January 6 panel to invite House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy to testify – as it happened

By Maanvi Singh and Joan E Greve
Kevin McCarthy in April last year. ‘We’re going to invite the minority leader,’ Bennie Thompson said.
Kevin McCarthy in April last year. ‘We’re going to invite the minority leader,’ Bennie Thompson said. Photograph: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Today's politics recap

  • The House select committee investigating the Capitol insurrection requested information from minority leader Kevin McCarthy. Committee chair Bennie Thompson sent a letter to McCarthy requesting his voluntary cooperation with the panel, but it’s unclear whether the Republican leader will actually appear before investigators. Two other Republican congressmen have already rejected requests to speak to the committee.
  • Senate leader Chuck Schumer will maneuver existing congressional rules to evade the first GOP filibuster threat to passing voting rights legislation. In a memo to Senate Democrats, Schumer outlined a strategy wherein the House would amend an unrelated bill about Nasa to include provisions from two stalled voting reform bills. After passing that bill, the Democrats would send it to the Senate asap, where Democrats could start debate on it with a simple majority rather than a 60-vote supermajority.
  • Joe Biden will attend Senate Democrats’ caucus lunch tomorrow to discuss voting rights and filibuster reform. The news comes one day after the president called on Senate Democrats to change chamber rules to allow voting rights bills to advance. “Let the majority prevail,” Biden said in Atlanta, Georgia. “And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this.”
  • Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell criticized Biden’s speech on voting rights as “profoundly unpresidential”. “Twelve months ago, a newly-inaugurated President Biden stood on the West Front of the Capitol and said this: ‘My whole soul is in this: bringing America together, uniting our people, and uniting our nation,’” said McConnell, who vehemently opposes filibuster reform. “Yesterday, the same man delivered a deliberately divisive speech that was designed to pull our country farther apart.”
  • The price of goods and services in the US jumped by 7% in December compared to the same month last year, according to the latest report from the labor department. The increase marks the seventh consecutive month in which inflation has topped 5%.

– Joan E Greve and Maanvi Singh

Chuck Schumer’s loophole strategy will allow the Senate to bypass an initial filibuster and at least get the Democrats’ voting reform proposals onto the floor for debate.

But the tactic won’t get Senate Democrats past a 60-vote requirement to end debate pass the reforms. Instead, when Republicans move inevitably to block a motion to close debate, Schumer could then propose to establish a new precedent to move ahead with a simple majority.

Joe Biden has endorsed filibuster rule changes to get Democrats’ voting rights bills passed, as states enact unprecedented voting restrictions.

My colleagues Sam Levine and Jewel Wicker covered the speech the president gave in Atlanta yesterday, in which he endorsed filibuster reforms:

Biden did not endorse a specific change to the rules but said he backed changing the filibuster, which currently requires 60 votes to advance legislation – an insurmountable challenge for the voting rights legislation given lack of support from Republicans.

Biden did not mention Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, the staunchest defenders of the filibuster from the Democratic side of the chamber, by name in his speech.

But he made it clear his patience has run out after months of negotiations at the White House and on Capitol Hill within his caucus to try to find a way forward on voting rights.

“I’ve been having these quiet conversations with members of Congress for the last two months. I’m tired of being quiet,” he said, his voice rising. He also appealed to senators’ legacies, saying that those who did not stand up at this moment for voting rights would be remembered on the side of some of the most infamous racist political leaders in US history, including those supporting segregation or the Confederacy, as opposed to civil rights proponents.

“How do you want to be remembered? Do you want to be on the side of Dr King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? On the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?” he said.

Read more:

Updated

Schumer to use loophole maneuver to bypass initial filibuster against voting right

Chuck Schumer will maneuver existing congressional rules to evade the first GOP filibuster threat to passing voting rights legislation.

In a memo to Senate Democrats, Schumer outlined a strategy wherein the House would amend an unrelated bill about Nasa to include provisions from two stalled voting reform bills. After passing that bill, the Democrats would send it to the Senate asap, where Democrats could start debate on it with a simple majority rather than a 60-vote supermajority.

