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House Republicans close money gap with majority at stake

House Republicans spent the last four years drowning under an avalanche of Democratic campaign cash. Now they’re staging a fundraising comeback — just in time for a run at the majority.

Over the past three months, GOP incumbents have largely matched Democrats in the money race. The winning formula: a full embrace of digital fundraising, the maturation of their fledgling WinRed platform and donor optimism after a successful showing down-ballot in 2020. All that combined has allowed them to begin erasing the massive financial advantage that Democrats have enjoyed since the rise of former President Donald Trump.

At least 49 Democrats and 43 Republicans each raised more than $ 500,000 in the second quarter of 2021 — a fairly even split — according to a POLITICO analysis of campaign finance reports filed this week. That’s a stark contrast with the second quarter of 2019, when roughly 50 Democratic candidates cleared that threshold, but only some 30 Republicans reached that mark.

“Our leaders are setting records. And our members — especially these freshmen — you’ve got these $ 500,000 to $ 1 million reports that are coming out just a couple years after a big report for Republicans was typically around $ 250,000,” said Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

The GOP had some prolific fundraisers last quarter: Reps. Young Kim (R-Calif.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) both cleared $ 1 million. Reps. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) and Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) raised over $ 850,000. All but Fitzpatrick are members of the 2020 freshman class.

To be sure, House Democrats are still posting massive quarterly totals. And the redistricting process makes it more difficult to know which incumbents will need large war chests. But Republicans are seeing a new groundswell of financial support in the off-year and, as Democrats realized in 2018, that’s often one of the earliest signs of base enthusiasm and a successful drive for the majority.

“In 2018 we put a significant emphasis on candidate development, candidate money and giving candidates the ability to go out and tell their stories,” said Dan Sena, the former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “It was a central reason we were able to win back the House.”

“What should be of note to Democratic strategists and the Democratic campaigns going forward is that it now seems the Republicans are doing the same thing,” Sena added.

Another sign of GOP momentum: The National Republican Congressional Committee has lapped the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in fundraising, outraising the DCCC by $ 8 million in the first six months of 2021. At this point the 2020 cycle, House Democrats had outraised Republicans by over $ 17 million.

The NRCC credits that success, in part, to their painstaking and long-running efforts to build a digital operation.

In interviews, Emmer often recalls a moment in early 2019, when a top digital strategist at the committee wrote him a memo, urging a heavy investment in small-dollar fundraising. That strategist, Lyman Munschauer, predicted the NRCC would suffer a net loss on that investment of 3 to 5 percent after one year before reaping gains.

But the benefits came even more quickly: The NRCC began making money within a year, and it has continued to flow in.

In the second quarter of 2019, the NRCC raised $ 3.3 million online. Over the same period this year, it raised more than $ 14.1 million.

“This time, we’re being even more aggressive,” Emmer said. “Yes, that investment is paying off.”

Meanwhile, WinRed, the GOP online fundraising platform created as a counter to the Democrats’ ActBlue, has taken off at a similar clip, bringing in $ 2.3 billion since its created in 2019.

“Your average Democrat who runs is now all about digital money,” said WinRed president Gerrit Lansing, noting ActBlue was founded in 2004. “We’re just having to complete that 15-year cultural shift and just condense it down into a couple cycles to try to catch up.”

For the GOP, this windfall comes at a crucial moment. When corporate PACs announced they would scale back their donations after the Jan. 6 insurrection, there was some concern that would disproportionately impact Republicans, who sometimes rely more heavily on those gifts.

“We’re all online-based now,” Lansing said of his party. The shift happened years ago, but the “fruits of that labor are really coming to fruition now. And it just so happened to coincide with this huge corporate PAC sort-of cage-rattling situation. So it’s ironic.”

Perhaps more importantly, WinRed has helped Republicans redirect the wealth toward new candidates, particularly downballot. Of the $ 131 million raised on the platform in the second quarter, almost 40 percent of that came from first-time donors to a single campaign.

Some of the party’s most adept fundraisers are able to nudge their supporters toward other candidates. For example, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who has raised over $ 1 million every quarter since she shot to prominence during the first Trump impeachment trial, has shared 150,000 donors since the start of the 2020 cycle.

All of this has spurred a digital-first mentality among Republicans that has long been prevalent in the Democratic political ecosystem, which some in the GOP attribute to their current freshman class, which is younger, more tech-savvy and less accustomed to in-person fundraising than longer-term incumbents.

“We started building our digital program early,” said Hinson, who was a TV news anchor in Cedar Rapids before flipping a seat in 2020. “I do enjoy doing digital fundraising. I’m a direct-to-camera person.”

Filming online ads has helped her connect with constituents and donors, Hinson said. “We use Facebook ads a lot for our digital fundraising, and we have great feedback from the comment sections of those ads.”

