First Dem-controlled gov't in a decade means fights over filibuster, court packing, socialist agenda
Victory in Georgia has guaranteed Democratic control of the White House and Congress, giving President-elect Joe Biden expanded options but also denying him cover from the demands of his party’s radical left wing.
Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff’s surprise double triumph on Tuesday makes possible many of Biden’s more expansive legislative priorities, such as his promised revisions to Obamacare or his $2 trillion climate plan. But it also means that he has lost the convenient excuse of a Republican-controlled Senate, which would have allowed him to refuse the more revolutionary changes endorsed by members of his party.
Instead, progressive groups are already agitating for proposals such as ending the Senate’s filibuster. Eli Zupnick, spokesman for the left-leaning Fix Our Senate, responded to the news of Warnock and Ossoff’s victory with bluntness: “What does this election mean? The filibuster is dead.”
Similar calls will soon emerge from other corners, pushing for court packing, the addition of new states, radical appointees, and the agenda of the House’s socialist “squad” caucus. Paradoxically, Biden’s victory in the Senate may have set up an even greater battle: not against Republicans, but across the ever-growing fault lines which divide his party.
As much is particularly true due to the razor-thin margin by which Democrats control government. They will hold the Senate only through the grace of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, while Republicans chipped away at their already narrow control of the House in the November election.
That margin will come into play over a likely contentious debate over the filibuster. Democrats’ sub-60-vote position means that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) can still stall much of Biden’s agenda, as he did in the latter days of the Obama administration. Recognizing this, soon-to-be majority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) has repeatedly signaled an openness to ending the practice.
In this, Schumer has been joined by progressive members of his caucus such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), as well as former president Barack Obama. But blue dog senators have been hostile: Sens. Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.), and Jon Tester (D., Mont.) are all opposed, while Sen. Mark Kelly (D., Ariz.) has dodged the question. So too has Warnock, while Ossoff offered only a “maybe” when asked.
Abolishing the filibuster would be a prerequisite for another major change Schumer has been eyeing—granting statehood to the District of Columbia and possibly Puerto Rico, guaranteeing two to four more Democrats in the upper chamber. But it would not be necessary to add further justices to the Supreme Court, a move many Democrats agitated for in the wake of Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment. Biden has remained conspicuously silent on the issue of court packing, which would require his involvement but would see the ostensible moderate yielding to progressives over the majority of Americans.
Such major changes are not the only place Democratic control could be a headache for Biden. McConnell’s control of the Senate was expected to moderate Biden’s selection for top posts, and the president-elect has leaned toward the center in many of his taps.
But a Democrat-controlled Senate will allow more controversial choices, like the inflammatory OMB pick Neera Tanden, a serious hearing Biden may not have expected. And it could give new life to appointment priorities from the left, like the list of 100 foreign policy progressives that until Tuesday appeared dead on arrival.
A similar headache may await House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), as a smaller caucus gives more power to the growing “squad” of Democratic socialists in her chamber. A cadre of online progressives spent the days leading up to the vote for speaker agitating for Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.), and others to withhold their votes unless Pelosi agreed to allow a vote on Medicare for All. Ocasio-Cortez shot down the idea but acknowledged it—indicating future pressure efforts may be more fruitful.
Pelosi, in other words, could experience a redux of the standoffs that defined the relationship between former speaker John Boehner and the House Freedom Caucus, which ended with Boehner’s resignation. Biden, similarly, risks his agenda being hijacked—not by obstreperous Republicans, as expected, but by members of his own party eager to seize power.
The noise generated by President Donald J. Trump’s contesting the outcome of the November election is drowning out the news that the results yielded more good than bad for the GOP. Once again, the much-ballyhooed “Big Blue Wave” broke up before it crashed on the shores. The Republicans gained net one governor, flipped at least two net state legislative chambers, maintained their good field position crucial to the upcoming post-reapportionment redistricting and, counting only contested seats, came out ahead in the national vote for Congress.
This leaves the party in better-than-expected shape heading out of the Trump era. Most of the focus now is on the two Georgia run-off elections, which will determine which party will control the U.S. Senate. Consequently, there’s been little discussion of what current House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and his allies should do when it comes time to organize the House.
Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats are heading into the next Congress with one of the slimmest majorities in history. A switch of just a handful of votes by so-called “moderate” Democrats, who claim they’re chafed every time Pelosi cracks the whip to drive her conference leftward, would block anything she wants to do—including her re-election to the speakership.
Among those moderates, 10 returning to the House in 2021 voted against her for speaker in 2019. That’s more than McCarthy needs to become speaker if he wins over those moderates and also maintains the unanimous support of his own conference, leaving Pelosi in a precarious position.
