You Have To Tell Your Story

The passage of Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill is a massive political triumph. In the nature of online conversations there’s focus on the negatives. But it is difficult to convey how surprising and remarkable it is they managed to get this bill through all but untouched. This was a very aggressive proposal and almost certainly part of that was an effort to make a high opening bid because the need to get literal unanimity in the 50 senator Democratic caucus would get it whittled down. But they got it through all but untouched.

But I’ll say this again. A big, consistent and concerted messaging plan is critical to explain to the public just what is in the bill, how those things which are in it will connect to events over the next year and where everyone stood. There’s time. But I see little evidence of that happening so far. And it is critical because – as I keep saying – everything that happens from January 20th on needs to be part of an argument to voters (an explicit and voluble argument) about why they should keep Democrats in power in the 2022 midterm election.


It’s done. Senate passes Biden COVID relief bill. Now goes back to the House to reconcile differences between the two bills.

Your COVID Moments #9
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From TPM Reader JA

I appreciate the series on Covid moments. This has been a hard time for many, in so many different ways. I appreciate the small amount of solidarity and humanness the stories bring in a year where so much feels disconnected.

For me, my Covid moment came early this year. My husband and I work at home, each with our own home office, and our son is 15 and glued to his computer in his room anyway. Remote high school has been fine, and he has a group from school he talks with all the time during online games. We have one other couple with kids my son’s age and my mom in our “social bubble.” Overall, we have been fine, not totally isolated — even saved money by not eating out so much. It seemed like something to just get through, numbers to watch.

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Your COVID Moments #8
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From TPM Reader DH

At 5:30am on Christmas morning the cardiologist called my cell phone to tell me that my 87 year old father had died, that the heart attack was just too massive for medical science to be able to save him. This was an unexpected turn of events. Despite living in New York city, the first US COVID hot spot, my parents had managed to avoid infection. They were very careful- masks, lots of deliveries and minimal contact with anyone, even me and my wife and kids who live in the same neighborhood. Rather than our usual holiday tradition where my brother and his adult kids fly in from out of state, they planned for a virtual celebration with everyone on zoom – be they four blocks or four thousand miles away. My father had gone to bed on Christmas Eve with the expectation of getting up in the morning to see his family on the computer and working on a new art project in his studio.

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More Thoughts on a Jan 6th Commission
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Having considered the issue I’m inclined to back TPM Reader JG’s argument that we should drop the 9/11 Commission model for investigating the January 6th insurrection and opt instead for congressional subpoenas, investigations and prosecutions. TPM Reader JB comes at a complementary point from another angle …

Your correspondent JG makes some worthy points arguing against establishing a January 6 Commission, along the lines of the 9/11 Commission. It’s worth thinking about the latter for a moment.

The 9/11 Commission is highly thought of by some commentators for its bipartisanship and commitment to consensus. It did its work without getting sucked into bitter partisan contention over the Iraq war or other Bush administration initiatives, and addressed some real issues in securing the nation against Islamist terrorism.

All this came at a price, it seems to me. We need to ask ourselves if accepting that price in our current situation is worth it. The 9/11 Commission condemned no one in the Bush administration for having been asleep at the switch with respect to al Qaeda; it stayed miles away from any conclusion that could have been politically damaging to the incumbent Republican President.

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A Prism Into Filibuster ‘Reform’
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Given that Republican opposition to dropping the filibuster constitutes an iron wall as long as Democrats are in power, and given that there appears to be at least one and quite possibly two Democrats who are absolutely opposed to abolishing the filibuster, it’s pretty easy to get pessimistic about the prospects of any more legislation for the next two years after the COVID relief bill passes. The one discordant fact is that the people who’ve worked this issue the longest – the diehard filibuster reformers who’ve made it a cause – are not that pessimistic. And these aren’t the kind of activists who keep their juices flowing by always imagining that victory is around the corner. And we should note that they talk about ‘reforming’ the filibuster rather than abolishing it.

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Where Things Stand: Top FL Dem Urges FBI To Probe DeSantis Vaccine Favoritism
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A small update on the pattern that Matt Shuham highlighted yesterday involving the COVID-19 vaccine, GOP donors and Florida’s Republican governor: The state’s highest ranking elected Democrat is calling on the FBI to investigate the matter.