This strategy would allow Democrats to evade an initial filibuster from Republicans seeking to block debate on the bill, but the GOP could still block a final vote on it.

If that sounds a bit outlandish, here’s the strategy again:

1. The House will take up an amendment on Nasa leasing property, which they’re calling the “shell” bill.

2. House will remove that legislation’s existing language, and replace it with the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

3. The House will pass the updated legislation, and send it to the Senate, where Schumer will file a motion to concur with the House.

Updated

The US is turning to Wendy Sherman, its veteran negotiator, to safeguard peace in Europe.

No one in government has spent more time in high-stakes talks with hostile states than the 72-year-old deputy secretary of state, who has represented the US at two rounds of critical discussions with Russia this week.

She was part of an extraordinary mission 23 years ago, led by the former defence secretary William Perry, to try to do a deal with North Korea.

For many North Koreans, it was the first time they had seen an American, and the regime went all-out to put on a show of a joyfully contented country. At one point, a bus stopped in front of the delegation, seemingly by chance, and its passengers poured out and went straight into a dance routine.

“Everything was supposed to be ‘spontaneous’,” Sherman later told the Guardian. “And there was a cameraman following everything we did with a 1950s hand-cranked camera. It was all rather surreal.

“When we wanted to talk, we walked outside, even knowing there might be bugs in the trees. When we wanted to get a message across and were not sure who we should be talking to, we would sit in a waiting room and speak, knowing we were being listened to.”

Read more:

West Virginians scramble to get by after Manchin kills child tax credits

Zack Harold in Charleston, West Virginia reports:

Last fall, Krista Greene missed a week of work after her sons were exposed to Covid and could not return to school. Greene, who manages a tutoring center and yoga studio in Charleston, West Virginia, does not receive any paid time off. Normally, she would have been worried about this loss of income. But the Greene family’s budget had recently become a little more flexible, thanks to the monthly child tax credit payments that began in July 2021.

“The first thing I said to my husband was, ‘The Biden bucks are coming next week, so I won’t miss any bills,’” Greene said.

Families probably received their final monthly payments in December after Congress failed to pass the Build Back Better Act. The legislation, the cornerstone of the Biden administration’s domestic policy, would have made the payments permanent. But one Democrat stood in the way – Greene’s senator, Joe Manchin.

A week before Christmas, Manchin appeared on Fox & Friends and announced he would not vote for the Build Back Better Act, effectively poleaxing Biden’s plans in a Senate evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.

“I have always said, ‘If I can’t go back home and explain it, I can’t vote for it,’” Manchin said in a press release after the television appearance. “Despite my best efforts, I cannot explain the sweeping Build Back Better Act in West Virginia and I cannot vote to move forward on this mammoth piece of legislation.”

The announcement came after months of negotiations between Manchin and the White House, some of which involved the child tax credit. Manchin wanted to limit the credit to families making $60,000 or less annually. He has also said he will not support a permanent credit unless it includes a work requirement.

The child tax credit was one of a number of Biden proposals that were surprisingly popular in the deeply Republican state of West Virginia – not least because Manchin’s constituents have benefited from it more than most.

Ninety-three per cent of West Virginia children – about 346,000 in all – qualified for the credit payments. That extra $250 to $300 per child a month lifted about 50,000 of those children above the poverty line, according to the West Virginia Center for Budget and Policy (WVCBP).

Now that the credits have vanished, so will those advancements. The timing could not be worse. Like the rest of the country, West Virginia is suffering a surge in inflation unseen in decades, a surge that disproportionately affects the poor.

