Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski proved Saturday just how important filibuster reform is going to be for anything else that is good to happen in this country. She offered an amendment to the American Rescue Plan that directs $800 million to services for homeless children. It was adopted by a voice vote, and everyone applauded and congratulated each other and was happy. Then they came to the final vote on passage of the bill, and Murkowski voted "no." She voted against her own amendment and against helping homeless kids. That's where bipartisanship gets you.
Significantly, following that vote and the final passage of the whole COVID-19 relief bill, the guy who most endangered passage of the plan at the very end was preening Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. Following an entire day of negotiating and pleading and Manchin ultimately backing down, the recalcitrant West Virginian appeared on no fewer than four Sunday shows and backed down some more. His longstanding opposition to eliminating the filibuster has cracked, and he's now willing to say that it could change: "If you want to make it a little bit more painful, make them stand there and talk, I'm willing to look at any way we can." That's what he told NBC's Chuck Todd. He told Fox News' Chris Wallace essentially the same thing—that the filibuster "should be painful if you want to use it."
House Democratic legislators including the chair of the chamber’s Veterans’ Affairs committee have reintroduced legislation that would block the deportation of noncitizen U.S. military veterans, and allow eligible deported veterans to return home to the U.S. Because federal immigration officials don’t follow even their own policy, it’s unknown exactly how many veterans have been kicked out of the U.S. over the years. Advocates have estimated the number to be around 230.
“It’s a disgrace that veterans are falling through the cracks of our broken immigration system and being deported,” Veterans’ Affairs chair Mark Takano said, who reintroduced the bill with fellow Californian Juan Vargas and Arizona’s Raúl Grijalva. “Deported veterans are exiled from the country that they call home and that they fought to defend, and they face significant barriers to access the benefits they are entitled to and eligible for under the law. Congress must act and fix this injustice, and passing this comprehensive legislative package can help us achieve that.”
Here is the headline in the LA Times this morning about Oprah's interview last night with Harry and Meghan (last names not required for any participants):
This is wildly wrong. The "palace" did no such thing. Some individual apparently did, but Harry and Meghan were even a little cagey about that. The conversation in question was with Harry, not Meghan—which means that her speculations about motive are meaningless—and Harry didn't provide enough details to know if our mystery person was truly concerned or just shooting the breeze. All in all, genuine concern seems sort of unlikely since (a) from the start, the eventual arrival of a baby was neither unexpected nor a topic of trepidation, (b) Harry declined to specify the exact wording of the conversation and Oprah never bothered to push him, and (c) let's be honest here, Meghan is not exactly a dark-skinned woman. There was never any real chance that Archie would be anything but pretty fair skinned.
But who knows? I'm not the royal watcher in my family, and my sister tells me that I'm always wrong about everything. But I did get sucked into watching the interview, and I guess I must be the only person in America who thinks Oprah did a lousy job. It was just softball after softball, never pushing either Harry or Meghan to provide the detail that might allow the rest of us to come to any conclusions.
Of course, Meghan was pretty careful in her answers. One of the big bombshells was Meghan's acknowledgement that at one point she had suicidal ideations. The LA Times interprets this as "driven to the the brink of suicide," which is flatly not what she said. These kinds of thoughts are nothing to make light of, but they are very much not always the same thing as seriously contemplating suicide.
The funny thing about the whole interview is that both Harry and Meghan tried to give the impression that they had literally moved heaven and earth to get some help with their various problems, talking to anyone and everyone they could think of. And yet, I got the distinct impression that this wasn't really the case. Just the opposite, in fact. It seemed more like they talked to individuals here and there but never really followed up in a serious way.
But I don't know for sure, because the interview provided nowhere near enough detail for me to say. In fact, it told me barely anything I didn't already know even though I don't pay a ton of attention to the royals. It sure seemed like a pretty poor excuse for a tell-all to me.
After Senate Democrats approved the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan over the weekend smoothing its way to final passage, President Biden credited the American people with making possible what is arguable the most progressive piece of legislation in a generation.
“Quite frankly, without the overwhelming, bipartisan support of the American people, this would not have happened,” Biden said. Biden touted the “real, tangible results” delivered by the package. Americans, he said, “will be able to see and know and feel the changes in their own lives.”
