Democrats Accept 2 of 286 Amendments Sought by Republicans for $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 Stimulus Bill

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) speaks at the weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Dec. 3, 2020. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Republicans have criticized Democrats for continuing to push their pandemic stimulus package while accepting little to no Republican input. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Wednesday out of 286 amendments proposed by Republicans for the $1.9 trillion spending package, only two were accepted.

“Republicans offered 286 amendments to President Biden’s massive $1.9 TRILLION spending blowout. Democrats accepted 2 of them. So much for Biden’s calls for ‘unity,’” McCarthy said in a statement.

On Feb. 19, Democrats unveiled the full text of a 591-page bill (pdf) titled the “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.”

House Republicans held a press conference on Wednesday in which they voiced their opposition to the Democrats’ “rescue” package that includes many items that have little to do with pandemic relief.

Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.), who serves as the Republican Leader of the House Budget Committee, called the $1.9 trillion package a liberal “wish list” because so little of the total funds are going to fighting the effects of the pandemic.

“It’s very simple. We’re here today because Pelosi, Schumer, and Biden decided to use a pandemic to push forward a progressive wish list; items to reward political allies, friends, and donors at the expense of the American working class,” Smith said.

He said that less than 9 percent of the $1.9 trillion is allocated for COVID health spending and only 5 percent is marked to fund the extra needs at schools amid the pandemic.

“Why is it that this package spends more than 25%, according to the Congressional Budget Office, on items that kill millions of jobs,” he added.

The Republican Study Committee (RSC), the largest conservative caucus on Capitol Hill, released a fact-sheet on items “Democrats are hoping the public won’t find about [sic]” that are included in President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus bill.

Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), the RSC’s newly elected chairman, said in a memo sent to caucus members that Democrats have included items of “special interest pork and other liberal goodies” in the proposal.

“If that’s not bad enough, Nancy Pelosi plugged in a $200 million earmark for an underground tunnel in San Francisco for Silicone Valley employees,” Banks said. “This is a bailout to the special interest groups that gave them power.”

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) said another reason why the GOP will oppose the package is because it does not help get kids back to school full time.

“That’s not what this $1.9 trillion liberal wish list, giveaway bill does and that’s why we’re strongly opposing it, and we’re also pushing to expose just what is really in this bill,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the $1.9 trillion package will provide “bold COVID relief to Americans nationwide” and criticized Republicans for obstructing Democrat efforts.

“Republican leaders are reportedly ‘maneuvering’ to get every single Republican member to oppose urgent, bold COVID relief. Every single one! Make no mistake: Democrats are working to quickly deliver the American Rescue Plan and big, bold COVID relief,” Schumer said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the Democrat’s rescue package was not addressing the issues that would help reopen the economy.

“Only about 1% of the Democrats’ partisan plan goes to vaccines. Only about 5% of its K-12 funding would even go out this fiscal year. Democrats are not addressing the urgent needs of a re-opening America. They started with a preconceived liberal wish-list and worked backward,” McConnell said.

Source: Democrats Accept 2 of 286 Amendments Sought by Republicans for $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 Stimulus Bill

Trump Is Back in the ‘Political Arena,’ Says Sebastian Gorka

President Donald Trump talks to reporters before departing with his family from the White House to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for the Thanksgiving holiday, in Washington on Nov. 21, 2017. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

Former President Donald Trump is “back in the political arena” after going silent following Jan. 20, said his former political adviser, Sebastian Gorka.

In an interview with Sky News, Gorka remarked that following the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, he believed Trump would disappear for months.

“This man has to disappear for a while … before he can get back in politics,” Gorka said. “But that all changed” when he was impeached in the House for allegedly inciting violence on Jan. 6, he added.

The impeachment, Gorka asserted, allowed Trump to move “back into the political arena” sooner.

He cited the establishment of Trump’s “Office of the 45th President,” his first political endorsement of Sarah Sanders for Arkansas governor, held interviews with media outlets about the passing of radio host Rush Limbaugh last week, and the move to speak at Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) over the weekend. Trump is slated to deliver a speech on Sunday, Feb. 28.

