Jake Johnson

Mitch McConnell slammed for his own effort to virtually 'overturn the Senate election'

In an early effort to keep the GOP in a position to cripple President Joe Biden's agenda, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is threatening to block a must-pass organizing resolution that establishes the rules for the new session and sets committee assignments if Democrats don't agree to hamstring themselves by promising to leave the 60-vote legislative filibuster in place.

Senate Democrats—who won narrow control of the chamber with a pair of runoff victories in Georgia earlier this month—have thus far refused to accept McConnell's demand, but the Kentucky Republican's stonewalling of the organizing resolution is already causing problems for the new Biden administration and delaying legislative work as the pandemic rages and mass layoffs continue nationwide.

"The longer the standoff over the organizing package persists, the weirder the Senate will become," Politico reported Thursday. "New senators have not been added to committees and the ratios have not changed, leaving the GOP in the majority on some panels. That's already complicating the ability of the Senate to confirm some of President Joe Biden's nominees."

In a floor speech Thursday, McConnell signaled that he does not intend to drop his demand any time soon, calling the legislative filibuster "a crucial part of the Senate."

Rejecting McConnell's "extraneous provisions," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is pushing for an organizing resolution that sets the same rules that governed the 50-50 Senate in 2001.

Given that the organizing resolution is itself subject to the filibuster, McConnell is effectively using the archaic 60-vote requirement—which progressives have taken to calling a "Jim Crow relic"—to protect it from future elimination by the new Democratic majority. Scrapping the filibuster would require just 51 votes, meaning Democrats would need the support of their entire Senate caucus and a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris.

"McConnell is threatening to filibuster the organizing resolution which allows Democrats to assume the committee chair positions," Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) tweeted Thursday. "It's an absolutely unprecedented, wacky, counterproductive request. We won the Senate. We get the gavels."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) told CNN Thursday that "Mitch McConnell was fine with getting rid of the filibuster to a United States Supreme Court nominee for a lifetime appointment, but he's not okay getting rid of the filibuster for unemployment relief for families that are out of work because of Covid-19."

"I've just had enough of Mitch McConnell," Warren added.

Progressives argued that the early stand-off over the filibuster is an illustrative example of why the 60-vote rule must be abolished if the Democratic majority hopes to pass coronavirus relief, climate legislation, democracy reform, and other key priorities.

"The solution is obvious," said Brian Beutler, editor-in-chief at Crooked Media. "McConnell is already abusing the filibuster to block the constitution of the new majority. Nuking the filibuster is the appropriate response... The alternative—cave to McConnell on this basic question of which party won the majority, and ratify his plan to set a 60-vote threshold for everything of consequence—would be a profound, irrevocable betrayal right off the bat."

"McConnell is basically trying to overturn the Senate election," Beutler tweeted.

In an appearance on MSNBC late Thursday, Heather McGhee of Color of Change said that "Democrats have the high ground" in the fight over the filibuster, which she called a "McConnell minority veto."

"[Democrats] represent 40 million more people than the Republicans do in the Senate," said McGhee. "Their agenda is wildly popular and the Republican Party barely has an agenda, and that which they do is barely even popular with the base of their own party."

"Democrats will say: you know, what if we are in the minority again?" McGhee continued. "The best thing you can do to not be in the minority again is to kill the minority veto and get things done for the American people that are popular. And then, people will send you back to Washington."

New York magazine's Eric Levitz argued Thursday that "for the moment, Senate Republicans have some leverage to drive a hard bargain on the power-sharing agreement: Until a new resolution is worked out, the GOP will retain its existing majorities on Senate committees."

"But the GOP only has such leverage for as long as Democrats allow them to," Levitz added. "The Senate is governed by a dizzying mess of procedural precedents. But as a constitutional matter, Senate majorities are sovereign over the body's internal affairs. Chuck Schumer's caucus has the power to simply rewrite all of the Senate's rules on a party-line basis, whenever it wants. They are just reluctant to do so."

'You don't have a sense of fight': Must-see clip urges Democrats to finally get tough

In an appearance on MSNBC Thursday morning in the wake of President Joe Biden's inauguration, author and political analyst Anand Giridharadas implored Democratic lawmakers to bring to an end a "dangerous" state of affairs in which the enemies of democracy, multiculturalism, and progress are the only ones who recognize—and act as if—they are in a fight.

