For the past week, just about everybody in Washington politics has been asking the same question: will Democratic senator Kyrsten Sinema vote for her party’s plan to fight climate change and lower health care costs?
The Arizona lawmaker is known for her opposition to changing the tax code, as the bill – known was the Inflation Reduction Act – does to fund its programs. In the end, she did demand changes to how the legislation is paid for, but they weren’t especially big.
With her support, Democrats have all 50 votes they need to get the bill through the evenly divided Senate. There’s not much Republicans themselves can do to stop them, so, instead, they’re hoping that Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough intervenes. The Democrats hope to pass the legislation via the reconciliation procedure, which requires only a simple majority of votes, but there are only certain types of changes to the law they can make that way. MacDonough is to decide whether they followed proper procedure, and as Politico reports, Republicans hope she’ll strike certain provisions from the bill – which could upend the delicate compromise Democrats have forged among themselves, and jeopardize the bill entirely.
Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, is threatening to back out of testifying before the January 6 committee unless he can record the interaction, Politico reports.
Mastriano “has legitimate concerns that your committee may attempt to influence the outcome of the Pennsylvania state elections through the dissemination of disinformation,” his lawyer told the House panel investigating the insurrection, according to Politico.
His resistance could lead to a court fight between the lawmakers and Mastriano, a state senator and 2020 election denier whom Donald Trump backed in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial primary.
While some acolytes of the former president have spoken to the committee, others have resisted – to their peril. Top Trump adviser Steve Bannon was found guilty of contempt of Congress last month for defying subpoenas from the panel, and former trade adviser Peter Navarro is facing similar charges.
Threatening Washington’s top public health official has real consequences, as a West Virginia man found out today:
A federal judge sentenced a West Virginia man to three years in prison by for sending intimidating emails to public health chief Anthony Fauci, including threats to kill the US’s top infectious disease official over his handling of the Covid pandemic.
US district judge Paula Xinis in Greenbelt, Maryland, on Thursday sentenced Thomas Connally, 56, of Snowshoe, West Virginia, to 37 months in federal prison and another three years of supervised release after he pleaded guilty in May to a federal charge of making threats against a federal official.
In one email, Connally threatened that Fauci and his family would be “dragged into the street, beaten to death, and set on fire,” prosecutors said.
CNN has a bit more detail on the Inflation Reduction Act’s path to enactment in Congress: the House won’t be back in session until next Friday, giving the Senate plenty of time to approve the bill.
Senators will convene on Saturday to vote on the bill, which is a major priority for the Biden administration and allocates money to fighting climate change and lowering health care costs.
A day after ordering Alex Jones to pay $4.1 million in compensatory damages for spreading conspiracy theories about 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, CNN reports a Texas jury has begun deliberating over how much to make Jones pay in punitive damages – which could greatly enhance the financial pain resulting from his defamation trial:
The Guardian’s Ramon Antonio Vargas has the latest on the trial, which has been more dramatic than most:
A financial expert testifying for the parents of a child killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting has estimated that Alex Jones and his media company are worth between $135m and $240m as they seek punitive damages beyond the $4.1m they secured a day ago for the US conspiracy theorist’s falsehoods about the massacre.
The expert, Bernard Pettingill, said from the witness stand in an Austin courtroom that Jones and his Free Speech Systems company earned more than $50m annually between 2016 to 2021 – even as popular social media companies banned him from promoting himself through them – due to his “rabid following” of millions.
Pettingill added that it was difficult to get an exact read of Jones’s financial outlook because he used a web of shell companies that own nothing and employ no one to move money belonging to him around.
Joe Biden’s been on something of a roll lately, and the internet appears to have noticed, gifting the 79-year-old president with a meme: “Dark Brandon”. While its origins are on the right, the moniker has been reclaimed by Biden’s supporters and spread on Twitter just as the Democratic president wracked up a number of wins in Congress and elsewhere.
Like many meme origin stories, that of “Dark Brandon” is lengthy and packed with references to other memes and internet trends. One of them is “Let’s Go Brandon”, the sanitized version of “Fuck Joe Biden” that became popular among his detractors last year.
On Twitter, Biden’s supporters are using it to refer to several recent success stories for the White House, including the killing of top al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri this past weekend, the breakthrough on Democrats’ climate change and health care bill days later and the passage of another measure to spur semiconductor production late last month.
