In Fun Trendlet, Ohio Dems Help Elect 'Moderate' Speaker To Republican Supermajority House
Well isn't this interesting!
In Ohio's state House of Representatives yesterday, Democrats and some Republicans voted to elect Jason Stephens, a moderate Republican, as speaker of the House, defeating a bid for speaker by the Republicans' preferred candidate, rightwing state Rep. Derek Merrin, who sounds like a guest star in The Rural Juror. That's the second time this week that an unexpected moderate candidate has suddenly won the speaker's gavel in a state legislature: Tuesday, the Pennsylvania House chose (former) Democrat Mike Rozzi to break a stupid deadlock; Rozzi pledged to approach the job as an independent, not caucusing with either party.
Why yes, the two surprise speakerships have fueled some pundit speculation that maybe Democrats and a few "moderate" Republicans in the US House might pull off something similar if Kevin McCarthy's bid to be speaker flames out and Republicans can't agree on anyone else. As Yr Wonkette has already argued this morning, that's a pretty crap idea, no thank you, unless maybe six Republicans step up and vote for Hakeem Jeffries, and then only if no one is injured by the monkeys flying out of Matt Gaetz's butt.
Pennsylvania Republican Dickishness Fails, In Surprisingly Decent Outcome
How Should Responsible Democrats Help Republicans Out Of Their Self-Inflicted House Speaker Debacle?
In Ohio yesterday, Democrats nominated Stephens as a surprise alternative to Merrin, who had already been picked for speaker in a non-official, Republicans-only vote back in December. Stephens had been one of two challengers in that caucus vote. He decided that breaking with the party leadership was worth working with Democrats, who were happy to have him as speaker.
“They needed our votes and we took the opportunity to make sure that we were going to be working with the speaker who we felt at the end of the day would work with us on the issues we could agree on,” Democratic Minority LeaderAllison Russo said.
All 32 Democrats in the Ohio House voted for Stephens yesterday, as did 22 of the Republicans; that beat the 43 Republicans who voted for Merrin. Republicans still have a supermajority in both houses of the Ohio Lege, but joint reporting by the Ohio Capital Journal and News 5 Cleveland says Stephens pledged to put the brakes on some of his party's more radical ideas, like a so-called "Backpack Bill" that would change school funding formulas to allow parents to spend taxpayer money on private, religious schools, instead of allocating funding to public schools based on enrollment.
Also too, numerous Democrats told reporters that Stephens had agreed to drive a stake through any attempt to revive last session's creepy anti-democracy proposal that would have required constitutional amendments to win 60 percent of the public vote in a referendum, instead of the current simple majority. That bill, proposed after voters in other states voted in the midterms to preserve abortion rights, was a transparent attempt to keep voters from undoing Republican-passed laws to ban abortion and gerrymander district maps to favor Republicans.
Stephens didn't directly address any deals he may have cut to secure Democratic votes, but promised to pursue "common ground" for all Ohioans and to focus on governing instead of hot-button issues.
Not surprisingly, more right-leaning Republicans who supported Merrin were outraged at being STABBED IN THE BACK by the moderate minority of their caucus. While Merrin wouldn't comment for the Journal/News 5 story, one of his close allies, Aaron Baer of something called the "Center for Christian Virtue," said the vote was a betrayal of the caucus's vote last month to elect Merrin, whose candidacy Baer said was about "issues and policies and doing what’s right for religious freedom, doing what’s right for family, doing what’s right for life." Oh no! Now the forces of DEATH have taken over, we guess.
Not surprisingly, the choice of surprise moderate speakers in Pennsylvania and Ohio got some in the punditocracy thinking maybe that trend might extend to the current fuck-tussle in the US House. After the Ohio vote yesterday, the Washington Post's Aaron Blake wondered aloud about the chances of some sort of bipartisan coalition springing up if Kevin McCarthy keeps failing as hard as he's failed so far. We aren't going to waste a gift linky on that one; Blake notes that such compromises are far more likely at the state level, and adds that for anything like it to happen at the federal level, things would have to devolve far beyond the current GOP clown show, especially since any Republicans who did would be primaried, and possibly tarred and feathered.
Republicans voting for a Democrat would be pretty unfathomable at the federal level; it would be tantamount to those members sacrificing their political careers.
But that doesn’t foreclose the possibility of enough congressional Republicans joining with Democrats to pick a moderate Republican speaker, as happened in Ohio.
And who knows, maybe some Republicans who plan to retire might join in. But it would only happen if the GOP turdfight drags on a lot longer, particularly given Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries's sensible statement that Democrats want to "solve problems for the American people, not save the Republicans from their dysfunction."
