“Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is shrugging off Donald Trump’s campaign to oust him as the top Senate Republican, chuckling that he views ‘Old Crow,’ the former president’s derisive nickname for him, as a compliment,” the Washington Examiner reports. Said McConnell: “It’s my favorite bourbon.”
He then turned to a staffer and asked: “Aren’t we using Old Crow as my moniker now? It was Henry Clay’s favorite bourbon.”
“Mitch McConnell does not speak for the Republican Party, and does not represent the views of the vast majority of its voters. He did nothing to fight for his constituents and stop the most fraudulent election in American history.” — Donald Trump, in a statement.
The Republican National Committee’s censure of Reps. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) — which included the statement that the Capitol riot was “legitimate political discourse” — was so over the top that even Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) felt the need to condemn it. This follows former Vice President Mike Pence’s statement last week that Donald Trump was “wrong” that Pence could have overturned the election.
Considering the events of the last year, this seems like progress. Both GOP leaders acknowledged that Trump lost the election and that the violence on January 6 was wrong. McConnell even called it an insurrection.
But as much as the Republican party suffers from leadership problem — and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) running away from reporters yesterday proves it still does — the GOP actually has a much bigger followership problem.
The overwhelming majority of Republican voters continue to back Trump’s Big Lie about the last election and even want him to run for president again in 2024. A significant number of them even think political violence is justified. So while the statements from McConnell and Pence offer a glimmer of hope for those standing up for democracy, it’s not clear that enough Republican voters will actually follow them.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) described to Charlie Sykes what he was thinking when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy moved to expel Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) from the GOP leadership: “Kevin McCarthy has just empowered his greatest enemy.”
Said Kinzinger: “Because he thought she would go away. And I gotta tell you, she ain’t going away. And instead, he looks like a feckless, weak, tired man, who is doing the bidding of whatever Marjorie Taylor Greene thinks is going to raise her money that day.”
He added: “I’ve been clear about my thoughts on Kevin McCarthy… Even if he does somehow become speaker, he’s going to have to have a good cell phone plan because he will be calling Marjorie Taylor Greene every day asking her what he can and can’t do. I mean, my goodness, having the title of speaker but being subservient to a sophomore in Congress who’s crazy… Why would you even do that?”
“For years to come, there are many people on the right, in the media and voters at large that are gonna be having to explain and justify how they fell into this trap of supporting Trump, because this is not gonna end well.” — Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), on CNN, during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“Well, if President Trump runs for reelection, I believe he would defeat Joe Biden, and I don’t want Kamala Harris to have the power as vice president to overturn that election.” — Rubio, on CBS News over the weekend.
“The House on Tuesday passed a funding bill that would prevent a government shutdown later this month, sending the measure to the Senate,” CNBC reports. “Congress faces a Feb. 18 deadline to avoid a lapse in federal funding.”
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), the senior Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced Wednesday that negotiators have reached “a breakthrough” agreement on the framework for an omnibus spending package that he predicts will help the two sides agree to the spending toplines very soon, The Hill reports.
He called the development “big.”
“Senate Democratic moderates are urging their leadership to tack to the center by moving bills to the floor that can pass with strong Republican support, but it’s creating tension with liberals who don’t want to abandon the core components of Build Back Better, voting rights legislation and other progressive priorities,” The Hill reports.
“Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) appears to have heard the message from moderates in his caucus loud and clear.”
Said Schumer: “We’re gearing up to have a productive couple of weeks.”
Meanwhile, in the House: “It may not last long (and we won’t overstate it), but the House advanced bills on big issues with pretty significant bipartisan support this week.”
“Two Senate Democrats up for reelection proposed a bill on Wednesday to temporarily suspend the federal gas tax through the end of 2022, as millions of Americans grapple with the economic impacts of surging oil prices,” ABC News reports.
“The Gas Prices Relief Act from Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) would suspend the $18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax through Jan. 1, 2023.”
“The National Archives and Records Administration has asked the Justice Department to examine Donald Trump’s handling of White House records, sparking discussions among federal law enforcement officials about whether they should investigate the former president for a possible crime,” the Washington Post reports.
“The referral from the National Archives came amid recent revelations that officials recovered 15 boxes of materials from the former president’s Mar-a-Lago residence that weren’t handed back in to the government as they should have been, and that Trump had turned over other White House records that had been torn up.”
“Archives officials suspected Trump had possibly violated laws concerning the handling of government documents — including those that might be considered classified — and reached out to the Justice Department.”