Slate has published some thoughts on what Dark Brandon’s arrival heralds:
The term “Dark Brandon” first surfaced in early 2022 as part of the usual gamut of memes and burns deployed by America’s extremely online socialists—especially those who’ve found themselves feeling euphorically apocalyptic in the face of unchecked climate change, a theocratic Supreme Court, and Joe Manchin’s seemingly insurmountable veto power. For them, “Dark Brandon” was a way to lean into despair. The invaluable resource Know Your Meme delved into the paper trail and uncovered a trove of extremely dark viral tweets from the spring, where Dark Brandon could be found, say, pointing a gun into a woman’s mouth in a Photoshop or overseeing public executions in a Twitter user’s ironic fantasy. The idea here is that Joe Biden was not the fuddy-duddy centrist he appeared to be and instead represented some sort of satanic, Revelations-esque figure, way worse than anyone can imagine.
It’s an aesthetic that mirrors the related Dark MAGA trend, in which alt-right dead-enders and QAnon veterans have adopted an increasingly occultist tone to sheathe their reactionary beliefs. (Here, for instance, is an image of Jordan Peterson with the same facial tattoos as the rapper 6ix9ine.) The difference is that Dark MAGA posters fantasize about the return of an even-more-unhinged, gloves-off Trump, out for revenge. Dark Brandon, on the other hand, was the creation of people without much hope at all.
We can debate over whether it’s foolish to assign any intellectual significance to the tweets made by weirdos on the internet, but I do think that both Dark Brandon and DarkMAGA were interesting artifacts of America’s superheated political environment. The country does feel like it’s perched on the precipice of some sort of prophetic rebirth, and perhaps, as our institutions erode into the sea, Dark Brandon is the harbinger of that final judgment. Meanwhile, because Trump does feel like he might come back, more vengeful than before, DarkMAGA’s attempts to speak that into existence feel like a warning.
In a speech at the White House, Joe Biden praised the July jobs numbers, which came in much better than expected. He also hailed the Inflation Reduction Act that’s making progress in the US Senate and is on what Democrats hope is the final stretch before making it into law.
“We are on the cusp of the most important step we can take to help Congress lower inflation,” he said, speaking outside and sporting his trademark aviator sunglasses because he was still isolating due to his Covid-19 diagnosis.
He talked of the ongoing decrease in gas prices over the past month-and-a-half, noting fuel was available for “less than $3.99 a gallon at more than half the gas stations in North America”,
Biden also touted the speed of the labor market’s recovery, after more than 20 million people lost their job when Covid-19 broke out.
“That’s why the strength and the pace job of the recovery is so important. In the past, it’s taking years for Americans to recover from an economic crisis. When that’s happened, millions of people suffer from years and years just trying to get back to where they were before, just trying to get back on their feet. And that didn’t happen this time”, Biden said.
Joe Biden is about to sign a couple of bills at the White House and we’ll have an ear out for any relevant remarks. It’s a relatively lively Friday, given that the House and Senate are out, and we’ll have more, so stay tuned.
Here’s where things stand.
- There is “no way to solve the most pressing problems of all the world without an effective dialogue and cooperation” between the United States and China, a spokesman for United Nations chief António Guterres said.
- Scientists are warning that climate change is driving increased lightning strikes, after two were killed and two critically injured during storms near the White House yesterday.
- Joe Biden cheered the better-than-expected employment data released by the Labor Department this morning, saying it shows the success of his administration’s plan to help Americans.
- Kyrsten Sinema, conservative Democratic US Senator of Arizona, is on board with the Inflation Reduction Act legislation now pending at the door of the Senate, in another breakthrough for Democrats and Joe Biden’s domestic agenda.
Meanwhile, if you want some up-to-the-minute international developments, follow either of our global live blogs, on the geopolitical fall-out from Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, and on the war in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in February.
Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz is busy entertaining the peanut gallery at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) event in his home state.
Cruz was revving himself and the crowd up now by roundly mocking everything Democrat, also masks against the spread of coronavirus, presidential health adviser Anthony Fauci, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, “communist, woke professors”, etc, etc.
He just promised that in November, south Texas “will turn red” and elect Republican members of congress in Rio Grande Valley on the US-Mexico border.
And, nationally, Cruz is forecasting “not just a red wave but a tsunami” of GOP victories at the midterm elections.
On the subject of the polite modern habit of specifying one’s preferred pronouns, Cruz shrieked to whoops: “My pronouns are ‘kiss my ass’.”
