Archives for category: Republicans

Dana Milbank argues in this column that Trump’s overt racism is creating a massive backlash that will unseat him and transform American politics for the better.

Here’s hoping and praying he is right.

Trump’s racism has stigmatized the Republican Party. Moderates have jumped ship, and the party is now identified with white nationalism and the KKK, all to protect a president who had no party affiliation until he ran for president. How can Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the GOP’s only African American in the Senate, remain in the party of Trump?

Milbank wrote:

Four years ago, Christopher Parker, an African American political scientist at the University of Washington, made the provocative argument that Donald Trump’s candidacy could “do more to advance racial understanding than the election of Barack Obama.”

“Trump’s clear bigotry,” Parker wrote in the American Prospect, a liberal journal, “makes it impossible for whites to deny the existence of racism in America. . . . His success clashes with many white Americans’ vision of the United States as a fair and just place.”

Those words seem prescient today, after four years of President Trump’s racism, from the “very fine people” marching with neo-Nazis in Charlottesville to, in just the past week, a “white power” retweet and a threat to veto defense spending to protect the names of Confederate generals; after a pandemic disproportionately ravaged African American communities while an indifferent president tried to move on; after Trump-allied demonstrators, some carrying firearms and Confederate flags, tried to “liberate” themselves from public health restrictions; after the video of George Floyd’s killing showed the world blatant police brutality; after Trump used federal firepower against peaceful civil rights demonstrators of all colors.

The reckoning Parker foresaw is now upon us. White women, disgusted by Trump’s cruelty, are abandoning him in large number. White liberals, stunned by the brazen racism, have taken to the streets. And signs point to African American turnout in November that will rival the record level of 2012, when Obama was on the ballot. This, by itself, would flip Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to Democrats, an analysis by the liberal Center for American Progress shows.

Surprisingly high Democratic turnout in recent contests in Wisconsin, Georgia, Kentucky and Colorado points to the possibility of a building wave. The various measures of Democratic enthusiasm suggest “turnout beyond anything we’ve seen since 1960,” University of North Carolina political scientist Marc Hetherington predicts. If so, that would mean a historic repudiation of Trump, who knows his hope of reelection depends on low turnout. He has warned that mail-in ballots and other attempts to encourage more voting would mean “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

That may not be wrong. Trump has accelerated a decades-old trend toward parties redefining themselves by race and racial attitudes. Racial resentment is now the single most important factor driving Republicans and Republican-leaning movers, according to extensive research, most recently by Nicholas Valentino and Kirill Zhirkov at the University of Michigan — more than religion, culture, class or ideology. An ongoing study by University of North Carolina researchers finds that racial resentment even drives hostility toward mask-wearing and social distancing. Conversely, racial liberalism now drives Democrats of all colors more than any other factor.

Consider just one yardstick, a standard question of racial attitudes in which people are asked to agree or disagree with this statement: “It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites.”

In 2012, 56 percent of white Republicans agreed with that statement, according to the American National Election Studies. The number grew in 2016 with Trump’s rise, to 59 percent. Last month, an astonishing 71 percent of white Republicans agreed, according to a YouGov poll written by Parker and conducted by GQR (where my wife is a partner).

The opposite movement among white Democrats is even more striking. In 2012, 38 percent agreed that African Americans didn’t try hard enough. In 2016, that dropped to 27 percent. And now? Just 13 percent.

To the extent Trump’s racist provocation is a strategy (rather than simply an instinct), it is a miscalculation. The electorate was more than 90 percent white when Richard Nixon deployed his Southern strategy; the proportion is now 70 percent white and shrinking. But more than that, Trump’s racism has alienated a large number of white people.

“For many white Americans, the things Trump is saying and getting away with, they just didn’t think they lived in a world where that could happen,” says Vincent Hutchings, a political scientist specializing in public opinion at the University of Michigan. Racist appeals in particular alienate white, college-educated women, and even some women without college degrees, he has found: “One of the best ways to exacerbate the gender gap isn’t to talk about gender but to talk about race.”

Trump’s racism has also emboldened white Democrats, who have often been on the losing end of racial politics since George H.W. Bush deployed Willie Horton against Michael Dukakis in 1988. “They’re embracing the racial issues they used to cower on in decades past,” Hetherington says.

This is what Parker had in mind when he wrote in 2016 that Trump could be “good for the United States.” The backlash Trump provoked among whites and nonwhites alike “could kick off a second Reconstruction,” Parker now thinks. “I know it sounds crazy, especially coming from a black man,” he says, but “I think Trump actually is one of the best things that’s happened in this country.”

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has canceled the State GOP Convention, which was scheduled for next week.

In light of the dangerous health situation in Houston, the mayor said it was unsafe.

Good to know that local elected officials take the pandemic seriously, even though the president does not.

Humorist Andy Borowitz of the New Yorker recommends moving the GOP convention from North Carolina to Moscow.

The GOP has friends there. No protests.

We have all read mealy-mouthed articles and editorials in which the writers tiptoe around the unquestioned fact that Donald Trump lies without shame. We know he has fired anyone in the federal government who has dared to question his often absurd judgments. We know he has fired several independent Inspectors General whose job is to monitor Cabinet agencies for waste, fraud, and abuse. Most recently he fired the Inspector General of the State Department, who was investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for using State Department personnel to run personal errands, like walking his dog, picking up his dry cleaning, etc., and allowing his wife to run State Department meetings as if she had been hired to be his deputy. The Inspector General had to go.

Trump glories in insulting the media, mocking them for asking questions that he prefers not to answer. At his rallies, he enjoys ridiculing journalists, treating them like criminals. His tweets are vicious and self-aggrandizing, unbecoming of a man who sits in the White House.

Bit by bit, he is destroying the norms and institutions that have protected us in the past from incompetent presidents.

This newspaper, the Las Vegas Sun, called him out for what he is: an incipient dictator, a man whose fascist tendencies grow stronger with every passing day and with his fear that he might lose the election. The editorial board also called out the Republican party, a party that once identified with Abraham Lincoln but which now allies itself with white nationalists, bigots, and every sort of rightwing extremism. To be a Republican today is to identify with the most hateful elements of our society. I am ashamed to say that I worked in a Republican administration, that of President George H.W. Bush. Today, the Bush family should be speaking out against this mad interloper who has destroyed the last shreds of decency and moderation that once typified the Republican party. Instead, they stand silent, even when Trump mocked George W. Bush for issuing a call for national unity during the pandemic.

