow said.

Reedsville, Wisconsin, native Dennis Herzog, 36, identified as a staunch Republican but also said he has found the constant tension between the parties exhausting and is dismayed by “the whole system in general.” 

“It’s nonstop,” Herzog said. “I don’t care who is in office. Just do what’s right for the people and stop picking certain sides.”

The repeated takeaway from polling about Trump is the fact that while he remains a powerful figure in the Republican Party, his dominant presence also poses real challenges for the GOP. While Washington Republicans keep trying to will Trump into talking about the future, his constant harping on the 2020 election continues to sow doubt in the electoral system among his followers. At the same time, some noteworthy sliver of GOP voters wishes he would just dry up and go away, even as their party goes all in on his antics. 

Ideally, at this point, GOP voters would be galvanizing against President Joe Biden, but Trump is still hogging the spotlight—and that could prove detrimental to GOP hopes heading into 2022.


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‘Bloody shirt’ gaslighting hits fruition as Republicans valorize insurrectionists, attack accusers

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Indeed, Stefanik spent the week defending the insurrectionists by attacking Democrats. A few days before, she had joined the right-wing chorus (including Jordan) blaming Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for what they labeled “the so-called insurrection.” 

“The American people deserve to know the truth. That Nancy Pelosi bears responsibility, as speaker of the House, for the tragedy that occurred on January 6,” Stefanik told a press conference. Republican Congressman Liz Cheney tartly observed that she “would be deeply ashamed of myself” for such remarks.

Media Matters’ Eric Kleefeld recently assembled a nearly comprehensive rundown of the many ways that right-wing media have gone all-in on gaslighting the public about what happened on Jan. 6, as well as their culpability for spreading the very same disinformation about the election beforehand (as well as afterward) that was the fuel for the insurrection itself.

The gaslighting included the runup to Jan. 6, particularly the two months following the election when Fox News and an array of right-wing pundits produced a torrent of disinformation suggesting groundlessly that the presidential election results were fraudulent, and that moreover elected Republicans held statutory power to halt the ballot-counting process, another rank falsehood.

It continued even during the insurrection itself. The far-right Gateway Pundit website referred to the rioters as “patriots,” while an Alex Jones guest declared: “This is what happens when Americans rise up.” On Fox News, anchor Bret Baier opined: “It’s not like it’s a siege. … It seems like they are protesting.” A Fox reporter on the scene credulously repeated insurrectionists’ claims: “Aside from the things that were broken getting into the Capitol in terms of doors, they say there is no vandalism taking place.”

Immediately after the insurrection, the gaslighting intensified, with a completely different version of events: It wasn’t really Trump supporters who did it, it was antifa leftists. Gateway Pundit claimed that “at least one bus load of antifa goons infiltrated the Trump rally as part of a false flag operation,” while Fox’s Laura Ingraham speculated that, because she had “never seen Trump rally attendees wearing helmets” and body armor, it seemed unlikely that the insurrectionists were really Trump supporters. (Ingraham was obviously unacquainted with the kind of gear Proud Boys and Oath Keepers commonly wear at their events.)

The Sunday news talk shows were shortly dominated by Republicans claiming that the election had been stolen as a way to deflect discussion of the insurrection. In short order, the conversation turned from false denials about the nature of the violence to an attack on the motives of the people who were demanding accountability.

Tucker Carlson—who had first argued that “it was not an insurrection” in mid-January, less than two weeks after the event—led this particular parade, with a post-insurrection rant claiming that Democrats were intent on exploiting the Jan. 6 events for political gain and to criminalize their political enemies:

Got that? Vote the wrong way and you are a jihadi. You thought you were an American citizen with rights and just a different view. But no, you’re a jihadi. And we’re going to treat you the way we did those radicals after 9/11. The way we treated Bin Laden. Get in line, pal. This is a war on terror.

… Keep in mind, they’re talking about American citizens here. They’re talking about you. But nobody seems to notice or care.

Carlson went on to claim that the First Amendment had been “effectively suspended,” and that “we’re clearly living under some form of martial law at the moment.”

