Morning Digest: Cuomo impeachment vote might not happen until September at the soonest

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Matt Booker, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Leading Off

NY-Gov: The New York Times, citing an unnamed source, reports that Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie believes "he has the support from most, if not all, of the Democratic majority" to impeach Gov. Andrew Cuomo, though at a Monday news conference, he was hazy about the timeline for proceeding. Heastie told reporters he thinks that lawmakers' impeachment investigation will be "dealt with in weeks, and not months," though it would then be some time before articles of impeachment could be drafted and voted on.

To get a sense of just how vague Heastie's guidance was, North Country Public Radio suggested that articles "could come as early as this month," while the Times said they "might not be considered until early September," and the Albany Times Union went with "mid-September." If and when the Assembly does impeach Cuomo (and for what it's worth, every Republican in the chamber is in favor), a trial could not take place in the Senate any sooner than 30 days later. All told, a vote on whether to convict Cuomo and remove him from office—assuming he doesn't resign first—may therefore not happen until October at the earliest.

Campaign Action

Cuomo has also been trying to convince legislative leaders not to impeach him in exchange for him not running for a fourth term, The City reported, but Heastie shot down the idea at Monday's press event. In the now-likely event of a Cuomo-less Democratic primary next year (or one featuring a deranged and mortally wounded ex-governor), our old friend the Great Mentioner is warming up for a very busy season of would-be candidacies. Politico starts us off with an extremely long and detailed list of potential successors, including a number of names we haven't previously cited, though there's pretty much no word yet as to whether any are interested. Don't worry, though: There will be, soon.

Senate

CA-Sen: Rep. Ro Khanna, who'd been the lone holdout among California House Democrats in not yet backing Sen. Alex Padilla for re-election, has at last endorsed the incumbent for a full six-year term. Khanna had previously declined to rule out a challenge to Padilla, who was appointed to replace Vice President Kamala Harris in January, but with no major opponents in sight, the senator should be a lock next year.

MD-Sen: If Republican Gov. Larry Hogan wanted to put to rest any speculation that he might run against Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen next year, he could simply crib from ol' William Tecumseh Sherman, whose famous Statement™ they teach on the first day of politician school. Instead, he's continued to keep the door open just a crack, most recently telling Maryland Matters, "I've said like a million times I haven't really expressed any interest whatsoever in that." Added Hogan, "Van Hollen should not lay awake at night, every night, worrying about me." Precisely what Hogan would like—a complacent opponent! Seriously, though, this is getting silly, but it can end if Hogan wishes it to.

NY-Sen: When asked by CNN's Dana Bash whether she might challenge Sen. Chuck Schumer in next year's Democratic primary, sophomore Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez didn't rule out the possibility but also did not sound particularly interested in the prospect. The congresswoman insisted that she hasn't seriously considered the race, saying, "I can't operate the way that I operate and do the things that I do in politics while trying to be aspiring to other things or calculating to other things." She also added that she and Schumer "have been working very closely on a lot of legislation and that, to me, is important."

Ocasio-Cortez did not offer any sort of timetable for making a decision, however, and her comments were made in late June as part of a taping for a CNN special, so it's possible her stance has shifted since then.

Governors

CA-Gov: California Republicans aren't endorsing anyone in next month's gubernatorial recall election … and neither are California Democrats. Well, sort of, for the latter: Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday encouraged supporters to leave the second question on the recall ballot blank rather than choose a replacement candidate, saying his team is "just focusing on 'no' " on the first question, which asks voters whether they want to recall Newsom from office.

That's in keeping with Newsom's strategy all along, which was to discourage any high-profile Democrats from entering the race and unite the party behind him and him alone. Whether that'll work, though, is the number one question facing Democrats, especially since at least one pollster has suggested that the variety of options open to Republican voters on question two has generated enthusiasm on the GOP side that Team Blue lacks.

But that wide-open field has created its own problem for Republicans, who voted not to back any candidate at a state party gathering over the weekend. With several welterweights running, that could lead to a split vote among the various GOP choices and possibly allow a little-known Democrat like Kevin Paffrath to prevail on the second question—an outcome that a recent independent poll suggested could indeed come to pass.

That survey—which was the first to show the recall succeeding, by a 51-40 margin—also found Paffrath with a 27-23 edge on conservative radio host Larry Elder, though Paffrath was the only Democrat named along with six Republicans. Elder has emerged as the top Republican fundraiser in the race after he reported raising $4.5 million since kicking off his campaign last month, though Newsom has amassed 10 times as much, bringing in $46 million through the end of July, and has been spending heavily on ads.

CO-Gov: Jason Salzman of the Colorado Times Recorder writes that Republican state Sen. John Cooke, who is also the assistant minority leader of the chamber, did a radio interview last Thursday and shared some unflattering thoughts on his own party's outlook in next year's governor's race.

Cooke said he did not think Democratic Gov. Jared Polis could be beaten and even praised the governor as "smart and popular." He did name-check businessman Greg Lopez, the only officially announced candidate so far for the GOP but bemoaned his lack of money and name recognition.

Cooke also mentioned former state Sen. Ellen Roberts as someone who could give his party a chance in the race, but he said she told him she's not interested in running. Roberts thought about a statewide bid in 2016 for Senate but decided against it after receiving backlash from some Republicans for not being sufficiently conservative.

House

AR-01: State Rep. Brandt Smith kicked off a Republican primary bid against Rep. Rick Crawford, who's represented eastern Arkansas' 1st Congressional District since 2011. Smith claimed Crawford's lack of accessibility and responsiveness to his constituents, rather than any specific policy disagreements, as his reasons for taking on the incumbent, a lower-profile Trumpnik who voted to overturn the results of last year's election.

MO-04: Former Republican state Sen. Ed Emery died last Friday at age 71, just a few days after collapsing at a campaign event. Emery had launched a bid for Missouri's open 4th Congressional District in June.

Lieutenant Governors

GA-LG, GA-Gov, GA-Sen: As expected, Republican state Sen. Burt Jones will seek Georgia's lieutenant governorship, rather than run for Senate or governor. Jones is a wealthy businessman who was booted as chair of a key legislative committee by fellow Republicans for leading an effort to overturn last year's election, a demotion he refashioned as a badge of honor in his campaign kickoff.

Another state senator, Butch Miller, is already running for the GOP nod, but Donald Trump dumped on him last month, saying he "will not be supporting or endorsing" Miller "because of his refusal to work with other Republican Senators on voter fraud and irregularities in the State." Two notable Democrats, state Reps. Erick Allen and Derrick Jackson, are in the race, which is open because Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan chose not to seek re-election after disputing Trump's false claims that the election was stolen.

Republican screwups on infrastructure hurt people from Kentucky to Michigan to Mississippi to NYC

The running joke of the Trump presidency—okay, one of the running jokes—was the constant pronouncements of an upcoming “infrastructure week” or that some kind of infrastructure deal was in the offing. Nothing. Ever. Happened. Meanwhile, ask the people of Jackson, Mississippi—who watched as the government at every level failed for decades to invest in keeping their city’s water system up to date, with some residents unable to access water for weeks—to find humor in Trump’s failure to deliver. We’ll come back to that story below.

Once again, infrastructure is the word flying around Washington, D.C., and it’s no longer a joke. There are ongoing conversations in the House and the Senate. We’ve seen a bipartisan deal announced laying out the framework on funding what’s called physical infrastructure (roads, bridges, etc.), the urgent need for which will be our focus here. However, let me add that our government—with or without support from Republicans—absolutely must fund equally vital human infrastructure needs such as child and elder care, job training, and education, elements that are just as important in making our economy stronger. As President Biden pointed out in La Crosse, Wisconsin, on June 29, “the human infrastructure is intertwined with our physical infrastructure.”

Finally, the grownups are in charge.

For anyone who still needs convincing, the consulting firm McKinsey laid out the data on the benefits of serving the common good by investing in our country’s physical infrastructure: there is little doubt about the value of investing in good infrastructure. In 2015, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that every dollar spent on infrastructure brought an economic benefit of up to $2.20. The U.S. Council of Economic Advisers has calculated that $1 billion of transportation-infrastructure investment supports 13,000 jobs for a year. Beyond the numbers, infrastructure is critical to the health and well-being of the country: the United States could not function without the roads, bridges, sewers, clean water, and airports previous generations paid for.

As you can see below, after a nice bump early in the Obama-Biden years thanks to the 2009 stimulus package, infrastructure spending dropped off and fell to generational lows under the guy who followed them.

It would be impossible to provide even a partial list of the necessary infrastructure projects across the U.S., although this article does a nice job presenting a number of the highest priorities. The Biden White House has produced fact sheets that sum up each state’s physical infrastructure needs, demonstrating what it hopes to accomplish for Americans all across the country.

Images of the horrific water crisis in Flint, Michigan, are burned into all of our minds, but another city’s water-related tragedy may be less familiar. In Jackson, Mississippi, a city of 160,000 inhabitants, over 80% of whom are Black, the majority went without running water for weeks after a brutal mid-February storm. How brutal? An engineer at the state Department of Transportation expressed the following: “I sincerely hope that in 25 plus years from now, we are still talking about this event as the ‘worst one ever.” Even a month after the storm had passed, over 70% of people were still being told to boil their water before using it.

