Pelosi, Trump start talking about the next phase of coronavirus stimulus, need to be talking bigger

The new Daily Kos/Civiqs poll is chock-full of important and astounding information about how the American public is handling the COVID-19 pandemic. In and amongst that data is the suffering, and the reason why Congress still has a lot of work to do to get us through this crisis. Through March 30, one in FIVE Americans who were working before the outbreak say that they have been laid off or furloughed from their position. Nearly 40%—fully 39%—of households have lost income. More than a quarter, 26%, has already been affected by a layoff, furlough, or cut hours and another 15% feel extremely concerned that it will happen to them. Another 28% are moderately or slightly concerned they'll lose income because of the disease and its economic impact.

That's a lot of economic uncertainty that a one-time check for $1,200 isn't likely to allay. The enhanced unemployment benefits that were included in the third coronavirus stimulus bill will help a lot of people, but it won't help everyone including all those people still working but with fewer hours. There's still so much work to be done to get the country through this, and with money practically free to borrow now, yes, Congress should be "tossing money out of helicopters" to answer it, since the Fed is unlikely to do it. Give everyone money, and while you're at it, all the things Speaker Nancy Pelosi is talking about, especially what was in the House bill that didn't make it into the Senate's bill.

In an interview in The New York Times Pelosi "emphasized the need to secure more equipment for health workers on the front lines, known as personal protective equipment, and ventilators for hospitals" and House Democrats would make another "push to bolster pensions and medical leave provisions, and would work to ensure that other aspects of treatment for the coronavirus, beyond the initial test, would be covered by the government." She also talked about more direct aid to families, including "a possible retroactive rollback of the limit on the state and local tax deduction, a change that hurt high earners in states like New York and California." Fine, if that's what it takes to get Republican support, but that's not a sword to die on.

The sword to die on is health care for everyone infected by this disease. It's food security for everyone. It's making sure that the nation's millions of incarcerated people aren't left to die locked up. It's making sure that the gig workers and minimum-wage workers and the undocumented workers who are securing our food supply have the protections they need on the job and in society. It means at least $2 billion to secure this year's elections AND saving the U.S. Postal Service to conduct the necessary vote-by-mail elections.

It means not just postponing student loan payments, but cancelling student loan debts. It needs to have Housing Security, including a moratorium on evictions, a national mortgage and rent holiday, and at least $200 billion to keep housing stable.

It could also have the infrastructure Donald Trump endorsed in a tweet Tuesday: "Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country! Phase 4." Whatever, if that gets Trump on board, as long as it's green, sustainable infrastructure. That, by the way, should include broadband infrastructure—the entire nation needs to have access to reliable, high-speed internet. That's one thing this crisis has demonstrated in spades; the technology gap can cripple communities. Earmarking those trillions now would be great for getting people to work on infrastructure right out of the gate when it's safe for people to be out in the world again.

So yes, Phase 4 or whatever Donald Trump wants to call it, provided he gets Republicans in Congress—who are so far rejecting the notion that more has to be done—on board. They're not going to have much choice, realistically. It's not going to take very long for the pressure to build on them to realize that they haven't done nearly enough to get us out of this thing standing.

McConnell rewrites history to blame massive fail on coronavirus on (checks notes) impeachment

Sen. “Moscow” Mitch McConnell went on the Hugh Hewitt radio show Tuesday, as he often does when he wants to be especially awful. He was exceptionally awful in all the most predictable ways: blaming the crisis we're in right now on impeachment—because of course he did—and rewriting all of the last three months of history while doing it.

The slow response by President Donald Trump and Congress to the COVID-19 crisis, McConnell said, was because the impeachment "diverted the attention of the government." Except that's total bunk. The Senate was still functioning while the impeachment trial was going forward during the last week in January, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was confirming the initial cases in the U.S. The business of the Senate included a Jan. 24 all-senators briefing on coronavirus with Trump health officials, including the CDC director and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. You remember that meeting, right? That's the one that happened just before three Senate Republicans dumped millions’ worth of stocks, collectively. That's the action they decided to take when confronted with the calamity that had hit our shores.

