McConnell stirs GOP intrigue with support for Biden’s infrastructure bill

Moments before the Senate took a pivotal vote on its bipartisan infrastructure deal, negotiators zeroed in on the most important undecided member: Mitch McConnell.

The Senate minority leader stayed quiet for weeks but finally tipped his hand on Wednesday afternoon on the floor to a bipartisan group of colleagues, according to senators and aides. He told them he would support moving ahead on the bill, provided that the legislation coming to a final vote was their agreement — not something written by Senate Democrats.

It was the first inkling, among even McConnell’s closest allies, that the Kentucky Republican would support one of President Joe Biden’s top priorities: a bipartisan effort to plow $550 billion in new spending to roads, bridges, public transit and broadband. No senator in McConnell’s inner circle knew that he was about to take the plunge until moments before the vote, and some didn’t know until McConnell broke the news on Twitter.

The rumbling on the floor “was the first I heard about it. And then boom, the tweet came out right after that,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), McConnell’s top deputy as the GOP whip. “The leader just kind of let everybody do their own thing, and they did. And he did his own thing.”

That McConnell took such care before revealing his stance reflects deep divisions in his conference over whether to hand Biden a victory on a bill with shaky financing that wasn’t even drafted as it came to the Senate floor. McConnell had opposed the bill on procedural grounds just a week ago, lamenting that moving forward on unwritten legislation did not make sense.

But this week, McConnell did just that, twice advancing the bipartisan infrastructure plan although it split his conference — something he is loath to do. Shortly before the vote and after McConnell announced his position on Wednesday, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), a frequent detractor, put his arm on the GOP leader and offered a few warm words after previously predicting he would oppose the bill.

Schatz declined to comment on his conversation with McConnell but conceded that he was “surprised” by the support thus far from the chamber's self-declared "Grim Reaper" of Democratic legislation.

“I’m happy to admit that I was wrong” if McConnell keeps up support for the bill, Schatz said.

“He said he wanted us to be successful and he was able to be there at the end. I think he realizes it’s important for the institution,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), one of the bill’s chief negotiators. “He probably looked at it and said: ‘Yeah, this is kind of the way we used to do things.’”

McConnell also surmises that if he and his party became the face of obstruction, it could lead Democratic moderates like Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona to waver on the filibuster, advisers said. So in order to keep his veto power intact, McConnell is taking a more conciliatory approach on infrastructure, which he views as less ideological compared to the other issues.

Still, McConnell’s brand is lockstep GOP opposition in the face of Democratic government. And he faces anything but unity in the days ahead. Just 18 of 50 Senate Republicans supported moving forward on the infrastructure accord, with every presumed 2024 presidential contender voting no. Only two members of McConnell’s primary six-person leadership team voted positively on the bill.

Complicating matters for Republicans, former President Donald Trump vehemently opposes the bipartisan proposal. He even threatened to oust Republicans who supported it about ten minutes after McConnell announced his own position.

Thune opposed moving forward on the bipartisan framework, as did Republican Conference Chair John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Republican Conference Vice Chair Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and campaign arm chair Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who assailed it as “insane deficit spending.” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a former whip who may succeed McConnell, also voted against moving forward, even giving a speech criticizing the effort as “not ready” for the Senate floor.

Yet McConnell praised the effort as a “focused compromise,” even going so far this week as to say he was “happy” to advance it. At the same time, he went out of his way to throttle the bipartisan bill’s companion legislation, a Democratic-only spending plan that raises taxes on the wealthy and spends as much as $3.5 trillion.

Questions still remain about whether McConnell will support the final product, although there’s a growing feeling that in the end, the longtime GOP leader will stick alongside bipartisan negotiators, and his friend, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who helped write the bill.

“I’ve always thought he was for this bill. I think he’s been for the bill since Day One,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), who has opposed moving forward.

McConnell is not whipping his members to support the bill, and there are no plans to develop a conference-wide recommendation to support it, according to a Republican senator. In the end, that means McConnell could be on something of an island in a GOP conference that’s offered unanimous support for him as leader in party elections.

Still, it is entirely possible that the number of Republican votes will grow as the Senate continues its work. Thune and Cornyn said they’re undecided on the final product, though Barrasso said “it’s going to be difficult” to back it.

