The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.Leading Off
● TX-06: Filing closed Wednesday for the May 1 all-party primary to succeed Republican Rep. Ron Wright, who died last month after contracting COVID-19, and the Texas Tribune has a list of contenders available here. Trump's margin of victory in this seat, which includes much of Arlington and rural areas south of Dallas, plunged from 54-42 to 51-48, but Team Red has continued to do well here down the ballot.
A total of 11 Republicans, 10 Democrats, and two others ultimately filed. In the almost certain event that no one takes a majority, the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, would compete in a runoff that would take place on a later date. (Under Texas law, the second round of voting cannot be scheduled until the all-party primary results are certified.)
Now that the report from the Director of National Intelligence confirms Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement in the murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, you’d think President Biden would come down hard on the crown prince himself. No such luck.
Biden took the path of realpolitik and is punishing MBS’s underlings with sanctions and travel bans but nothing that directly targets Prince Bonesaw. The argument is that we generally don’t target heads of state, particularly of nations we consider allies. This argument is false.
Of course, Biden is definitely doing more than Donald Trump did to punish Saudi Arabia, but he is letting the the main culprit off the hook. Do we really think that rewarding MBS for his crimes will have a moderating influence on him? This is the guy responsible for horrific devastation in Yemen, kidnapping Lebanon’s prime minister and too many human rights abuses to count. Throw the book at him, Joe.
Enjoy the cartoon — and help keep the cartoons coming by supporting me on Patreon, where you can get prints, behind-the-scenes videos and other goodies!
Ezra Klein/NY Times:
Biden Is the Anti-Trump, and It’s Working
If you can dial down the conflict, you can dial up the policy.
But the relative quiet is deceptive: Policy is moving at a breakneck pace. The first weeks of the Biden administration were consumed by a flurry of far-reaching executive orders that reopened America to refugees, rejoined the Paris climate accords and killed the Keystone XL oil pipeline, to name just a few. Now the House has passed, and the Senate is considering, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, a truly sweeping piece of legislation that includes more than a half-dozen policies — like a child tax credit expansion that could cut child poverty by 50 percent — that would be presidency-defining accomplishments on their own.
NEW: With 50+ mil vaccinated, the the urgent question on many minds is: When can I throw away my mask?— Apoorva Mandavilli (@apoorva_nyc) March 3, 2021
In private with other vaccinated people? Right now.
In public spaces? Depends on disease rates and the percentage of vaccinated people.https://t.co/7iXC9DSTyv
We’re approaching the year mark of everything shutting down because of the coronavirus, and everything remains … well, kinda terrible.
Sure, the vaccine news is increasingly good, the days are getting longer, and warmer weather has begun to show its face in some parts of the country.
But most legislatures are still in session (48, in fact), and most legislatures are controlled by Republicans, so mostly lousy bills are getting passed.
Too bad those lawmakers aren’t as preoccupied with defending Neanderthals and plastic potato toy genders as many of their conservative ilk.
Except … they kind of are preoccupied with gender right now.
Our beloved Meteor Blades, a true Daily Kos OG (UID: 6, and I’m 3), is retiring.
It’s one of those things you expect, but there’s no way you can prepare for it. Meteor Blades, aka “Tim,” has been such a constant presence from nearly the start of this site’s existence, that I’m almost lost at the thought of him riding off into the sunset. I went and looked up the actual timeline: May 26, 2002, I launch the site; Tim became a “guest poster” on September 19, 2003. The comment threads from that era no longer work, so I couldn’t find the exact date he first posted, but for at least 18 years, and probably longer, Tim has been a fellow traveler as this site grew and evolved. Honestly, I’m a little lost.
On election night, the same party that added some $2 trillion to the national debt in order to deliver a giant tax break to the rich and corporate-y celebrated the inroads Donald Trump had made with blue-collar voters.
“We are a working class party now. That’s the future,” tweeted Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri.
