When it comes to packing the federal courts, McConnell and Trump have no shame—and no principles

Focusing on the long-term—especially about matters of governmental and political process—isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do in the middle of a pandemic. However, Republicans never seem to think it’s the wrong time to push every button made available to them in their quest to gain as much power as possible. No matter what constitutional or historical norms they have to trample on, Donald Trump and his party are determined to create a conservative judiciary at the federal level that will endure for a quarter-century or more.

Let’s start, however, with what’s going on in 2020. Moscow Mitch—Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, that is—has been doing things the Founders likely never envisioned when they wrote our Constitution. He, along with allies, have been making calls to aging conservative jurists on the federal courts, reminding them that the clock is ticking—on Trump’s time in the White House, on the Republicans’ hold on the Senate, and, most appropriately given his embrace of the nickname “Grim Reaper,” on their very lives. McConnell has been urging them to all retire ASAP so that he and The Man Who Lost The Popular Vote can put as many young whipper-snappers as possible into lifetime seats on the federal bench, seats they’ll hold long past a Sasha Obama presidency.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer recently called McConnell out on this blatant manipulation of the process: “Senator McConnell knows he can’t achieve any of his extreme goals legislatively, so he continues to attempt to pull America to the far right by packing the courts.”

As The New York Times notes, some progressives have made statements urging justices to stay in their positions so that Trump can’t appoint their successors, but McConnell has achieved a new low by targeting individual judges and asking them to retire. This ask is a nasty one, on par with greedy heirs rooting for wealthy relatives to die sometime before 2010 came to an end ... just so they could dodge the temporarily-repealed estate tax.

McConnell here is repeating, in private, sentiments that members of his party such as Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley publicly expressed in the run-up to the 2018 midterms: “If you are thinking about quitting this year, do it yesterday. If we have a Democrat Senate, you’re never going to get the kind of people that are strict constructionists.”

For anyone confused, “strict constructionists”—i.e., conservative judges who claim that all they do is look to the plain text of the Constitution when making their rulings—is really just a fancy term Republicans use in public to give a more objective veneer to their preferred judicial approach, which almost always—coincidentally, of course—comes down on the side of the powerful. In other words, characterizing conservative judges as strict constructionists sounds less political than saying that they are right-wing ideologues who vote just like Rush Limbaugh would—even though the latter is the truth.

Republicans are being quite systematic about this whole affair. Their efforts are supported by a private organization called the Article III Project, named after the part of the Constitution that establishes lifetime tenure for federal judges, subject to impeachment and removal if they fail to live up to the standard of “good behaviour” laid down therein. This group exists to “fight for the confirmation of President Trump’s judicial nominees.”

The helpful folks over at A3P—that’s their clever moniker—want to clear out as many existing judges as possible. They’ve identified 90 who were appointed by a previous Republican president and who, based on their age and how many years they’ve served, either qualify or will qualify by year’s end for something called senior status.

According to the court system’s rules, those who take senior status now rather than outright retire allow Trump to put another, younger conservative in their place just as if they had retired. But judges on senior status get to keep drawing their full salary, hire clerks, and hear a reduced caseload. If this sounds bananas to you, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s the best of both worlds for those senior judges and for Republican leaders who want to increase their imprint on the judiciary. Thanks to A3P’s work, McConnell has a long list of people to target and a very attractive offer to make them.

McConnell and Trump have made a great effort to, in the senator’s words, “leave no vacancy behind.” They have placed 51 judges onto the U.S. Court of Appeals in Trump’s first three years (and 191 federal judges overall, as well as two on the Supreme Court), compared to 55 in Barack Obama’s entire eight years in office, and 62 during George W. Bush’s presidency. Trump has now named more than one-quarter of all sitting U.S. Appeals Court justices.

A good chunk of those new appellate judges—more than one out of three—took a spot previously held by a Democratic-appointed justice, thus shifting the bench hard to the right. Particularly noteworthy is the contrast between the diversity of the judges Obama appointed—only 31% of whom were white men, compared to 67% for Trump. For reference, somewhere around 40-45% of lawyers are white males, and white males constitute around 30% of the overall U.S. population, according to census data.

The New York Times conducted an in-depth analysis earlier this month of these Trump judges and found that they differ “significantly” from those nominated by either Obama or G.W. Bush. Regarding their activities prior to being nominated by Trump, they had been “more openly engaged in causes important to Republicans, such as opposition to gay marriage and to government funding for abortion.” They were also more likely to have been political appointees and made political donations. Even more alarming has been their impact after taking up their new positions:

When ruling on cases, they have been notably more likely than other Republican appointees to disagree with peers selected by Democratic presidents, and more likely to agree with those Republican appointees, suggesting they are more consistently conservative. Among the dozen or so judges that most fit the pattern, The Times found, are three Mr. Trump has signaled were on his Supreme Court shortlist.

While the appellate courts favor consensus and disagreement remains relatively rare — there were 125 instances when a Trump appointee wrote the majority opinion or dissent in a split decision — the new judges have ruled on disputed cases across a range of contentious issues, including abortion, immigration, L.G.B.T. rights and lobbying requirements, the examination shows.