It may simply sound like smart politics on Biden's part (and it is), but it also has the benefit of being true. If the giant trillion-dollar package had been incredibly divisive among voters, clearing it on Democrats' razor-thin Senate majority alone would have been a much heavier lift. But the fact is, Biden's plan was wildly popular—polling at roughly 70% support in numerous surveys—including enjoying broad support among Republican and even Trump voters. Several polls also found that the public wanted passage of Biden's plan more than they wanted bipartisan involvement from GOP lawmakers. That unflinching support, which was both broad and deep among the public, made its passage virtually inevitable.
This is an intriguing battle looming on The War on Women:
President Biden will sign executive orders Monday establishing a Gender Policy Council and directing the Department of Education to review the federal law Title IX, according to administration officials.
Why it matters: The Biden administration is signaling its priorities to advance gender equity and equality as women, particularly women of color, have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
After trying to sabotage the 1.9 trillion Covid relief bill over the weekend, Republicans are now lying about issues that they themselves had voted for under Donald Trump.
Typical Republican hypocrisy that depends on the short attention span of the Fox News viewer. Sad!
Good luck turning people against the wildly popular American Rescue Act, fellas.
On Sunday's Meet The Press, Sen. Barrasso claimed that prisoners and undocumented workers were receiving stimulus fund from the COVID bill.This, with this bill, they're going to people in prison, they're going to people who are illegal immigrants, they're going to people who make much more money than you would expect people to actually need relief or help at this point.
A person needs a Social Security number to receive monies, so we rate this statement as "A Lie" from Sen. Barrasso.
This is a new bogus talking point coming from the #QOP.
This morning on Fox News, Sen. Cotton said, "Look how crazy some of the Democratic ideas are."
He continued, "They had a chance on Saturday to stop checks from going to prisoners. From going to the Boston bomber for instance and on that vote they declined."
As support for abolishing the legislative filibuster outright continued to grow inside the Senate Democratic caucus, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia signaled Sunday that he would be open to reforming the archaic rule to make it "more painful" for the minority to wield as a tool of endless obstruction.
While reiterating his opposition to completely eliminating the filibuster—which is currently standing in the way of a sweeping expansion of voting rights, immigration reform, climate legislation, and other priorities of the Biden White House—the West Virginia Democrat noted Sunday morning that in recent years the filibuster has evolved to a point of requiring virtually no effort to deploy beyond sending an email.
Manchin, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, suggested to Chuck Todd of NBC News that he would be willing to support a return to the talking filibuster, wherein senators who wish to block legislation from advancing must remain on the Senate floor and speak continuously.
A marathon session of the Senate Friday and Saturday resulted in passage of the American Rescue Plan, the most significant anti-poverty legislation passed in the U.S. in decades. The bill passed on strict party lines, 50-49 (Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan was absent because of a family emergency). "This plan is historic," President Joe Biden said in remarks after Senate passage. "Taken altogether, this plan is going to make it possible to cut child poverty in half. Let me say that again—it's significant, historic: It will cut child poverty in half."
The expansion of the child tax credit in the legislation, temporary for now, is a huge part of that accomplishment. It bumps the credit per child from $2,000 annually to $3,600 for children up to age 5, and $3,000 for children 6-17. It also will provide those credits in advance payments—parents won't have to wait until they've filed their taxes to get the funds. In order to get around the Senate parliamentarian, lawmakers changed the language from "monthly" payments to "periodic" payments starting in July through December of this year, probably sent monthly by the IRS, and then get the January-June payments when they file they 2021 taxes. So families have to hold on a few more months before those payments, but the survival checks can help.
Hundreds of demonstrators marched through Minneapolis streets over the weekend and returned again on Monday in the hours before what promises to be an absolutely critical murder trial in the national effort for justice following the death of George Floyd.
Floyd, a 46-year-old Black father, was killed on May 25, 2020, when Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer, kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes. Chauvin faces charges including second-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter, and potentially third-degree murder after an appeals court ruling made way for a judge to reconsider the initial decision to toss the charge out, according to MSNBC. Protesters advocating for justice in the case have their eye narrowly targeted on just that—making sure Chauvin is held accountable for the devastation he’s accused of causing. In that effort, demonstrators also sought to bring attention to the more than 470 other people killed by Minneapolis police. They marched on Sunday from the city’s government center to Hennepin Avenue with an enlarged scroll of each victim’s name, Minneapolis photojournalist Chad Davis said in a tweet. “Organizers point out Chauvin was involved in 5 of the names,” he added.
