Guys, would it kill you to put it on Youtube?
Joe Biden held a town hall on CNN last night in which he made the case for his Build Back Better agenda, using the live event in Baltimore to acknowledge that the reconciliation bill has had to be made less ambitious in order to pass. Specifically, Biden repeatedly made very clear the changes are almost entirely due to opposition from the two members of the Senate Obstruction Caucus, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona). When you only have a one-vote majority in the Senate in the form of VP Kamala Harris's tie-breaking vote, you have to work with what you have, and that's the Senate for you.
With any single one of the 50 Senate Democrats able to block progress, Biden said, "Everyone is a president [...] Every single one. So you gotta work something out."
CNN, as usual, hasn't put the town hall on YouTube, but perhaps this version will be up for a while since the account says it's totally for "archival" use. Or you can drop by Dok Zoom's house and watch it on his TiVo, at least if you show up before he deletes it to make room for baseball.
Biden noted that there were only about "four or five issues" that there's any substantial disagreement on, and that he's certain a deal is possible. That said, he wasn't shy about attributing the frustrating changes in the package to Manchin and Sinema.
He acknowledged that instead of the 12 weeks of paid medical and family leave he had proposed, the bill will now only provide four weeks, and that the reason was pretty simple:
"The reason it's down to four weeks is we can't get 12 weeks," he said with a shrug.
He also said that free community college had been taken out of the proposal, but stressed that he was working on increasing Pell grants to help make college more affordable.
"Mr. Manchin and one other person has indicated they will not support free community college," he said.
Gonna go out on a limb and bet the "one other person" was probably not Angus King or Tammy Duckworth, to pick two senators out of a hat.
Biden did say he intends to keep pushing for free community college, noting that Dr. Jill Biden is a community college teacher and joking that he'd really like to not have to sleep in any of the White House's many guest bedrooms.
Encouragingly, Biden said that reports of a key climate measure's death have been greatly exaggerated. Manchin has loudly complained about the Clean Electricity Performance Program, which would devote $150 billion to utilities that cut carbon emissions quickly, while penalizing those that fail to meet annual carbon reduction goals. Manchin has inaccurately claimed CEPP isn't needed, since utilities are already shifting to renewables; in reality, the rate at which utilities are retiring fossil fuel plants isn't nearly fast enough to meet Biden's goal of net-zero emissions from power plants by 2035.
Because Manchin has been so loud on the issue, many reports have said CEPP is dead, but Biden said in the town hall that isn't the case, as the Washington Post summarizes:
Biden said Manchin's concern is that he doesn't want Democrats to accelerate the elimination of coal in the country's energy usage because of his state's economy's dependency on it.
"Manchin, his argument is, 'Look, we still have coal in the state, you're going to eliminate it eventually, we know it's going away, we know it's going to be gone. But don't rush it so fast that my people don't have anything to do,' " Biden said.
"I think that's not what we should be doing," the president said. "The fact of the matter is we can take that $150 billion, [and] add it to the $320 billion in the law, now that he's prepared to support tax incentives."
Instead, Biden said, the funding in Build Back Better will help move the energy transition forward, developing clean power technologies that will drive economic growth, create "real good jobs, creates a hell of a lot more," and prevent climate catastrophe. Even in West Virginia.
Biden also offered one of his stronger endorsements yet for changing the filibuster, at least once Build Back Better and the connected bipartisan infrastructure bill are passed. He said that he didn't want to talk about it too much now, but that he does think that "we're going to have to move to the point where we fundamentally alter the filibuster," either by eliminating it outright, or more likely, by modifying the filibuster rule to pass voting rights — "and maybe more."
Oh, also, wingnuts had a cow over Biden's mockery of people who refuse to go along with vaccine mandates, because he made fun of AMERICA when he said, "Freedom? I have the freedom to kill you with my COVID? No, I mean come on." What a shame that he would mock the most important worship word in the E Plebnista, the end.
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Oh sure, 'only people doing domestic terrorism will be investigated for domestic terrorism.' Or so he says.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland appeared before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday, and found himself explaining over and over and over again that the Department of Justice is not in fact trying to criminalize parents who are angry about mask mandates and accurate US history lessons, however irritating those folks may be. Instead, you see, the DOJ is only interested in preventing violence or threats of violence against educators and school boards. Really, that's different from people spouting dumb Fox News claims about masks and critical race theory.