Read more:

Updated

The ruling striking down Ohio’s legislative districts is perhaps the most significant ruling of the redistricting cycle.
That’s because this is the first time the Ohio supreme court is stepping in to enforce anti-gerrymandering provisions Ohio voters adopted in 2015. This redistricting cycle was the first time those provisions were in effect and the Republicans on the 7-person panel charged with drawing districts in Ohio essentially ignored it.
The amendment requires the support of members of both parties on the panel to pass a map that will be in effect for 10 years. But Republicans made little effort to work with Democrats, drew maps in secret, and passed their own plan on partisan lines. Under the state constitution, that plan could only be in effect for four years. They also made little effort to comply with the more explicit requirements that districts reflect the partisan makeup of Ohio. In one piece of particularly baffling logic, Republicans said they could be entitled to as much of 81% of seats in the legislature because they had won 81% of statewide elections in the last decade. Advocates had expressed deep frustration that lawmakers had so blatantly ignored the amendment. But their last hope was that the supreme court would stop the plan from going into effect, sending a message to future lawmakers that blatant efforts to gerrymander would not be tolerated. The supreme court sent such a message on Wednesday.

The Ohio supreme court has struck down new maps for the state legislature, saying they were so skewed to benefit Republicans that they violated the state constitution.

The ruling was 4-3. Maureen O’Connor, a Republican and the court’s chief justice, broke with Republican colleagues to cast the deciding swing vote. A panel of seven lawmakers tasked with drawing districts in Ohio now has 10 days to come up with a new map.

The court found that the plan, which would have given Republicans a 62-37 advantage in the Ohio House and a 23-10 advantage in the state senate, provisions of the Ohio constitution that require partisan fairness in mapmaking.

Those provisions say that districts cannot be drawn to “primarily to favor or disfavor a political party” and that the partisan makeup of districts should reflect the partisan results of statewide races over the last 10 years. Voters overwhelmingly approved the changes in a 2015 ballot referendum.

Republicans have won about 54% of the vote over the last decade in Ohio. But would have controlled nearly two thirds of each chamber in the legislature.

There is still a separate lawsuit pending before the court challenging Ohio’s congressional districts, which are also heavily distorted to benefit the GOP.

Today so far

That’s it from me today. My west coast colleague, Maanvi Singh, will take over the blog for the next few hours.

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • The House select committee investigating the Capitol insurrection requested information from minority leader Kevin McCarthy. Committee chair Bennie Thompson sent a letter to McCarthy requesting his voluntary cooperation with the panel, but it’s unclear whether the Republican leader will actually appear before investigators. Two other Republican congressman have already rejected requests to speak to the committee.
  • Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer called out centrists Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema for opposing filibuster reform. “I don’t want to delude your listeners, this is an uphill fight,” Schumer said last night, at an event with the liberal think tank Center for American Progress. “Because Manchin and Sinema do not believe in changing the rules.”
  • Joe Biden will attend Senate Democrats’ caucus lunch tomorrow to discuss voting rights and filibuster reform. The news comes one day after the president called on Senate Democrats to change chamber rules to allow voting rights bills to advance. “Let the majority prevail,” Biden said in Atlanta, Georgia. “And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this.”
  • Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell criticized Biden’s speech on voting rights as “profoundly unpresidential”. “Twelve months ago, a newly-inaugurated President Biden stood on the West Front of the Capitol and said this: ‘My whole soul is in this: bringing America together, uniting our people, and uniting our nation,’” said McConnell, who vehemently opposes filibuster reform. “Yesterday, the same man delivered a deliberately divisive speech that was designed to pull our country farther apart.”
  • The price of goods and services in the US jumped by 7% in December compared to the same month last year, according to the latest report from the labor department. The increase marks the seventh consecutive month in which inflation has topped 5%.

Maanvi will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Updated

House minority leader Kevin McCarthy was recently asked whether he would be willing to share information with the select committee investigating the Capitol insurrection.

“I don’t really have anything to add. I have been very public, but I wouldn’t hide from anything,” the Republican congressman said late last month.

That statement will be put to the test now that the select committee has formally requested information from McCarthy, who will have to decide whether he will join other Republican congressmen in refusing to speak to investigators.

Bennie Thompson, the chair of the House select committee investigating the Capitol insurrection, said in his letter to Kevin McCarthy that the panel is interested in “how the President’s plans for January 6th came together, and all the other ways he attempted to alter the results of the election”.

“For example, in advance of January 6th, you reportedly explained to Mark Meadows and the former President that objections to the certification of the electoral votes on January 6th ‘was doomed to fail,’” Thompson said.

