NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, June 13th, 2021

Netanyahu dislodged: Israel finally gets a new government and a new prime minister

Today was one of the biggest days in the his­to­ry of the mod­ern State of Israel.

An incred­i­bly diverse polit­i­cal coali­tion that spans the ide­o­log­i­cal spec­trum from left to right has suc­ceed­ed in dis­lodg­ing the wily, pow­er-obsessed Ben­jamin Netanyahu, which means that for the first time in twelve years — yes, twelve years! — Israel will have a new prime min­is­ter and a non-Likud led government.

Via The Times of Israel:

The gov­ern­ment was backed by eight of the thir­teen par­ties that won seats in the March 23 elec­tion, for a total of six­ty votes in the one hun­dred and twen­ty-mem­ber Knes­set: Yesh Atid (17 seats), Blue and White (8), Yis­rael Beytenu (7), Labor (7), Yam­i­na (6 of its 7 MKs), New Hope (6), Meretz (6) and Ra’am (3 of its 4 MKs).

Late Sun­day, the new coali­tion held its first cab­i­net meet­ing, with par­ty lead­ers call­ing for “restraint” and “trust” to ensure the sur­vival of the fledg­ling government.

Pre­sid­ing over the meet­ing, held in the Knes­set, [Naf­tali] Ben­nett [the new Prime Min­is­ter, Netanyahu’s suc­ces­sor] opened his remarks with the “She­hechiyanu” prayer of thanksgiving.

“We are at the start of new days,” he said, call­ing the estab­lish­ment of a new gov­ern­ment “a wonder.”

Ben­nett vowed that the new gov­ern­ment would work to “mend the rift in the nation” after two years of polit­i­cal deadlock.

Stress­ing the wide range of views with­in the new coali­tion, Ben­nett urged his min­is­ters to show “restraint” over the numer­ous ide­o­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences between the dis­parate par­ties to ensure its stability.

The Knes­set (lit­er­al­ly: gath­er­ing, or assem­bly), for those Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate read­ers who don’t know, is Israel’s leg­isla­tive body, the equiv­a­lent of the Unit­ed States Con­gress or the Par­lia­ment of the Unit­ed King­dom. How­ev­er, unlike those bod­ies, it is uni­cam­er­al, mean­ing there is only one house.

Israel has a Pres­i­dent (cur­rent­ly Reuven Rivlin), but that office has lit­tle polit­i­cal pow­er, and is in fact meant to ensure the coun­try has a head of state who is large­ly above pol­i­tics. It is impor­tant to note that despite hav­ing an office of Pres­i­dent, Israel is not a repub­lic uti­liz­ing a pres­i­den­tial system.

The Pres­i­dent of Israel is more like the Queen of the Unit­ed King­dom (cur­rent­ly Eliz­a­beth II) than the Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States. Among the Pres­i­den­t’s most impor­tant duties is decid­ing who to invite to form a min­istry, or admin­is­tra­tion, or gov­ern­ment (pick your favorite term!) for Israel in the wake of an election.

The Knes­set elects the Prime Min­is­ter and the Cab­i­net as well as the Pres­i­dent. Elec­tions for these posi­tions require a major­i­ty vote to achieve a result. Coali­tion gov­ern­ments are, con­se­quent­ly, a long­stand­ing fea­ture of Israeli pol­i­tics because the biggest par­ties (like Netanyahu’s Likud) nev­er win enough seats in the Knes­set to gov­ern by them­selves, unlike in oth­er par­lia­men­tary democracies.

In recent years, Israeli elec­tions have repeat­ed­ly yield­ed a Knes­set that is very divid­ed, with no one (not even Netanyahu!) able to assem­ble a coali­tion of at least six­ty-one mem­bers, lead­ing to mul­ti­ple do-over elections.

Through it all, Netanyahu has remained in pow­er as the incum­bent Prime Min­is­ter, ben­e­fit­ing from the oppo­si­tion’s inabil­i­ty to find six­ty-one votes to back a new PM.

Until today, that is.

Today, Netanyahu’s twelve year run as Israel’s most pow­er­ful politi­cian came to an end. The afore­men­tioned change bloc pre­vailed, by the nar­row­est of mar­gins, in dis­lodg­ing him and bring­ing a new gov­ern­ment to Israel.