And like the NRCC, GOP campaigns appear to be becoming more comfortable with the idea of spending money to make it. Hinson, along with some of the party’s biggest fundraisers like Kim, Steel and Mace, spent well over $ 300,000 last quarter — a higher sum than is typical a year-and-a-half before the election.

All made significant investments in fundraising consulting, digital marketing and web ads, according to their FEC reports.

Still, Democratic incumbents retain a significant cash-on-hand advantage, especially those like Reps. Josh Harder (D-Calif.), Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) and Antonio Delgado (D-N.Y.), who did not face particularly competitive reelections in 2020 and have well over $ 4 million in the bank. Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) has a staggering $ 12.9 million stashed.

And some operatives were privately relieved at the small hauls of some highly touted Republican challengers. GOP state Sen. Jen Kiggans of Virginia only raised $ 286,000 for her run against Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.). And Marine veteran Tyler Kistner raised just $ 279,000 for his rematch with Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.) Though those challengers didn’t launch until mid-April, both incumbents raised well over twice as much.

Yet some of the money has also begun to trickle down to GOP challengers. Republican Derrick Van Orden outraised incumbent Rep. Ron Kind in Wisconsin, $ 754,000 to $ 409,000.

In the coming quarters, however, Republicans are facing an additional roadblock: enticing prospective challengers who are dragging their feet, waiting for the delayed redistricting process to start.

“I hope more candidates jump in soon and not wait for new district lines,” said Dan Conston, the president of the Congressional Leadership Fund, a top GOP super PAC. “Because that compressed calendar is going to present a significant challenge for them for online fundraising and for big-dollar fundraising.”

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This post originally posted here Politics, Policy, Political News Top Stories

The lawmakers will leave the state to stop Republicans from passing a new restrictive voting law, sources say

The majority of the Democrats fleeing Texas are flying to Washington, DC, on two chartered jets. They have kept planning secret because they can be legally compelled to return to the Capitol and believed law enforcement could be sent to track them down, the sources said.
Their move places Texas at the heart of the national fight over voting rights, with GOP state lawmakers turning former President Donald Trump’s lies about widespread voting fraud into a push for new laws that limit mail-in voting, early voting and more.
Already this year, Republican-controlled states including Florida, Georgia and Iowa have enacted restrictive new voting laws. Democrats in Congress have pushed measures that would expand access to the ballot box nationwide — but GOP opposition in the Senate has kept them from clearing the 60-vote threshold necessary to break a filibuster.
In Texas, minority House Democrats walked out of the final hours of this year’s legislative session, blocking Republicans from approving Senate Bill 7 — the controversial measure that would have made casting mail-in ballots harder; banned drive-thru voting centers and 24-hour voting — tactics Harris County, the home of Houston, used in the 2020 election; empowered poll watchers, made it easier for courts to overturn election results; effectively outlawed Black churches’ “souls to the polls” get out the vote push and more.
Abbott, the Republican governor who is seeking a third term in 2022, called a 30-day special legislative session, saying that “election integrity” would be one of his priorities. Majority Republicans in the House and Senate in recent days unveiled bills that closely mirrored SB 7.
State House and Senate committees advanced those bills after hearing opposition in hours-long hearings over the weekend.
The Democrats’ move raises questions about their objectives — whether they are seeking to block any new voting laws altogether or push Republicans to strip their measures of what Democrats see as the most objectionable elements — and how Republicans will try to force Democrats back into the House.
This story has been updated with additional developments Monday.

Trump supporters ripped for ‘disenfranchisement’ by abruptly resigning South Carolina Republicans: report

Trump supporters ripped for disenfranchisement

The Greenville County Republican Party’s top leadership resigned on Thursday.

Chairwoman Jennifer Black, vice chair Stacy Shea, and executive committeeman Randy Page all quit and issued a joint statement, the Greenville News reports.

“Continual lawsuits, threats of lawsuits, intimidation, threats, bullying, disenfranchisement and character assassination, as promised by the leadership of mySCGOP and Greenville Tea Party do not advance anything positive, much less promote any level of political discourse or change,” the three explained.

The group mySCGOP was formed earlier this year and backed the unsuccessful effort of to take over the South Carolina Republican Party by election fraud conspiracy theorist L. Lin Wood.

South Carolina GOP chairman Drew McKissick blasted mySCGOP in a statement.

“MySCGOP is a fringe, rogue group that has used Antifa-style tactics to essentially dismantle the Greenville County Republican Party to become their own hobby horse,” McKissick said. “We’re going to do everything we can to make sure there are productive local organizations that real conservative activists can work through to continue to elect Republicans.”

“And (we will) stay as far as possible from people who want to berate, harass and threaten to sue fellow Republicans and distract from our mission of beating Democrats,” he added.

McKissick described the situation as “absolute insanity” to The Post and Courier.

“They have essentially preyed on Trump supporters, telling them the county and state party organizations didn’t support President Trump, which is a total lie, and then they’ve gone forward spreading rumors and innuendos about people — everything from sex trafficking to embezzlement to rigging elections, all this garbage,” McKissick said.

