Democrats must abolish the filibuster if they win the Senate and White House

Christel Deskins

Hello, everyone! Welcome to the new edition of Insider Today. Please sign up here. QUOTE OF THE DAY “Well, it’s not the hardest test. They have a picture and it says ‘what’s that’ and it’s an elephant,” — Chris Wallace of Fox News, interviewing President Trump about the mental acuity […]

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Well, it’s not the hardest test. They have a picture and it says ‘what’s that’ and it’s an elephant,” — Chris Wallace of Fox News, interviewing President Trump about the mental acuity test that the President brags about acing. 

WHAT’S HAPPENING

PreviousNext Police respond to protesters during a demonstration, Friday, July 17, 2020 in Portland, Ore.
PreviousNext Police respond to protesters during a demonstration, Friday, July 17, 2020 in Portland, Ore.

Dave Killen/The Oregonian via Associated Press

Congress is taking up a new emergency relief bill. House Democrats have passed a $3 trillion bill, but Senate Republicans and the President say they want to spend less than $1 trillion. Extra unemployment benefits helping more than 30 million families will expire at the end of July if Congress doesn’t act. 

The son of a federal judge was murdered and her husband was wounded. A gunman disguised as a FedEx driver attacked the family of Judge Esther Salas in New Jersey. Salas was unharmed and the shooter is at large. 

The UK suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong because of the new security law. Britain fears that anyone extradited to Hong Kong could be passed on to China for trial and punishment. 

The federal crackdown on Portland protests continues. Despite a lawsuit by Oregon, Trump officials vow to continue and even expand having unidentified federal agents in unmarked vehicles detain protesters. A former Navy sailor described his terrifying ordeal at the hands of the feds. 

Oxford vaccine candidate is safe and stimulates production of antibodies and white blood cells. The study of more than 1,000 trial subjects, published in Lancet, is considered “promising.” The US has preordered millions of doses of the Oxford vaccine. 

VIEWS OF THE DAY

Democrats must abolish the filibuster if they win the Senate

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, the speaker-designate for the new Congress, talk to reporters as Congress tries to avert a partial shutdown, in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, the speaker-designate for the new Congress, talk to reporters as Congress tries to avert a partial shutdown, in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018.

Associated Press/J. Scott Applewhite

Realistic about President Trump’s declining poll numbers and the impossibility of re-taking the House, Republicans are increasingly focusing their electoral hopes on preserving their Senate majority. 

But even if Democrats take back the Senate, a slim majority would help President Biden very little if the filibuster persists. That’s why the most consequential decision of this election could be in January not November, when the new Senate decides whether to preserve the filibuster or revert to majority rule. 

The filibuster, which is a Senate tradition but not a requirement, gives the minority a veto over most legislation. Under the Senate’s arcane rules, President Biden would be able to push through one budget bill every year with a simple majority, and get his judicial nominees approved, but 40-plus Republican senators could filibuster and kill any significant legislation on voting rights or police reform, for example. 

We’ve seen this movie before. The Republican Senate used the filibuster (and later the majority) to block all significant non-budgetary legislation for the last six years of the Obama presidency. President Obama responded with significant executive actions that circumvented Congress, like DACA. President Trump has put circumvention on steroids, invoking his executive authority to remake immigration law, raid the Pentagon budget to build a wall, start trade wars, and stonewall congressional inquiries. Trump has dared the courts to stop him, which they haven’t. Now he seems to be contemplating an even vaster presidential power grab, simply not enforcing laws he doesn’t like.  

If Democrats win the White House and Senate, President Biden and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer would need to choose one of three paths. 

  • First, they could maintain the filibuster, giving Republicans the ability to block all significant legislation, while also retreating from the executive overreach that has defined the Trump years. This would result in a weak presidency and none of the progressive change Democrats long for. 

  • Second, they could maintain the filibuster, giving Republicans the ability to block all meaningful legislation, but continue the Trumpian executive overreach, allowing Biden to pursue progressive goals through regulation and executive orders. The problem is this would further concentrate executive power — which most Democrats fear —and it might not even work, since a conservative Supreme Court would probably stop it. 

  • Third, they could abolish the filibuster, and use House and Senate majorities to pass as much progressive legislation as they can agree on. This would toss out a senatorial tradition but would strengthen Congress as a whole, and make it a more equal partner to the presidency. It would also mean that the next Republican president with a Republican Congress would be similarly untrammelled. 

If you’re Biden or Schumer, it’s obvious which of these three choices will accomplish the most and undermine our political system least. If they get the chance, Senate Democrats should abolish the filibuster. — DP

Chris Wallace shows how to fact-check Trump (and any politician) in real-time

President Donald Trump is interview by Fox News host Chris Wallace
President Donald Trump is interview by Fox News host Chris Wallace

Screenshot via Fox News

Fox News’ Chris Wallace over the weekend soberly, un-theatrically, and repeatedly fact-checked President Trump in real time during a taped interview. 

Axios’ Trump-whisperer Jonathan Swan called it the best interview that anyone’s conducted of Trump since he announced his candidacy in 2015.

What was perhaps the most important part of the fact check was how Wallace quickly undercut the false narratives Trump is attempting to cement in the public perception of Joe Biden’s candidacy. (This is something that interviewers should do with every candidate, regardless of party.)

When Trump claimed that Biden wants to defund and abolish the police, Wallace interrupted and said, “Sir, he does not.” 