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In fact, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who had received additional briefings, blew off the warnings. "The coronavirus doesn’t appear to pose any imminent threat to Americans who have not recently traveled to the Hubei province of China," he said. "For now, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control have the resources needed to prevent any significant contagion from spreading into the United States. If more resources are needed, Congress stands at the ready." He came to that conclusion on Feb. 4, the day before the Senate voted against the impeachment charges against Trump.

Continuing on with the rewriting of history in the Hewitt interview, McConnell gave credit to Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton for being "first" to warn of the dangers of coronavirus. "He was first. I think Tom was right on the mark." Right on the mark meaning spouting bigoted and dangerous conspiracy theories about how the virus might have been (wink, wink) a chemical weapon developed in "China's only biosafety level 4 super laboratory that researches human infectious diseases." Sure Mitch, you go ahead with the idea of Cotton being the big epidemiological brain in the Senate GOP.

Because it's Mitch, there's more. More typical Republican denial of the breadth and depth of this crisis, and how it's affecting real people. "I'm not going to allow this to be an opportunity for the Democrats to achieve unrelated policy items they wouldn't otherwise be able to pass," he sniffed, dismissing the necessity for further action by Congress to save the whole damned country. No, he's got his eyes on his true prize.

When the Senate gets back, it will "go back to judges. […] My motto for the rest of the year is to leave no vacancy behind."

Obamacare lawsuit? What Obamacare lawsuit? Senate Republicans play dumb

It's a horrendous look for Republicans, in the middle of a potential national epidemic and global pandemic, that their party and their White House are going to tell the Supreme Court this fall that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional and should be destroyed. So it's no great surprise that Republican senators who have to face voters in November don't want to talk about it.

Asked by The Hill about their position on this lawsuit, they dodged and weaved. Freshman Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst is going to have a hard time making this answer work for the next eight months: "I'm not saying whether I support it or not. It's in the hands of the Supreme Court now, so we'll see," she said. Maybe she feels the need to tread lightly here—she does have a primary opponent. He's just "some dude," but apparently Ernst still isn't willing to go out on any kind of limb by saying she thinks affordable health care for people is good.

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Arizona's stand-in, Sen. Martha McSally, who is there by appointment filling the late John McCain's seat, is trying to use that hook from impeachment days—it's in the court now, it’s in a "judicial proceeding"—and she won't comment. As if the Supreme Court was hanging on the words of a fill-in senator it’s never heard of before to make its decision. That's about as pathetic a response as you can get. Even McSally's counterpart, the other just-filling-in-for-now senator, Kelly Loeffler from Georgia (who's only been there a couple of months), did better. Eventually. Stymied by the in-person question, she had her office follow up in an email. "Regardless of what the courts do or do not decide, there is no question Congress needs to address healthcare issues facing Americans," Loeffler's spokeswoman said, offering that the senator wants a bill that "lowers insurance costs" and "expands coverage options." Which the ACA does, of course, for most people. But she's new. How could she be expected to be prepared to speak intelligently about the one thing that has dominated electoral politics for 10 years?

Sen. Thom Tillis, a vulnerable Republican from North Carolina, also wouldn't defend the lawsuit or even give his position on it. "What I'm more focused on is how we get back to a rational discussion about protecting pre-existing conditions, the kinds of things that are potentially at risk that for the life of me I can't understand why anyone would be opposed to, providing some certainty by just voting those provisions into law independent of the lawsuit." None of us can understand why anyone would be opposed to protections for people with pre-existing conditions, so this legal challenge is kind of a mystery. Except for the part where Republican attorneys general and governors and the Republican president are saying they should be struck down by the court. That's something Tillis should have to answer for.

