Sen. GOP Leader Mitch McConnell said that the $3.5 trillion social spending bill being crafted by Democrats is “an effort to exploit this terrible but temporary pandemic as a Trojan Horse for permanent socialism.” He made his remarks on Monday on the Senate floor.
The “human infrastructure” bill, proposed by Democrats, will likely include, higher taxes for the rich and for corporations, paid parental and sick leave for all employees, paid dental and vision care for seniors, and a drop in prescription drug prices over the span of 10 years, according to a draft bill. Insider’s Kimberly Leonard did an in-depth breakdown of what is likely in the social spending bill.
Democrats are attempting to pass this bill with slim margins in both the House and the Senate.
Former President Donald Trump has spoken recently with Republican senators and political allies about ousting Minority Leader Mitch McConnell from leadership and is gauging whether there is any interest among lawmakers for a possible challenge, according to The Wall Street Journal.
There appears to be little support for such a drastic move, according to the report, but the Trump’s actions could potentially morph into a larger issue for the party, especially as the Kentucky Republican hopes to regain the Senate majority in the 2022 midterm elections and the former president continues to float a potential 2024 bid.
While Trump and McConnell worked together to fill scores of federal court vacancies with conservative jurists, along with passing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and other GOP priorities, Trump’s intransigence in accepting his election loss to now-President Joe Biden and the Jan. 6 Capitol riot deeply strained the relationship between the two men.
After Trump’s second Senate impeachment trial for “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the riot, McConnell declined to find the president guilty, but sharply rebuked him on the Senate floor. Later, McConnell said he would support Trump in 2024 if he were the GOP nominee, but Trump has not forgiven the minority leader for his speech.
Trump has continued to needle McConnell in the press – he recently took the minority leader to task for backing the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure passage that passed in the Senate last month, calling the legislation “a disgrace.”
“If Mitch McConnell was smart, which we’ve seen no evidence of, he would use the debt ceiling card to negotiate a good infrastructure package,” the former president said at the time, pointing to the looming debate over the country’s overall fiscal health.
As McConnell looks to the Senate map next year, he hopes to win in states like Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania – which were all carried by President Joe Biden last fall – and a protracted fight with Trump could potentially dampen enthusiasm and hurt GOP candidates on the ground.
With the Senate evenly divided between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, there is no margin for error, especially as both parties will soon ramp up spending for congressional races as 2022 approaches.
McConnell, a prodigious fundraiser, has led the Senate Republican caucus since 2007, serving as majority leader from 2015 until 2021.
In a recent interview with the Journal, Trump did not reveal if he was searching for a lawmaker to challenge McConnell, but expressed support for new leadership and said that Senate Republicans should remove the Bluegrass State politician from the top post.
“They ought to,” the former president said. “I think he’s very bad for the Republican Party.”
However, McConnell has long possessed a strong grip over the caucus, especially on big votes like the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 bill signed into law in March that didn’t receive the support of any Republican senators.
“Naw, I’m not going to get in that fight,” Sen. Tommy Tuberville told The Journal. The first-term Alabama conservative, who defeated Democratic Sen. Doug Jones last fall, said that McConnell “is doing a good job.”
Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, who is up for reelection next year, told The Journal that the odds of anyone ousting McConnell were virtually nil.
“I just don’t realistically see that happening,” he told the newspaper.
McConnell, who was first elected to the Senate in 1984, easily won reelection to a seventh term last year.
The Justice for J6 rally began at noon on Saturday in front of the US Capitol. There were far more police officers, journalists, and counter-protesters than the 150 to 200 protesters who attended.
A few minutes before the scheduled start, the strains of Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli’s signature “Con te partirò” suddenly started blasting over the Mall at high volume.
Robert Jimenez, an audio engineer and owner of “All About Shows” based in Silver Spring, Maryland, confessed that he always does his soundchecks with opera. He said that he received the gig from Matt Braynard, a former Trump administration staffer, and the “Look Forward America” group three weeks before, with a 50% deposit of the $7500 fee for the sound system, stage, and video screen.
