Laura Clawson

More undisclosed talks by Amy Coney Barrett emerge as hearings reach final day

Amy Coney Barrett will not appear at the final day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearings, which is too bad, since she has some explaining to do. CNN has uncovered still more public talks Barrett failed to disclose in her Senate paperwork, including yet another one with an anti-abortion group.

Of course, the fact that this is far from the first such thing Barrett failed to disclose means that we already know her explanation: shrug, it's hard to remember stuff. And since Republicans aren't any more interested in honesty or transparency than she is, she's not feeling any pressure.

At the final day of hearings, senators on the Judiciary Committee will speak again, Republicans will move to advance to the full Senate for a vote, and Democrats will call for a week's delay, which Lindsey Graham, the committee chair, has said he will honor.

"That would put the committee's vote to approve Judge Barrett's nomination on Oct. 22," The New York Times reports. "A vote on confirmation by the full Senate is expected the following week, as early as Oct. 26." "As early as" is an interesting phrase here, since it speaks to how quickly Senate Republicans have jammed this nomination through, but the fact that October 26 would be one week and one day before Election Day highlights the other side of the rush: It's incredibly last-minute.

Also at Thursday's hearing, members of the American Bar Association's standing committee on the federal judiciary will come to say that Barrett is qualified. Then Democrats will bring witnesses to illustrate the dangers Barrett poses to regular people by limiting access to abortion and other health care, and Republicans will bring witnesses to say that Barrett is a very nice lady whose niceness means we should pretend she won't strip tens of millions of people of key healthcare protections and send women to back alleys for abortions.

Trump-appointed judge smacks down campaign's efforts to suppress the vote in Pennsylvania

The Trump campaign and the Republican National Convention's efforts to steal the election in Pennsylvania were handed a setback on Saturday by a Trump-appointed judge. The Trump campaign and RNC were trying to block Pennsylvania from having ballot drop boxes, force signature matches between voter registration records and ballots, and pave the way for bringing in an army of nonresident "poll watchers" to intimidate voters.

U.S. District Judge Nicholas Ranjan wasn't having it. "While Plaintiffs may not need to prove actual voter fraud, they must at least prove that such fraud is 'certainly impending.' They haven't met that burden. At most, they have pieced together a sequence of uncertain assumptions," he wrote in a 138-page opinion.

Fabulously, Ranjan cited Justice Brett Kavanaugh in his decision, so if the Trump campaign and RNC appeal this up to the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh will have to contend with his past self. Not that that's usually a problem for partisan Republicans.

Pennsylvania isn't the only state where Republicans have had a court loss on efforts to rig the elections.

"In many respects, this case requires the Court to separate fact from fiction," U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen wrote in dismissing a Republican challenge to mail voting in Montana. "Central to some of the Plaintiffs' claims is the contention that the upcoming election, both nationally and in Montana, will fall prey to widespread voter fraud. The evidence suggests, however, that this allegation, specifically in Montana, is a fiction."

That September 30 decision followed another federal district judge dismissing a lawsuit against Nevada's new law calling for every registered voter to be sent a mail ballot.

State by state, it's clear that Republicans just want to make it harder to vote during a pandemic.

Of course the Trump Supreme Court may yet hand Republicans the means to suppress votes. But district judges have had some very strong opinions—to overturn all of them, the court's conservatives will have to drop any act of being above partisanship, in ways that will make it easier for Democrats to make the case for reforming or expanding the court in the future.

Trump-appointed judge smacks down the president's campaign in Pennsylvania ballot fight

The Trump campaign and the Republican National Convention's efforts to steal the election in Pennsylvania were handed a setback on Saturday by a Trump-appointed judge. The Trump campaign and RNC were trying to block Pennsylvania from having ballot drop boxes, force signature matches between voter registration records and ballots, and pave the way for bringing in an army of nonresident "poll watchers" to intimidate voters.

U.S. District Judge Nicholas Ranjan wasn't having it. "While Plaintiffs may not need to prove actual voter fraud, they must at least prove that such fraud is 'certainly impending.' They haven't met that burden. At most, they have pieced together a sequence of uncertain assumptions," he wrote in a 138-page opinion.

