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.

Republicans say they want an investigation into Capitol attack. How deep will they let it dig?

Forty-three Republican senators protected Donald Trump from accountability for inciting the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol when they voted to acquit in his second impeachment trial. They’re going to have a challenge protecting him—and maybe themselves—through the likely next phase of the response to the Jan. 6 attack: an investigation by a bipartisan commission similar to the 9/11 commission. The question is how serious and how empowered such an investigation will be, and Democrats need to ensure that the answer is “very.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for such an investigation in early February, writing to House Democrats, “It is also clear that we will need to establish a 9/11-type Commission to examine and report upon the facts, causes and security relating to the terrorist mob attack on January 6.” Retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré is already leading a security review, but the question of protecting the U.S. Capitol as a physical building is different from understanding how Jan. 6 happened—from incitement to active planning to responses while it was underway—and not just Congress but the whole nation needs to understand that.

We need to know more about Trump’s actions. The House impeachment managers laid out his public-facing statements showing that he absolutely called his supporters to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 in an attempt to prevent Congress from certifying President Biden’s election win, and that he continued to encourage them even as they were breaching the Capitol. But we know there’s more. Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler has described a phone call between House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Trump in the midst of the attack in which McCarthy asked Trump “to publicly and forcefully call off the riot,” only to have Trump tell him, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” McCarthy told Herrera Beutler about the call. He needs to tell investigators about it, too. 

And Herrera Beutler’s Friday statement on that call pointed out that McCarthy isn’t the only likely witness: “To the patriots who were standing next to the former president as these conversations were happening, or even to the former vice president: if you have something to add here, now would be the time,” she said. That didn’t happen in time for the impeachment trial, but those people are still out there, and a bipartisan commission with subpoena power could potentially uncover some of them, along with many other facts that are necessary for ensuring this never happens again … but potentially very inconvenient for Trump and some other Republicans.

We also need to know more about failures by the Capitol Police and others tasked with protecting the Capitol. How did they miss the signs that this wasn’t going to be a peaceful free speech rally? We need to know who at the Pentagon did what with regard to National Guard deployments ahead of Jan. 6 and as the Capitol was under attack.

Lawmakers from both parties have called for a 9/11-type investigatory panel, but some of the Republicans are likely to either push for tight limits on what can be investigated or entirely back off those calls as impeachment—and the need to distract from it by acting very serious about some form of response to the attack—recedes into the past. 

“We need a 9/11 Commission to find out what happened and make sure it never happens again, and I want to make sure that the Capitol footprint can be better defended next time,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday, but let’s wait to hear the series of things he doesn’t want included and witnesses he doesn’t want called in the investigation. The second item on Graham’s list is likely to become a big Republican talking point—refocusing the response from “what happened and how can we understand it” to “what physical fortifications do we need.” It’s the Republican way: guns, not accountability.

Republicans will also start screaming if, for instance, some of their own start getting called as witnesses. It would be very interesting to hear from Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, for instance, or Reps. Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene.

But a 9/11-type commission isn’t the only investigation in the works. Graham himself could be drawn into an investigation into efforts to overturn the Georgia election. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger recorded the phone call in which Trump pressured him to “find 11,780 votes” because of an earlier phone call in which Graham asked him to illegally reject large numbers of ballots. That Georgia investigation obviously will focus on Trump. Trump also faces the possibility of a criminal investigation into Jan. 6. That’s a very remote possibility now, but given an empowered, detailed (the 9/11 commission investigated for 20 months) look into what happened … well, we can dream.

It’s unlikely that too many people will come out fully against an investigation into the attack on the Capitol. The thing to watch is what limits Republicans want to place on it. What questions do they think should be off limits? What witnesses do they not want called? Especially from people like Graham and Cruz and Hawley, that’s going to be a signal of where the really important information is—and both Democrats and good-faith Republicans need to be willing to pursue it.

Republicans say they want an investigation into Capitol attack. How deep will they let it dig?