The man who made it hap­pen is Yair Lapid, the head of a cen­trist par­ty called Yesh Atid (“There Is a Future”). Formed by Lapid in 2012, Yesh Atid “seeks to rep­re­sent what it con­sid­ers the cen­ter of Israeli soci­ety: the sec­u­lar mid­dle class. It focus­es pri­mar­i­ly on civic, socio-eco­nom­ic, and gov­er­nance issues, includ­ing gov­ern­ment reform and end­ing mil­i­tary draft exemp­tions for the ultra-Orthodox.”

Giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty by Rivlin to form a gov­ern­ment after Netanyahu failed, Lapid patient­ly worked to cob­ble togeth­er the six­ty-one seats need­ed to bring change to Israel. It was­n’t easy: as men­tioned, the par­ties in the change bloc dis­agree on a lot, and the recent con­flict with Hamas dis­rupt­ed negotiations.

In the end, though, Lapid was able to uni­fy the many par­ties in the change bloc behind their col­lec­tive, over­ar­ch­ing goal of oust­ing Netanyahu.

Lapid real­ly seems to under­stand the impor­tance of play­ing the long game.

Though he had the respon­si­bil­i­ty of attempt­ing to build a Knes­set major­i­ty, he deferred his ambi­tions of serv­ing as Prime Min­is­ter for the time being, to ensure the change bloc could hold togeth­er. Lapid will serve as For­eign Min­is­ter for now, while Naf­tali Ben­nett serves as Prime Min­is­ter. If the coali­tion holds togeth­er, Ben­nett will rotate out and Lapid will become Prime Min­is­ter in 2023.

You can think of the new Knes­set major­i­ty as akin to the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty’s bare, razor thin major­i­ty in the Unit­ed States Sen­ate. Every sin­gle vote mat­ters. Every sin­gle vote is extreme­ly impor­tant. This coali­tion is frag­ile — of that, there is no ques­tion. But at least for the moment, it has held togeth­er, and it has suc­ceed­ed in remov­ing Ben­jamin Netanyahu from pow­er, which is a real­ly big deal.

No one has served as Prime Min­is­ter of Israel longer than Netanyahu.

His ini­tial stint as PM was from June of 1996 to July of 1999. A lit­tle less than ten years after relin­quish­ing the office, Netanyahu got it back, in March of 2009.

He’d prob­a­bly still be in pow­er even now if he had­n’t alien­at­ed so many oth­er right wing fac­tions in Israeli pol­i­tics, due to the left­’s chron­ic elec­toral weakness.

“Ben­jamin Netanyahu could have been lead­ing a sta­ble gov­ern­ment in Israel right now. Instead, for­mer allies like incom­ing Prime Min­is­ter Naf­tali Ben­nett brought him down after he betrayed and lied to them for too long,” Haaret­z’s Anshel Pfef­fer not­ed, in an apt­ly-titled col­umn (Bibi Raised, and Betrayed, a Gen­er­a­tion of Politi­cians. Today They Dethroned Him.)

Lack­ing any maneu­vers he could use to block the change bloc, Netanyahu was forced to watch a for­mer pro­tege take his place with the back­ing of a remark­able coali­tion that includes left wing and cen­trist par­ties as well as right wing par­ties that agree than con­tin­ued rule by Netanyahu would be bad for the country.

Ben­nett is ide­o­log­i­cal­ly very right wing, but he is only PM thanks to the back­ing of left wing and cen­trist par­ties, so he’ll have to gov­ern thought­ful­ly and coop­er­a­tive­ly if his gov­ern­ment is to last any length of time.

Pres­i­dent Joe Biden wast­ed no time in reach­ing out to Ben­nett to offer his con­grat­u­la­tions, despite being in the mid­dle of his first trip overseas.

From a read­out pro­vid­ed by the White House:

Pres­i­dent Biden spoke today with Prime Min­is­ter Ben­nett to offer his warm con­grat­u­la­tions to Prime Min­is­ter Ben­nett on becom­ing Prime Min­is­ter of the State of Israel. Pres­i­dent Biden high­light­ed his decades of stead­fast sup­port for the U.S.-Israel rela­tion­ship and his unwa­ver­ing com­mit­ment to Israel’s secu­ri­ty. He expressed his firm intent to deep­en coop­er­a­tion between the Unit­ed States and Israel on the many chal­lenges and oppor­tu­ni­ties fac­ing the region. The lead­ers agreed that they and their teams would con­sult close­ly on all mat­ters relat­ed to region­al secu­ri­ty, includ­ing Iran. The Pres­i­dent also con­veyed that his admin­is­tra­tion intends to work close­ly with the Israeli gov­ern­ment on efforts to advance peace, secu­ri­ty, and pros­per­i­ty for Israelis and Palestinians.