Author: Bob Brigham
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UK Republicans Launch Billboard Campaign Against Prince Charles’ Succession

UK Republicans Launch Billboard Campaign Against Prince Charles©
REUTERS / POOL

Republic commissioned a recent documentary arguing against Prince Charles’ succession to the British crown, citing his record as a landlord on his huge Duchy of Cornwall estate and his frequent forays into politics.

A British anti-monarchy group has launched a crowd-funding appeal for a new billboard campaign against the royal family.

Pressure group Republic has so far raised over £14,000 of its £30,000 target for a series of poster adverts around the country, scheduled to go up in a fortnight.

The campaign, launched on Tuesday, comes just three months after the death of Prince Philip, the husband of reigning Queen Elizabeth II, which prompted an international outpouring of sympathy for the royal family.

It continues a recent a series of attacks by Republic on heir apparent Prince Charles’ fitness to serve as a monarch.

“This decade will almost certainly see the succession of King Charles ​and the end of the Queen’s reign, and that succession can’t go unchallenged” Republic CEO Graham Smith said.

“With attitudes shifting, especially among younger people, this big change is going to spark a huge debate,” Smith added. “I want to make sure everyone knows there is a democratic alternative rather than sitting back and letting Chalres take the top job.”

​Mocked-up images of the proposed billboards read “No man should be king” beside images of the heir or the crown. Another shows Charles’ controversial brother Prince Andrew, reading “Wanted: a democratic alternative to the monarchy”. Andrew has refused requests to travel to the US and answer questions about his relationship with late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

But the billboards avoid criticising the more popular royals like the reigning Queen, her grandson and second-in-line to the throne Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge — widely seen as the next long-serving king and queen.

Republic, originally founded in 1983, says it has over 80,000 supporters — and claims an estimated 10-12 million Britons support its aim of abolishing the monarchy. A recent documentary commissioned by the group makes the case against Charles’ succession to the throne, citing his record as a landlord on his huge Duchy of Cornwall estate and his frequent forays into politics.

However, the British state has at several points in history removed or sidelined problematic monarchs, whether through the imposition of a regency, Parliamentary acts of succession to appoint a new heir or even more extreme solutions like the 1649 execution of King Charles I by beheading for treason.

England, Scotland and Ireland were then briefly ruled as a republican commonwealth until 1660, with Oliver Cromwell reigning as Lord Protector in place of a king for five of those years. Charles I’s son James II was also deposed by Parliamentary forces led by his son-in-law Prince William of Orange in 1688.

In May Republic was forced to apologise after making accusations to the Charity Commission in June 2020 about a transfer of funds from the The Royal Foundation Of The Duke And Duchess Of Cambridge to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s new MWX Foundation and the prince’s “sustainable tourism” initiative Travalyst.

“We falsely claimed that the transfer of funds from The Royal Foundation to Sussex Royal and to Travalyst was improper and likely to be unlawful,” the group said in a statement.

The queen also reigns as monarch of 15 former British colonies around the world, including Canada, Jamaica, Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

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Republicans back on board after Biden's infrastructure clean-up

Romney predicted the proposal, which has not been drafted but aims to provide nearly $ 600 billion in new spending on roads, bridges and broadband, would have sufficient support to pass the Senate. It will need at least 60 votes, including at least 10 Republicans. Some of those needed GOP votes wavered on Friday after Biden said if the bipartisan bill “is the only one that comes to me, I’m not signing it.”

“I am glad they have now been de-linked and we can move forward with a bipartisan bill,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the lead GOP negotiator, on ABC’s “This Week.” He said Republicans “were glad to see them disconnected. And now we can move forward.”

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), a member of the group, said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that he believed the legislation “will get far more than 60 votes in the end.” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) even predicted that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell could come on board. McConnell criticized Biden’s comments last week as “completely caving” to the party’s left wing and has repeatedly emphasized his commitment to derailing Biden’s progressive agenda.

“If we can pull this off, I think Mitch will favor it. Now he didn’t like the president throwing the wrench in there saying, ‘Listen, the two are tied together,'” Cassidy said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The warm Republican comments on Sunday signal that over the two-week July Fourth recess, negotiators can start drafting legislation that provides the largest investments in physical infrastructure in U.S. history. While there are more opportunities for that effort to be derailed, Biden’s work to reassure Republicans to stay on board and his acknowledgment Saturday that they were “understandably upset” with him seems to be paying off.

At the same time, the larger Democratic spending bill on child care, climate change, Medicare expansion and other progressive priorities is also being shaped by party leaders — and a certain swing vote from Appalachia.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, Democrats’ most elusive vote for that plan in an evenly split Senate, indicated on Sunday that he would join in that work on a bigger, separate “human infrastructure” measure. He also said he would support raising the corporate tax rate to 25 percent and increasing capital gains taxes to 28 percent to help pay for the bill, compromise positions that will nonetheless elate Democrats who want to raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

But he brushed back on Senate Budget Chair Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) proposed $ 6 trillion price tag and said he’d like to avoid deficit spending on that proposal. Manchin suggested Sanders’ ambitions could be cut by 75 percent or more in order to earn his vote.