Forty-three Republican senators protected Donald Trump from accountability for inciting the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol when they voted to acquit in his second impeachment trial. They’re going to have a challenge protecting him—and maybe themselves—through the likely next phase of the response to the Jan. 6 attack: an investigation by a bipartisan commission similar to the 9/11 commission. The question is how serious and how empowered such an investigation will be, and Democrats need to ensure that the answer is “very.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for such an investigation in early February, writing to House Democrats, “It is also clear that we will need to establish a 9/11-type Commission to examine and report upon the facts, causes and security relating to the terrorist mob attack on January 6.” Retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré is already leading a security review, but the question of protecting the U.S. Capitol as a physical building is different from understanding how Jan. 6 happened—from incitement to active planning to responses while it was underway—and not just Congress but the whole nation needs to understand that.

We need to know more about Trump’s actions. The House impeachment managers laid out his public-facing statements showing that he absolutely called his supporters to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 in an attempt to prevent Congress from certifying President Biden’s election win, and that he continued to encourage them even as they were breaching the Capitol. But we know there’s more. Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler has described a phone call between House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Trump in the midst of the attack in which McCarthy asked Trump “to publicly and forcefully call off the riot,” only to have Trump tell him, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” McCarthy told Herrera Beutler about the call. He needs to tell investigators about it, too. 

And Herrera Beutler’s Friday statement on that call pointed out that McCarthy isn’t the only likely witness: “To the patriots who were standing next to the former president as these conversations were happening, or even to the former vice president: if you have something to add here, now would be the time,” she said. That didn’t happen in time for the impeachment trial, but those people are still out there, and a bipartisan commission with subpoena power could potentially uncover some of them, along with many other facts that are necessary for ensuring this never happens again … but potentially very inconvenient for Trump and some other Republicans.

We also need to know more about failures by the Capitol Police and others tasked with protecting the Capitol. How did they miss the signs that this wasn’t going to be a peaceful free speech rally? We need to know who at the Pentagon did what with regard to National Guard deployments ahead of Jan. 6 and as the Capitol was under attack.

Lawmakers from both parties have called for a 9/11-type investigatory panel, but some of the Republicans are likely to either push for tight limits on what can be investigated or entirely back off those calls as impeachment—and the need to distract from it by acting very serious about some form of response to the attack—recedes into the past. 

“We need a 9/11 Commission to find out what happened and make sure it never happens again, and I want to make sure that the Capitol footprint can be better defended next time,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday, but let’s wait to hear the series of things he doesn’t want included and witnesses he doesn’t want called in the investigation. The second item on Graham’s list is likely to become a big Republican talking point—refocusing the response from “what happened and how can we understand it” to “what physical fortifications do we need.” It’s the Republican way: guns, not accountability.

Republicans will also start screaming if, for instance, some of their own start getting called as witnesses. It would be very interesting to hear from Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, for instance, or Reps. Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene.

But a 9/11-type commission isn’t the only investigation in the works. Graham himself could be drawn into an investigation into efforts to overturn the Georgia election. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger recorded the phone call in which Trump pressured him to “find 11,780 votes” because of an earlier phone call in which Graham asked him to illegally reject large numbers of ballots. That Georgia investigation obviously will focus on Trump. Trump also faces the possibility of a criminal investigation into Jan. 6. That’s a very remote possibility now, but given an empowered, detailed (the 9/11 commission investigated for 20 months) look into what happened … well, we can dream.

It’s unlikely that too many people will come out fully against an investigation into the attack on the Capitol. The thing to watch is what limits Republicans want to place on it. What questions do they think should be off limits? What witnesses do they not want called? Especially from people like Graham and Cruz and Hawley, that’s going to be a signal of where the really important information is—and both Democrats and good-faith Republicans need to be willing to pursue it.