The Las Vegas Sun editorial warns that we are moving headlong towards dictatorship.

We have been warned.

Anyone who is tempted not to vote in 2020 or to vote for a third party candidate should read this editorial.

The time has arrived to confront a grim realization in calm but forthright terms.

Since 2016, observers in the U.S. and around the world have remarked on President Donald Trump and the Republican Party exhibiting authoritarian “tendencies.”

With a sense of numb shock, we now must acknowledge the facts before us. By any objective standard, the Trump administration and GOP leadership have moved well past authoritarian reflexes.

Simply put, our nation has entered the early stages of a dictatorship. It’s an immature dictatorship and still gathering power. But it’s not theoretical and it has happened faster than any rational person might believe.

In 1788, James Madison stood before the state of Virginia’s convention to ratify the U.S. Constitution and issued a warning about the future of American democracy. An overthrow, the Founding Father said, was less likely to happen through a violent takeover than “by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power.”

Today, that prophecy is playing out in chilling vigor. Led by a president who lacks all respect for our system of government, today’s Republican Party, through a quickening succession of abuses of power, is acting as an authoritarian regime.

This is not a hypothetical. It’s not dystopian fiction. It’s an inescapable conclusion when you examine the evidence.

Ponder the basic elements of an autocracy, and weigh them against the actions of Trump and the GOP leadership.

This administration and Republican leadership have corrupted the justice system, purged and persecuted nonpartisan military personnel and government employees to install apparatchiks in their place, regularly encouraged paramilitary activity among supporters, thwarted any efforts of legitimate legislative oversight, claimed absolute immunity for Trump, promoted propagandistic media while falsely discrediting the accuracy of legitimate news, manipulated the courts, marbled the administration and judiciary with unqualified lackeys, driven contracts to supporters, used the U.S. Treasury to reward friends, attempted to coerce foreign governments into leveling false charges at political rivals, eagerly courted supportive dictators around the world, excused friends from their crimes while seeking political prosecutions of enemies on false charges, sought to bend our intelligence agencies to partisan ends, threatened a free press with retaliation, revised or suppressed historical records that were unfavorable, publicly smeared perceived opponents, sabotaged fair elections, created a cult of personality around its leader, distributed government largesse based on fealty to the leader, defined critics as subhuman, traded in race-baiting and nationalism, caged children and broken up desperate families, defined all events solely in terms of how they affect the leader, shattered revered institutions protecting Americans, reviled our allies while embracing our enemies, and attempted to call into question the validity of elections that go against the leader while intimating that they might attempt to postpone elections if the leader’s poll numbers are weak. And that catalog of horrors is the abbreviated list.

These are the core attributes the world has used for decades to identify dictators. And these actions are actively afoot in America today, and they are gaining greater velocity with each day we grow closer to the election.

Consider the following items from just the past couple of weeks.

Assault on independent oversight

• Friday: Trump fires the State Department’s inspector general, the fourth time in less than a month he has removed a nonpartisan government watchdog who has found fault with the administration. The Associated Press reports that in a letter to Congress, Trump says Steve Linick, who had held the job since 2013, no longer has his full confidence. Linick is reported to have been investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for using federal resources for personal benefit. The move comes two weeks after Trump fired inspector general Christi Grimm from the Department of Health and Human Services. She had issued a report highlighting administration failures to prepare for COVID-19. At every turn in these firings, Trump sought to disable impartial oversight.

• Thursday: In testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, ousted vaccine chief Dr. Richard Bright says the country is woefully unprepared for further effects of the COVID-19 outbreak because Trump officials ignored his early warnings and then retaliated against him after he sounded an alarm in January. Bright, who worked for the federal government for 25 years before his firing by Trump appointees, tells lawmakers the U.S. will see the “darkest winter in modern history” unless there’s a ramped-up response.

• Tuesday: Asked by Time magazine about the possibility of the administration delaying the November election, Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner doesn’t rule it out. He also won’t affirm that the election will take place Nov. 3 as scheduled. “It’s not my decision to make, so I’m not sure I can commit one way or the other. But right now that’s the plan,” Kushner says. “Hopefully, by the time we get to September or October or November, we’ve done enough with the testing and with all the different things we’re trying to do to prevent an outbreak of the magnitude that would make us shut down again.” Kushner’s noncommittal response fuels fears that Trump and the GOP will postpone the vote if his poll numbers are weak. Constitutionally, Trump lacks the power to do this — although the frequency of rumors about a delay attempt are troubling. However, with the support of a few GOP governors, Trump could throw the election into chaos. At minimum he regularly attacks the validity of any election that doesn’t go his way.

• Tuesday: During oral arguments in a Supreme Court case involving three lawsuits Trump has filed to conceal his tax returns, the president’s lawyers contend the president has immunity from being prosecuted or even investigated by law enforcement or Congress for any crime including murder. In other words, the attorneys contend Trump has kingly powers, a level of authority that no president in history has been granted and precisely what the Constitution’s balance of powers was designed to prevent.

• May 8: Under pressure from Trump, the Senate rushes to set a committee hearing on the confirmation of Trump loyalist filmmaker Michael Pack to lead the independent agency that oversees the Voice of America, the largest American international broadcaster. The nomination of Pack, a close ally of former Trump senior adviser Steve Bannon, has fueled fears that the VOA and its sister organizations would become Trump propaganda arms under Pack. Recently, Trump has been harshly critical of the VOA, including falsely accusing it of spreading Chinese misinformation about the coronavirus outbreak.

• May 8: Trump’s acting director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell, reorganizes his agency in blatant defiance of congressional oversight. Grenell makes the changes, which affect the network of 17 U.S. intelligence agencies he’s overseeing on an acting basis, after rebuffing a request from House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., for details. Schiff contends, justifiably, that it’s inappropriate for an acting leader to make wholesale changes. A Trump crony with scant intelligence experience, Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, is expected to be confirmed as permanent DNI by the Senate in the coming weeks.