Why did the storm wreak such havoc in Jackson specifically? Because of a century-plus old municipal water system whose vulnerabilities were laid bare by the storm—which also pummeled Texas, killing hundreds and perhaps as many as a thousand people while knocking out that state’s power grid. Jackson residents reflected on the crisis in interviews with Good Morning America.

Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba specifically blamed Mississippi Republicans, who have dominated the state’s politics for decades, for failing to fund the necessary infrastructure repairs that would have mitigated damage from the storm: “I think that you find less willingness from the state to support a city like Jackson, because they don't necessarily feel that the demographics of Jackson, or even the politics of Jackson resemble the majority opinion.” In other words, they didn’t care one iota about a city full of Black Democrats.

The governor of Mississippi recently murmured something about assisting the city in looking around for low-interest loans. Yip-frickin-ee. The mayor estimated the cost of truly solving the problems faced by the city’s water system—Jackson’s water also has a lead problem rivaling that of the aforementioned Flint—at $2 billion. The Biden plan proposed to send what will hopefully be enough money to make things right for the people of Jackson.

Beyond Flint’s problems, there are dams all over Michigan that are simply falling apart. In May 2020, the Sanford and Edenville dams burst after heavy rains, flooding surrounding areas. Regarding the Edenville dam—aged 96 years—federal regulators revoked its license to generate hydropower in 2018, but the state regulators apparently dropped the ball in subsequent years. Overall, the dams failed because of “years of underfunding and neglect.”

Like in Mississippi, Michigan Republicans have controlled the purse strings for quite some time. They’ve maintained a state Senate majority since 1984, and have run the House since 2010—aided significantly by gerrymandering. From 2011 through 2019, the state’s governor was Republican Rick Snyder. While holding this trifecta of power, Michigan Republicans largely ignored the state’s infrastructure needs. In fact, Snyder, along with other members of his administration, were indicted earlier this year on criminal charges for their actions (or lack thereof) relating to Flint’s water fiasco.

On dams, the kind of flooding residents of Midland and Gladwin counties suffered is common in every part of the country. There are about 91,000 dams in the U.S. Of these, approximately 15,000-16,000 are located in spots where, if they broke, significant loss of life and property destruction would result. The Association of State Dam Safety Officials has determined that around one out of every six of those dams are “deficient.” That is a problem we need to address before the next storm.

The most infuriating, most foolish example of active Republican malfeasance originated in the time before President Caligula had made the transition from reality show buffoon to destructive demagogue. It took place at the center of the region with the largest economy of any in the U.S., and concerned its most important ground transportation hub—the one that connects the island of Manhattan to the mainland by train.

We’re also talking about a problem that Democratic President Barack Obama and a Democratic Congress, with the support of local officials, had actually begun fixing over a decade ago. That was before New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie, doctrinaire conservative that he is, metaphorically stood athwart the train tracks yelling “STOP!” It’s a very long story, but it’s one that demonstrates how Republican ideology, Republican lies, and plain-old Republican shortsightedness put the kibosh on a project that remains just as necessary today.

There is only one train tunnel—which happens to be 110 years old—running beneath the Hudson River. For many years, we’ve known that that’s at least one tunnel too few. What was then called the ARC (Access to the Region’s Core) project would have built a second one, enabling twice as many trains to cross into the Big Apple. Roughly 200,000 people and 450 trains traveled through that sole, aging tunnel on a typical pre-COVID weekday. Other positive effects of the ARC project would have included: “alleviat[ing] congestion on local roads, reduc[ing] pollution, help[ing] the growth of the region’s economy and rais[ing] property values for suburban homeowners.” Oh, and it would have created 6,000 construction jobs right at the point during the Great Recession when unemployment was at its peak, at just about 10%.

The work was already underway when, in October of 2010, Gov. Christie suddenly reversed himself and cancelled the project. As late as that April, shortly after his inauguration, he had reiterated his long-standing support. Why, pray tell, did he take an action that “stunned other government officials and advocates of public transportation”? Even though the federal government, along with the states of New York and New Jersey, and the Port Authority, were all contributing to the bill, Christie claimed that New Jersey would end up bearing the burden of cost overruns, and so he pulled out.

It turned out that, as per a 2012 investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Christie was, to put it charitably, incorrect in just about everything he claimed as justification for cancelling the project. Looking back, it’s clear why he did what he did, based on where the money that had been dedicated to building the ARC tunnel ended up—namely in NJ’s “near-bankrupt transportation trust fund, traditionally financed by the gasoline tax.” In other words, he took the money so he wouldn’t have to raise gas taxes, and thereby earn the ill-will of the people who put him in office. What a bozo.

As bad as that decision was at the time, it was rendered even more foolish by a little thing called Hurricane Sandy, which slammed the region in 2012. A year earlier, what had been the ARC project had been tweaked somewhat and re-proposed as the Gateway project, again centering on the building of a new Hudson River tunnel. After Sandy resulted in severe flooding, an Empire State Building-sized amount of dirty, salty water ended up in the tunnels. Repairing the damage with only one tunnel in operation would cause a nightmare for commuters.

But, after initial steps were taken during Obama’s second term that culminated in a cost-sharing agreement between the states—who together would pick up half the tab, with the federal government paying the other half—a new president took office in 2017. And he was a New Yorker, born and bred, so certainly he’d make sure the Gateway project happened. Unfortunately, The Man Who Lost An Election And Tried To Steal It not only physically abandoned his Fifth Avenue penthouse—he now makes Florida his primary home—he 100% abandoned the city that made him a household name. Progress on the Gateway tunnel ground to a halt, and the funding dried up, as Trump took an “obstructionist stance.”

That brings us back to the Biden-Harris administration, which formally approved the Gateway project just over a month ago. In the last days of June, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg toured the tunnel himself. He made clear that his boss was 100% on board, and fully understood the necessity for the whole of the American economy of the project. Shutting down even one of the two tubes in the existing tunnel for repairs without having first built the additional Gateway tunnel would mean, as the one-time Mayor Pete noted: “you would be feeling the economic impact all the way back in Indiana, where I come from.” To be more specific, a study by the non-profit Regional Plan Association found the impact could run as high as $16 billion, and cost 33,000 jobs.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York gave thanks to the White House on behalf of the region, and took a dig at the twice impeached former Gotham-dweller: “Now we can announce that the hostage that was the Gateway tunnel under the previous administration has been freed,” and added: “We are full speed ahead to get Gateway done.” The project could begin as early as next year, or else in 2023, according to the senator. Still, Christie and Trump set the region back years—perhaps a decade. All of us are still crossing our fingers that not only will the project happen, but also that the new tunnel is completed before the old one gives out.

But of course it’s not only urban centers that have dire infrastructure needs. Martin County is in eastern Kentucky, with a population that is, incredibly, over 99% white. Since 1999, both U.S. Senate seats from Kentucky have been held by Republicans, one of them by Mitch McConnell, who has led the Republican Party in that body since 2007. In the House, Martin County has been represented by Republican Hal Rogers since 1981.

In a video produced by the Biden White House, Barbi Ann Maynard detailed what she and her neighbors don’t have, because their infrastructure is so lacking: “People talk about Eastern Kentucky is poor, and they don't really have anything. Well, how are we ever going to have anything if our government won’t invest in our infrastructure? We’re people too. We’re American citizens. And we deserve access to clean, affordable drinking water.” Running the tap at her kitchen sink, she pointed at the not at all clear liquid flowing out of it and stated simply: “this water disgusts me. I’m afraid of this water.”

Maynard described the language that has appeared “for decades” as a warning on the back of the water bills Martin County residents receive: “If you are pregnant, infant, elderly, have a compromised immune system, consult a physician before consuming this water. If consumed over many years, it causes liver damage, kidney damage, central nervous system damage, and twice it says increased risk of cancer.” I drink New York City tap water every day, multiple glasses of it, without thinking twice. So while my region has its infrastructure deficiencies, folks in Eastern Kentucky have it even worse in their daily lives, right now.

Maynard continued by talking about the need for roads and bridges, which are either in disrepair or nonexistent across the county, as well as other priorities. The Nolan Toll Bridge was the only way for people in the area to get to the interstate. After being damaged badly, it was closed off rather than repaired. She lamented: “When you lose bridges, roads, you lose opportunities to grow. Businesses can’t come if they can’t get their product out,” and added “because we have [a] lack of infrastructure, that causes companies to not want to come and invest in Martin County.” Maynard has been fighting for increased infrastructure spending in her county for more than twenty years, and summarized the situation thusly: “I know what we could have. I know what it could be like. And I want that for my people.”

The Orange Julius Caesar took up shop in the Oval Office in January 2017, and his party controlled the House and the Senate. Using the reconciliation process, they could easily have passed a massive infrastructure package, or even a medium-sized one, with or without Democrats. After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico’s infrastructure on Trump’s watch in 2017, he came up with little more than some paper towels to toss the island’s way. Puerto Ricans continue to suffer from Maria’s damage as well as, for just one example among many, earthquakes that revealed serious vulnerabilities in the design of hundreds of schools across the island—another major infrastructure need.