Hero Capitol police officer to receive highest honor Congress can bestow, Nancy Pelosi announces

Newly released security camera footage revealed that the Capitol police officer celebrated as a hero for diverting an angry mob away from legislators during the Jan. 6 insurrection also possibly saved the life of a specific legislator who didn’t realize he was in immediate danger. Sen. Mitt Romney didn't know he was approaching a white supremacist mob when he first encountered Officer Eugene Goodman in the hallway of the Capitol building, The Washington Post reported. Rep. Stacey Plaskett presented footage of the scene during the impeachment trial on Wednesday.

"You all may have seen footage of Officer Goodman previously, but there's more to his heroic story. In this security footage you can see Officer Goodman running to respond to the initial breach,” Plaskett said, narrating the footage. “Officer Goodman passes Senator Mitt Romney and directs him to turn around in order to get to safety. On the first floor just beneath them, the mob had already started to search for the Senate Chamber."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Thursday that she’s introducing legislation to award Goodman and other officers who stood guard during the insurrection with a Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor Congress can bestow, Pelosi said in a press release. “The service of the Capitol Police force that day brings honor to our Democracy, and their accepting this Gold Medal will bring luster to this award,” she said in the release.

Goodman initially attracted praise when HuffPost reporter Igor Bobic tweeted footage of the officer diverting insurrectionists on Jan. 6. It has since been viewed more than 10 million times. “Just now realizing how much of a close call it was in the Senate,” Bobic tweeted. He told Good Morning America that certifying electoral votes from the presidential election, the act that the terrorist mob was trying to interrupt, is normally a routine practice, but last month, “a commotion” and “yelling” began during the process. "And I ran downstairs to the first floor of the Senate building, where I encountered this lone police officer courageously making a stand against the mob of 20 or so Trump supporters who breached the capitol itself and were trying to get upstairs,” Bobic said.

Here’s the scary moment when protesters initially got into the building from the first floor and made their way outside Senate chamber. pic.twitter.com/CfVIBsgywK

— Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) January 6, 2021

Goodman, with no gun in hand and no tactical gear, pushed the mob leader in an effort to bait him and ran in the opposite direction of the Senate Chamber. “They were yelling ‘Traitors. We want justice. This is our America. If we don’t stop this now, we won’t get justice. Trump won,’” Bobic told Good Morning America. At times, the insurrectionists chased Goodman slowly. 

“Officer Eugene Goodman’s heroic actions on Jan 6th saved countless lives & prevented a violent mob from breaching the Senate Chamber,” Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. tweeted Wednesday. “We all owe him a debt of gratitude.” 

Officer Eugene Goodman's heroic actions on Jan 6th saved countless lives & prevented a violent mob from breaching the Senate Chamber. Officer Goodman should be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his bravery & service. We all owe him a debt of gratitude. https://t.co/CMyoXB2uqj

— Rep. Frank Pallone (@FrankPallone) February 11, 2021

Read Pelosi’s complete letter:

"This week has been an historic one for the Country and the Congress.  We have been reminded of the extraordinary valor of the United States Capitol Police, the men and women who risked and gave their lives to save ours, becoming martyrs for our democracy.

The outstanding heroism and patriotism of our heroes deserve and demand our deepest appreciation, which is why I am honored to introduce legislation to pay tribute to the Capitol Police and other law enforcement personnel who protected the U.S. Capitol on January 6 with the Congressional Gold Medal: the highest honor that the Congress can bestow.  The service of the Capitol Police force that day brings honor to our Democracy, and their accepting this Gold Medal will bring luster to this award.  A draft of this legislation is attached.

We must never forget the sacrifice of Officer Brian Sicknick, Officer Howard Liebengood, MPD Officer Jeffrey Smith and the more than 140 law enforcement officers who sustained physical injuries, or the courage of heroes such as Officer Eugene Goodman.  Indeed, we must stay vigilant against the “silent artillery of time,” as President Lincoln stated in his Lyceum Address – a speech that, fittingly, warned of the dire threat that mob insurrectionists could represent to our Democracy: “If [danger] ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad.  If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher."  We promised the families that we will never forget.”

RELATED: Hero cop comes face-to-face with man so out of touch with reality he seems to consider Trump God

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.

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."

