This Week In Congress (TWIC)

Your One Stop Shop For Learning What Our Congress Critters Are Up To!

Every week Congress is in session (usually on Sunday evening or Monday morning) I will recap the previous weeks important legislative and committee activity and look ahead to what Congress has planned for the coming week, with my 2 cents of opinion from time to time of course.  Also, this week I am adding a special feature I call The Speech of the Week Award!   Hope you find it both informative and worthy of discussion in the comments section.

IMPORTANT FILIBUSTER CLARIFICATION:

Before I get started with this week’s TWIC, I feel compelled to post this clarification regarding the Senate Filibuster Rule right upfront where I hope it is seen, read and absorbed.  So if you don’t have time to read anything else in this post, PLEASE READ THIS!

Last week on a couple of Rachel Maddow Shows, she had a segment about two recent Bills and how those Bills were passed in ways that got around the filibuster rule.  She then posed this question (paraphrasing):

”If we can get around the filibuster rule for these Bills, why can’t we do the same for some other important Bills [e.g., voting rights, gun safety, etc.)?”

A similar question has also been posed by Laura Clawson in this post.

Now if both Rachel and Laura were asking this as a legitimate question, that would be fine, because there is a admittedly not so simple answer why this is NOT possible for other Bills.  But, with all do respect to both Rachel and Laura who I greatly admire, it seems to me they are asking the above question in the vane of why don’t Democrats do this for other Bills, as if it were in their sole power to do so.

So as I did in Last Week’s TWIC, let me explain how the two Bills in question were passed and in doing so provide a legitimate answer to the above question:

First the Debt Limit Increase Bill which purportedly “got around the filibuster”:

I think it is best explained in this Joan McCarter Post, which I will use to try to explain the step-by-step process below:

1. The House passed a Bill (S.610 which was originally a Senate Medicare/Farm that the House amended) which includes procedures to limit debate (i.e., cannot be filibustered), waive points of order, and prohibit amendments in the Senate on a debt limit raise, that may only be used once and expire after January 16, 2022.

2. This Bill (S.610) was filibustered by Republicans in the Senate, but received more than the required 60 Cloture Votes to limit debate which included 14 Republicans.  

3. The Bill (S.610) was then passed by a simple majority vote in the Senate and sent to the President’s desk for signing.

4. The Bill was signed by the President and became LAW, which allowed the House and Senate to pass a debt limit increase Bill with limited debate in the Senate (no filibuster) and only 51 votes (all Dems. + VP).

So the Procedural Bill which became a Law allowed the Debt Limit Bill to pass without being filibustered because the law trumps the rule (sorry about using the word “trump” but it fits).  However, the Procedural Bill was filibustered by a Republican and was only allowed to pass because at least ten (10) Republicans in the Senate wanted it to pass (i.e., voted for Cloture to limit debate).

To sum up and answer the above question as to why we can’t pass other Bills (e.g., voting rights, gun safety, etc.) by passing a Procedural Bill to provide a new LAW to set aside the filibuster, is because the Procedural Bill itself CAN BE FILIBUSTERED and as such would require at least 10 Republicans to vote to limit debate on such a Procedural Bill in order to allow it to pass and become law.  So this procedural law filibuster get-around only worked this time for the Debt Limit Increase because 10 or more Republicans wanted it to, which of course won’t happen on any of these other Bills.

Second the Disapproval of COVID Vaccine Mandate Regulation Joint Resolution, which can get around the filibuster:

In a nutshell, this Resolution (brought to the Senate Floor by a Republican), when passed by BOTH Houses would nullify the Department of Labors recently promulgated OSHA Regulation requiring employers with 100 or more employees to require their onsite employees to either be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.

Resolutions such as this one, come under the jurisdiction of an existing law known as the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which sets out rules and procedures for nullifying (doing away with) Regulations promulgated by Agencies within the Executive Branch.  You can read about it in this Congressional Research Service publication.  From this publication:

The most notable feature of the CRA is its special set of parliamentary procedures for considering a joint resolution disapproving an agency’s final rule. These procedures make it easier for Congress to pass a joint resolution of disapproval, particularly in the Senate. Perhaps most significantly, when a joint resolution of disapproval meets certain criteria, it cannot be filibustered in the Senate. In addition, when 20 calendar days have elapsed after the receipt and publication of a rule, a petition, signed by 30 Senators, can be presented on the floor to discharge a Senate committee of the further consideration of a disapproval resolution. Once the committee is discharged, any Senator can make a nondebatable motion to proceed to consider the disapproval resolution. Should a majority of the Senate vote to consider the disapproval resolution, debate on it is limited, and a final vote would be all but guaranteed.