"I actually think there is a huge problem in this country of only the bad guys having fight in them. You don't actually want a society in which only the people who want to do harm understand themselves to be in a battle," said Giridharadas, who cited as a telling example Sen. Dick Durbin's (D-Ill.) refusal to demand the expulsion of Republican lawmakers who incited the deadly January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Appearing on MSNBC just before Giridharadas, Durbin—the number two Democrat in the Senate—said any disciplinary action against seditionist GOP lawmakers such as Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) for their role in the violent insurrection will be "initiated by the Ethics Committee."

Giridharadas argued that the Illinois Democrat's remarks did not contain anything resembling the "sense of fight" necessary to overcome the threat to democracy posed by Republicans in Congress and the right-wing forces that took part in the assault on the Capitol earlier this month.

"You... are inviting him to expel colleagues who are seditionists, and he says it's a matter for the Ethics Committee," Giridharadas said. "That's what it looks like when you don't have a sense of fight."

Watch:

Giridharadas' remarks came just hours after Democrats officially took control of the U.S. Senate, giving the party unified control over the federal government for the first time in a decade amid a devastating pandemic and economic collapse.

In a series of tweets Thursday expanding on the points he raised during his MSNBC appearance, Giridharadas argued that while former President Donald Trump's effort to subvert the democratic process and overturn the results of the 2020 election was ultimately defeated, "the revolt against the future will go on, and everyone who believes in democracy must recognize that they're in a fight for the very soul of America."

"There is nothing wrong with bringing a sense of fight to politics when you're fighting for justice and a better future," Giridharadas wrote. "There is nothing wrong with bringing a sense of fight to politics when you're fighting for justice and a better future. We cannot afford a politics in which only the bad guys understand they're in a fight."

"The difference between Republicans and Democrats so often is that Republicans know they're in a fight," Giridharadas added. "Democrats are in a fight; they just often don't act like they know it. That has to change if this country is to be saved and Biden is to have a shot."

'People are demanding action': Incoming Senate budget chair lays out visionary first 100 days for Biden

With President Joe Biden sworn in and Democrats set to officially take control of the U.S. Senate Wednesday afternoon, incoming Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders argued that the majority party must waste no time pushing ahead with an ambitious agenda aimed at confronting the immediate crises of Covid-19, economic calamity, and climate change and setting the U.S. on a more just and equitable path.

"The people are demanding action," Sanders said in an appearance on CBS News following Biden's inauguration. "The times call out for bold action on the part of the Congress, for a willingness for us to stand up to powerful special interests who want to maintain the status quo. That's what we gotta do, and we gotta do it quickly."

In an op-ed for The Guardian published Wednesday morning, the Vermont senator argued that with unified control of the federal government, Democrats have no excuse not to pass within the first 100 days legislation tackling the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and economic collapse, guaranteeing healthcare to all, providing universal paid family and medical leave to workers, and securing a $15 federal minimum wage, on top of other key priorities.


Addressing critics who say such a sprawling legislative agenda is impractical given existing Senate obstacles such as the legislative filibuster, Sanders said Democrats can utilize the budget reconciliation process—which requires a simple majority instead of the usual 60 votes—to "act quickly and pass this emergency legislation."

"But that is not enough," the senator wrote. "This year we must also pass a second reconciliation bill that deals with the major structural changes that our country desperately needs. Ultimately, we must confront the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality and create a country that works for all and not just the few. Americans should no longer be denied basic economic rights that are guaranteed to people in virtually every other major country."

"There is no reason Joe Biden could not sign into law two major bills that will accomplish most of the goals I listed above within the first 100 days of the new Congress," Sanders continued. "We cannot allow Mitch McConnell and the Republican leadership to sabotage legislation that would improve the lives of millions of working Americans and is wildly popular."


In late 2017, congressional Republicans used the budget reconciliation process to ram through deeply unpopular tax cuts that ultimately—as expected—delivered massive gains to the wealthy and large corporations while doing very little for everyone else.

Just over three years after the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the austerity-obsessed GOP's nightmare scenario of Sanders taking charge of the budget committee became reality following Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff's victories earlier this month in a pair of Senate runoffs in Georgia, giving Democrats control of the upper chamber by the narrowest possible margin.

The Vermont senator has made clear that as chairman of the budget panel, he intends to use the reconciliation process just as aggressively as Republicans—but with an entirely different goal in mind.

"If the Republicans could use the reconciliation process to protect the wealthy and the powerful, we can use it to protect working families, the sick, the elderly, the disabled and the poor," Sanders wrote Wednesday.