Attacking perceived enemies

• May 7: Louis DeJoy, one of Trump’s financial backers and a longtime GOP donor, is selected as postmaster general. This opens the door for Trump to force the postal service to raise prices for companies that deliver packages, primarily Amazon, and in turn damage The Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Earlier this year the Pentagon denied Amazon a bid for a multibillion-dollar contract — something now under investigation. Trump’s USPS move also raises the distinct possibility of the Republicans using the postal service to hinder vote-by-mail efforts this fall.

• May 7: A woman who had accused Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert, of sexual assault recants and says she was paid by two Trump loyalists to fabricate the claim. The woman releases an audio recording in which one of the operatives, Jack Burkman, complains that Fauci “shut the country down” and that “you have to make up whatever you have to make up to stop that train and that’s the way life works, OK? That’s the way it goes.” When the woman says that COVID-19 is a serious illness, Burkman replies: “Mother Nature has to clean the barn every so often. How real is it? Who knows? So what if 1% of the population goes? So what if you lose 400,000 people? 200,000 were elderly, the other 200,000 are the bottom of society. You got to clean out the barn.” Considering that coronavirus so far has hit the elderly, blacks, Latinos and other people of color hardest, Burkman’s talk of “cleaning the barn” suggests he considers these people to be manure.

• May 7: Politico reports that leading congressional Republicans are coalescing behind a plan to replace FBI Director Christopher Wray with someone who will be obedient to Trump. It would be another step toward dismantling the Justice Department’s independence and bringing it under Trump’s control. Since his inauguration, Trump has made a series of moves to destroy the nonpartisan independence of our country’s intelligence community. James Comey, who was fired for not ignoring former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s overtures to Russia, has now been placed under criminal investigation by Attorney General William Barr’s Justice Department. So are other members of the FBI and CIA who investigated Russia’s involvement in promoting Trump. The president has long demanded the investigations and prosecutions of these people whom he perceives as enemies.

• May 7: It’s revealed that Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, used classified information for the financial benefit of himself and his wealthy friends. Burr cashed out as much as $1.5 million in stock right before the market crash based on his insider knowledge about the coronavirus threat, and his brother-in-law sold up to $280,000 in shares the same day. Whether Burr is corrupt or not is unknown, but Trump loyalists have applauded because Burr has crossed Trump in the past. Burr steps down as committee chair on Thursday, a day after FBI agents seize his cellphone as part of a burgeoning insider trade investigation.

Undermining the rule of law

• May 7: Barr subverts federal prosecutors and the justice system by dropping charges against Flynn, who had twice pleaded guilty to breaking the law by lying to the FBI about his involvement in Russian election interference. Barr earlier interceded on behalf of another Trump loyalist, Roger Stone, by ordering federal prosecutors to reduce their sentencing recommendation for the convicted felon.

“This is a strange occurrence — this is a man (Flynn) who pled guilty twice and was prepared to be sentenced,” says Shira Scheindlin, a former federal judge, to the National Law Journal. “He had a motion pending to withdraw his plea, which had not been decided. There’s a really bad political smell to this, particularly after the Roger Stone debacle. This is going to be seen critically by prosecutors across the country as the Justice Department being the lawyer for the president, not the lawyer for the people.”

• May 7: Asked by CBS News how history would view his actions involving Flynn, Barr says, “Well, history is written by the winners. So it largely depends on who’s writing the history. I think a fair history would say that it was a good decision because it upheld the rule of law. It … upheld the standards of the Department of Justice, and it undid what was an injustice.” It’s a preposterous statement — an attorney general saying he cares about the rule of law yet obviously is eager to conduct political prosecutions. But it’s also a flagrant acknowledgment that the administration is willing to commit malfeasance and revise history to cover its tracks. Think Soviet-era practices of removing purged individuals from history books and photos. Trump and his inner circle have already shown a predilection for this on a number of occasions: ordering that aerial photos from his inauguration be doctored so that the crowd appeared larger; posting altered images that make Trump look slimmer and make his hands appear bigger; tweeting a faked photo of Trump placing a medal on the military dog that helped U.S. special forces track ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi; and coercing the National Archives into editing photos of the 2017 women’s march on Washington to white out picket signs critical of Trump. More than 2,000 former Justice Department attorneys — Republicans and Democrats — demand Barr’s resignation because of abuses of power.

• May 6: A leaked audio recording reveals that pro-Trump Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., who also heads his state’s Republican Party, pressured a local party official to submit falsified election results so that a GOP activist could make the primary election ballot. “You’ve got a sitting congressman — a sitting state party chair — who is trying to bully a volunteer — I’m a volunteer; I don’t get paid for this — into committing a crime,” said the official, Eli Bremer, to The Denver Post. “To say it’s damning is an understatement.” Previously, Buck has promoted the debunked Trump fantasy that it was Hillary Clinton who colluded with Russians.

Loyalty test

• May 6: The Trump administration assigns a White House loyalist to a behind-the-scenes role vetting Defense Department employees for loyalty to Trump, prompting concerns that Trump will purge civilian military leadership of anyone not in lockstep with his political agenda. Meanwhile, career military officers such as Brett Crozier, captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, are stripped of command if they do something inconvenient to the president.

• May 4: It’s reported that individuals connected to Trump are negotiating to take a controlling stake of One America News Network, an extremist cable-news channel whose hosts include the chief promoter of the insane Pizzagate fantasy, loosely linked to the QAnon whackos, that holds Democrats actively engage in an organized child-abuse ring in a Washington pizzeria. The reason for Trump’s OAN ardor? He believes Fox News isn’t supportive enough and wants an outlet that he can turn into a private version of a state-run propaganda platform. In his coronavirus briefings, Trump regularly turned to OAN staff to lob him friendly questions. Trump, for his part, has made no secret of his disdain on the rare occasions when Fox News personalities give him even the slightest criticism. “The people who are watching @FoxNews, in record numbers (thank you President Trump), are angry. They want an alternative now. So do I!” he tweeted April 26. The irony is monumental – without Fox News softening up the American public with crazed theories, there would be no Trump presidency.

