Take It To the People

From TPM Reader JB

For what it’s worth, my view as to how to get a minimum wage increase through Congress — really, through the Senate — has a lot in common with my view about getting people vaccinated against COVID19. Simpler is better.

We’re talking here, first of all, about procedure. I enjoy thinking and talking about legislative procedure, which makes me a member of one of the very smallest minorities in the United States. The overwhelming majority of Americans don’t track this subject at all.

This means that unless including a minimum wage increase in a so-called Reconciliation package can be definitely and quickly accomplished, it should not be attempted. That goes double for cutesy-poo maneuvers like the one Sen. Sanders is reported to be thinking about (tax credits for corporations that raise their starting wage. Or penalties for corporations that don’t. Whatever), because Sanders would add complexities of implementation to complexities of procedure.

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More Thoughts on the Dems Minimum Wage Puzzle Prime Badge

Here’s a brief update on this tussling over what to do about the minimum wage hike and the fact that the Senate parliamentarian has ruled that it shouldn’t be included in a reconciliation bill. Yesterday I wrote that it seemed like advocates were right when they claimed that Vice President Harris could reverse the decision in a way that required 60 senators to, in turn, overrule her. (It’s a bit convoluted; here’s the post from yesterday that walks through it.) Since I wrote that post I’ve found out some more information that suggests the 60 vote thing isn’t even real. Or rather that it would take 60 votes to overrule Harris and if that vote failed then they could vote again and on the second round would only need 51 votes, which would make the whole thing a mirage.

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The Politics of the Tug of War over the Minimum Wage Prime Badge

I want to take a moment to unpack the positioning, politics and parliamentary rules behind this confrontation over including the minimum wage hike in the COVID relief bill. It’s quite complicated. And at least some of the advocacy is significantly misleading.

The Senate parliamentarian has ruled that the minimum wage hike doesn’t qualify to include in a reconciliation bill – i.e., one that cannot be filibustered. Parliamentarians can be fired or overruled. But there’s a major hitch. At least two Senators – Manchin and Sinema – say they don’t support overruling the parliamentarian or including the minimum wage in the COVID relief bill. Indeed, neither currently supports hiking the minimum to $15 at all. (There’s some question about that with Sinema. But Manchin is clear and he’s enough.)

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WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 08:  Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the Department of Justice John Carlin testifies as his wife Sarah listens during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee January 8, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Carlin has been nominated by President Barack Obama to become the next Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the Department of Justice.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Where Things Stand: Hit-And-Run AG Was Reading A Right-Wing Website While Driving, Investigators Say Prime Badge

We’ve been following closely this week as new details have emerged about a hit-and-run by South Dakota’s attorney general. A Republican politician, who was charged with a mere misdemeanor after being involved in the fatal accident, is now facing a bipartisan impeachment push as it starts to look as if his “I thought I hit a deer” story might be Swiss cheese.

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What Does Endemic COVID Mean? Prime Badge
Where Things Stand: The Value Of Playing The Antifa Card Prime Badge
This is your TPM afternoon briefing.
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 18: Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) questions Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz during a Senate Committee On Homeland Security And Governmental Affairs hearing at the US Capitol on December 18, 2019 in Washington, DC. Last week the Inspector General released a report on the origins of the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign's possible ties with Russia during the 2016 Presidential elections. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Ron Johnson

The antifa card has been dealt repeatedly this week. And it’s only picking up more steam among the GOP as a vague but ready excuse for all manner of things.

Tucked into a recent Politico report on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to push back on the House’s bid to conduct a bipartisan review of the Jan. 6 insurrection was a clue as to the staying power the actually-it-was-antifa lie will have.

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No Lucy Football with the Jan 6 Commission Prime Badge
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: President Donald Trump is seen on a screen as his supporters cheer during a rally on the National Mall on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump supporters gathered in the nation's capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Donald Trump

I’ve mentioned a number of times that to avoid the errors of the Obama years Democrats must make a firm commitment not to engage with bad faith arguments or bad faith actors. “This to me is the greatest negative lesson of the Obama era: the willing engagement of good faith with bad faith in which bad faith is, by definition, always the winner.” This necessity has cropped up again with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plan to create a commission to investigate the January 6th insurrection against the US capitol.

Congressional Republicans are doing everything they can to scuttle the idea. They’re opposing Pelosi’s plan to give Democrats a 7-4 majority on the panel (that’s not an unreasonable argument in the abstract) and more tellingly insisting that they can only support the idea if it also looks at violence during the summer protests in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. In other words, the Republican response is to whatabout the insurrection at the Capitol and the attempt to overturn the 2020 election by force. The latest gambit comes from Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who says he could agree to the whataboutist model – Capitol insurrection but also antifa and everything that happened last summer – or a much narrower commission focused solely on Capitol security procedures.

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Where Things Stand: Gory New Details About South Dakota AG Hit-And-Run Prime Badge
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We’ve been following the story of South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg’s fatal hit-and-run incident for some time now. And new video footage of interviews between the state AG and investigators raises questions about what truly happened on that September night — and the extent to which Ravnsborg might have known that he hit a human being, not a deer.

Like, for instance, the fact that the victim’s reading glasses were allegedly found inside the vehicle that Ravnsborg was driving when he hit him.

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Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs & Senate Rules and Administration joint hearing on Capitol Hill, Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, to examine the January 6th attack on the Capitol. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)
Who’s Gonna Tell’em?