Fabulously, Ranjan cited Justice Brett Kavanaugh in his decision, so if the Trump campaign and RNC appeal this up to the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh will have to contend with his past self. Not that that's usually a problem for partisan Republicans.

Pennsylvania isn't the only state where Republicans have had a court loss on efforts to rig the elections.

"In many respects, this case requires the Court to separate fact from fiction," U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen wrote in dismissing a Republican challenge to mail voting in Montana. "Central to some of the Plaintiffs' claims is the contention that the upcoming election, both nationally and in Montana, will fall prey to widespread voter fraud. The evidence suggests, however, that this allegation, specifically in Montana, is a fiction."

That September 30 decision followed another federal district judge dismissing a lawsuit against Nevada's new law calling for every registered voter to be sent a mail ballot.

State by state, it's clear that Republicans just want to make it harder to vote during a pandemic.

Of course the Trump Supreme Court may yet hand Republicans the means to suppress votes. But district judges have had some very strong opinions—to overturn all of them, the court's conservatives will have to drop any act of being above partisanship, in ways that will make it easier for Democrats to make the case for reforming or expanding the court in the future.

Sen. Whitehouse exposes the truth about the right wing attempt to use Amy Coney Barrett to destroy Obamacare

Calling the proceedings an "unseemly charade," Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse used his time in the opening day of Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearing to point a forceful finger at a key reason for the Republican rush to get Barrett on the Supreme Court: They want her there to strike down the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Whitehouse tightly linked the push to confirm Barrett with the longtime Republican push to kill the ACA—and he named names. One name, anyway. Sen. John Cornyn tore off his mask and glared angrily at Whitehouse as Whitehouse rebutted Cornyn's recent claim that Republicans aren't rushing to get Barrett on the court by the Nov. 10 arguments in the latest attempt to strike down the ACA."

Trump has over and over said this is his reason, and now we're in this mad rush to meet the November 10 argument deadline and colleagues pretend this isn't about the ACA," Whitehouse said, scoffing, "Ha, right."

Then he moved on to connect Cornyn—despite his denial that the ACA is motivating Republicans here—with the exact case that threatens health care for millions.

"The district judge in Texas who struck down the ACA in the case now headed for the court is a former aide to the senator, who has become what the Texas Tribune calls the favorite for Texas Republicans seeking big judicial wins like torpedoing the ACA," Whitehouse said. "The senior senator from Texas introduced in committee the circuit court judge who wrote the decision on appeal striking down the ACA."

He continued, "Sen. Cornyn has filed brief after brief arguing for striking down the ACA. He led the failed Senate charge to repeal the ACA in 2017. He has said 'I've introduced and cosponsored 27 bills to repeal or defund Obamacare and I've voted to do so at every opportunity.'"

So, yeah, Cornyn is looking to Barrett to strike down the ACA ASAP. And he's lying about it.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse connects the scheme to take away the ACA directly to Sen. John Cornyn www.youtube.com

Florida business owner rips Trump's planned rally in the state: 'No person in their right mind would do this'

After Donald Trump pulled out of the planned Thursday night town hall-style debate, refusing to do a remote debate because moderators can "cut you off whenever they want," Joe Biden scheduled a town hall event with ABC News. Now Trump is talking about a town hall on NBC News Thursday night as well, though it's not yet confirmed.

What is confirmed is Trump's strong desire to resume campaigning in person, despite concerns about campaigning by someone who may well still be contagious with COVID-19. Trump's doctor tried to give him the official sign-off as not infectious on Saturday, but experts say there's serious doubt about that based on the scant information provided. On Sunday, Twitter flagged a Trump tweet for containing "misleading and potentially harmful misinformation"—namely, that "I can't get it (immune), and can't give it."

Most of all, Trump just wants to return to his ego-stroking campaign tour. He wants to be on the road every day, Axios reports, leading one adviser to fret, "He's going to kill himself." Trump is starting on Monday in Sanford, Florida, with a rally some locals worry will compromise public health.

