Washington Post reporters Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett broke the news today that the Department of Justice has a new unit to address the dramatically growing threat of domestic terrorism. Matthew Olsen, head of DOJ's National Security Division "announced the unit in his opening remarks before the Senate Judiciary Committee, noting that the number of FBI investigations of suspected domestic violent extremists-- those accused of planning or committing crimes in the name of domestic political goals-- had more than doubled since the spring of 2020... Olsen said the intelligence community had determined that 'we face an elevated threat from domestic violent extremists-- that is, individuals in the United States who seek to commit violent criminal acts in furtherance of domestic social or political goals.'... Dick Durbin, the committee chair, took "aim at Republicans for not being fully supportive of congressional efforts to investigate the attack. 'They are normalizing the use of violence to achieve political goals.'"
Republicans? Normalizing political violence? How is that possible? Are you certain you have your facts straight, sir? Well... Jennifer Rubin, a columnist for the same newspaper, certainly backed up the assertion today in a column about how the Democrats best argument for the midterms is how the GOP creates chaos. She suggest that we not "expect the media to blanket their coverage with headlines of the GOP’s transgressions. Since the media surely won’t do it, Democrats themselves should point out to voters that putting the Republicans in the majority would be a recipe for nonstop chaos, confusion, infighting and paralysis. Remember, the GOP is the party that fought tooth and nail against raising the debt ceiling, bringing the country to the brink of default. It refused set up a commission to investigate the insurrection (the House select committee investigating the violence, by the way, consistently polls strongly with voters). And with the exception of Cheney, no Republican showed up to honor the police officers who died defending them and the Capitol."
The Democrats may be wary of the midterm curse, but Republicans should worry that voters won’t consider them stable enough to hold power. And speaking of midterm outlooks, the latest surveys show Democrats slightly ahead in generic congressional polling. Democrats will not have an easy time of it, but while Republicans would prefer to make the midterms a referendum on Biden, Democrats should stress that it is about but whether voters should turn over Congress to the reality-challenged Republicans.
Republicans show no sign they are be prepared to govern. They have presented not a single viable idea for containing inflation. None voted for the American Rescue Plan, and less than half in the Senate voted for the infrastructure bill. In many cases, they have obstructed vaccine efforts and engaged in blatant covid-19 disinformation. (The king of covid disinformation, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, just announced he is breaking his self-imposed limit of two terms and running for reelection.) It’s hard to figure out what they would want to accomplish — other than impeaching Biden and paving the way for a chaotic 2024 election.
If not attacking one another or Democrats, they’re attacking reality. But that’s not really the job description for the majority party in Congress. If they do get the majority, Republican food fights would no longer be just annoying; they’ll be a recipe for dysfunction in a dangerous world. Anyone think they wouldn’t shut down the government at the drop of a hat? Anyone think a Republican Senate majority would confirm any Biden nominees?
The midterm curse typically bodes poorly for the party in the White House, but that’s when the other party respects democracy and remains a responsible alternative. That in no way describes the current political landscape. Midterm voters must decide: Do they want to give the unhinged party that can’t admit their cult leader lost and still makes excuses for the domestic terrorists the reins of power?
The media has emphasized that two extremely corrupt, extremely conservative Democraps-- Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema-- are preventing Congress from protecting democracy by insisting maintaining the Jim Crow filibuster is more important than... protecting democracy! True dat, but... every single Republican is on the same page as Manchin and Sinema... at least for now.
This morning, Philip Bump wrote that Three-Quarters Of Senators Have Voted To Change Filibuster Rules To Expand Voting: Their Own. He blames Manchin for the stalemate, while acknowledging that the Republicans are the culprits. "Biden and his party have been pushing for changes to federal voting laws that they hope will counter Republican efforts constraining poll access. There’s no chance that Republicans in the Senate will join this effort to any significant extent, meaning that to pass, Democrats would possibly need to change filibuster rules, allowing a simple majority vote. Since the party’s caucus has 50 votes plus tiebreaker Vice President Harris, that’s conceptually feasible: a majority vote to change the filibuster and one to advance the voting law ensuring, as the rhetoric goes, that all voters have a chance to be heard."
He says the problem is Manchin and Sinema are against "changing the filibuster rules, meaning that it almost certainly won’t happen. That’s been celebrated by Senate Republicans, who-- like Manchin-- have been publicly wringing their hands about making changes to the filibuster process."
Most of them-- and most Democrats-- though have already voted to change filibuster rules at some point in their Senate careers. When it comes to protecting the ability for their own voices to be heard, 74 of the 100 currently serving senators have already voted to change those rules at least once.
Here we’re referring to two prior changes to filibuster rules, one stemming from a vote in November 2013, when Democrats were in the majority, and the other from April 2017, when Republicans were. Bear in mind, these are two of numerous adjustments or tweaks to filibuster rules; in her 2017 book Exceptions to the Rule, Molly Reynolds counts more than 160 often minor changes from 1969 to 2014.
But the votes in 2013 and 2017 were big ones, in each case overcoming one party’s opposition to nominees put forward by a president from the other party. In 2013, it was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid lining up his caucus to allow appointees to be confirmed on a majority vote. In 2017, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lined up Republicans to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. Of currently serving senators, 35 joined Reid’s push in 2013 and 39 joined McConnell’s. That’s nearly three-quarters of current members who at one point opted to change filibuster rules so that their own votes could contribute to a simple majority.
With one exception. One sitting senator objected to both rule changes: Manchin.
Casual observers of the Senate may not recognize the extent to which Manchin is an outlier from his caucus. He’s the most [far right] Democrat (as measured by VoteView’s ideology tallies) and represents one of the reddest states in the country. That he would oppose the 2017 rule change driven by Republicans isn’t remarkable, since all of the other currently serving members of his caucus did so as well. But in 2013, he joined two other Democrats in opposing such a shift.
In a statement, Manchin argued that the proposal being passed “simply went too far.”
“I firmly believe that the filibuster is a vital protection of the minority views and exactly why the Framers of our Constitution made the Senate the ‘cooling saucer,' " Manchin said. He invoked the words of the late Robert Byrd in making his case, a pointed reference to his immediate predecessor in his seat.
This remains Manchin’s point: that the Senate has institutional protections like the filibuster for a reason. It’s an appeal to tradition that those pushing to dump the filibuster often dismiss as archaic or (like Donald Trump’s in early 2017) ignore completely. For Manchin, though, his approach to the filibuster has been more consistent than for many of his peers.
Which is why Biden’s current pitch is probably doomed. The Democrats can’t afford three defections as they had in 2013. They can afford zero defections. And the person most likely to oppose changing the filibuster rules based on his demonstrated track record happens to be one of the votes they desperately need to make the change.
Let the wisest sentence Joe Manchin ever uttered-- maybe the only wise sentence he ever uttered-- guide your actions tonight by punching him in the nose with your mouse... and then taking out your credit card.