Discover more from Letters from an American
June 24, 2021
Shortly after noon today, President Biden announced to reporters, “We have a deal.” After weeks of negotiations, a bipartisan group of 5 Democratic and 5 Republican senators have agreed to a blueprint for an infrastructure bill with $973 billion in spending, $579 billion of it new. If 5 more Republicans sign on—and if all the Democrats vote yes—this bill can overcome any filibusters thrown in its path.
In this case, progressive Democrats are as much a sticking point as Republicans, for in order to get Republicans on board, the measure abandons a number of key Democratic priorities. So Democratic leaders have planned for the measure to move forward in tandem with a much larger package that includes Democratic priorities, including funding to combat climate change and to support the caregiver economy. It will likely also start to undo the cuts in the corporate tax rate Republicans pushed through in 2017. The bill is currently estimated to cost about $6 trillion, and it would pass through the budget reconciliation process, which cannot be filibustered and thus will require only a simple majority.
Both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Biden say they will not finish the infrastructure bill without the larger companion bill. Passing the infrastructure package gives Biden a major bipartisan win at the same time it lets Republicans take credit for infrastructure funding that most Americans like very much indeed. But if Republicans refuse to pass it, Democrats have the option of simply passing the larger measure without them.
This is a remarkably delicate balancing act that shows a lot of hard work. We’ll see how it plays out.
Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, Speaker Pelosi is starting to force a reckoning with the January 6 insurrection. Last month, the House of Representatives passed a bill to create an independent, bipartisan committee to investigate that crisis. The positive House vote included 35 Republicans, but in the Senate, Republicans killed the bill with the filibuster. Today, Pelosi announced she is establishing a select committee to investigate the insurrection. While the distribution of seats on the committee is not yet clear, it will have subpoena power and will publish its findings.
Unlike the independent committee Republicans shot down, this one is under no time constraint, leaving Republicans afraid the investigation will affect the 2022 election. In 2015, now–House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told Fox News Channel personality Sean Hannity that Republicans had put together one of the investigations of the attack on the U.S. compound at Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, to hurt then–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s political future. Now leaders are afraid the Democrats will do the same thing to them.
Pressure is mounting on those who supported former president Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election. Today, an appellate court in New York suspended Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani from practicing law, concluding that he had made “demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump’s failed effort at reelection in 2020.” Since he lied to spread the Big Lie that Trump had won the election, the court concluded that his “conduct immediately threatens the public interest.”
The court continued: "The seriousness of respondent's uncontroverted misconduct cannot be overstated…. This country is being torn apart by continued attacks on the legitimacy of the 2020 election and of our current president, Joseph R. Biden. The hallmark of our democracy is predicated on free and fair elections. False statements intended to foment a loss of confidence in our elections and resulting loss of confidence in government generally damage the proper functioning of a free society."
It is an astonishing fall for a man who was U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the top federal lawyer in Manhattan, before he was mayor of New York City.
Meanwhile, more information about the Trump administration continues to come to light. Earlier this week we learned that the White House response to coronavirus was determined by what officials thought would look good; today we learned that Trump was far closer to death with Covid-19 than the White House let on, surviving only thanks to rare experimental drugs. His science advisers hoped his brush with death would convince him to take the pandemic seriously, but it did not.
According to CNN, a forthcoming book by Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender says that last summer, Trump wanted law enforcement and military officials to go in and "beat the f--k out" of the civil rights protesters. “Just shoot them,” he is alleged to have said repeatedly. The book suggests that it was then–Attorney General William Barr and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mike Milley, who held him back.
Like the former president, his supporters are talking more and more violently as the country seems to be slipping out of their control.
Will Sommer, politics reporter at the Daily Beast who is currently writing a book on QAnon, yesterday flagged a clip from a contributor to the right-wing conspiracy network OAN. The contributor repeated the lie that “voter fraud” undermined the 2020 election, but then went further: “What are the consequences for traitors who meddled with our sacred democratic process and tried to steal power by taking away the voices of the American people?” he asked.
"In the past, America had a very good solution for dealing with such traitors,” he said. “Execution.”
"Exactly how many people were involved in these efforts to undermine the election?" he asked. "Hundreds? Thousands? Tens of thousands? How many people does it take to carry out a coup against the presidency?"
Historians rightly recognize this rhetoric as deadly dangerous, but we are not the only ones. On Twitter, California Democratic Representative Ted Lieu begged House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to stop this escalation while it is still possible: “You are in a position to reduce violence. Lives are potentially at stake. Please just say one simple, truthful sentence: the election was not stolen.”
Michigan Representative Peter Meijer was more specific: “Let me be clear,” he tweeted. “[M]ore people will die [because] of craven propaganda like this. People who believe [the] election was a “coup” + view [government] officials as traitors will seek what they view as ‘justice.’ When there are no arrests [because] this is all a lie they will take matters into their own hands.”
Indeed, Sommer tweeted: “I came across the clip because QAnon people… see it as proof that the mass executions are right around the corner. Lots of glee in the Q chat rooms, demands for how exactly their imagined executions will be carried out and complaints they had to wait too long.”
Yesterday, an official from the Department of Homeland Security told members of the House Committee on Homeland Security that the department is following online discussions among extremists who believe the conspiracy theory that former president Trump will be reinstated in August. They fear that expectation could trigger violence.