Steve Daines of Montana was nearly as bad as McSally. He just brushed the question off, saying, "We're going to be talking about a lot between now and next year." Which means nothing, considering they've been talking a lot about it for 10 years and have managed to do absolutely nothing. Well, not nothing, actually. Republicans held literally dozens of repeal votes in the House and also brought three lawsuits trying to destroy the law. Spoiler alert: They will not have a plan in 2021 if the Supreme Court invalidates the law. Perhaps the most pathetic of the lot is Colorado's Cory Gardner, who seems resigned to his losing fate and didn't even bother to respond to the question.

On the issue that flipped the House in 2018, and that is at the top of voters' minds in 2020, Senate Republicans still don't have any answers. But they've got several months to come up with something to say before the Supreme Court and the case are back in the news with the arguments in the case. Judging by past performance, they'll have nothing.

Here’s another poll for Susan Collins to be fretting over

Need a mood lightener today? Sen. Susan Collins is 4 points behind her leading potential general election opponent in the latest PPP poll, trailing Sara Gideon 47-43. A year ago when PPP polled a potential Collins-Gideon match up, "Collins led by 18 points at 51-33." Yes, that's a 22-point shift in a year's time. Why such a cratering of support? The PPP polling memo says "that in the wake of opposing impeachment, Collins has lost most of the crossover Democratic support she's relied on for her success over the years."

Her vote for Brett Kavanaugh didn't do her any favors, either. But the double whammy of Kavanaugh and impeachment pretty much seals that deal. In April of 2019, Collins had a 32% approval rating with Mainers who were Hillary Clinton voters, trailing Gideon with them 59-28. Now she has a 9% approval with them, trailing Gideon 81-10. Overall, Collins’ approbate rating is 33%, with a disapproval of 57%. That leaves an undecided or no-opinion of just 10%, not a good look for a four-term senator.

Let's make sure her time is up. Please give $1 to help Democrats in each of these crucial Senate races, but especially the one in Maine!

Collins' fall from electoral grace is the most stunning this cycle, but she's far from the only Republican incumbent who's going to be having some serious fret over PPP's polling. In polling over the last weeks, it has found Mark Kelly leading Martha McSally 47-42 in Arizona, Cal Cunningham leading Thom Tillis 46-41 in North Carolina, and in Colorado John Hickenlooper over Cory Gardner 51-38.

That's worth kicking in some dough, no?

A note on our fundraising for the Maine Senate seat and others on the slate: this is the escrow fund that will go to the winner of the primary in each state. We're not going to put the official Daily Kos thumb on the scale in primaries where there isn't a crappy incumbent. All the money raised in this effort will go to the Democratic challengers once they're official.

You want to make the Supreme Court a fight for 2020, Moscow Mitch? You got it

Moscow Mitch McConnell is clutching his phony pearls, shocked, shocked that Sen. Chuck Schumer would dare politicize the Supreme Court. Yes. Mitch McConnell. The McConnell who stole a Supreme Court seat from President Barack Obama and called it, "One of my proudest moments." The same McConnell who refused to allow an FBI investigation into credible allegations of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee who had perjured himself, repeatedly, before a Senate committee.

In case you missed the brouhaha, Schumer spoke at an abortion rights rally at the Supreme Court Wednesday following the arguments in the latest abortion case, one that threatens the court’s integrity if it reverses a decision made just four years ago that protects access to abortion.

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Schumer riffed off of the threat Brett Kavanaugh made to Democratic senators during his confirmation hearing. "You sowed the wind," Kavanaugh snarled at the senators, and "the country will reap the whirlwind." He accused Democrats of "a calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election," and even said that his hearing was "revenge on behalf of the Clintons," since he was on Kenneth Starr's team during the Clinton impeachment. So what Schumer said Wednesday echoed Kavanaugh's words back to him. "I want to tell you, Gorsuch. I want to tell you, Kavanaugh," Schumer said, "You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You won't know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions."