Sen. McConnell has long been clear about the level of importance he places on reshaping the federal judiciary. "There are over 1,200 executive branch appointments that come to us for confirmation, and among the most important—in fact, I would argue, the most important—confirmations we have are lifetime appointments to the judiciary," McConnell told NPR. "Obviously, this is my top priority."

McConnell’s success in placing conservative judges on the federal bench during Trump’s tenure is a direct result of his actions in the final two years of Obama’s presidency. After Republicans took control of the Senate in 2015, they basically just stopped approving his nominees. The Brookings Institution noted the “unprecedentedly miniscule number of confirmations” that were carried out in those two years under McConnell’s leadership. That’s why there were 103 open seats on the federal bench for Trump to fill when he was inaugurated.

Without question, the most important of those openings was on the Supreme Court. McConnell ensured that seat remained open for almost a full year after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia by denying a hearing, let alone a vote, to President Obama’s nominee, U.S. District Court Chief Justice Merrick Garland. Garland was a moderate about whom Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch had said in 2010: “I have no doubts that Garland would get a lot of (Senate) votes. And I will do my best to help him get them.” However, Hatch did not keep his word in 2016. Oh, and during the Supreme Court confirmation process for Brett Kavanaugh, he pretended like the Garland nomination never happened. That’s what you call a double back-flip worth of bullshit.

Additionally, Garland was 63 years old when Obama nominated him, so his age itself served as a kind of compromise when compared to, for example, the nomination of 43-year-old Clarence Thomas by George H.W. Bush to a lifetime seat on the highest court back in 1992.

The way McConnell and Co. abused the established process when they essentially ignored a presidential nomination to the Supreme Court also qualifies as unprecedented, despite widely debunked Republican protestations to the contrary. As The New York Times editorial board wrote shortly after the 2016 election, the seat in which Justice Neil Gorsuch now sits is a “stolen seat.” Encouraging a mass wave of retirements in order to give Trump an even more outsized imprint on the federal judiciary would, if it succeeds, represent another form of theft.

All of this—from the blocking of Garland to the personalized arm-twisting aimed at getting judges to give up their seats in the coming months before it’s too late—reflects a level of cynicism and rejection of principle that has defined the contemporary Republican Party going back to even before Trump took it over. Principles? To Republicans, those are for suckers, i.e. Democrats.

Our Constitution’s authors were, generally speaking, not naive. They didn’t trust easily—they created the Electoral College because they didn’t trust the people to directly elect our president. However, the Framers failed to anticipate how the rules they wrote into the Constitution might be abused. They likely did not imagine that the Senate’s charge to provide “advice and consent,” as laid out in Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the Constitution, would lead to the kind of treatment with which the nomination of Judge Garland was met. The Framers never planned for Mitch McConnell.

Because of what he has done, Democrats are faced with a choice if and when they retake the White House and the Senate. Do they act in kind, and similarly game the system? Or do they take the high road, which would allow Republicans to hold on to their ill-gotten gains in the judicial branch? Keep in minds they all too often use those gains to further tighten their grip on power through judicial rulings on, for example, matters like voting rights or gerrymandering.

There’s only one way out of that dilemma: namely, to fundamentally alter the process so that it could not be gamed so easily. We need to get rid of lifetime tenure for federal judges, from the Supreme Court right on down the line. There are many different proposals out there, most of which focus on term limits for the highest court, but McConnell’s most recent actions make clear that such limits are necessary at lower levels as well. I haven’t seen polling done on term limits for all federal judges, but Supreme Court term limits are quite popular, with Democrats, Republicans, and independents all expressing similar levels of support.

To be sure, it would not be easy to implement such changes, as they would require a constitutional amendment. Nevertheless, such changes are necessary because any process that is based on principles, for example the idea that life tenure for justices is necessary to ensure that they'll be independent and removed from politics, will be abused by Republicans who have no principles at all.

Our democratic system must be governed by processes that prevent abuse by the unprincipled. As I’ve written before, Republicans seem to be taking their cues from young adult fiction of all places, leaning on the values of Harry Potter’s nemesis, Lord Voldemort—derived from Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher who has inspired everyone on the right from Hitler to today’s white nationalists (even if they all get him wrong, but that’s another story): “There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it.”

Nancy LeTourneau at Washington Monthly wrote that McConnell’s recent “outreach” to aging Republican judges indicates that he is “running scared” because “he is aware that his party will soon be out of power.” I rarely hope that McConnell is right about anything.

This time, however, Moscow Mitch and I are completely on the same page.

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)

Trump obliterates Republican excuse for his abysmal coronavirus response

President Donald Trump actually made at least one true statement during Tuesday’s White House briefing on the novel coronavirus. When it comes to the way he handled the administration’s response, he wasn’t affected one bit by impeachment. “I don't think I would have done any better had I not been impeached,” Trump told reporters, when asked whether the impeachment process impeded his response.