"I'm worried about anybody that has had COVID or tested positive being out in the community in less than two weeks," a city commissioner told The Daily Beast. "It could be the president, it could be my worst enemy. I don't care who it is. They shouldn't be out in public."

"No person in their right mind would do this and risk so many people," a local business owner said.

Biden, who has consistently tested negative for coronavirus, will be campaigning in Ohio on Monday and in Florida on Tuesday—in a safer way than the Trump signature rally, with its superspreader risks. His wife, Dr. Jill Biden, will be campaigning in Georgia on Monday and Texas on Tuesday, with polls tight in the traditionally deep red state. Donald Trump Jr. will also be in Georgia on Monday, highlighting that this is another traditionally red state that is in play.

White House continues the world's most obvious cover-up

My goodness, the White House really, really doesn't want the public to know when Donald Trump last tested negative for COVID-19. Reporters once again tried to pin down an official—in this case White House Director of Strategic Communications Alyssa Farah—on this question, and once again got an impressive display of dodging and evading in response.

"I can't reveal that at this time," Farah answered to a direct question about the date of Trump's last negative. "Doctors would like to keep it private." [Here pause to scoff.]

Pool reporter Noah Robertson reports that Farah's responses to follow-ups included "My understanding is that it's his private medical history" and "I'm happy to raise that to the doctors, but my understanding is that we're not making it public."

This isn't about the doctors. This is about Trump having something to hide—quite possibly that Trump knew he was positive, or at least that he had been exposed, before the debate. Presidents traditionally give out more health information than average people because they understand that it's in the public interest to know whether the leader of the country is healthy, and because part of what you trade for power is the responsibility to be transparent.

But Trump is extremely afraid to have information about his health become public even though, in this case, we know his diagnosis. It's not like reporters are digging around to find out whether he has syphilis and if so, where he contracted it. They just want to know 1) a reliable timeline for the disease he has publicly talked about having and 2) a little bit more about how much the White House had previously been lying to the public about how often Trump was being tested for the coronavirus. And, okay, whether Trump knowingly debated and campaigned while infectious. That too.

Trump's doctor is being evasive, but it's not that the doctor has some deep medical reason for wishing to keep the date of Trump's last negative test a secret. It's that Trump, who made doctors sign nondisclosure agreements during his very weird trip to Walter Reed in November 2019, is hiding something and his doctor is following Trump's wishes. It's one of the most obvious cover-ups in history, but the White House is sticking with it.

Trump's strange request during surprise 2019 trip to Walter Reed explains why his COVID treatment is shrouded in secrecy

Donald Trump's obsession with nondisclosure agreements is well known, but this is next level. During Trump's mysterious trip to Walter Reed in November 2019, he demanded his doctors sign NDAs—and two doctors who refused to sign weren't allowed to treat him. That's important context for interpreting the information his doctors are giving out now about his status with COVID-19.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, already offers patients legal privacy protections, so why did Trump think an extra layer of gag was necessary? And in November 2019, Trump was at Walter Reed unexpectedly, without the staff there having been warned he was coming, for what the White House later claimed was part of a routine physical (except that nothing about it was routine, including the fact that physicals aren't usually done in multiple parts). But NDAs were required.

This is all especially relevant now that Trump has COVID-19 and his doctors are offering conflicting timelines of when he got sick and when he started which medications. They're refusing to say when he last tested negative for the virus. They're telling the public Trump is doing great even as they are prescribing him medications intended for seriously ill people.

Trump's doctors are not telling the public information we need to have not about Donald Trump the individual but about how well the president of the United States is or isn't functioning. Can he breathe? When was he potentially exposing other people to a deadly virus, and did he know he was doing so? Is his personality being affected by steroids?

But his policy is to lie, even when it's obvious, and, we now learn, to only allow himself to be treated by doctors who will sign nondisclosure agreements. We can't trust anything we're being told about Trump's health. He's telling us that himself, again and again.

CNBC actually attacked Biden's tax plan by making us feel sorry for the rich

Joe Biden is promising to raise taxes only on families making $400,000 or more each year—the top 1.8% of taxpayers. Here to explain why that will really hit middle-class families is CNBC with the latest contribution to the "why rich people are really barely making it" genre. No, really. Experts say!