Biden’s Cab­i­net sec­re­taries, mean­while, reached out to their Israeli coun­ter­parts. Sec­re­tary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Lapid and U.S. Sec­re­tary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke to Ben­ny Gantz, who remains Israel’s Defense Min­is­ter due to hav­ing agreed to serve in Netanyahu’s cab­i­net after the last election.

(Gantz is one of the lead­ers in the change bloc and had ambi­tions of becom­ing Prime Min­is­ter him­self, but last year, he unwise­ly struck a pow­er shar­ing deal with Netanyahu after COVID-19 hit, anger­ing a large num­ber of his sup­port­ers and dis­may­ing his allies in oth­er par­ties. Netanyahu reneged on their deal after only a few months, which forced Israel to hold yet anoth­er election.)

Oth­er world lead­ers also offered their con­grat­u­la­tions to the new coali­tion, from the U.K.‘s Boris John­son to Canada’s Justin Trudeau.

Netanyahu’s ouster is an impor­tant moment for Israel. It demon­strates that, even though it may be in dan­ger, just like U.S. democ­ra­cy is, Israeli democ­ra­cy remains alive. A trans­fer of pow­er is tak­ing place even though the incum­bent (who’s stand­ing tri­al for cor­rup­tion charges!) does not want to give up their power.

That’s encour­ag­ing, heart­en­ing news.

The impli­ca­tions for U.S.-Israel rela­tions are also pos­i­tive. As Prime Min­is­ter, Netanyahu firm­ly aligned him­self with Don­ald Trump and Trump’s Repub­li­can enablers. Now, in Naf­tali Ben­nett, Israel has a leader with less baggage.

Netanyahu says he’s not going any­where. He intends to remain in the Knes­set and as head of Likud. He will be schem­ing against the new gov­ern­ment at every turn, in the hopes of bring­ing it down and get­ting his pow­er back.

That’s to be expect­ed, giv­en his Trump-like rhetoric and behavior.

Pro-democ­ra­cy Israelis, mean­while, refused to let Netanyahu’s grouch­i­ness get in the way of their hap­pi­ness. Thou­sands of peo­ple turned out in Tel Aviv to cel­e­brate the arrival of the new gov­ern­ment, joy­ous­ly wav­ing Israeli flags.

Here’s a few pic­tures. And some video.

We share in their hap­pi­ness and hope that today’s events are the begin­ning of a new chap­ter for Israel, the Pales­tini­ans, and the Mid­dle East.

This new gov­ern­ment is no panacea, but new lead­er­ship for Israel at least opens the door to the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a bet­ter future. Prospects for peace in the region stood no real chance of improv­ing as long as Netanyahu remained in power.

Friday, June 11th, 2021

Biden reverses Trump again: Old growth trees in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest slated to be reprotected under Roadless Rule

The Biden admin­is­tra­tion has moved to restore pro­tec­tion of old-growth forests in South­east Alaska’s vast Ton­gass Nation­al For­est, pro­tec­tion that was stripped away in wan­ing months of the Trump regime.

The U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture will “repeal or replace” a deci­sion that removed the Ton­gass from a Clin­ton-era Road­less Rule that had pro­tect­ed more than nine mil­lion acres of the 16.9 mil­lion-acre nation­al for­est. The nation­al for­est, cre­at­ed under Theodore Roo­sevelt, includes almost all of the Alas­ka Panhandle.

A slice of the Tongass, seen from the Mendenhall Valley

A por­tion of the vast Ton­gass Nation­al For­est, pic­tured at sun­down from a quad­copter fly­ing over the Menden­hall Val­ley (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

The Ton­gass is America’s largest tem­per­ate rain­for­est. It was once giv­en over to sup­port­ing two big pulp mills in Ketchikan and Sit­ka, with a third planned for Juneau. Its ancient forests were sold for a pit­tance, with the U.S. For­est Ser­vice real­iz­ing a return of less than five cents on the dollar.

As Tim­o­thy Egan wrote in the New York Times, eight hun­dred year old trees were being sold for the price of a Big Mac.