In his interview on CBS, Sanders stressed that in the face of multi-faceted crises, Democrats can and must pursue multiple objectives at once, including robust coronavirus relief, the conviction of former President Donald Trump, and policies aimed at redressing longstanding crises of wealth concentration, widespread uninsurance, poverty, hunger, and homelessness.


"What is absolutely imperative now is that the Congress show the American people we can walk and chew bubblegum at the same time," the senator said. "In other words, we can impeach Trump, we can allow Biden's nominees to have hearings and be appointed, and, most importantly, we deal with the crises facing working families all over this country."

"We have got to move forward in an unprecedented way," Sanders continued. "As the incoming chairman of the budget committee, I'm going to do my best to make that happen."


GOP outreach threatens to hold economic recovery 'hostage' as Romney says COVID relief 'not well-timed': progressives

With Covid-19 killing thousands of people each day in the U.S. and the economy still mired in deep recession, progressives are calling on President Joe Biden and the Democrat-controlled Congress to abandon futile outreach to the GOP and push ahead with a robust relief package after a pair of so-called "moderate" Republican senators voiced skepticism Wednesday about passing another major spending bill.

Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), members of a bipartisan group of lawmakers calling itself the Common Sense Coalition, indicated shortly after Biden's inauguration Wednesday that they would have difficulty supporting relief legislation on the scale of the $1.9 trillion plan the president unveiled last week—a proposal progressives criticized as inadequate.

Romney characterized Biden's opening offer as "not well-timed" given that Congress "passed a $900 billion-plus package" last month. Some economists argue that between $3 trillion and $4.5 trillion in spending will be necessary in the short-term to bring the U.S. out of recession and pave the way for a speedy recovery.

"Let's give that some time to be able to influence the economy," Romney said of the December relief measure.

Murkowski echoed Romney's concern, complaining that "the ink is just barely dry on the $900 billion." Biden's relief proposal—which includes $1,400 direct payments, a boost to unemployment benefits, and other key measures—would require "a fair amount of of debate and consideration," said the Alaska Republican.

Given that Biden would likely need the backing of both Romney and Murkowski—as well as other Republicans—to achieve his hope of passing a relief bill with bipartisan support, progressives said the two senators' comments further bolster the case for ignoring the austerity-obsessed GOP and using unified Democratic control of government to swiftly pass an ambitious package.

"Who cares what Romney thinks," tweeted policy analyst James Medlock. "Ultimately the effectiveness of the Biden admin[istration] will be determined by how often they ignore what Republicans have to say and jam stuff through reconciliation."

Medlock was referring to the expedited, filibuster-proof process that allows passage of certain kinds of legislation with a simple majority rather than the usual 60 votes—a threshold that would require the support of at least 10 Republican senators.

Biden has not explicitly endorsed passing coronavirus relief through reconciliation if Republicans obstruct his agenda. But White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during the new administration's first press briefing Wednesday that while the president's "clear preference is to move forward with a bipartisan bill," Biden is "not going to take tools off the table for how the House and Senate can get this done."

With the reconciliation process a possibility, another—and, according to some progressives, much better—option is to quickly eliminate the legislative filibuster, a move that would allow passage of legislation without any Republican support.

Democrats control the Senate by the narrowest possible margin, meaning they would need the backing of the entire caucus plus a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Kamala Harris to pass legislation in the absence of the filibuster, which Democrats can kill with a simple majority vote.

"A Republican minority shouldn't be allowed to hold the nation's economic recovery and public health hostage," progressive organizer Ilya Sheyman said, urging Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to use one of the two tools at his disposal to pass a major relief bill.


Amid growing GOP hostility to additional coronavirus relief spending, Biden's economic advisers are expected to meet with the Common Sense Coalition in the coming days, continuing outreach to Republicans and conservative Democrats—such as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)—that began before the inauguration.

"We can do 1,000 straight days of this song and dance or we can just zoom ahead and enjoy a glorious, filibuster-free existence," tweeted Ryan Kearney of the LGBTQ Victory Fund. "Your choice!"

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the new chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said Wednesday that while he has "no problem with reaching out to Republicans" and "would prefer to do it that way," he has no intention of wasting precious time trying to bring intransigent GOP lawmakers onboard.

"If we hear very early on that Republicans do not want to act in a way that meets the needs of working people in this country or the middle class, sorry, we're gonna do it alone," the Vermont senator said in an appearance on ABC.


As progressive Democrats and advocacy groups demand quick action, the timeline for movement of a coronavirus relief package remains unclear. Punchbowl News reported Wednesday morning that "Democrats do not expect to be able to send Biden a Covid relief bill until early March," when emergency unemployment benefits are set to expire for millions of Americans.