Trump’s response basically destroyed one of Republican lawmakers’ favorite new talking points. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told a conservative radio host on Tuesday that impeachment had "diverted the attention of the government.” It was nothing if not an admission that Trump and GOP lawmakers totally fumbled the ball on this public health disaster. If anyone thought they were really doing a great job, Republicans would be cooing about how wonderfully they’ve managed the response. The real question is, why did Senate Republicans vote to keep the ever-incompetent Trump in charge when they very clearly had a sense of the calamity that lay ahead for the country?

Of course, Trump is delusional enough to think he’s been just great. “Did it divert my attention?” Trump said during the White House briefing. “I think I'm getting A-pluses for the way I handled myself during a phony impeachment, okay? It was a hoax.” Trump said he may have thought about impeachment, but added, “I don't think I would have done any better had I not been impeached, okay?”

Trump isn’t getting A-pluses.

Impeachment wasn’t a hoax.

But he was constitutionally incapable of mounting an aggressive, coordinated response to this crisis. So—ding ding ding!—impeachment or no impeachment, Trump wouldn’t have done any better. Correct.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Republicans are trying to get people killed (and are being stunningly effective)

The situation in Italy is spiraling out of control, with infections and deaths spiking by the hour. 

BREAKING: Another HUGE increase in #CoronaVirus infections in Italy �� 3 590 infected and 368 dead today alone. - 24 747 infected. - 1 809 dead. - 7.3% death rate. This is a human tragedy �

— PeterSweden (@PeterSweden7) March 15, 2020

The United States is on track to emulate Italy, both in the reach and severity of the human and economic toll. One party is doing its best to save lives. Unfortunately, it’s not the party in control of the White House, Senate, or wide swaths of the media. And those Republican efforts to confuse, obfuscate, and obstruct a real response are dismayingly effective. Let us count the ways. 

Impeached President Donald Trump

From disbanding the White House pandemic preparedness task force to refusing to let the U.S. use the World Health Organization COVID-19 test, to his daily lies, it’s obvious that the rot starts at the very top. What did people think was going to happen when they put a bigoted, serial sexual harasser reality TV star in charge of the country? Those who vote on racial animus and misogyny are getting a daily reminder of what that costs our country. And ironically, or perhaps not so much so, they are the ones who will bear the brunt of the coming pandemic. 

Meanwhile, Trump continues to model poor behavior; he shows on a daily basis that he is the single biggest impediment to the kind of national behavioral changes we need to see to arrest this disease with the least amount of damage possible.

Trump has decided the entire coronavirus mess is a dastardly plot to deny him a second term. He is incapable of considering the human toll of the disease, or the economic ramifications to everyday Americans. He’s concerned only about how it affects his reelection. And again, his acolytes take their cues from the top, such as the Trish Regan abomination that adorns the top of this post. 

Regan did end up losing her prime time show over that segment, showing that at least someone at Fox corporate realizes that killing off their core demographic (their median age is 65). But she’s not the only pushing the theory that this is all one big political ploy to damage Trump. Trump’s very own outgoing chief of staff has been making that case for weeks. “The press was covering their hoax of the day because they thought it would bring down the president,” Mulvaney told attendees at the conservative CPAC conference, at the same time the disease was spreading among its attendees. “The reason you’re seeing so much attention to [the coronavirus] today is that they think this is going to be what brings down the president. That’s what this is all about.” 

And of course, let’s not forget Trump: 

�They�re trying to scare everybody, from meetings, cancel the meetings, close the schools � you know, destroy the country. And that�s ok, as long as we can win the election,� POTUS told guests at Mar-a-Lago last weekend. https://t.co/UxZb0GumFU

— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) March 15, 2020

He literally says it’s okay if the country is destroyed as long as he wins reelection. He doesn't give a shit about the economic or human toll of the pandemic and will act only to safeguard his electoral effort. And that’s why we don’t have testing. He thinks a higher number of confirmed cases makes him look bad. 

President Trump "did not push to do aggressive additional testing in recent weeks [because] more testing might have led to more cases being discovered of coronavirus outbreak, and the president had made clear the lower the numbers on coronavirus, the better for the president" https://t.co/aa2QHQVbPk

— Derek Thompson (@DKThomp) March 12, 2020

We all knew this. Even Republicans knew this when they acquitted him during the impeachment trial. Yet they didn’t care. So they own this: Every death, every job lost. It’s all on them. 

The Trump executive branch

Donald Trump had white nationalist Stephen Miller and idiot-boy Jared Kushner whip up a random-ass “I’m doing stuff” speech just hours before airing, with little regard to any consequences their spur-of-the-moment “proposals” would create. Among them, a complete ban on all travel and commerce between the United States and Europe that single-handedly almost completely crashed the US economy. Embarrassingly, the administration had to walk that back—no, it didn't apply to the cargo. And no, it didn’t apply to Americans. (So … what’s the point? Americans have super awesome immunity powers?) Yet in the panic that situation created, Americans rushed back home and … created these kinds of scenes at US customs points of entry:

#BREAKING: Passengers stuck in long lines for immigration at @DFWAirport tell us there are no offers of hand sanitizer, gloves, or masks from U.S. Customs / Immigration. Travelers say they�ve had no screenings of temp yet and no one following #coronavirus protocols. pic.twitter.com/9viCnWdncz

— Jason Whitely (@JasonWhitely) March 15, 2020

By supposedly acting to prevent the disease from entering the United States (even though, um, it’s already here), those morons in the executive branch didn’t think “maybe we should bolster staffing at customs checkpoints. Maybe we should create a plan to space out people, so we wouldn’t create the Petri dish we’re supposedly trying to prevent.” 