Even after Democrats won the House in the 2018 midterms, Trump still could have accomplished something major on infrastructure. Trump blew off Speaker Nancy Pelosi, fuming about impeachment. Republicans can bleat about how they believe in infrastructure, how they support infrastructure. When the rubber met the (in dire need of repair) road, they failed to deliver.

The Biden-Harris team, along with congressional Democrats, are going to do the work of funding our country’s infrastructure needs in every region, just as they’ve done the work on so many issues—ranging from carrying out a nationwide vaccination program, to rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, to passing the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, among other accomplishments. This White House knows that strengthening our physical as well as human infrastructure is good politics as well as the right thing to do for the American economy, and for the American people.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of  The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh's Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas)

Republicans won’t whip against Jan. 6 commission vote, but McCarthy has ensured its failure

The House is scheduled to vote this week—as soon as Wednesday—on the deal struck by Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson and ranking committee member John Katko for a Jan. 6 commission. Structured much like the 9/11 Commission, the bipartisan committee would investigate the insurrectionist attack on the Capitol.

Thus far, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy hasn't said whether he'll endorse the deal, but leadership seems spooked enough over backlash against the idiot Republicans who insist that it wasn't a violent insurrection but just another "normal tourist visit." Republican leaders will not whip against the bill, meaning it will be a vote of conscience for their members.

That's after a handful of their members—including Rep. Liz Cheney, who secured a very large megaphone thanks to the House GOP deciding to kick her off the leadership team—spent the last several days blasting the revisionist history coming from their colleagues.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021 · 3:33:26 PM +00:00 · Joan McCarter

Speaker Pelosi reacts to McCarthy: "I am very pleased that we have a bipartisan bill to come to the floor and [it's] disappointing, but not surprising that [there's] cowardice on the part of some on the Republican side, [to] not to want to find the truth."https://t.co/9ppvhaEeuH

— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) May 18, 2021

On Friday, Cheney told ABC's Jon Karl that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy—who's done nothing but promote Trump's Big Lie in recent months—should testify before the commission. If he doesn't agree to that, Cheney said, he should be subpoenaed. "I think that he very clearly, and said publicly, that he's got information about the president’s state of mind that day," Cheney said. "I would anticipate that, you know—I would hope he doesn't require a subpoena, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he were subpoenaed."

Michigan Republican Rep. Fred Upton called out his colleagues on Sunday, calling their claims that the insurrection was just a patriots' play-date "bogus," and that those claims prove the need for the commission. "It's absolutely bogus. You know, I was there. I watched a number of the folks walk down to the White House and then back. I have a balcony on my office. So I saw them go down. I heard the noise—the flash bangs, I smelled some of the gas as it moved my way," Upton told CNN's Dana Bash on State of the Union. "Get the facts out, try to assure the American public this is what happened, and let the facts lead us to the conclusion," Upton said.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski blasted House Republicans who downplayed the attack on Friday. "I'm offended by that," Murkowski told CNN. "This was not a peaceful protest. When somebody breaks and enters, and then just because you know they don't completely trash your house once you're inside does not mean that it has been peaceful. This was not a peaceful protest." She continued. "We got to get beyond that rhetoric and acknowledge that what happened were acts of aggression and destruction towards an institution, and there were some people intent on (harming) the people that were part of that institution."

She's going to be supporting the commission when the bill gets to the Senate. It is likely to pass there, too, but that's in part because there's a lot that Republicans, including Sen. Mitch McConnell, can do to weaken it.

The legislation creates a commission made up of 10 members, an equal number of members chosen by Democratic and Republican leadership. None of the members can be currently serving government officials and all must have a depth of experience in a combination government, law enforcement, civil rights, and national security service. Democrats would appoint the chair, Republicans the vice chair. The committee would have the power to subpoena McCarthy or anyone else, but if the vice chair wanted to veto that subpoena decision, they could.

The chair—appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer—has the sole power to secure information from the federal agencies and has control over appointing staff. That gives them significant power. But there are still pitfalls for the commission.

One of the key faults of the commission as negotiated is that it has a deadline of the end of this year. Republicans have already dragged it out for five months, and have the chance to do so again, even after the bill passes. Even if McConnell decided against filibustering the bill, he and McCarthy can simple draw out the process of naming their five members.   It's going to hinge a lot on how much McConnell wants to distance the Senate and the party from Trump, how much he wants to try to salvage any measure of dignity for his party. There's certainly no love lost between McConnell and Trump, who he blamed point blank for the Jan. 6 attack. That blame, however, didn't happen until after he voted to acquit Trump in his second impeachment trial.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021 · 1:22:31 PM +00:00 · Joan McCarter

House GOP Leader McCarthy makes it official Tuesday morning: he’s officially opposing the legislation and the commission, saying that Pelosi “refused to negotiate in good faith on basic parameters.” Which is categorically untrue since she handed over the negotiations and had Thompson and Katko figure it out.

“Given the Speaker’s shortsighted scope that does not examine interrelated forms of political violence in America, I cannot support this legislation,” he said. Meaning BLM and Antifa are not explicitly included in the scope of the legislation, though as the commission is structured, the GOP members of it could do McCarthy’s and McConnell’s bidding and yammer on about it all the time. McCarthy’s express opposition makes it much less likely 10 Senate Republicans will support the commission. It will pass the House, but is pretty unlikely to pass in the Senate.

Deal struck on Jan. 6 commission, with House vote scheduled next week

After months of foot-dragging and obstruction from Republicans to the forming an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, a bipartisan deal has emerged. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had delegated Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson to work with ranking committee member John Katko of New York to find a solution. One, it should be noted, that has been greeted tepidly by Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Thompson and Katko have crafted legislation to create a commission modeled after the 9/11 panel. It would have 10 members, half of them appointed by Democratic congressional leaders, who would also appoint the chair. Republicans would appoint the other half, including the vice chair. Critically, if the chair and vice chair agree, the panel would have the power to issue subpoenas. So, problematically, they can veto each other's efforts to subpoena witnesses or documents. On the other hand, the chair is given sole power to get information from federal agencies and to appoint staff.

That, New York University law professor Ryan Goodman tells Greg Sargent at The Washington Post, gives the forces of truth a chance to prevail. "Thanks to powers invested in the Chairperson alone, the Democratically-appointed members would have significant control over the direction of the investigation," Goodman said, helping to prevent Republican appointees from "engaging in mischief." He added that the "Chairperson would be able to move ahead quickly with getting information from the government without needing a vote," saying that the chair can "appoint staff" who would "shape how the investigation and hearings unfold."

The bill specifies that those members cannot be "an officer or employee of an instrumentality of government"—i.e. there can be no currently serving government officials on the panel. They must have "national recognition and significant depth of experience in at least two" areas: previous government service; law enforcement; civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy; experience in the armed forces or intelligence or counterrorism; and a background in cybersecurity or technology or law. A final report, including recommendations for preventing future attacks, would be due at the end of this calendar year.

McCarthy told reporters Friday morning that he hadn't looked at the text yet (he's been too busy installing Trump's toady in leadership to pay attention, I guess), but continues to have concerns about the scope. Namely that "you got to look at the buildup before, and what went on afterward," meaning the BLM and antifa straw men.

The House is voting on the bill next week, along with a supplemental funding bill to beef up Capitol security. It will pass, and should get at least a handful of Republican votes, if not a few dozen, including one from Rep. Liz Cheney, who got a coveted Wall Street Journal quote Friday (take that, Stefanik). "I hope we'll be able to really have the kind of investigation we need about what happened on Jan. 6," Cheney said.

"As I have called for since the days just after the attack, an independent, 9/11-style review is critical for getting answers our [Capitol Police] officers and all Americans deserve," Katko said in a statement announcing the agreement. "This is about facts, not partisan politics." Thompson said in his statement. "I am pleased that after many months of intensive discussion, Ranking Member Katko and I were able to reach a bipartisan agreement. […] Inaction—or just moving on—is simply not an option. The creation of this commission is our way of taking responsibility for protecting the U.S. Capitol."

As of this writing, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn't reacted to the announcement that a deal has been struck, or that the legislation should advance in the House as soon as next week. In the past, he's been critical of the effort, casting it as "partisan" and demanding that the commission also encompass "the full scope of the political violence problem in this country," meaning those BLM and antifa straw men again.

One of the problems with McCarthy and McConnell potential foot-dragging is, of course, whether it would pass in the Senate with the filibuster. The other problem is that the two of them are responsible, along with Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, for appointing half of the commission members. That gives them more opportunity to delay, with the clock ticking on the still-unformed commission's deadline for the end of the year for a report and recommendations.

On the other hand, McConnell has no love for Trump. Here's a pretty much hands-off way for him to damage Trump and to fight the Big Lie. He could make sure that at least some of the five Republican appointees aren't Trumpers. There are plenty of former Republican officials who would relish the opportunity to serve as his proxy.