Progressives made clear that waiting until March to pass a relief bill would be unacceptable, given the enormity of the public health and economic emergencies that are ravaging the country.

"We urge the President to continue to act swiftly and boldly to address the multiple crises our nation faces," Rahna Epting, executive director of advocacy group MoveOn, said in a statement late Wednesday. "People's lives depend on it. We cannot allow Washington gridlock or Republican obstruction to stand in the way of the urgent needs of the nation."

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, issued a similar call to action, demanding that the Biden administration and Democratic Congress work toward "the swift passage of a comprehensive and bold relief package that meets the scale of this crisis."

"We have no time to waste," said Jayapal.

Democrats urged to reject 'desperate' McConnell effort to preserve filibuster and kneecap Biden agenda

Soon-to-be Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is attempting to obtain a commitment from his Democratic counterparts to keep the archaic legislative filibuster in place once they officially take charge of the chamber, a demand that progressives characterized as a last-ditch effort to cripple the incoming Biden administration's policy agenda.

In ongoing negotiations with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) over an organizing resolution that will govern the upcoming 50-50 Senate, McConnell is reportedly working to undercut the growing momentum behind eliminating the filibuster—which, if left intact, would effectively give Republican senators veto power over much of President-elect Joe Biden's legislative agenda.

"The time is ripe to address this issue head on before the passions of one particular issue or another arise," McConnell said in a statement Tuesday. "A delay in reaching an agreement could delay the final determination of committee assignments but it is important to maintain the status quo on the legislative filibuster."

Schumer has thus far declined to commit to preserving the filibuster, which requires 60 votes to break. In a statement, Stand Up America managing director Christina Harvey urged the New York Democrat to forcefully reject McConnell's demand, characterizing the Republican leader's effort as deliberate sabotage of the incoming Congress and administration.

"Mitch McConnell is desperate, grasping for straws, and attempting to use what little power he has left to stymie bold progress for the American people," said Harvey. "Soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Schumer should immediately reject this blatant attempt to undermine the Democratic majority before it has even been seated and swiftly affirm that filibuster reform is still on the table."

While the ongoing rule negotiations between McConnell and Schumer are standard procedure, former Democratic Senate staffer Adam Jentleson argued that the Kentucky Republican's push to safeguard the filibuster represents an unacceptable effort to deny the "legitimacy" of the incoming Senate majority.

"If McConnell insists, the Dem response should be to go nuclear on the organizing resolution, which under current rules needs 60 [votes] to pass," said Jentleson. "Dems extended a reasonable deal, McConnell spit on it. So reform the filibuster now, organize the Senate as Dems want, and pass Biden's agenda."


Politico reported Tuesday that Schumer and McConnell "are largely expected to run the Senate in a similar fashion to how former Senate leaders Trent Lott and Tom Daschle devised the last 50-50 blueprint in 2001."

"That allowed for committee memberships to be evenly split, with bills that receive tied votes advancing to the floor; the party controlling the White House would still set the Senate schedule and determine which legislation would get taken up," Politico explained. "But there's so much to be negotiated this time around beyond just the operations of the Senate. Among the unanswered questions: When will President Donald Trump's impeachment trial start and how long will it go?"

A spokesperson for Schumer said that during a meeting with McConnell on Tuesday, the New York Democrat "expressed that the fairest, most reasonable, and easiest path forward is to adopt the 2001 bipartisan agreement without extraneous changes from either side," an apparent reference to McConnell's filibuster demand.

Progressive organizer Murshed Zaheed tweeted late Tuesday that it is "encouraging to hear that Schumer is holding firm in not giving in to McConnell in making any commitment on the filibuster."

"For the sake of our democracy and our country he can't budge on this," Zaheed added. "When McConnell/Republicans revert to obstruction, Schumer will need to nuke the filibuster."

The talks between McConnell and Schumer come as progressive advocacy groups are vocally calling on the incoming Democratic Senate to swiftly pave the way for Biden's agenda on coronavirus relief, climate, civil rights, and other key matters by eliminating the legislative filibuster—a move that several right-wing Democrats, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), have said they oppose.

Democrats would need every member of their Senate caucus and a tie-breaking vote by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to scrap the filibuster.

In a memo released Monday, the youth-led Sunrise Movement, Justice Democrats, and New Deal Strategies argued that the best way to overcome GOP obstruction is to "get rid of the filibuster immediately, and proceed to pass Biden's agenda through regular order—including must-pass civil rights bills, climate solutions, and statehood."