Conservatism

It is in precisely older, rural counties that hospitals are being closed in record numbers. “The hospital closure crisis is most pronounced in states that have declined Medicaid expansion, the policy in the Affordable Care Act that offers coverage for individuals whose income is at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty line,” reported Mother Jones. “Of the 106 rural hospitals that have shut down since 2010, 77 were located in states that hadn’t expanded Medicaid, the study found.” In their zeal to stick it to Obamacare, those older rural areas are losing exactly the one thing that saves the lives of the elderly and those with compromised immune systems once infected—hospital beds. 

This novel coronavirus is treatable as long as severely impacted patients can be hooked up to respirators. But given available hospital beds, that becomes impossible once a critical mass of patients is infected, they outstrip the supply of hospital beds, and they are then left to die, gasping for air. That’s why the Italian death toll has climbed so high, with doctors having to perform battlefield-style triage—is this patient too old? Too (otherwise) sick? Do they have small children at home? Even patients who survive initial triage may be unplugged if someone with a greater survival chance shows up. It is beyond nightmarish. 

And you know what? The United States has fewer hospital beds, per thousand people, than even Italy

    South Korea: 12.3

    China: 4.3

    Italy: 3.2

    United States: 2.8

South Korea has handled the virus better than anyone else, and guess what, having hospital beds is part of the answer. Meanwhile, thanks to conservative hostility to the Affordable Care Act and its fealty to a for-profit health care system, our number of beds has fallen between 2010 and 2017, despite the population having grown by 16 million in that time frame. 

Republican elected officials

The Democratic House passed a coronavirus response bill on Friday. Republican Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell went on vacation over the weekend, adjourning the Senate as a result. He doesn’t plan on checking on that House bill until Tuesday, lunch, at the earliest, even though Trump has signaled that he will sign it. 

They just don’t give a shit. 

Here’s Oklahoma’s Republican governor Kevin Stitt, Friday night, in a now-deleted tweet: 

Of course, it stands to follow that if Trump doesn’t think this is a big deal, then those who blindly follow him will shrug off any attempts to contain the virus, or “flatten the curve.” Flattening the curve is slowing the rate of transmission so that people don’t get sick all at once. The more you can spread it out, the less stress on those limited hospital beds. 

Trump’s favorite bootlicker, Rep. Devin Nunes, went on Fox to tell viewers to go out on the town. “One of the things you can do, if you're healthy you and your family, it's a great time to just go out, go to a local restaurant,” he said, dooming who knows how many people to death. “Likely you can get in easily. There's, you know, let's not hurt the working people in this country that are relying on wages and tips to keep their small business going. [...] Go to your local pub.”

In Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Republicans are refusing to postpone an election even though the state’s Democratic governor has ordered a statewide lockdown. 

Conservative media

It’s no surprise that most of the irresponsible dismissing of COVID-19 featured above is happening on Fox News. The network has prostrated itself before Trump, effectively becoming like a state-run propaganda arm. They won’t do anything to get on the wrong side of Trump. It’s a feature, not a bug. 

On Fox & Friends, Jerry Falwell Jr claims people are "overreacting" to coronavirus, the national response is "their next attempt to get Trump," and the virus itself is a North Korean bioweapon. pic.twitter.com/2JPuNBW7C3

— Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) March 13, 2020

Or how about this? 

But it obviously goes far beyond Fox News. Just two days ago, Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show, “We’re shutting down our country because of the … cold virus.” The Christian Right and their media machinery are praying away the coronavirus. They’ve been so effective at dismissing the threat that even pastors who take this seriously are dismayed, “One pastor said half of his church is ready to lick the floor, to prove there’s no actual virus,” one pastor told The Washington Post. Alex Jones is selling fake coronavirus cures. Idiot #MAGA types on Twitter are having their own, er, fun.

How do #MAGA & #KAG folks have fun during a pandemic? Apparently some like licking airplane toilet seats in a SAD attempt to show the #coronavirus is a hoax. Perhaps to also prove they'll make good tRump supporters!#COVID19 Found at @AwardsDarwinpic.twitter.com/y9jAqRrpbx

— McSpockyâÂ�¢ ðÂ�Â�½ðÂ�Â�Â�ðÂ�Â�Â� #VoteBlue2020 (@mcspocky) March 15, 2020

If you’re sitting here wondering what the hell is wrong with these people, you’re not alone. Trapped in their conservative anti-science media bubble, they’re whipping themselves up into a fervor of denialism and frothy conspiracy theories. 

The results

The results are devastating. Republicans simply don’t believe that they should take COVID-19 seriously.

