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Pelosi likely to appoint Republicans to insurrection probe regardless of McCarthy’s obstruction

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Back on Planet Give A Damn, however, House Democratic leaders still have to decide how best to fill out the committee given the presumption that House Republicans will continue their attempts to sabotage investigations of January 6 no matter what Democrats do. One possibility is just to continue without any Republican-backed members, because screw ’em. Another possibility is for Pelosi to appoint Republican members herself, over Republican Party objections. Pelosi already assigned Republican Rep. Liz Cheney to the committee as one of her own picks; adding new appointments wouldn’t be difficult in principle.

Towards that end, Pelosi is reportedly considering adding Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a move that is getting good reviews but which hinges on Kinzinger being willing to withstand what would assuredly soon become a Republican attempt to purge him from the party outright rather than abide by his supposed treachery. Any Republicans named to the committee would find themselves where Rep. Liz Cheney found herself after she condemned House Republican attempts to claim a “stolen” election: They’d be shunned, possibly stripped of other committee assignments, and face stiff primary opposition from pro-Trump true believers who are willing to lie to their base about stolen elections, Italian satellite-launched conspiracies, or whatever else pops up in their Facebook feeds.

Would others in the Republican Party stand up for those appointed Republicans? Anybody at all? Well, Moderate Mitt Romney is pretty much the “boldest” non-insurrectionist you can find among Washington Republicans these days, being particularly pissed off at coming within a few moments of being captured by the rioting crowd, and if you’re looking towards the Mitt Romneys of the party for anything but the most milquetoast possible backup you’re probably gonna want to keep looking.

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The heart of the problem is that we already know most of what there is to know about January 6. Furious about the November election results, Trump and his allies concocted countless false claims as to why he didn’t really lose, and Joe Biden didn’t really win. It culminated in a Trump-promoted “March” on the Capitol organized to precisely match up with what Trump believed the last chance to overturn the election would be: The counting of the electoral votes by a joint session of Congress. Claims that the election was “stolen” or “rigged” were promoted by a majority of Republican lawmakers, inflaming the crowd of militia members and other violence-minded Trump supporters into the belief that storming the building to halt the count was a patriotic thing to do. It immediately turned violent, both rioters and police officers died, and the same Republicans who raised fists towards the insurrection-minded crowd before the event claimed afterwards that nobody could have foreseen the crowd doing what Trump and his allies had organized the crowd to do in the first place: Overturn his election loss by any means available.

What’s left to learn is the details that explain how things ended up this way. Why was the Capitol conspicuously unguarded from a mob that included known pro-insurrection militia groups? To what extent did Trump allies orchestrate the “March” in advance, and with who? Did anyone in Congress provide the insurrectionists with intelligence or assistance?

The problem for Republicans is that people like Trump ally and rejected McCarthy pick Jim Jordan might very much want to sabotage probes of January 6, but that is because they gave their support to the insurrectionist crowd. They’re not jurors. They’re the witnesses, and in some cases, accomplices:

So the sedition-provoking Jim Jordan in particular can pound sand on this one, and if House Republicans can’t find even five members who do not have intimate connections to the criminal acts they’re supposed to be investigating then that inability should be taken as evidence of widespread complicity, rather than a failure of “bipartisanship.” Bipartisanship does not require seating those that goaded violent insurrection next to those that opposed it so that the two sides can half-ass their way to a conclusion as to whether a violent attempt to overthrow the United States government was a bad thing.

It’s likely not possible to find five House Republicans who both opposed the propaganda campaign directly leading to the January 6 violence and who are now willing to stomach the targeted retaliation of their entire party for investigating that violence now. But that’s on House Republicans, not on anyone else. The American public need answers on how a propaganda campaign discrediting the election spiraled into violence bent on overturning that election, and it needs to happen whether the perpetrators agree to participate or not.