Ultimately, Trump had won some 40% of union households, according to The New York Times. And now those blue-collar households are getting a taste of just what Republicans plan to do for them in return for their vote. Zip—at least in terms of tangible things that could improve their lives.
Jacob Chansley, who has the gall to call himself the QAnon Shaman, wants you to know that he was only doing his civic duty during the insurrection of Jan. 6. In fact, he was there to stop a more serious crime from happening: wanton theft of baked goods.
More specifically, the howling, shirtless conspiracy theorist with the horns and face paint claims he protected muffins from his fellow violent insurrectionists.
Republican Greg Abbott tries to pin superspreading on immigrants after lifting COVID-19 restrictions
Just one day after he recklessly lifted novel coronavirus pandemic restrictions, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is now trying to blame asylum-seeking parents and children for cases in his state, falsely claiming in a tweet that the “Biden Administration is recklessly releasing hundreds of illegal immigrants who have COVID into Texas communities.”
With all due disrespect to the governor, he’s full of shit. “This is an utter lie, and it is even worse because it comes the day after Abbott ended all statewide precautions for COVID,” tweeted immigration policy expert Aaron Reichlin-Melnick. “In total, 108 people who tested positive have been released in Texas since late January. That's not ‘hundreds.’ It's not even 4 per day on average!” Unfortunately, Abbott wasn’t alone in trying to blame Republican superspreading on these families.
The Senate voted Thursday afternoon to begin debate on President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan with the assistance of Vice President Kamala Harris to make the vote 51-50. Yes, Republicans unanimously opposed even moving forward on providing essential aid to the American people to get out of this pandemic.
Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Ron "Genius" Johnson became the face of the GOP, surpassing his usual ridiculousness in his opposition to the COVID-19 relief bill that 77% of voters support, including 59% of Republicans. That includes saying it really should be blocked from passing for 1,200 days, because ... reasons. Maybe because a $1.9 trillion stack of one dollar bills is "A stack of dollar bills that extends more than halfway the distance to the moon." Because for some reason he believes that is relevant. Of course, the GOP Tax Scam he voted for in 2017 had just about the same price tag but for some reason, he didn't think that stack of bills was too high.
The point is, Johnson is intent on delaying passage of the bill for as long as he can, knowing that Congress has a hard deadline of March 14 (but the sooner the better) to make sure people don't start losing their unemployment benefits. Johnson is going to force the Senate clerks to stay up all night reading the entire relief bill aloud. That should take about 10 hours and do nothing more than make the Senate clerks really pissed off at him.
With more than 20 anti-trans laws in the works across the nation, we take some comfort in the knowledge that many won’t pass out of the state House, much less the state Senate. And even if they do, we reason that with a Democrat as governor, the bills aren’t likely to become law. This means, for example, that vehemently exclusionary measures to bar transgender youth from participating on the sports teams that align with their gender identity won't become law. Or that physicians who provide gender-affirming healthcare to transgender youth won't become literal criminals. But, as is the case with the anti-trans bill gaining speed in Mississippi, comfort isn’t always available.
On Wednesday, the Mississippi House passed SB 2536, and as Daily Kos covered at the time, the state Senate passed the bill in February. The bill, which would bar transgender girls and women from participating in girls’ sports teams at both primary and secondary education levels, is headed to the governor. What’s extra concerning about this? Mississippi’s Republican governor, Tate Reeves, has signaled support for the measure in a March 4 tweet. And once one state adopts legislation, a disturbing precedent takes hold.
On Tuesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott decided to toss a big fat distraction on how Republicans turned that state’s energy market into a scheme that generates billions in instant profit from pure human misery. Abbott was just one of several Republican governors who have decided that, now that there’s reasonable leadership in Washington, there’s no longer any need for them to even pretend to be reasonable back at home. Expect them to wake up any day now and blame President Joe Biden for the hundreds of thousands of deaths that … wait a second. This just in:x
The Biden Administration is recklessly releasing hundreds of illegal immigrants who have COVID into Texas communities.— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) March 3, 2021
The Biden Admin. must IMMEDIATELY end this callous act that exposes Texans & Americans to COVID.