"A quick strike against the filibuster in January will set Biden up to shepherd his entire agenda through regular order, with full committee involvement and proper levels of oversight and transparency," the memo reads. "Biden has the credibility and the political capital to bring along the small number of wavering senators. Every other path leads to needless complications and worse results for the American people."

'Right on schedule': GOP backers of tax cuts for the rich resume deficit-mongering hours before Biden inauguration

Just 24 hours before the inauguration of Democratic President-elect Joe Biden, Republican senators who did not hesitate to approve unpaid-for tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and bloated Pentagon budgets over the past four years suddenly rediscovered their concern for the rising deficit and national debt Tuesday as Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen made the case for a robust coronavirus relief package.

Republican lawmakers have been signaling a return to their hypocritical deficit-mongering for months, leading some to warn of a conscious GOP effort to impose crippling austerity on the incoming Biden administration in the name of "fiscal responsibility."

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) hinted in that direction during Yellen's confirmation hearing Tuesday, using his time to lament the "massive amount of debt that we continue to rack up" and complain that Congress appears "to have no concern" about the problem. In 2017, Thune was one of 51 Republican senators to vote yes on the $1.5 trillion Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which blew a massive hole in the deficit and disproportionately benefited the rich and large corporations.

As Yellen stressed the need for the federal government to "act big" in the face of twin public health and economic crises—pointing to historically low interest rates as further reason to spend without hesitation—Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said "the ink is barely dry" on the previous $900 billion coronavirus relief measure and warned against another large stimulus package, specifically rejecting Biden's $1.9 trillion proposal.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) told Yellen, the former chair of the Federal Reserve, that "we shouldn't get too comfortable" with low interest rates and called rising deficits "frightening," attributing them to the "mandatory spending side of the ledger"—an oblique reference to Medicare and Social Security.

Without acknowledging the connection between the 2017 GOP tax cuts and soaring deficits, Portman went on to defend the TCJA and claim it was a boon to the economy, a characterization not borne out by the data.


During Tuesday's hearing, centrist Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) pushed back on his Republican colleagues' deficit-hawkery, saying mildly that "we've made some poor choices in terms of what we've borrowed money to spend on."

"Two wars in the Middle East that lasted for 20 years that cost us something like $5.6 trillion, all of which was borrowed, none of which was paid for," Bennet said. "We cut taxes for $5 trillion, almost all of it to the wealthiest people in America. And we borrowed every penny to do that."

Progressives echoed Bennet's critique and condemned GOP senators for conveniently reviving their concerns about deficits and the national debt—which grew by $7.8 trillion during President Donald Trump's four years in the White House—on the eve of the inauguration of a Democratic president.

"Once again Republicans are resurrecting their 'deep concern' about deficits and debt," said Nina Turner, who is running to represent Ohio's 11th congressional district. "Shocking! Only seems to happen when we talk about investing in working people but never when they want to fund wars or give billionaires tax breaks. The people see right through this hypocrisy."

Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.) tweeted that "with a Democrat about to become president, Republicans are now pretending to care about deficits and debts again."

"Let's not pretend to believe them this time," Pascrell added.

Americans for Tax Fairness, a progressive advocacy group, argued Tuesday that with the economy in shambles and growing increasingly unequal due to a "pandemic that has seen mass unemployment as billionaires profit," the incoming administration cannot skimp on relief in deference to the GOP's bad-faith warnings about the deficit.

"We cannot meet the moment and protect working families if we worry about the deficit," the group said. "Want to pay for it later? Tax the rich."

Here are the steps Biden must take in order to defeat GOP obstruction: memo

With Senate Republicans already indicating that they will attempt to block passage of President-elect Joe Biden's newly released $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, a trio of progressive organizations on Monday released a memo outlining steps the incoming president can take to overcome GOP obstruction and "deliver tangible results that improve Americans' lives."

"We are glad President-elect Biden is ready to start addressing the desperate needs of the American people and put forth a Covid aid proposal which begins to address the many issues we face," reads the document (pdf) crafted by Justice Democrats, the youth-led Sunrise Movement, and New Deal Strategies. "We hope ten Senate Republicans will support it, but are not holding our breath. The big question is, what happens when Republicans block Biden?"

With Democrats set to take unified control of the federal government thanks to runoff victories by Sens.-elect Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff of Georgia earlier this month, progressives have argued that the party can no longer point to Republican intransigence as an excuse for failing to advance its agenda.

In their new memo, the progressive organizations outlined several strategic paths available to the incoming Biden administration should Republicans stand in the way of coronavirus relief and other key legislation.