"Based on the expenses, a $400,000 household income provides for a relatively middle-class lifestyle," one personal finance website guy claimed. "A middle-class lifestyle is defined as: owning a home, having two kids, saving for retirement, saving for college, going on modest vacations several weeks a year, and retiring in one's early 60s." Ha ha ha, yeah, okay: "A middle-class lifestyle is defined as: a bunch of stuff out of reach for most people in this country who consider themselves middle-class, transferred to one of the 10 most expensive cities in the country. Middle-class, I tell you!"

Let's take a look at the sample budget provided for a family with $400,000 in income in an expensive city. These highly representative imaginary people end the year with just $34 left over after all their budgeted expenses—really a hand-to-mouth existence all provided courtesy of CNBC wanting to argue that Biden's proposal to tax the rich is mean to the middle class. So how does this family spend the $260,530 that's left after taxes and $39,000 in 401k contributions? (Because they have to be able to retire in their early 60s or they won't count as middle-class, apparently.)

We're starting with a family of four, which is a perfectly reasonable family size, but let's not forget that poor people are often judged for having "more kids than they can afford." So this "middle-class" family in the top 2% of earners is getting a pass on something that might be questioned if they were trying to scrape together a full-time schedule at McDonald's.

Our allegedly middle-class family lives in a four-bedroom, two-bathroom house, which is a fairly standard size of house in many parts of the country—except that people who live in the most expensive metro areas typically recognize that they will need to sacrifice some of the space they would be able to afford out in the suburbs or in a smaller city. If you say "I need to live in New York City rather than in Short Hills, New Jersey" or "I need to live in Boston rather than Newton," you are making a choice. If you continue that sentence with "and I require four bedrooms for my four-person family," you are making another choice. Both of those choices cost money, which you have with $400,000 a year in household income, but you don't then get to whine about how middle-class you are. You're a person in the top 2% of earners who has made some expensive choices. Expensive as in a $1.6 million mortgage on a $2 million house with $24,804 a year in property tax.

Moving along, our hypothetical family is paying more than $60,000 a year for one child in daycare from 7 AM to 6 PM and one child in preschool from 8:15 AM to 5 PM. The article doesn't say, but they are likely paying extra for the long day at daycare. They are also putting $18,000 a year into a 529 plan to save for their children's future educational expenses. Again: choices. They could arrange their work schedules so that they didn't need the extended hours at daycare—if the preschool kid is only in school from 8:15 to 5, that must be possible, and it would save some money. They could cut their 529 contribution by half until the preschool kid was old enough to be in public school, a point at which their expenses will drop by $26,400 a year, unless of course the assumption is that the kids will go to private school, which would be another choice that these people are making—and one that many middle-class people cannot afford to make, let alone in the most expensive cities in the country.

CNBC and their personal finance website guy want to be sure we understand that this hypothetical middle-class family's consumer decisions are all extremely middle-class. They drive a Toyota Highlander, the poor dears, not a Range Rover or Lamborghini. The freakin' agony, right? They buy their clothes at "Gap not Gucci," which no, I'm sorry, they don't. The article is written as if there's nothing in between the Gap and Gucci, and seriously, no urban-dwelling professional adults earning a combined $400,000 are buying their work clothes at the Gap. At the low end they may possibly be waiting for sales at Banana Republic, but give me a break with this Gap nonsense.

They spend $7,200 a year on three weeks of vacation—two staycations and one road trip—and $3,600 on entertainment, defined as "Netflix, museums, zoo, w/e getaways." Apparently for this family weekend getaways do not fall into the vacation category, but given that Netflix plus family memberships at a zoo and a couple museums will run you about $600, the weekend getaway budget is healthy.

Our struggling family spends $1,800 a year on personal care products and gives $3,000 a year to charity. And that, along with food and utilities and health insurance and life insurance and so on, is how this budget proving that a family in the top 2% counts as members of the struggling middle class which cannot afford to pay any more taxes at all, if you squint just right and ignore the choices involved in their budget.