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Republicans continue dragging out infrastructure talks, while calling Democrats ‘unreasonable’

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Transit. It’s only an essential, core part of what we like to call “transportation.” Portman says Democrats are “not being reasonable.” Apparently that’s because Democrats want to adhere to existing law under it that says the federal gas tax-funded Highway Trust Fund has to be split 80% for highways and 20% for transit. Republicans want to renege on that, arguing that transit systems already got COVID-19 funding (to make up for lost revenue from the pandemic) and shouldn’t get more from this bill.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, chair of the Banking Committee which has jurisdiction over transit, is frustrated. “The Republicans don’t have great interest in public transit,” he said. “Their proposals are far too inadequate.” He added that “there’s been a tradition of fairly good public transit funding, but it doesn’t seem to be on the table from them yet.” Brown continued “I just want to get to an agreement where they take seriously public transit funding, and they haven’t yet.” Sen. Jon Tester—a member of that bipartisan gang—was more succinct. “Republicans hate transit, Democrats like transit.[…] It’s that simple.”

It’s not entirely that simple, though, because what this is is another manufactured excuse from Republicans to keep on dragging this thing out. They are also arguing about “broadband, Davis-Bacon requirements, and rescinding unspent COVID funds” according to an aide. So, pretty much all of it? Even if there is a weekend miracle and the gang produces something on Monday, there’s no guarantee at all that there will be 10 Republicans interested in voting even to start talking about it next week. If they were that close, they would have agreed to starting the process on Wednesday.

The Democrats in charge of making Biden’s plan happen in the Senate are prepared for the contingency of having to fold this “hard” infrastructure piece into the larger budget reconciliation bill that can pass with just Democratic votes, the part of the Biden plan that would transform the lives of millions, in a really good way. They’ll vote for this bipartisan thing if it ever happens, though most who aren’t in the gang will do so grudgingly because the damned thing has to get done so they can have the good stuff.

That good stuff, chief economist Mark Zandi at Moody’s reports “will strengthen long-term economic growth, the benefits of which would mostly accrue to lower- and middle-income Americans.” The report also concludes that concerns about inflation that Republicans have been shouting about are “likely misplaced” and “overdone.”

“It is a unique opportunity,” Zandi told the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent. “The economic environment is ripe for game-changing policies that address long-running, pernicious problems that only government can address, because the scale of the problems is so large.” His report says that the failure to pass the  bills—the entire $4.1 trillion package either as two bills or combined into one—”would certainly diminish the economy’s prospects.”

“The nation has long underinvested in both physical and human infrastructure and has been slow to respond to the threat posed by climate change, with mounting economic consequences,” the report says. “Greater investments in public infrastruc­ture and social programs will lift productivity and labor force growth, and the attention on climate change will help forestall its increas­ingly corrosive economic effects.”

That’s critical analysis for the Democrats to keep front and center in this last push to get the job done, to make the bills as expansive as possible (yes, climate change policies, yes expanding health care, yes fixing the safety net, yes education).


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Morning Digest: Democrats land notable Senate candidate in Iowa, but the odds remain tough

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Republicans, though, quickly set out to make Finkenauer one of their top 2020 targets, and they successfully recruited state Rep. Ashley Hinson to take her on. Major outside groups on both sides ended up spending $8 million between them, but while Democrats hoped that this part of Iowa would swing back to the left, that’s very much not what happened: Trump’s 51-47 victory in the 1st District was little different from his 2016 performance, and while Finkenauer ran ahead of the ticket, she still lost 51-49.

Campaign Action

Finkenauer kicked off her new campaign by focusing on the Jan. 6 attack in the Capitol and arguing that, after so long in office, Grassley has “lost touch” with both Iowa and democracy. She refrained from focusing, however, on the vast generational gap between her and the incumbent, who will be 89 on Election Day.

Grassley has pulled off landslide victories during each of his six re-election campaigns, but there is some evidence that Iowans may be tired of the veteran senator. Last month, a Selzer & Co. survey for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom Iowa pegged his approval rating at 45-39 among adults―his worst showing in this poll since 1982. President Joe Biden, though, was in worse shape with a 43-52 score, which is the type of negative rating that would present a serious obstacle to any Democratic nominee.