By May, the denial that Jan. 6 had been an insurrection had spread to Congress, with Republican House members comparing the rioters to ordinary tourists visiting the Capitol. It similarly became the favorite response of an array of right-wing pundits, as well as among the protesters who turned up outside the D.C. Corrections Center where most of the arrested insurrectionists are being held.

Accordingly, Carlson leapt to the fore in claiming victimhood at the hands of the new “war on terror” that right-wing pundits claimed President Biden’s crackdown on white-nationalist violence constituted. Piling falsehood upon falsehood, Carlson simultaneously argued that right-wing extremists were not a threat while claiming that in fact, the National Security Agency was spying on him.

This claim shortly mutated into a new accusation: Namely, that the real cause for the Jan. 6 insurrection was an FBI plot using informants to manipulate Trump fans into committing acts of violence. This conspiracy was quickly picked up not only by far-right Congressmen Marjorie Taylor Green and Matt Gaetz, but also onetime progressive hero Glenn Greenwald, who devoted a long screed on Substack to the claim. The problem, however, was that the theory was built on a crude misunderstanding of how federal informant programs, as well as the process used by federal prosecutors to obtain cooperating witnesses in cases like the Jan. 6 prosecutions.

This clear departure from reality—and the insistence on inverting it on its head—for right-wing media was, as we have seen, largely fueled by the increasingly radicalized nature of the right-wing audience for outfits such as Fox News, which corrected course after its accurate but wildly unpopular election-night reportage caused its ratings to plunge. The gaslighting that now fills its programming is a reflection of its audience’s demands, suggesting that the right’s increasing radicalization is now stuck in an unstoppable feedback loop.

The final component in “bloody shirt” narrative entails demonizing and discrediting the actual victims of and rendering them into bullies, thugs, and would-be tyrants. After the recent opening hearing of the House Jan. 6 commission, Fox contributor Julie Kelly tweeted out an attack on Michael Fanone, the Capitol Police officer who was brutalized during the insurrection and testified before the panel, in which she made fun of him for crying. Kelly dismissed him as a “crisis actor,” adding that “he has many tattoos.”

In a similar vein, right-wing pundit Matt Walsh sneered at Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois—one of only two Republicans on the Jan. 6 commission—for his tears during his remarks at the hearing: “Men should not cry in public. It is unmanly and dishonorable.”

But the focus of the demonization, as Stefanik’s remarks suggest, has been on Pelosi. Two of the Republican congressmen initially appointed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to the Jan. 6 commission and then removed by Pelosi—Jim Jordan and Jim Banks—have claimed that the speaker herself was to blame for the breakdown in security that led to the insurrection.

“Why wasn’t there a proper security presence?” Jordan asked. “And that’s a question that … only the speaker of the United States House of Representatives can answer.”

But in fact, as CNN notes: “The Speaker of the House is not in charge of Capitol security. That’s the responsibility of the Capitol Police Board, which oversees the US Capitol Police and approves requests for National Guard assistance.”

Moreover, the D.C. National Guard has a sole commander: The sitting president, which at the time was Donald Trump. Its website explains that “the Commanding General of the D.C. National Guard is subordinate solely to the President of the United States. This authority to activate the D.C. National Guard has been delegated, by the President, to the Secretary of Defense and further delegated to the Secretary of the Army. The D.C. National Guard is the only National Guard unit, out of all of the 54 states and territories, which reports only to the President.”

That hasn’t prevented right-wing pundits from trying to concoct an image of Pelosi as the secret overseer of the insurrection, apparently with the intent of eventually imprisoning all Trump supporters and Republicans.

Calling her “Nancy the Insurrectionist,” Ingraham told her Fox News audience that Democrats are engaging in a plan to take total control of the nation’s politics: “They’re following Nancy Pelosi and her efforts to poison the well, to accuse Republicans of fascism and otherwise drive their opponents from public life.”

