House Freedom Caucus calls on McCarthy to attempt to remove Pelosi as speaker


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10 things you need to know today: July 22, 2021

The Week Magazine 23 July, 2021 - 01:00pm

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday rejected two of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's (R-Calif.) nominees to the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump. McCarthy called the move to keep Reps. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) off the panel "an egregious abuse of power," and said none of his picks would participate in the "sham process" unless Pelosi seated all his nominees. Banks and Jordan are staunch Trump allies who questioned the select committee's legitimacy, and voted to reject the certification of President Biden's win in some states hours after the insurrection. Pelosi said keeping them off the committee would protect the investigation's "integrity."

Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked Democrats' attempt to start considering a still-developing bipartisan infrastructure plan. The 49-51 vote, with all Republicans opposed, left Democrats well below the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster and start debate on a potential compromise on a key element of President Biden's agenda. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) forced the test vote despite pleas from centrist Republicans for more time to cement a proposed compromise. All 50 Democratic Caucus members initially backed the opening of debate, with all 50 Republicans opposed, but Schumer ultimately voted no, which will allow him to bring up the measure later.

The highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus is unlikely to trigger an economic downturn in the United States, according to economists cited in a Wednesday report by The Wall Street Journal. Many economists are forecasting robust growth in the second half of 2021 with strong hiring and heavy consumer spending, despite surging Delta variant infections. "The variant is a significant downside risk for the economy, but that risk is more than offset by what are still very strong fundamentals," said Oren Klachkin, lead U.S. economist at Oxford Economics. "Consumers have a lot of cash and seem eager to spend on activities they couldn't do for 18 months. And, for now, it seems like the vaccines should be able to keep the spike in cases fairly low."

The Biden administration on Wednesday announced that it had reached an agreement with Germany paving the way for the completion of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will transport natural gas from Russia to Germany. The U.S. has opposed the pipeline for some time because it threatens Ukraine's energy security and provides Russia with significant geopolitical leverage. But President Biden is prioritizing Washington's alliance with Berlin. In the announcement, the White House said both Germany and the U.S. are still "united in their determination to hold Russia to account" should it step out of line and will continue to support Ukraine's energy security. The agreement also aims to support investments of at least $1 billion for renewable energy infrastructure in Ukraine.

New U.S. coronavirus infections tripled over the last two weeks as health officials and the Biden administration struggled to counter a barrage of misinformation over COVID-19 and vaccines. The surge, from less than 13,700 new cases on July 6 to more than 37,000 on Tuesday, has strained hospitals and overwhelmed public health officials. "Our staff, they are frustrated," said Chad Neilsen, director of infection prevention at UF Health Jacksonville, a Florida hospital that is canceling elective procedures following a jump in cases to 134 from a mid-May low of 16. "They are tired. They are thinking this is déjà vu all over again, and there is some anger because we know that this is a largely preventable situation, and people are not taking advantage of the vaccine."

Three major drug distributors — Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, and McKesson — and pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson on Wednesday reached a $26 billion settlement with states, counties, and cities over the firms' role in the opioid epidemic, a bipartisan group of state attorneys general announced Wednesday. The deal came after two years of negotiations stemming from allegations that the distributors ignored evidence that painkillers were being diverted to the black market, fueling addictions and deadly overdoses. Every state and municipality next will have the opportunity to approve the agreement. If enough support it, the companies could start releasing the money to help affected communities cover epidemic costs, including addiction treatment and prevention services.

The Biden administration on Wednesday renewed bans on nonessential travel across the U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico land borders through at least Aug. 21 to curb the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus. The Department of Homeland Security tweeted that it was "in constant contact with Canadian and Mexican counterparts to identify the conditions under which restrictions may be eased safely and sustainably." The decision came several days after Canada said it would start letting fully vaccinated U.S. citizens make discretionary trips to Canada starting Aug. 9, with fully vaccinated people from other countries allowed in starting Sept. 7.

Disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein on Wednesday pleaded not guilty to sexual assault charges in Los Angeles, including four counts of rape. Weinstein, a convicted rapist, appeared in a wheelchair wearing a brown jumpsuit and a face mask. He is accused of assaulting five women from 2004 to 2013, mostly in hotels in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles. Convictions on all the charges could result in a sentence of 140 years. Weinstein's attorney, Mark Werksman, said the allegations "are baseless, they're from long, long ago, they're uncorroborated." A New York jury found Weinstein guilty of raping an aspiring actress in 2013, and forcibly performing oral sex on a production assistant in 2006 at his Manhattan apartment.