National politics being what they are, there’s almost no scenario in which a Democrat wishing to be re-elected votes for McCarthy over Pelosi even if such a vote would play well with most of the voters back home. Any Democrat who did that would have to change parties or risk re-nomination next time. But what if one of these alleged moderates, like Virginia’s Abigail Spanberger, Michigan’s Elissa Slotkin of New York’s Kathleen Rice, announced a last-minute challenge to Pelosi’s leadership?
They’ve said publicly they’re at least uncomfortable with Pelosi’s progressivism, and feel the actions of “The Squad” and others are a drag on the party’s future. So why not launch a revolution that would, on a bipartisan basis, drag the House back toward the center, matching what’s been billed as the upcoming centrist Biden presidency? McCarthy could probably deliver the GOP votes necessary to pull something like that off without needing too much in return. Maybe he’d settle for an agreement to increase the number of bills brought to the floor under an open rule, or an end to the proxy voting created to address pandemic-related concerns but no longer needed as vaccines are rolled out.
This has been done before—and recently, in both Texas and Ohio. Both states saw moderate Republicans chosen to lead their state’s Houses of Representatives, with the backing of Democrats wishing to block the installation of more conservative Republicans as speakers.
The arrangement in Texas was successful and lasted several sessions. Things in Ohio ran aground after the speaker was indicted on corruption charges—but the plan to put him in the chair still worked. To pull something like this off in the U.S. House, McCarthy and his inner circle will need to start thinking and acting like Democrats, at least politically, and turn up the heat on the moderates.
This isn’t just a fool’s errand. With the GOP sitting somewhere around 212 seats—pending the true finalization of one result in each of New York and Iowa—the pathway back to the majority is indeed achievable. Preliminary estimates of the upcoming reapportionment’s effect on who will control the House suggest that McCarthy and his compatriots should pick up at least six seats, with lines drawn fairly and without having to depend on the kind of extreme gerrymandering the Democrats used in places like California, Ohio and North Carolina to keep control of the House throughout the 1980s.
With control of the floor in doubt and with the country just having voted to eschew extremism in favor of a problem-solving approach to the nation’s woes, McCarthy can help himself by advancing the interests of the moderates in the other party over the progressives. To do that, he needs to be conciliatory while, at the same time, making every vote to move left a tough one. He must call on the Pelosi-skeptical faction of Spanberger, Slotkin, Rice, Tennessee’s Jim Cooper and Maine’s Jared Golden (whose congressional district Trump carried in 2016 and 2020) to be sensible and join with his caucus to vote down extreme Pelosi-backed proposals to raise taxes, drive up energy and food prices, make America less safe, and open the borders.
It’s doable. Most conservatives believe the fight against the socialist agenda will come in the Senate—which is why the GOP must win the Georgia run-offs, so Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell can remain majority leader. If he doesn’t, new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (who will be spending much of the next two years worrying that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) might soon primary him from the left) will let every extreme proposal under the sun, from court-packing to publicly funded abortion, sail right through.
The Senate-focused conservatives may be right. McConnell can be counted on to stop anything extreme from coming to the floor. And a Schumer-led Senate would probably be a nightmare for conservatives. With the right attitude and organization, however, coupled with the ability to apply pressure in the right ways and in the right places, McCarthy could have a similar effect in the House as McConnell can have in the Senate. Forcing a handful of self-described Democratic moderates to declare where they stand—with progressive Pelosi or with the people back home—is the beginning of the fight to keep America from lurching sharply to the left over the next decade.
By Fox News•
Peer pressure is a powerful tool employed to influence and control the behavior of others. It used to be the case that it was truly only effective amongst children, those not yet strong enough in character and resolve to resist the condemnation of others. In recent times, however, in our culture of political correctness, adults and corporations can regularly be seen caving to the demands of their peers for conformance.
Celebrity and activist Kim Kardashian West faced just such peer pressure last week when she announced her plans to visit the White House and celebrate the “First Step Act” with its key designers President Trump, his daughter Ivanka, and her husband Jared Kushner. Instead of conforming to prevailing Hollywood winds and avoiding the president, Kim, who has made criminal justice equality and prison reform her flag-in-soil issues, made the trip and made strong statements in support of the new program.
It was roughly a year ago that TMZ broke the story that Jay-Z had pressured fellow rapper Meek Mill, an outspoken supporter of criminal justice reform, to cancel a planned visit to Washington to participate in a conference the president had called to discuss the issue. Mill was given a chance to turn words into action and get involved in actually solving a problem. Peer pressure caused him to back away.
In praising the president’s freshly enacted legislation which gives an opportunity to people who have served their time for their criminal infraction, Kardashian committed Hollywood heresy by saying, “It is really such an honor to be here today,” and by calling the president’s new program “magic.”
Kardashian also went further when she likely infuriated late-night show hosts by using social media to praise Ivanka Trump:
“Thank you @IvankaTrump for helping me to start this amazing journey of fighting for people who truly deserve a second chance!”