“If they think in reconciliation I’m going to throw caution to the wind and go to $ 5 trillion or $ 6 trillion when we can only afford $ 1 trillion or $ 1.5 trillion or maybe $ 2 trillion and what we can pay for, then I can’t be there,” Manchin said on “This Week.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he wants the Senate to consider the bipartisan infrastructure plan in July, as well as pass a budget resolution setting up the separate, partisan bill. Set for advancement using the procedural protections of budget reconciliation, that second bill needs lockstep Democratic support in the Senate but can avoid a GOP filibuster.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said her chamber won’t take up the bipartisan bill without Senate passage of the reconciliation bill.

“It’s very important for the president to know that House progressives and the Democratic caucus are here to ensure he doesn’t fail,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on “Meet the Press.” “We can welcome this work and welcome collaboration with Republicans … that doesn’t mean that the president should be limited by Republicans.”

Democrats will first have to settle on a price tag for their budget bills. At the same time, Biden will have to keep Republicans on board with the bipartisan plan.

It’s a convoluted congressional strategy but reflects Biden’s approach in Congress, balancing his desire to cut deals with Republicans alongside his stewardship of a party that is much more progressive than it was a decade ago. He made clear on Saturday that he views his infrastructure agenda as two separate pieces of legislation and predicted both will come to his desk for his signature.

“Some other Democrats have said they might oppose the infrastructure plan because it omits items they think are important: that is a mistake, in my view. Some Republicans now say that they might oppose the infrastructure plan because I am also trying to pass the American Families Plan: that is also a mistake,” Biden said on Saturday. “I intend to work hard to get both of them passed.”

Author: Burgess Everett
This post originally appeared on Politics, Policy, Political News Top Stories

When It Comes to Big City Elections, Republicans Are in the Wilderness

“It’s not the same Republican Party,” said Representative Donald McEachin of Virginia. “Trump chased off a lot of moderate Republicans, so it’s a much smaller party.”

It is difficult to overstate the extent of the Republican Party’s political decline in big-metro America. While Republicans have long been more aligned with rural, conservative voters than with urban constituencies, the pre-Trump G.O.P. made a point of recruiting serious candidates even in Democratic strongholds like New York City and California. The party pulled off upset victories with some frequency by attacking Democrats on seemingly intractable problems like violent crime, high taxes and wasteful spending.

And Republicans were rewarded with a crop of leaders who helped persuade not just their constituents but the country as a whole that their party was capable of mastering the toughest jobs in government. At the turn of the 21st century, Republican mayors governed cities like New York, Los Angeles and San Diego, and a motorist could drive from Pittsburgh to Provincetown, Mass., without entering a state helmed by a Democratic governor.

Since then, said Joseph J. Lhota, the former M.T.A. chairman who was the Republican nominee for mayor of New York in 2013, the G.O.P. had “completely disappeared” as a force in metro politics.

“It’s not sustainable. It’s just not,” Mr. Lhota said. “There was a time when Republicans had a seat at the table when people talked about laboratories of democracy, and there’s no better place for laboratories of democracy than large cities and large states.”

Lanhee Chen, a former policy adviser to Mitt Romney, said it was obviously “not healthy” for Republicans to write off so many important parts of the country. Mr. Chen, who is based in California, is weighing a campaign for state controller in 2022.

“Competing, and competing to win in the marketplace of ideas, is an important thing for the party to do in Texas and Missouri, of course, but also in California and New York,” Mr. Chen said.

Author: Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin
This post originally appeared on NYT > Top Stories

Republicans Rip Joe Manchin’s Proposed Voting ‘Compromise’

Republicans Rip Joe Manchin

Senate Republicans made clear on Thursday they oppose all Democratic ideas aiming to overhaul the nation’s voting systems ― even those proposed by moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

Their hard-line stance against any federal voting legislation underscores that there is very little chance for a bipartisan outcome on the matter, which Manchin has been insisting on.

Manchin on Wednesday outlined the voting provisions he would support in the For the People Act, a sweeping package of voting rights, campaign finance, ethics and redistricting reforms. His “compromise” list ― which is designed to unite Democrats together more than anything ― includes things like expanding early voting, mandating automatic voter registration, making Election Day a holiday, and other measures intended to expand access to the ballot. It does not include other, more expansive things supported by his fellow Democrats, such as public financing of elections.

But if there was any chance of getting Republicans on board with a more narrow bill, those hopes were quickly dashed on Thursday. Appearing at a press conference with a dozen other GOP senators, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called Manchin’s ideas “no compromise.”