The coronavirus partisan divide is real. Twice as many Democrats (60%) are changing plans or taking precautions than Republicans (31%). 88% of Republicans are satisfied with the government's response. Among Democrats? 11%. Survey report @Civiqs 3/8-11: https://t.co/sGoSTbhEsI

— Drew Linzer (@DrewLinzer) March 14, 2020

And it’s even worse among Fox News viewers, only 9% of which are “extremely concerned” about the virus. These are the same people who live in mortal fear of an “illegal” coming and murdering them. The big difference? They will definitely end up knowing about someone who died of the novel coronavirus, while those mythical hordes of undocumented murderers only exist in the imagination of the network’s most bigoted hosts. (48% of MSNBC viewers are “extremely concerned,” which is still low. It should be 100%. But that network isn’t sowing misinformation.)

I used to joke that Republicans would come out in favor of cancer if President Barack Obama ever declared his opposition to it publicly. At least, it was supposed to be a joke. Now we find out that a global pandemic killing tens of thousands has become a partisan issue. Not because it is a partisan issue. There is nothing Republican or Democratic or liberal or conservative about a deadly disease. But because Trump’s botched handling of the pandemic makes him “look bad,” and there is no greater sin in the world than making Trump look bad. 

It might be funny or the material for easy partisan points, except people are dying, and a lot more will die before scientists find a vaccine. And while we could be making efforts to mitigate the carnage, both in human and economic terms, we have an entire half of the country’s divide refusing to accept our new reality and demanding we pretend all is well, nothing to see here, please carry on, preferably at your local pub or cruise ship. 

It’s staggeringly irresponsible. The final culmination of an ideology so divorced from reality, that it will literally kill, disproportionately, the older and rural people that form its base. And—this is legitimately ironic—it is liberals trying to save their lives. 

Let’s just stop and review what a useless bunch of creatures Senate Republicans really are

Our first clue that Senate Republicans planned to be exactly useless for the entirety of the 116th Congress was when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, backed by his caucus, conspicuously stood on the sidelines for weeks on end during what turned into the longest government shutdown in history, from Dec. 22, 2018—Jan. 25, 2019. Donald Trump alone manufactured that shutdown by demanding that nearly $6 billion in border wall funding be tucked into the budget deal, and McConnell decided he would simply let Nancy Pelosi and her newly elected majority tame Trump rather than help find a solution. 

In fact, McConnell seemed to have a good sense of exactly how useless Senate Republicans would be pretty early in Trump's administration. After the GOP-led Congress squandered most of 2017 on its Obamacare repeal debacle, Republicans just barely squeezed out their tax giveaway to the rich and powerful before the end of the year on December 20, 2017. By February 2018, McConnell was already selling his Senate majority as being "in the personnel business"—he just forgot to add the word, exclusively. And while it's undoubtedly true that McConnell's Senate has reshaped the federal courts by pushing through some 190 judges since Trump took office, it did so to the exclusion of almost all legislative work. Gloating over his chamber's unique lack of productivity, McConnell even embraced the nickname "Grim Reaper" for making his Senate the place where the people's business goes to die. McConnell has single-handedly refused to consider more than 400 bills passed by Pelosi’s House of Representatives.

Wanna restore sane leadership to the Senate? Give $3 right now to give Mitch the boot!

As for the one major piece of legislation Senate Republicans did manage to pass, that tax bill has now ballooned the deficit to nearly $1 trillion, hamstringing the government's ability to respond to a sudden jolt to the economy like the coronavirus. 

Speaking of which, McConnell's now running his "let Pelosi handle it" 2.0 play, tagging House Democrats with the sole responsibility of negotiating an economic response to the crisis with the White House. 

Simultaneous to that dereliction of duty, Republicans have stayed almost completely mum as Trump has spewed harmful lie upon harmful lie about the coronavirus. In fact, when Trump went to visit with the do-nothing GOP caucus Tuesday (because he refuses to meet with Pelosi), Trump told reporters the coronavirus would simply "go away, just stay calm," adding, "It's really working out. And a lot of good things are going to happen." No. Hard no. A lot of good things are not happening. But to date, Senate Republicans have taken a total pass on correcting any of Trump's disinformation campaign.

Instead, they seem pretty content to rest on their success of banding together to run a sham impeachment trial with zero witnesses and ultimately vote to keep the most corrupt president in American history in office.

And by single-handedly refusing to remove Trump, Senate Republicans can now proudly share the credit for the epic economic and public health crisis that is quickly rippling through the country now. Heckuva job, Mitchy. See you in November.

 

Trump’s coronavirus response is a disaster—and Senate Republicans own Trump’s failures

U.S. coronavirus response has been … not the best. And that’s coming from the top, expert after expert says. While the career officials and scientists working on the issue throughout the government remain the same as in previous disease outbreaks, Donald Trump has set the conditions under which they’re working in important ways, through his emphasis on political messaging, his aides’ reluctance to give him news he doesn’t want to hear, and his own vast and sweeping ignorance.

From the moment COVID-19 started making news, Trump’s public statements have focused on the message that everything is fine. “We pretty much shut it down coming in from China,” told Sean Hannity on February 2. “But we can’t have thousands of people coming in who may have this problem, the coronavirus. So, we’re going to see what happens, but we did shut it down, yes.” Fast forward five weeks and around 580 cases in the United States and it’s clear that Trump did not “shut it down, yes.”