According to the CDC, there are currently more than 171,000 active cases of COVID-19 in Texas. In his no-masks, everything open to the fullest ruling this week, Abbott just gave every single one of those people, and the tens of thousands more who don’t even know they have COVID, permission to crowd into the nearest bar and restaurant and share their germs. Abbott didn’t just lift all mask requirements, he banned counties and localities from imposing local mask requirements. And he did it in a week when more than half the counties in Texas saw a sharp increase in the number of new COVID-19 cases. It’s the kind of action that has Republicans spending their Wednesdays defending the honor of Neanderthals.
But, surprisingly, there is one Republican governor who is going in the other direction.
It’s no surprise that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis cares more about the rich than the economically vulnerable. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, DeSantis has not only downplayed the virus, but prioritized the health and safety of those he can profit from.
While a majority of Florida’s eldest residents have struggled to not only sign up but receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, almost all wealthy people 65 years and older were vaccinated by mid-January, according to a community newsletter obtained by the Miami Herald. Additionally, those being vaccinated were ensured that despite most of the state being unable to receive their first dose, they would have access to both the first and second dose of the vaccine.
Nearly 70 indigenous rights, wildlife, and civil rights groups are calling on the Biden administration to tear down nearly 60 miles of border fencing erected by the previous administration in Arizona, as well as some fencing along other regions of the border. While President Joe Biden ordered a 60-day halt to review the legality of the project we were always told Mexico was going to pay for, fencing has cut through tribal lands and continues to harm communities and wildlife in the region.
“One of the longest wall sections in the report runs along 7 miles of the border near Quitobaquito Springs on Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument,” Arizona Daily Star reports, noting the arrests of a dozen Tohono O’odham protesters late last year. One activist was shot with rubber bullets by officers as he sang a traditional Tohono O’odham song.
On Jan. 6, 2021, as the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., was under siege from a cast of Qanon characters and predominantly misguided white-wing extremists, images emerged showing a gentleman lounging about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. He posed for photos while sitting in the speaker’s chair, feet up on the desk, and ended the adventure by stealing a piece of Pelosi’s mail. Richard Barnett of Gravette, Arknasas, even took a nice portrait photo, bare chest exposed (for some reason), in front of the Capitol building, holding up the piece of mail he had stolen from Speaker Pelosi’s office. Barnett reportedly even left a note for Pelosi that read “Nancy, Bigo was here, you B****." “Bigo” is his nickname.
Barnett was quickly identified and arrested. His initial defense was that he wandered into Pelosi’s office because he had been looking for a bathroom. Not unlike many other well-documented insurgents, Barnett’s No. 1 argument is that he didn’t physically knock down the doors of the Capitol—he just walked right on in. The 60-year-old Barnett was hit with three charges: Knowingly Entering or Remaining in any Restricted Building or Grounds Without Lawful Authority; Violent Entry and Disorderly Conduct on Capitol Grounds; and Theft of Public Money; Property, or Records. Initially, an Arkansas judge approved Barnett’s release into the custody of his girlfriend—a person who had admitted to aiding and abetting Barnett on his return from D.C. This was quickly reversed by Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell, who chastised Barnett in court and ordered him jailed until another hearing.
A couple of weeks later, a grand jury indicted Barnett on five additional charges, including Obstruction of an official proceeding; Aiding and abetting; Entering and remaining in a certain room in the Capitol building; Disorderly/Disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon; and Parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building. So how are things going now for Mr. Barnett—I mean, “Bigo?”
It's really hard to wrap one's mind around how hapless House Republicans are, not to mention the astounding failure in leadership Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy represents.
To review: McCarthy ran down to Mar-a-Lago to kiss Trump's ring and publicly enlist his help in retaking the House majority, while also failing to extract any promises from Trump not to target sitting members of their caucus. In other words, the GOP incumbents who voted to convict Donald Trump—at least a handful of whom hail from moderate/swingy districts—are on their own. Seven of the 10 Republicans who voted to convict have already attracted primary challengers.