Ernst said she could vote for the bill if she had the legislative text, time to assess it and if it helps her state’s biofuels industry. Her state’s senior Republican senator, Chuck Grassley, has supported the legislation.

“I know that this is a very popular bill. I think [McConnell’s] glad we’re working on a bipartisan bill, where we have input,” Ernst said in an interview on Friday. “He has not asked me to support. I think he feels very strongly we should each evaluate that bill on our own.”

Among McConnell's senior leadership team, only Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the retiring Policy Committee chair, has supported moving forward on the bill. And his vote didn’t come from any conversation with McConnell.

“When I said I was going to vote yes, I didn’t know McConnell was going to vote yes,” Blunt said, adding that McConnell’s vote was not “shared widely with the conference.”

Despite McConnell’s singular focus on taking back the majority next year, for the most part he’s allowed his members to come to their own conclusions in an evenly split Senate where every member is an important power center. Earlier this year, he told members that their decision in Trump’s impeachment trial was a “vote of conscience.” But McConnell also actively whipped his conference against nominees and vigorously opposed a proposed independent Jan. 6 commission.

McConnell’s position on infrastructure, at least so far, is even more favorable than his approach to the 2013 immigration bill, which he opposed but did not actively try to block. He’s also surprised his colleagues at times, voting for Democratic nominees like Merrick Garland and Loretta Lynch and famously reversing his blockade on a criminal justice reform bill in 2018.

This year, with full control of Washington for the first time in a decade, Democrats made clear they will pursue their agenda with or without GOP support. McConnell and the dozen-plus Senate Republicans who've joined him on infrastructure votes are making the calculation that it’s better to put the Republican stamp on something than to get rolled on everything.

“There were only two choices here. One option is: We do a bipartisan bill. And the other option is: The Democrats do a bill on their own. There’s not an option of ‘don’t do anything,’” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), another negotiator of the bipartisan deal. “Leader McConnell recognized this was a better option than just letting the Democrats do this on their own.”

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Trump Threatens Primary Challenges For Senate Republicans Who ‘Caved’ On Democrats’ Trillion Dollar Infrastructure Bill

Former President Donald Trump blasted Senate Republicans on Thursday for “caving” to Democrats’ trillion dollar infrastructure bill.

In his classic fashion, Trump accused RINO’s (Republicans In Name Only), and specifically Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, of giving in to Democrat demands.

Before the vote, Trump warned that McConnell was ready to fold: “Under the weak leadership of Mitch McConnell, Senate Republicans continue to lose. He lost Arizona, he lost Georgia, he ignored Election Fraud and he doesn’t fight.” 

“Now he’s giving Democrats everything they want and getting nothing in return. No deal is better than a bad deal. Fight for America, not for special interests and Radical Democrats. RINOs are ruining America, right alongside Communist Democrats.”  

RELATED: DeSantis Says No To COVID Lockdowns: We Should Not Be Forced To Live In A ‘Faucian Dystopia’

17 Republicans Join Democrats

The former President’s slamming of Senate Republicans came after 17 Republicans voted with Democrats to move ahead with a mammoth $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan. The final vote was 67-32. 

Trump had also warned ahead of the vote that primary challenges were to come: “Don’t do it Republicans — Patriots will never forget! If this deal happens, lots of primaries will be coming your way.”

Trump has already endorsed the primary challenger for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who is up for re-election in 2022.

RELATED: Biden Thanks Fox News Commentators For Telling People To Get Vaccinated

Karma Could Be In The Air For GOP Senators

But Trump could be right, patriots in the form of American voters may indeed have long memories.

Back in February, seven Republican Senators voted with every Democrat to convict Donald Trump on charges of impeachment stemming from the Jan. 6 violence at the Capitol building. At the time, nearly every one of those Senators had been censured or were facing censure by voters back home.

Seventeen Republican senators voted for the Biden infrastructure plan. Of the seven who voted to convict back in February, only Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania voted no on infrastructure.

Every other Senator who voted to convict Trump, also voted for the infrastructure plan. See a pattern?

Of those who voted for infrastructure, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina, and Rob Portman of Ohio are retiring, and the good people of Alaska will issue a referendum on Murkowski. 