So again, the CRA is a law that trumps the rule (sorry again about using the word “trump” but it fits).  But it only applies to recently promulgated regulations.

Now that that’s cleared up, let’s jump into this week’s TWIC!

Last Week in Congress: Here is your C-Span Link where you can view some of last week’s events.

Here Are The Previous Week’s Headlines: 

SPEECH OF THE WEEK AWARD

House & Senate Raise The Debt Limit

House Passes Resolution Finding Meadows In Contempt Of Congress

Senate Passes HUGE Defense Appropriations Bill for 2022

Speech of the Week AwardThe Speech of the Week Award this week is actually the “Speeches” of the Week, since they are three separate speeches given by the same person on three separate occasions.  The Award goes to Representative Liz Cheney (no surprise since you can already see her below) for the speech she made at the Jan. 6 Committee Meeting on the Meadows Contempt recommendation,  and the speech she made on the floor of the House during the debate on the Meadows’ Con tempt Resolution.  The award is not being given for the oratory skills of Ms. Cheney (for those who have listened to Liz you know she has a rather bland, matter-of-fact speaking style), but for its revealing and explosive content.  

Although most of you have already heard or read excerpts of her recent speeches, below are the videos of each speech and links to the textual transcripts:       

Speech #1

Full Text of Liz Cheney’s opening statement in the Meadows’ Contempt Meeting of the Jan. 6 Committee, curtesy of NPR.  Here is an excerpt:

The violence was evident to all – it was covered in real time by almost every news channel. But, for 187 minutes, President Trump refused to act when action by our President was required, indeed essential, and compelled by his oath to our Constitution. Mr. Meadows received numerous text messages, which he has produced without any privilege claim – imploring that Mr. Trump take the specific action we all knew his duty required.

These texts leave no doubt: the White House knew exactly what was happening at the Capitol. Republican members of Congress and others wrote to Mark Meadows as the attack was underway:

-“Hey, Mark, protestors are literally storming the Capitol. Breaking windows on doors. Rushing in. Is Trump going to say something?”

-“We are under siege up here at the Capitol.”

-“They have breached the Capitol.”

-“There’s an armed standoff at the House Chamber door.”

-“We are all helpless.”

Dozens of texts, including from Trump administration officials, urged immediate action by the President:

-“POTUS has to come out firmly and tell protestors to dissipate. Someone is going to get killed”

-“Mark, he needs to stop this. Now”

-“TELL THEM TO GO HOME”

-“POTUS needs to calm this s*** down.”

Indeed, according to the records, multiple Fox News hosts knew the President needed to act immediately. They texted Meadows that:

-“Hey Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home…this is hurting all of us…he is destroying his legacy.” Laura Ingraham wrote.

-“Please get him on tv. Destroying everything you have accomplished.” Brian Kilmeade wrote.

-“Can he make a statement?…Ask people to leave the Capitol.” Sean Hannity urged.

As the violence continued, one of the President’s sons texted Meadows:

“He’s got to condemn this s*** Asap. The Capitol Police tweet is not enough.” Donald Trump, Jr. texted.

Meadows responded: “I’m pushing it hard. I agree.”

Still, President Trump did not immediately act.

Donald Trump, Jr. texted again and again, urging action by the President:

“We need an Oval address. He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand.”

But hours passed without the necessary action by the President.

These non-privileged texts are further evidence of President Trump’s supreme dereliction of duty during those 187 minutes. And Mr. Meadows testimony will bear on another key question before this Committee: Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’s official proceeding to count electoral votes?

Speech #2

Link to Rules Committee statement curtesy of MSN

Full Text of Liz Cheney’s speech to the House Rules Committee Meeting on the rules for the Meadows’ Contempt Resolution, curtesy of the Media Center.  Here is an some excerpt:
 

“And as we saw last night dozens of texts, including from Trump administration officials, from members of the press, from Donald Trump, Jr. urged immediate action by the President.