“All Republicans will oppose that as well,” he said of Manchin’s narrower list of voting reforms.

In a statement issued prior to the press conference, McConnell said Manchin’s proposal “subverts the First Amendment to supercharge cancel culture and the left’s name-and-shame campaign model.”

Republicans were also quick to note that Democratic former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams had endorsed Manchin’s list of proposed voting changes, a way to dismiss the proposals as not actually bipartisan.

“When Stacey Abrams immediately endorsed Sen. Manchin’s proposal, it became the Stacey Abrams’ substitute, not the Joe Manchin substitute,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said.

Republicans have now functionally killed both of Manchin’s ideas on voting ― the passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, a narrow measure that would restore the ability of the Justice Department to oversee state election law changes, and his latest “compromise” offer on the For the People Act.

But when asked about McConnell’s stance on Thursday, Manchin seemed undeterred.

“McConnell has a right to do whatever he thinks he can do. I would hope that there’s enough good Republicans who understand the bedrock of our society is having an accessible, fair, open election,” Manchin said, repeating a version of something he said before Republicans ultimately filibustered legislation to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

He expressed hope that bipartisan relationships forged in the Senate on other issues would ultimately help convince enough Republicans to support a voting bill.

“They’ll use those same connections and same relationships when we get into challenging areas right now with voting. I’m thinking they could reach out and help a little bit,” Manchin said.

Manchin has repeatedly vowed never to support eliminating the Senate filibuster, which stands in the way of passing legislation on voting rights, gun control, immigration, climate and a whole host of other priorities for Democrats. He’s shown no willingness to bend on the matter even as Republicans have rejected his efforts to forge bipartisan compromise.

The issue will come to a head next week when the Senate holds an initial vote to formally open debate on a voting bill. Democratic leaders have not said what kinds of changes, if any, they’ll make to the For the People Act, but it’s likely they will look something like what Manchin outlined this week. They’ll need his support to advance anything to the floor, and he indicated on Thursday that he would vote to proceed and at least start debate on the matter.

“I think we all want to do that,” Manchin said.

Even if Democrats ultimately win over Manchin, however, the bill is almost certainly going to be filibustered by Republicans.

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This post originally appeared on HuffPost – Breaking News, U.S. and World News

Republicans Call Biden 'Soft' on Russia, Leaving Out Trump's Defense of Putin

Ahead of President Biden’s summit on Wednesday with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in an 18th-century villa, Republicans in Congress and conservative media outlets like Fox News have coalesced around a succinct line of attack: Mr. Biden is weak when it comes to dealing with the Russian leader.

Some of Mr. Biden’s most prominent critics, however, neglect to mention their backing of President J. Donald Trump as he spent four years seeking to befriend Mr. Putin, dismissing Russia’s aggressive behavior and complaining that a “Deep State” and other Washington actors were preventing him from striking deals with Moscow.

On Tuesday, shortly before Mr. Biden departed on Air Force One from Brussels for Geneva, where he will meet with Mr. Putin for the first time in more than a decade, the website of Fox News published an opinion essay by Mike Pompeo, who served as secretary of state under Mr. Trump, arguing that Mr. Biden “shows up with a self-dealt weak hand.”

The idea that Mr. Biden is no match for the Russian has been a regular theme on the network’s programming in recent weeks.

On his prime-time program Monday night, the Fox host Sean Hannity declared that Mr. Putin “will see firsthand how weak Joe is,” adding that “Putin loves a weak America and a weak American president.”

During the Trump years, both men — along with many other prominent conservatives — to varying degrees defended or excused Mr. Trump’s approach to Mr. Putin, whom U.S. intelligence concluded had ordered a campaign to interfere in the 2016 American election.

“We are the toughest administration ever on Russia,” Mr. Pompeo insisted during Senate testimony last July, citing sanctions that were imposed on Moscow, often with Mr. Trump’s grudging approval at best.

In recent weeks, many other Republicans, not all of whom defended Mr. Trump’s approach, have charged that Mr. Biden has been soft on Russia. Many have cited Mr. Biden’s decision last month to waive Congressional sanctions on the Russian company behind the Nord Stream 2 oil and gas pipeline and the company’s German chief executive.

Opponents of the pipeline say that it gives Mr. Putin needed new revenues and dangerous control over Europe’s energy supplies. Mr. Biden had opposed the pipeline, but in the end gave in to the arguments of supporters, including Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who contend that the risks are overblown.

The pipeline, mostly built during the Trump era, was about 95 percent complete by the time Mr. Biden took office, and it was unclear whether he could have stopped it even if he tried. In explaining his decision, Mr. Biden said that imposing the sanctions would be “counterproductive in terms of our European relations.”

“We’re rewarding Putin with a summit? Instead of treating Putin like a gangster who fears his own people, we’re giving him his treasured Nord Stream 2 pipeline and legitimizing his actions with a summit,” Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, said in a May 25 statement. Mr. Sasse was a harsh critic of Mr. Trump.