RELATED: Texas Governor Greg Abbott: Local Officials Who Enforce Mask Mandates Will Be Fined


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Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: One step closer, I guess

Good morning, everyone!

Last night, the United States Senate voted 67-32 to advance to debate on an infrastructure package. Tony Romm of The Washington Post has the details.

The twin developments marked an early victory for lawmakers who have struggled for years to turn their shared enthusiasm for infrastructure into actual investments in the country’s inner-workings. Several past presidents had called for robust, new public-works spending to replace old pipes and fix cracked bridges, yet only on Wednesday did the Senate actually move toward delivering on those promises.


The news sparked jubilation at the White House, where Biden this spring put forward a roughly $2 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan funded largely through tax increases that Republicans swiftly rejected. But the administration’s top aides ultimately proved willing to be flexible in the months that followed in how they pursued some of the president’s priorities. Asked about the deal while traveling in Pennsylvania, Biden sounded a hopeful note, telling reporters: “I feel confident about it.”

Yet the progress still threatened to prove politically fragile in a debate that is only just beginning. Lawmakers must still draft their legislation, which had not been written by Wednesday evening, and calibrate it in a way to survive the narrowly divided Senate. The absence of actual legislative text troubled some Republicans, including Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), who said in a speech on the chamber floor he could not vote to forge ahead Wednesday because the bill is “not ready.”

Jeremy Stahl at Slate says that there is a perfectly good reason that the Select Committee investigating the 1/6 Insurrection seemed to run smoothly.

Indeed, after 3½ years of covering Democratic oversight efforts since Democrats took back control of the House majority at the start of 2019, I can honestly say that this is the first and only time I can remember witnessing a hearing into misconduct perpetrated by Trump and his minions that maintained its presence in objective reality the whole time. (While the House Intelligence Committee’s hearings during Donald Trump’s first impeachment were illuminating and powerful, they were consistently derailed by partisan nonsense.)

Instead of the usual circus, Tuesday’s hearing was four consecutive hours of clean fact-finding and emotionally constructive first-person witnessing to the horrors of Jan. 6. This was possible only because Jordan (and to a lesser extent Banks) was kept off of the panel. Jordan has previously found enormous success as an oversight arsonist on the House Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight Committee, and on the House Intelligence Committee during impeachment. I know Jordan would have derailed any fact-finding effort into Jan. 6 because he already announced how he would have done it had he been allowed to participate during a press conference with Republican House leadership on the Capitol steps on Tuesday.

Margaret Sullivan of The Washington Post says, in large part, that Beltway journalists need to “reframe” how they cover The Beltway.

Mainstream journalists want their work to be perceived as fair-minded and nonpartisan. They want to defend themselves against charges of bias. So they equalize the unequal. This practice seems so ingrained as to be unresolvable.

There is a way out. But it requires the leadership of news organizations to radically reframe the mission of its Washington coverage. As a possible starting point, I’ll offer these recommendations:

Toss out the insidious “inside-politics” frame and replace it with a “pro-democracy” frame.

Stop calling the reporters who cover this stuff “political reporters.” Start calling them “government reporters.”

Stop asking who the winners and losers were in the latest skirmish. Start asking who is serving the democracy and who is undermining it.

Stop being “savvy” and start being patriotic.

German Lopez of Vox says that the time has come for mandating the COVID-19 vaccine wherever it can be mandated in the U.S. can. 

Unvaccinated people, whether they’re apathetic or resistant, are the reason the coronavirus remains a threat in the US. The country and everyone concerned about the rising case rate should do everything in their power to push these people to get a shot.

The federal government could require vaccination for its own employees, as President Joe Biden is reportedly considering, and offer incentives, financial or otherwise, for others to do the same...


I’ve been talking to experts about mandating vaccines for months. Earlier this year, when I wrote about vaccine passports, many argued that mandates should only be tried as a last resort — we should try improving access and offering incentives first. Only if those options failed should we rely on the more drastic steps.

Well, we’re here. America has made the vaccines much more available to just about everyone who’s eligible. The nation has tried rewards, ranging from free beer to gift cards to a cash lottery, to nudge people to get a shot. Yet we’re stuck. Half of the US population still isn’t fully vaccinated.