“But we know hours passed with no action by the President to defend the Congress of the United States from an assault while we were trying to count electoral votes, which was an official proceeding.

“This brings up another point. Mr. Meadows’ testimony will bear on a key question in front of this Committee: Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’s official proceeding to count electoral votes?

Speech #3

C-Span Link To Cheney Floor Speech

Full Text of Liz Cheney’s speech on the House Floor at the beginning of the Floor Debate on the the Meadows’ Contempt Resolution, curtesy of of C-Span.  Here are some excerpts:

MADAM SPEAKER, LET ME JUST MAKE SURE PEOPLE UNDERSTAND SOME FACTS IN LIGHT OF SOME OF THE CHARGES THAT MY COLLEAGUE FROM OHIO JUST MADE WHICH ARE FLAT FALSE. NUMBER ONE, MR. MEADOWS REFUSED TO SHOW UP FOR HIS DEPOSITION. THE COMMITTEE SCHEDULED THE DEPOSITION AFTER EXTENSIVE COORDINATION WITH MR. MEADOWS AT A DAY HE SHOWS THAT HE SELECTED AND THEN — CHOSE THAT HE SELECTED AND THEN HE REFUSED TO SHOW UP. HE REFUSED TO SHOW UP TO TESTIFY ABOUT NONPRIVILEGED QUESTIONS. SO MY COLLEAGUE FROM OHIO CAN TALK AS MUCH AS HE LIKES ABOUT EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE AND ABOUT GEORGE WASHINGTON AND ABOUT WHICH IS CRUCIAL TO THE SURVIVAL OF THE REPUBLIC, WITH WHICH I AGREE, BUT WE ARE TALKING HERE ABOUT TESTIMONY ABOUT NONPRIVILEGED MATERIALS. 

SECONDLY, MADAM SPEAKER, I WOULD SAY THAT WE ALL ON THIS SIDE OF THE AISLE USED TO BE IN AGREEMENT ABOUT WHAT HAD HAPPENED ON JANUARY 6. THERE WAS A BRIEF PERIOD OF TIME, DAYS PERHAPS, WHEN WE WERE IN AGREEMENT. . STANDING PERHAPS AT THIS MICROPHONE, THE MINORITY LEADER, KEVIN MCCARTHY, SAID THIS, ON JANUARY 13. THE PRESIDENT BEARS RESPONSIBILITY FOR WEDNESDAY’S ATTACK ON CONGRESS BY MOB MOB RIOTERS. HE SHOULD HAVE IMMEDIATELY DENOUNCED THE MOB WHEN HE SAW WHAT WAS UNFOLDING. THESE FACTS REQUIRE IMMEDIATE ACTION BY PRESIDENT TRUMP. UNFORTUNATELY MR. MCCARTHY’S POSITION CHANGED ON THIS ISSUE. MR. MCCARTHY THEN WORKED AGAINST, VOTED AGAINST THE RESOLUTION THAT WOULD HAVE CREATED A BIPARTISAN COMMISSION TO INVESTIGATE THESE MATTERS. AND HE WITHDREW HIS NOMINEES TO THIS COMMITTEE. LET ME SAY THAT AGAIN. HE WITHDREW HIS NOMINEES TO THIS COMMITTEE.

Commentary — I could go into the content of Cheney’s speeches and the explosive revelations in Meadows’ E-mails/texts she read into the record.  But by now many pundits have covered that fully and anyway, the E-mails/texts pretty much speak for themselves.  Instead I would rather focus on the Committee’s strategy of having Cheney be the one that dribbles out some of the important evidence of the insurrection and pre-insurrection crimes, and having Cheney be the one that directly alleges that Trump and his band of co-conspirators committed the Federal crime of obstructing or impeding Congress’s official proceeding to count electoral votes.  Yes, the strategy is rather obvious, that is to make the Committee’s investigation seem as bipartisan as possible under the circumstances.  Also, in the end, when the Committee makes its recommendation to DoJ for criminal prosecution or at least investigation of Trump and his co-conspirators, let the face of Trump’s accuser be a Republican (albeit a non-Trump Republican) and not a Democrat so as to maximize the legitimacy of the criminal recommendation and maximize the pressure on AG Garland to pursue a high level criminal investigation. 