It's all kind of meta, really: First, rightwing media whipped people into a frenzy about nonexistent threats — masks are tyranny! History lesson harm white kids! — and that led some more excitable assholes on the Right to scream "we know where you live!" at public health officials, to get into actual fistfights with teachers on school grounds, and to vow they'll physically march into school board meetings and "remove" board members. Also, really actually terrible death threats against them and their families.
So when educators and the National School Boards Association requested that the Biden administration do something to keep school boards and teachers safe from such threats, wingnut media and Republican members of Congress have responded by lying about that, too, insisting falsely that an October 4 memorandum from the DOJ represents an attempt to silence all dissent by patriotic parents who merely want to protect their children from knowing real history, or from their inalienable right to spread a deadly lung infection.
Let's be very clear: The DOJ memo that Fox News and your more dishonest parts of Congress are so upset about makes clear, in its first damn paragraph, "While spirited debate about policy matters is protected under our Constitution, that protection does not extend to threats of violence or efforts to intimidate individuals based on their views."
For your Hollow Mordant Laughter viewing pleasure, check out this thread of six video excerpts showing Garland patiently explaining that the DOJ memo only addresses threats of violence and actual violence against schools and school boards, and that the DOJ doesn't have any interest in preventing people from ranting as much as they want to about imaginary conspiracies, just as long as they aren't threatening to murder teachers. Here are just two examples; our favorite may be the second one.
Idiot Jim Jordan (R-Idiotburg) accused Garland of setting up a "snitch line" for people to turn in parents who object to school policies, which led Garland to explain, yet again, that the memo had nothing to do with school policies, or about parents objecting, just violence or threats of violence, sigh.
But for pretended dudgeon, it's hard to beat Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Breakfast) who just wanted to know why the Department of Justice thinks concerned parents are domestic terrorists and criminals. Tiffany wanted to know whether Garland would be sending FBI agents to attend school board meetings (no, they will not, you stupid fuck), and wondered aloud if concerned parents like himself will be dragged off to Gitmo and tortured or something.
Tiffany: I've attended multiple school board meetings in my district over the last year, I have a child that's in public school yet, [I'm] very concerned about some of the things that are going on, and yes, some of those school board meetings get heated. Are we, my friends, neighbors, constituents, are we domestic terrorists?
Garland's one-word answer, "NO," speaks volumes. By the fourth or fifth time he's had to explain the point, we can't say we blame him for being irritated.
Tiffany pressed on: "Are we criminals?"
Garland, clearly annoyed, explained that he's fairly sure the congressman hasn't actually done any thing criminal like making threats of violence, but he seemed to imply that if Tiffany has, he'd be open to hearing about it.
Crom knows Garland tried, stating early on that "Parents have been complaining about the education of their children and about school boards since there were such things as school boards and public education," and emphasizing that the DOJ has no interest at all in regulating constitutionally protected speech.
Not that it did the least bit of good, because after all, why is Merrick Garland calling parents terrorists, huh?
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Why, Santy Claus? Why?
It's late October, so you know what that means: War on Christmas! In keeping with the times, this year's festive rightwing panic is focused on demanding that Joe Biden fix all the weirdness of the world's pandemic economy right now, especially disruptions to the global supply chain. If he doesn't, maybe Christmas just won't come at all! For a particularly eye-rolling example, here's Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) insisting that people are calling 2021 "Biden's Blue Christmas." You've heard that, haven't you? Of course you have; Joni Ernst just said it.
the cringe factor is absolutely off the charts https://t.co/LsQV3ISwMm— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar) 1634751881.0
Ernst added that she sure hopes the supply chain problems, caused by Joe Biden personally, don't extend all the way to the North Pole, or a lot of good little boys and girls will be very sad.
We're calling it now: The big wingnut trend this Christmas, whatever the economic reality by December, will involve rightwing parents telling their little children, "Sorry honey, Santa couldn't find the toy you wanted, and it's Joe Biden's fault. Here's a block of scrap two-by-four, maybe you can pretend it's a doll or a truck or a video game. This is what happens under socialism. Santa was cancelled."
Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy is doing his part to spread Christmas fear. During Thursday's daily press briefing, he invoked the specter of empty store shelves and sad little children crying because mean Joe Biden wouldn't lift a finger to make sure this year's hot toy, whatever it is, is under the tree (which also is missing, having been burned up because Joe Biden didn't rake the forests). And maybe nobody can afford Christmas anyway, because isn't runaway inflation making it impossible for anyone to afford this year's roast beast?
Here's video of Doocy dropping his usual Doocy, this time with Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. We've cued the video up to his brilliant economic question: If prices are up, isn't that exactly like raising taxes? (Spoiler: no, it actually is not.)
DOOCY: You guys say that President Biden does not want to raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 a year, but there's a new Fox poll that finds 83 percent of registered voters are noticing bills for groceries and everyday items increasing. So how is that any different than a new tax? [...]
The supply chain is all backed up; there are bottlenecks — empty shelves, prices going up. People are paying more. And so, how is that any different than a new tax?
Empty shelves! Just like the B-roll of empty Brexit shelves that rightwingers keep tweeting as "Biden's America," please disregard the prices in pounds. It's like Soviet Russia here, and Joe Biden just doesn't care, apart from how he's been meeting with leaders from the retail sector, the shipping industry, and port officials to get things moving again.
Jean-Pierre acknowledged that yes, the pandemic has led to all sorts of disruptions, and that sucks. Maybe Doocy heard of the pandemic, and how it's been playing hell with things for a year and a half? She pointed out that of course Biden understands that's causing prices to go up, and that the administration has been "using every tool in our tool belt to make sure that we deal with that in a real way."
And no, kinks in the supply chain don't point to disaster; they mean that as the US economy recovers, there's more demand than can be met, which is inconvenient for people wanting a new couch, but temporary. She noted that the economy has, on average, been adding 600,000 jobs per month, and that unemployment is going down, with nearly five million new jobs added in the last eight months. So heading into the holiday season, the US is in considerably better shape than it was in 2020.
Doocy had a whattabout, referring to a letter from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy calling on Biden to halt any work on the Build Back Better reconciliation bill until all the problems with the global supply chain are fixed, which Jean-Pierre wasn't especially impressed with: "Okay. Yeah, wonderful letter." She noted that under Trump and McCarthy last year, job growth was struggling, and that under Biden, we're in far better shape, with all those new jobs and such:
Americans have money in their pockets, and they're spending it, resulting in record volume of good — goods through our ports, and our roads and rails.
A lot of that improvement, she said, was due to the American Rescue Plan, which she noted didn't get a single Republican vote.
Doocy was ready with a really stupid follow-up: Wait, things are actually terrible and Biden's killing Christmas!
Are you saying that you — as you compare holiday season this year to holiday season last year, are you saying that if Christmas gifts don't get delivered this year — because the supply chain is backed up, because of bottlenecks — that people are going to blame Donald Trump, or are they going to blame Joe Biden?
Jean-Pierre wasn't having any of that, no way:
That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that we're in a different place than we were a year ago. And the reason why is because the president took action. The reason why is Democrats came together and they passed the American Rescue Plan, put checks into pockets, made sure that we were dealing with issues that pushed women out of the workforce, which is the Child Tax Credit, childcare — all those things that really benefited everyday people who were being left behind. [...]
She also noted that Biden has indeed been working on the supply chain issue, by meeting with private sector leaders and labor, and by persuading the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to start operating 24/7. And again, she noted, this is a short-term problem. It's not Soviet North Cuba, for fuckssake.
But Karine, what about the empty shelves and the Christmas presents that won't be under the tree? What about all the jing-jinglers, and the floo-floobers, and the tar-tinkers still sitting on container ships off the coast of California? How can we have Christmas without our Who-whoobas and gar-ginkas?
Somehow, we suspect, Christmas will come, and we'll all just fah-hoo rah-hoo as much as we want, and since vaccines for kids aged five to 11 are on the way in the next few weeks, we can gather together and enjoy our Who Hash without it being a superspreader event.
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Live on WonkTV!
It's true, Jen Psaki has the day off or something, like that is even allowed, so today it's Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
Watch it. Learn things.
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