Pelosi confirms House will send impeachment article to Senate on Monday, updates members on security

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed a dear colleague letter to Democrats that the House will send the article of impeachment of Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday, a "momentous and solemn day, as the House sadly transmits the Article of Impeachment."

"Our Constitution and country are well-served by our outstanding impeachment managers – lead manager Rep. Jamie Raskin and Reps. Diana DeGette, David Cicilline, Joaquin Castro, Eric Swalwell, Ted Lieu, Stacey Plaskett, Madeleine Dean, and Joe Neguse," she wrote. She also low-key slammed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had tried to dictate the timing of the impeachment by telling Pelosi to wait until the last half of February to start the process. "The House has been respectful of the Senate’s constitutional power over the trial and always attentive to the fairness of the process," she wrote. "When the Article of Impeachment is transmitted to the Senate, the former President will have had nearly two weeks since we passed the Article."

Friday, Jan 22, 2021 · 11:27:01 PM +00:00 · Joan McCarter

BREAKING: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says former President Trump's impeachment trial will start the week of Feb. 8. https://t.co/FKAryO7Sum

— The Associated Press (@AP) January 22, 2021

Pelosi also informed her colleagues about security at the Capitol, informing them that "General Russel Honoré is preparing his assessment of the security of the campus, and we expect to have updates soon." She also reminded them that when they return, they'll vote on a rule change to impose fines on any member trying to bypass the metal detectors to get to the House chamber. The issue escalated this week when Rep. Andy Harris, a Maryland Republican, tried to bring a concealed gun onto the House floor, which is a violation of House rules. A number of Republicans have blown off the detectors and disrespected Capitol Police trying to enforce the new protocols.

"It is sad that this step is necessary," Pelosi wrote of the fines, "but the disrespectful and dangerous refusal of some Republican Members to adhere to basic safety precautions for our Congressional Community—including our Capitol Police—is unacceptable." Any House member will face a $5,000 fine if they refuse to cooperate with the screening. If they do it again, they'll pay a $10,000 fine. That money will be withheld from their paychecks—they can't use campaign funds or their expense accounts to pay them. The precedent for this new rule is the mask rule passed last week, which fines members not wearing masks on the floor—$500 on a first offense and $2,500 for a second offense.

Pelosi ends her missive on a hopeful note. "I am confident that, strengthened by the new Biden-Harris Administration and Senate Democratic Majority, we can restore healing, unity and optimism to our nation, so that—as Joe Biden quotes Seamus Heaney—'The longed for tidal wave of justice can rise up, and hope and history can rhyme.'"

Starting Monday, Republican senators will have to face the fact that Trump tried to get them killed

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday morning that the impeachment of Donald Trump in the Senate is imminent. "I have spoken to Speaker Pelosi who informed me that the articles will be delivered to the Senate on Monday," and promised "It will be a full trial, it will be a fair trial." That's a rebuff to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who attempted to dictate the schedule to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Schumer in a proposal released late Thursday. McConnell argued that Trump needed time to plan a defense and that "At this time of strong political passions, Senate Republicans believe it is absolutely imperative that we do not allow a half-baked process to short-circuit the due process that former President Trump deserves or damage the Senate or the presidency."

A reminder: Trump sent a mob to the Capitol to hunt leadership, including former Vice President Mike Pence, down and kill them. Which is what the House impeachment managers intend to keep at the forefront. A Democratic source told Washington Post's Greg Sargent that their presentation will include "a lot of video of the assault on the Capitol … to dramatize the former president’s incitement role in a way that even GOP senators cannot avoid grappling with." Maybe that will keep them awake during the proceeding.

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"If they‘re going to vote against it, they're going to vote against it knowing what actually happened," the aide told Sargent. "A lot of senators" were "very upset angry about what happened,” the aide continued, saying the managers' goal is to "remind them of why." Among those needing the reminder is Trump's caddy, Sen. Lindsey Graham. Remember Graham on January 6, in the aftermath of the attack when the Senate reconvened. He said the effort to challenge the Electoral College vote was "the most offensive concept in the world." He said that he and Trump had been on "a hell of a journey. I hate it to end this way. Oh, my god, I hate it." He said Trump's attempt to challenge the result in Congress was "not going to do any good." That's Graham, essentially admitting that Trump set the insurrection in motion.