Furthermore, Liz is not being used by Democrats.  It is very obvious that she is not only comfortable in her role as lead Trump accuser, she relishes it, in spite of her “dead pan” way of presenting the facts and allegations.  She realizes that she is the one Republican left with the guts needed to take down Trump and thereby save our democracy, and she loves her role as the Republican Joan of Arc, despite having only one other vocal Republican in her GOP anti-Trump army. 

BTW, the post by Kerry Eleveld detailing Liz Cheney’s aggressive pursuit of Trump and his co-conspirators is well worth the read.

     

Legislative Activity 

 House:

1. 12/14/21 — House Resolution 851 (H.Res. 851) – Vote on passage of H.Res.851 – Recommending that the House of Representatives find Mark Randall Meadows in contempt of Congress for refusal to comply with a subpoena duly issued by the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol. (Full Text of H.Res. 851 can be read HERE)

Democrats-        220 Yes        0 No      0 Present      0 Not Voting

Republicans-          2 Yes     208 No     0 Present      3 Not Voting

Independents-       0 Yes        0 No      0 Present      0 Not Voting

Totals-                222 Yes    208 No      0 Present       3 Not Voting

               PASSED

Voting Details HERE.

2. 12/14/21 — House Resolution 5665 (H.R. 5665) – Vote on passage of H.R.5665 – Combating International Islamophobia Act (This bill establishes within the Department of State the Office to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia and addresses related issues.) (You can read the Full Summary HERE.)  (Full Text of H.R. 5665 can be read HERE

Democrats-        219 Yes         0 No      0 Present      2 Not Voting

Republicans-         0 Yes      212 No     0 Present      1 Not Voting

Independents-       0 Yes        0 No      0 Present      0 Not Voting

Totals-                219 Yes    212 No      0 Present       3 Not Voting

               PASSED

Voting Details HERE.

3. 12/14/21 — Senate Joint Resolution 33 (S.J.Res. 33) —  Vote on passage of S.J.Res.33 – A joint resolution joint resolution relating to increasing the debt limit. (This joint resolution increases the public debt limit by $2.5 trillion.)  (Full Text of S.J.Res. 33 can be read HERE)

Democrats-        220 Yes        0 No      0 Present      1 Not Voting

Republicans-          1 Yes     209 No     0 Present      3 Not Voting

Independents-       0 Yes        0 No      0 Present      0 Not Voting

Totals-                221 Yes    209 No      0 Present      4 Not Voting

               PASSED

Voting Details HERE.

Details & Commentary 

H.Res.851 — Meadows Contempt Referral — This week Mark Meadows joined his Co-Conspirator Steve Bannon in the Congressional Contempt corner with the House’s referral to DoJ.  However, what DoJ will do with the Meadows referral remains an open question.  Unlike Bannon, Meadows did partially cooperate with the Committee by providing over 6000 E-mails/Texts containing a substantial amount of revealing information which detailed the Coup Plot/Conspiracy and who was involved.  Also, unlike Bannon, Meadows has a tad more legitimate Executive Privilege claim since he was actually part of Trump’s Executive staff.  But for now don’t expect to hear much out of DoJ regarding Meadows.  I expect they will at least wait to see if SCOTUS takes up Trump’s inevitable appeal of the Appeals Court decision (details further down) allowing the National Archives to hand over the Trump Administration records to the Committee and totally rejecting his Executive privilege claim.  If SCOTUS refuses to take the appeal, Trump’s Executive Privilege claim (in general) will be dead, which will also invalidate Meadows’ executive privilege excuse.

With regard to the vote on the Resolution, no surprises there.  Cheney and Kinzinger were the only two Republicans to vote with all the Democrats to find Meadows in Contempt of Congress and refer him to DoJ.

– H.R.5665 – Combating International Islamophobia — This Bill is the result of the Omar / Boebert incident where Boebert used an Islamophobic slur against Omar.  Instead of singling out Boebert for Censure (like Gosar), Omar, Pelosi and House Democrats reached an agreement on a Bill that would condemn Islamophobia more broadly and set up an office in the State Department to combat islamophobia internationally.  While I have no beef with the Bill, I don’t see how it does anything about the anti-Islamic rhetoric within the halls of Congress.  Also, since it is doomed to die in the Senate, I fail to see what passing this Bill accomplishes.  But at least it draws attention to the problem.

On the vote, no surprises.  Not a single Republican voted against Islamophobia.