“I have to submit my ID and business license to the police for any event we do here, so I need at least five days’ notice,” he said. “Today, I have five staff including myself and three volunteers. We had to bring generators for power.”
In the days leading up to Saturday’s protest, The Proud Boys and other right-wing groups urged people to stay away.
A woman who would identify herself only as Kesia from Maryland said she attended the Jan. 6 rally.
“I will be out here again and I was here on Jan. 6th and I’m not ashamed to say that,” she said.
A young man in a raccoon-fur hat was less forthcoming. He declined to answer questions about where he was from, whether he was at the Capitol on Jan. 6, or to give his name. “I’m not saying anything about myself or where I was on any day, ever. They should never have been arrested. I just want to be visible,” he said, adding that he saw the Biden administration as illegitimate.
As for his hat, he said that he had made it using the “frontiersman’s method.”
“You take the raccoon and make a cut starting from the base of the feet, back. Then you cut a brim around the front, and take the feet and stitch them to the beginning of the curve, and stitch up the inside. That’s it. I do it as a hobby. I’ll be watching videos as I’m working. You can do it in 20-25 minutes,” he said.
Between the police and a large showing from the media, the protesters’ showing was modest. A counter-protester, Tim Smith, came with a handmade sign that read “LOSER” in the same style as the signs from the 2020 Trump campaign.
The sign mocked former President Donald Trump, who lost the 2020 presidential election and baselessly claimed it was due to voter fraud.
Geraldine Lovell, from Prince George’s County, Maryland, was one of the first protesters to arrive, and was initially warned by the police that if she were counter-protesting, she would have to go elsewhere to an adjacent but physically separated area that they had prepared. She assured the police that she was in support of the demonstration.
Another protester, Thomas Ritchie, said he moved to Washington DC 4 months ago, after spending the last 11 years in Helena, Montana. He said that the staff he carried had been a gift from his Montana church.
“I am wearing a sackcloth because of everything that is wrong and evil with the world, he said. “I know something big is going to happen, I just don’t know what, yet, or when. We kill people for killing people.”
The rally was organized by former Trump staffer Matt Braynard. When a journalist asked him to identify himself, Braynard replied, “you should do your homework,” and walked away.
Diane Atkins said she goes by “Diane *Anglo-Saxon* Atkins” and identifies as a “Proud Christian American, Republican, activist.”
Behind her, a member of a private security team guarding the state and the rally speakers was wearing a mask that said “I can’t breathe” and “Black Lives Matter.”
None of the guards answered questions about their assignment nor identified themselves.
Jeremiah Shivers came from Massachusetts with his family and his Great Dane to attend the rally. The dog was wearing a sign that said “Abolish the Democrats.”
As the Republican party struggled to maintain control following former President Donald Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had dubbed the “Trump Whisperer,” believed the party needed Trump and his dedicated base to regain political power, according to an excerpt from a forthcoming book by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa that was obtained by CNN.
But the longtime Trump ally reportedly hit a nerve with the wounded president after delivering a hard truth.
“You fucked your presidency up,” Graham said to Trump in a phone call, according to Woodward and Costa.
Trump responded to the diss by abruptly hanging up the phone, CNN reported, citing the book.
According to the outlet’s coverage of the book preview, the two men spoke again the next day, and Graham told Trump he didn’t blame him for hanging up. But the South Carolina Republican did urge the then-president to focus on the future, not the past, in order to maximize the GOP’s chance at reclaiming power.
During the follow-up conversation, Trump reportedly worried that he would “lose my base” if he changed his behavior. Graham responded by telling Trump to look toward 2024, saying it could be the “biggest comeback in American history,” according to CNN.
Woodward and Costa, who are both reporters for The Washington Post, described Graham as “an addiction counselor struggling to keep his patient from taking one more drink,” according to CNN.
Graham had previously told the president “we can’t do it without you, Mr. President,” during a round of gold in May, the outlet reported.
“I think he’s redeemable,” Graham said about Trump, according to Woodward and Costa. “I think he’s got magic and I think he’s got darkness.”