Far-right cartoonist Ben Garrison concocted a caricature version of the “Gulag Archipelosi,” with a grim, dingy prison cell jammed with Jan. 6 insurrections wearing “Trump Won” T-shirts and miserable expressions, overseen by a Nazi-esque House Speaker (while Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn chides readers: “I warned you!”).

Turning the insurrectionists into victims and martyrs was the intent of a publicity stunt by Greene, Gaetz, and other far-right Congress members on Thursday, when they turned up at the D.C. Corrections Center demanding to be allowed inside to see the Jan. 6 prisoners. They were turned away, which infuriated Greene, who told Real America’s Voice: “We were completely rejected, and we were told that we were trespassing. They locked us out! They locked the door and wouldn’t let us back in!”

“I know that the people there, just from what little we saw from the outside, they’re being treated worse there than the bloodthirsty terrorists at Guantanamo,” Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas told reporters.

This is how the age-old “waving the bloody shirt” trope has always worked: Invert reality on its head, claiming innocence of violent intent, shifting the blame for violence onto the victims, always taking the rhetorical offensive. Thus, the bullies become victims, and the victims bullies. So far, it has worked every time.


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Failures of government at every level could result in evictions of 6.5 million families

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Because of that warning from Kavanaugh, President Joe Biden has declined to attempt an executive order extending it. “Given the recent spread of the delta variant, including among those Americans both most likely to face evictions and lacking vaccinations, President Biden would have strongly supported a decision by the CDC to further extend this eviction moratorium to protect renters at this moment of heightened vulnerability,” a statement from the White House said. “Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available.”

Instead, he called on Congress to do so, “without delay.” The problem for Congress is that the House was scheduled to leave for August recess on Friday, that legislation had to be thrown together on Thursday at the last minute, and that they’ve got to rush this through even though there’s a very real possibility that Senate Republicans will refuse to pass it anyway, even though six and a half million families could be kicked out of their homes on Saturday. As of Friday morning, it was not clear if the House was going to be able to do it. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Sherrod Brown, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs are working on a bill on their side, but much of that is going to depend on what the House can do.

What’s incredibly frustrating is that Congress had authorized $47 billion in rental assistance to help people pay back rent, but just $3 billion of the first tranche of $25 billion had been distributed through the end of June by states and localities. The money is there in the hands of state and local governments and not being used. “States and cities across the country have shown these programs can work, that they can get money out the door effectively and efficiently,” Biden adviser Gene Sperling told AP.

“The fact that some states and cities are showing they can do this efficiently and effectively makes clear that there is no reason that every state and city shouldn’t be accelerating their funds to landlords and tenants, particularly in light of the end of the CDC eviction moratorium.” There’s no practical reason, but plenty of political ones in Republican states.

That leaves Speaker Nancy Pelosi trying to whip her members into getting it done, calling it a “moral imperative” that they pass the eviction moratorium before they leave. “I am deeply concerned about this, because, sadly, I have seen families evicted from their homes,” Pelosi said in a letter to Democratic colleagues. “It is one of the most heartbreaking situations you can see: cribs and personal belongings put on the street for all to see or take, families suffering the indignity of being forced out of their homes and having to find shelter.”

“Extending the eviction moratorium is a moral imperative—and one that is simple and necessary,” Pelosi told colleagues Thursday night. “We in Congress have the opportunity—and the responsibility—to respect the dignity of those who have suffered so much in terms of their health, financial security and well-being.”

Many of her members, including Rules Committee Chair Jim McGovern are angry that this was dumped on them at the last minute from the White House. At the beginning of Friday’s Rules Committee hearing to clear the legislation for the floor, McGovern griped that “I quite frankly wish [Biden] had asked us sooner.” But he warned that evictions could result in a “supercharged” spread of COVID-19. “We need to get this bill to the president’s desk, and every hour is of the essence,” he said.

With new information from the CDC about just how infectious and how deadly the delta variant of this virus is, Congress should be supercharged to get this done. State and local governments should be supercharged to do their bit and just pay the goddamned back rents.

But a third of the country doesn’t believe that the problem is real, and that minority unfortunately has the power to control pretty much all of government.


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