“How did they respond? Why were they nevertheless so confident that the election result would be overturned?”

The House select committee investigating the Capitol insurrection shared a letter that chair Bennie Thompson sent to minority leader Kevin McCarthy requesting information from him.

“We write to request your voluntary cooperation with our investigation on a range of critical topics, including your conversations with President Trump before, during and after the violent January 6th attack,” Thompson said in the letter.

“You have acknowledged speaking directly with the former President while the violence was underway on January 6th.”

Thompson argued that McCarthy could provide insight into “President Trump’s state of mind during the January 6th attack,” as well as after the insurrection occurred.

Thompson proposed a date of February 3 or February 4 for McCarthy to appear before the panel, but again, it seems unlikely that the Republican leader will voluntarily agree to speak to investigators.

Updated

January 6 committee to invite McCarthy to testify

The House select committee investigating the Capitol insurrection will invite minority leader Kevin McCarthy to appear before the panel.

“We’re going to invite the minority leader,” the chair of the committee, congressman Bennie Thompson, told a group of reporters on Capitol Hill, per Politico.

It seems unlikely that McCarthy will voluntarily agree to speak to investigators. So far, two sitting Republican congressmen -- Jim Jordan of Ohio and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania -- have declined requests to appear before the committee.

In a Sunday letter to Thompson, Jordan accused the panel of “an outrageous abuse” of its authority, arguing the request for his testimony was “far outside the bounds of any legitimate inquiry”.

Joe Biden made an unscheduled stop at the US Capitol to pay his respects to Harry Reid, the late Senate majority leader who is lying in state today.

The president also spoke at Reid’s funeral in Nevada on Saturday, saying of his former Senate colleague, “His story was unmistakably American. He was proof that there is nothing ordinary about America, and that Americans can do anything given half a chance.”

Schools going virtual, airlines canceling flights, pharmacies and testing centers closing temporarily, shelves emptying in grocery stores because of transportation delays, blood donations dropping to crisis levels for the first time ever and the country’s hospitals are becoming stretched. This is the US in the grip of the Omicron variant.

Omicron may cause milder symptoms in some people, but its effects are ricocheting throughout America and creating some of the greatest challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We have supply shortages, we have transportation shortages, that are a result of people being out because of Covid, and especially Omicron being so infectious. And that is obviously limiting the workforce, and limiting the workforce is creating some of the havoc that we’re all experiencing,” said Ezekiel Emanuel, vice-provost at the University of Pennsylvania.

Joe Biden has vowed to keep businesses and schools open, but some experts wonder if that’s possible given the nature of Omicron and the lack of adequate measures to combat it.

“The economy cannot stay open and schools cannot stay open when so many people are getting sick,” said Margaret Thornton, an educational researcher at Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. “We must take action to slow the spread in order to keep schools running, to keep businesses running,” she said – but much of that action has been slow to happen.

Updated

On a non-filibuster topic, Joe Biden attempted to downplay the labor department’s latest report on inflation, which showed that US prices increased by 7% from December 2020 to December 2021. That marks the sharpest rise since 1982.

“Today’s report—which shows a meaningful reduction in headline inflation over last month, with gas prices and food prices falling—demonstrates that we are making progress in slowing the rate of price increases,” Biden said in a statement.

“At the same time, this report underscores that we still have more work to do, with price increases still too high and squeezing family budgets.”

The US president described inflation as a “global challenge,” noting that many other nations around the world are struggling with rising prices as well.

“America is fortunate that we have one of the fastest growing economies—thanks in part to the American Rescue Plan—which enables us to address price increases and maintain strong, sustainable economic growth,” Biden said. “That is my goal and I am focused on reaching it every day.”

Meanwhile, Republicans pointed to the report as the latest sign that Biden’s economic agenda is failing American families struggling to financially recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

“This trend isn’t ‘transitory,’ and it’s all happening under Democrats’ one-party control,” House minority leader Kevin McCarthy said.

Senator Jon Tester said repeatedly that the filibuster had been weaponized and bemoaned the fact that it made it possible for any one senator to essentially kill legislation and then fundraise off it.