But his critique reflected wide sentiment within the Republican Party and among allies of Mr. Trump.

“Biden is weak. Putin knows it,” Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, tweeted on June 2.

The White House rejects the notion that the meeting with Mr. Putin amounts to a concession, and privately officials say the problem with Mr. Trump’s meetings with the Russian leader was not that they took place but what they said was Mr. Trump’s obsequious approach.

In a briefing this month, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said that Mr. Biden “is never one to hold back on areas where he has concern, areas where he feels the actions of the Russian government or Russian leadership are hurting the United States. And he certainly has no intention of holding back during this meeting, publicly or privately.”

Author: Michael Crowley
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

In Congress, Republicans Shrug at Warnings of Democracy in Peril

WASHINGTON — Senator Christopher S. Murphy concedes that political rhetoric in the nation’s capital can sometimes stray into hysteria, but when it comes to the precarious state of American democracy, he insisted he was not exaggerating the nation’s tilt toward authoritarianism.

“Democrats are always at risk of being hyperbolic,” said Mr. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut. “I don’t think there’s a risk when it comes to the current state of democratic norms.”

After the norm-shattering presidency of Donald J. Trump, the violence-inducing bombast over a stolen election, the pressuring of state vote counters, the Capitol riot and the flood of voter curtailment laws rapidly being enacted in Republican-run states, Washington has found itself in an anguished state.

Almost daily, Democrats warn that Republicans are pursuing racist, Jim Crow-inspired voter suppression efforts to disenfranchise tens of millions of citizens, mainly people of color, in a cynical effort to grab power. Metal detectors sit outside the House chamber to prevent lawmakers — particularly Republicans who have boasted of their intention to carry guns everywhere — from bringing weaponry to the floor. Democrats regard their Republican colleagues with suspicion, believing that some of them collaborated with the rioters on Jan. 6.

Republican lawmakers have systematically downplayed or dismissed the dangers, with some breezing over the attack on the Capitol as a largely peaceful protest, and many saying the state voting law changes are to restore “integrity” to the process, even as they give credence to Mr. Trump’s false claims of rampant fraud in the 2020 election.

They shrug off Democrats’ warnings of grave danger as the overheated language of politics as usual.

“I haven’t understood for four or five years why we are so quick to spin into a place where part of the country is sure that we no longer have the strength to move forward, as we always have in the past,” said Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of Republican leadership, noting that the passions of Republican voters today match those of Democratic voters after Mr. Trump’s triumph. “Four years ago, there were people in the so-called resistance showing up in all of my offices every week, some of whom were chaining themselves to the door.”

For Democrats, the evidence of looming catastrophe mounts daily. Fourteen states, including politically competitive ones like Florida and Georgia, have enacted 22 laws to curtail early and mail-in ballots, limit polling places and empower partisans to police polling, then oversee the vote tally. Others are likely to follow, including Texas, with its huge share of House seats and electoral votes.

Because Republicans control the legislatures of many states where the 2020 census will force redistricting, the party is already in a strong position to erase the Democrats’ razor-thin majority in the House. Even moderate voting-law changes could bolster Republicans’ chances for the net gain of one vote they need to take back the Senate.

And in the nightmare outcome promulgated by some academics, Republicans have put themselves in a position to dictate the outcome of the 2024 presidential election if the voting is close in swing states.

“Statutory changes in large key electoral battleground states are dangerously politicizing the process of electoral administration, with Republican-controlled legislatures giving themselves the power to override electoral outcomes on unproven allegations,” 188 scholars said in a statement expressing concern about the erosion of democracy.

Senator Angus King, an independent from Maine who lectured on American politics at Bowdoin College before going to the Senate, put the moment in historical context. He called American democracy “a 240-year experiment that runs against the tide of human history,” and that tide usually leads from and back to authoritarianism.

He said he feared the empowerment of state legislatures to decide election results more than the troubling curtailments of the franchise.

“This is an incredibly dangerous moment, and I don’t think it’s being sufficiently realized as such,” he said.

Republicans contend that much of this is overblown, though some concede the charges sting. Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, said Democrats were playing a hateful race card to promote voting-rights legislation that is so extreme it would cement Democratic control of Congress for decades.

“I hope that damage isn’t being done,” he added, “but it is always very dangerous to falsely play the race card and let’s face it, that’s what’s being done here.”

Mr. Toomey, who voted to convict Mr. Trump at his second impeachment trial, said he understood why, in the middle of a deadly pandemic, states sharply liberalized voting rules in 2020, extending mail-in voting, allowing mailed ballots to be counted days after Election Day and setting up ballot drop boxes, curbside polls and weeks of early voting.

But he added that Democrats should understand why state election officials wanted to course correct now that the coronavirus was ebbing.

“Every state needs to strike a balance between two competing values: making it as easy as possible to cast legitimate votes, but also the other, which is equally important: having everybody confident about the authenticity of the votes,” Mr. Toomey said.