“In the weeks after the 2020 election, Rudolph W. Giuliani and other legal advisers to President Donald Trump asked a Republican prosecutor in northern Michigan to get his county’s voting machines and pass them to Trump’s team,” the Washington Post reports.
“Sarah Matthews, a Trump White House press aide who resigned over the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, appeared Tuesday for an interview with the House select committee investigating the attack,” ABC News reports.
“Russian warships sailed toward the Black Sea on Tuesday, stoking alarm among U.S. and European security officials who warned that the final capabilities for a large-scale assault on Ukraine appeared to be falling into place,” the Washington Post reports.
New York Times: “The standoff between Russia and the West over Ukraine could turn into a drawn-out and dangerous diplomatic slog toward a difficult settlement.”
“The Kremlin on Tuesday rebuffed the idea that President Emmanuel Macron of France and President Vladimir Putin of Russia had made meaningful progress toward defusing the Ukraine crisis in their high-stakes meeting in Moscow,” the New York Times reports. “Statements by Russian leaders appeared to undercut French diplomatic authority, and even credibility, just as Mr. Macron arrived in Ukraine to continue his shuttle diplomacy, with 130,000 Russian troops just outside Ukraine and the White House warning that an attack on Ukraine could be imminent.”
“The White House has approved a Pentagon plan for U.S. troops in Poland to help thousands of Americans likely to flee Ukraine if Russia attacks, as the Biden administration tries to avoid the kind of chaotic evacuation conducted in Afghanistan,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“As Canada’s capital remained paralyzed by nearly two weeks of protests against pandemic measures, a new road blockade effectively cut off Canada’s busiest link to the United States, threatening to undermine a significant sector of the country’s economy,” the New York Times reports.
Globe and Mail: “The economic impact of the Ambassador Bridge blockade far outstrips the effect of the other trucking and vehicle blockades that Canada has seen to date.”
Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Steve Daines (R-MT) “are teaming up to file a stock-ban bill, a bipartisan pairing that’s part of a building movement to act on a potential conflict of interest,” Axios reports. “It would go a step further than other bills requiring members of Congress to place their stocks in a blind trust.”
“Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democratic leaders are working on a ban on members of Congress and senior staff trading stocks,” Punchbowl News reports.
“This Democratic package is expected to include new restrictions on investments for federal judges as well, sources told us. In addition, the Democratic leadership is eyeing increases in the fines for lawmakers who are late in filing their annual financial disclosure reports.”
“Sources involved in these discussions say that the details are still very fluid. But House Democrats plan to move on it this year.”
“Even proposing this shows how the issue has huge momentum in a pivotal election year, with both the House and Senate up for grabs.”
Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) told The Independent that efforts to restrict members of Congress from trading stocks, saying it would discourage certain people from serving in politics.
Said Tuberville: “I think it’s ridiculous. They might as well start sending robots up here. I think it would really cut back on the amount of people that would want to come up here and serve.”
The freshman senator reported nearly $1 million in questionable stock trades last year.
Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH) tweets: “Today, while heading to the House floor for votes, I respectfully asked my colleague Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) to put on a mask while boarding the train.”
“He then poked my back, demanding I get on the train. When I asked him not to touch me, he responded, ‘kiss my ass.’”
Beatty later told Politico the incident suggested far too many members are “forgetting the decorum of the House” and vowed not to stand for it.
Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) apologized to Congressional Black Caucus chair Joyce Beatty (D-OH) after he told her to “kiss my ass” in response to her request for him to wear a mask before taking a train inside Capitol Hill, The Hill reports.
Said Rogers: “This afternoon, I met with Congresswoman Beatty to personally apologize. My words were not acceptable and I expressed my regret to her, first and foremost.”
“Shelley Luther (R), the hair salon owner who was catapulted into political stardom after being jailed for defying a pandemic lockdown order, put transgender kids in the crosshairs of her campaign for the Texas House over the weekend,” the Houston Chronicle reports.
“Luther, a former school teacher, said transgender children make her uncomfortable, and she complained that their classmates weren’t allowed to make fun of them.”
Said Luther: “I am not comfortable with the transgenders. The kids that they brought in my classroom, when they said that this kid is transgendering into a different sex, that I couldn’t have kids laugh at them … like, other kids got in trouble for having transgender kids in my class.”
“After Sherrod Brown caught wind of the progressive angst over judge Michelle Childs’ possible ascension to the Supreme Court, the labor stalwart talked it through with her biggest Democratic backer — the House majority whip,” Politico reports.