“They have a different perspective on what the long-term impacts are,” Tester said during an event hosted by the left-leaning Center for American Progress Action Fund.

“Some of the folks in the caucus think we need to keep doing what we’ve been doing because that’s what we’ve been doing in the past,” he said.

Tester, who himself was at one point hesitant about changing the filibuster, made it clear Wednesday he supports creating a carveout from the rule for voting rights legislation.

“I do think that bipartisan is always the best. But at some point in time … you have to say this is important for democracy, important for our country, maybe the most important thing I’ll ever do for our country,” he said.

“My preferred solution is to do the filibuster change for everything. The truth is, if we need a carveout to protect voting rights. I’m there and I will do it.”

Senator Joe Manchin, a key Democrat who is a staunch defender of the filibuster rule, still isn’t on board with changing the filibuster rules.

Senator Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat who has been part of a small group trying to reach an agreement to change the filibuster with Manchin, said they were still searching for some kind of solution.

“As of this morning, we’re not where we need to be to have them on board,” Tester said during an event hosted by the left-leaning Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Jon Tester offers remarks during a press conference following Senate Democrats’ policy luncheon.
Jon Tester offers remarks during a press conference following Senate Democrats’ policy luncheon. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

He added, “But I continue to be hopeful. Continue to use every persuasion power that I have to move the ball forward, to get everybody, all 50 of us, to a point where we can get this freedom to vote act passed.”

Chuck Schumer, the senate majority leader, has pledged his caucus will hold a vote on sweeping voting rights legislation and filibuster changes no later than Monday. But the comments from Tester underscore how far the party still has to go to reach some kind of consensus.

Schumer said Tuesday evening that Democrats faced an “uphill battle.” Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are set to visit senate Democrats and “work the phones” over the next few days to try and get agreement on the issue.

Biden's plea for voting rights legislation was 'unbecoming,' McConnell says

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell fiercely criticized Joe Biden’s speech on voting rights, describing it as “profoundly unpresidential”.

“Twelve months ago, a newly-inaugurated President Biden stood on the West Front of the Capitol and said this: ‘My whole soul is in this: bringing America together, uniting our people, and uniting our nation,” the Republican leader said in a floor speech this afternoon.

“Yesterday, the same man delivered a deliberately divisive speech that was designed to pull our country farther apart.”

In his speech, Biden called on Senate Democrats to change chamber rules to allow voting rights bills to advance, after Republicans repeatedly used the filibuster to block the proposals.

“I ask every elected official in America: How do you want to be remembered?” Biden said. “Do you want to be on the side of Dr King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?”

McConnell, who vehemently opposes filibuster reform, condemned the speech as “rhetoric unbecoming of a president of the United States”.

“Unfortunately, President Biden has rejected the better angels of our nature. So it is the Senate’s responsibility to protect the country,” McConnell said. “This institution cannot give in to dishonorable tactics.”

Trump hangs up on NPR – audio

Donald Trump hung up on a national US radio station halfway through a scheduled interview on Tuesday, after being confronted about his election lies.

Trump, who has continued to falsely claim he won the 2020 presidential election instead of Joe Biden, was heard becoming increasingly irritated through the interview with National Public Radio before abruptly signing off.

The ending meant NPR, which had been promised a 15-minute interview, had to make do with just nine minutes, much of it consisting of a vexed Trump talking over host Steve Inskeep.

The segment, which aired on Wednesday, ended with Inskeep asking Trump if Republicans must repeat Trump’s increasingly unhinged allegations of election fraud in order to win his endorsement.

“They are going to do whatever they want to do – whatever they have to do, they’re going to do,” Trump said.

Audio:

Full story:

Senate Republicans are rallying round Senator Mike Rounds, after Donald Trump rounded on him.

Mike Rounds.
Mike Rounds. Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AP

Roundly speaking, this block exists merely so I could write that sentence. But now it’s here, here’s what Rounds said, a taste of how he was rounded upon simply for being fair and … square … with the truth, and some expressions of support.