Flummoxed, Trump said: “Oh really? It says ‘abolish.’ It says ‘defund.’ Let’s go!” “Get me the charter, please.” He then demanded the interview be paused and asked a staffer for a copy of the charter — which of course, contained no mention of abolishing or defunding the police. 

The Trump campaign has made a staple out of attacks on Joe Biden’s alleged “cognitive decline. Last week the president bragged on Fox News that he “aced” a mental acuity test that he believed Biden would fail.

Wallace told Trump that he found the same test online and said “it’s not the hardest test,” noting that it requires you to identify a picture of an elephant and to count backwards from 100 by seven. 

These shouldn’t be considered remarkable feats of journalism but in 2020, they are. 

A serious interviewer that isn’t in the tank for one candidate or political party should always challenge and fact-check their subject. 

And just because Trump lies at levels that go light-years beyond just your average spin, cable news interviewers shouldn’t let Democratic candidates off the hook when they stretch the truth about their records or their opponents, either. 

Wallace set the example by following a few simple maxims. 1) Politicians are not your friends. 2) You don’t work for a campaign. 3) Fact-checking the powerful is the main public service of your job. — AF

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Another face-palm of a week for Trump’s disgraceful and incompetent coronavirus response

Here’s a hypothesis for you: If anyone else were President, the United States would not have one of the worst coronavirus crises in the world.

Trump’s aggressively incompetent response has required a rare combination of attributes, the lack of any one of which would likely have spared the US much of its current pain.

Trump’s ignorance and dismissal of science and expertise allow him and his administration to continue to deny the severity of the pandemic and discourage even simple and reasonable attempts to address it.

Trump’s insecurity — which leads him to surround himself with yes-people and muzzle and demean dissenters — has prevented him from delegating the pandemic to a competent team.

Trump’s profound dishonesty and refusal to accept responsibility for anything negative prevents him from learning from past mistakes and getting it right late instead of never. Even an insecure, incompetent President who ignored the science and blew the initial response like Trump would eventually have learned what needed to be done.

Trump’s ego and lack of empathy prevent him from treating the coronavirus as anything but a personal PR problem. Six months into this disaster, even an ignorant, insecure, dishonest President with the decidedly un-Trumpian attribute of caring about his fellow Americans would have deferred to a competent team and gotten out of the way.. 

The problem in the US is not that we live in a democracy. Europe has democracies, and most of them have figured it out. Here’s a comparison of the US and EU cases per million people:

Our world in data daily cases
Our world in data daily cases

Our World in Data

The problem in the US is also not that we don’t know what to do or can’t do it. We know exactly what to do, and we’re the United States, for goodness sake — we can do anything.

The problem in the US is that our President is Trump. — HB

John Lewis was an American Founder, like Jefferson or Hamilton. 

Even if you feel you’ve heard enough about John Lewis, read this wise essay in the Atlantic. Lewis, Adam Serwer argues, was nothing less than an American founder. Our traditional founders — Jefferson, Washington, and their peers — created the first American Republic. 80 years later, a new generation — Lincoln, Douglass, and Grant — brought slavery to an end and gave us a second American Republic. Lewis and his fellow Civil Rights heroes — including CT Vivian, who also just died — founded “the Third American Republic, the only one to sincerely pursue the promises of the Declaration of Independence and the first true attempt at interracial democracy in American history.” — DP

With Lewis’s death, who inherits the mantle as the greatest living American? Email us your nominees at [email protected] and [email protected]

BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Trader Joes los angeles
Trader Joes los angeles

David Livingston/Getty Images

Trader Joe’s is renaming its Trader Ming, Trader Jose, and other international product lines. An online petition calls the names “racist.” Trader Joe’s says they were already phasing the names out, and will recast them all as Trader Joe’s.  

Chevron is buying Noble Energy, valuing the Houston oil-and-gas firm at $13 billion. It’s the largest energy deal since the pandemic started. 

LIFE

jeremy roenick
jeremy roenick

Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

What’s it like to get a first haircut, post-lockdown? For Insider’s Shafi Musaddique, it was both normal, and extremely emotional. 

Jeremy Roenick is suing NBC Sports for discriminating against him. He said they fired him because he’s a straight man and a Trump supporter. The former NHL star was axed after making sexual remarks about his NBC cohost on a Barstool Sports podcast.

THE BIG 3*

Princess Beatrice d’York and her fiance Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi attend the Wedding of Prince Jean-Christophe Napoleon and Olympia Von Arco-Zinneberg at Les Invalides on October 19, 2019 in Paris, France.
Princess Beatrice d’York and her fiance Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi attend the Wedding of Prince Jean-Christophe Napoleon and Olympia Von Arco-Zinneberg at Les Invalides on October 19, 2019 in Paris, France.

Luc Castel/Getty Images

Trump is considering bypassing immigration law with a loophole. He’d simply not enforce laws he didn’t like, and dare the courts and Congress to stop him. The strategy was outlined in a National Review article by former George W. Bush official John Yoo. 

Kanye West says he and Kim considered aborting their first child. He said this during his first, strange campaign speech in South Carolina, which included emotional remarks against abortion. He said he would discourage abortion by paying families $1 million for every child they have.

Princess Beatrice’s secret wedding ceremony: Details from the socially distanced ceremony, including the fact that she and her father Prince Andrew had to isolate together for him to walk her down the aisle. 

*The most popular stories on Insider today.

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