“Donald Trump is back and is the de facto conservative kingmaker,” he proclaimed, without elaborating on the former president’s next moves or whether he will run for office in 2024.

“None of the rising stars in the conservative movement” can generate the same interest as Trump, he argued.

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Sebastian Gorka speaks at the Turning Point USA Teen Student Action Summit in Washington on July 25, 2019. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

According to a slew of recent polls, Republican voters view Trump quite favorably. Some polls have found that a significant number of GOP voters would be willing to join a Trump-backed political party if he breaks off from the Republican establishment.

Meanwhile, Republican members of Congress who voted to impeach, convict, or took other actions against Trump in recent weeks have been censured or condemned by local Republican Party groups.

About a week ago, the former president issued a statement that strongly criticized Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), calling on him to rescind his leadership position while saying that Republicans won’t take majorities in the Senate under his leadership. It came after McConnell suggested in an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal that Trump could face criminal prosecution for his Jan. 6 speech.

Trump also issued a lengthy statement via email criticizing the Supreme Court’s Monday decision not to block his taxes from being released to a grand jury convened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.

“The new phenomenon of ‘headhunting’ prosecutors and AGs—who try to take down their political opponents using the law as a weapon—is a threat to the very foundation of our liberty,” he said. “That’s what is done in third world countries. Even worse are those who run for prosecutorial or attorney general offices in far-left states and jurisdictions pledging to take out a political opponent. That’s fascism, not justice—and that is exactly what they are trying to do with respect to me, except that the people of our country won’t stand for it.”

Source: Trump Is Back in the ‘Political Arena,’ Says Sebastian Gorka

7 Republican Senators Who Voted to Convict Trump Face Backlash From Within Party

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) points to her a Batman mask as she departs after House impeachment managers rested their case in impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, on charges of inciting the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington on 11, 2021. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) points to her a Batman mask as she departs after House impeachment managers rested their case in impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, on charges of inciting the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington on 11, 2021. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

The seven Republican senators who called former President Donald Trump guilty of inciting an insurrection are already facing backlash from within the GOP, where Trump remains a popular figure.

The Louisiana GOP’s Executive Committee unanimously voted to censure Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) over his vote, the party said in a brief statement.

The state party had said earlier this week that it was “profoundly disappointed” when Cassidy sided with five other Republicans and all Democrats in the upper chamber to declare the trial constitutional.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), another guilty vote, was condemned by the North Carolina Republican Party.

“North Carolina Republicans sent Senator Burr to the United States Senate to uphold the Constitution and his vote today to convict in a trial that he declared unconstitutional is shocking and disappointing,” North Carolina GOP Chairman Michael Whatley said in a statement.

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Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) walks in the Capitol as the Senate proceeds in a rare weekend session for final arguments in the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, at the Capitol in Washington on Feb. 13, 2021. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo)
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Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) talks to reporters in the U.S. Senate subway as Cassidy heads to the Senate Chamber to attend the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington on 11, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Lawrence Tabas noted how Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) voted to convict Trump. “I share the disappointment of many of our grassroots leaders and volunteers over Senator Toomey’s vote today,” Tabas said in a statement. “The vote to acquit was the constitutionally correct outcome.”

The other four Republicans who sided with Democrats were Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.).

The Utah, Maine, Alaska, and Nebraska Republican parties had not issued statements regarding the votes as of early Sunday. The Maine GOP couldn’t be reached. The other parties didn’t respond to requests for comment. Sasse has faced mounting opposition for his anti-Trump statements and votes in recent weeks.

The group of Republicans who called Trump guilty were praised by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Speaking on the Senate floor following the vote, he described them as “Republican patriots.”

The votes could have repercussions in 2022 for Murkowski, who is up for re-election.