It's also incumbent on someone in Republican leadership to acknowledge reality, especially as the lunatic fringe of the House Republicans have taken over and are in full denial mode. There was the truly ugly revisionism on display in this week's House Oversight hearing, where Republican Rep. Paul Gosar called even investigating the events of Jan. 6 an assault by the "deep-state" on "law-abiding citizens," and GOP Rep. Andrew Clyde said that day in the Capitol looked like a "normal tourist visit." The nation's dumbest man (yes, dumber than Sen. Ron Johnson) Rep. Louie Gohmert took to the floor Friday to flat-out lie about the events of that day.

Here's McConnell's chance to counter what's happening in his party in the House, including the ouster of Cheney in deference to Trump and the Big Lie. After Trump's acquittal on his second impeachment, McConnell excoriated Trump. He said that Trump was "practically and morally responsible" for the attack. "This was an intensifying crescendo of conspiracy theories orchestrated by an outgoing president who seemed determined to either overturn the voters' decision or else torch our institutions on the way out," McConnell said. "A mob was assaulting the Capitol in his name," he said. "These criminals were carrying his banners, hanging his flags and screaming their loyalty to him."

Having said all that, it's now largely going to be up to McConnell to do something about it.

Morning Digest: Ann Kirkpatrick, who served in the House three different times, announces retirement

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Matt Booker, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Leading Off

AZ-02: Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick announced Friday that she would not seek re-election in Arizona's 2nd Congressional District, a once swingy Tucson-area seat that has trended hard to the left over the last few years but could look quite different next year.

Kirkpatrick is the first House member from either party to announce her retirement this cycle; Texas Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson said in 2019 that she was running for "one last term" in 2020 but hasn’t confirmed those plans since her most recent victory in November. For now, Kirkpatrick is the first name on the 2022 Daily Kos Elections open seat tracker, a bookmark-worthy resource that we'll be updating throughout the cycle as new seats open up.

Kirkpatrick's departure will set off an open-seat race for the new district that emerges from her southern Arizona district turf, which, in its current form, started the decade as competitive but is now decidedly blue.

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The 2nd District, which includes about 60% of Tucson's Pima County and all of conservative Cochise County to the east, backed Mitt Romney 50-48 in 2012 and hosted incredibly tight House races that year and in 2014. Things started to change in 2016, however, when Hillary Clinton carried the seat 50-44, but Republican Rep. Martha McSally, who had narrowly prevailed two years before, was nonetheless decisively re-elected that year. Kirkpatrick, though, convincingly flipped the 2nd in 2018 when McSally left to run for the Senate, and she had little trouble holding it in 2020 as Joe Biden was romping to a 55-44 victory here.

Redistricting is an especially unpredictable affair in Arizona, though, and no one knows what the map will look like next year, since the Grand Canyon State’s congressional and legislative maps are drawn by an independent commission. However, Republicans have done everything they can to sabotage the commission and have stacked the board that appoints its members with GOP partisans.

There’s even a danger the commission could vanish altogether: In 2016, the Supreme Court upheld the body's constitutionality by just a 5-4 margin, and since then, the court has moved to the right. If the commission is struck down, Arizona’s Republican-controlled state government would control the mapmaking process, and they’d be inclined to try to make the 2nd District red again.

But while the district's future shape is unknown, it didn't take long for Politico's Ally Mutnick to put together a list of potential Kirkpatrick successors. On the Democratic side, an unnamed source says that state Rep. Randy Friese is "likely" to run. Friese was a trauma surgeon who operated on then-Rep. Gabby Giffords and others after a gunman sought to assassinate the congresswoman in 2011. Friese got into politics soon after and narrowly unseated a GOP incumbent to win a Tucson-area state House seat in 2014, convincingly winning re-election ever since. Mutnick also mentions Pima County Supervisor Matt Heinz, who has unsuccessfully run here in the past, and state Reps. Andrés Cano and Daniel Hernández as possibilities.

For the Republicans, Mutnick says that state Sen. T.J. Shope "has been in contact with House Republicans about a 2022 bid." Shope's 8th Legislative District, as she notes, doesn't overlap at all with the 2nd Congressional District, though that could change under the new map. Mutnick also name-drops Corporation Commissioner Lea Márquez Peterson, who was the GOP’s 2018 nominee here and lost 55-45 to Kirkpatrick.

Kirkpatrick's departure ends a long career that, in a rarity, included three non-consecutive stints in Congress, including in two different congressional districts under the current map. Kirkpatrick, who grew up on the White Mountain Apache Nation reservation, got an early start in politics, campaigning for her uncle's successful bids for the state legislature, and she later sought a state House seat herself in 2004. Though Kirkpatrick is white, she ran in a northern Arizona seat that had long been represented by Native Americans and prevailed despite initial skepticism about her prospects, bolstered in part by her ability to speak Apache.

She soon sought a promotion in 2007 when Rep. Rick Renzi, a Republican who would be indicted for public corruption months later, announced that he would retire from the sprawling 1st Congressional District in the northern part of the state. The 1st had supported George W. Bush 54-46 in 2004, but Republicans struggled to recruit a strong candidate in what was rapidly turning into an ugly election for the party nationwide.

The eventual GOP nominee, Arizona Mining Association president Sydney Hay, had a hard-right record that made her unappealing to many swing voters. National Republicans abandoned Hayes to her fate in September and Kirkpatrick won 56-39 even as home state Sen. John McCain was carrying the 1st by a 54-44 margin.

The new congresswoman was in for a far more difficult campaign two years later, though, in the face of a political climate that was the reverse of the one she’d enjoyed two years earlier. Dentist Paul Gosar, a tea partier who had not yet become the nationally infamous figure he is now, thwarted a Hayes comeback in the 2010 primary and focused his general election campaign on healthcare and immigration. This time, outside groups on both sides spent heavily throughout the race, but Gosar unseated the incumbent 50-44.

Kirkpatrick's time away from Congress would be brief, though. Arizona’s redistricting commission drew up a new 1st District that, at 51-48 McCain, was considerably less conservative than the version Kirkpatrick had just lost. Gosar opted to run in the safely red 4th District while Kirkpatrick campaigned in the open 1st against former Republican state Sen. Jonathan Paton. The campaign proved to be very competitive, but Kirkpatrick, who again benefited from her long ties to American Indian communities in a seat that was more than 20% Native American, won 49-45 as Romney was taking the district 50-48.

Kirkpatrick would have to defend herself again in 2014 in the midst of what turned out to be another GOP wave year, but things worked out very differently for her than they had in 2010. National Republicans anticipated that state House Speaker Andy Tobin would be a formidable candidate, but it was Kirkpatrick who ran the stronger race. In part, she was once more buoyed by her ties to Native communities, enjoying a turnout boost thanks to a simultaneous race for president of the Navajo Nation (she even recorded radio ads in the Navajo language). Kirkpatrick ended up prevailing 53-47, making her one of just five Democrats left in a Romney seat after the dust settled.

Kirkpatrick's win under difficult conditions for her party made her a sought-out Senate candidate, and Democrats were delighted when she launched a campaign to unseat McCain in 2016. However, while Team Blue hoped that McCain could lose to a far-right primary foe, the race became less appealing after he won renomination against state Sen. Kelli Ward. Prominent outside organizations on both sides largely directed their resources towards other contests, and McCain beat Kirkpatrick 54-41 even though Donald Trumps’ 48-45 win was the weakest for a GOP presidential candidate in two decades.

At that point, Kirkpatrick's congressional career seemed to be over, especially since fellow Democrat Tom O'Halleran had held on to the 1st District, but she soon began talking about challenging Republican Rep. Martha McSally in the neighboring 2nd District. Kirkpatrick, who’d said in 2017 that she was moving to Tucson for family reasons, received public encouragement from former Rep. Ron Barber, who had lost to McSally in 2014, and launched a bid that July. She didn't get the chance to take on McSally, though, as the congresswoman decided to mount an ultimately unsuccessful campaign for the Senate the next year.

Heading into 2018, both parties initially saw the 2nd as a major battleground, though in a break from the past, Kirkpatrick had to first get through a crowded primary. Her main opponent was the party's 2016 nominee, former state Rep. Matt Heinz, who tried to portray Kirkpatrick as an outsider and drew unfavorable headlines when he compared her to a meth addict.

Kirkpatrick won that ugly race 42-30, but she had an easier time in the general election. National Republicans had touted their eventual nominee, Lea Márquez Peterson, but she ended up winning her own primary with an unimpressive 34% of the vote against weak opposition. GOP groups initially aired ads against Kirkpatrick but triaged the race in mid-October as the political climate worsened for them, and Kirkpatrick won her new seat 55-45.

In 2020, for once, Kirkpatrick did not face any serious opposition either from her own party or the GOP. The congresswoman spent six weeks on a leave of absence from Congress that winter as she underwent treatment for alcoholism, but she made it clear she would continue to run for re-election. Kirkpatrick won what would be her final term by the same 55-45 margin she’d earned two years earlier.