I have several COVID-19 charts for you this morning. First up is our weekly vaccination chart:
Not bad! We performed nearly 3 million vaccinations on Saturday, getting us almost back to our growth trendline from early in the year. We have now vaccinated about a fifth of the population.
Here is our vaccination rate compare to the UK, until recently the best of the big countries:
The UK accelerated quickly, but then flattened out in early February and has even dropped a bit since then. The US has just kept getting better and better aside from the late February dip caused by bad weather.
This is all great news, but there's also this:
After the Thanksgiving and Christmas peaks, our case rate has plummeted. However, even now we're seeing 60,000 new cases per day, which is about the same as our previous peak in summer of 2020. We've still got a long way to go before we have things under control, so mask up, keep your distance, stay home as much possible, and persuade your reluctant friends to get vaccinated.
Here’s the officially reported coronavirus death toll through March 7. The raw data from Johns Hopkins is here.
On Monday, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt became the fifth Republican senator to announce that he would not seek reelection in 2022. Blunt’s decision came as a surprise as his spokesperson had said in November that the senator would be seeking a third term, though Blunt himself sounded a bit less sure the following January.
Blunt’s decision will set off an open seat race in a former swing state that has swung hard to the right during the 21st century. Donald Trump took Missouri last year 57-41, while Republican Gov. Mike Parsons won reelection by that very same margin against the only Democrat who holds statewide office: state Auditor Nicole Galloway. Blunt himself only scraped by in 2016 49-46, but Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill lost reelection to Republican Josh Hawley two years later 51-46 despite the 2018 blue wave.
Fox News contributor Sean Duffy, a former Republican lawmaker, on Sunday defended supporting former President Donald Trump despite numerous sex scandals, which he called "engagements with women."
Duffy made the remarks during a debate with Democratic strategist Richard Goodstein about the sexual misconduct allegations against Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).
"If Andrew Cuomo survives -- and my bet is he will on this term -- he has one person and one person only to thank for that and that's Donald Trump, who lowered the bar as regards dealings with women and dealing with COVID," Goodstein told Duffy. "As regards women, as we famously remember, Donald Trump bragged about grabbing women by the crotch and has cases in court where he's accused of raping one woman and sticking his fingers inside another and other accusations."
"Andrew Cuomo didn't follow the H.R. textbook, but certainly what he did pales in comparison," he added. "And I think for Democrats -- for most Democrats -- the experience of Al Franken, where he was run out on accusations and Republicans turned around and embraced somebody who bragged about grabbing women by the crotch and Madison Cawthorn, an incumbent Republican congressman who is accused of doing the same thing and you don't hear a peep out of Republicans."
But Duffy accused Democrats of hypocrisy.
Monday is International Women’s Day, and President Joe Biden is taking the opportunity to start rolling back some of the related damage done by Donald Trump and his administration.
Biden is planning to sign an executive order establishing a White House Gender Policy Council, effectively replacing an Obama-era White House Council on Women and Girls that was eliminated by Trump. The changed name signals a substantive change to include transgender people, The Washington Post reports, quoting an unnamed official who said, “There will be a focus on women and girls, but the choice of the name of the council is really intentional.”
Calling it "a win" for the American people, Stephanie Ruhle spoke to Claire McCaskill about how the pandemic relief bill got passed.
"Well, I think it was remarkable. It's like everybody was on the same page. And let's give a little tip of the hat here to Chuck Schumer. It is harder than it looks to keep a caucus together that has both Joe Manchin and Bernie Sanders in it," McCaskill said.
"And before everybody starts, you know, raining down on the head of Joe Manchin, remember, he makes our majority and he's from a very, very, very red state. So this isn't like some progressive could come in there and, you know, get rid of him and win a statewide election. So Schumer has to keep everybody together. They took a little haircut on some of the unemployment benefits in order to appease some of the moderates in the Democratic caucus but at the end of the day this went really quickly. It was done by March 14th. and it's going to be very, very big for the American people. And that's the win Biden was looking for."