It’s time to try that last resort.

Jason DeParle of The New York Times reports that there has been an astonishing drop in poverty across the board but that the historic drop may only be temporary.

The number of poor Americans is expected to fall by nearly 20 million from 2018 levels, a decline of almost 45 percent. The country has never cut poverty so much in such a short period of time, and the development is especially notable since it defies economic headwinds — the economy has nearly seven million fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic.

The extraordinary reduction in poverty has come at extraordinary cost, with annual spending on major programs projected to rise fourfold to more than $1 trillion. Yet without further expensive new measures, millions of families may find the escape from poverty brief. The three programs that cut poverty most — stimulus checks, increased food stamps and expanded unemployment insurance — have ended or are scheduled to soon revert to their prepandemic size.

While poverty has fallen most among children, its retreat is remarkably broad: It has dropped among Americans who are white, Black, Latino and Asian, and among Americans of every age group and residents of every state.

Ben Brasch of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the process has begun to remove the elections chief of Fulton County.

A letter obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows two dozen state senators support a performance review of Fulton elections chief Richard Barron. The letter was written Tuesday, the very same day a front-page AJC story examined the prospect of a takeover of elections in Fulton, home to a tenth of all Georgians.

“We’re asking them to simply correct a record they say is easily corrected. Is it or isn’t it? The people of Georgia deserve answers,” wrote Republican Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller, who signed the letter.

As written into Senate Bill 202, the State Election Board can replace a county’s election board following a performance review/audit/investigation. Then, a temporary superintendent would enjoy full managerial authority of how the county counts votes and staffs polling places.

Barron was not available for comment due to a scheduling conflict, according to a county spokesman.

A performance review begins upon request of at least two state representatives and two state senators from the county.

Lauren Michele Jackson writes for The New Yorker that she is personally “exhausted” by the ways in which some liberals have chosen to rebut conservative critics of critical race theory.

None of these summations is incorrect, exactly—in an appearance on CNN, Crenshaw herself described critical race theory in similar terms, as a rejection of the idea that “what’s in the past is in the past, and that the laws and systems that grow from that past are detached from it.” And yet there is something about the homogeneity of these definitions, their recourse to coddling cliché, that makes critical race theory seem like just another version of a fluffier and more familiar three-word initialism, D.E.I.—diversity, equity, and inclusion. As with the less robust term “privilege,” the words “structural” and “systemic” are called upon with a suspiciously breezy regularity these days. Rather than carry on the edifying work that these words are meant to undertake—the project of implicating ourselves in the world that contains us—they have become a lullaby by which liberals self-soothe: it’s never you; it’s the system. Ibram X. Kendi, the best-selling author of “How to Be an Antiracist,” told Slate in a recent interview that the divide over critical race theory is based on a misunderstanding that it “seeks to attack white people” rather than “to attack structural racism.” Late last month, Twitter gathered in praise of General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for expressing an “open mind” about critical race theory before the House Armed Services Committee: “What is wrong with understanding—having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend?” This expression of tolerance from the seat of power exhibits how defanged the popular apprehension of racial critique has become.

Rasha Younes of The Nation asserts that, in large part, notions of a unified “imagined community” of LGBTQ people is just that: imagined and not based in reality.

While imagined communities serve a purpose, including as a political tool, the assertion that people with a shared sexual orientation or gender identity form a relatively uniform community is depoliticizing. It risks obscuring other intersecting factors that lead to stratification even within the “LGBT community.” Clearly there are issues that affect people based on identity, such as discriminatory laws and policies. But other factors need to be considered when looking at the relative impact of discrimination—almost invariably, those on the social and economic margins are most affected.

Yet, shorthand is necessary, and “LGBT” does help in discussing access to the international human rights framework. To be granted asylum, for example, a queer or transgender person must prove that the basis for their claim is experience of violence or discrimination because of their LGBT identity.

The term “LGBT community” has activist origins signaling political solidarity. But it has also become a convenient acronym in a neoliberal economy where the “LGBT community” has come to be seen as an indispensable niche market—whether for selling rainbow flags or a political candidate. It creates a false dichotomy between “‘in” and “out” groups.