Grassley himself recently said that he’d decide between Labor Day and Nov. 1 if he’d run again, and his recent fundraising doesn’t give us a good idea which way he’s leaning: The senator hauled in $415,000 during the second quarter of 2020, and he ended June with $2.5 million on-hand. That was dramatically better than Grassley’s primary foe, far-right state Sen. Jim Carlin, who had a mere $9,000 in the bank.

The only notable Democrat who entered the race before Finkenauer was former Crawford County Supervisor Dave Muhlbauer, who raised $45,000 from donors during his first quarter in the race, self-funded another $20,000, and had $60,000 to spend. A few others have made noises about running, though: The most prominent potential contender is Rep. Cindy Axne, who has also expressed interest in challenging GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Table of Contents

Senate

GA-Sen: Republican state House Speaker David Ralston has at long last said he won’t challenge Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock next year, a wholly unsurprising decision given that such a bid would have required him to abandon his powerful post atop the legislature. (When asked about the possibility of a Senate run back in 2013, Ralston retorted, “Why would I want the demotion?”) The GOP field remains uncertain as ever, though, as Georgia Republicans are still waiting on former NFL star Herschel Walker to make up his mind.

NH-Sen: A new University of New Hampshire poll pitting three Republican challengers—two hypothetical and one actual—against Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan finds little change from the school’s last survey in February. The new numbers are below, with trendlines in parentheses:

  • Gov. Chris Sununu: 49, Hassan: 48 (48-46 Sununu)
  • Hassan: 49, former Sen. Kelly Ayotte: 45 (48-43 Hassan)
  • Hassan: 51, retired Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc: 41 (52-39 Hassan)

The good news for Hassan is that Bolduc is the only candidate actually in the race right now, even more so considering he raised just $47,000 in the second quarter of the year (Hassan raised $3.1 million and had $6.6 million in the bank). Sununu, though, has the name recognition to enter the race late if he so chooses, though last month he said he intends to “enjoy having a summer and fall … of just being a governor,” so any launch could come very late indeed.

Governors

CA-Gov: A state court judge has reinstated conservative talk show host Larry Elder on the September recall ballot after finding that Elder was not required to submit five years of tax returns when he filed his candidacy under a new California law because the law only applies to primaries. A final list of certified candidates is available here.

MI-Gov: Charade much? Just hours after announcing the formation of an “exploratory committee”—a vehicle not recognized under Michigan law—former Detroit police Chief James Craig told Fox host Tucker Carlson, “I am running” for governor.

VA-Gov: While finance executive Glenn Youngkin, the Virginia GOP’s self-funding nominee in this fall’s race for governor, has been spending freely on television for quite some time, former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe is only now going up with his first TV ad of the race. The spot, narrated by McAuliffe himself, follows the classic compare-and-contrast formula: “When I was Governor last time, I worked with reasonable Republicans to get things done,” says McAuliffe. “We created thousands of new jobs, put billions into our infrastructure projects and a billion dollars into education.”

But, he warns, “Glenn Youngkin is not a reasonable Republican. He is a loyalist to Donald Trump.” The ad switches to showing side-by-side clips of Youngkin wearing a red baseball cap bearing his own name and Trump sporting a similar-looking MAGA hat, then plays an audio clip of Youngkin—surprisingly, from several days after he’d sewn up the GOP nomination—saying, “President Trump represents so much of why I’m running.” (Incidentally, Youngkin only offers caps in white and blue in his campaign store.) Concludes McAuliffe, “Well you know what folks, I’m running because of you.”

The ad tracking firm AdImpact says McAuliffe is putting $452,000 behind this ad, while Youngkin has spent $4 million on TV since early June.