Mr. Trump’s lies about a stolen election, he added, “were more likely to resonate because you had this system that went so far the other way.”

Some other Republicans embrace the notion that they are trying to use their prerogatives as a minority party to safeguard their own power. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky said the endeavor was the essence of America’s system of representative democracy, distinguishing it from direct democracy, where the majority rules and is free to trample the rights of the minority unimpeded.

“The idea of democracy and majority rule really is what goes against our history and what the country stands for,” Mr. Paul said. “The Jim Crow laws came out of democracy. That’s what you get when a majority ignores the rights of others.”

Democrats and their allies push back hard on those arguments. Mr. King said the only reason voters lacked confidence in the voting system was that Republicans — especially Mr. Trump — told them for months that it was rigged, despite all evidence to the contrary, and now continued to insist that there were abuses in the process that must be fixed.

“That’s like pleading for mercy as an orphan after you killed both your parents,” he said.

Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, said in no way could some of the new state voting laws be seen as a necessary course correction. “Not being able to serve somebody water who’s waiting in line? I mean, come on,” he said. “There are elements that are in most of these proposals where you look at it and you say, ‘That violates the common-sense test.’”

Missteps by Democrats have fortified Republicans’ attempts to downplay the dangers. Some of them, including President Biden, have mischaracterized Georgia’s voting law, handing Republicans ammunition to say that Democrats were willfully distorting what was happening at the state level.

The state’s 98-page voting law, passed after the narrow victories for Mr. Biden and two Democratic candidates for Senate, would make absentee voting harder and create restrictions and complications for millions of voters, many of them people of color.

But Mr. Biden falsely claimed that the law — which he labeled “un-American” and “sick” — had slapped new restrictions on early voting to bar people from voting after 5 p.m. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, said the Georgia law had ended early voting on Sunday. It didn’t.

And the sweep — critics say overreach — of the Democrats’ answer to Republican voter laws, the For the People Act, has undermined Democratic claims that the fate of the republic relies on its passage. Even some Democrats are uncomfortable with the act’s breadth, including an advancement of statehood for the District of Columbia with its assurance of two more senators, almost certainly Democratic; its public financing of elections; its nullification of most voter identification laws; and its mandatory prescriptions for early and mail-in voting.

“They want to put a thumb on the scale of future elections,” Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, said on Wednesday. “They want to take power away from the voters and the states, and give themselves every partisan advantage that they can.”

Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, who could conceivably be a partner in Democratic efforts to expand voting rights, called the legislation a “fundamentally unserious” bill.

Republican leaders have sought to take the current argument from the lofty heights of history to the nitty-gritty of legislation. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, pointed to the success of bipartisan efforts such as passage of a bill to combat hate crimes against Asian Americans, approval of a broad China competition measure and current talks to forge compromises on infrastructure and criminal justice as proof that Democratic catastrophizing over the state of American governance was overblown.

But Democrats are not assuaged.

“Not to diminish the importance of the work we’ve done here, but democracy itself is what we’re talking about,” said Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii. “And to point at other bills that don’t have to do with the fair administration of elections is just an attempt to distract while all these state legislatures move systematically toward disenfranchising voters who have historically leaned Democrat.”

Mr. King said he had had serious conversations with Republican colleagues about the precarious state of American democracy. Authoritarian leaders like Vladimir V. Putin, Viktor Orban and Adolf Hitler have come to power by election, and stayed in power by warping or obliterating democratic norms.

But, he acknowledged, he has yet to get serious engagement, largely because his colleagues fear the wrath of Mr. Trump and his supporters.

“I get the feeling they hope this whole thing will go away,” he said. “They make arguments, but you have the feeling their hearts aren’t in it.”

Author: Jonathan Weisman
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

In a Different Capitol Siege, Republicans in Oregon Call for Accountability

A little more than two weeks before a mob of supporters of Donald J. Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol, falsely claiming that he had won the election, a strikingly similar event had unfolded on the other side of the country, at the State Capitol in Oregon.

There, in December, a restive crowd had breached the exterior doors and battled law enforcement officers in a building that is capped by a gold-leaf pioneer wielding an ax. The agitators, waving Trump flags and clad in body armor, wielded pepper spray and smashed windows. “Arrest Kate Brown!” the crowd chanted, referring to the state’s Democratic governor.

Republicans in Congress have resisted a full, formal investigation into the much larger attack by protesters on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, but in Oregon, lawmakers facing new evidence about the Dec. 21 siege in Salem are taking a different approach. On Monday, the state’s House Republican caucus signed a letter encouraging the resignation of a colleague, Representative Mike Nearman, who in a newly discovered video appeared to be coaching protesters on how they might gain access to the building.

The House Republican leader, Christine Drazan, said on Tuesday that she believed there was enough support in her caucus to expel Mr. Nearman from the State Legislature if he did not resign. Legislators in the state have never before expelled one of their own.