I don’t think that there are many stories that better illustrate what Ms. Younes is saying than our next and final story of this morning.

Two days ago, California-based Democratic donor Ed Buck was found guilty on all charges of a nine-count indictment involving the deaths of Gemmel Moore  and Timothy Dean. L.A.-based journalist and activist Jasmyne Cannick has worked tirelessly on the Ed Buck case for four years.

I have to remind the powers that be that LA’s homeless crisis puts men like Ed Buck’s victims in a position where they feel they have no other choice but to play Russian roulette with their life and subject their bodies to torture just to have a roof over their head–even if just for one night.

Lastly, Black parents, stop kicking out your sons and daughters for being gay or trans.  Men like Ed Buck are waiting to take advantage of them in the worst way. I can’t tell you how many men I interviewed told me that’s why they ended up where they did.

Ed Buck only got away with it for so long because he was white and because we still don’t believe Black victims–even when they tell us what happened to them.

Y’all have no idea of the number of people who were working on documentaries while we were working on getting Ed Buck arrested, tried and convicted. Most of them are white but some Black people lost their minds too.

— Jasmyne Cannick (@Jasmyne) July 29, 2021

Everyone have a good day!

Cryin’ Adams: Anti-Trump Republican Adam Kinzinger, Dem Adam Schiff Nearly Cry During Capitol Riot Hearing

Representatives Adam Kinzinger and Adam Schiff became emotional during yesterday’s hearing for the House select committee’s investigation into the January 6 riot at the Capitol.

Call them the Cryin’ Adams.

The committee held their first hearing since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declined to allow two supporters of former President Trump on the panel.

The hearing involved opening statements from the exclusively anti-Trump group, as well as compelling testimony from four police officers who defended the Capitol that day.

The officers themselves were surprisingly emotional and demanded lawmakers address the possibility that Republicans inspired the protest and subsequent riot.

U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) Private First Class Harry Dunn placed blame squarely at the feet of the former President.

“This wasn’t the first time that … the MAGA people came up here to the Capitol,” Dunn said. “There were some skirmishes but it was never an attempt to overthrow democracy.”

“The only difference that I see in [Jan. 6] is that they had marching orders so to say,” he claimed.

RELATED: GOP Rep. Defends Capitol Police Officer Who Shot Ashli Babbitt: ‘You Did What You Had To Do’

Kinzinger Gets Emotional

Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), recently named as an acceptable replacement for people with opposing viewpoints on this one-sided panel, kicked off the melodrama.

The aggressively anti-Trump congressman fought back tears at several points as he described his view of the events.

“Democracies are not defined by our bad days,” Kinzinger waxed poetic. “We’re defined by how we come back from bad days. How we take accountability for that.”

“We may have our deep differences on other policy issues, but we are all Americans today,” he said, eyes puffy, biting his lip. “And we thank you for holding that line.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has referred to Kinzinger and fellow Trump-hater Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) as “Pelosi Republicans” and is considering punishment for their role on the select committee.

Rep. Bob Good (R-VA), in particular, would like to see McCarthy give the pair the boot.

“I think they’ve left the Republican Party, based on their actions,” said Good. “I think that they should be removed from their committees as Republicans.”

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) accused the two of “effectively working for Pelosi” and suggested they be banned from private GOP conference meetings.

RELATED: McCarthy Considering Punishment For ‘Pelosi Republicans’ Cheney And Kinzinger

Schiff Gets Emotional

Adam Schiff (D-CA), the man who cried wolf so many times on RussiaGate and the impeachment trials that it’s hard to take him seriously, followed Kinzinger’s shtick with a little drama of his own.

“If we’re so driven by bigotry and hate that we attack our fellow citizens as traitors if they’re born in another country, or they don’t look like us, then God help us,” Schiff said, visibly emotional.

“But I have faith because of folks like you,” he continued, addressing the officers. “I didn’t expect this could be quite so emotional either but it must be an ‘Adam’ thing today.”

If anything, the common denominator here isn’t the name ‘Adam,’ it’s the name ‘Trump.’

A name so powerful it reduced two grown men to near tears. It was a ‘Trump thing’ yesterday.