House

CT-05: Former state Sen. George Logan, who lost his bid for a third term in the legislature last year, announced this week that he’d challenge Democratic Rep. Jahana Hayes in Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District. Logan’s career has been marked by a string of close races: In 2016, he unseated veteran Democratic state Sen. Joseph Crisco in the 17th District by a 51-49 margin to become the Senate’s first Black Republican, but after defeating Democrat Jorge Cabrera just 51.1-49.9 two years later, he lost to Cabrera 52-48 in a rematch in 2020.

Logan’s old Senate district, however, doesn’t actually overlap with the congressional seat he’s seeking, though he said he’d move into the 5th District once new lines are drawn. They aren’t likely to change too much, though, since the next map will probably reflect a compromise between the two parties or be crafted by a court. That’s because Connecticut requires a two-thirds supermajority vote in the legislature for new districts, which Democrats currently lack.

(Also, important reminder: Members of Congress do not have to live in the districts they represent. The Constitution only mandates that they reside in their home states, and courts have said states cannot add further requirements.)

Hayes, a former National Teacher of the Year, was first elected to Congress in 2018, after Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Esty resigned following her failure to properly address sexual harassment complaints levied against her former chief of staff. Hayes easily turned back Republican Manny Santos 56-44 to become the state’s first-ever Black member of Congress, then won re-election by a similar 55-44 margin in a race that attracted little outside attention last year—the exact same spread Joe Biden prevailed by.

Republicans had long dominated in the northwestern corner of Connecticut until Democrat Chris Murphy defeated GOP Rep. Nancy Johnson in the 2006 wave. Since then, though, the closest they’ve come was in 2012, when Murphy successfully ran for Joe Lieberman’s Senate seat and Esty won her first term 52-48 over state Sen. Andrew Roraback.

TX-06: Does anyone else think this is, like, not so great for Susan Wright? The Trump-endorsed wife of the late Rep. Ron Wright has released a poll from American Viewpoint of Tuesday’s special election runoff for Texas’ 6th Congressional District that shows her up 44-34 on state Rep. Jake Ellzey, which doesn’t look all that dominant with the race just days from concluding.

What’s more, that’s actually worse than an early June poll that had Wright ahead 49-34. And not only does Wright’s own data show a decline in her fortunes, it also shows there’s still a great deal of fluidity left to resolve. Just how unsettled things are is quite unclear, though: American Viewpoint’s memo says that 12% of voters are undecided, but as that tickle in your brain will quickly tell you, those figures only add up to 90%.

So what’s going on with that other 10%? We just can’t say. If they’re people saying they won’t vote, then they should probably just be excluded, especially since the poll says it’s a sample of likely voters. On the other hand, if those are folks declining to state a preference or insisting on some other candidate, well, there are only going to be two names on the ballot, so they probably belong in the undecided pile. And it doesn’t appear to be a typo, either, as Wright’s June survey likewise only totaled 94%.

Ellzey, however, hasn’t released any polling of his own—in fact, the only numbers we have are from Wright—and that’s always a lacuna worth noting. But this contest does seem up for grabs, especially if Ellzey can quietly convince Democratic voters that if they turn out for him, they’ll be sticking it to Trump.

Mayors

Boston, MA Mayor: Acting Mayor Kim Janey earned an endorsement on Tuesday from 32BJ SEIU, which GBH writes “represents janitors, security officers and custodial workers,” ahead of the September nonpartisan primary.


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Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Bothsidesing the insurrection is a media failing

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Jill Lawrence/USA Today:

In vetoing Jordan and Banks, Pelosi safeguards history, democracy and Capitol attack probe

We can only hope that truth, facts, personal testimonies and violent video will lift the scales from American eyes and put the nation on a better path.

Say what you will about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and there are multitudes with lots to say, she is a woman with a steel backbone and a laser focus on history – both the centuries past and the countless pages yet to be written.

Though it was shocking and apparently unprecedented that she rejected two of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s choices for the select committee that will be investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, it probably should not have been. Pelosi is not interested in a dog-and-pony show, in distractions that will give endless fodder to conservative media outlets and undercut the gravity of the task before this panel.