The tables turned thir­ty years ago. With the Ton­gass Tim­ber Reform Act, Con­gress rolled back an ear­li­er require­ment that four hun­dred and fifty mil­lion board feet of for­est be made avail­able for clear cut­ting each year, with an auto­mat­ic $40 mil­lion appro­pri­a­tion to build the roads to “bring the cut out.”

The Ketchikan and Sit­ka mills, shorn of their cor­po­rate wel­fare, were closed.

Since then, South­east Alas­ka has enjoyed a new econ­o­my built around tourism, recre­ation and the abun­dant salmon runs of such rivers as the Stikine, Taku and Unuk. Until the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic hit last year, hun­dreds of thou­sands of cruise ship pas­sen­gers vis­it­ed Juneau, Ketchikan and Skag­way each year.

The Trump regime sought to recre­ate the bad old days. After a meet­ing between Trump and Alas­ka Gov­er­nor Mike Dun­leavy on Air Force One last year, the Trump con­trolled USDA enact­ed a new “rule” that pulled back pro­tec­tions in force for twen­ty years under the Clin­ton Road­less Rule. The goal was to resume and expand log­ging of old growth forests in val­ley bot­toms of the Tongass.

The areas imme­di­ate­ly tar­get­ed for cut­ting totaled only 186,000 acres, but includ­ed the biggest trees sup­port­ing the rich­est salmon habi­tat. Much of the Ton­gass con­sists of rocks, ice and forests on no com­mer­cial value.

Nugget Falls

Nugget Falls, locat­ed in the Ton­gass Nation­al For­est, emp­ties into Lake Menden­hall (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

“I com­mend the Biden Admin­is­tra­tion for ensur­ing the future of our shared pub­lic lands is based on sci­ence, a legal­ly sound process, and stake­hold­er input,” said Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell (D‑Washington) in a state­ment sent to NPI.

“The fate of one of the world’s last great remain­ing tem­per­ate forests should­n’t be a polit­i­cal deci­sion made on a whim. The salmon runs, car­bon stor­age, and tourism appeal that the Ton­gass cur­rent­ly pro­vides will always be more valu­able to Pacif­ic North­west com­mu­ni­ties than any sub­si­dized log­ging projects.”

Cantwell and fel­low Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tor Deb­bie Stabenow of Michi­gan pre­vi­ous­ly object­ed to the roll­back last year, lay­ing out the case:

Sci­en­tists have repeat­ed­ly urged main­tain­ing pro­tec­tion for this large­ly intact, tem­per­ate rainforest.

The Ton­gass would right­ly be man­aged as America’s cli­mate for­est because of the Ton­gass’ crit­i­cal capac­i­ty for car­bon stor­age and cli­mate change mit­i­ga­tion. The pro­tec­tion of these lands for their con­ser­va­tion val­ue also sup­ports healthy pop­u­la­tions of salmon and oth­er wildlife essen­tial to the peo­ple of the region.

Researchers stud­ied vast 1960s and 1970s clearcuts on Prince of Wales and Chichagof Islands. They found that lit­tle sun­light reach­es the ground beneath dense sec­ond growth stands, and that plants on the for­est floor are sparse.

Such habi­tat does not sup­port Sit­ka black tailed deer, brown bear and oth­er among four hun­dred species of wildlife found in the Tongass.

John Schoen, a long­time sci­en­tist with Alas­ka Fish & Game and Audubon Alas­ka, wrote in his book Ton­gass Odyssey::

“The clear cut­ting of old growth is an archa­ic and unsus­tain­able tim­ber prac­tice. This appraisal was clear­ly artic­u­lat­ed in 2014 when many sci­en­tists – includ­ing two for­mer chiefs of the For­est Ser­vice – wrote the pres­i­dent, request­ing ‘a nation­al old growth con­ser­va­tion pol­i­cy that ful­ly pro­tects the remain­ing old growth on nation­al forests through­out the Unit­ed States’.

“The many sus­tain­able resource uses on the Ton­gass – from sub­sis­tence har­vest­ing of fish and wildlife to com­mer­cial and sport­fish­ing, tourism and out­door recre­ation and car­bon stor­age – are at risk from con­tin­ued log­ging of old growth.”

The reac­tion to Friday’s action by the Biden Admin­is­tra­tion pit­ted back­ers of the old bring-the-cut-out, drill-baby-drill, dig-baby-dig Alas­ka econ­o­my against those cham­pi­oning a sus­tain­able, cli­mate-con­scious future.