We hope Kinzinger and Schiff were able to recover from their emotional breakdown, perhaps drawing a warm bath as the evening was winding down, enjoying a few chapters of The Bridges of Madison County, kicking back in their little ‘No Insurrections Allowed’ swim caps.

Make no mistake, this soap opera will be going on for months before the select committee comes to their predetermined conclusion that Trump is a traitor.



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Can Rob Portman seal the big bipartisan deal?

If you called central casting for a senator to cut a bipartisan infrastructure deal, you’d get Rob Portman.

The Ohio Republican, a former White House budget chief with two terms under his belt as well as the ear of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is an ideal bridge between his party’s two wings. Portman acquitted then-President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial but later backed an independent commission on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. And a looming retirement from Congress frees Portman from the political burden of facing voters next fall, leaving him able to shrug off Trump’s attacks on his work.

Yet Portman is finding it hard to clinch an agreement, no matter how much insider savvy he brings as the lead GOP infrastructure negotiator. Even if an infrastructure bill can be written, Portman still must shepherd it across the floor and to President Joe Biden’s desk amid attacks from his own party.

It’s the kind of legacy-defining challenge he has long sought. But Portman warned his colleagues on Tuesday at a party lunch that everything could fall apart: Though he’s optimistic, he said the deal could still blow up and alleged that any collapse would be on Democrats’ shoulders, according to two sources familiar with the meeting.

Democrats will be happy to return the favor and blame Portman because there’s entrenched skepticism within the caucus that he can hit such a massive target and deliver 10 GOP votes. Still, Portman said in a Tuesday interview that he’s not going to walk away as talks turn hairy.

“It’s much more comfortable to stay on the right and the left and be negative,” he added, taking the subtlest of shots at his critics in both parties. “What takes courage is to find that middle ground and embrace the fact that our job here is not to simply express our points of view through our partisan rhetoric. Our job is to actually get beyond that and accomplish something.”

New signs of possible progress emerged Wednesday as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the chamber could vote to advance an infrastructure accord by the evening.

Before that, the bipartisan group of senators sensed an impending impasse in collective negotiations and tapped Portman to finish the job with White House counselor Steve Ricchetti — a role that puts even more pressure on Portman. He said it’s “overstated” to assume it’s just him and Ricchetti making the big decisions: “We’re physically sitting down and trying to work out these issues, but we’re both checking back with our respective groups.”

The mild-mannered Portman is a veteran U.S. trade representative, tax wonk in the House and now a senator with seniority and stature, the furthest thing from a bomb-thrower built for the Trump era. Portman was handily re-elected in 2016 but chose retirement over navigating the post-Trump landscape in the GOP.

Senate Democrats still question whether the buttoned-up Ohioan can take the risks required to reach a deal with nearly $600 billion in new spending that's bound to anger the right. Several of Portman's colleagues in the majority privately criticized his legislative courage but didn't do so out loud, lest it upset the fragile talks.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said she’s worked well with Portman but that the “proof is in the pudding” whether he can deliver on infrastructure. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) added: “I will believe there’s a deal when I see there’s a deal.”

“Everybody's wondering: What's his end game? What's the impact of him getting ready to retire? What's the impact on his long-term relationship with McConnell?" said one Senate Democrat, speaking candidly on condition of anonymity. “There's a general suspicion ... why is this taking so long?"

It's already been a month since Portman joined Biden and his fellow nine negotiators to unveil a framework. Now he has an opportunity to complete that work, shaping his party in a more conciliatory mold and dispelling Democratic suspicions that he and fellow Republicans only want to slow the president down.

First, he has to deliver.

“He’s got the horsepower from the policy standpoint. But he’s also got the right temperament,” said Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.), who added that if Portman can’t seal the deal, then “nobody can, I don’t think. He’s probably the perfect guy on our side for this.”

Portman was a lead negotiator on arcane battles over tax cuts and Obamacare repeal and has led the Senate’s work on fighting opioid addiction. His office boasts that he’s helped shepherd 150 bills into law since assuming office in 2011.

Though he's a reliable Republican vote, he has tacked to the center on several issues, notably opposing Trump’s national emergency declaration at the border and working with a bipartisan group of senators last year on a coronavirus relief package.