The insight into the Republican Party’s post-election infighting is just one of severaljuicydetails promised to be divulged in Woodward and Costa’s “Peril,” which focuses on the final weeks of Trump’s presidency and is set to be released next week.
Sen. Alex Padilla on Sunday said that if Republicans block the voting-rights compromise legislation being drafted by Democratic lawmakers, then the party will have “no choice” but to look to filibuster reform.
During an appearance on MSNBC’s “The Mehdi Hasan Show,” the California Democrat, who last December was tapped to join the upper chamber to fill the remaining term of now-Vice President Kamala Harris, said that if Democrats fail to muster 10 GOP votes to overcome an filibuster, then the party would have to reexamine how to pass the legislation.
Padilla said that a working group that consists of Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Raphael Warnock of Georgia, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, along with himself and others, sought to work diligently in order to craft a bill that could garner the support of all 50 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents.
“We’ve taken some during this August recess to appeal to our colleagues on the other side of the aisle,” he said. “I know Sen. Manchin keeps reminding everybody how the preference is always to work in a bipartisan fashion. When we can, that’s great. But our fundamental voting rights are so important and so critical.”
He emphasized: “I think if we’re not successful in getting 10 Republicans to do the right thing, then we have no choice but to revisit the rules of the Senate … some outdated rules of the Senate. Whether it’s abolishing the filibuster as a whole or somehow creating a carve-out or exemption to allow these measures to go forward for the sake of our democracy. It’s too important.”
The previous version of the For the People Act included provisions to ban partisan gerrymandering, expand early and absentee voting, establish national standards for voter registration, and curb voter purges, among other measures. The bill would also mandate that states offer mail-in ballots and same-day voter registration, policies which are anathema to conservatives.
The House passed the previous version of the bill, but it has languished in the Senate – Democrats need 60 votes to advance the legislation and Republicans have so far refused to sign on to H.R. 1 and filibustered the bill in June. For months, Manchin and Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have dismissed calls to nix the filibuster, saying that such an action would only inflame partisan divisions.
Even if the compromise bill receives 50 votes, Democrats still need 10 crossover votes. Republicans, who have passed of wave of restrictive voting laws across the country, have accused their colleagues across the aisle of seeking to “federalize” what they feel are election matters that should be within the purview of states.
Democrats contend that the GOP-led voting laws have imperiled the voting rights of everyday Americans, while conservatives argue that the bills are designed to shield the voting process from nefarious activity – despite the low rates of significant voter fraud.
When asked by Hasan whether he agreed with his Golden State Senate colleague, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who said in June that she didn’t view democracy as “being in jeopardy right now,” Padilla took a different view.
“Democracy is clearly in jeopardy,” he said. “What I can say is that a lot of my colleagues that may have been reticent earlier in the year to modify or abolish the filibuster continue to see the obstruction by not just Mitch McConnell but our Republican colleagues across the board.”
Calls for a recall began prior to the pandemic when Newsom’s adversaries grew discontent with California’s “homelessness crisis, high taxes and cost of living, immigration, and rationing water and energy use,” according to Insider’s Lauren Frias. But the calls grew louder after COVID-19 took hold and Newsom implemented mitigation methods.
Ballots went out on August 16. The gubernatorial ballot asks, first, should Governor Newsom be replaced? and second if Newsom is recalled, who should replace him?
Gov. Newsom commenced his “Vote NO” Weekend of Action campaign on Friday, August 13, in San Francisco, saying the stakes of this recall election “could not be higher” in reference to Elder’s plans.
Elder, a conservative radio host, announced his participation in the recall in July. Here is what voters need to know about Elder’s background and candidacy.
What is Larry Elder’s background?
Laurence Allen Elder was born in 1969; his father was a Republican and his mother was a Democrat. He grew up in South Central Los Angeles and attended Crenshaw High School. His household was abusive and growing up he was stopped by police between 75 and 100 times he said, according to a Los Angeles Times podcast “The Times.”
Elder left South Centra and attended Brown University for his undergraduate degree, followed by the University of Michigan Law School.