One option, the groups said, is to weaken the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief offer in a bid to win Republican support, which Biden has committed to seeking out despite warnings against compromising with the party that abetted the deadly January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.

"We hope Biden rejects the first option out of hand," the groups said. "Watering down the proposals in a hunt for Republican support is a bad idea on both substance and politics. The package Biden has proposed is a start to the aid America needs and it is popular. We should not play into Republicans' hands by delivering less aid while making the bill less popular."

An alternative to watering down a relief proposal that has already been criticized as inadequate is to try to pass the package through budget reconciliation, an expedited process that is not subject to the filibuster and therefore requires only a simple majority vote.

The trio of progressive groups argued that "reconciliation is a tempting option but it is ultimately a path to creating two classes of issues, with civil rights, D.C. statehood, and many other critical issues relegated to second-class status," given Senate rules limiting the kinds of legislation that can be passed through reconciliation.

"If Biden uses reconciliation, which we hope he does not, he must do so aggressively," the groups said, "with the intent of using it as a backdoor to eliminating the supermajority threshold for all issues."

By far the best way to defeat GOP stonewalling, the progressive coalition argued, is to "get rid of the filibuster immediately," a rule change that would require a simple majority vote. To achieve that, every Senate Democrat would need to vote yes and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would have to break the tie, assuming all Republicans oppose the move.

"A quick strike against the filibuster in January will set Biden up to shepherd his entire agenda through regular order, with full committee involvement and proper levels of oversight and transparency," the groups said.

While Biden has said he would be open to eliminating the filibuster, several Democratic senators—including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.)—have voiced opposition to such a reform despite its popularity among Democratic voters.

Justice Democrats, Sunrise, and New Deal Strategies argued that Biden "has the credibility and the political capital to bring along" the senators currently opposed to scrapping the filibuster.

"Every other path leads to needless complications and worse results for the American people," the groups warned. "Biden was elected with a mandate to break gridlock and deliver results. He should use it."

Read the full memo:

We are glad President-elect Biden is ready to start addressing the desperate needs of the American people and put forth a Covid aid proposal which begins to address the many issues we face. We hope ten Senate Republicans will support it, but are not holding our breath. The big question is, what happens when Republicans block Biden? Biden has chosen to reject austerity politics. We hope that he will continue to stick to that approach, and go big always.
When Republicans deny Biden the ten GOP votes he will need to advance his Covid aid package, Biden will have three options:
  1. Dramatically weaken the aid package and deliver worse results for the American people
  2. Seek to pass the entire package through budget reconciliation
  3. Reform Senate rules to get rid of the supermajority threshold, and pass the package through regular order.
Do not water down. We hope Biden rejects the first option out of hand. Watering down the proposals in a hunt for Republican support is a bad idea on both substance and politics. The package Biden has proposed is a start to the aid America needs and it is popular. We should not play into Republicans' hands by delivering less aid while making the bill less popular. When the Obama administration decided to deliver a smaller ARRA package in exchange for paltry Republican support, it was a bad trade. Democrats got no credit politically for a bipartisan deal,and Americans judged Democrats harshly in the 2010 midterms in large part because they did not see enough improvement in their own economic situation. The same is true now: Democrats will be judged in the 2022 midterms on whether they deliver tangible results that improve Americans' lives. Their guiding principle should be to always go big. As former Obama strategist David Plouffe said, "If you do small things and you do the bare minimum, you're probably going to pay a price for that. It's bad for the country and bad politics."
Do not waste precious time. President Obama recently admitted that he and Democratic Party leadership wasted precious time negotiating with moderate Republicans like Chuck Grassley and Olympia Snowe in order to provide the Affordable Care Act bipartisan cover. Biden and Democratic Party leadership have essentially nine months to act before the 2022 election cycle kicks into gear. There's nothing that would please Mitch McConnell more than to allow Republicans to run out the legislative clock on key Democratic priorities.
Reconciliation relegates critical issues to second-class status. Reconciliation is a tempting option but it is ultimately a path to creating two classes of issues, with civil rights, D.C. statehood, and many other critical issues relegated to second-class status. If Biden uses reconciliation, which we hope he does not, he must do so aggressively, with the intent of using it as a backdoor to eliminating the supermajority threshold for all issues. While much of this bill might be able to be achieved through reconciliation, a package of this size is likely to run afoul of the rules. If Biden does use reconciliation, he should apply the principle of going big always, and be prepared to go nuclear to change reconciliation rules if and when the Senate Parliamentarian strikes down key provisions, rather than abandoning them.
The larger problem with reconciliation is that if we only use reconciliation and do not reform the filibuster, certain kinds of legislation will be allowed to avoid the filibuster while other critical issues like civil rights and statehood are left to die by the filibuster. This creates a first- and second-class status for progressive issues, with civil rights, statehood and many climate change solutions relegated to second-class status.
If reconciliation is pursued, it must be with a mind to either limbering up Senate Democrats for a full-blown nuclear strike on the filibuster, or expanding the use of reconciliation so extensively that it can be used for all issues (which is, in effect, going nuclear).
Get rid of the filibuster. It would be far healthier, cleaner, and easier to explain politically to simply reform or get rid of the filibuster immediately, and proceed to pass Biden's agenda through regular order—including must-pass civil rights bills, climate solutions and statehood. A quick strike against the filibuster in January will set Biden up to shepherd his entire agenda through regular order, with full committee involvement and proper levels of oversight and transparency. Biden has the credibility and the political capital to bring along the small number of wavering senators. Every other path leads to needless complications and worse results for the American people. Biden was elected with a mandate to break gridlock and deliver results. He should use it. Just do it—reform the filibuster and deliver results to the American people.