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Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) leaves the chamber as the Senate voted to consider hearing from witnesses in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, at the Capitol in Washington on Feb. 13, 2021. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo)
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Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) walks through the Senate subway at the conclusion of former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, in Washington on Feb. 13, 2021. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

“It’s not about me and my life, my job, this is really about what we stand for. And [if] I can’t say what I believe that our president should stand for, then why should I ask Alaskans to stand with me?” Murkowski told reporters on Capitol Hill.

“So there’s consequences, I guess, with every vote, and this was this was consequential on many levels, but I cannot allow my vote, the significance of my vote, to be devalued by whether or not I feel that this is helpful for my political ambitions.”

The terms of Toomey and Burr are also slated to end in two years, but both are planning to retire.

Romney was elected in 2018. Sasse, Collins, and Cassidy were re-elected in 2020.

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Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 13, 2021. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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In this image from video, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) speaks after the Senate acquitted former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Feb. 13, 2021. (Senate Television via AP)

Cassidy said in a short video statement that he voted to convict Trump “because he is guilty.”

Burr said Trump “directed his supporters to go to the Capitol to disrupt the lawful proceedings required by the Constitution” on Jan. 6, adding: “When the crowd became violent, the President used his office to first inflame the situation instead of immediately calling for an end to the assault.”

“President Trump incited the insurrection against Congress by using the power of his office to summon his supporters to Washington on January 6th and urging them to march on the Capitol during the counting of electoral votes,” Romney said.

Sasse said in a statement that he promised Nebraskans when elected in 2014 that he’d always vote his conscience.

“In my first speech here in the Senate in November 2015, I promised to speak out when a president—even of my own party—exceeds his or her powers. I cannot go back on my word, and Congress cannot lower our standards on such a grave matter, simply because it is politically convenient. I must vote to convict,” he said.

Collins, delivering a speech on the Senate floor, told colleagues: “This impeachment trial is not about any single word uttered by President Trump on Jan. 6, 2021. It is instead about President Trump’s failure to obey the oath he swore on Jan. 20, 2017. His actions to interfere with the peaceful transition of power—the hallmark of our Constitution and our American democracy—were an abuse of power and constitute grounds for conviction.”

Source: 7 Republican Senators Who Voted to Convict Trump Face Backlash From Within Party

Nevada may switch from caucus to primary

The days of herding relative strangers into Nevada high school gyms for an all-day democracy exercise peppered with puzzling math equations that somehow make or break political futures may soon be at an end.

At least, they will be if the state’s power brokers get their way. And they often do.

“My No. 1 priority is getting rid of the caucuses,” said Harry Reid, former U.S. Senate majority leader and still very much the face of Nevada Democrats. “They don’t work. It was proven in Iowa. We did OK here, but the system is so unfair.”

Technical difficulties derailed Iowa’s Democratic caucuses last year, leading to Nevada’s move away from similar technology that would help hundreds of sites feed numbers used in “caucus math” — a system joyously explained by political organizers and understood by sheer dozens of Nevadans as the way the state awards delegates for state and national party conventions.

Though Nevada’s party avoided similar pitfalls, Reid and a growing coalition believe a presidential primary would allow far more voters to participate and seems to be the anecdotal will of the people.

Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson will soon carry a bill to kill the caucuses. The legislation wouldn’t need bipartisan support with Democrats in the firm majority, but it may get some anyway, as Republicans contacted by the Review-Journal were open to the idea.

But Frierson also plans to join Reid and other state Democrats in advancing a far more politically challenging notion: That Nevada should be the first state in the nation to weigh in on presidential candidates.

“We’re one of the most diverse states in the country, and it would behoove a candidate to come and make their pitch to voters here,” Frierson said. “The political influence is moving west, and Nevada is seen as a very good gauge of where the country is at.”

The end of the caucuses

The move away from caucuses is not a surprise, as elected officials including Gov. Steve Sisolak called for its demise in the days that followed the Feb. 22 statewide contests.

Nevada State Democratic Party Executive Director Alana Mounce said she was proud of the work her staff and organizers did to run a successful caucus in trying times last year, but it’s ready to move on.

“We know moving forward it’s time to move to a primary process, and time to have Nevada be the first early state in 2024,” Mounce said.