• May 1: A day after militia members and other armed individuals gather to protest coronavirus-related closures at Michigan’s capitol, Trump praises them on Twitter by calling them “very good people.” The protests included swastikas, Confederate flags and a noose, as well as a sign referring to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and containing the message “tyrants get the rope.” This echoes Trump’s support of right-wing paramilitary at Charlottesville, Va., and elsewhere. By Thursday, the Michigan Legislature canceled its legislative session because of threats by armed protesters. It is a grim foreshadowing of the possibilities of Trump-loving paramilitary assaults on democratic institutions and a stupefying development in America.

• April 30: The administration suppresses new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for safely reopening businesses amid the pandemic, which call for wide-scale testing and contact tracing that Trump has been unable to put in place. The guidelines call into question the White House’s narrative that the nation can proceed safely.

Think about it: These are merely two weeks’ worth of actions by GOP leaders to rig the system, tear down checks and balances, eliminate oversight, gain permanent power and reap all the corrupt gains they can get.

This president and his party have shown they will sideline any member of the administration who isn’t a partisan loyalist fully willing to lie to the American public and bend any policy to the convenience of the president. They will: assault any independent institution; wage war on the idea of independent truths; refuse to protect the next election from tampering; engage in wholesale gerrymandering; restrict voter access; offer loving words to Kim Jong Un on his health while criticizing our allies; grovel before Vladimir Putin; engage in constant dog whistles to white supremacists. What was unimaginable in America just a few years ago is now happening before our eyes on an alarmingly regular basis. We are living in a period of kleptocratic minority rule.

Minority rule

Any realist cannot ignore the wanton destruction of the system of checks and balances and nonpartisan government and the congealing of despotic abuses.

One must conclude we are living in the early days of an authoritarian regime.

History teaches us that around the world, dictatorships often don’t announce themselves with tanks in the streets. Instead they arrive with the constant erosion of just systems, finger-pointing at imaginary enemies to mobilize their supporters and the constant concentration of power in a few hands. Meanwhile, they weaponize the justice system, the purse strings of government, law enforcement and the courts to their benefit. After they get away with the early steps, those who would rule let their actions accelerate. Suddenly the population wakes up one day to realize what’s happened. Often it’s too late by then.

During an April 3 coronavirus news conference, Trump offered a telling quote when asked why he doesn’t wear a face mask. “Wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens. Somehow I don’t see it for myself.”

In a simple sentence, Trump clearly elevates dictators (dictators!) to the same dignified plane as presidents, prime ministers, kings and queens. It’s impossible to imagine another president doing the same after more than 100 years when America has stood as a beacon defying dictators. But in today’s GOP, dictators aren’t simply welcome, they are a source of inspiration.

But it’s not too late for the U.S. The systems guarding our freedom retain enough muscle memory that this dictatorship is still too weak to assert total dominance.

We can still save the country and avoid the nightmare scenario that Madison described all those years ago.

There’s a way to prevent Trump and his lickspittles from completing their job of dismantling America. It’s identifying good candidates, supporting them financially, voting for them and doing all we can to encourage others to vote for them too. It is also showing vocal support for the impartial institutions of government that, in the end, report to the American people and not to a mentally unstable leader.

But the window is closing. The pace of the GOP leadership’s abuses isn’t going to slow down, because they know the trend in American elective politics isn’t in their favor. The nation is growing more ethnically diverse and therefore more intolerant of the Trump-era GOP’s racist and anti-immigrant policies. Americans are demanding an end to the income inequality that has been brought on by Republican economic policies that grossly favor the ultrawealthy. As climate change intensifies, so does opposition to the damaging environmental policies of the right.

Plenty of rank-and-file Republicans also are disgusted by what’s happened and need a home — indeed we need a healthy dialogue with conservatives in the marketplace of American political ideas. However, Trump and the GOP leadership are not conservatives, and real conservative Americans are in the wilderness now.

All the while, the largest generation in the country — those in their teens and 20s, a group bigger than the baby boomers — is coming of age and is fervently opposed to today’s Republican Party.

The GOP knows it will fade into history soon without drastic action, so it’s holding onto power by any means necessary and scheming to permanently tilt the scales in its favor.

True Americans — the spiritual descendants of Madison and his fellow founders, who recognize Trump and those around him as the vandals they are — know they can’t let that happen.

But we all need to realize that the emergency is no longer on the horizon, coming gradually closer.

It’s here. We’re living it. And only we can put a stop to it.

The time to decide is now. Either you allow our democracy–with all its flaws and imperfections–to be corrupted and destroyed, or you stand for the rule of law and the Constitution. There is no other choice.

Which side are you on?

Veteran journalist Mark Liebovich notes in this opinion article In the New York Times how Trump has ditched the long-time tradition of bipartisan unity in the face of national crisis.

There used to be a tradition that politics stops at the water’s edge, meaning a bipartisan foreign policy. That’s gone. In the aftermath of 9/11, politics was replaced by shared mourning. Liebovich notes the failure to mark the anniversary of the terrorist bombing in Oklahoma City, as well as Trump’s natural tendency to turn the current crisis into political fodder. No more reaching across the aisle. With rare exceptions, like the Senate report on Russian interference in 2026, bipartisanship is dead. One thinks sadly of the late Senator John McCain’s plea for a return to regular order,” which was spurned by Trump and Mitch McConnell, in their eagerness to push through a radical right agenda and to stuff the judiciary with extremist judges.

Liebovich writes:

WASHINGTON — Last weekend, an anniversary of the kind that would have once united the country in reflection — the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, 25 years ago — passed without much in the way of comment. As the days inside pile up, our usual approach to a national moment of remembrance appeared lost to the fog of time, germs and Trump era news cycles.

The lack of attention was cast in relief by one person who did speak up: Former President Bill Clinton, who for a variety of reasons seems to have receded from public view since his wife was defeated by Donald Trump for the presidency in 2016. Mr. Clinton, the embattled first-term president of early 1995, would become the dominant presence in the brittle aftermath of Oklahoma City. The various psychodramas of his two terms can obscure the significance of the incident as a political marker of that era; now, it is a global pandemic that is seizing attention from Washington traditions like civic remembrance and bipartisan affirmation.

“In many ways, this is the perfect time to remember Oklahoma City and to repeat the promise we made to them in 1995 to all Americans today,” Mr. Clinton said in an op-ed that ran last Sunday in The Oklahoman.