It's time to take back the Senate. Can you chip in $3 to help elect Democrats in key 2020 states?

Of course not every case of coronavirus in the U.S. is attributable to Trump’s failures. The disease was always going to spread—but there’s the big problem. It was always going to spread, and Trump was working against preparedness. Jeremy Konyndyk, former director of the USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance under President Barack Obama—including during the Ebola outbreak—told Vox that once Trump has declared victory for his response to any crisis, “if in reality the response is anything less than a great success, it’s very, very hard for the government to acknowledge that and adjust accordingly.”

Specifically, “President Trump’s insistence that the strategy of keeping the disease out of the country was succeeding really handicapped the rest of the response. Here’s why: It makes it harder for the government to plan for the moment the strategy stops working. That’s critical in this kind of situation,” Konyndyk said. “The whole point of an overseas containment strategy is to buy you time. It delays the arrival of an outbreak in a country, but it cannot ultimately stop it. You’re not, or you shouldn’t be, hoping that that will be all that you need to do.”

The White House response to the outbreak has also suffered from typical Trumpian management, with muddled lines of authority over the response and lots of infighting. “The boss has made it clear, he likes to see his people fight, and he wants the news to be good,” an “adviser to a senior health official involved in the coronavirus response” told Politico. “This is the world he’s made.”

Trump’s message to the public also poses dangers, as when, talking to Hannity again, Trump downplayed the fatality rate from COVID-19, saying that “we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better, just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work, some of them go to work, but they get better[.]” Talking about people with coronavirus going to work? Not helpful in slowing the spread of the disease, even though it was not expressed as a direct suggestion.

Trump is able to botch this so thoroughly in part because he has no serious pushback from his own party. Senate Republicans are not sending him a strong message that he needs to respond quickly and effectively—instead, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dragged his feet on adequate funding to fight the disease and used it as yet another excuse to attack Democrats. In early February, Sen. Tom Cotton spread a conspiracy theory when he suggested that COVID-19 could have come from a “superlaboratory.” And, of course, every Republican senator other than Mitt Romney owns every damn thing Trump does after voting to acquit him in his impeachment trial.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

McConnell wants this fight? He's got it.

Morning Digest: Former Hawaii congresswoman enters what could be a crowded race for Honolulu mayor

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

Honolulu, HI Mayor: On Friday, former Democratic Rep. Colleen Hanabusa announced her long-anticipated campaign for mayor of Honolulu.

Hanabusa, who has been raising money for months, is one of several candidates competing to succeed termed-out Democratic incumbent Kirk Caldwell, but others may jump in ahead of Hawaii's June filing deadline. All the candidates will run on one nonpartisan ballot in September, and a runoff would take place in November if no one secures a majority of the vote in the first round.

Campaign Action

Hanabusa has a long history in Hawaii politics, though she lost two high-profile primaries during the last decade. Hanabusa gave up her House seat representing the 1st District, which includes just over 70% of Honolulu, in 2014 to challenge appointed Sen. Brian Schatz, a campaign she very narrowly lost.

Fellow Democrat Mark Takai won the race to succeed Hanabusa, but he announced in 2016 that his battle with pancreatic cancer would prevent him from running for re-election. Hanabusa, who earned Takai's endorsement shortly before he died that summer, went on to win back her old seat with minimal opposition. Hanabusa left the House again in 2018 to challenge Gov. David Ige in the primary, and she was the clear frontrunner for most of the campaign.

However, while Ige's prospects seemed to sink even lower that January when a false ballistic missile alert went out, intense flooding in Kauai and the Kilauea volcano eruption both gave the incumbent the chance to demonstrate the decisive leadership that Hanabusa insisted he lacked. It also didn't help Hanabusa that her duties in the House kept her thousands of miles away from the state for much of the campaign, a problem Ige did not have. Ige ended up winning renomination 51-44, and he carried Honolulu 54-43.

Hanabusa began talking about a mayoral run last year by highlighting Honolulu's ongoing difficulties completing its expensive and long-delayed rail system and the island's struggles with homelessness. The former congresswoman launched her campaign last week arguing that she has the "requisite experience, connections and a history of being able to tackle the hard issues and know what you are doing."

A number of other candidates are already running, and two of them had considerably more money than Hanabusa at the end of 2019. Former insurance executive Keith Amemiya, who is a former executive director of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association, took in $724,000 and self-funded another $200,000 during the second half of the year, and he had $360,000 on-hand at the end of December.

City Councilwoman Kymberly Pine raised a much smaller $127,000 during this time but already had plenty of money available, and she had $607,000 on-hand. Hanabusa hauled in $259,000 during these six months and had $216,000 in the bank at the close of last year.

The field continued to expand in January when real estate broker Choon James launched her campaign, while former Hawaiʻi News Now general manager Rick Blangiardi entered the race this month. It may get larger still: The Honolulu Star-Advertiser also wrote in mid-February that two prominent politicians, former Mayor Mufi Hannemann and ex-Rep. Charles Djou, had not ruled out running here over the last few weeks.