– S.J.Res.33 — Raising the Debt Limit — Well, after the Senate and House passed a law to construct a Rube Goldberg machine to raise the debt limit without a filibuster, and the Senate used the machine to crank out a Debt Limit raise bill, the House used the machine to pass the Senate’s Bill and avoid the December 15 fiscal cliff.  BTW, The $2.5 trillion barrowing limit is projected to get us into 2023 before we face the next fiscal cliff.  At least it gets us past the 2022 mid-terms.  

On the vote, remarkably one (1) House Republican voted to raise the Debt Limit, and that Republican was Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.  Since he is quitting after this term, he is apparently free to do the right thing for his Country.

Senate:

1. 12/14/21 — Senate Joint Resolution 33 (S.J.Res. 33) —  Vote on passage of S.J.Res.33 – A joint resolution joint resolution relating to increasing the debt limit. (This joint resolution increases the public debt limit by $2.5 trillion.)  (Full Text of S.J.Res. 33 can be read HERE)

Democrats-          48 Yes        0 No      0 Present      0 Not Voting

Republicans-          0 Yes       49 No      0 Present     1 Not Voting

Independents-       2 Yes        0 No      0 Present      0 Not Voting

Totals-                   50 Yes      49 No      0 Present      1 Not Voting

               PASSED

Voting Details HERE.

Details & Commentary —  See Details & Commentary on S.J.Res. 33 under House section above.

Nominations — The Senate confirmed seventeen (17) Biden appointees this week, which included twelve (12) judgeships.

1. Confirmation: Lucy Haeran Koh, of California, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit — Vote 50-45.

2. Confirmation: Jennifer Sung, of Oregon, to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit — Vote 50-49.

3. Confirmation: Samantha D. Elliott, of New Hampshire, to be U.S. District Judge for the District of New Hampshire — Vote 62-37.

4. R. Nicholas Burns, of Massachusetts, to be Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China — Vote 75-18.

5. Confirmation: Ramin Toloui, of Iowa, to be an Assistant Secretary of State, Economic and Business Affairs — Vote 76-13.

6. Confirmation: Rashad Hussain, of Virginia, to be Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom – Vote 85-5.

7.  Confirmation: Atul Atmaram Gawande, of Massachusetts, to be an Assistant Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development — Vote 48-31.

8.  Confirmation: Linda Lopez, of California, to be U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of California — Vote 48-25.

9.  Confirmation: Jinsook Ohta, of California, to be U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of California — Vote 47-24.

10. Confirmation: David Herrera Urias, of New Mexico, to be United States District Judge for the District of New Mexico — Vote 45-26.

11. Confirmation: Maame Ewusi-Mensah Frimpong, of California, to be U.S. District Judge for the Central District of California — Vote 46-24.

12. Confirmation: Jane M. Beckering, of Michigan, to be U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Michigan — Vote 45-25.

13. Confirmation: Shalina D. Kumar, of Michigan, to be U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan — Vote 44-25.

14. Confirmation: Jennifer L. Thurston, of California, to be U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of California — Vote 46-24.

15.  Confirmation: Katherine Marie Menendez, of Minnesota, to be U.S. District Judge for the District of Minnesota — Vote 49-21.

16.  Confirmation: Mary Katherine Dimke, of Washington, to be U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Washington — Vote 47-23.

17. Confirmation: Rahm Emanuel, of Illinois, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Japan — Vote 48-21. 

Details & Commentary — A very busy week on Nominee confirmations with 12 judgeships filled and 5 other Executive Branch posts.  While 12 Judges may sound like a lot, it’s not when you consider that there are around 870 Federal judgeships.  Still it’s a start in the project of shifting the Courts gradually to the left after 4 years of Trump shifting them to the far right.

    Committee Activity:

House Jan. 6 Select Committee:

 Mark Meadows Committee Subpoena — On December 13, the Committee voted 9-0 to approve the Meadows’ Contempt Report, and send a recommendation to the House to find Meadows in Contempt of Congress.

 Subpoena for Trump White House records — Awaiting Trump appeal to SCOTUS of the District Court of Appeals ruling allowing the release of the Trump White House Records.

 Roger Stone Pleading the Fifth — On December 17, Roger Stone appeared before Jan. 6 panel and plead the Fifth, several times.  Per CNN:

Roger Stone, a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump, met briefly Friday with the House select committee investigating the January 6 riot and asserted his Fifth Amendment rights to every question asked, he said.