The reality, of course, is that many American families maintain their middle-class lifestyles through debt and an inability to save for the future, so providing a budget implying that people are really just barely getting by as they put $39,000 a year into retirement funds and $18,000 a year into 529 accounts for their kids is already a radical distance from many, many families' reality. Doing so while budgeting for a $2 million, four-bed, two-bath house in one of the most expensive urban areas in the country rather than moving half an hour out into the suburbs and cutting the mortgage by $500,000 or more or sacrificing the fourth bedroom for a similar savings is … well, this whole exercise in the name of arguing against slightly more fair taxation is outrageously offensive.

This is a myth people write for themselves about why they deserve what almost no one else has. This is the personal finance analysis of people for whom only people richer than themselves truly exist, who are always, no matter how much money they make, going to be looking at the income category above themselves and feeling bereft. Here's something to try for anyone who feels middle-class at anywhere above, let's say, the 89th percentile for income: Look below rather than above yourself, for a damn change, and embrace reality. Yes, the ultra-rich are ultra-rich, and the distance between them and the rest of us is horrifying. But if your rationale for claiming middle-class status is that you don't live like the 0.1%, you've let our twisted, unequal economy twist your judgment. And if you think that your choices about how to spend your $400,000 a year mean that you shouldn't pay an extra 1% in taxes, you're just looking to justify a monstrous selfishness—and unfortunately, you're finding plenty in our society to back you up in that.

There's nothing but bad news for Trump in this new COVID-19 poll

The United States has learned how much to trust Donald Trump: Just 12% of people in a new CNN poll say they trust almost all of what the White House is saying about Trump's health. By contrast, 69% said they trust little of what they're hearing from the White House.

People also know how we got to this point: 60% disapprove of Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and 63% say Trump was irresponsible in his handling of the risk of infection to people around him. Women in particular say Trump was irresponsible.

Women's disapproval of Trump's overall handling of the coronavirus crisis also rose in the poll, from 63% last month to 69% in this poll. Men's disapproval ticked up only from 48% to 51%. Trump's own personal case of COVID-19 comes as case counts rise in the United States, and the percentage of people who think the country is through the worst of the pandemic rises from 43% to 47%.

Democrats are more concerned than Republicans about the ability of the government to function while Trump is sick—just 15% of Republicans say they're worried about that, while 48% of Democrats are concerned. Partly that's because Republicans think Mike Pence would be an acceptable president, but you have to wonder how much it's because Republicans just don't believe Trump could get really sick.

What's clear is that approval of Trump's handling of coronavirus is not going to get any better, his own case of the virus isn't helping, and people rightly distrust what he and his White House are telling us about what's going on.

House Republicans might manage to elect a few women in 2020 — and they are so proud

Republicans have finally gotten serious about electing women to Congress, and as a result there are almost half as many Republican women still in the running for House seats as there are Democratic women. After a major wipeout in 2018, Republicans acknowledged that maybe they need to back women in primaries and in safe seats so that a blue wave doesn't leave their caucus a total sausage fest.

"The challenge is when you start getting women and minorities just in the swing seats," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Politico. "I want people to be in leadership. So going into these safer seats, I've worked hard to provide that opportunity as well." All that hard work has yielded 94 Republican women heading to general elections, while Democrats field 206 women, according to the Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics.

Women won just five of the primaries for safe Republican seats with retiring incumbents in 2020—a big step up from the two who won those primaries in 2018, but not exactly 50%. There are currently 13 Republican women in the House, but with two retiring and two facing tough challenges, those five primary wins by Republican women in ultra-red districts doesn't mean an automatic gain of five.

In short, 2020 looks better for Republican women than 2018, but on every metric of improvement, there's a big old but. What Republicans do have is a small number of women ready to loudly proclaim their presence to political reporters doing trend stories.

"I'm honored and proud to help change the discussion," Diana Harshbarger, who won one of those red-district primaries and is virtually certain to be elected, told Politico. "Conservative Republican women are alive and well and I hope I can be an inspiration."

Alive and well … just still not very numerous.

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