Was the last sentence impolitic? Sure. Schumer admitted as much. Was it threat to Gorsuch and Kavanaugh directly? No. Of course not. It was Schumer telling it like it is: These justices played politics and paid lip service to respecting precedent to get on the court, and they are political actors now. But cue McConnell and his plastic pearls. This was a "threat," McConnell said, a "Senate leader appearing to threaten or incite violence on the steps of the Supreme Court" and "astonishingly, astonishingly reckless and ... irresponsible."

Yeah, right. And what did McConnell say when the occupier of the Oval Office he is enabling attacked Judge Gonzalo Curiel for his Mexican heritage? Or Judge James Robart as a "so-called judge." Or Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who he says should recuse themselves from "anything having to do with Trump or Trump related."

Where was McConnell's concern for the independent judiciary then? Yeah, invisible. McConnell did not say one word in defense of those judges, in defense of an independent judiciary, because he doesn't believe in it. He is more than happy to turn as much of the federal judiciary into Trump courts—TRUMP courts—as he possibly can. It doesn't matter if the judges he installs are unqualified or incompetent or raging extremists and white supremacists. All the better, in fact, for McConnell's vision for our republic.

McConnell is playing with fire here. If this court, now with Neil Gorsuch—the guy he installed by stealing a seat from President Obama—and Brett Kavanaugh—the accused sexual assaulter and perjurer—decides to overturn four-year-old precedent on abortion? If that happens, McConnell's majority is done. Which, by the way, was what Schumer was talking about at the Supreme Court Wednesday. It's what he said on the Senate floor Thursday morning: "The fact that my Republican colleagues have worked, systematically, over the course of decades, to install the judicial infrastructure to take down Roe v. Wade—and do very real damage to the country and the American way of life—that is the issue that will remain."

McConnell wants this fight? He's got it.

Your regular reminder that ending Moscow Mitch’s majority is as critical as dumping Trump

It is always worth remembering that there are literally hundreds of bills passed by House Democrats now languishing in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's legislative graveyard. With the Presidents Day recess over, the winter holiday break hangover is being shaken off. Impeachment is done and McConnell's cover-up of Donald Trump's misdeeds effected. Under normal Senate leadership in an election year, the real legislative work would be underway now. But McConnell will not let us have normal anymore; he won't let us have anything good.

He's holding the nation hostage. Please give $1 to our nominee fund to help Democrats and end McConnell's career as Senate majority leader.

Like the bill passed by the House on Dec. 12 last year, which would substantially reduce the costs of prescription drugs (a sustained issue for voters) and strengthen Medicare by allowing it to negotiate drug prices and use the savings to expand Medicare benefits to include hearing, dental, and vision care. That bill is "the most impactful piece of drug legislation" since the Medicare prescription drug program was created nearly 20 years ago, Steve Knievel, an advocate at Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program, told HuffPost.

It's been one year, Sen. Chris Murphy points out, since the House passed universal background checks for gun purchases, a year in which more than 15,000 people died by gun violence.

Just the week before last, McConnell and his minions once again blocked Democrats from bringing election protection bills to the floor. That's while the intelligence community is being destroyed by Trump for telling the truth to Congress—that Russia is even now interfering to help Trump be re-elected.

What McConnell is bringing to the floor is forced-birth legislation that will never pass in the Senate or be considered in the House. It's a bill in search of a problem—the abortion procedure it would ban doesn't even exist. But McConnell thinks it will help his vulnerable Republicans to take this vote, so that's what the Senate is going to do.

Instead of making the nation healthier. Instead of making the nation safer.

There’s a lesson for Susan Collins to learn in her plummeting poll numbers

Susan Collins is going to be very, very concerned about her re-election prospects come November. A Colby College poll released Tuesday has her losing by one point to her likely Democratic opponent, Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, 42-43. The Democratic primary isn't until June, so Gideon is still focused there, but even if she doesn't emerge as the victor, Collins needs to be worried.