Hannemann, who has a terrible record when it comes to LGBTQ rights and abortion access, served from 2005 until he resigned to focus on his unsuccessful 2010 campaign for the Democratic nod for governor. After losing a 2012 primary for the 2nd Congressional District, Hannemann bolted the party and took 12% of the vote as an independent in the 2014 race for governor. He considered another independent bid for governor last cycle but decided against it, and it's not clear how Hannemann identifies now.

Djou, for his part, is a former Republican who became an independent in 2018 after waging several high-profile, but mostly unsuccessful, campaigns of his own. Djou beat Hanabusa in a fluke in a three-way 2010 special election for the House but lost their rematch several months later, and Djou failed poorly against her the following cycle. However, Djou came close to winning this seat back against Takai in 2014, and he only lost the 2016 mayoral race to Caldwell 52-48.

Senate

GA-Sen-B: On Monday, GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger set the candidate filing deadline for this special election for March 6, which is the same day that the state requires candidates to file for its regularly-scheduled primaries. This move means that anyone who loses in the spring won't be able to just turn around and enter the November all-party primary for this Senate seat.

IA-Sen: On Monday, Senate Majority PAC began a seven-figure TV and digital ad buy in support of businesswoman Theresa Greenfield well ahead of the June Democratic primary to face GOP Sen. Joni Ernst.

The narrator begins, "Tough times don't last, but tough people do," and he describes how Greenfield worked her way through college. The spot continues by talking about how Greenfield raised her two boys and led a business after her husband died in an accident, and it concludes, "All of it makes Theresa tough enough to take on Washington's corruption and deliver for Iowa."

KS-Sen: Former Gov. Jeff Colyer endorsed Rep. Roger Marshall on Monday ahead of the August GOP primary. Colyer lost an incredibly close 2018 primary to former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who looks like Marshall's main intra-party foe for this race.

KY-Sen: Retired Marine pilot Amy McGrath, who has the support of the DSCC, is out with two January polls that show her in a tight race with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Garin-Hart-Yang, which was in the field Jan. 8-13, gave McConnell a 43-40 edge over McGrath, while Libertarian Brad Barron took another 5%. A Change Research poll conducted Jan. 17-21 showed McConnell and McGrath tied 41-41, while Barron took 7%. McGrath's memo did not mention state Rep. Charles Booker, who is her main foe in the May Democratic primary.

These are the first polls we've seen of this race since July, when a survey from the GOP firm Fabrizio Ward for the AARP showed McConnell leading McGrath by a similar 47-46 spread. However, while the majority leader has been unpopular in Kentucky for years, he's also proven to be a very tough opponent for Democrats in this very red state. Indeed, some early polls from the 2014 cycle showed McConnell trailing Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, but the incumbent ended up winning by a convincing 56-41 spread.

While the political environment should be considerably better for Democrats this year than it was back then, it's still going to be extremely difficult for McGrath or any other Democrat to beat McConnell in a year where Donald Trump will be leading the ballot.

NE-Sen: The GOP firm We Ask America is out with a poll giving Sen. Ben Sasse a 65-17 lead over businessman Matt Innis in the May Republican primary. There was some talk at the beginning of the cycle that Sasse, who once made a name for himself by criticizing #BothSides, could face serious intra-party opposition, but that never happened. Donald Trump has joined the state party establishment in supporting Sasse, while Innis has brought in almost no money.

Gubernatorial

NJ-Gov: Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy announced over the weekend that he would be treated for a tumor on his kidney early next month. Murphy said, "The expectation is that overwhelmingly, assuming nothing happens on the operating table or you don't get an infection or something, you're back on your feet and back in the game without any impairment going forward."

House

AL-01: The GOP firm Strategy Research is out with a poll of next week's Republican primary for News 5, and it gives Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl the lead with 29%. That's well below the majority needed to avoid a March 31 runoff, though, and former state Sen. Bill Hightower leads state Rep. Chris Pringle 21-13 for the second place spot. This is the first poll we've seen here since just before Thanksgiving when Hightower's allies at the anti-tax Club for Growth released a survey showing him ahead with 35% as Pringle edged Carl 16-13 for second.

P.S. Strategy Research also polled the Democratic primary in this 63-34 Trump seat along the Gulf Coast.

MN-07: While Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson previously insisted that he'd decide by the end of this month whether to seek re-election in his 62-31 Trump seat, he recently told Agri-Pulse that he still hadn't made up his mind. Peterson said that he might make his choice after the March 3 primaries, but he also noted that candidate filing doesn't begin until May; the deadline to file is June 2.

Peterson has flirted with retirement for years, and he said he wasn't sure he wanted to stick around much longer. The congressman argued, "I know I can win. That's not the issue. That's the problem. I'm not sure that I want to win." Peterson didn't give a good indication about which way he was leaning, though he said, "I tell people I'm running until I'm not."

Peterson is almost certainly the only Democrat who could hold this very red seat in western Minnesota, but Team Red will make a strong push for it even if he seeks another term. Former Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach, who has House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's endorsement, is the most prominent Republican who has run here in years, and she outraised Peterson $261,000 to $158,000 during the fourth quarter of 2019. Peterson, who does not traditionally raise much money during odd-numbered years, still ended December with a large $1 million to $204,000 cash-on-hand lead over Fischbach, though.