Senate

GA-Sen: While acknowledging skepticism among the political class that Donald Trump favorite Herschel Walker might actually run for Senate in Georgia, the Washington Examiner's David Drucker reports that the former NFL running back "appears interested" and has been "making calls into the state." That preposition is the key word there, though: While Walker was raised in the Peach State and was a star on the University of Georgia's football team, he's resided in Texas for many years.

Trump's fulsome support for Walker—he not-tweeted "Run Herschel, run!" in a Wednesday press release—is also causing another issue. One unnamed Republican operative says that other candidates are avoiding the race "because they heard about the Trump-Herschel combo," and Drucker even suggests that Trump's obsession with Walker played a role in former Sen. David Perdue's decision not to wage a comeback bid.

A Walker candidacy still remains highly speculative, however, particularly since the one thing no one has managed to acquire so far is any sort of statement about his interest directly from him.

Governors

NY-Gov: In a flurry of coordinated announcements, almost every Democrat in New York's congressional delegation called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign on Friday morning, with the state's two senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, joining in later that evening. Cuomo has steadfastly insisted he will not leave office, even though the Democratic-run Assembly has begun an impeachment investigation into allegations of misconduct.

With Cuomo's political future in grave peril, more of his fellow Democrats are hinting that they might run for governor themselves, though it's not clear whether anyone actually wants to challenge Cuomo in a primary—he has yet to abandon his re-election bid—or if folks are just hoping for an open-seat race. Either way, CNBC's Brian Schwartz reports that state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and Rep. Tom Suozzi have both been discussing bids with supporters and, through spokespeople, have not denied doing so. DiNapoli has unambiguously said that Cuomo should step down, while Suozzi stopped just short, saying Cuomo should resign "[i]f he cannot effectively govern."

On the GOP side, former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said in a new interview that he's thinking about a second bid for governor, though he added that it "likely would be several months" until he announces a decision. Astorino was the Republican nominee against Cuomo in 2014 and lost 54-40. He also tried to unseat Democratic state Sen. Pete Harckham last year but fell short by a 52-48 margin.

VA-Gov: The GOP nomination for Virginia's gubernatorial election this year will be decided by just a few thousand party delegates, but two wealthy businessmen are nonetheless taking the blunderbuss approach to winning support. According to the Republican media tracking firm Medium Buying, private equity mogul Glenn Youngkin has spent just shy of $1 million to air TV and radio ads while "angel investor" Pete Snyder has forked out over three quarters of a mil. And what kind of ads are they running? The usual racist and xenophobic crap.

House

OH-11: SEIU 1199, which represents 30,000 healthcare and public sector workers in Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia, has endorsed former state Sen. Nina Turner in the Democratic primary for the special election in Ohio's 11th Congressional District.

SC-01, SC-07: Former Fox talking head Eric Bolling, a vocal Trump supporter who left the network in 2017 after his show was cancelled when sexual misconduct allegations were levied against him, is reportedly weighing a bid for Congress in South Carolina, though exactly where is unclear. Politico's Alex Isenstadt says that Bolling could run in the GOP primary in the 7th District against Rep. Tom Rice, who voted to impeach Trump in January, or in the 1st District against Rep. Nancy Mace, who opposed impeachment but offered a few remarks critical of Trump following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Bolling himself wouldn't confirm or deny the report, saying only, "South Carolina is conservative, and South Carolinians deserve conservative representation in D.C." Bolling only moved to South Carolina in 2018 and lives in Charleston, which might put him in Mace's district, or it might not—and definitely not in Rice's. Angry MAGA primary voters, however, are liable to care far more about loyalty to Trump than geographic ties.

TX-06: Republican Brian Harrison, a former Trump HHS official, is the first candidate to go on the airwaves in the May special election for Texas' 6th Congressional District. The spot is devoted to scurrilous lies about Planned Parenthood. There's no word on the size of the buy.

Prosecutors

Manhattan, NY District Attorney: Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced Friday that he would not seek a fourth term this year, a decision that New York’s political world has been expecting for some time. Vance had raised very little money over the last year, and eight different Democrats have been running for months to succeed him in this extremely blue borough.

Vance’s replacement will take over as head of one of the most prominent prosecutor's offices in America—one that’s frequently made headlines, both positive and negative. One such occasion (on the plus side of the ledger) came last month, when, after a lengthy legal battle that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Vance finally received Donald Trump's tax returns as part of his long-running investigation into Trump's financial dealings.

Vance’s 12-year tenure, while relatively long by many standards, turned out to be quite short compared to his predecessors’. When Vance won the race to succeed Robert Morgenthau in 2009, he was replacing a venerated prosecutor who took over the office all the way back in 1975 after beating appointed Republican incumbent Richard Kuh. The last person elected before Morgenthau was fellow Democrat Frank Hogan, who served from 1942 until he resigned in 1973, just months before his death.

Hogan's predecessor was the last Republican to win this post, Tom Dewey, who was elected to a single term in 1937. Dewey went on to become governor of New York and serve as the GOP's presidential nominee in both 1944 and 1948 (you may recall a certain newspaper headline about that).

The Democratic primary for this office will be held June 22, and the winner should have little trouble in November. Note, though, that while New York City voters backed a 2019 referendum to institute instant-runoff voting in primaries for many local offices, the measure does not apply to state-level posts like this one. Instead, it will just take a simple plurality to win the nod.

The field currently consists of:

  • Civil rights attorney Tahanie Aboushi
  • Former State Chief Deputy Attorney General Alvin Bragg
  • Attorney and former prosecutor Liz Crotty
  • Former prosecutor Diana Florence
  • Former prosecutor Lucy Lang
  • Public defender Eliza Orlins
  • Assemblyman Dan Quart
  • Former prosecutor Tali Farhadian Weinstein

There is no clear frontrunner at this point. Most of the contenders have pitched themselves as progressives who will bring much needed changes to the post. The exception is Crotty, who calls herself a centrist and is the one candidate who has not refused to take donations from police unions.

Grab Bag

Demographics: The Texas Democratic Party released an an in-house analysis at the end of February looking at why Democrats fell short in the state in 2020, inspiring Daily Kos Elections contributing editor David Beard to take a deep dive into the report’s findings and what its implications might be for Democrats going forward.

The first part includes a summary of the report, a look at why field work isn't necessarily the answer to every problem in politics, and why the task of persuading voters is so difficult to talk about and analyze. The second part looks specifically at the shifts in the Rio Grande Valley and examines three potential explanations: a focus on unpopular social issues, a lack of investment and voter contact, and the fact of Donald Trump’s status as an incumbent seeking re-election.

You can sign up for Beard’s free weekly newsletter, The Roaring 2020s, for more analysis on this and other topics.

Republicans just proved it: If the filibuster doesn’t end, we cannot restore our democracy

The founding fathers, chafing under the malign thumb of Britain's monarchy, most definitely envisioned the potential for a Donald Trump. Alexander Hamilton pretty much nailed Trump in 1792: "When a man unprincipled in private life[,] desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper … despotic in his ordinary demeanour—known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty—when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity—to join in the cry of danger to liberty—to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion—to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day—It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may 'ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.'"

Thus we have the tool of impeachment and the checks and balances of a legislative, executive, and judicial system. What the founders apparently didn't account for in their careful crafting of the three branches was a Mitch McConnell, a lawmaker so unprincipled that he would enter into a bargain with Trump to enhance his personal power at the expense of the whole Senate, and use that power to subvert the third branch—the judiciary. The reasonable "cooling saucer" of the Senate created to counterbalance the rabble in the House of Representatives wasn't supposed to become a tool of the corrupt, but here we are—and not for the first time. There's a throughline in all of American history for the fight against majority rule democracy: white supremacy. Every sustained backlash against progress has come from privileged whites. We saw its violent and very public resurgence in Trumpism, a storm Republicans have been happy to ride. There are myriad reforms the country has to undertake to beat that back down again, but it has to start now and in the Senate, with the filibuster.

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The vehicle for that is singular: H.R.1, the For the People Act of 2021, and its companion in the Senate, S.1. The House bill, first passed in 2019 and subsequently ignored by McConnell, would enact substantial and groundbreaking electoral reforms. It would remove existing barriers to voting, secure the elections processes to secure the integrity of the vote, expand public financing to fight the pernicious entrenched and monied interests, and ban congressional gerrymandering to ensure equal and fair representation in the House of Representatives. It would also start to chip away at the imbalance of representation in the Senate—where states like Wyoming have a fraction of the population of the nation's largest cities—by granting statehood to the District of Columbia.

That bill is not going to pass the Senate if the filibuster holds, nor is any of President Joe Biden's agenda. Senate Republicans made that abundantly clear from Biden's first day in office, and even before. When the Senate flipped into Democratic hands on Jan. 5 with the runoff results in Georgia, McConnell started in, refusing to bring the Senate out of recess until Jan. 19. (That also built in his excuse for not voting to convict Donald Trump in his impeachment—he could say then, duplicitously, that a former president couldn't be convicted.) McConnell then spent three weeks refusing to allow Biden to form a complete Cabinet by blocking an organizing resolution for the Senate, the necessary piece of business for all of the committees assignments be made and the committees to start serious business, like considering legislation referred to them and processing Biden's nominees.