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Is a Jan 6 Commission a Bad Idea?
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I’m really not sure whether I agree with this or not. I need to think it over. But TPM Reader JG is a sharp guy. And he makes some interesting and compelling points …

a couple thoughts about Jan 6: What was striking about yesterday’s Senate Comm Hearing was the non-presence of former senior Defense Dept officials who could answer the obvious questions about the delay in authorizing Nat’l Guard support despite urgent requests and the withdrawal of prior independent tasking authority for DC Guard authorities. Are they being investigated for criminal acts (sedition, eg) and thus their testimony would raise 5th A problems? The replacement of Esper et al with more Trumpist actings for the final few weeks certainly raise questions about anticipation and coordination of the Jan 6 events and call for investigation of communication with the WH on Jan 5 and 6.

More generally: pushing for a 1/6 Commission is a bad idea.

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Meet Mary Anne and John
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Meet Meet Mary Anne Clarkson and John Merlino, the two Senate employees who have to read out the entire 628 page text of the COVID relief bill because Sen. Ron Johnson and his colleagues thought it would be a cute delaying tactic. They’re two hours in and about 100 pages through.

Special Guest On This Week’s Podcast: TNR’s Alex Pareene

New Republic staff writer Alex Pareene joined us on the podcast this week to talk all things Andrew Cuomo, the Capitol insurrection and the future of the filibuster. You can watch the Zoom recording of our conversation below:

Follow us on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

week in review
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Congress’ Investigation Into Insurrection Continues

  • Two hearings this week gave us a bit more information on what, exactly, led to the security breakdown ahead of the deadly Capitol insurrection.
  • FBI Director Chris Wray testified on Tuesday, debunking right-wing conspiracy theories that fake Trump supporters or “antifa” were behind the insurrection.
  • He defended the FBI’s report from the Norfolk field office on Jan. 5 warning of potential violence at the Capitol as “more than just an email.” Wray said the missive was shared on a law enforcement database and delivered as part of an in-person briefing.
  • Wray also provided a look at how law enforcement is categorizing the alleged Capitol rioters.
  • At a separate hearing on Wednesday, military and intelligence officials testified on the sequence of events that led to the insurrection getting so out of hand.
  • D.C. National Guard Commander Maj. Gen. William Walker delivered a stunning piece of information during his opening remarks: It took more than three hours to get approval for the National Guard to deploy to respond to the Capitol insurrection.
  • Walker also said that senior military officials were concerned about the “optics” of having a militarized response to the Capitol unrest, especially after coming under intense criticism for the heavy-handed approach used over the summer during racial justice protests.


COVID Relief Marches Forward

  • The Senate is slowly moving forward on President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.
  • But Democrats have already had to negotiate among themselves to get buy-in from the moderate wing of the party. The Biden administration cut a deal to place a cap on who receives the $1,400 relief checks in the legislation. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) was one of the moderate Democratic senators pushing for more targeted direct payments.
  • Later in the week, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) inserted himself into the process. He attempted to slow down the passage of the COVID relief legislation by forcing the Senate clerks to read the sprawling legislation aloud on the floor.
  • After nearly 11 hours, the stunt was over.


Cuomo’s Problems Pile Up

  • The once-untouchable New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) suddenly finds himself fending off multiple scandals.
  • On Monday night, a third woman came forward to accuse Cuomo of sexual misconduct, after two former aides accused the governor of sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • On Thursday night, the New York Times and others reported that Cuomo aides had rewritten a report from state health officials to downplay the number of COVID-19 deaths in state nursing homes.
  • Also on Thursday evening, Charlotte Bennett, one of Cuomo’s former aides who has accused the governor of sexual harassment, gave her first TV interview. “The fact is that he was sexually harassing me, and he has not apologized for sexually harassing me. And he can’t even use my name,” Bennett told CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell.
  • To catch up on the swirling scandals, read Zoë Richards’ story on Cuomo’s very bad week.


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The Justice Department signaled Friday it wanted to put a spotlight on its work responding to and disrupting domestic terrorism, marking a turn from the Trump era when any acknowledgement of a rise in far-right extremism could be met with a scolding from the then-president.

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Ep. 162: The Cuomo Show
Ep. 162: The Cuomo Show
Josh, Kate and David are joined by the New Republic’s Alex Pareene to talk Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a January 6 commission, and our enduring confusion about Sen. ...
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