“From tourism to tim­ber, Alaska’s great Ton­gass Nation­al For­est holds much oppor­tu­ni­ty for Alaskans, but the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment wish­es to see Alaskans suf­fer at the lack of jobs and pros­per­i­ty,” Dun­leavy said in a tweet.

Amy Gulick, author/photographer of “Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alasa’s Ton­gass Rain For­est,” which makes the case that ancient forests are essen­tial to spawn­ing salmon and oth­er liv­ing things, said in an email: “The Ton­gass is a place where there are salmon in the trees – every­thing is still inter­con­nect­ed in this intact ecosys­tem. I am heart­ened to see that the Biden admin­is­tra­tion is show­ing us that it’s pos­si­ble to exer­cise restraint and main­tain the true rich­es of the mag­nif­i­cent Ton­gass rain for­est in Alas­ka for gen­er­a­tions to come.”

The admin­is­tra­tion, under law, will come up with a new pre­lim­i­nary “rule” for the Ton­gass in August, and then seek pub­lic com­ment. When the Trump regime was con­sid­er­ing a roll­back of pro­tec­tion, the vast major­i­ty of com­ments received were in sup­port of main­tain­ing pro­tec­tion of unlogged old growth forest.

The Biden admin­is­tra­tion has con­front­ed mul­ti­ple Trump actions in Alaska.

The new admin­is­tra­tion has put on hold its predecessor’s fire sale of oil and gas drilling rights in the Arc­tic Refuge.

The sale was a mon­u­men­tal bust, with major oil com­pa­nies declin­ing to bid, and major banks say­ing they would not under­write oil explo­ration in the refuge.

But the new admin­is­tra­tion is sup­port­ing Cono­coPhillips’ big Wil­low oil devel­op­ment project, locat­ed in Alaska’s Nation­al Petro­le­um Reserve just west of the Prud­hoe Bay oil field. It was green light­ed under Trump.

The Biden admin­is­tra­tion is also defend­ing the con­tro­ver­sial King Cove Road, designed to link two iso­lat­ed Alas­ka Penin­su­la vil­lages, that would go through the Isem­bek Nation­al Wildlife Refuge.

Con­ser­va­tion groups have nation­al­ized bat­tles over log­ging, min­ing and oil drilling on pub­lic lands in Alas­ka. After all, they’re pub­lic prop­er­ty. A key weapon has been exhib­it-for­mat books pub­lished by Braid­ed Riv­er, a divi­sion of Moun­taineers Books. Under pres­sure from Alaska’s con­gres­sion­al del­e­ga­tion, the Smithsonian’s Nation­al Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry, moved to a remote cor­ri­dor and cen­sored an exhib­it from Sub­hankar Banerjee’s book “Arc­tic Nation­al Wildlife Refuge: Sea­sons of Life and Land.” It got him booked at oth­er muse­ums across the country.

Still, Alaska’s Repub­li­can Sen. Lisa Murkows­ki is a piv­otal Sen­ate vote when it comes to such issues as upgrad­ing America’s infra­struc­ture and vot­ing rights. (Native vil­lages are a big source of sup­port for Murkowski.)

The Biden Admin­is­tra­tion gave her some­thing to applaud by back­ing the Wil­low project. But she’s not hap­py at prospec­tive return of the Road­less Rule.

“Alaskans believe the Road­less Rule bur­den­some, unnec­es­sary and since its incep­tion have called for the Ton­gass to be exempt from it,” she said Fri­day in a state­ment. “We need to end this ‘yo-yo’ effect as the lives of Alaskans who live and work in the Ton­gass are upend­ed every time we have a new President.”

But the Biden administration’s deci­sion means that eight hun­dred year old trees will not be upend­ed with chain­saws, and ecosys­tems left intact.

Friday, June 11th, 2021

Accountability! Oregon Legislature expels extremist, militant Republican Mike Nearman

This is a his­toric, impor­tant, and much need­ed step for­ward in the effort to counter mil­i­tant right wing extrem­ism in the Pacif­ic North­west:

The Ore­gon House vot­ed 59–1 Thurs­day to expel Rep. Mike Near­man, the first time it has eject­ed a sit­ting representative.