But Portman is not a traditional moderate and can be a tough vote to get. His 2013 efforts to insert an e-Verify amendment in the Senate’s bipartisan immigration bill ran aground as Democratic leaders sought to fold it into the larger bill instead of giving Portman the standalone vote he hoped for. Portman ended up voting against the bill, leaving Democrats livid.

He also opposed both of Trump’s impeachment trials, though he did work with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) on a compromise during the failed effort to start an independent Jan. 6 commission. As that effort fell apart, Portman stepped into his lead role with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on funding roads, bridges and broadband.

Sinema described Portman as “super nerdy. And I mean that as a compliment.” She said she had no reservations about his ability to finish the legislation and get it into law.

“We were talking about this, like, kind of alone in his hideaway months ago," she recalled. "I don’t know why you would [walk away] if you weren’t interested in taking this to the finish line. He’s the one who is selling to his conference. And he will be the person that continues to do that.”

While Portman is leading a bipartisan group of 10 senators on infrastructure, some in the chamber are skeptical that rank-and-file members can replace the knowledge of committee chairs who might normally take the lead on a massive bill like this. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said that formula is “rife with a lot of problems.”

“When you have these negotiations and the gangs, there's no mechanism that forces people off of dead center and you're in pursuit of this mythical consensus," Cornyn said.

Should Portman strike a bipartisan deal, he will then have to ensure that Republicans sign on. Trump is growing increasingly vocal against the infrastructure talks and McConnell has yet to weigh in, only telling his caucus to view the bipartisan deal as separate from Democrats’ $3.5 trillion social spending package. Making matters harder for Portman, the Wall Street Journal editorial page recently described the infrastructure package as the “most one-sided bipartisan deal in decades.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said he didn’t know why any Republican “would be complicit” in cutting a deal on infrastructure knowing full well Democrats plan to pass a subsequent multitrillion-dollar spending bill on social programs, fighting climate change and raising taxes on the wealthy.

While acknowledging his balancing act is a difficult one, Portman said it was harder to talk across the aisle on health care, taxes or even on trade issues: “I’ve negotiated with China. I’ve been in much tougher negotiations.”

“This is difficult as all bipartisan negotiations are these days — more difficult than it used to be because both sides tend to go into their corners,” Portman said. “If it was health care, tax cuts, I’d feel differently about it. But this is infrastructure. At the end of the day, I think there’s enough interest, enough goodwill that we can get it done.”

Posted in Uncategorized

Republicans hate the word, but it’s the truth: Traitors

During Donald J. Trump’s impeachment trial, Rep. Jamie Raskin made a clear case about what had happened under Donald J. Trump’s presidency. The acts Trump condoned on Jan. 6 were the acts of traitors. They were calling for the violent overthrow of the government. They refused the results of an election. They denied reality, and they attacked fellow Americans. 

The phrase the insurrectionists yelled at police officers indicated the police were traitors. The police, though, made no move to overthrow the government. They did not attack or attempt to harm others. They did not work to intimidate the election process. They stood in defense of their country. 

“I was grabbed, beaten, tased, all while being called a traitor to my country. ... I heard chants of ‘kill him with his own gun.’ I can still hear those words in my head today,” Officer Michael Fanone testifies before the House select committee

— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) July 27, 2021

This is the defense of the United States government. How would it feel knowing you have family at home, that you have represented your nation for years, and that every day you put your life at risk to protect the people, not a party? The officers knew the mob could go inside the building and that the staffers therein didn’t have clear signs over their heads that read “Republican” or “Democrat”—these young individuals’ lives were at risk. Even elected officials don’t wear giant billboards reading “Republican” and “Democrat,” and unless they’re your representative, you might not know who they are, which means they were also at risk. The officers put their lives on the line. They did so against traitors. Traitors. Traitors. Raw Story posted video of Marjorie Taylor Greene talking about where the traitors are, including in Congress, and her fear of penalties.

She also says something that I firmly believe in and lecture about: that so much power is in the hands of voters. What she doesn’t say is that it’s this power Republicans are scared of, and it’s exactly why the Republicans are engaged in a massive plan to suppress votes. Greene begins this video talking about local elections, and I urge every single Democrat who reads this site to start paying attention. Your city council or county officer can help put polling places in locations that are more friendly or more intimidating to voters.

