Voting reform, Police reform, and Jan. 6 Commission all (predictably) crash into Republican obstruction. Plus, Qanon Congresswoman (predictably) unhinged.
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For the People Act
The Senate Rules Committee held a hearing on S.1, For the People Act, last week, ultimately deadlocking 9-9 along partisan lines. The voting-rights legislation can still be brought to the floor through procedural means but with the filibuster still intact, Democrats do not have a way to send the bill to Biden’s desk. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke in support of the bill:
“Republican legislatures have seized on the big lie to restrict the franchise, and inevitably make it harder for African Americans, Latinos, students and the working poor to vote. Here in the 21st century, we are witnessing an attempt at the greatest contraction of voting rights since the end of Reconstruction and the beginning of Jim Crow.” (Clip)
The two Democrats standing in the way of abolishing the filibuster – and, thus, the passage of For the People Act – have shown no signs of rethinking their position. Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) is a co-sponsor of S.1 but does not support repealing the filibuster. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), on the other hand, is the only Democrat that is not a sponsor. He has instead declared his support for a narrower bill, called the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
Whereas the For the People Act covers everything from early voting to campaign finance laws to redistricting, the John Lewis bill focuses on federal approval of state-level voting law changes. In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down a key section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in a landmark 5-4 decision known as Shelby County v. Holder. The provision, Section 4(b), required certain states and local governments to obtain federal preclearance before implementing any changes to their voting laws or practices. Studies conducted after the Shelby ruling found nearly 1,700 polling locations were closed and 23 states enacted “newly restrictive statewide voter laws” in the ensuing five years.
The central problem with Manchin’s plan should be obvious: There’s no way 10 Senate Republicans will support the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. As long as the 60-vote filibuster exists, any voting rights expansion seems doomed to fail.
“GOP-aligned group launches ad blitz against Democratic election legislation,” Politico.
“Senator Ted Cruz Says Making It Easier To Vote Is Actually ‘Jim Crow 2.0’,” HuffPost.
Jan. 6 Commission
A group of Democrats and Republicans have reached an agreement to form a commission to investigate the January 6 attack on the Capitol. The 10-person panel, designed by Rep. Bernie Thompson (D-MS) and Rep. John Katko (R-NY), will be made up of equal parts Republican- and Democratic-chosen members. Current government employees or officials are not eligible for selection.
The commission has four purposes outlined in H.R. 3233 (PDF), the “National Commission to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol Complex Act”:
- Investigate and report upon the facts and causes relating to the January 6 attack and relating to the interference with the peaceful transfer of power.
- Examine and evaluate evidence developed by relevant Federal, State, and local governmental agencies regarding the facts and circumstances surrounding such terrorist attack.
- Build upon the investigations of other entities and avoid unnecessary duplication by reviewing the findings, conclusions, and recommendations of other investigations into the attack.
- Report to the President and Congress on its findings, conclusions, and recommendations for corrective measures that could be taken to prevent future acts of targeted violence and domestic terrorism.
The House is expected to pass H.R. 3233 tomorrow without the support of many Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy objected to the “shortsighted scope that does not examine interrelated forms of political violence in America,” adding, “I cannot support this legislation.”
Talks between Democrats and Republicans on police reform have been stalled for weeks, largely due to disagreements over qualified immunity and the standard for charging officers with crimes. The Justice Department stepped in last week to suggest a solution to the latter problem:
The department suggested that lawmakers leave the statute over police misconduct untouched but suggested adding language to any new law that would enhance federal prosecutors’ ability to bring cases against officers. This would require prosecutors to prove an officer accused of excessive force acted “while knowing or consciously disregarding a substantial risk that their use of force is excessive.”
Qualified immunity, on the other hand, appears to be a more difficult topic for lawmakers to tackle. Earlier this year, House Democrats passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which – in part – ended legal protections for cops who break the law. Republicans have broadly opposed the removal of qualified immunity for police officers, with Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) calling saying:
“I’m not going to support getting rid of qualified immunity for our law enforcement officials. It will devastate every law enforcement agency in our country.”
Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), the lead negotiator for the GOP, recently floated a compromise that may be the bill’s best chance forward: Allowing lawsuits against police departments but not against individual officers. Scott believes “making the employer responsible for the actions of the employee” will “change the culture of policing”. The idea has seen acceptance from both sides of the aisle, though if it will be enough to pass both the House and Senate is still unclear.
Further reading: “How Congress Can Give Teeth to the Federal Law on Police Accountability,” Brennan Center.
Marjorie Taylor Greene
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) verbally attacked another member of Congress last week in the latest incident of the conspiracy theorist lawmaker causing conflict in the House. Washington Post reporters witnessed Greene accosting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez outside the House chamber on Wednesday, chasing her down and falsely accusing her of supporting “terrorists”:
Two Washington Post reporters witnessed Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) exit the House chamber late Wednesday afternoon ahead of Greene (Ga.), who shouted “Hey Alexandria” twice in an effort to get her attention. When Ocasio-Cortez did not stop walking, Greene picked up her pace and began shouting at her and asking why she supports antifa, a loosely knit group of far-left activists, and Black Lives Matter, falsely labeling them “terrorist” groups. Greene also shouted that Ocasio-Cortez was failing to defend her “radical socialist” beliefs by declining to publicly debate the freshman from Georgia.
“You don’t care about the American people,” Greene shouted. “Why do you support terrorists and antifa?”
Ocasio-Cortez did not stop to answer Greene, only turning around once and throwing her hands in the air in an exasperated motion.
Greene told the gaggle of onlookers that she was trying to hold Democrats accountable:
“She’s a chicken, she doesn’t want to debate the Green New Deal,” she said to a small group of reporters and onlookers near the entrance to the chamber. “These members are cowards. They need to defend their legislation to the people. That’s pathetic.”
The extent of Greene’s history of unhinged behavior goes back farther than we knew. CNN obtained since-deleted footage of Greene visiting the Capitol offices in February 2019 to confront Ocasio Cortez.
“We’re going to go see, we’re going to visit, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Crazy eyes. Crazy eyes. Nutty. Cortez,” Greene says to the camera on the way to the congresswoman’s office…When Greene and her companions arrive at the office, Ocasio-Cortez’s office door is locked. Standing outside of the office, Greene and her associates taunt Ocasio-Cortez’s staff through the mailbox, mocking the staff for keeping the door locked.
“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, I’m an American citizen. I pay your salary through the taxes that you collect for me through the IRS because I’m a taxpaying citizen of the United States,” Greene says, noting elsewhere in the video that members of Congress are “employees” who “work for us.”
“So you need to stop being a baby and stop locking your door and come out and face the American citizens that you serve,” she says. “If you want to be a big girl, you need to get rid of your diaper and come out and be able to talk to the American citizens. Instead of having to use a flap, a little flap. Sad.”
- One of the friends with Greene that day, Anthony Aguero, went on to take part in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
During her first month in office, Greene’s harassment of Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) caused the Democrat to fear for her safety and move her office away from Greene. “A maskless Marjorie Taylor Greene & her staff berated me in a hallway. She targeted me & others on social media. I’m moving my office away from hers for my team’s safety,” Bush tweeted.
Greene again caused havoc in February by trying to start a feud with Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL) over the Democrat’s support of the Equality Act and for hanging a transgender pride flag outside her office. Greene posted a tweet attacking Newman’s transgender daughter: “Your biological son does NOT belong in my daughters’ bathrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams.” She then hung a poster outside her office declaring “There are two genders: Male and Female. Trust the Science.”
“Mask dispute prompts heated exchange between Rep. Swalwell and Marjorie Taylor Greene aide,” NBC News.
“Pelosi calls for investigation into Marjorie Taylor Greene’s history of harassment after AOC attack,” Salon.