So while any "coalition" speaker is extremely unlikely, Blake says, it would be "political malpractice" if Democrats don't at least give it some thought. To which we'd mostly just remind Blake, as Stephen did earlier, that "The West Wing" really is fiction. An actual Republican compromise speaker will have very little chance of keeping their party in line. A speaker elevated by a compromise with Democrats would probably make January 6, 2001, look like an actual tourist visit to the Capitol.
[Ohio Capital Journal and News 5 Cleveland / WaPo / Image: video screenshot, News 5 Cleveland on YouTube]
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Montana Republican Not Sure Why Native Americans Even Allowed To Vote If Tribes Want 'Sovereignty'
Also explains most 'conservatives' totally agree with him.
A would-be Montana legislator raised what he considered a really important question at a December 27 meeting of the Lewis and Clark County Republican Central Committee: Should Montana allow members of Native American tribes to vote in state elections?
Drew Zinecker, one of several Republicans hoping to be appointed to fill a vacant legislative seat, was Just Asking Questions: "If the reservations want to say they are independent countries … but they want a lot of handouts, why are we counting their ballots?"
Mind you, tribal sovereignty isn't about the desire to be an "independent nation" but about self-governance under treaty rights negotiated with the federal government. But Zinecker considered this a significant matter to bring up in his audition for a potential appointment to fill the District 80 state House seat, which was recently vacated by former Rep. Becky Beard (R) when she was appointed to a seat in the state Senate. Zinecker has served in a number of political jobs in Montana Republican politics, but hasn't run for office.
The Montana Free Press reports that Zinecker's remarks were met with "mixed applause" by the audience, during a discussion of "election integrity," which apparently Zinecker thought might be imperiled by letting foreigners from Native America vote. The problem, of course, is that Native Americans tend to vote for Democrats, an "election integrity" problem that the New Yorker notes has led Republicans to make voting more difficult for Native Americans on tribal land and Wonkette notes led troops-loving North Dakota to disallow military ID to vote, since Native Americans are the demographic most likely to join up and serve their country. Which is the US.
Zinecker's suggestion that it might be appropriate to disenfranchise tribal members from voting apparently didn't bother the county GOP, since it voted to advance Zinecker and five other candidates to the next stage of the process, when three nominees will be put forward for consideration by the County Commissions for the two counties represented in District 80.
Following the meeting, Zinecker even generously expounded on his novel thoughts on voter eligibility in an interview with the Montana Free Press, insisting that his views on tribal sovereignty and voting rights are actually very common among conservatives, because honestly it's just logical:
"It’s a very consensus opinion among conservatives that if the tribes want to continue to assert their sovereignty, that draws into serious question whether they should be allowed to vote or not," Zinecker said.
He added that because the state legislature "can only deal with the state," his comments would only apply to state elections, although we're willing to speculate that he just might think it oughta apply to federal elections too, since after all those people want to be their own nation and want handouts all the time. Gosh, do you suppose he thinks such "handouts" should end, too? It's anybody's guess.
Was there more? Look, when a guy has big ideas, you can't very well expect him to censor himself:
Zinecker said one major justification for his position is that conservatives in state government want to — but can’t — audit the finances of tribal nations as the Legislative Audit Committee can with state agencies.
“That’s a big problem. They increasingly assert they are sovereign nations. And if they want to continue to operate on a totally different standard or playing field from Montanans, then they need to truly be those independent nations, and that starts with voting,” Zinecker said.
Mmm Hmm. It's all about fairness for white people. We did not see that coming.
The story notes that because most funding for the 12 recognized tribes in Montana comes from the federal government, the feds actually do audit tribal governments, although some eight percent of tribal funding also comes from the state.
Despite Zinecker's insistence that all the conservatives agree with him, state Sen. Jason Small, who's a Republican and a member of the Northern Cheyenne Nation, said such thinking was limited to a "very select group" in the Montana Lege, which was a nice way to put it.
“Goddamn, I can’t believe he said that,” Small said. “It’s funny but it’s not funny.”
Small said tribes in Montana, despite their status as sovereign government entities subject to federal and tribal law, have a “symbiotic relationship” with the state, including numerous revenue sharing agreements and second-order benefits derived from tourism and other economic drivers, he said. Additionally, owners of fee land on reservations — that is, land not held in trust by the federal government — must pay state and local property taxes.
“You can’t pick and choose who votes,” Small said. “Where do you draw that line — ‘Hey, you didn’t pay taxes this year, you can’t vote?’”