A speaker who has helmed two impeachments, painful procedures that exposed egregious offenses by President Donald Trump yet failed to remove him from office, knows exactly what would happen if she gave a platform to Republican Reps. Jim Jordan and Jim Banks.  

Plum Line/WaPo:

How Kevin McCarthy is boosting the integrity of the Jan. 6 investigation

We should be thankful that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) just pulled Republicans out of any involvement in the select committee to examine the Jan. 6 insurrection. In so doing, he ensured that the committee’s investigation will both have more integrity and be more likely to undertake a valuable accounting.

Which goes to a larger truth about this moment: Efforts at a real examination of arguably the worst outbreak of political violence in modern times — and efforts to protect our democracy more broadly — will not be bipartisan. These things will be done by Democrats alone.

Molly Jong-Fast/Daily beast:

The GOP Isn’t Sending Their Best, and Pelosi Isn’t Having It

The facts aren’t flattering to Republicans so their plan is to ignore the facts and throw shit at the wall and then try to blame Democrats for the stains and the stench.

McCarthy knew damn well what he was doing when he offered up two election deniers to sit on the committee in the first place. There’s no one in the world who considers jacketless Jim a serious appointment. He is a Trump sycophant who spends most of his time trying to say insane stuff so that he can get on Fox News.

With the rest of the party walking away, the only remaining Republican looks to be Liz Cheney, who Pelosi appointed after McCarthy kicked her out of the party’s leadership for calling an insurrection an insurrection and putting loyalty to country above loyalty to Trump.

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WaPo:

White House officials debate masking push as covid infections spike

One idea batted around by some officials would be to ask all Americans to wear masks when vaccinated and unvaccinated people mix at public places or indoors, such as at malls or movie theaters, according to two people familiar with the conversations.

So far, leaders in the White House have been hesitant about any policies that would explicitly require Americans to show proof of their vaccination status, according to a person familiar with those talks. Depending on where discussions lead, that decision could ultimately fall to business owners who want to offer mask-free environments.

McSweeney’s:

NOBODY WANTS TO BE A SERF ANYMORE

My good lords, I must bring to your attention a grave issue that requires our utmost concern. You see, my fellow land-owning gentry, it seems that the invention of mechanized industry, the rise of “capitalism,” and the impact of the recent plague have brought upon us a wave of moral degradation and irredeemable sloth — specifically, nobody wants to be a serf anymore.

This newfound modicum of control the peasant class has over their lives has brought us to a dark new reality in which the serfs have become so lazy that they’ll no longer toil without pay on land they do not own yet can never leave, and instead leach upon the system by searching out more equitable work.

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Ed Yong/Atlantic:

America Is Getting Unvaccinated People All Wrong

They’re not all anti-vaxxers, and treating them as such is making things worse.

Rhea Boyd: It was a tele-townhall, and around 5,000 people participated. I would have imagined that people who stayed on would be unvaccinated, but the people who asked questions were a mix. I had one gentleman who was vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson and he asked, “Did I get a safe shot?” We affirmed for him that this far after his vaccination, he’s likely safe, but that opened my eyes. If you’ve heard about that serious side effect and are worried if you’re at risk, you’re probably not encouraging the people around you to be vaccinated.

Yong: That’s fascinating to me. There’s a tendency to assume that all vaccinated people are pro-vaccine and all unvaccinated people are anti-vaccine. But your experience suggests that there’s also vaccine hesitancy among vaccinated people.

Boyd: Yes, and we tend to hear similar questions among people who are unvaccinated. They may also have heard common threads of disinformation, but they’re still asking basic questions. The top one is around side effects, which are one of the main things we talk about when we give informed consent for any procedure. If people aren’t sure about that, it’s no wonder they’re still saying no.

A lot of vaccine information isn’t common knowledge. Not everyone has access to Google. This illustrates preexisting fault lines in our health-care system, where resources—including credible information—don’t get to everyone. The information gap is driving the vaccination gap. And language that blames “the unvaccinated” misses that critical point. Black folks are one of the least vaccinated groups, in part because they have the least access to preventive health-care services.

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