The committee that begins today boils down to one word: traitors. The Jan. 6 rioters are traitors. Those who want to deny American voters the right to vote are traitors against our beliefs. When you spend your time working against the pillars of our nation, there is only one word for that: traitor.

A third of states have enacted new voter suppression laws since the Republican insurrection

Last November, a Republican president who oversaw 500,000 unnecessary American deaths and a resulting economic collapse lost his reelection bid. Rather than a begrudging admission that a seemingly delusional compulsive liar with no skills for the job and a record of scandal and chaos was a piss-poor candidate who lost because Americans had lost patience for his bellowing performance art, countless top members of the Republican Party immediately, and at Donald Trump's behest, declared that actually the only reason Republicanism lost at the polls was because the entire world conspired against them to secretly rig the election against Burping Authoritarianism.

As an excuse for a poor performance by a singularly unimpressive buffoon, it would have been merely pathetic. The moment the Republican Party began to act on their own false propaganda, crafting law after law predicated on false "fraud" that all aimed squarely at throwing up new obstacles to voting in communities that voted against them the last time around, it became an attack on democracy itself.

The Brennan Center for Justice now identifies one third of all American states as having passed new laws blocking access to the polls in the months since the last election. That's not laws proposed. That's laws already passed in Republican Party attempts to win future elections by specifically targeting working class, poor, communities of color, and other groups with new restrictions that make voting slightly harder or slightly more complicated.

Because mail-in voting during a deadly pandemic swung sharply against the Republican presidential candidate, mail-in voting is being sharply curtailed by Republican state legislatures. Because early voting and expanded poll hours both have allowed voters a chance to evade hours-long lines on election days—lines which continue to be conspicuously commonplace in neighborhoods of color even as polling places in nearby Republican-leaning communities enjoy more resources and few such delays—Republican legislatures are slashing early voting locations and times so as to force non-Republican leaning voters back into the long lines racist governments had previously engineered.

Other laws have placed new restrictions on providing any help to voters, whether it be help seeking ballots, help returning ballots, or even providing food or water to voters stuck in the hours-long lines that Republican lawmakers have insisted on preserving. New paperwork requirements present new hurdles for working class voters to overcome, hurdles of time, money, or both.

All of it is based on the Big Lie: A Republican Party-backed declaration that the last election was "stolen" from the incompetent Republican candidate, therefore justifying drastic nationwide action to do ... the same sort of vote-suppressing activities that the party has relied on for the last half century.

Federal action is currently being stymied by, of course, the same Republican lawmakers who united to save Trump from impeachment after he goaded violent insurrection with the exact propaganda being used by Republican state legislatures to justify new voter suppression laws now. The conventions of the Senate allow a minority—currently set at 40 senators, after multiple past changes to the number that were each themselves a response to a rump of racist lawmakers blocking past federal action to enforce basic civil rights protections—to block new federal protections giving all communities uniform minimum voting standards.

What's still not getting through the heads of some lawmakers, however, is just how extensive current Republican Party moves to reshape our elections truly are. A third of U.S. states have already seen voters placed under new, suppressive restrictions. Republican Party leaders are continuing to push completely false propaganda asserting that they "won" a presidential election they did not win. House and Senate Republicans continue their attempts to sabotage a probe of the resulting violent insurrection, in large part because any such probe of necessity must document how the party's provably false claims were spread to insurrectionist ears.

Civil rights activists are warning that attempts to "out-organize" new suppressive laws will not necessarily succeed. The point of widespread Republican voter suppression is to knock even the smallest possible fraction of Americans off the voting roles; not every one of the voters affected can be made whole again. Activists are thus beginning to express their frustration with this Democratic dawdling.

There may be a tradition, in the Senate, of using the filibuster to block new civil rights protections so as to allow the efforts of racist state lawmakers to continue unimpeded. There's also a tradition of altering the rules of the filibuster when it is being abused for that purpose.

There may be no more urgent time to protect voting rights than in the aftermath of a violent insurrection premised squarely on overturning an election rather than abide by voters' will. The anti-democratic party that goaded an attempted toppling of government by promoting false claims is using those same false claims to justify new roadblocks between voters and future ballot boxes. Both acts must be rebuffed.