Stone emerged from the deposition after only 90 minutes and told reporters he invoked the Fifth Amendment, which offers protection against self-incrimination, “not because I have done anything wrong, but because I am fully aware of the House Democrats’ long history of fabricating perjury charges.”

Roger Stone, a long-time adviser to former President Donald Trump, just became the latest Trump ally to refuse to cooperate with House’s Jan. 6 investigation by invoking his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. The growing list includes John Eastman — a former law professor and legal adviser to Trump, and Jeffrey Clark, who served as an assistant attorney general from 2018 until 2021. Alex Jones, a radio show host and a staunch supporter of Trump’s re-election campaign, has also threatened to plead the Fifth in response to his own House subpoena.

While these witnesses may be able to avoid testifying before the select committee by standing on the Fifth, they are merely postponing — and perhaps increasing — their future legal woes.

 Other Witnesses Deposed — In addition, to Roger Stone who repeatedly plead the fifth, the Committee interviewed a number of other important witnesses this week.  Per ABC News:

Also questioned this week by the Jan. 6 committee were Dustin Stockton and Jennifer Lawrence, two activists involved in planning the rallies in Washington ahead of the riot.

In an interview with CNN, Stockton said “the buck’s got to stop at President Trump” and that he “knew better” than to rally supporters about the election results and encourage them to march on the Capitol.

Other witnesses, including Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich had their sessions postponed as they “engage” with the committee over subpoenas for records and testimony, the committee said.

Altogether;

The committee has issued more than 50 subpoenas and conducted more than 300 interviews as part of its inquiry, and is expected to begin “weeks” of hearings in the new year, according to committee members.

Details & Commentary — Probably one of the most important things we learned this week was what evidence the Committee has already acquired.  As detailed above, that new public knowledge originated from the statements of Vice Chair Liz Cheney, where she provided tidbits from the documentary evidence the Committee has assembled regarding the Coup/Insurrection Conspiracy and the so far anonymous Republicans in Congress who were involved in it. 

However, the most important revelation (again from Cheney’s statement) this week was that the Committee is asking the question:

Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’s official proceeding to count electoral votes?

This is the Committee’s not so subtle way of asking whether Trump (and his cohorts) committed a crime by using several words common to 18 USC 1512, Section c.2, which reads:

(c)  Whoever corruptly–

(2)  otherwise obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.

This is the same statute that the DoJ has charged, and in some cases convicted, members of the mob who invaded the Capital on January 6 to impede the official Congressional proceeding of counting the electoral votes.  In Trump’s case, the allegation that he may have illegally obstructed, influenced, or impeded this Congressional proceeding stems from his failure to in any way halt the assault on the Capital for 187 minutes.   This is apparently where Cheney and the Committee is headed, as detailed below from POLITICO:

Cheney’s suggestion that “inaction” could lead to a violation of the obstruction statute is among the broadest interpretations of that law. Among the variables that judges in obstruction cases must consider is whether the law in question could apply to someone like Trump, whose specific actions on Jan. 6 may have technically been “lawful” even if they were done with the “corrupt” intent of interfering with Congress.

Friedrich called such scenarios “closer questions” than the matter of whether those who broke into the Capitol could be charged with obstruction, suggesting Trump’s actions fall into more of a gray area.

Nonetheless, Cheney has been careful to frame the question as necessary for the Jan. 6 committee’s “legislative judgments.” Trump has mounted numerous legal campaigns against congressional investigations by claiming they lack a true “legislative purpose” and instead amount to a shadow “law enforcement” effort.

Courts have long held that Congress is not permitted to investigate for the sake of law enforcement. But lawmakers are permitted to share the results of its probes with the Justice Department if they believe they have uncovered evidence of a crime.

Next Week in Congress: Here is your C-Span Link where you can view some of next week’s events.
Here Are The Coming Week’s Headlines:

BBB Bill or Voting Rights or Nothing for Christmas?

Jan. 6 Committee New Revelations Next Week?

         Legislative Activity 

House:  No significant legislation expected this coming week. 

Senate:

– BBB or Voting Rights or Nothing — We are in the midst of a dramatic shift in legislative priorities this week, which is both bad news and potentially good news.  First, the BAD NEWS, because I would rather end on a positive note.