Critics to McConnell: Trump would already be convicted 'if the Senate trial were a right-wing judicial confirmation'

With the U.S. Senate set to reconvene Tuesday—President Donald Trump's final full day in office—progressives are demanding that the chamber immediately get to work on convicting the outgoing incumbent for provoking the violent mob attack on the Capitol Building earlier this month and barring him from holding office again in the future.

"The Senate reconvenes tomorrow," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, tweeted late Monday. "They should immediately convict Donald Trump and hold him fully accountable for inciting a deadly attack on our country."

But the effort to remove Trump from office in the wake of the January 6 invasion of the halls of Congress has been at a standstill since the House of Representatives impeached the president for the second time last Wednesday, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) rejecting Democratic demands that he invoke emergency powers to bring the Senate back from recess and start the trial without delay.

"If the Senate trial was a right-wing judicial confirmation, Trump would have been convicted already," economist Robert Reich remarked last week.

Additionally, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)—who has characterized Trump's removal from office as a matter of life and death—has yet to transmit the newly approved impeachment article to the Senate, a step that is necessary to kick off the proceedings.

The New York Times reported over the weekend that Pelosi is expected to deliver the article to the Senate at some point this week, but it's unclear whether she will do so before President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday. Democrats, according to the Times, are "working to draft rules that would allow the Senate to operate on dual tracks to confirm Mr. Biden's cabinet and begin moving his legislative agenda while trying Mr. Trump."

"The speaker's decision to delay sending the article was reminiscent of a similar maneuver a year ago, when she waited almost a month to press charges against Mr. Trump after the House voted to impeach him the first time for pressuring Ukraine to smear Mr. Biden," the Times reported. "The House was waiting, at least in part, to determine the outcome of negotiations between Senate Democrats and Republicans over the shape of a highly unusual proceeding."


Congress' failure to remove Trump from office for inciting the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol earlier this month leaves him in a position to continue exercising the powers of the presidency until the very end, including clemency power that he has thus far wielded largely for the benefit of wealthy political allies and other corrupt actors.

On Tuesday, Trump is expected to roll out his latest pardons and commutations following an intense lobbying push in which some of the president's allies collected payments to pressure the White House on behalf of wealthy individuals seeking clemency.

While Trump has floated the idea of pardoning himself and his adult sons, it is unclear whether he will attempt to do so on Tuesday.

Jayapal warned late Monday that Trump's last-second pardons will "be another abuse of power by a corrupt, failed, one-term, twice-impeached president who has routinely undermined the rule of law, the Constitution, and our democracy."

"We must hold him accountable even after he leaves office," the Washington Democrat added.

Biden reportedly plans to block Keystone Pipeline — a 'huge victory' for Indigenous-led protests

President-elect Joe Biden is reportedly planning on the day of his inauguration to rescind a federal permit allowing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in the United States, a move environmentalists said would represent an immense victory for the planet attributable to years of tireless Indigenous-led opposition to the dirty-energy project.

CBC News reported Sunday that "the words 'Rescind Keystone XL pipeline permit' appear on a list of executive actions supposedly scheduled for Day One of Biden's presidency," which begins with his swearing-in on Wednesday. The withdrawal of the Keystone XL permit is among several environment-related actions Biden plans to take via executive order during his first day in office, a list that includes rejoining the Paris climate accord.

