We are either coming up on or just now hitting the first anniversary of the COVID pandemic. We’ve been at this a year! Of course one year tolled in December or January if your point of reference is China. It moves next to Iran and Italy. But here I’m talking about the moment at which it became a stark and life-changing reality in the United States. I’m talking about the moment it became a stark and life-changing reality for you.
I’ll go first but I want to hear your story, your moment.
From TPM Reader MM …
I grew up across the road from 4096 acres of protected public woodland and watershed, a small residuum of the climax forest that greeted the first settlers to the area. Looking out the picture window of our living room and off to the left (west), White Oak Ridge Road did little dogleg. By ill-considered design, a utility pole had been planted right at the elbow of the dogleg, directly in line with the course of the road east of the dogleg. In icy conditions, caution was definitely necessary. Over my eighteen years in that house, several drivers hit that pole.
My exchange with TPM Reader ED …
The most infuriating thing about this situation is that it’s all bullshit. I don’t mean that it doesn’t matter or that there aren’t real differences of opinion among Democrats on the minimum wage, but from the perspective of regular people it’s all typical inside the Beltway bullshit. The only thing that matters at the end of the day is passing simple, clear legislation that improves the lives of average Americans and then reminding everyone who did it.
While Democrats seem to recognize the failures of the early Obama years, when they endlessly compromised with themselves without attracting GOP support for literally anything, made all their legislation needlessly complex, and never took credit for their achievements, they obviously haven’t learned the lessons well enough.
If they had, the parliamentarian would already be gone or the VP wouldn’t hesitate to overrule her. Ask yourself a simple question: Would FDR have allowed the Senate parliamentarian to block his agenda for even ten seconds? Of course not. FDR understood that nobody but Washington insiders gives a shit about parliamentarians or reconciliation or anything else. They know who’s in power and if those people make a real difference in their lives.
Democrats need to get everyone vaccinated and end the COVID disaster. They need to get emergency cash into the hands of as many Americans as possible. They need to prop up state and local governments to prevent mass layoffs and budget cuts. They need to raise the minimum wage. They need to make healthcare cheaper and easier to navigate. And so on.
If they do those things, they might still lose in 2022. That’s just what happens in American politics. But at least they’ll have a fighting chance. Everything else is just bullshit.
Here’s how I replied …
I agree with you on the stakes and everything except one thing which is perhaps the central thing. This has nothing to do with the parliamentarian. It is only about Joe Manchin, and possibly Kirsten Sinema. Manchin didn’t want to include the wage hike in the relief bill because he doesn’t think it counts as budgetary and because he doesn’t support $15. The fact that the parliamentarian agreed with him on the procedural issue (which she’s likely right about narrowly speaking but who cares) gives him a bit more standing or leverage. But the real leverage is his vote. And he has the cards. You’re right to be super pissed and to see all the dangers. You’re just focusing the anger on the wrong 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.
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.
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.)
I’ve been wrestling all day with this claim that Vice President Harris has the unique ability to overrule the Senate parliamentarian on this ruling about the whether the minimum wage hike can be included in the COVID relief bill. Critically, it’s claimed that while the Senate can overrule her it could only do so with 60 votes. That makes all the difference in the world since while all fifty Republicans and Manchin or Manchin and Sinema could overrule her with 52 votes there’s basically no way they get to 60 votes.
But is that 60 vote rule real? Is that what would be needed to overrule Harris?
There’s a big scattering of news these days. But I want to recommend that you check out Cristina Cabrera’s updates on the denouement of the Jason Ravnsburg story. Ravnsburg is the Attorney General of South Dakota. Back in September it was reported that he’d been in an auto accident in which there had been a fatality. It quickly emerged that this was, while technically true, a bit different than what the announcement suggested. Ravnsborg had struck and killed a 55 year old man named Joe Boever driving home from a political fundraiser. He left the scene, later claiming he thought he’d struck a deer.
Earlier this week Ravnsborg was charged with three misdemeanors. But the evidence that came out at the conclusion of the investigation makes it seem that Ravnsborg got incredibly lucky not being charged with negligent homicide or hit and run. A witness said Boever was walking with a flashlight, which deer seldom carry. Forensic evidence strongly suggests that Ravnsborg was browsing RCP reading up on some Biden hit pieces when he struck and killed Boever. And perhaps most damning and horrifying, Boever’s glasses were found inside Ravnsborg’s car. In other words, this means almost to a certainty that Boever’s face slammed, with the full impact of the collision, into and through Ravnsborg’s windshield.
Cristina has the details here.
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.