It’s easy to dismiss this as boilerplate pulled straight from the “stuff politicians say” binder. But its tone is also conspicuous in how it contrasts with the words to a nation in need of solace and mending that come from the current White House.

One of the recurring features of the Trump years has been the president’s knack for detonating so many of our powerful shared experiences into us-versus-them grenades. Whether it’s the anniversary of a national catastrophe like the Oklahoma City bombing, the death of a widely admired statesman (Senator John McCain) or a lethal pathogen, Mr. Trump has exhibited minimal interest in the tradition of national strife placing a pause upon the usual smallness of politics.

In this fractured political environment, the president has shown particular zest for identifying symbols that reveal and exacerbate cultural divisions. Kneeling football players, plastic straws and the question of whether a commander in chief should be trumpeting an untested antimalarial drug from the White House briefing room have all become fast identifiers of what team you’re on. Looming sickness and mass death are no exception. The reflex to unite during a period of collective grief feels like another casualty of the current moment.

It used to be a norm, back before everything got stripped down to its noisiest culture war essence. Tradition dictated that whenever a national loss or trauma occurred, political combatants would stand down, at least for a time. President George W. Bush could embrace Senator Tom Daschle, then the Democratic majority leader, after an emotional address that Mr. Bush delivered to a joint session of congress in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. President Barack Obama did the same with Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, when Mr. Obama visited the state and saw the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

To varying degrees, both Mr. Daschle and Mr. Christie caught heat from within their parties after the crises faded into the past and partisan engines revved up again. At the time, though, the gestures felt appropriate and stature-enhancing for everyone involved. Those dynamics have since shifted considerably.

“I think we’re dealing with a whole different world and set of personalities,” said Mr. Daschle, now a former senator from South Dakota, adding that acts of solidarity during adverse times benefit all parties. “I remember after 9/11, congressional approval was something like in the ’80s, and for the president it was around the same,” he said.

Oklahoma City also offered a political gift to Mr. Clinton, a battered leader whose party had lost control of Congress the year before and who had, a few days earlier, found himself defending the “relevance” of his office. Mr. Clinton performed his role of eulogist and comforter, won bipartisan praise for his “performance” and an increase of good will that would eventually help right his presidency on a path to his re-election in 1996.

Mr. Clinton, historians said, always appreciated the power of big, bipartisan gestures, even when they involved incendiary rivals. “He understood the healing powers of the presidency,” said Ted Widmer, a presidential historian at City University of New York, and a former adviser to Mr. Clinton who assisted him in writing his memoirs. He mentioned a generous eulogy that Mr. Clinton delivered for disgraced former President Richard Nixon, after he died in 1994. “There is a basic impulse a president can have for when the country wants their leader to rise above politics and mudslinging,” Mr. Widmer said.

In that regard, Mr. Trump’s performance during this pandemic has been a missed opportunity. “The coronavirus could have been Donald Trump’s finest hour,” Mr. Widmer said. “You really sensed that Americans wanted to be brought together. But now that appears unattainable.”

For whatever reason, Mr. Trump seems uninterested in setting aside personal resentment, even when some small gestures — a photo op or a joint statement with Democratic leaders in Congress; a bipartisan pandemic commission chaired by former presidents — could score him easy statesmanship points.

His unwillingness to deal in any way with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (they have reportedly not spoken since the House voted to impeach Mr. Trump in January) has rendered him a bystander during negotiations with Congress on massive economic recovery bills that were by and large led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. He has taken shots at popular Democratic governors in the hard-hit states of Washington and of Michigan; his approval ratings are dipping — and lag behind that of most governors.

Supporters of Mr. Trump say they appreciate that he doesn’t betray his true feelings for the sake of adhering to Beltway happy talk. This resolve appears central to his credibility with them. They elected him to disrupt, not to play nice and don a mask, whether made of artifice or cloth.

This weekend was supposed to mark another of those pauses in D.C. hostilities, albeit of a very different nature: the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the spring tradition that brings together a hair-sprayed throng along a pecking order of A- to D-list celebrities. The festivities are embedded with the ostensibly high-minded purpose of saluting the First Amendment and raising money for journalism scholarships. If you can score yourself a selfie with Gayle King, all the better.

In the view of many inside the Beltway, the correspondents’ dinner had long outlived its appeal and probably should have been canceled well before Covid-19 did the trick this year (the dinner has been postponed until August). Regardless, presidents of both parties would reliably show up, if only as a gesture of good faith or nod to a local bipartisan tradition.

But Mr. Trump — a veteran of the dinners in his pre-political days, including a memorable evening in which he endured a brutal roasting at the hands of then-President Barack Obama in 2011 — wanted no part of the correspondents’ dinner from the outset of his presidency. Instead, he would take the opportunity to hold “alternative programming” events in the form of Saturday night rallies in places like Pennsylvania, deftly placing himself in populist opposition to the preening Tux-and-Gowned creatures of the swamp.

Mr. Trump’s arrival in Washington inspired another counter-programing surrogate for the main event when the comedian Samantha Bee, host of the TBS program “Full Frontal,” started her own production across town, called “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.” There, she would toss affectionate barbs at the assembled press, usually at the expense of Mr. Trump. “You continue to fact-check the president,” she said in 2017, “as if he might actually someday get embarrassed.”

Beyond the excesses of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, for a president to partake of this tradition also requires an ability to be a good sport. The guest of honor will inevitably suffer good-natured ribbing at the hands of the hired comedian (or, better yet, not-so-good-natured ribbing — the most memorable routine occurring in 2006, when Stephen Colbert unleashed a sarcastic takedown of then-President George W. Bush and the press corps that Mr. Colbert pointedly suggested had coddled him).

The exercise also requires a president with at least minimal skill at solemnly paying heed to the principles that brought everyone together in the first place. First among these is the preservation of a free and fair press, not something a president fond of the term “fake news” will ever be synonymous with.

Still, for the many Washingtonians lucky enough to be working from home, six weeks being trapped indoors and fighting with family members about dishes can breed nostalgia for even the most played-out D.C. tradition. The correspondents’ dinner might confirm every worst stereotype of a full-of-itself political class. But anything that involves getting dressed up and actually doing stuff with other people sounds appetizing right about now, especially if it doesn’t involve Zoom.