"A huge victory for Lakota and Indigenous front liners and Water Protectors. None of this would have been possible without their sacrifices," Nick Estes, a citizen of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe and an assistant professor of American studies at the University of New Mexico, tweeted in response to Biden's reported plan for Keystone XL, a sprawling $8 billion tar sands project that the Trump administration repeatedly sought to advance amid legal challenges and widespread grassroots resistance.

Kendall Mackey, Keep It in the Ground campaign manager for 350.org, said in a statement late Sunday that preventing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S. would be a "momentous sign" that Biden "is listening, taking action, and making good on his promises to people and the planet."

"This decision to halt the Keystone XL pipeline on day one in office sets a precedent that all permitting decisions must pass a climate test and respect Indigenous rights," said Mackey. "We expect the administration to make similar announcements on Dakota Access Pipeline and Line 3. We celebrate this great victory and the powerful movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground."

"By ensuring that Keystone XL is reversed," Mackey continued, "Biden is standing on the side of tribal nations, farmers, ranchers, and many communities whose livelihoods would be wrecked by this dirty pipeline."

News of Biden's Inauguration Day plan was met with howls of protest from right-wing Canadian politicians such as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who issued a statement Sunday threatening legal action if Biden follows through on yanking the permit for Keystone XL, owned by Canada-based company TC Energy. Last March, as Common Dreams reported, the government of Alberta committed around $1.1 billion USD to the pipeline project.

"I am deeply concerned by reports that the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden may repeal the presidential permit for the Keystone XL border crossing," Kenney tweeted, a response that was immediately panned by climate activists.

In a last-ditch effort to rescue its long-delayed Keystone XL project, TC Energy is reportedly "committing to spend $1.7 billion on solar, wind, and battery power to operate the partially completed 2,000-mile pipeline system between Alberta, in western Canada, and Texas," according to the Wall Street Journal.

The attempt to brand Keystone XL as an environmentally friendly and sustainable energy project was swiftly ridiculed, with one journalist accusing TC Energy of a "desperate" effort to put "lipstick on its pig."

Dallas Goldtooth, Keep It in the Ground campaign organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network, said in response to Biden's plan to rescind the pipeline permit that "our communities have been fighting KXL for over a decade, tooth and nail, in the dirt and in the courts."

"We formed an immensely powerful, unlikely alliance of voices and we never gave up," said Goldtooth. "I will wait for the ink to dry before I fully celebrate, but shit this feels good."

Feds vetting 25,000 National Guard troops ahead of Biden inauguration for fear of possible 'insider attack'

Federal authorities are heavily vetting the tens of thousands of National Guard troops that are heading to Washington, D.C. from around the nation to help secure President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration ceremony, additional screening reportedly prompted by fears of a possible "insider attack" on the event by right-wing extremists among the soldiers' ranks.

The Associated Press reported Sunday that all 25,000 National Guard members deployed to D.C. are undergoing FBI vetting that involves "running peoples' names through databases and watchlists maintained by the bureau to see if anything alarming comes up." The FBI screening, which has reportedly not yet turned up evidence of a plot, is being conducted on top of routine vetting carried out by the U.S. military.

"The massive undertaking reflects the extraordinary security concerns that have gripped Washington following the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump rioters," AP noted. "And it underscores fears that some of the very people assigned to protect the city over the next several days could present a threat to the incoming president and other VIPs in attendance."

Concerns of an attack by National Guard members come in addition to growing fears of violence by outside right-wing extremist groups emboldened by President Donald Trump's incessant lies about the 2020 election and the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol Building, which left five people dead. Trump—who, along with Republican lawmakers, incited the attack—has said he will not attend Biden's inauguration and reportedly plans to leave Washington, D.C. for Florida on the morning of the event.

The presence of white nationalists and other right-wing extremists within the ranks of the U.S. armed forces has long alarmed observers. As HuffPost's Christopher Mathias tweeted in response to the FBI's heightened security vetting, "In 2019, I wrote a series of stories exposing a dozen U.S. servicemen as members of the white nationalist group Identity Evropa."

"Among them were two National Guardsmen... both of whom, after being exposed as fascists, were allowed to stay in the National Guard," Mathias wrote.

Citing Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, the AP reported Sunday that "service members from across the military" attended the January 6 pro-Trump rally near the White House that precipitated the deadly January 6 invasion of the Capitol Building.

"It's not clear how many were there or who may have participated in the breach at the Capitol," AP reported. "So far only a couple of current active-duty or National Guard members have been arrested in connection with the Capitol assault."

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