McConnell—with the tacit support of 49 Republican senators—insisted that this was all in the name of "unity," just like Biden wanted. His stance was that Democrats had to prove that they wanted unity by capitulating to his demand that they promise not to get rid of the filibuster and let him continue to block Biden's agenda and his nominees. To Schumer's credit, he didn't get that. To Joe Manchin's and Kyrsten Sinema's discredit, they agreed with McConnell. Sinema, in fact, has continued to do so.

Sinema is insisting that she'll oppose a minimum wage increase in the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that Democrats are pushing through using budget reconciliation, a limited tool that isn't subject to the 60-vote majority rule and thus can't be filibustered. More than that, Sinema says: "I want to restore the 60-vote threshold for all elements of the Senate's work." That would mean handing a veto of every Biden nominee—including potentially to the Supreme Court—to McConnell.

Sinema is undoubtedly trying to hedge her bets just in case Republicans retake the Senate in 2022, trying to worm her way into their good graces. As if McConnell and team would reward a Democrat for anything. As if it wasn't a betrayal of her own constituents, who support a minimum wage increase. As if it wasn't a betrayal of the LBGTQ community in which Sinema claims membership. She's expressed her willingness to help Republicans filibuster the Equality Act, which bans discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. She's saying that she'll reimpose the 60-vote threshold to block Biden's pro-equality judges after Trump appointed so many anti-equality judges, needing just 51 votes.

She somehow believes that this can be put in the hands of Senate Republicans, only seven of whom voted to convict the guy who incited and directed an insurrection against them, a mob that was primed quite literally for their blood—and very nearly got it.  So, sure, these will be the people who will provide the 10 votes necessary to help Biden save the nation from COVID-19, provide health care to everyone in the aftermath of this pandemic, and finally enact comprehensive immigration reform to help border states like Arizona.

Which takes us back to the For the People Act. The events of Jan. 6 and the Senate Republicans' acquittal of Trump underline just how critical it is that Democrats respond forcefully and quickly to stamp down the radicalized Republican Party, to end its ability to maintain outsized power while representing the minority of the nation's population. It means, particularly for the likes of Manchin and Sinema, realizing that the Republicans they pal around with everyday are not their friends. That they would perhaps lament their deaths at the hands of a violent mob, but aren't going to act to prevent it from happening. It means ending the filibuster.

The For the People Act is the vehicle to use to do just that, because it would level the playing field for Democrats. More than that, it would allow for actual majority rule—for the majority of voters to have their will enacted. To have universal accessible and affordable health care. To have an economic system that's not weighted against them. To not have their families living in fear of separation. To have a government taking on the changes in the climate that threaten to make living in their home regions impossible.

None of that happens without a profound change in our electoral system, and H.R.1/S.1 would start that process. It's also where to dare Sinema and Manchin to thwart the will of the majorities who elected them, to dare them to stand with the white supremacist Republican Party that is fighting to keep whole communities of color disenfranchised.

Sanders, Wyden fight to keep survival checks from being cut by ridiculous austerity arguments

Democrats are having a public fight over something that really matters: how much assistance hurting people are going to get from them in survival checks. It's a stupid fight, summed up best by Sen. Bernie Sanders:

Unbelievable. There are some Dems who want to lower the income eligibility for direct payments from $75,000 to $50,000 for individuals, and $150,000 to $100,000 for couples. In other words, working class people who got checks from Trump would not get them from Biden. Brilliant!

— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 7, 2021

He's not alone in this with powerful support from Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, the new chair of the Finance Committee. The other side is being spearheaded by Sen. Joe Manchin, with back-up from Mitch McConnell's favorite "bipartisan" water carrier, Sen. Susan Collins. They're trying to keep payments from what they call "high-earning" families.

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Look at how Manchin explains this: "An individual of $40,000 income or $50,000 income would receive it. And a family who is making $80,000 or $100,000, not to exceed $100,000, would receive it," Manchin said. "Anything over that would not be eligible, because they are the people who really are hurting right now and need the help the most." Who's missing there? Yeah, everybody making more than $50,001. So he's not even arguing in good faith here, couching this as cutting off payments at $80,000 when that's not what he wants to do.

The gap between $50,000 and $80,000 includes a lot of people who, as Sanders says, got two checks already from the Trump administration and are expecting the third one everybody is talking about, a point also made by Wyden: "I understand the desire to ensure those most in need receive checks, but families who received the first two checks will be counting on a third check to pay the bills." That's so glaringly apparent that it's hard to understand there is any constituency for this fight, including in the White House.

It gets even worse when you drill down to find out where the impetus for the cut comes from, as David Dayen has done at The American Prospect. The debate is being driven by a paper from Harvard economics professor Raj Chetty and others which showed higher-income households not spending the last, $600 round of checks immediately. Dayen uncovers the fact that the Chetty research is not on household-level income data. Instead, data for about 10% of U.S. credit and debit card activity sorted into ZIP codes by the address associated with the card. Those ZIP codes are then grouped "using 2014-2018 ACS (The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey) estimates of ZIP Code median household income," according to the appendix in the Chetty paper. So, as Dayen says, the conclusion that low-income people spent their checks immediately while higher-income people did not, "is by saying that ZIP codes that had lower-income people in them between three and seven years ago contained a higher level of immediate spending than ZIP codes with higher-income people during this period." A period before the pandemic.

That's a damned big supposition. Claudia Sahm, a former Federal Reserve and Council of Economic Advisers economist, tells Dayen, "I think the paper is unsuitable for the policy discussion. […] It's one paper at odds with 20 years of research. […] I know the sampling error has to be in the thousands of dollars, there's no way it’s that precise." What's even worse about this paper is that they didn't even disclose the out-of-date ZIP code basis for their data until late last week, more than a week after it had been highlighted in the traditional media and started taking hold. It's still out there, with The New York Times opinion page giving Chetty and colleagues space to continue their badly sourced argument.

All that's aside from the larger argument: we're in the middle of a global pandemic and the economy is in tatters—just spend the money helping as many people as possible and worry about sorting out who should have to pay any of it back later. Because the need is so great and this isn't a time to skimp. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said as much, and thankfully appears not to be so much on board with this push to reduce payments, though the White House has been vaguely supportive. "The exact details of how it should be targeted are to be determined, but struggling middle-class families need help, too," Yellen said on CNN this weekend. Asked if she thinks the targeting should be higher than $50,000 per person but less than $75,000, Yellen responded: "Yes, I—I think the details can be worked out. And the president is certainly willing to work with Congress to find a good structure for these payments."

There's also this: they're still going to base the payments on 2019 income unless they have 2020 income filed by the time the relief bill is passed. Which means you need to file immediately if you've had a big drop in income. Which means the IRS is going to be flooded with returns at the same time it's trying to make income determinations and trying to determine who gets what. But at least there is the recognition that a lot of people did not have the same income in 2020 as 2019.

Again, the survival checks have been means-tested already, with the first rounds of checks phasing out starting at $75,000 based on out-of-date data. Compounding that is this new argument based on really bad and irrelevant information. Not that what anybody does with their survival checks really matters right now, anyway. Worry about saving the maximum amount of people possible. That will make the economy come back stronger and faster and then the rest can be sorted out, if necessary, with tax reform.

Republicans still fighting results of 2020 election, refusing to allow Democratic Senate to organize

It's now February and nearly a full month since the Jan. 5 election in Georgia that flipped the Senate to Democrats. At least nominally—the body is split 50-50 and the weight goes to Democrats because they can bring in Vice President Kamala Harris as necessary, so they've got the majority. But the Senate still hasn't passed the organizing resolution to finalize all that and, critically, hand the keys of the committees over to the Democrats.

Why? Sen. Dick Durbin says it’s Sen. Mitch McConnell. "He's the key to it," Durbin told CNN's Manu Raju after an infuriating exchange of tweets and letters Durbin has had with the abhorrent Lindsey Graham, who is the pretender in the Judiciary Committee chair. Technically, the committee doesn't have a chair. The committee doesn't have members, not until the organizing resolution passes. But habit is keeping the gavel in Graham's hand, and he's refusing to schedule a hearing for President Biden's nominee for attorney general, Merrick Garland. Durbin went public with his frustration Monday afternoon tweeting out a plea and a letter to Graham to schedule the damned confirmation hearing on Feb. 8.

To which Graham replied in his typical pissy, hypocritical way. In other words, no, he's not going to extend even a bit of consideration or courtesy, and he's going to be a condescending and patronizing ass in "explaining" why. "Your request is highly unusual," he says. Then he blames it on impeachment and goes through three paragraphs of lecture about committee procedure. Which Durbin knows. Well.

The committee has reams of background material on Garland and has had it since 2016, the last time Republicans were assholes about this particular—completely qualified and non-controversial—nominee, that time for the even more important job on the Supreme Court. 

This might be McConnell and team exacting revenge for their embarrassing loss in filibustering the organizing resolution to keep the filibuster. They're dragging this out as long as they can, though talks among staff have reportedly been "productive." Soon, aides say, maybe as soon as Tuesday. But no one is giving a deadline.