Ivanka and Jared have been the subject of so much Hollywood hatred that you know Kim risked some serious Los Angeles heat by making such a positive public statement.
Courage is considered one of the four Cardinal Virtues of Western Civilization. It, along with wisdom, moderation, and justice, was identified going back to Plato as being essential to the ideal person. Aristotle said that courage was the mean between rashness and cowardice and pointed out that a person cannot live a good life if they went around being afraid all the time.
Politicians, not just celebrities, have been bowing to the fear created by peer pressure. During President Trump’s exploration of the prison reform issue, many Democratic politicians who harped on the need for such reform for years refused to participate because of the president’s involvement. They feared reprisal for standing alongside President Trump.
Where is the bellicose House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in all of this? Why isn’t the lady who has spoken out so often of injustice in the federal prison system not standing right next to the president talking about what is likely going to be the only piece of meaningful legislation passed prior to the 2020 election? She’s hiding. She’s afraid.
There can be no question that Pelosi supports the measure, indeed, she issued a terse, but positive statement back in December when the House passed the bill. But, stand next to the president and work together on Second Step legislation? Not happening.
The Speaker lacks courage. Like so many other politicians, celebrities, and everyday Americans she finds it easier to pander than she does to make a difficult stand, face criticism, and do what is right. She is a follower cast in the role of a leader.
This lack of courage is not some sort of liberal disease to which conservatives find themselves immune. In going to the White House and standing next to the president, Kim showed more courage than many Republicans have over the past three years. From Paul Ryan to Justin Amash, too many Republicans have been unwilling publicly to show support for the president, even though in the privacy of a smoke-filled room while gripping a cognac they whisper that they agree with what he is doing.
Courage hasn’t completely disappeared from the American political landscape. Activist Van Jones was a strong public advocate of the First Step Act despite his political and general lack of agreement with the president. It takes courage and strength to enter discussion and forge agreements with people whom you might otherwise find disagreeable. Cicero knew this 2,000 years ago. Nothing has changed.
Kim Kardashian West shows courage; Nancy Pelosi does not. Adam Levine shows courage playing at the Super Bowl; numerous other performers do not. Until American adult influencers and political leaders learn how to withstand peer pressure, our liberty is at stake. Why can’t adults resist the very thing they all teach their children to resist?
You wouldn’t know it from the way she’s being covered in most of the Washington media but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is a woman with a lot of problems. Instead of in-depth coverage of the ideological divisions in her caucus and the political challenges to her leadership, she gets stuff like this, from Politico:
“Using strategies she’s honed over decades, the speaker has managed to keep a sprawling freshman class in line — and on her side — despite breaking with them on issues ranging from impeachment to the ‘Green New Deal.’”
What Speakers John Boehner and Paul Ryan wouldn’t have done for that kind of coverage when they were in charge! When they were in charge, the dissenters drove the narrative. Now that the Queen Bee of Capitol Hill is back in charge, things have turned on their head.
The reason for this is simple according to Rich Galen, a former top communications aide to House Speaker Newt Gingrich and a well-respected commentator.
“The advantage – the GREAT advantage – that Pelosi has, which Newt nor any following GOP Speaker has had is the adoration of the national press corps. They REALLY want her to succeed. Nevertheless, Pelosi has some of the same issues to deal with that Newt did: Mainly a huge freshman class that think they invented Democracy,” Galen says.
He doesn’t think she’s lost control of her conference – not yet anyway – but the she’s not breaking records for party unity. She’s already lost the vote on two motions to recommit – a parliamentary device often used to slow the progress of legislation through the House – and continues to show signs of fatigue, something that has some speculating quietly and anonymously that the job may be too much for her.
That’s a reach. Even at 78 Pelosi still shows she has command of the political skills learned at her father’s knee – he was once mayor of Baltimore, Maryland – and from various members of the Burton family whose accomplishments in California Democratic politics are still considered legendary.
Still, Pelosi did herself no favors when late last week she suggested impeachment of President Donald Trump might be off the table. By suggesting it wasn’t worth the effort she gave the proverbial “finger” to Democratic donors and activists from coast to coast who worked so hard in 2018 to win back control of the U.S. House for the Democrats precisely for the purpose of driving Trump from office.
Some may say that it’s not such a big deal. The activist wing of the party is likely harder to mollify, even as Pelosi and others work to keep them in line. Consider what the reaction would have been among the GOP faithful if, after using the repeal of Obamacare as the whip hand to drive voters to the polls in 2010 to win back control of the House for John Boehner and the Republicans, the measure was never even brought to the floor for a vote.
“Impeaching Trump is probably the one substantive matter that is non-negotiable for House Democrats,” says Mike Franc, a former GOP congressional leadership staffer and now head of the Washington office of the Hoover Institution.