Here's what Graham said just two weeks later. "For the party to move forward, we got to move the party with Donald Trump." So much for the end of the journey. "There’s no way to be a successful Republican Party without having President Trump working with all of us and all of us working with him. […] [W]e got a decent chance of coming back in 2022. But we can't do it without the President." He's not alone. There'a a whole cadre of Republicans senators who are actually threatening McConnell's leadership if he votes to convict Trump.

They're not going to be able to hide from what Trump did, the House Democrats will make sure of that. "The president of the United States committed an act of incitement of insurrection," Pelosi reminded everyone Thursday. "Just because he's now gone—thank God—you don't say to a president, 'Do whatever you want in the last months of your administration. You're going to get a get-out-of-jail card free' because people think you should make nice, nice, and forget that people died here on Jan. 6."

Nancy Pelosi nails response over concerns about impeachment sowing division in U.S.

During House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s weekly press briefing on Thursday morning, the California Democrat appeared to stop herself from making a mistake many of us may find ourselves making as we adjust to life in 2021. What is it? The speaker referred to Joe Biden as “vice president” and then updated her language with the now correct identifier: President Biden. As change goes, a pretty fun one to adjust to after four years of the Trump administration.

On a more serious note, however, the speaker stressed a point that will be reassuring to many progressives, Democrats, and, frankly, even some Republicans. In reference to the pro-Trump insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, Pelosi said, “There is no question that there were members in this body who gave aid and comfort to those … with the idea that they were embracing a lie. ... A lie perpetuated by the president."

She went on to state that there will be an after-action review, and, if House lawmakers “did aid and abet, there will be more than just comments from their colleagues here. … There will be prosecution if they aided and abetted an insurrection in which people died.” Pelosi stressed, of course, that it all comes down to evidence, which, in her words, “remains to be seen.”

Let’s check out other highlights of her briefing, as well as clips, below.

Here’s that clip.

Speaker Pelosi says there will be consequences if House lawmakers are found to have aided and abetted insurrectionists: "More than just comments from their colleagues here, there will be prosecution." pic.twitter.com/OxtZLBAomy

— The Recount (@therecount) January 21, 2021

A journalist, identified on Twitter as Manu Raju of CNN, asked Pelosi if she was at all concerned that moving forward with an impeachment trial could contradict or undercut efforts to unify the country. In a word, she said, “No.”

Here’s that clip.

Speaker Pelosi says it would be “harmful to unity” to not hold Trump accountable for inciting the insurrection. The Senate must convict Trump. pic.twitter.com/gC8xBdyjzb

— Scott Dworkin (@funder) January 21, 2021

“The fact is, the president of the United States committed an act of incitement of insurrection. I don’t think it’s very unifying to say, Oh, let’s just forget it and move on.” Pelosi stressed it’s their responsibility to protect and defend the integrity and constitution of the United States. 

"You don't say to a president, ‘Do whatever you want in the last months of your administration,’ ... 'You're going to get a Get Out of Jail Card free,' because people think we should make nice-nice and forget that people died here on January 6th."

Pelosi stressed she thinks forgetting would, in fact, be harmful to unifying the country. And she’s definitely right, even as some Republicans, like Sen. Lindsey Graham, argue: “What good comes from impeaching a guy in Florida?,” as though Trump has been just “a guy in Florida” for the last four years. 

On a heartwarming note, Pelosi talked about the inauguration as a “breath of fresh air” for the nation, and congratulated the three new Democratic senators, as well as celebrating the new majority Democrats hold in the Senate. 

Here is that clip.

Speaker Pelosi: "That inauguration was a breath of fresh air for our country." pic.twitter.com/pdlz73WFRe

— The Hill (@thehill) January 21, 2021

You can check out a full livestream below, courtesy of YouTube.


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