“We are on the cusp of something amazing in this country,” Cruz tells the crowd. Alarming might be more accurate.
The right-winger is exiting the stage now, to soaring rock music.
There is “no way to solve the most pressing problems of all the world without an effective dialogue and cooperation” between the United States and China, a spokesman for United Nations chief António Guterres said today, Reuters writes.
This followed the Chinese government in Beijing halting climate talks with Washington, Reuters writes.
Tackling climate change has been a key area of cooperation between the two superpowers.
But China has suspended talks as part of its escalating retaliation over House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan earlier this week.
If you want to read our global live blog on all the developments in geopolitics as a result of Pelosi’s visit to the Taiwanese capital, Taipei, you can do so here.
Guterres last month warned that wildfires and heatwaves wreaking havoc across swathes of the globe show humanity facing is “collective suicide”, as governments around the world scramble to protect people from the impacts of extreme heat.
Pelosi is currently on the Japan leg of her Asia tour, which would not have been especially controversial if it had not been for her insistence on visiting Taiwan, the independent island nation over which the People’s Republic of China has claimed sovereignty since nationalists fled there to escape the communist mainland takeover in 1949.
President Joe Biden remains positive for Covid-19, but is otherwise doing almost fine, the White House announced.
According to a letter from his doctor Kevin O’Connor, Biden’s “cough has almost completely resolved”, though his continued positive test means he will have to “continue his strict isolation measures”.
You can read the full update here.
The REPEAT Project, a Princeton University and Dartmouth College initiative to evaluate federal policies’ impact on emissions and climate change, has done a quick analysis of the climate change provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act.
It’s a dense read, but it confirms the potency of the proposal, which would get the United States close, but not all the way, to meeting its targets for lowering emissions. Here’s a summary of its findings:
The Senate Inflation Reduction Act would:
• cut annual emissions in 2030 by an additional ~1 billion metric tons below current policy (including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law)
• close two-thirds of the remaining emissions gap between current policy and the nation’s 2030 climate target (50% below 2005)
• get the U.S. to within ~0.5 billion tons of the 2030 climate target
• reduce cumulative GHG emissions by about 6.3 billion tons over the next decade (through 2032).
Republican state treasurers are coordinating efforts to retaliate against financial institutions that have taken steps to mitigate climate change, according to an investigation published today by The New York Times.
While they still do plenty of business with oil companies, major asset managers like BlackRock and banks like Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase have signaled a desire to support the transition from fossil fuels. But Republican officials are trying to use their states’ financial heft to get the financial institutions to change course.
Here’s more from the Times’ report:
Last week, Riley Moore, the treasurer of West Virginia, announced that several major banks — including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo — would be barred from government contracts with his state because they are reducing their investments in coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel.
Mr. Moore and the treasurers of Louisiana and Arkansas have pulled more than $700 million out of BlackRock, the world’s largest investment manager, over objections that the firm is too focused on environmental issues. At the same time, the treasurers of Utah and Idaho are pressuring the private sector to drop climate action and other causes they label as “woke.”
And treasurers from Pennsylvania, Arizona and Oklahoma joined a larger campaign to thwart the nominations of federal regulators who wanted to require that banks, funds and companies disclose the financial risks posed by a warming planet.
At the nexus of these efforts is the State Financial Officers Foundation, a little-known nonprofit organization based in Shawnee, Kan., that once focused on cybersecurity, borrowing costs and managing debt loads, among other routine issues.
Then President Biden took office, promising to speed the country’s transition away from oil, gas and coal, the burning of which is dangerously heating the planet.
The foundation began pushing Republican state treasurers, who are mostly elected officials and who are responsible for managing their state’s finances, to use their power to promote oil and gas interests and to stymie Mr. Biden’s climate agenda, records show.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will travel to Kentucky on Monday, August 8, to survey damage caused by catastrophic flooding in the eastern part of the state, the White House announced.
The death toll from the floods has hit 37, while hundreds remains missing. Scientists have linked the severity of the storm to climate change.
Republicans are on the defensive in Congress after Democrats coalesced around the Inflation Reduction Act and announced plans to begin voting on the marquee spending measure over the weekend.
That doesn’t mean they don’t have a plan to try to stop it. Senators will get to offer amendments to the bill and CNN reports Republicans Lindsey Graham and John Thune have signaled they want to make that process, known as “vote-a-rama” as painful for Democrats as possible:
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