An independent agency reported on a little known provision of the corona relief legislation, showing that Mitch McConnell took care of the Republican party’s big donors, again:

More than 80 percent of the benefits of a tax change tucked into the coronavirus relief package Congress passed last month will go to those who earn more than $1 million annually, according to a report by a nonpartisan congressional body expected to be released Tuesday.

The provision, inserted into the legislation by Senate Republicans, temporarily suspends a limitation on how much owners of businesses formed as “pass-through” entities can deduct against their nonbusiness income, such as capital gains, to reduce their tax liability. The limitation was created as part of the 2017 Republican tax law to offset other tax cuts to firms in that legislation.

Suspending the limitation will cost taxpayers about $90 billion in 2020 alone, part of a set of tax changes that will add close to $170 billion to the national deficit over the next 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), the nonpartisan congressional body.

The provision has fueled criticism by congressional Democrats and some tax experts who have called it a giveaway to the wealthy and real estate investors, who frequently face large losses on their investments.

Conservatives have said enacting the limitation was a mistake in the 2017 law and suspending it gives badly needed liquidity during the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic by reducing their tax obligations.
What’s in the $2.2 trillion coronavirus Senate stimulus package

An analysis by the JCT found suspending the limit overwhelmingly benefits higher earners. About 82 percent of the benefits of the policy go to about 43,000 taxpayers who earn more than $1 million annually. Less than 3 percent of the benefits go to Americans earning less than $100,000 a year, the analysis found.

The analysis included the impact of another tax change in the coronavirus relief legislation that allows firms to write off 100 percent rather than 80 percent of their losses, reversing another change in the 2017 tax law.
Hedge-fund investors and owners of real estate businesses are “far and away” the two prime beneficiaries of the change, said Steve Rosenthal, a tax expert at the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan think tank.

Dana Milbank, opinion writer for the Washington Post, says that the a Republican right wing finally have the helpless federal government they have longed for, and people are dying because of the government’s incompetence. Is this a polite way of saying that the Tea Party libertarians have blood on their hands? Note: there are only two areas where these people are eager and willing to lavish public funds: the military and religious schools.

He writes:

I had been expecting this for 21 years.

“It’s not a matter of ‘if,’ but ‘when,’” the legendary epidemiologist D.A. Henderson told me in 1999 when we discussed the likelihood of a biological event causing mass destruction.

In 2001, I wrote about experts urging a “medical Manhattan Project” for new vaccines, antibiotics and antivirals…

I repeat these things not to pretend I was prescient but to show that the nation’s top scientists and public health experts were shouting these warnings from the rooftops — deafeningly, unanimously and consistently. In the years after the 2001 terrorist attacks, the Bush and Obama administrations seemed to be listening.

But then came the tea party, the anti-government conservatism that infected the Republican Party in 2010 and triumphed with President Trump’s election. Perhaps the best articulation of its ideology came from the anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, who once said: “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

They got their wish. What you see today is your government, drowning — a government that couldn’t produce a rudimentary test for coronavirus, that couldn’t contain the pandemic as other countries have done, that couldn’t produce enough ventilators for the sick or even enough face masks and gowns for health-care workers.

Now it is time to drown this disastrous philosophy in the bathtub — and with it the poisonous attitude that the government is a harmful “beast” that must be “starved.” It is not an exaggeration to say that this ideology caused the current debacle with a deliberate strategy to sabotage government.

Overall, entitlement programs continued to grow, and the Pentagon’s many friends protected its budget. And Trump has abandoned responsible budgeting. But in one area, the tea party types, with their sequesters, debt-limit standoffs and other austerity schemes, did all too well. Between 2011 and 2018, nondefense discretionary spending fell by 12 percent — and, with it, the government’s already iffy ability to prevent and ameliorate public health emergencies unraveled.

John Auerbach, president of Trust for America’s Health, described for me the fallout: Over a dozen years, the Public Health Emergency Preparedness grants to state and local public health departments were cut by a third and the Hospital Preparedness Program cut in half, 60,000 jobs were lost at state and local public health departments, and similarly severe cuts were made to laboratories. A $15 billion grant program under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, the Prevention and Public Health Fund, was plundered for other purposes.

Now Americans are paying for this with their lives — and their livelihoods.

If the United States had more public health capacity it “absolutely” would have been on par with Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, which have far fewer cases, Auerbach said. South Korea has had four deaths per 1 million people, Singapore one death per million, and Taiwan 0.2 deaths per million. The United States: 39 per million — and rising fast.

To have mitigated the virus the way Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan did would have required spending about $4.5 billion a year on public health, Auerbach estimates. Instead we’re spending trillions to rescue the economy.
Democrats aren’t blameless in pandemic preparedness. And some Republicans tried to be responsible — but the starve-the-beast crowd wouldn’t hear of it.

After Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) voted for the 2009 stimulus bill because he secured $10 billion for the National Institutes of Health, he was essentially forced out of the GOP. Rising in the party were people such as Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), whose far-right Republican Study Committee in 2011 proposed a plan, applauded by GOP leadership, to cut NIH funding by 40 percent.

In 2014, NIH chief Francis Collins said there likely would have been a vaccine for the Ebola outbreak if not for a 10 percent cut in NIH funding between 2010 and 2014 that included halving Ebola vaccine research. Republicans jeered.

In 2016, when President Barack Obama requested $1.9 billion to fight the Zika virus, Republicans in Congress sat on the request for seven months and then cut it nearly in half.

Since then, Trump has proposed cuts to the NIH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention so severe even congressional Republicans rejected them. And last month they fed the “beast” a $2.2 trillion feast to fight the pandemic.

Now they know: When you drown the government in the bathtub, people die.

Wisconsin long ago scheduled its primaries for April 7. When the dimensions of the public health crisis became apparent, Governor Tony Evers tried to postpone the election and to encourage voting by mail. Evers’s order to postpone the election was overturned by the state court, and its ruling was sustained by the U.S. Supreme Court, voting along partisan lines. Hundreds of thousands of people were disenfranchised.