"Claire, to that very point we have watched Joe Manchin on a national stage get slaughtered, really, by fellow Democrats in the last week. Do we not understand who that West Virginia voter is?" Ruhle asked.
"Well, keep in mind that what we really need to be focused on as a party is the 2022 elections where we have the opportunity to pick up a seat in Pennsylvania and pick up a seat in Wisconsin, where Biden won his election," she said.
John Oliver took a look at the unemployment insurance system and asked the right question: “How did our system get this shitty?” Via Huffington Post:
The “Last Week Tonight” segment included a woman who stood in a lengthy line at a “pop-up unemployment office” just days after giving birth because her calls, emails and other attempts to obtain aid had failed.
“Holy shit,” Oliver said. “Waiting in line for unemployment just after giving birth is already appalling, but the very phrase ‘pop-up unemployment office’ is truly alarming. Much like ‘emergency crematorium’ or ‘elephant forceps,’ it suggests things have gone terribly wrong and are about to get significantly worse.”
Oliver looked at how the job loss caused by the coronavirus pandemic exposed many of the flaws that had been in the system for years ― and some, he said were put in to deliberately make it harder for people to obtain the help they’re entitled to, especially in states like Florida.
It's John Oliver, of course he has suggestions for how to fix it!
When the first QAnon posts jumped in to leverage the ugly Pizzagate conspiracy theory with a whole new level of destructive, divisive hate, the person behind those first cryptic notes was something of a mystery. But when it comes to the Big Lie—the claim that Donald Trump actually won the 2020 election—the source of the disinformation, distortions, and big juicy whoppers isn’t difficult to pin down. It was Trump. And Trump’s lawyers. And Trump’s extended team.
As The Guardian makes clear, a study of social media has determined that it took just a handful of “super spreader” accounts to infect the entire Republican Party with a disease that led directly to the Jan. 6 insurgency. The accounts that did the most damage were not no-name accounts manned by people surfacing from the dark side of conspiracy land. In fact, of the top 21 accounts most responsible for spreading false information on Twitter, 15 were verified accounts. If that little blue checkmark was supposed to connote some kind of reliability, or to suggest that Twitter will in some sense hold the person behind the account to a higher standard … it clearly failed.
For four years, we looked the other way when it came to Russia. Guess that's over now. Via the New York Times:
WASHINGTON — Just as it plans to begin retaliating against Russia for the large-scale hacking of American government agencies and corporations discovered late last year, the Biden administration faces a new cyberattack that raises the question of whether it will have to strike back at another major adversary: China.
Taken together, the responses will start to define how President Biden fashions his new administration’s response to escalating cyberconflict and whether he can find a way to impose a steeper penalty on rivals who regularly exploit vulnerabilities in government and corporate defenses to spy, steal information and potentially damage critical components of the nation’s infrastructure.
The first major move is expected over the next three weeks, officials said, with a series of clandestine actions across Russian networks that are intended to be evident to President Vladimir V. Putin and his intelligence services and military but not to the wider world.
The actions will be combined with more sanctions against Russian, and an executive order from President Biden to harden federal networks against attacks.
Republicans are just being Republicans:
... the $1.9 trillion [COVID relief] bill is awaiting a vote in the Senate. But that won’t happen for a while yet, not because there aren’t the votes to pass it but, instead, because Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) has decided to force the chamber to read the 628-page bill in its entirety. The effect isn’t to change the outcome. Instead, it’s to delay the inevitable.
Good morning, Crooks and Liars! I'm old enough that I remember when organizations like One Million Moms cancelled Disney, Target, Doritos, and Oreos. Earlier this year, all of Wingnuttia was screaming that "Conservative Voices Were Being Silenced," and when that fell flat, they came up with Cancel Culture as a tag line, and that has brought us to the present moment nadir of The Potato Heads and Dr. Seuss. Of course what they call Cancel Culture, I call "Consequences."
Stinque watched The Jungle Book.
Infidel753 looks at how is "canceling" books or art deemed "offensive" different from removing Confederate statues?
Michael in Norfolk says that the challenge is "to figure out how to make the fight for the working class a debate over real-world policies, not phony culture war distractions." He's absolutely right.
By Hook or By Book was a story time reader who eventually stopped reading the collected works from Seuss to her young charges, and as a professional reviewer still has some reservations and sees some ambiguities.