That said, Zinecker insists that he knows of several candidates for Montana secretary of state who have made "not counting [tribal] votes" a central part of their platform, although he declined to name any. But don't you worry: it's not that he really wants to keep anyone from voting, heavens no!
“And I’m all for counting their votes,” he said. “I just want them to go ahead and be Montanans. Let Montanans be Montanans. No discrimination.”
Clearly, he simply wants everyone to be Republican Equal, which means everyone should be happy with things the way white Republicans like them. Bet he has thoughts on how history should be taught, too.
Finally, the story notes that another Republican, State Rep. Joe Read, explained that Zinecker was just kicking around a hypothetical scenario based on a conversation they'd had back in 2021 about how tribes aren't truly sovereign, but instead are
"a federally dependent people group.”
“We still represent them as citizens of the state of Montana,” he said. “That was a discussion we had in the back floor — and that was if they were truly a sovereign country, that would negate their ability to vote. Literally, it was only an ‘if.’”
Well heck, nothing to worry about there, even though Zinecker sure didn't say any of it was hypothetical. Read nonetheless supports Zinecker's bid to be appointed to the District 80 seat, and if that happens, we suppose we'll get a chance to see whether it was just a college-dorm idea or not.
[Montana Free Press / New Yorker / Photo: "gillfoto," Creative Commons License 4.0]
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January 6 Report: Trump Tried To Crime Boss State Legislators Into Stealing Election
Turned out, it was actually an offer they could refuse.
Time for the Second Installment of We Read the January 6 Select Committee's Report So You Don't Have To. Today we're on Chapter 2, titled “I Just Want to Find 11,780 Votes,” in "honor" of Trump's phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger pressuring him to "find" enough votes for Trump to "win" the state's 16 electoral votes.
January 6 Report Is Real, And It's Spectacular
No Big, Just Trump Begging Georgia Secretary Of State To ‘Find’ Him 11,780 Votes
"All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state," Trump wheedled, alternating between phony statistics about vote fraud in Georgia — "It’s 4,502 who voted but they weren’t on the voter registration roll which they had to be. You had 18,325 vacant address voters" — and threatening Raffensperger and his deputy Gabriel Sterling if they wouldn't go along with his corrupt scheme to steal the election.
"All of this stuff is very dangerous stuff. When you talk about no criminality, I think it’s very dangerous for you to say that," Trump said, adding later, "That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan [Germany], your lawyer."
Trump also made upwards of a dozen references to Wandrea' Arshaye "Shaye" Moss and her mother Ruby "Lady Ruby" Freeman, the two election workers in Georgia whose lives were ruined after Rudy Giuliani spliced and diced a video of them counting votes, accusing them of pulling out a suitcase of ballots for Joe Biden and smuggling USB drives “as if they’re vials of heroin or cocaine.” Because racism really is the GOP's bag, baby. In fact, Freeman was simply passing her daughter a ginger mint as they worked late into the night to serve the people of Georgia.
And for their troubles, they were viciously harassed, forcing them to leave their homes for months after the president and his minions painted a target on their backs. The report:
Freeman’s sense of dread is well-founded. According to Federal prosecutors, a member of the Oath Keepers militia convicted of multiple offenses for his role in the January 6th insurrection had a document in his residence with the words “DEATH LIST” written across the top.
His death list contained just two names: Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss.
Indeed, before they set the mob on the US Congress, Giuliani and Trump made threats to sic his supporters on local elections officials a central part of a pressure campaign to overturn the election in the state legislatures. On December 2, 2021, Giuliani told a hearing of Michigan's state House Oversight Committee that there was “nothing wrong with putting pressure on your state legislators” and that “you have got to get them to remember that their oath to the Constitution sometimes requires being criticized. Sometimes it even requires being threatened.”
RUINED: Donald Trump Destroys People's Lives
In the two weeks before January 6, Giuliani and his henchman Bernie Kerik put out a “[n]ationwide communications outreach campaign to educate the public on the fraud numbers, and inspire citizens to call upon legislators and Members of Congress to disregard the fraudulent vote count and certify the duly-elected President Trump.” On New Year’s Eve, Giuliani appeared on Steve Bannon's podcast to decry "a weak element to our party . . . a cowardly element,” directing "our people" to "let them know what they think, and that they’re not gonna get away with pushing this aside. That the consequences of turning your back on a massive voter fraud are gonna be dire for them, and historically these people are gonna become enemies of the country.”
The Raffensperger call is a perfect set piece for this chapter about Trump's pressure campaign to convince state-level Republican officials to reconvene their legislatures and steal Joe Biden's electoral votes. Trump showed up with gobbledygook numbers backed up by exactly no data; refused to acknowledge that the people on the ground had investigated and debunked his claims; when cajoling didn't work, he implicitly threatened them; and, as a final resort, he used his Twitter account to direct the fury of his followers against elected officials.
