News Update

GOP politicians have two options: Stand up for the truth or develop amnesia

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Option 1: Stand up for the truth. Fewer and and fewer are doing what Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney has been doing since January 6 and what Arizona’s Stephen Richer — the Maricopa County recorder — did this weekend, when he stood up to Trump on Twitter over the former President’s false accusations that the county’s “entire Database” had been deleted.
“I’m literally looking at our voter registration database on my other screen. Right now,” Richer wrote on Twitter. “We can’t indulge these insane lies any longer. As a party. As a state. As a country.”
You can apply that to so many different Trump claims about the 2020 vote, which helped fuel this latest and most farcical post-election audit in a key state Trump lost, promoted by state GOP leaders who are still looking for a conspiracy.
My impression of people who work each day in state government, and particularly in elections — remember Georgia’s Gabriel Sterling? — is they don’t have time to engineer conspiracies.
Richer seems to agree.
“At some point, we are humans, it has to stop,” Richer said to CNN’s Erin Burnett on “OutFront” when asked why he had tweeted about Trump. “There are good people working here at Maricopa County and I was tired of them being defamed. That’s my team, that’s my office.”
From CNN’s Eric Bradner: Trump’s statement amplified claims made by Arizona state Senate President Karen Fann in a letter last week that a screenshot offered evidence that election files had been deleted. Maricopa County’s Board of Supervisors — four out of five of whom are Republicans — met Monday to respond to Fann’s allegations, with board members offering harsh condemnations of the GOP-led Senate.
You can see where this could go, and assume that Richer will face some backlash from Republicans pushing the conspiracy theories.
“This has been a very rude awakening into what politics has become. And if I’m not part of it four years from now, so be it. I do other things that’ll make me happy,” Richer said.
Option 2: Develop amnesia. Then there’s House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Following the prevailing winds in the GOP, he announced he would not support a 9/11-style commission for the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
McCarthy turned after months of slow capitulations by Democrats on the creation of a commission — they agreed to evenly split the nonpartisan members among those appointed by Democrats and Republicans, for instance — and after McCarthy’s point person on the negotiations, New York Rep. John Katko, had announced a bipartisan deal.
The agreement Katko reached, McCarthy complained, duplicates work being done by congressional committees and should be expanded to look at violence in US cities after racial justice protests.
CNN’s Chris Cillizza dug up these two McCarthy quotes to chart his anger and frustration immediately post-January 6 and his very different view today.
Anger one week after January 6: “The President bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action of President Trump.”
Forgetfulness by April. McCarthy had forgotten, or was trying to forget, that Trump had waited hours to put out a statement calling off rioters.
“What I talked to President Trump about, I was the first person to contact him when the riots was going on. He didn’t see it. What he ended the call was saying — telling me, he’ll put something out to make sure to stop this. And that’s what he did, he put a video out later,” McCarthy said on Fox News.
Cillizza argues McCarthy very likely does not want to testify under oath about his January 6 phone call with Trump.
While there are other things a low-level official like Richer could do that would make him happy, we can assume that McCarthy is laser-focused on becoming speaker of the House. He’d very much like to put January 6 in the rearview mirror and focus on labeling Democrats as socialists, not constantly talking about Trump, between now and the 2022 midterms in order to get Republicans the seven House seats they need for a majority.
The charitable view of McCarthy. Former Republican National Committee Chairman Richard Bond writes at CNN Opinion that McCarthy should be forgiven since he’s in an impossible spot, which is true so long as he wants to be a party leader.
“On the one hand,” writes Bond, “McCarthy has to retain the loyalty of millions of Republican voters still wedded to former President Donald Trump. On the other hand, McCarthy needs to avoid going down the surreal and dangerous rabbit hole created by Trump and his ‘Big Lie’ of a stolen election.”
Bond argues that Trump’s allure for Republicans is largely policy-based, including tax cuts President Joe Biden wants to undo for the wealthy and corporations, a hard line on immigration, opposition to Iran and all-in support for Israel. Trump’s lies about the election, he argues, can be counterbalanced by Republicans’ fears of Biden.
This is probably good political advice, but it paints over the whole issue of the big lie being anti-democratic and wannabe authoritarian. No big whoop?
McCarthy’s amnesia is emblematic of a larger collective amnesia taking root, where Republican lawmakers are trying to recast the Capitol rioters as simple tourists (completely untrue), and deny that anyone actually talked seriously about overturning the election (look at the Arizona “recount” circus that is still going on!)
Realpolitik. I tend to think McCarthy got Democrats to give up quite a bit in terms of how the commission will work and will still get to argue he always opposed it, assuming it ultimately happens. Democrats and some Republicans in the House will vote for it, but the legislation creating it must still pass the Senate, where it will require 10 Republican votes.
That’s something Democrats will have to consider as they wait for Republicans to work with them on Biden’s top priority of a massive spending bill to repair the nation’s infrastructure.