Now some House Republicans are revisiting the fact that McCarthy sold out his caucus, and they apparently regret the error. Control of the House could literally come down to a handful of seats, and Trump's vendetta tour is putting roughly that many House Republicans at risk of losing their primaries and therefore their districts to more reasonable Democratic challengers in the general election. In Trump's first major rally since Democrats took control of the White House, Trump outlined a hit list of sorts—reading the names of every single congressional Republican who found him guilty of inciting an insurrection.
Wednesday was a big day in the U.S. House of Representatives, with legislators reintroducing two major legalization bills that stand to affect millions. The first, the Dream and Promise Act, affects Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) holders. The second, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, provides a pathway to citizenship for farmworkers and their families.
Both bills were previously introduced by the House, and passed with bipartisan votes. The Dream and Promise Act received seven Republican votes to pass 237 to 187, while the Farm Workforce Modernization Act passed by an even wider margin of 260 to 165. It was the first time the chamber had passed such protections in many years. Yet, like countless other progressive pieces of legislation, the bills were stalled by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Following his demotion, advocates say now is the time to act.
The House stayed in session late Wednesday to wrap up a critical week of work: passing H.R. 1, the sweeping voting and democracy reforms, and an expansive overhaul of American policing, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. The House was shuttered Thursday, a result of the threat of violence against the Capitol bubbling up from those forces that, in part, make the legislation necessary: those with fascist and white supremacist instincts to impose their will over the majority, and particularly citizens of color, by keeping them out of the polls and under constant threat from law enforcement.
Each bill would restart the crucial work of racial justice, providing real and transformative changes to federal elections by ensuring equal access to the voting booth and federal representation, and in policing by creating national standards for law enforcement and constraints on the use of force, including the kind of force police used in killing George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Each bill faces the ridiculous hurdle of a Democratic majority in the Senate that could fail to pass them because of what former President Barack Obama calls a "Jim Crow relic," the filibuster.
Jan. 6 hearings show the process was awful, intelligence sucked, and Christopher Miller must testify
In days of testimony before Senate and House committees, three names have come up repeatedly. One of those is former acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller. It was Miller who issued explicit, and unprecedented instructions to the D.C. National Guard which not only limited their equipment, but made it more difficult for them to be deployed in an emergency.
The second is former Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy. Even when the Guard had been supposedly approved for deployment, McCarthy appears to have stepped in to demand details of how they would be used, even as Capitol Police and Metro D.C. Police were waging desperate efforts to protect Congress and push back protestors. Both McCarthy and previous Sec. of Defense Mark Esper appear to have worked closely with the National Guard during earlier protests, but on Jan. 6, McCarthy’s primary role appears to have been delaying the arrival of Guard forces for hours.
The child care industry and the workers in it—overwhelmingly women, many of them women of color—have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Really hard. But now there are two big reasons for hope, thanks to child care funding in the COVID-19 relief bill passed by the House and to a rush of states opening up vaccinations to child care workers.
After losing 400,000 jobs early in the pandemic, the industry hasn’t fully rebounded. In December 2020, there were still nearly 175,000 fewer child care jobs than there were in December 2019. In an industry that operates on extremely tight profit margins, enrollments remain down due to both reduced class sizes for social distancing purposes and parents keeping their kids home rather than risking group settings, while expenses for personal protective equipment and cleaning are up.
The House of Representatives worked late Wednesday night to wrap up key business before closing on Thursday due to warnings of a conspiracy theory-driven militia plan to attack the Capitol on March 4. Despite those fears, the House passed two important bills on Wednesday night: the For the People Act, a wide-ranging voting and election reform bill, and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
“There is a systemic problem with policing in the United States. By enacting transformative reform on a national level, we have a chance to address it,” Rep. Karen Bass, the author of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act wrote in a USA Today op-ed. ”Though named in his honor, Congress must not pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to honor one man—but to honor all the unarmed people who have been brutalized or killed by police since his death and the many more who were brutalized or killed prior.”