Of the many lessons of the last decade, one of the most salient is that good policy does not make for good politics. Not automatically. That’s simply not how it works. It was one of the underlying premises – intertwined with much else – that led to the disappointments and failures of the Obama years. Ex-President Trump got grief when he wanted relief checks to go out with his name on them. That’s not at all legit. But he had the right idea. You need to tell people when you’re doing things for them. No one else is going to do that.

This belief that good policy will take care of itself is deeply rooted in the technocratic, meritocratic mentality that animates so many professional Democrats. There’s a lot to that worldview that is good and we should celebrate. This is one of its blindnesses. There is no good policy that isn’t conjoined to good politics. You just have to do the politics because there’s no good policy without building, nurturing and sustaining constituencies for good policy. That’s the only way good policy can be sustained over time, from election to election. Because the most ingenious and humane policy is a failure if it isn’t sustained, if voters don’t know that it happened, why it happened and what they need to do to make it keep happening.

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Thoughts on the Broken Institution Prime Badge

From TPM Reader LF

I thought your appreciation of Mitch was good. I am nearing completion of the Years of LBJ by Robert Caro, and in the Passage of Power after the assassination, LBJ sees the legislative pickle JFK got himself into. I have left off right where Richard Russell says that they (the Southern bloc) could beat Kennedy, but that they won’t beat LBJ. I have not gotten to the part where LBJ figures the way out, but Caro makes a point here (and throughout the series in some ways): Congress was broken from the time FDR’s court packing scheme died all the way through the Kennedy Administration, and the only progress that was made was when LBJ pushed through measures as Majority Leader (limited as they were–geared to him becoming President). And Caro points out that the reason Congress was broken was that the old bulls of the Southern bloc controlled the Senate.

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COLUMBUS, GEORGIA - On election day Americans vote at the Rothschild Elementary School library, Precinct 116, in Columbus, Georgia on Tuesday November 6, 2018. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Georgia Republicans Sharpen Plan To Roll Back Ballot Access Prime Badge
This Week in Voting Rights: A weekly roundup of news on Americans' access to the ballot box.
Where Things Stand: Garland Looks To DOJ’s Origins To Confront Today’s Right-Wing Extremism Crisis Prime Badge
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Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland meets with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) in his office in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill April 21, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Barack Obama nominated Garland to replace Associate Justice Antonin Scalia who passed away earlier this year.

Merrick Garland is finally getting his day in court.

While the most eye roll-inducing moments thus far involve Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) daring to harp on the importance of an apolitical Department of Justice, Garland’s opening statement gave us a pretty clear sign of what to expect out of a Garland-run DOJ.

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Do the Vaccines Stop Spread? Prime Badge

Since the earliest reports of the high efficacy of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines there’s been a significant asterisk attached to that good news. While the vaccines are extremely effective at preventing illness and death – close to full proof on the latter – it wasn’t clear whether they prevented the further spread of the disease. So a vaccine protects you from getting sick but possibly you could still spread the disease to others.

When I first heard about this possibility in an article by TPM’s Josh Kovensky I was baffled. How could that possibly be true, even logically speaking?

This issue is one of the deepest sources of confusion and inaccurate messaging tied to COVID vaccines.
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Rush Transcript Prime Badge

From TPM Reader WH

I thought I’d share this short connection I have to the late Rush Limbaugh:

Around 2014 I got a part-time job as a “linguistic annotator”. The employer was a language-related research and development nonprofit. I worked on a DARPA project called “DEFT Anomaly”, an “automated, deep natural-language processing technology … for more efficiently processing text information and enabling understanding connections in text that might not be readily apparent to humans” … in other words, helping computers learn to pick up nuance and implicit meaning in text.

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Remembering Rush Prime Badge

From TPM Reader BC

Hearing the news that Rush died struck me a bit differently because we worked together at KFBK/KAER in Sacramento. I was there from 1983 to 1990. Just before Rush, KFBK had Morton Downey Jr. in that time slot, who soon self-immolated via a “joke” about “Chinamen”. Mort was the oiliest, sleaziest human I have ever known. But Rush succeeded, and in part because meanness was just ramping up in conservative circles in the 80’s, and because he knew which people to stomp on.

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Where Things Stand: There’s A Lot To Learn About The Last Four Years Prime Badge
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The Trump presidency was chock-full of scandal, slimy misdeeds, worrying and outright deadly events that we still don’t fully understand. It’s hard to keep each straight in hindsight. There’s so much we didn’t know or couldn’t confirm as the events were unfolding in front of us — from the details of the family separation policy to Trump’s conversations with Putin to the government’s response to natural disasters such as Hurricane Maria.

But slowly and surely we will begin to learn more about some of the Trump era’s worst offenses. Coming soon: an official accounting of the jarring details behind the 2018 killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

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Rush and The Donald Prime Badge

After the news of Rush Limbaugh’s death broke Wednesday, there was an immediate challenge for those who loathed the man: how to respond to his death at age 70. Many simply celebrated, which is … paradoxically, very much in the spirit of the man. I can’t celebrate anyone’s passing. Death is too central to the human condition. It casts too great a pall of grief over too many people beyond the deceased. The part of this I got involved in is noting that Limbaugh was a very talented broadcaster. He was also funny, though often in cruel and malevolent ways. Maybe not funny to you. But funny. Besides catching clips of his latest outrage from TPM or Media Matters I hadn’t listened to Rush in decades. But during his early years I listened a lot. I also watched his short lived TV show. Basically a failure. A face for radio. He was uniquely talented in his medium. This isn’t praise. These are facts. And they’re worth repeating because while they are certainly not the most important things about Limbaugh’s role in American public life you can’t really understand that role without recognizing these parts of it.

I raise these facts because they have an import beyond Limbaugh.
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