After college, “The Sage from South Central,” as he calls himself, wrote several books, worked at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey before starting his own firm (Laurence A. Elder and Associates), and currently hosts his own radio show “The Larry Elder Show.” Elder also hosted “Moral Court,” a one-season television show which wasn’t a “court of law, but a court of ethics,” according to IMDB.
“I’m a business owner, talk show host, author, and a son of California,” Elder, who does not have any political experience, said of himself in a tweet. “I won’t continue to watch Gavin Newsom destroy our state.”
What does Larry Elder believe, politically?
“The biggest challenge in California, in general, is the intrusiveness of government,” he said to CalMatters. “I believe that a government that governs less governs best.”
Here are a few of the candidate’s political positions:
Elder told Insider that he loves California and wants to see it thrive. “Unfortunately, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s failed policies are running this beautiful state into the ground,” he added in a written statement to us.
The candidate also holds controversial views on women and race
In a 1996 ad, Elder said, “Blacks exaggerate the significance of racism.” He has also blamed some high-profile instances of police brutality on Black victims.
“Be polite. Comply. Jacob Blake could’ve been avoided had he complied; Eric Garner could’ve been avoided had he complied; Michael Brown could’ve been avoided had he complied,” Elder says about Black victims who lost their lives to police brutality.
Elder’s ex-fiancee, Alexandra Datig, claims that he flashed a gun at her in the midst of an argument while he was under the influence of marijuana, Politico reported. Elder denies this claim and referred to it as “salacious.” In a string of tweets, he said “I grew up in South Central; I know exactly how destructive this type of behavior is.”
CNN reported that Elder was accused of sexual harassment twice – denying both allegations on his radio talk show in 2011.
The first incident, as CNN reports, occurred in the 1980s. A woman who worked at private practice attempted to break the contract and accused Elder of “hitting on her.” Elder said in the episode, “That’s how, that’s how she put it. If you had seen her, you would know that the picture would be a complete defense. I’m just saying.”
Elder, who used to host a television show in Cleveland, was also accused of asking a male guest to expose his butt tattoo in the presence of two camerawomen.
“I think I was making a joke, making light – no, I don’t [remember],” Elder told CNN. “The whole point behind your series of questions is, do I disrespect women, and I don’t. I have a great deal of respect for women. My mom was a woman. I had her on my show every Friday.”
“I’ve never been accused of sexual harassment. I’ve never been accused of sexual abuse. I’ve never been accused – I worked with hundreds of women throughout my career,” he added.
What are Democrats worried about?
Democrats, including Newsom, have been comparing Elder to former President Donald Trump – and sometimes saying that he’s the more extreme of the two.
“You have someone who’s not just opposed to women’s right to choose, but actually wrote an op-ed saying women aren’t as smart as men,” Newsom said in reference to Elder.
One Los Angeles City Councilmember, Nithya Raman, tweeted that if a Republican was elected they could slash funding for many programs “that are holding the state together right now.”
Fox News host Chris Wallace said he’s avoided having GOP reps who’ve espoused false claims about election fraud on his Sunday show.
Speaking to Stephen Colbert on an episode of “The Late Show” that aired Wednesday, Wallace said he doesn’t invite on lawmakers who’ve questioned the legitimacy of now President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election.
“I have purposefully not had them on, frankly, because I don’t want to hear their crap,” Wallace said.
If they do come on the show, Wallace made clear that he intends to hold them accountable.
“I won’t let them come on without putting them through the wringer,” he told Colbert. That includes pressing the lawmakers on whether they truly believe that Biden is the “duly elected president of the United States,” he said.
Right after Biden won the presidential election in November, then President Donald Trump refused to explicitly acknowledge the victory. In the hours after the race was called for Biden, Trump said the “election is far from over.”
In the months that followed, he doubled down on his rhetoric and sought to overturn the results in state and federal courts across the country. The Trump campaign and the president’s allies have filed, and lost, dozens of lawsuits in multiple battleground states contesting the results. Allegations of voter fraud have been struck down and disproven numerous times since Trump and his lawyers presented their arguments.