Rounds, to ABC: “The election was fair, as fair as we have seen. We simply did not win the election, as Republicans, for the presidency.”

Trump, in a statement: “Is he crazy or just stupid? … I will never endorse this jerk again.”

Mitt Romney: “Mike Rounds speaks truth knowing that our republic depends upon it.”

Mitch McConnell, Republican leader, to CNN: “I think Senator Rounds told the truth about what happened in the 2020 election. And I agree with him.”

John Thune, senior Republican from South Dakota, also to CNN: “I say to my colleague, welcome to the club.”

Trump’s endorsement threat may just have become irrelevant – or of course been conveniently forgotten – when Rounds next runs for re-election. In 2026.

The White House confirmed that Joe Biden will attend Senate Democrats’ meeting tomorrow to discuss voting rights and filibuster reform.

“On the heels of the President’s speech yesterday, he and the vice-president will be working the phones over the next several days pushing members of the Senate to support voting rights legislation and changes to Senate rules,” the White House told the press pool.

“In addition, tomorrow afternoon, the president will meet with the Senate Democratic caucus to discuss the urgent need to pass legislation to protect the constitutional right to vote and the integrity of our elections against un-American attacks based on the Big Lie, and to again underline that doing so requires changing the rules of the Senate to make the institution work again.”

In his speech in Atlanta, Georgia, Biden called on Senate Democrats to change rules to allow voting rights bills to advance, but some centrist holdouts – namely Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema – are withholding their support.

Because of the 50-50 split in the Senate, majority leader Chuck Schumer needs the support of every Democrat before he can move forward.

Mitch McConnell, of course, did not like Biden’s speech.

Calling it “profoundly unpresidential”, the Senate minority leader said today: “I have known, liked, and personally respected Joe Biden for many years. I did not recognize the man at the podium yesterday.”

Today so far

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer called out centrists Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema for opposing filibuster reform. “I don’t want to delude your listeners, this is an uphill fight,” Schumer said last night, at an event with the liberal think tank Center for American Progress. “Because Manchin and Sinema do not believe in changing the rules.”
  • Joe Biden will attend Senate Democrats’ caucus lunch tomorrow to discuss voting rights and filibuster reform. The news comes one day after the president called on Senate Democrats to change chamber rules to allow voting rights bills to advance. “Let the majority prevail,” Biden said in Atlanta, Georgia. “And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this.”
  • The price of goods and services in the US jumped by 7% in December compared to the same month last year, according to the latest report from the labor department. The increase marks the seventh consecutive month in which inflation has topped 5%.

The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Gaetz's ex-girlfriend testifies in sex trafficking investigation - report

The ex-girlfriend of Matt Gaetz has reportedly given testimony to a federal grand jury in connection to a sex-trafficking investigation involving the Republican congressman.

NBC News reports:

The ex-girlfriend, whose name is being withheld by NBC News to respect her privacy, has been in talks for months with prosecutors to receive an immunity deal. Under a possible deal, she would avoid prosecution for obstruction of justice in return for testifying in an investigation into whether Gaetz in 2017 had sex with a 17-year-old female for money and whether months later he and others violated a federal law prohibiting people for paying for prostitutes overseas.

Legal sources familiar with the case say Gaetz is being investigated for three distinct crimes: Sex trafficking the 17-year-old; violating the Mann Act, which prohibits taking prostitutes across state lines; and obstructing justice.

Gaetz has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. One of Gaetz’s close friends, Joel Greenberg, pleaded guilty last year to six federal crimes, including sex trafficking of a child.

The MSNBC anchor Mehdi Hasan might’ve come up with the most succinct among many appalled reactions to the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s suggestion that Democrats consider a Joe Biden-Liz Cheney ticket in 2024, to promote national unity and keep Donald Trump out of power.

Hasan tweeted: “Kill. Me. Now.”

Using the example of the right-left national unity government in office in Israel in succession to that country’s own Trumpish leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, Friedman enlisted the help of Steven Levitsky, a political scientist and co-author of How Democracies Die:

America is facing an existential moment, Levitsky told me, noting that the Republican party has shown that it isn’t committed any longer to playing by democratic rules, leaving the US uniquely threatened among western democracies.