Although the state party has built up considerable organizing muscle in part due to the hands-on nature of caucuses, Mounce said the end of caucuses will shed a considerable financial and time-consuming weight that will allow for more focus on registering new voters and recruiting volunteers.

Democrats preparing campaign

With a new Democratic National Committee led by Jaime Harrison, a former Senate candidate and South Carolina Democratic Party chair, and Iowa’s pitfalls just a year in the rearview, Nevada is preparing to make a play.

“There are a lot of changing names and faces at DNC, and what you’re seeing, possibly, is the development of a campaign to make the argument for Nevada to be No. 1, which I’m ecstatic for,” said Alex Goff, one of two DNC members elected by the state party.

“I grew up in Mississippi,” Goff continued. “I joined the U.S. Marine Corps and served across the country and in other countries before moving here. There are so many people here with those stories. Their jobs brought them here, and they became Nevadans. You get a nice cross-section of the country.”

Nevada’s growing, diverse population and bellwether status in the West — a region where Democrats have grown in strength as the Midwest has grown more unpredictable — will be two major platforms for the campaign to stand on. The state also boasts a large union population and a mix of college and non-college educated voters.

But Goff also noted Nevada’s logistical strength for campaigns: Two urban centers holding about 85 percent of the population, situated in large media markets with easy travel between them.

Mounce believes the strength and organization of her party will appeal to a Harrison-led DNC due to his time leading South Carolina’s party.

Allison Stephens, the state’s other DNC member, said she too will “do everything I possibly can” for Nevada to be first on the calendar, but she cautioned against pushing the national party too hard.

“We don’t want to compromise our position as No. 3 in the nation,” Stephens said. “We can not fall below third. If changing to a primary would jeopardize our early state status, I would be concerned. We do have to work within the parameters of the party.”

National implications

The DNC will continue to review the previous cycle for at least another two months before discussing any possible changes to the nominating calendar.

“Every four years, the DNC looks back at what worked and what didn’t work, and the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee will continue to evaluate all areas of our nominating process and make recommendations for any changes,” spokesman David Bergstein said.

This review is expected to complete on March 31, at which point the DNC as a whole will take up the conversation.

On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said it was “too soon” to discuss the nominating calendar when asked during her daily briefing.

“We are certainly not focused on the next political campaign here quite yet, and we don’t have any point of view to share on the order of the presidential nominating contests, though Nevada’s a little warmer,” she said. “But you know, all great states.”

Iowa and New Hampshire, the two states that nominate before Nevada, are mounting their own campaigns to stay put, and other states are likely to make their own pushes to move up.

Frierson is sensitive to this.

“We will have to work through (the bill’s) language and work with the national parties — both Democrats and Republicans — and convince them of Nevada’s importance in the West,” he said.

Frierson noted the Legislature has no control over other states, which could simply move their own nomination dates further ahead absent a national calendar agreement. New Hampshire, for example, already has a state law declaring it must hold the first presidential primary election.

He said he is also working with local election officials on a cost estimate for the state, which would assume the cost burden currently borne by the state parties in the caucus system.

The typical Nevada primary, held in June for local and statewide offices, would remain, Frierson said. The new primary would only be used for selecting presidential candidates.

Republicans will wait and see

Eric Roberts, executive director of the Assembly Republican Caucus, said the demise of the caucuses could garner mixed support from his party.

“My gut feeling without talking to anyone about it is that the more conservative Republicans may want to keep (the caucuses), and the more moderates may want to go to a primary,” he said.

Roberts noted the Republican-controlled 2015 Legislature attempted a similar change, but the bill died.

Unlike 2020, Republicans will have a competitive presidential nominating process in 2024, and some state leaders have adapted a wait and see approach as the empowered Democrats look to change state law.

State Sen. James Settelmeyer, the Republican minority leader, said he supports the change from caucuses to a primary, but he’d like to see the presidential nomination combined with Nevada’s traditional June primary, which would also keep costs the same.