Pacific Gas and Electric, a major California utility, said Wednesday that it would start burying 10,000 miles of power lines in areas at high-risk for wildfires. PG&E equipment might have sparked the Dixie Fire, one of the dozens of blazes scorching vast areas in the West. The company was found criminally responsible after a faulty electric transmission line ignited the 2018 Camp Fire, which was the deadliest fire in state history with 85 deaths. Moving lines underground has long been recommended as a solution, but it's expensive, with PG&E estimating a cost of $3 million per mile. "It's too expensive not to do it," said the company's recently hired CEO, Patricia Poppe. "Lives are on the line."

The long-dominant U.S. women's soccer team on Wednesday lost to Sweden on the first day of competition at the Tokyo Olympics. Before the 3-0 defeat, the United States team had not lost in 44 matches over two and a half years, picking up a World Cup along the way. The Swedes knocked the U.S. out of the last Olympics. On Wednesday, they cast doubt over the U.S. team's ability to become the first reigning World Cup champion to take Olympic gold. "There's no time to dwell and think about if Sweden is living in our heads or not," U.S. star Megan Rapinoe said. "We've got another game in three days." The match took place in an empty 50,000-seat Tokyo Stadium without spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Opinion | The huge, gaping hole in our media discussion of the GOP and Jan. 6

The Washington Post 22 July, 2021 - 09:44am

If the answer to this question is unsatisfactory to media figures — that is, if what constitutes a legitimate inquiry in the eyes of Republicans is not something they would see as reasonable or acceptable — then it must follow that Republicans are to blame for the failure to achieve a bipartisan investigation, by the lights of media figures themselves.

First, let’s note that the idea that the investigation into Jan. 6 must be bipartisan is something many media figures are themselves treating as an important civic goal. News accounts are widely casting the inability to achieve one as an inherent failure.

The bare-bones chronology is that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) nixed two of McCarthy’s choices — Reps. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — from serving on the committee. McCarthy then pulled his nominations of all other Republicans and declared none would serve.

The conventions of political reporting require that this is portrayed as a battle between equivalently motivated partisans: It’s a “partisan fight” or a “partisan brawl” or an escalation of “political tensions” or an “inability” to achieve a “bipartisan committee.”

Pelosi nixed Banks and Jordan because they have openly declared their hostility to the committee’s core investigative mission and have repeatedly raised doubts about the integrity of Donald Trump’s loss. They validated the lies that inspired the insurrection in the first place.

In short: Pelosi did not allow them to serve on the committee because their openly telegraphed goal was to sabotage the committee.

McCarthy then angrily pulled out, insisting that this showed Pelosi is the one who doesn’t want a real accounting. But McCarthy picked Banks and Jordan so that they would carry out the goal of sabotaging that accounting.

You’d think those basics make it inescapable to conclude that McCarthy and Republicans are the real culprits here. But some media figures have found a way around this. Whatever the specifics, they say, it’s important to allow McCarthy to have his choices so that it’s perceived as bipartisan and seen as credible by Republican voters.

“Pelosi’s move will make the investigation even easier to dismiss for people who aren’t die-hard members of Team Blue,” Politico’s Playbook insists, stressing the importance of making it “credible to the right.”

But what, exactly, would it take for this investigation to be “credible to the right”? What would the cost of this be?

We already know the answer to this, because Republicans have told us. Banks suggested the investigation should ascribe more importance to the riots associated with police protest than to the Jan. 6 mob assault.

McCarthy, for his part, has claimed that Republicans will run their own investigation now. On Fox News, he hinted where this might lead, asking: “Was there a decision made by the Speaker not to have the National Guard at the Capitol that day?” Similarly, Jordan has asked whether Pelosi failed to supply adequate security at the Capitol.

Those suggestions are all nonsense. Pelosi did not make any such decision about the National Guard, and the speaker doesn’t control Capitol security. But the point is, for Republicans, investigating those already-settled questions are what constitutes an investigation they would accept.

Relatively reasonable Republicans have also answered this question. Republicans on two Senate committees would not endorse a report on security lapses until the language was negotiated down to vastly minimize the role of Trump’s lies in inciting the rioters and to downplay their express goal of overturning the election.

The huge hole in this debate is that many media figures do not seem to be publicly wrestling with whether those types of GOP requirements for an investigation into Jan. 6 are reasonable or defensible ones. That question requires a value judgment.

If it’s okay to make the value judgment that failing to achieve a bipartisan investigation is inherently a blameworthy thing, then it should also be okay to make a value judgment about whether Republican conditions for a bipartisan investigation are reasonable or defensible.

If they are not, then doesn’t it automatically follow that Republicans are the ones to blame for the collapse of a bipartisan select committee?

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