Bad News — The Build Back Better (BBB) Bill is either at worst DEAD, or at best ON LIFE SUPPORT, I am very sorry to say.  As you probably know by now, Manchin who has been changing his demands daily if not hourly for months and constantly moving the goal posts, has taken the goal posts completely out of the stadium with his appearance on the Fox Opinion Network (FON) on Sunday.  He has come out and blatantly said:

“[I’m] a no on this piece of legislation.”   

You can read all about it in this AKALib Post, so I will spare you repeating the disgusting details here.  If you’re searching around for someone to blame AKALib has some good advice:

Also, please push back on the gloom-and-doom folks here who will want to blame and dump on Biden, Schumer, Pelosi and Obama, and attack each other and the Democratic party…

To expand upon the above, some will be angry at Biden who convinced Rep. Jayapal and most of the Progressive Caucus to de-couple the BBB and BIB, and pass the BIB based on his assurance that he had the votes in the Senate to subsequently pass the BBB.  Some will be angry at Jayapal who told us that over 90% of the BBB Bill was “pre-conferenced” with Manchin and Sinema and had given their approval of the 90% at the time of the BIB vote in the House.  Some will also be angry at Pelosi and Schumer for pushing the splitting of the two Bills.  Other Progressives who voted against the BIB in the House as a protest to splitting the Bills may want to have their “I told you so” moment.  None of this is constructive and will only lead to dividing the Party while the Republicans laugh at us.  If you have to blame somebody, let it be Joe Manchin, and perhaps also Krystin Sinema whose vote on BBB was, to say the least, never a given and who is probably relishing the fact that Manchin is taking all the heat.  It was Manchin who likely lied to President Biden and Dem. Congressional Leadership in order to get the BIB passed, then played wack-a-mole with the BBB Bill, never agreeing to anything.  Hunter has a post up with the White House response to Manchin that pretty much confirms my suspicions that Manchin is lying to someone.    

Well, that’s enough of the Bad News.

Possible Good News — Seeing hopes of the BBB Bill getting passed before the Holiday Recess dwindle, Biden dropped a not so subtle hint on Thursday that Voting Rights was moving to the front burner as he told reporters it was the MOST important legislation before Congress.  The voting rights legislation is actually two Bills. 

The first is S.2747 – Freedom to Vote Act (You can read a Bill Summary HERE, or the Full Text of the Bill HERE).

the second is H.R.4 – John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 (You can read a Bill Summary HERE, or the Full Text of the Bill HERE).

Besides the fact that the BBB Bill was seeing no clear path through the Senate any time soon, it made sense to shift to Voting Rights since there is 100% agreement among all 50 Senate Democrats on the content of these Bills.  That’s because Manchin and Sinema have supported H.R.4 since it passed the House, and S.2747 was basically put together with Manchin’s blessing.  So there is no argument among Dems. on the content of these Bills.  The issue is of course the filibuster rule which allows the Republicans to block them.  On that front, there seems to be some degree of progress on revising the filibuster rule, per POLITICO:

The latest attempt is taking place among a group of Senate Democrats who have gone back to the drawing board. Rather than the draconian step of tossing out the filibuster, they’re debating other possible rule changes to the chamber that could pave the way for election reform bills that are viewed by Democrats as paramount to combatting restrictive new voting laws and preserving democracy.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who is a member of the group drafting the reforms, said it would be “premature” to share specifics of the possible rule changes at this stage because “there’s no handshake deal yet.” But he did express a level of cautious optimism, stressing that abolishing the filibuster, which requires 60 Senate votes to advance legislation, is not under consideration this time.

“We’re not going to abolish the filibuster. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has made [it] very plain we’re not abolishing the filibuster,” Kaine said in an interview. “We’re looking at a number of complaints that Democrats and Republicans have had about the way the place operates to see if we can restore it to operating better and do it in a way that would facilitate passage of voting rights.”

Yes, that doesn’t sound like much to get excited about, but here’s another reason for some optimism:

But Democrats would need buy-in from Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) — who both oppose nixing the legislative filibuster — if they want to change the chambers’ rules. Sinema, who has backed Democrats’ elections reform and voting rights proposals, said in a recent interview that she would like to pass voting rights legislation through regular order.