What else?

Labor shortage. Usually it’s unemployment that spells trouble for a President, but CNN’s Jeff Zeleny has an excellent story about how in Biden’s case, it’s the persistent labor shortage, which is standing in the way of the country reopening.
Zeleny: A labor shortage is one of the persistent headwinds facing President Joe Biden as he builds support for his economic agenda to invest trillions of dollars in new federal spending to move the country from relief to recovery. From restaurants and retail to manufacturing and construction, signs declaring “Now Hiring” hang outside businesses most everywhere you look.
Higher minimum wage. Bank of America upping to $25 an hour by 2025.
“It costs us a few hundred million dollars a year … but it’s an investment,” the bank’s CEO, Brian Moynihan, told CNN’s Poppy Harlow on Tuesday, adding that it’s about maintaining a “great standard of living for our teammates.”
Biden’s ‘sometimes ruthless’ calculations. CNN’s Stephen Collinson explains Biden has held back on the conflict in the Middle East: Other presidents might have felt the need to appear on camera to call for calm or to at least offer public condolences for the deaths of civilians. Some administrations would have launched a Middle East peace shuttle by now. But in a region where the “peace process” long ago expired — a region with complications that Biden had hoped to avoid, if possible — there’s no easy payoff for spending limited US political or diplomatic capital.

Here’s what national voting rights laws would actually do

We have written a lot, in shorthand, about Democrats’ vision for creating a national election framework. But it turns out there are a number of proposals on the table right now, and CNN’s Fredreka Schouten has the full breakdown.
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, issued a letter this week urging Congress to find a bipartisan path forward to reauthorize the decades-old Voting Rights Act. Here are the other options:
For the People Act
These sweeping measures, designated as S 1 in the Senate and HR 1 in the House, touch on everything from the ground rules for voting to new disclosure requirements for presidents and changes to campaign finance law.
On elections, they would set a federal baseline for election rules and thwart some of the voting restrictions passed in key battleground states this year. Among other things: They would mandate 15 days of early voting and neuter states’ strict voter ID requirements by allowing voters casting ballots in federal elections to submit sworn affidavits instead of identification.
They also would require automatic and same-day voter registration and prepaid postage on absentee ballots.
Republicans in Congress, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, call the push a partisan takeover of elections and show no signs of ever backing the bills — a problem in a Senate that’s divided 50-50 along partisan lines. (Vice President Kamala Harris can break ties, giving Democrats a narrow edge on some matters, such as confirming executive branch nominees.)
“Our democracy is not in crisis,” McConnell declared last week during committee debate on the For the People Act, “and we are not going to let one party take over our democracy under the false pretense of saving it.”
John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act
This proposal, named after late Georgia Democratic Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis, aims to restore enforcement provisions of the Voting Rights Act. It first became law in 1965, shortly after a bloody law enforcement attack on peaceful voting rights activists on a bridge in Selma, Alabama, shocked and shamed the nation into action.
The Voting Rights Act’s requirements — that nine states and parts of others with histories of racial discrimination win federal approval, or “preclearance,” before changing their election procedures — were nullified by the Supreme Court in its 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision. (The court didn’t strike down preclearance but said the law relied on an old formula that needed updating. Congress hasn’t agreed on a new formula in the intervening years.)
Soon after the ruling, states began erecting new barriers to voting, ranging from voter ID laws to signature-matching requirements. And those efforts ramped up this year with many Republican-controlled states proposing a raft of new restrictions, spurred on by Trump’s false claims of fraud in the 2020 election.
A recent version of the new John Lewis Act would extend preclearance to states that have incurred multiple voting-rights violations in the last 25 years — an attempt to get around the Supreme Court majority’s concern in Shelby that states were being punished for decades-old misdeeds, rather than current discriminatory practices.
Although a version of the Voting Rights Act rewrite passed the House in an earlier Congress, the John Lewis Act is not actually a bill right now. Committee hearings to fine-tune its provisions are planned as a precursor to its reintroduction in the House.
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