At this point, Biden should just start threatening to name all his nominees who haven't yet had hearings "acting" directors and Schumer should try to force them onto the floor without committee hearings. It would take unanimous consent, but it would also highlight the fact that Republicans are still fighting the results of the 2020 election by refusing to allow Biden to complete his government and the Senate to fully function.

Morning Digest: Biden improved across North Carolina but red districts stayed red

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

Pres-by-CD: Our project to calculate the 2020 presidential results for all 435 congressional districts nationwide hits North Carolina, where Donald Trump pulled off a narrow win last year. You can find our detailed calculations here, a large-size map of the results here, and our permanent, bookmarkable link for all 435 districts here.

Trump's margin in the Tarheel State shrunk from 50-47 in 2016 to 50-49 in 2020, but it was still just enough to allow him to capture the state's 15 electoral votes again. In between those two presidential cycles, the boundaries of North Carolina's congressional districts changed due to court-ordered redistricting (the map was also redrawn for the same reason earlier in the decade in 2016), so the numbers we're presenting to you—for both the 2016 and 2020 elections—have been calculated based on the boundaries used last year.

Trump won the same eight GOP-controlled seats in both contests, while the remaining five Democratic-held constituencies supported both Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton. Biden, who, as he did in many other states, likely benefited from a decline in third-party voting, did improve on Hillary Clinton's margin in 12 districts, but it wasn't enough to bring any Republican seats into play.

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Democrats made a serious attempt to unseat Republican Rep. Richard Hudson in the 8th District, which is located in Fayetteville and the Charlotte suburbs, but Trump didn't lose nearly as much support here as Team Blue had hoped. Trump only ticked down from 53-44 to 53-46, while Hudson prevailed by a similar 53-47 spread against Democrat Patricia Timmons-Goodson.

The only other seat that Trump carried by single digits this time was Rep. Dan Bishop's 9th District in the Sandhills and the Charlotte suburbs, where his margin flattened from 54-43 in 2016 to 53-46. The previous version of this district hosted a nationally-watched 2019 special election, which took place after 2018's results were thrown out due to Republican election fraud. Bishop won that contest 51-49, and Democrats hoped that redistricting, which left the congressman with a redrawn seat that was slightly bluer and 20% new to him, would make him more vulnerable. It was not to be, though, as Bishop won his first full term 56-44.

The GOP-held seat that moved furthest away from Trump was the 11th District, which supported him 57-40 four years ago but 55-43 in 2020. That spread, however, was still more than enough to let one of the most notorious Republican extremists in the freshman class, Rep. Madison Cawthorn, easily defeat Democrat Moe Davis 55-42.

The biggest shift to the left anywhere in the state came in freshman Rep. Deborah Ross' 2nd District in the Raleigh area, which zoomed from 60-36 Clinton to 64-34 Biden. The 2nd was also one of two GOP-held seats that Team Red all but conceded after redistricting transformed the old Republican gerrymanders into compact seats that heavily favored Democrats. The other was Rep. Kathy Manning's 6th District in the Greensboro and Winston-Salem areas. Looking at the new district lines, the seat moved from 59-38 Clinton to 62-37 Biden.

The one place where Trump improved on his 2016 margin was another Democratic-held constituency, the 1st District in inland northeastern North Carolina. Clinton won 55-44 here compared to 54-45 Biden, while veteran Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield was re-elected by a comparable 54-46 in a contest that attracted little outside spending. (This district was also made much redder in the most recent round of redistricting.)

Republicans maintained their iron grip on both chambers of the state legislature last year thanks in part to their existing gerrymanders, and state law doesn't give the governor, Democrat Roy Cooper, a veto over redistricting. The only potential constraint on GOP mapmakers is the Democratic majority on the state Supreme Court, but the justices' involvement is no sure thing.

P.S. A note on our methodology: The precinct-level data provided by the North Carolina Board of Elections includes a small number of votes added algorithmically as "noise" to protect voter privacy in small precincts. We've used this data solely for counties that are split between congressional districts; for unsplit counties, we've used certified county-level results. As a result, our statewide totals reflect 514 more votes than the state's certified totals.

Senate

NY-Sen, NY-Gov: Sophomore Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is "seriously considering" a primary challenge to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, according to unnamed sources who spoke with Politico's Holly Otterbein, but these same people say her decision will be governed by how aggressively Schumer pushes progressive priorities from his new perch. A spokesperson for Ocasio-Cortez didn't rule out the possibility, saying only that the congresswoman is focused on addressing the coronavirus pandemic.

Otterbein also reports that some Schumer allies think Ocasio-Cortez "is more likely" to run for governor or lieutenant governor, though it's not clear why they'd be in any position to know what AOC is planning. A gubernatorial bid would of course set her on a collision course in next year's Democratic primary with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has already said he plans to seek a fourth term in 2022.

The lieutenant governorship would be a strange choice, though, as the post is almost entirely powerless in New York. Going that route could create a bizarre spectacle, however: If Ocasio-Cortez were to defeat Cuomo's preferred choice in the primary (possible current Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who hasn't yet announced her plans), she and Cuomo would be flung together on the same general election ticket—the political equivalent of a shotgun wedding.

Otterbein also name-drops a few other possible Schumer challengers, including Reps. Jamaal Bowman and Mondaire Jones, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi. A Bowman aide, however, said the congressman is not considering the race, while Williams and Jones did not comment. Biaggi, however, did not rule out the idea, only saying that she wasn't thinking about a bid "at this very moment" but would "certainly have to revisit it." In 2018, Biaggi defeated state Sen. Jeff Klein, a powerful Cuomo ally who ran the faction of breakaway Senate Democrats known as the IDC, in that year's Democratic primary.

OH-Sen: The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that wealthy businessman Bernie Moreno is "likely" to seek the Republican nomination to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Rob Portman, and Moreno acknowledged his interest when asked. "I [do] not have any new information to share," Moreno told WYKC, before continuing, "As you can imagine, this is a monumental decision for my family and it's important for me to make certain they are 100% on board." The Journal describes Moreno as "an active donor in recent years," but not "well known in national Republican circles."

The paper added that businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, who is the founder of the healthcare company Roivant Sciences, is also considering for Team Red. Ramaswamy himself told the Cincinnati Business Journal last week that he was being encouraged, and while he didn't explicitly say he was interested, he added, "It's important that the right candidate runs."

Forbes estimated Ramaswamy's net worth at $400 million in 2016, so he'd likely be able to do at least some self-funding if he wanted. Ramaswamy, who is the author of an upcoming tome called "Woke Inc.," has spent the last several weeks attacking social media companies for banning Donald Trump following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

CNBC also says that unnamed "power brokers in Ohio" have been trying to recruit a business leader more to their liking in order to stop a pro-Trump candidate from winning, but so far, they don't seem to be having much luck. Alex Fischer, the head of the business advocacy group The Columbus Partnership, and venture capitalist Mark Kvamme were both approached about possible GOP primary bids, but each has publicly said no. Additionally, state Attorney General Dave Yost said Monday that he'd seek re-election rather than run for the Senate.

On the Democratic side, CNBC reported that businesswoman Nancy Kramer has been "approached" by these anti-Trump leaders, but there's no word on her interest.

PA-Sen, PA-17: Republican Sean Parnell is reportedly "torn" between seeking Pennsylvania's open Senate seat next year or running for the House again, which could involve either a rematch with Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb, who defeated him 51-49, or a bid for another House seat depending on how redistricting turns out.

Meanwhile, Kenneth Braithwaite, who served as Donald Trump's secretary of the Navy, says he's considering a run for Senate. One unnamed source described Braithwaite as "a little bit Trump-y, a little bit Arlen Specter," which makes about as much sense as saying you're a little bit Oscar and a little bit Felix.

WI-Sen: Politico notes that Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who has yet to say whether he'll seek a third term next year, raised very little money for his campaign account in the final quarter of 2020, especially when compared with other senators who are likely to face difficult re-election campaigns, like Arizona Democrat Mark Kelly. However, Johnson's FEC report in the fourth quarter of 2014 looked almost exactly the same, and he went on to win again two years later.

Meanwhile, the AP adds a new possible Democratic name to the mix, state Sen. Chris Larson. Last year, Larson lost a bid for Milwaukee County executive to state Rep. David Crowley, a fellow Democrat, in a squeaker.

Governors

CA-Gov: Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who launched an exploratory committee for a possible gubernatorial run last month, now promises he'll make an announcement "shortly." It's not clear whether Faulconer, a Republican, has his sights on 2022 or a potential recall election of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, though presumably we'll find out soon enough.

However, if he's thinking about running in a recall, which is looking more and more likely to take place, the relatively moderate Faulconer just got some unwelcome news. Conservative businessman John Cox, who got obliterated by Newsom 62-38 in 2018, says he'll run again if there's a recall, in which voters would be faced with two questions. On one, they'd be asked if they want to recall Newsom. On another, they'd vote for the candidate they'd like to replace Newsom in the event a majority vote "yes" on the first question.

