Pelosi vetoes Republican appointments of Banks, Jordan to House insurrection probe

After House Republican leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy chose Reps. Jim Banks and Jim Jordan as two of his five selections for the congressional committee being created to investigate the events of the Jan. 6 insurrection that rocked the nation, Banks himself now rejecting the appointments of both Banks and Jordan. In a statement, she says she has spoken with McCarthy and "requested" that he recommend two other Republicans to fill those spots. Republican Reps. Rodney Davis, Kelly Armstrong, and Troy Nehls were not objected to—even though Nehls, like Banks and Jordan, was one of the House Republicans who voted to object to the election's certification in the hours immediately after the Capitol had been cleared of violent Trump rioters.

While Pelosi did not explicitly specify the reasons for rejecting Banks and Jordan, the reasons are self-evident. Banks' statement upon being nominated to the committee rejected the very purpose of the committee and vowed to unilaterally expand its scope by demanding the committee review Black Lives Matters-inspired protests while declaring that "Nancy Pelosi created this committee solely to malign conservatives and to justify the Left's authoritarian agenda."

Having made it clear that he believed his primary task on the committee was to weaken its focus and discredit its results, it's little wonder that Pelosi deemed him an unacceptably irresponsible choice.

The case against Jordan is also clear. After surviving revelations of complicity in the sexual assault of college athletes, largely through his own belligerence, Trump ally Jim Jordan became a go-to provocateur for disrupting Trump impeachment investigations, congressional oversight investigations, and any other probes of Trump administration malfeasance. He would be a natural Republican pick to attack and deflect any portion of the probe that touched upon the connections between the Trump White House, the organizers of the "March" to the Capitol, and the militia members who most engaged in violence during the attempt to block the transfer of presidential power. He has a history of rank dishonesty, intentional disruption, belligerent nonsense production, and general shitbaggery in past efforts to sabotage congressional probes, and his presence on this new, vital committee would immediately render it unserious. So he's out.

In what was likely a pre-planned response, Rep. Kevin McCarthy immediately announced that he would be pulling all five Republican-recommended committee members in response to Pelosi's rejection of the two saboteurs. This is consistent with all previous Republican strategies of blocking all congressionally backed probes of the Republican-backed insurrection.

The Pelosi response will likely be either to allow the committee to begin its business with no Republican-backed members or to appoint, as with her appointment of Rep. Liz Cheney, Republican members willing to buck their party's attempted sabotage of the probe. That doesn't mean she will be able to find such people; House Republicans have been thorough in retaliating against members who have gone against their fascist push to claim that the insurrection was not an insurrection, that it was not done by the Trump supporters who have now been arrested for doing it, and that the U.S. presidential election ought to have been overturned to begin with.

McCarthy selects Republican team clearly intended to derail the House select committee on Jan. 6

On Monday, the first felony conviction was handed down for those involved in the assault on the Capitol, with Paul Hodgkins getting 8 months in prison after breaching the Senate chamber while waving a Trump flag and carrying a length of rope. At the moment, 235 other defendants are facing the same charge on which Hodgkins was convicted.

On the same day, House minority leader Kevin McCarthy made it clear just how committed the Republican Party is to supported those insurgents, how little concern it has for either democracy or justice, and how committed it is to protecting the Big Lie. Because of the five Republicans McCarthy named to the House select committee on the January 6 insurgency, not one voted to impeach Trump, and three voted to overturn the results of the election. That includes both Trump favorite Rep. Jim Jordan, and one of the most reliably extreme voices in the House, Indiana Rep. Jim Banks. In fact Banks — who voted against impeachment, against the HEROES Act, and for some of the most disgusting anti-choice legislation imaginable — will be heading up the Republican team.

Banks has repeatedly dodged questions about why he’s defending people who smashed their way into the Capitol chanting that they wanted to hang fellow Hoosier Mike Pence. But as The Washington Post reports, he’s excited by the opportunity to sabotage the investigation into the events of January 6 which he says was created just to “justify the Left’s authoritarian agenda.”

Yes. For modern Republicans, those staging a coup are fine, but listening to the outcome of an election is an “authoritarian agenda.”

In addition to Banks and Jordan, McCarthy named Rep. Rodney Davis, Rep. Kelly Armstrong, and Rep. Troy Nehls. Davis and Armstrong are regarded as “moderates” in today’s Republican Party, meaning that they both hold what would once have been radically conservative viewpoints, but didn’t sign onto the attempt to overthrow the government. Nehls is an enthusiastic supporter of Trump who has downplayed events of that day, even though images from the House chamber showed him working with members of the Capitol Police in an effort to barricade the entrance.

McCarthy named his team after traveling to Bedminster, N.J. last week to meet with Trump. MCCarthy  claims the five Republicans named were “not a point of discussion.” Which presumably means that Trump just told him who to pick, and he did. Jordan has already proven himself effective at disrupting past hearings, including Trumps two impeachments.

All of these choices are coming at the last minute, with the committee set to hold its first hearing on Tuesday, That hearing is expected to include witnesses from both the Capitol Police and Metro D.C. Police.  

It’s clear that the addition of Banks, Jordan, and Nehls is intended to disrupt any actual progress by the committee. Jordan, well known as a reliable surrogate for Trump, and Banks, who is seen as a “rising star” after for his belligerent defense of the most extreme GOP positions, can be counted on to constantly confound the process and use every opportunity to bring proceedings to a halt. 

The selections by McCarthy need to be approved by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but considering the time constraints, it’s unclear if Speaker Pelosi will take any action to push back against these selections. 

As Republicans complain that the select committee is an attempt to smear conservatives, it’s worth recalling the committee only exists because Republicans made it impossible for an independent investigation to take place. In June, Republicans in the Senate filibustered to prevent the formation of the kind of independent commission that had followed past national tragedies.  As Laura Clawson wrote at the time, “Republicans are going to scream that it’s a partisan witch hunt no matter what Democrats do, so why allow them to also obstruct while they do so?”

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

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

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

Finally, the grownups are in charge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) May 18, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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."