“And the Ohio Democratic senator walked away satisfied from his conversation with Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), who’s stumping hard for his home-state judge to join the high court.”
Said Brown: “If she’s chosen, I’ll be enthusiastic. I’ve heard things. I am reassured from Clyburn and others that she would be a good nominee.”
“Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) will drop New York’s stringent indoor mask mandate on Wednesday, ending a requirement that businesses ask customers for proof of full vaccination or require mask-wearing at all times, and marking a turning point in the state’s coronavirus response,” the New York Times reports.
“Blue state governors and state health officials who most vigorously embraced pandemic restrictions are pivoting toward a new era, using Omicron’s decline to dial back precautions that have become a hallmark of the last two years,” Politico reports.
“Health departments from Oregon to Maine have over the last few weeks ended almost all of their government-run Covid-19 contact tracing operations and shifted the responsibility to the public.”
“At the same time, Democratic governors in the Northeast and West, where case counts are dropping dramatically, are loosening mask policies and preparing residents for the reality that Covid-19 will be around long term.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci told the Financial Times that the United States is heading out of the “full blown” pandemic phase of Covid-19, as he predicted a combination of vaccinations, treatments and prior infection would soon make the virus more manageable.
Fauci added that there would be an end to all pandemic-related restrictions in the coming months including mandatory wearing of masks.
Said Fauci: “As we get out of the full-blown pandemic phase of Covid-19, which we are certainly heading out of, these decisions will increasingly be made on a local level rather than centrally decided or mandated. There will also be more people making their own decisions on how they want to deal with the virus.”
“While congressional staffers’ talk of unionizing its long-overlooked workforce has suddenly accelerated, they’re already crashing headfirst into the more complicated reality,” Politico reports.
“Buoyed by an endorsement from Speaker Nancy Pelosi herself, dozens of senior House staff, mostly on the Democratic side, are searching for the next steps for their union drive. But it turns out that many of the problems with the Capitol as a workplace — notably, that there are more than 535 offices, each of which sets their own policies — are some of the same reasons it would be so tricky to collectively organize.”
Interesting from Punchbowl News: “White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during today’s briefing that President Joe Biden supports congressional staff unionization efforts.”
“The House on Tuesday approved the most significant overhaul of the Postal Service in nearly two decades, seeking to address the beleaguered agency’s financial woes and counter pandemic-era mail delays that became a flash point in the 2020 elections,” the New York Times reports.
“The service has teetered on the brink of insolvency for years, as repeated efforts to revamp its structure and finances have stalled in Congress.”
Politico: “The bipartisan legislation passed the chamber in a 342-92 vote, despite controversy over the head of the Postal Service that had threatened to tank Republican support for the legislation.”
“The Internal Revenue Service plans to stop using facial recognition software to identify taxpayers accessing their accounts on the agency’s website amid concerns over privacy and data security,” the New York Times reports. “The decision comes as the I.R.S. is coping with a daunting tax season, faced with backlogs of old tax returns, staffing shortages and additional complexity related to paying stimulus and child tax credits. Now, amid those challenges, the agency must change how it verifies the identity of taxpayers.”
William Saletan: “But that’s not how authoritarianism would come to America. In fact, it’s not how authoritarianism has come to America. The movement to dismantle our democracy is thriving and growing, even after the failure of the Jan. 6th coup attempt, because it isn’t spreading through overt rejection of our system of government. It’s spreading through lies.”
“It turns out that you don’t have to renounce any of our nation’s founding principles to betray them. All you have to do is believe lies: that real ballots are fake, that prosecutors are criminals, and that insurrectionists are political prisoners. Once you believe these things, you’re ready to disenfranchise your fellow citizens in the name of democracy. You’re ready to cover up crimes in the name of fighting corruption. You’re ready to liberate coup plotters in the name of justice.”
“And that’s where we are. Donald Trump and his party have sold these lies to more than 100 million Americans. He has built an army of authoritarian followers who think they’re saving the republic.”
“Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) was so unsettled after a 2010 meeting with then-Fox News executive Roger Ailes that she told staff members she would not meet with him alone again,” USA Today reports. Said Palin: “I’m never meeting with him alone again.”
“The revelation about the meeting between Palin and Ailes comes from an excerpt from Jeremy Peters’ forthcoming book, Insurgency: How Republicans Lost Their Party and Got Everything They Ever Wanted.”