To understand the fiasco, read this article by Stephen Rosenfeld:

The Republican Party affirmed with startling clarity on Monday that preserving political power was a higher priority than protecting public health or enabling voters to cast ballots that will be counted in the COVID-19 era.

The stage for this stunning partisan display embracing voter suppression was a constitutional crisis that erupted in Wisconsin, a day before scheduled statewide elections on April 7 for its 2020 presidential primary, a state Supreme Court seat, and contests for hundreds of local offices.

The election will continue on April 7, but the reverberations from Monday rulings by Wisconsin’s Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court later in the day in a related lawsuit have set down markers that suggest that securing voting rights in a pandemic is anything but assured—especially if anti-participatory state laws and voting procedures will be upheld by majorities on the highest courts.

Efforts by Democrats to postpone in-person voting and extend voting by mail due to the pandemic were rejected by conservative majorities on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and on the U.S. Supreme Court. In separate rulings, both courts sided with the Republican National Committee and Wisconsin Republicans.

“The Court’s order, I fear, will result in massive disenfranchisement,” Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote
in a dissent signed by the court’s three other liberal justices. “A voter cannot deliver for postmarking a ballot she has not received. Yet tens of thousands of voters who timely requested ballots are unlikely to receive them by April 7, the Court’s postmark deadline [to return ballots].”

While this ideological split may not be new in electoral politics, especially in voting right cases where conservatives seek strict laws limiting participation and liberals seek flexibility to enfranchise voters, it was a “bad sign” for the climate heading into elections in the fall, said Rick Hasen, ElectionLawBlog.org founder and a nationally known constitutional scholar.

“It is a very bad sign for November that the Court could not come together and find some form of compromise here in the midst of a global pandemic unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes,” he wrote. “Like the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court divided along partisan and ideological lines.”

The courts’ rulings capped a day of high drama and a state constitutional crisis.

On Monday afternoon, Wisconsin’s Democratic Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order to postpone in-person voting and extend the deadline for absentee ballots to be mailed in, citing the pandemic. But the state’s Republican majority legislature challenged Evers’ order before the conservative-led Wisconsin Supreme Court. The GOP legislative leadership issued a statement telling local officials to keep planning for Tuesday’s election, creating great tension and uncertainty as the Democratic governor and Republican legislature headed into court.

By a 4-2 vote later in the day, the Wisconsin Supreme Court nullified Evers’ executive order, forcing the in-person voting to continue on April 7 and restoring the deadline for absentee ballots to be returned by the same day for them to count. Meanwhile, hundreds of polling places were not going to open after poll workers withdrew due to the pandemic. For example, only five of Milwaukee’s 180 polls would be opened in that non-white epicenter, ElectionLawBlog.org noted.

“The April 7 Spring Election and Presidential Preference Primary is occurring as scheduled,” a headline on the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) website said after the state Supreme Court ruling.

In addition to in-person voting, the WEC website said that 1,275,254 absentee ballots had been requested by voters and that 724,777 had been returned by April 6. Other reports by academics citing WEC data said that local officials had yet to mail out 10,000 ballots. Meanwhile, half-a-million ballots had yet to be returned.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision was not entirely unexpected, because in 2016 outgoing Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP-led legislature stripped many authorities from the incoming Democratic governor. Democrats had fought those laws, enacted after the 2016 election in a lame-duck session, but lost.

“This is a real constitutional showdown,” said Kevin Kennedy, the ex-executive director of Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board, which oversaw the elections for decades until Walker and GOP legislators dismantled the board.

“When I was there I thought the governor had the power to do something [like postpone an election in a crisis], but in 2016 the Legislature severely restricted the governor’s power,” Kennedy said. “He [Walker] signed all of these laws that he would never have tolerated as restrictions on his power. Even the Attorney General can’t settle a lawsuit without approval from the legislature.”

However, shortly after the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in—responding to another lawsuit filed late on Friday by the Republican National Committee and Wisconsin’s GOP-led legislature. (Its Republican majority was created by gerrymandering after the 2010 census.)

The U.S. Supreme Court decision followed a tortuous path that began with lower court orders that sought to help voters but ended with its ruling withdrawing that help.

Earlier on Friday, April 3, a federal district court with a judge appointed by President Obama extended the Wisconsin election’s mail-in balloting deadline by a week and said that absentee voters did not have to find a witness to sign their ballots. The witness requirement was a pre-existing state law.

That pro-voter ruling was appealed by Republicans to a federal circuit court, which reinstated the witness requirement but kept the week-long extension for absentee ballots to be returned. The RNC then appealed the extension to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that some Wisconsin voters would be voting after Election Day.

The Republicans argued that no special exceptions should be made, even though the pandemic had led local officials to send out six times as many vote-by-mail ballots as in the 2018 election—and by late Monday more than 500,000 hadn’t been returned, according to the WEC.

The Supreme Court’s conservative bloc agreed with the Republican litigants, issuing a ruling that drew harsh criticism by the court’s liberal minority.

“The Court’s [majority] suggestion that the current situation is not ‘substantially different’ from ‘an ordinary election’ boggles the mind,” Justice Ginsburg’s dissent said. “Some 150,000 requests for absentee ballots have been processed since Thursday, state records indicate. The surge in absentee-ballot requests has overwhelmed election officials, who face a huge backlog in sending ballots.”

“It is among the most cynical decisions I have read from this Court—devoid of even the pretense of engaging with the reality that this decision will mean one of two things for many WI voters: either they will risk their health & lives to vote, or they will be disenfranchised,” tweeted Sherrilyn Ifill, president and lead counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

A Troubling Precedent

In the coming days, it will become clear how many thousands of voters will see their absentee ballots rejected because they arrived too late to be returned by April 7. But Monday’s high court rulings—by a state supreme court and federal Supreme Court—will resonate in other 2020 swing states that are wrestling with expanding absentee balloting in response to the pandemic.

The partisan divide that led to Wisconsin’s constitutional crisis, where a Democratic executive branch and a Republican-led legislature could not agree on voting reforms, is not unusual—although the Wisconsin governor’s weakened authority is somewhat unique. The 2020 swing states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and North Carolina all have different parties controlling their executive and legislative branches. These states are already seeing clashes over expanding absentee voting in response to the pandemic.