… So Biden-Cheney is not such a crazy idea? I asked.

“Not at all,” said Levitsky. “We should be ready to talk about Liz Cheney as part of a blow-your-mind Israeli-style fusion coalition with Democrats. It is a coalition that says: ‘There is only one overriding goal right now – that is saving our democratic system.’”

Cheney, from Wyoming, is one of two anti-Trump Republicans on the 6 January House committee. She is also the daughter of Dick “Darth Vader” Cheney, the former vice-president with whom she stood, otherwise alone on her side of the House, through a commemoration of the Capitol attack last week.

Some on the left found the sight of the architect of the Iraq war in common cause with Democrats … disturbing. Oddly enough, Hasan didn’t much like Friedman’s suggestion either.

The Times man, Hasan wrote, was “also one of Obama’s favorite columnists. If you want to understand why US politics, and especially Democratic party politics, is so messed up, consider that the current and previous Democratic presidents have both taken advice from Thomas Friedman. Kill. Me. Now.”

For what it’s worth, Levitsky has been warning of the dangers of Republican fascism, now at a high pitch, for some time. Here’s a Guardian piece with his co-author Daniel Ziblatt from January 2018:

Updated

Biden to attend Senate Democrats' meeting on voting rights

Joe Biden will travel to Capitol Hill tomorrow to join Senate Democrats’ meeting about the path forward for passing voting rights bills.

“President Biden is expected to attend tomorrow’s Senate Dem Caucus lunch to discuss the push to pass voting rights and potential changes to Senate rules,” a senior Democratic aide said.

The news comes one day after Biden delivered an impassioned speech on voting rights in Georgia, calling on the Senate to change chamber rules to allow voting rights bills to advance.

“Let the majority prevail,” Biden said in Atlanta. “And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this.”

However, it remains unclear whether Biden’s words swayed centrist senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who have expressed reluctance to amending the filibuster.

Tomorrow’s meeting will give the president and majority leader Chuck Schumer another opportunity to convince those holdout senators.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi argued it was fitting for Harry Reid to receive a final honor at the US Capitol, where he represented Nevada for more than three decades.

“From his humble roots in Searchlight to the spotlight of Capitol Hill, his entire life was defined by defying long odds,” the Democratic speaker said.

“The twelve years that he and I served together as leaders in our respective houses allowed me the privilege of watching him defy those odds every day. Indeed, to see him lead and legislate was to see a master at work.”

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer praised Harry Reid for dedicating his life to public service and helping to shape the modern-day Congress.

Speaking at the Capitol ceremony to honor the late Senate majority leader, Schumer said, “We celebrate Harry Mason Reid’s final return to the Capitol because we must.

“Few have shaped the workings of this building like our dear friend from Nevada. Few have dedicated their lives to the work of the people quite like Harry did. Today, our feelings of both loss and gratitude are immense.”

Harry Reid's casket arrives at the Capitol

The casket of Harry Reid has arrived at the US Capitol, where the former Senate majority leader will lie in state today.

Lawmakers gathered in the Capitol Rotunda to pay their respects to Reid, who led the Senate Democratic caucus from 2005 to 2017.

Reid died late last month at the age of 82 after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2018.

The casket of late Senator Harry Reid arrives at the US Capitol.
The casket of late Senator Harry Reid arrives at the US Capitol. Photograph: Al Drago/EPA

Barack Obama and Joe Biden both spoke at Reid’s funeral in his home state of Nevada over the weekend, remembering him as a dedicated leader who stood up for his beliefs.

“Harry would always have your back, like the kids I grew up with in Scranton,” Biden said.

“His story was unmistakably American. He was proof that there is nothing ordinary about America, and that Americans can do anything given half a chance.”

One reporter asked Joe Manchin for his response to Joe Biden’s speech on voting rights legislation and Senate filibuster reform.

Biden said in Atlanta, Georgia, yesterday, “When it comes to protecting majority rule in America, the majority should rule in the United States Senate.”