And the former president did manage to put dozens of people in physical danger, forcing them to leave their homes. As Raffensperger wrote in his book about being singled out for attack in Trump's social media posts, “Others obviously thought [it was a threat], too, because some of Trump’s more radical followers have responded as if it was their duty to carry out this threat.”
We all heard Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, a Republican, testify about being harassed by Rudy Giuliani to reconvene the legislature and corruptly reallocate electoral votes. When he refused, his house was targeted for protests by Trump supporters, even as his daughter was undergoing cancer treatments. It was a pattern repeated across several swing states as the Trump campaign reached out to nearly 200 state legislators between November 30 and December 3, often “on behalf of the president,” as if it were official business:
Nearly 300 State legislators from battleground States reportedly participated in a private briefing with President Trump, Rudolph Giuliani, John Eastman, and others on January 2nd. The President reportedly urged them to exercise what he called “the real power” to choose electoral votes before January 6th, because, as President Trump said on the call, “I don’t think the country is going to take it.”
That's the same day Trump made the Raffensperger call. Just four days before he sent the mob to attack Congress.
Here's what happened when Michigan legislators, who'd already seen heavily armed men descend on their Capitol just months earlier, resisted the White House charm offensive:
In Michigan, President Trump focused on Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield. He invited them to the White House for a November 20, 2020, meeting during which President Trump and Giuliani, who joined by phone, went through a“litany” of false allegations about supposed fraud in Michigan’s election. Chatfield recalled President Trump’s more generic directive for the group to “have some backbone and do the right thing,” which he understood to mean overturning the election by naming Michigan’s Electoral College electors for President Trump. Shirkey told President Trump that he wouldn’t do anything that would violate Michigan law, and after the meeting ended, issued a joint statement with Chatfield: “We have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan and as legislative leaders, we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors, just as we have said throughout this election.”
When President Trump couldn’t convince Shirkey and Chatfield to change the outcome of the election in Michigan during that meeting or in calls after, he or his team maliciously tweeted out Shirkey’s personal cell phone number and a number for Chatfield that turned out to be wrong. Shirkey received nearly 4,000 text messages after that, and another private citizen reported being inundated with calls and texts intended for Chatfield.
In reality, what Trump was asking for wasn't even possible under the law. Legislators had no right to reconvene on their own initiative, despite Giuliani's bizarre ranting about implicit authorization to do so under the Constitution. Perhaps then-president of the state Senate Jake Corman had observed Rudy's epic faceplant during that hilariously doomed election challenge in Pennsylvania federal court. But for whatever reason, he went with the advice of his own lawyers that he had no power to do what Team Trump was asking, after which Rudy and Jenna Ellis told him his attorneys were “terrible,” “bad,” and “wrong.”
The claims of election fraud were always bogus, but to some people in Trump's orbit, like Vince Haley, the deputy assistant to the president for policy, strategy and speechwriting, and Trump's body man turned White House loyalty enforcer Johnny McEntee, that never really mattered anyway:
For Haley, however, purported election fraud was a way to justify President Trump-friendly legislatures changing the outcome of the election, but there were other reasons for doing so, too. Election fraud was “only one rationale for slating Trump electors,” Haley told McEntee, and “[w]e should baldly assert” that State legislators “have the constitutional right to substitute their judgment for a certified majority of their constituents” if that prevents socialism.30 Haley added, “[i]ndependent of the fraud—or really along with that argument—Harrisburg, Madison, and Lansing do not have to sit idly by and submit themselves to rule by Beijing and Paris,” proposing that radio hosts “rally the grassroots to apply pressure to the weak kneed legislators in those states . . .”
McEntee replied “Yes!” and then: “Let’s find the contact info for all these people now.”
Hours later, Haley sent him names and—in most cases—cell phone numbers for top GOP legislators in six States, suggesting“. . . for POTUS to invite them down for a WH meeting . . .”
"Imagine if every red state legislature slated zero electors. It would reveal that we are a red country. To do this we would have to jack this to the nth degree as a battle of tribes," Haley wrote in another message.
Aren't we all glad we paid taxes to employ these two brave patriots!
The theory that legislators could simply overturn the vote was always cockamamie and ahistoric, but it gained wide purchase within Trumpland within hours of the polls closing:
Just two days after the election, President Trump’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., forwarded to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows a suggestion that “State Assemblies can step in and vote to put forward the electoral slate[,] Republicans control Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, etc. we get Trump electors” and so “we either have a vote WE control and WE win OR it gets kicked to Congress 6 January . . .” Chief of Staff Meadows responded: “Working on this for pa, ga and nc already.”