Analysts in Wisconsin, including conservatives such as Charlie Sykes, said that no one should doubt that the Wisconsin GOP was putting partisan power before the public interest. Sykes noted that Republicans believe they can win a state Supreme Court seat if the April 7 election continued and other voting options were curtailed.

“In Wisconsin, the GOP would rather endanger people’s lives and have a clusterf—-k election, so long as it gives them a chance at clinging to a piece of government power,” he wrote Monday on TheBulwark.com, which Sykes founded and where he is an editor at large. “Don’t be confused about any [of] the motivations here: [The] GOP position is about power, not ideology.”

[Please read the rest of the article by opening the link.]

In this editorial, Harold Meyerson plumbs the depths of meanness in the Senate’s majority party. It would be better for the unemployed if more of them were quarantined and unable to vote:

ON TAP Today from the American Prospect
MARCH 26, 2020

Meyerson on TAP

The Senate’s OTHER Vote Last Night—Along Party Lines. As every news-following American knows, the Senate voted unanimously last night to pass a $2.2 trillion stimulus package for our rapidly shrinking economy. But hardly any news-following American knows about the vote that immediately preceded that—on the amendment that four Republican senators introduced to greatly reduce unemployment insurance payments.

The senators’ objection to the agreed-upon UI fix in the stimulus bill was itself widely reported. Because unemployment insurance levels in many states with right-wing governments are so low, Democrats insisted upon the federal government topping off UI payments with an additional $600 a week to the unemployed for a four-month period. Four conservative senators objected on the grounds that that might create incomes for the unemployed that exceeded their pay when on the job. Not surprisingly, two of those senators were South Carolinians Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott. South Carolina, it should be noted, is one of the six states that have never passed a minimum-wage law, and one of the two states (the other is North Carolina) that always place first or second in having the lowest rate of unionized workers—invariably, below 3 percent. In short, it’s no great achievement to make more money off the job than on the job in the senators’ home state, precisely because South Carolina’s historic denigration of workers creates so many poverty-wage jobs. Graham and Scott were like the kids who kill their parents and plead for mercy because they’re orphans.

But here’s the kicker: Surely, the objections of these two troglodytes and their two co-sponsors (Florida’s Rick Scott and Nebraska’s Ben Sasse) were just idiosyncratic social meanness, right?

Wrong. The vote on their amendment was 48-48; the only Republican to join the chamber’s 47 Democrats in voting no was Maine’s Susan Collins. (Fortunately, the Democrats, as part of the agreement on the stimulus bill, had insisted that the amendment require 60 votes to pass.)

If there’s a clearer expression of Republicans’ concern for their fellow Americans who lose their jobs in the pandemic crisis, I sure don’t know it. ~ HAROLD MEYERSON

Politico Morning Education reported yesterday that the coronavirus legislation in Congress has been delayed because Republicans and Democrats disagree about including college student debt relief.

Of course, other issues between the parties have stymied an agreement, especially the $500 billion economic recovery fund that would be administered by Treasury Secretary Mnuchin. Republicans want him to have broad discretion over where the money goes; Democrats insist on oversight, to ensure that he is not favoring Republican donors and underwriting Trump family properties, like Mar-a-Lago and Trump hotels. The latest speculation in the media is that the parties may reach agreement later today. Keep your eye on the Mnuchin fund.

REPUBLICANS, DEMOCRATS SPAR OVER STUDENT DEBT RELIEF IN STIMULUS BILL: Republicans and Democrats are fighting over how to structure relief for the nation’s tens of millions of student loan borrowers as part of the massive stimulus plan to address the economic havoc caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

— At the core of the student debt dispute: Republicans have largely embraced the idea that borrowers should immediately be able to put their payments on hold without accruing interest; Democrats say that’s an insufficient half-measure and want to see some amount of debt cancellation.

— The latest Senate GOP stimulus bill circulated on Sunday would require the Education Department to suspend payments on federally held student loans for six months without interest accruing — a modest expansion from an earlier bill that called for a three-month mandatory suspension with an additional three-month pause at the discretion of the department.

— Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was unable to advance the bill through a procedural vote on Sunday evening as Democrats objected. Among the many “major problems” with the bill, according to a senior Democratic aide, was that it doesn’t “provide adequate relief for the 44 million federal student loan borrowers.”

— The GOP plan follows the Trump administration’s executive actions to halt interest on federally held student loans and give borrowers a new forbearance option to pause their payments for the next two months. (Sen. Mitt Romney on Friday also proposed a longer forbearance of up to three years for recent graduates entering the job market.)

— But Senate Democrats, led by Chuck Schumer, are pushing a counter proposal: They want to cancel the monthly payments owed during the national emergency and guarantee each borrower receive at least $10,000 in loan forgiveness. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who campaigned on sweeping student debt cancellation, has pressed the issue with Schumer personally, including during phone calls last week, according to a Huffington Post report on Sunday.

— Biden, who has resisted calling for widespread student debt cancellation in his education plans, on Sunday backed the plan to forgive at least $10,000 in debt per borrower as part of the stimulus bill. “Young people and other student debt holders bore the brunt of the last crisis,” Biden tweeted. “It shouldn’t happen again.”

— In the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indicated she may start drafting her own stimulus bill, there’s growing pressure from progressives to include student loan forgiveness. A group of progressive lawmakers, led by Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar, urged House leadership to include loan forgiveness in the bill. The letter was signed by Rep. Jim Clyburn, the No. 3 Democrat in the House, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Rep. Maxine Waters, the chair of the House Financial Services Committee, has also separately called for including $10,000 in student debt forgiveness in a coronavirus stimulus plan.

— Rep. Bobby Scott, the chair of the House education committee, hasn’t publicly backed any student loan forgiveness plan and it wasn’t included as part of his $3 billion coronavirus bill to address education rolled out last week. But a Democratic committee aide told POLITICO: “The Senate Democrats proposal is a step in the right direction.”

— Republicans, meanwhile, say Democrats are exploiting a crisis to enact their policy agenda. “Democrats are trying to reduce student loans by $10,000. What the hell has that got to do with the virus,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Fox News on Sunday. “I’m sure everybody could use more money, but I don’t want to give money to people who have a paycheck. I want to give money to people who have lost their jobs.”