“I would hope that Representative Nearman would make the decision to not be the first,” Ms. Drazan said in an interview.

The protest in Salem was part of a series of demonstrations that broke out across the country after the Nov. 3 election as supporters egged on by Mr. Trump mobilized to contest an election they falsely believed had been stolen. Some of the protests targeted state leaders who had imposed lockdowns and mask orders to counter the coronavirus pandemic.

In Salem on Dec. 21, dozens of people mobilized outside the Capitol, expressing frustration that the building had been closed to the public amid the pandemic. Carrying signs condemning the “lying lockdown” and shouting, “Let us in,” some in the crowd surged through an open door on the building’s north side before law enforcement officers moved to confront them.

A larger crowd later managed to push in through the doorway but, facing a line of officers in riot gear, they did not reach the rotunda area or areas of the building where legislators were working. Officers later made some arrests and cleared the building.

In the months since the breach, videos have made it clear that the crowd had assistance from someone on the inside. Security footage made public days afterward showed Mr. Nearman, who has represented a district that lies south and west of Salem for the past six years, opening a door in a way that allowed protesters inside as he left the building. Mr. Nearman, who walked around the building and re-entered it, faces misdemeanor charges of official misconduct and criminal trespass.

After the first video emerged, Mr. Nearman said he did not condone violence but also said he believed that legislative proceedings should be open to the public.

Then last week, new footage surfaced, suggesting not only that he may have expected protesters to enter the building, but that he had offered to help them. The video, earlier reported by Oregon Public Broadcasting, appeared to be streamed online a few days before the December intrusion. It showed Mr. Nearman making public remarks in which he coyly gives out his own cellphone number with a suggestion that anyone who might need to enter the Capitol building could text him if they needed a way inside. He referred to the idea as “Operation Hall Pass.”

“That is just random numbers that I spewed out. That’s not anybody’s actual cellphone,” Mr. Nearman said after giving out his cell number. “And if you say, ‘I’m at the West entrance’ during the session and text to that number there, that somebody might exit that door while you’re standing there. But I don’t know anything about that.”

Barbara Smith Warner, a Democratic lawmaker from Portland who is the House majority leader, said she found it hard to believe that a sitting legislator would put everyone in the building at risk, not only by intentionally opening the door but by doing it in a premeditated way.

“That is mind-boggling,” Ms. Smith Warner said. “If that’s not traitorous, I don’t know what is.”

Mr. Nearman did not respond to messages seeking comment. In an interview with the conservative radio host Lars Larson, Mr. Nearman said he had been “clowning around” in the video and “setting up” for what he had assumed would be a peaceful protest. He said he had been speaking in the video to a group that was not known to be violent.

“I’m willing to have some consequences for what I did, or whatever, but this is super extreme,” Mr. Nearman said.

Ms. Smith Warner said she came to see the Dec. 21 siege as a kind of dress rehearsal for what happened in the nation’s Capitol a few weeks later, with the same types of grievances on display. While Republican legislators in Oregon had been largely silent about the December siege until now, she said, she applauded those who were now willing to take on the issue.

“I don’t want to minimize that at least some of the Republicans here are doing the right thing,” Ms. Smith Warner said. “That is no small thing. I do think their base will consider that a betrayal.”

The U.S. House voted in May to create an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, which left several people dead, injured law enforcement officers and had lawmakers fleeing for safety as a mob ransacked the complex. But that plan for a broader accounting of the day was stalled by Republicans in the Senate who appeared to fear the political consequences of an open-ended inquiry.

In Oregon, House Speaker Tina Kotek announced that a bipartisan special committee would convene this week to consider whether Mr. Nearman should be expelled. Ms. Drazan, the Republican leader, said she believed that the matter should have been handled by a different committee but supported the idea of considering expulsion.

If a resolution to expel goes to the full House, it would need 40 of the chamber’s 60 lawmakers to approve it. The chamber has 37 Democrats.

Ms. Drazan said she did not see much of a parallel between the siege in Washington and the one in Salem, and said she preferred to keep her focus on events in Oregon rather than weighing in on how Republicans in Congress should handle the Jan. 6 events. She said she hoped Republican lawmakers would be as focused on doing the right thing in their own party as they have been on criticizing the opposing party.

“I am just exhausted by national politics,” Ms. Drazan said. “They just need to get their act together. They need to start to serve the greater good.”

Ms. Drazan noted that when Republican Party leadership in Oregon passed a resolution that embraced the unfounded conspiracy theory that the Jan. 6 attack was a left-wing “false flag” plot to frame Mr. Trump’s supporters, her caucus in the Legislature disavowed the resolution, declaring that there was no evidence of a false flag effort and that the election was over.

“We have, I hope, a clear-minded view of what is public service and what is not,” Ms. Drazan said.

Mr. Nearman was among those who signed the letter.

Author: Mike Baker
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News