"Why can’t the states of GA NC PENN and other R controlled state houses declare this is BS (where conflicts and election not called that night) and just send their own electors . . . I wonder if POTUS knows this,” former Energy Secretary Rick Perry texted Meadows.
Rep. Andy Biggs, who pressured his home state legislators in Arizona to disregard the popular vote, also texted Meadows about a “highly controversial” plan to have “Republican legislature’s (sic)” “appoint a look doors," by which he presumably meant electors. Would the plan have succeeded if Biggs weren't such an ignorant numpty? Probably not. And yet, it's still terrifying.
In the end, none of it worked. No state legislature took the bait, and most Republican officials responded like Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, who defended his own state's election practices while implicitly giving oxygen to Trump's election lies.
"In Arizona, we have some of the strongest election laws in the country," he boasted, adding that "The problems that exist in other states simply don’t apply here."
Not that it saved Ducey from Trump's wrath, which in turn made him persona non grata with Trump's voters and probably kept him out of the US Senate race this cycle. Womp womp.
So Trump turned to Plan B: Violence.
It is fortunate that a critical mass of honorable officials withstood President Trump’s pressure to participate in this scheme. They and others who stood up to him closed off avenues for thwarting the election so that, by noon on January 6th, President Trump was left with one desperate, final gambit for holding on to power: sending his armed, angry supporters to the U.S. Capitol.
And, well ... we all know the rest.
[January 6 Select Committee Report]
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Use These New John Lewis Postage Stamps To Write To Congress!
Fine, you'll have to wait until they're actually available.
Yr Wonkette doesn't make a lot of predictions, but we're pretty confident in this one: When the US Postal Service starts selling its new stamp honoring Civil Rights icon John Lewis sometime in 2023, you're going to want to order it online or get down to the Post Office quickly, because unlike the real John Lewis, those stamps are going to sell out. The USPS announced the stamp Tuesday, along with other 2023 releases, although no date for the release was included in the announcement.
NBC News also reports that sometime next year, USPS plans a stamp honoring Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, although no design has yet been announced. Don't expect a "notorious RBG" design, though, darn it.
Lewis died in July 2020 at the age of 80, after a life of fighting for justice and equality. The Postal Service announcement offers this capsule history lesson that covers the basics:
This stamp celebrates the life and legacy of civil rights leader and U.S. Rep. John Lewis (1940-2020) of Georgia. Devoted to equality and justice for all Americans, Lewis spent more than 30 years in Congress steadfastly defending and building on key civil rights gains that he had helped achieve in the 1960s. Even in the face of hatred and violence, as well as some 45 arrests, Lewis remained resolute in his commitment to what he liked to call “good trouble.”
Lewis knew full well the threats to democracy that were growing in the run-up to the 2020 election, although he was spared having to witness the subsequent attack on Congress in an attempt to nullify the election, and democracy itself. When he voted in December 2019 to impeach Donald Trump the first time, he said on the House floor,
When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something. To do something. Our children and their children will ask us, "What did you do? What did you say?" For some, this vote may be hard. But we have a mission and a mandate to be on the right side of history.
Bizarrely — but perhaps inevitably — the National Review's Dan McLaughlin tut-tutted that this is "a very odd moment in our politics" for the Postal Service to be issuing a stamp honoring Lewis, because for all his admirable heroism in the Civil Rights movement, once he was elected to Congress in 1987, he "did much to create today’s bitter and paranoid political climate." Among his many supposed sins, Lewis not only refused to attend George W. Bush's inauguration in 2000, he also had the temerity to vote against certifying the vote in Bush's 2004 reelection, and how is that any different from what Republicans did after the 2020 election? Like, as long as you leave out the violence and the attempt to prop up alternate slates of unelected "electors"? Why, Lewis even did election denial following the 2016 election when he said that Russia had meddled in the election! Plus he kept comparing modern Republicans to George Wallace, and that's pretty monstrous, too.
So yeah, even a postage stamp honoring Lewis is very very divisive, harrumph.
In January of this year, Republicans in the US Senate blocked yet again consideration of voting reform by filibustering a bill that combined the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and a subsequent vote to change the filibuster for that voting rights bill also failed when it was opposed by all 50 Republicans, plus Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.
When the John Lewis stamp does come out, use it to send letters to your own representatives and senators demanding they protect voting rights. Maybe include an extra copy of the stamp in your letter to remind them what it means to actually stand up for democracy.
[USPS / NBC News / National Review]