Just 42% of Mainers said they will vote for her in November, which is pretty darned bad. That's where her favorability rating sits, too, compared to 54% who view her unfavorably. Since winning the seat in 1996, when she squeaked in, Collins has always won with about 60%. "We're not used to seeing Sen. Collins in a tight race," Dan Shea, a researcher on the poll, told The Wall Street Journal.

Collins' time is up. Please give $1 to help Democrats in each of these crucial Senate races, but especially the one in Maine!

"American politics has taken a dramatic turn in the last four to six years, and the broader question is whether or not the nationalization of American politics has spread to Maine as well," Shea continued. That's one way of putting it. Another is that Collins has demonstrated that she's as craven as any other Republican when it comes to giving Trump a free pass and betraying the principles she's always claimed to hold. Especially when it comes to selling out women.

That's where Collins has lost the most support, Shea points out. "She is hemorrhaging women voters. […] We weren't quite sure of the impact that the Kavanaugh vote would have on her brand, but it's really popped up in this poll." She has the support of just 36% of women overall, compared to 49% for Gideon. With women under 50, she loses 25-56. Her vote for the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court contains multitudes of problems for Collins—it was a proxy for her caving to Trump and McConnell; it is a rebuke of Christine Blasey Ford and her testimony against Kavanaugh, and by extension of all of the women who have been abused by powerful men and bravely tell their stories; it endangers the most basic of our rights: control over the decisions we make for our own bodies. Collins betrayed women on every level with that one vote, so it's not a surprise that they're abandoning her now. Not to mention what Kavanaugh will mean for civil rights, the environment, gun safety measures—all the issues for which Collins was a pet Republican who won't be there any more.

Mainers aren't too thrilled with her impeachment trial performance, either, especially independents, about 40% of the electorate in the state. Just 13% of that group say they're more likely to vote for her because of her vote to acquit Trump, compared to 39% who are less likely to vote for her. "What happened for a lot of independents is I think that many were looking for a Mitt Romney moment, and they didn't get it," Shea said. Sounds like they're the last group to get the message about Collins.

Collins, the most unpopular senator in the land, is absolutely beatable this cycle.

Moscow Mitch makes it clear with opposition to prescription drug pricing bill: Mitch comes first

Impeached president Donald Trump has made lots of supportive noises about a bill with bipartisan support in the Senate to bring down drug prices, written by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley and Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden. Knowing that Democrats are going to be running hard on health care in all the states, some Republican senators—such as Arizona's Martha McSally, Iowa's Joni Ernst, and Maine's Susan Collins—would really like to have this pass. They need something to run on.

Grassley says so: "Since the president stated [his support] in his State of the Union message, we've had a lot of Republicans express interest that probably wouldn't have." But one obstacle remains: Mitch McConnell has remained steadfast against it. He says it divides his conference, as there are some Republicans who don't like that it would cap price increases or force companies that raised prices above the cap to pay out rebates as their penalty. They say that amounts to price controls, so McConnell is pointing to that as a reason for his opposition. What he's not talking about is the massive haul his campaign fund has received in the past year from the drug industry.

Please give $1 to our nominee fund to help Democrats and end McConnell's career as Senate majority leader.

McConnell is the top recipient among all members of Congress for the 2019-2020 cycle from the pharmaceutical industry. The CEOs of these companies have been very generous to McConnell as well. Last summer, as the drug pricing bill was coming together, William Anderson, the CEO of Roche Pharmaceuticals, gave $15,600 to the McConnell for Majority Leader Committee, as did Bristol-Myers Squibb CEO Giovanni Caforio. The CEOs of Pfizer, AbbVie, Merck, and Sanofi all maxed out as well, while nearly a dozen officers of other companies and the pharmaceutical industry trade group PhRMA itself gave thousands.