“I don’t think states should vote early,” he said. “I don’t like the idea of only a small percentage of the nation or a few states determining the leader of the free world.”

Settelmeyer said he carried a bill to switch to a primary in the past. Bipartisan support is possible, as long as Democrats are willing to discuss the changes and work through committees.

“I think the concept of trying to do something to increase voter participation is very appealing, and I believe we need to do that,” Settelmeyer said.

The senator also said he believes that bipartisan support from the Legislature would help the state make a case to the national parties.

“I would hope (the parties) would respect legislators in this state,” he said. “If all of our Republicans voter in favor of this, that would carry weight. But if all of us rejected it, that would also mean something.”

Nevada Republican Party Chair Michael McDonald said he personally likes the caucus system, as it spurs engagement within the party, but he is willing to adapt if Nevadans prefer a primary.

McDonald said his party’s caucus went so poorly in 2012 that it nearly lost its First in the West status on the Republican nominating calendar, but the system saw success in 2016.

“If they’re run right, they’re great,” McDonald said. “But they can also be a disaster.”

McDonald, also one of the state’s Republican National Committee members and a lifelong Nevadan, said he supports Nevada being moved up in the calendar, but it must be done with cooperation from the national parties and other states.

“I think anyone from here would want us to be first,” he said, “but you have to have respect for the party and your fellow states in order to get respect back.”

Source: Nevada may switch from caucus to primary

Longest-Serving Woman in Congress Says She Feels Increasingly Alienated in Democratic Party

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) (2nd L) speaks as then Rep.-elect Andy Levin (D-Mich.) (L), and Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) (R) listen during a news conference in Washington, on Nov. 29, 2018. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The longest-serving woman in Congress, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), told The Hill in a recent interview that she struggles with a growing sense of alienation within the Democratic party as she fights for the interests of her largely working-class Midwest constituents while the Democrat party is increasingly dominated by representatives from wealthy, often coastal districts.

“They just can’t understand,” Kaptur told the outlet, referring to the difficulty some of her Democrat colleagues have in relating to the concerns of blue-collar constituents like hers.

“They can’t understand a family that sticks together because that’s what they have. Their loved ones are what they have, their little town, their home, as humble as it is—that’s what they have,” she added.

Kaptur told the outlet that she worries that the voices of congressional Democrats who represent wealthy districts are increasingly drowning out those who represent heartland districts.

“It’s been very hard for regions like mine, which have had great economic attrition, to get fair standing, in my opinion,” Kaptur said, adding that, as a Democrat who represents a working-class district, she feels like a minority within her party.

In the interview, Kaptur touched on congressional district data, which showed that 19 out 20 of the nation’s wealthiest districts are represented by Democrats.

“Several of my colleagues who are in the top ranks have said to me, ‘You know, we don’t understand your part of the country.’ And they’re very genuine,” Kaptur said. “You can’t understand what you haven’t been a part of.”

The idea that Democrats are losing touch with their blue-collar roots and are increasingly turning into the party of the elites while Republicans are on track to becoming a multiethnic working-class coalition was an oft-repeated theme in the wake of the 2020 election.

In his first remarks following the November election, in which the GOP defied expectations and made gains in the House, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the House Minority Leader, declared, “This election cycle has made one thing clear: The Republican Party is now the party of the American worker.”

The 2020 election results, in general, reinforced the view that the Republican party is poised to become a multiethnic coalition of working-class voters. In the presidential race, for instance, former President Donald Trump won the largest share of non-white voters, a traditionally Democrat demographic, of any Republican since 1960.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) commented on the fact that Trump won Zapata County, in Texas, by a margin of 52–47 percent in 2020, while he lost that same county to Hilary Clinton in 2016 by a margin of 65–32 percent.

“#Florida & the Rio Grande Valley showed the future of the GOP: A party built on a multi-ethnic multi-racial coalition of working AMERICANS,” Rubio wrote in a tweet.

Source: Longest-Serving Woman in Congress Says She Feels Increasingly Alienated in Democratic Party