“Pelosi can get away with dismissing the New Green Deal (because it is purely aspirational and agenda-setting rather than substantive) but not this. My guess is that she suffers for this sin, mostly with the Democratic base.”
For Pelosi, now and moving forward, the tail is wagging the dog. She may be the political leader and the nation’s most important elected Democrat, but she has little to say, at least so far, about what the party’s agenda will be. She faces, Franc says, “a substantive revolution” in the way policy is made on Capitol Hill, akin to what happened after the Democratic landslide of 1974 and the 1994 Republican Contract with America.
The large class of Democratic freshmen, which includes Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes and her fellow traveling socialists, do not seem, Franc says, committed to a set of real and substantive policy changes so much as they are interested in “using their platforms as Members to advance a new and socialistic state of mind in traditional and social media.”
If that gives AOC and others control of the agenda, what does that mean for the suburban seats Democrats took from the GOP in 2018 because voters either thought the Republican agenda was too extreme or because they wanted to send a message to Trump?
Extremism on the left, which is what AOC and her fellow Green New Dealers are offering, is no better in these districts than extremism on the right. These moderate members could get lost in the undertow if Pelosi can’t stop the drift to the left, but she can’t stay in power if she does.
Nancy Pelosi has a lot of problems – and they’re just beginning to surface.
by Haris Alic • Washington Free Beacon
Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) has yet to take the speaker’s gavel of the U.S. House of Representatives, but Democrats are already laboring to make it easier to dismantle the achievements of the Trump presidency.
The incoming chairman of the House Rules Committee, Rep. Jim McGovern (D., Mass.), confirmed to colleagues on Wednesday that he would not honor the three-fifths supermajority requirement to raise income taxes, as reported by the Washington Post.
McGovern’s decision overturns a rule implemented under outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) that mandated a three-fifths majority approve any proposed hike to the income tax.
The change comes after a standoff between Pelosi and her moderate allies in the Democratic conference, such as incoming Ways and Means Committee chairman Richard Neal (Mass.), and younger, more progressive members like Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.). Continue reading
By Cameron Cawthorne • Washington Free Beacon
Scott McGrew, an anchor and reporter for NBC’s San Francisco affiliate, on Wednesday said President Donald Trump is “far more liked” by Americans than House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.).
McGrew reported on Pelosi’s announcement Tuesday about her plans to run for House Speaker if the Democrats regain the majority in the House of Representatives after the midterm elections this fall.
“This may not be good news for Democrats. Republicans use Pelosi as a cudgel in their ads to convince people not to vote for Democrats, and they’re not wrong [to do so],” McGrew said. “We might like Continue reading
by Cortney O’Brien • Townhall
So, Pelosi’s Own Father Once Dedicated a Statue to Robert E. Lee
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi woke up from her 30-year slumber last week and suddenly decided to be outraged by the Confederate statues standing in the halls of Congress. She finds them “reprehensible” and is demanding House Speaker Paul Ryan have them removed.
Her family tree history makes her outrage a bit awkward. Red Alert Politics dug up a bit of history to find that Pelosi’s own father, Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr., dedicated a statue to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee when he was the mayor of Baltimore. Continue reading
by Jim Hoft • The Gateway Pundit
Seven years ago this week Nancy Pelosi pushed Obamacare during her speech to the 2010 legislative conference of the National Association of Counties.
Pelosi told the group, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”
Even Nancy Pelosi isn’t pressuring House Democrats to fall in lock-step with her precious Barack.
According to this, Democrats from the House of Representatives met with the Department of Homeland Security to discuss how DHS was planning to screen Syrian refugees who are coming into the United States. This was in preparation for a vote over a bill introduced in the House that would limit the number of refugees the U.S. takes in and even possibly pause the refugee program for a time. To make a long story short, it didn’t go so well – Continue reading
by Charles Krauthammer • Washington Post
The report by Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding CIA interrogation essentially accuses the agency under George W. Bush of war criminality. Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein appears to offer some extenuation when she reminds us in the report’s preamble of the shock and “pervasive fear” felt after 9/11.
It’s a common theme (often echoed by President Obama): Amid panic and disorientation, we lost our moral compass and made awful judgments. The results are documented in the committee report. They must never happen again. Continue reading
Milton Friedman on Kennedy’s antimetabole
by Scott L. Vanatter
One of the most well-known lines from presidential addresses was written for John F. Kennedy by Ted Sorenson. Kennedy was not the first president to use a speech writer. Presidents have been using speech writers since the beginning. Alexander Hamilton wrote the first draft of George Washington’s Farewell Address. Washington worked with Hamilton till it said just want he wanted. This is the standard and accepted procedure. Not all Presidents have written as elegantly or effectively as Lincoln. Continue reading