Fischbach also doesn't quite have a clear path through the August GOP primary. Physician Noel Collis, who has been self-funding most of his campaign, had $272,000 to spend at the end of last quarter, which was actually a bit more than what Fischbach had available. Dave Hughes, who held Peterson to unexpectedly close wins in 2016 and 2018, is also trying again, but he had just $19,000 to spend.

NY-01: Perry Gershon, who was the 2018 Democratic nominee against GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin, is out with a new poll that finds him well ahead in the June primary in this eastern Long Island seat. GBAO gives Gershon a 42-21 lead over Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, while Stony Brook University professor Nancy Goroff takes 9%.

It's quite possible that Gershon is benefiting from name recognition from his last campaign, which ended in a surprisingly close 51-47 loss against Zeldin. However, his opponents will have the resources to get their names out closer to primary day: Goroff outraised the field during the fourth quarter by bringing in $348,000, while Fleming outpaced Gershon $239,000 to $200,000 during her opening quarter.

Goroff ended 2019 with a $636,000 to $549,000 cash-on-hand edge against Gershon, while Fleming had $202,000 to spend. However, Gershon did plenty of self-funding during his last campaign, and he might be able to throw down more if he feels like he needs to.

Whoever wins in June will be a tough race against Zeldin in a seat that has shifted sharply to the right in recent years. While Barack Obama carried the 1st District by a narrow 50-49 margin, Trump won it 55-42 just four years later, and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo prevailed there by just a 49.1 to 48.6 spread in 2018 despite winning a 23-point blowout statewide. Zeldin himself raised $713,000 during the last quarter and had a hefty $1.5 million on-hand.

TX-13: Wealthy businessman Chris Ekstrom is out with a new TV spot ahead of next week's GOP primary promoting himself as a political outside opposing "the creatures of the swamp."

TX-17: Rocket scientist George Hindman is going up with a negative TV spot against businesswoman Renee Swann, who has the endorsement of retiring Rep. Bill Flores, ahead of next week's GOP primary. The narrator declares that Swann is "actually a Democrat primary voter" and that she refused to answer whether she'd support additional restrictions on gun owners. The ad goes on to charge that Swanson is "the handpicked candidate of the Washington establishment."

While this ad doesn't actually mention Flores, who is Swanson's most prominent supporter, there's no love lost between the retiring congressman and Hindman. Back in 2012, Hindman challenged Flores for renomination and lost by a lopsided 83-17 margin; Hindman went down in flames in subsequent races for the Austin City Council and for state Senate in 2014 and 2018, respectively. However, Hindman has poured $600,000 of his own money into his newest campaign, and his heavy spending could help him at least advance to a May runoff in this very crowded contest.

Legislative

Special Elections: There are three special elections on tap for Tuesday.

KY-HD-67: This is a Democratic district located in Campbell County in the suburbs of Cincinnati. This seat became vacant after Gov. Andy Beshear tapped former Rep. Dennis Keene to be commissioner of the state Department of Local Government.

Candidates were selected by the parties rather than through primary elections, and businesswoman Rachel Roberts is the Democratic candidate while businesswoman Mary Jo Wedding is the GOP standard bearer. Roberts ran for a state Senate seat in this area in 2018 and lost to Will Schroder 57-43, though she still overperformed in a 62-32 Trump seat. Wedding, by contrast, faced legal questions about her residency in this district but was ultimately ruled eligible to seek this seat.

This district is swingy turf that went for Trump 49-44 and Mitt Romney by a narrow 49-48. According to analyst Drew Savicki, Beshear dominated here last year by winning 61-36.

KY-HD-99: This is a Democratic district in rural eastern Kentucky that became vacant when Beshear selected former State House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, whom he defeated in the primary last year, to be a senior advisor to his administration.

Democrats picked former Rowan County Board of Education chair Bill Redwine, who was also endorsed by Adkins, to be their nominee, while Republicans chose former Rowan County party co-chair Richard White as their candidate.

At the presidential level, this is a strongly Republican district that backed Trump 68-28 and Romney 57-40. However, this district has been much more favorable to Democrats down the ballot. Adkins had served in this seat since 1987 and, according to analyst Matthew Isbell, Beshear prevailed 50-48 here last year.

Republicans have a 61-37 advantage in this chamber with these two seats vacant.

PA-HD-190: This is a Democratic district in west Philadelphia that became vacant when former Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell resigned after being charged with stealing funds from a charity she ran. Johnson-Harrell had just won a special election last year to replace Vanessa Lowery Brown, who was convicted of bribery.

Just like in Kentucky, the candidates were chosen by the parties: The Democrat is SEIU business agent Roni Green, while the Republican is businesswoman Wanda Logan. This is Logan's fifth run for this seat, though it is her first as a Republican after primarying Lowery Brown in each election from 2012 to 2018.

This district is assured to remain in the Democrats' column, as it backed Hillary Clinton 96-3 and Barack Obama 97-2. Republicans have control of this chamber 107-92 with this and three other seats vacant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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