That second question, however, would feature all candidates from all parties running together on a single ballot, with the first-place finisher victorious no matter how small a plurality they might win (again, only if "yes" prevails on the recall question). If two prominent Republican candidates were to split the vote, whatever hope the GOP might have of victory would be small indeed—unless Democrats happened to do the same.

FL-Gov: Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist for the first time publicly suggested he's considering a bid for governor, saying "I'm opening my brain to the idea a little bit more" in a recent interview. Crist did not offer a timetable for making a decision.

MD-Gov: Former RNC chair Michael Steele, who somehow is still a Republican after turning into a fierce critic not only of Donald Trump but of the GOP in general, said on Friday that he plans to take "a very strong, long look" at running for governor. How exactly he might win a Republican primary, however—especially after endorsing Joe Biden last year—is a mystery. "I know I'm not everyone's favorite cup of tea within my party," said Steele. "I don't let those things bother me." Problem is that these things bother GOP voters, i.e., the folks who matter to Steele's future dreams.

SC-Gov, SC-01: After messing with us by promising a "[b]ig announcement" that turned out to be a podcast launch (yes, seriously), former Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham said he would "be sharing my plans for 2022 very soon." Cunningham hasn't ruled out a bid for governor or a rematch with Republican Rep. Nancy Mace, who narrowly unseated him last year. He also hasn't ruled out starting a TikTok account, either.

VA-Gov: Rich guy #2 Glenn Youngkin is following rich guy #1 Pete Snyder and going up on the air with a reported "six-figure" ad buy behind some biographical spots. It's not clear why either man, both wealthy finance types, are spending money on TV given that the Republican nomination will be decided by a relative handful of convention delegates, but perhaps they're trying to boost their general election poll numbers to demonstrate their electability. Who can say?

House

FL-27: Former Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala, who lost in an upset last year to Republican María Elvira Salazar, tells the Miami Herald that she's interested in a rematch but wants to see how redistricting pans out before deciding and would only seek a seat that includes her home in Coral Gables. The paper adds that, according to unnamed sources, Shalala "hopes a Latina will challenge Salazar." We haven't heard about any such names that would fit the bill, though the Herald says that state Rep. Nick Duran and Miami Commissioner Ken Russell "are rumored to have interest."

GA-14: Politico reports that physician John Cowan is considering a rematch against Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who defeated him in last year's GOP primary runoff 57-43. There's no direct quote from Cowan about his plans, but he did say, "I'm a neurosurgeon. I diagnose crazy every day. It took five minutes talking to her to realize there were bats in the attic. And then we saw she had skeletons in the closet." Apparently, Cowan also runs a Halloween pop-up store.

NJ-07: State Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. has announced he will not seek re-election this year, a move that may presage a second congressional bid in 2022. Kean lost 51-49 to Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski, but according to new calculations from Daily Kos Elections, the 7th Congressional District supported Joe Biden by a much wider 54-44 margin. District lines, however, are set to shift thanks to redistricting.

SC-07: State Rep. Russell Fry says he's considering running against Rep. Tom Rice, who was censured by the South Carolina Republican Party over the weekend for voting to impeach Donald Trump. Several other Republicans have floated their names in the past couple of weeks, but the Post and Courier says that Fry, who is chief whip in the state House, "is considered a more serious threat," calling him "an up-and-comer in state GOP politics" with strong fundraising potential.

TX-32: Republican Genevieve Collins, who lost to Democratic Rep. Colin Allred 52-46 last year, has filed paperwork for a possible rematch. Collins does not appear to have said anything publicly about her intentions.

Mayors

Anchorage, AK Mayor: Candidate filing closed Friday for this open seat, and 14 contenders will compete in the April 6 nonpartisan primary for a three year term. (Anchorage is the only major city in America we know of where terms last for an odd number of years.) If no one takes at least 45% of the vote, a runoff would take place May 11. This race will take place months after Democratic Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, who was already to be termed-out this year, resigned as the result of a sex scandal; the city’s new leader, Austin Quinn-Davidson, decided not to compete for a full term.

The field includes Forrest Dunbar, a member of the Anchorage Assembly (the equivalent of the city council) who was the 2014 Democratic nominee against Republican Rep. Don Young before winning his current office in 2016. The Anchorage Daily News’ Emily Goodykoontz additionally identifies Bill Falsey, who resigned as the city's municipal manager in November to concentrate on his bid, as another prominent progressive candidate. Alaska Humanities Forum head George Martinez, who is a former aide to Berkowitz, is also in the running.

The most prominent contender on the right may be former Republican City Assemblyman Bill Evans, who is the only conservative candidate who has held elected office. Evans also has the support of former Mayor Dan Sullivan (not to be confused with the U.S. senator with the same name), who served from 2009 through 2015

Another candidate to watch is Air Force veteran Dave Bronson, whom Goodykoontz writes “is new to politics and has gained popularity among a crowd that is vehemently opposed to the pandemic restrictions.” The field also includes Mike Robbins, a local GOP leader backed by former Mayor Rick Mystrom, a Republican who left office in 2000. Eight others are on the ballot as well.

Other Races

AK-AG: Alaska Attorney General Ed Sniffen has stepped down due to sexual misconduct allegations, making him the second state attorney general to resign over such charges in six months. Sniffen is accused of commencing a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl 30 years ago, when he was a 27-year-old attorney. He has not addressed the allegations.

Sniffen was selected by Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy in August to succeed Attorney General Kevin Clarkson, who quit after it was revealed he'd sent hundreds of unwelcome text messages to a junior colleague. Sniffen had originally been appointed in an acting capacity, but last month Dunleavy nominated him to Clarkson's permanent replacement, pending approval by state lawmakers.

On Friday, Dunleavy named Treg Taylor, a division head in the attorney general's office, as his newest pick for the job at the same time he announced Sniffen's departure, just before the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica published their exposé about the misconduct accusations against Sniffen.

Democrats ditch Republicans on COVID-19 relief, start budget reconciliation process

House Democrats are moving forward on a COVID-19 relief bill, preparing to ditch the Senate Republicans and provide critical relief to the American people without them. Initial votes could come as soon as next week, and President Joe Biden has signed off on using the procedure—budget reconciliation—to get his relief package through as Republicans in the Senate continue to obstruct.

"Reconciliation is a means of getting a bill passed. There are a number of means of getting bills passed. That does not mean, regardless of how the bill is passed, that Democrats and Republicans cannot both vote for it," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. "So the president obviously wants to make this bipartisan, hence he's engaging with members of both parties and he remains committed to that." House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth said Monday that he is preparing the reconciliation instructions for the package, and is even going to include Biden's $15/hour minimum wage increase, even though that's a "stretch" in his words to qualify under the rules for the procedure.

Budget reconciliation became a thing as an optional procedure under the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. That act requires Congress to come up with a budget resolution every year, and that resolution can instruct the committees to craft bills that would reconcile current law with the decided-upon budget plan. The main advantage of legislation developed with it is that it is considered under expedited procedures on both the House and Senate, and it is not subject to the 60-vote threshold in the Senate that has killed everything good any Democratic president has tried to do since 2008. It begins with a resolution that instructs the relevant committees in both the House and Senate to draw up legislation to meet a budget specified within the resolution—the bill that the committees finalize must either reduce or increase the federal deficit by no less or no more than the resolution determines. Anything included in the legislation after it is combined, or reconciled, by the House and Senate has to thus change either spending or revenue. Sort of. Budge reconciliations can't touch Social Security, they can't increase the deficit in a 10-year window, and they are limited to federal spending or revenue. Mostly.

The "sort of" and "mostly" as a limit in the Senate's rather expansive power to decide what it wants, one has a simple majority. The Congressional Budget Office and the Senate parliamentarian act as the referees for the process, the CBO making the budget projections and the parliamentarian ruling what provisions can be included depending on the degree to which a provisions budget impact is "incidental"—does it impact spending or revenue—or not. If the Parliamentarian rules it incidental under the Byrd rules (a tightening up of the process spearheaded by then-Sen. Robert Byrd in 1958), then it comes out. That is unless the president of the Senate, the person sitting in the chair who in this case would be Vice President Kamala Harris, overrules the parliamentarian. That hasn't happened frequently, but we also haven't been in a global pandemic that's crippling the economy frequently.

One authority on the federal budget and Senate rules believes that even the minimum wage increase could be passed in reconciliation, along with the rest of the provisions—including another round of direct $1,400 payments, increasing and extending emergency unemployment benefits, hundreds of billions in aid to state and local government and schools, funding for vaccine production and distribution, expanding testing and tracing, as well as other proposals. Bill Dauster, who served as deputy chief of staff to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, "said in a guest op-ed column for CQ Roll Call that a minimum wage boost has enough budgetary impact to be considered under the Byrd rule."

Now that McConnell has caved to allow the Senate to organize, the committees can start the work of drafting their components of the reconciliation bill. There's a hard deadline for them to get it accomplished—another unemployment cliff in March, because that's as long as Senate Republicans would let that go. There's also that matter of an impeachment hearing that begins in a couple of weeks. The House, Yarmuth said Monday, is on it: "we will be prepared to go to the floor as early as next week."