Tester said Tuesday that he thinks Manchin and Sinema are “absolutely” open to some of the changes being considered.

Also, Senator Bennet of Colorado and Senator Hassen of New Hampshire have both recently come out in favor of filibuster reform. 

What, if anything happens this week with regard to the filibuster reform needed to pass voting rights legislation is anybody’s guess.  But there are urgent discussions going on, so that’s something.

    
General Commentary — 

With regard to Manchin and BBB, like many of you, the two competing emotions I’m dealing with now are depression and anger.  Depression is a road that leads to throwing in the towel, giving up on the Democratic Party and handing the Country over to the white, racist Republican Autocrats.  Anger on the other hand can be a road leading to destructive violence or it can be a road leading to constructive political action.  Personally, I’m leaning towards constructive anger.

Constructive Anger in the short term means not giving up on the BBB.  That means holding a vote on the Bill in the Senate as is being demanded by Senator Bernie Sanders:

“We’ve been dealing with Mr. Manchin for month after month after month. But if he doesn’t have the courage to do the right thing for the working families of West Virginia and America, let him vote no in front of the whole world”

What Manchin, and probably Sinema too, really want is for Schumer to never place the Bill on the floor, so he/they can never have to vote on it.  Don’t give him/them that luxury.  

This week E-mail or Call Senator Schumer and tell him to put the BBB up for a vote in the Senate.  

The worst that can happen is Manchin does a McCain and votes “no”, as he says he will.  But who knows, confronted with having to acually be the skunk at the Party, Manchin might get weak kneed and vote “yes”.  Those of us who have watched Manchin for awhile have observed that he says a lot of shit that when push comes to shove he later reverses course on.  Although it might seem like a long shot, Biden could give Manchin some change to the Bill as a face saving gesture that Manchin can use to reverse course and get out of the political dead end he has backed himself into and vote “yess’ on BBB.

Those of us who have watched Manchin for awhile have observed that he says a lot of shit that when push comes to shove he later reverses course on.  

In addition, in the short term, as much as we all hate it, we need to bottle up our anger with respect to Manchin/Sinema and kiss their bottoms for a bit longer in order to have any chance of filibuster reform and getting the two voting rights bills passed in the Senate.  Both of these Senators are still undecided on filibuster reform and both say they are in favor of the voting rights bills.  So until either we pass filibuster reform for voting rights, or they thumb it down, we need to keep our powder dry as much as it pains me to say it. 

Constructive anger in the long term means following AKALib’s advice:

Let’s suggest constructive ideas, let’s strategize for the good of the American people, let’s not give up, let’s heed Joyce Alene’s words of wisdom —

“Smart voters will appreciate that the response to this is not to reject the Democratic Party at the polls, it’s to elect more Democrats so that Manchin is no longer relevant.”

We need to channel our anger into flipping at least two more Senate seats in 2022 to make Manchi (and Sinema) irrelevant!

        Committee Activity:

House Jan. 6 Select Committee:

 Subpoena for Trump White House records — If you remember back on December 9, the D.C. District Court of Appeals gave Trump two weeks to file an appeal to SCOTUS in the court’s decsion against him in the White House records case.  That two weeks will end this week on December 23.  Now while he has not done so yet, a Trump appeal is all but certain.  What is not so certain is what SCOTUS will do with his appeal request?

If SCOTUS refuses to hear Trump’s appeal, the Committee could be getting an early Christmas present from the National Archives filled with Trump White House subpoenaed documents.  If SCOTUS does agree to hear the case, they will certainly grant a stay of the Appeal’s Court’s decision while they hear the case.

Details & Commentary —  Whether SCOTUS does or does not agree to hear Trump’s appeal will have implications beyond the release of the White House documents.  It will effect the Contempt of Congress case against Meadows who is using Trump’s claim of Executive Privilege post-Presidency as a defense against testifying before the Committee.  It will also effect the testimony of other witnessess who are either using or might be considering using a post-Presidential Executive Privilege claim to avoid answering Committee questions. 

Anyway, look for some news on this front this week.

That’s It For Now!  For those feeling depressed about this week’s Badd BBB news, please take a moment to read this positive diary by Matt Z and/or this uplifting diary by Pennyfarthing

So let me end with this.  In the words of Bluto from Animal House:

“Nothing is over until we say it is!”

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.

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