Manchin told CNN, “He understands. We all understand how the Senate works.” He did not provide any further insight into what Senate rule changes he may support.

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer has met with both Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema in the past day, since Joe Biden called on Democrats to change the filibuster to pass voting rights bills.

Speaking to reporters after his meetings with the centrist senators, Schumer said Democrats are “not there yet” on agreeing to rule changes.

Asked by NBC News whether he still planned to hold a vote in the coming days, Schumer replied, “The answer is we’re going to hold a vote, yes.”

The Democratic leader has set a deadline of 17 January, Martin Luther King Day, to vote on rule changes that would clear the way for voting rights bills.

US inflation jumped 7% in December

The price of goods and services in the US continue to rise at rates unseen in decades, jumping 7% in December compared to the same month last year – the seventh consecutive month in which inflation has topped 5%.

The news represents a blow to the Biden administration and the Federal Reserve, which until recently have characterized soaring prices as a “transitory” phenomenon brought about by supply chain issues triggered by the pandemic.

On Wednesday, the labor department said the consumer price index (CPI) – which measures what consumers pay for a wide range of goods – rose 0.5% last month compared with November and 7% compared with December 2020.

Price increases in housing and used cars and trucks were the largest contributors to the inflation rate, with 0.4% and 3.5% increases in price compared with November, respectively. Food prices also continued to increase, though the 0.5% jump in prices is not as high as increases seen in previous months.

Despite the focus on centrists Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, it’s unclear whether the other 48 members of the Senate Democratic caucus support changing the filibuster.

Politico reported on Monday:

Mark Kelly is not yet committed to a change in the Senate rules that would allow elections reform legislation to pass by a simple majority. A centrist who is up for reelection in November, Kelly said Monday he is still undecided just days before he may have to vote on proposals to weaken the filibuster. ...

For a caucus that prides itself on unity, there’s plenty of nuance in Democrats’ views.

Some, like Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) like a talking filibuster but are ‘not crazy’ about making an exception for voting rights. Meanwhile, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) says reform is needed but is promoting more modest changes. She cites the near-impossible odds the party faces in getting all 50 Democrats on board for changing the filibuster unilaterally, also known as the ‘nuclear option.’

And with the 50-50 split in the Senate, majority leader Chuck Schumer cannot afford a single defection within the caucus if he wants to get rule changes approved and pass voting rights bills.

The Guardian’s Sam Levine and Jewel Wicker report:

Joe Biden on Tuesday gave his most forceful endorsement to date of changing the Senate filibuster rule in order to pass sweeping voting rights legislation, saying he was “tired of being quiet” in a high-profile speech in Georgia.

In one of the most significant speeches of his presidency so far, Biden drew a connection in history between the civil rights movement, the 6 January attack on the US Capitol by extremist supporters of Donald Trump, and the unprecedented efforts in many states to restrict the vote over the last year.

He said America was at a moment to choose “democracy over autocracy”.

But despite the passion, some prominent Georgia civil rights activists, proclaiming themselves more interested in action than speeches, declined to attend the event in Atlanta on Tuesday where Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris spoke and urged progress in Congress to pass key legislation currently stalled there.

Schumer calls out Manchin and Sinema after Biden demands action on voting rights

Greetings from Washington, live blog readers.

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer called out centrists Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema by name last night, after Joe Biden urged Democrats to change the filibuster to clear the way for a voting rights bill.

“I don’t want to delude your listeners, this is an uphill fight,” Schumer said at an event with the liberal think tank Center for American Progress. “Because Manchin and Sinema do not believe in changing the rules.”

Schumer’s comments came hours after Biden delivered his most direct appeal yet for filibuster reform, arguing that senators needed to prioritize the health of American democracy above all else.

“Let the majority prevail,” Biden said in Atlanta, Georgia. “And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this.”

But it’s unclear whether the pressure campaign is going to work. Manchin indicated yesterday that he still wants bipartisan support for any rule changes, which seems virtually impossible given Republicans’ unified opposition to filibuster reform.

And given the 50-50 split in the Senate, Schumer cannot move forward unless he has the support of every Democratic senator.

The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.


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