Additionally, Trump supporters adamantly adhered to false claims of voter and election fraud. Hundreds of Trump supporters descended onto the Capitol on January 6, the scheduled day for Congress to certify the results of the presidential election.
The Capitol riot, which began after Trump encouraged his supporters to protest the results of the election, has been characterized as an attempted coup.
The Republicans who’ve egged on these claims have chosen to “say something they know is not true” to avoid losing out on the Trump voter base, Wallace told Colbert. And watching Americans latch on to these ideas during the Capitol riot was horrendous, Wallace said.
“As I’m sitting there and watching it live on television and seeing this mob coming to the cathedral of our democracy and sitting in the chair that the president of the senate sits in and running around the rotunda, I was sickened,” he said.
“Since Dictator Joe Biden started phase 1 of the Dems’ Communist takeover of America yesterday & I don’t have a GOP Conference call on my calendar or an email in my inbox from leadership to stop this insanity,” she wrote. This is seemingly a reference to President Joe Biden’s Thursday announcement on federal vaccine requirements.
In the Twitter thread, she went on to accuse Republicans in Congress of failing to ‘”deliver key issues that were of utmost importance” to GOP voters, citing repealing Obamacare, defunding Planned parenthood, and funding a border wall as examples of broken promises.
“I give speeches to hundreds to thousands of Republican voters every single week at home and all across the country,” Greene said in a later tweet. “Our voters are fed up with Republicans in Congress doing nothing to stop Dictator Joe Biden and the outright destruction to our country.”
She later took a jab at “experienced” Republicans. “You all should hear what your wealthiest most successful donors are saying about you all and your lack of real action while Democrats burn our country to the ground with a dementia patient at the wheel,” she wrote.
She added that she had “no confidence” in the current Republican leadership. “I’m going to continue my promise to put The People over the politicians and fight like hell to Save America,” she concluded.
A day after the Republicans voted to banish Greene from her congressional committees in February 2021, The New York Times reported that she said that the punishment had “freed” her to hold the GOP “accountable” and to push the party further to the right.
In a prime example of post-Trump presidency rapid response, Republican lawmakers and conservative pundits greeted President Joe Biden’s newly announced federal vaccine requirements with alarm on Thursday and Friday.
Biden rolled out a slew of measures to boost vaccination rates nationwide, requiring proof of vaccination for federal workers and anyone working at a business with at least 100 employees. If people choose to opt out, they will have to submit to weekly COVID-19 testing, a costly and cumbersome alternative to the free vaccine.
Despite strong support for vaccine mandates across the American public and Trump himself still occasionally touting the COVID-19 vaccines, the conversation on the right almost immediately turned to warnings of “tyranny,” calls for mass disobedience, lawsuits, and questions of a possible “revolt” from the unvaccinated.
Without Trump leading this particular line of messaging, GOP lawmakers and prominent media personalities echoed similar sentiments heard at school board meetings when mask mandates began to draw vocal backlash.
“Are you people trying to start a full on revolt?” Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas tweeted right after Biden’s speech on Thursday. “Honestly what the hell is wrong with Democrats? Leave people the hell alone. This is insanity.”
“I’ll repeat myself: don’t comply,” Republican Ohio Senate candidate and “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance tweeted. “If all of us ignore this garbage they won’t be able to enforce it.”
For several months, COVID-19 vaccines have been available for free to adults without requiring any proof of insurance or a preexisting medical condition. Still, Crenshaw and several other conservative figures bemoaned Biden for not doing more to convince Americans to get vaccinated.
Biden shifted from relying solely on persuasion during his Thursday remarks, saying: “Many of us are frustrated with the nearly 80 million Americans who are still not vaccinated. This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
Similar to Fox News’ broader coverage of the pandemic – which has included the occasional on-air dustup between hosts over the legitimacy of public health measures – the issues raised are less with the efficacy of the vaccines than with the credibility of the pro-vaccine messengers.
Banners on the network read “BIDEN IS AN AUTHORITARIAN” and “BIDEN DECLARES WAR ON MILLIONS OF AMERICANS.”