Trump supposedly supports it, though it might be his reward to McConnell for the impeachment cover-up to let this one drop. When it comes down to it, Trump needs McConnell right where he is—no one else would be quite so ruthless and effective at helping him get away with all the crime.

For Republicans in Trump’s cover-up it wasn’t about ‘heads on pikes,’ it was all about the money

In the latest Daily Kos/Civiqs poll, fully 60% of Americans disapprove of how the U.S. Senate conducted Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. The behavior of Senate Republicans following that trial probably won't get many cheers, either. The three most closely watched Republicans during the trial, those who pretended to be open-minded and committed to doing their jobs, have all popped up in the last few days with slathering praise for the Trump administration which let loose all the money once the trial was done. It turns out the issue wasn’t the threat of heads on pikes at all. It was all about the bribes.

Please give $1 to our nominee fund to help Democrats end McConnell's career as majority leader.

Retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander tweeted to thank Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Trump for the investment of "$9 million in Tennessee to provide and improve high-speed broadband infrastructure projects for 3,744 rural households, 31 businesses and 41 farms."

Sen. Lisa Murkowski had Transportation Secretary and Moscow Mitch spouse Elaine Chao to thank for "a $20M Port Infrastructure Development Program grant to the Port of Alaska to help offset the 1st phase costs of the Port’s desperately-needed modernization program, enabling safe, cost-effective, & reliable Port operations." That's a whole 1% of the estimated cost for the port. Was it worth a vote to keep the worst president ever to sit in the Oval Office?

You know, of course, who else is getting in on the action:

Great news! 19 Housing Authorities in Maine have been awarded more than $9.5 million to preserve & modernize affordable housing units that serve individuals with disabilities & low-income individuals and families.https://t.co/9FzNcL197P

— Sen. Susan Collins (@SenatorCollins) February 13, 2020

Could they be more blatant? No. The answer is no. 

Trump shows Collins a lesson he learned from impeachment: Don’t let anyone listen to your criming

Sen. Susan Collins has done her best to walk back her ridiculous statement that impeached president Donald Trump learned a lesson from the impeachment process, and to absolve herself of any responsibility for a now totally unfettered Trump. The thing is, though: She can't. Because Trump himself is yelling out the real lessons he learned every damn day. Like on Thursday, when he trashed another presidential norm meant to keep chief executives in check and to protect national security.

Collins' time is up. Please give $1 to help Democrats in each of these crucial Senate races, but especially the one in Maine!

In a radio interview with Geraldo Rivera, Trump talked about one of the lessons he’s learned: not to let officials listen in on his phone calls with world leaders. "Well, that's what they've done over the years," Trump said. "When you call a foreign leader, people listen. I may end the practice entirely. I may end it entirely." This came about in a discussion about Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who Trump was bitching about in the interview, calling him "insubordinate" for raising his concerns about Trump's call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. "I'm not a fan of Vindman," Trump added. Surprise.

Given his cavalier attitude toward classified intelligence, this latest lesson learned by Trump has the national security community freaking out. "Right now, President Trump is a nightmare to every intel and [national-security] officer, and this is all stuff he's done with their knowledge," a former senior National Security Agency official told Business Insider. "Allowing him to conduct these calls in private would be catastrophic for us."

A former National Security Council senior director under President Barack Obama, Edward Price, told Business Insider that allowing intelligence and national security people to listen to calls "is indispensable to the coordination and implementation of sound foreign policy and national-security practices,. […] No president—but especially not this one—can or should be relied upon to backbrief senior advisers on details that can often be extraordinarily nuanced." Of course it has happened with this impeached president. And it wasn't just a phone call, but also face-to-face meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin: On several occasions, Trump has talked with Putin without U.S. staff present.

So the lesson he did learn from Collins and the rest of the Republicans who let him off the hook is that that's the way he should always conduct foreign policy, with no one around him who can alert the rest of the government—including Congress—about the crime-doing.