And Alabama GOP Rep. Barry Moore of tweeted: “The decision to get vaccinated lies between you and your doctor – NOT the federal government. We must fight back against medical tyranny that dangerously violates Americans’ individual freedoms.”
This rhetoric also mirrors how Republican Govs. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas have spoken about banning mask mandates in schools and barring businesses from requiring proof of vaccination. The vaccines are not criticized, and instead the issue is framed as one of personal freedom against government overreach, with Dr. Anthony Fauci being the quintessential example of a public health expert these governors warn against trusting.
Biden specifically sought to counter this during his speech on Thursday.
“This is not about freedom or personal choice,” Biden said. “It’s about protecting yourself and those around you, the people you work with, the people you care about, the people you love. My job as president is to protect all Americans.”
A fundraising blast from the Republican National Committee on Friday asked for donations to help fund lawsuits against Biden’s policy, even though the donations can also be used for general campaign and ad spending.
While Trump still commands significant influence in the GOP, the immediacy of the backlash to Biden’s executive order on Thursday and the degree to which pundits and politicians had similar reactions showed that there doesn’t always need to be a Trump-like figure leading the charge when it comes to treating the pandemic as a culture war issue.
Regardless of the majority of the public that supports vaccine mandates – over 50% to 60%, depending on the venue, according to Gallup – the vocal anti-vaccine base leads the right’s response and the key figures follow, not the other way around.
A new civil lawsuit accuses a Minnesota GOP operative of engaging in a “predatory enterprise of perversion wherein he used whatever means he could to gain their trust so that he could prey on them.”
The operative, Anton Lazzaro, was arrested and charged last month with ten felony counts of underage sex trafficking, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice. Tuesday’s lawsuit was filed by the family of a minor who accused Lazzaro and his associate, Gisela Castro Medina, of luring the minor to have sex with Lazzaro. It also alleged that Lazzaro and Medina offered hush-money and a nondisclosure agreement in exchange for the minor’s silence.
The lawsuit accused Lazzaro of underage sex trafficking, conspiracy, and obstruction, and demanded that he pay damages to cover medical costs, attorneys’ fees, and more.
Lazzaro’s lawyer denied the claims, saying in a statement, “The individuals who filed this lawsuit today showed the public that their true motivation is greed.”
Lazzaro is a prominent figure in Minnesota GOP politics. Among other things, he’s said to be friends with Jennifer Carnahan, the former chairwoman of the Minnesota GOP who resigned last month amid questions over her ties to Lazzaro.
The civil suit alleges that Lazzaro and Medina met through the “sugar daddy” website Seeking Arrangement, and that sometime last year, “Lazzaro engaged Medina in an enterprise wherein Lazzaro would become a sexual ringmaster and Medina would find him young women and children under the age of 18 for sex in exchange for money and gifts.”
“Upon information and belief, Medina targeted girls and women that she knew or that she discovered on social media and introduced them to Lazzaro in exchange for money and gifts,” the filing said. “Minor Doe was one of the minor children that Medina and Lazzaro targeted for sex trafficking as part of their enterprise.”
According to the lawsuit, Medina met the minor in 2018, when the minor was 14 years old. After they developed a friendship, Medina introduced the minor to Lazzaro in 2020, when she was 16.
The plaintiffs accused Medina of “grooming” the minor in late May 2020 by “introducing her to Lazzaro and establishing him as a powerful, prominent and wealthy businessman and political figure.”
“Medina introduced Lazzaro to Minor Doe in person, using Minor Doe’s established trust with Medina to create trust with Lazzaro, who was seeking to sexually exploit the Minor Doe for himself,” the filing said. From May to July of 2020, Lazzaro “arranged for cars to bring Minor Doe to his home on several occasions,” and during that time he “committed multiple commercial sex acts against Minor Doe,” the filing continued.
The plaintiffs also accused Lazzaro and Medina of offering, through an attorney, $1,000 in hush money and a nondisclosure agreement in late July 2020 which demanded that the minor and her family “not disclose the nature of the prior interaction with Mr. Lazzaro to the public.”
The filing said that the minor’s father refused to sign the agreement and instead reported Lazzaro to law enforcement.