Law­mak­ers removed Near­man because he let far-right demon­stra­tors, some of whom were armed, into the Capi­tol on Decem­ber 21st while law­mak­ers were hold­ing a spe­cial ses­sion. The Capi­tol was closed to the pub­lic due to the pan­dem­ic and remains so.

That means his seat rep­re­sent­ing a rur­al dis­trict west of Salem will like­ly sit vacant for the remain­der of the leg­isla­tive ses­sion, which must wrap up by June 27th.

Near­man was the only one to vote against his removal, hav­ing lost the sup­port of every sin­gle one of his Repub­li­can col­leagues, who decid­ed he was a liability.

“The Ore­gon House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives has tak­en the unprece­dent­ed step of expelling one of its mem­bers,” said House Speak­er Tina Kotek, a Demo­c­rat.

“Elect­ed lead­ers must be held to the high­est pos­si­ble stan­dard. The facts are clear that Mr. Near­man unapolo­get­i­cal­ly coor­di­nat­ed and planned a breach of the Ore­gon State Capi­tol. His actions were bla­tant and delib­er­ate, and he has shown no remorse for jeop­ar­diz­ing the safe­ty of every per­son in the Capi­tol that day.”

“Giv­en the extra­or­di­nary cir­cum­stances, this was the only rea­son­able path for­ward. Safe­ty – for the pub­lic, build­ing employ­ees, leg­is­la­tors and their staff – con­tin­ues to be my top pri­or­i­ty in man­ag­ing this extra­or­di­nary session.”

Top House Repub­li­can Chris­tine Drazan offered a sim­i­lar response to the vote, using the words “high­er stan­dard” instead of “high­est pos­si­ble standard”.

“The expul­sion of a mem­ber for dis­or­der­ly con­duct is an extra­or­di­nary vote that changes the cham­ber, the Leg­is­la­ture and our state,” Drazan said.

“Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Near­man took cred­it for his prin­ci­ples with­out tak­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty for the con­se­quences of his actions. His plan to let peo­ple into the Capi­tol end­ed with vio­lence, prop­er­ty destruc­tion and injured cops.”

“This dis­re­gard for the rule of law leads us deep­er into civ­il unrest and divi­sion. If we want to turn our state around we must hold our­selves account­able to a high­er stan­dard as we work to lead and serve the greater good.”

Video footage from the 21st depicts Near­man open­ing the door to the closed, locked Capi­tol to allow an armed band of mil­i­tant right wing extrem­ists into the build­ing. It was some­thing that Near­man had planned on doing in advance:

Last week, a video from ear­li­er in Decem­ber sur­faced which showed Near­man instruct­ing view­ers how they should wait out­side an entrance to the Capi­tol and text his cell phone.

Then, “some­body might exit that door while you’re stand­ing there,” Near­man said, a plan he dubbed “Oper­a­tion Hall Pass.”

In an inter­view Mon­day with a con­ser­v­a­tive radio host, Near­man said the group he instruct­ed on how to text him when they arrived out­side a door at the Capi­tol were “most­ly blue-haired old ladies.”

That did not accu­rate­ly describe the group that showed up at the Capi­tol and entered the door Near­man opened.

Rather, the demon­stra­tors includ­ed the right-wing, Van­cou­ver-based group Patri­ot Prayer known for street brawls, peo­ple wear­ing cloth­ing with Three Per­centers mili­tia logos and a Con­fed­er­ate flag hat and peo­ple armed with rifles and wear­ing mil­i­tary gear.

Mike Nearman lets violent extremists into the Oregon State Capitol

Mike Near­man lets vio­lent extrem­ists into the Ore­gon State Capi­tol (From video footage pro­vid­ed by the Legislature)

“Oper­a­tion Hall Pass” was a suc­cess, at least in that it enabled mem­bers of the Three Per­centers to get inside of the build­ing, threat­en­ing the safe­ty of Ore­gon state leg­is­la­tors and their staff. Due to the inter­ven­tion of the Ore­gon State Police, the vio­lent mob was for­tu­nate­ly stopped from going very far. (In the video, you can see the police rush­ing to the open door to block the way forward.)

Near­man then lied to his col­leagues when asked about his involvement.

“Mike told us that there is no fur­ther evi­dence and cer­tain­ly not any that would show pre­med­i­ta­tion,” Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Bill Post (25th-Dis­trict: Keiz­er) said in a state­ment. “I asked, ‘is there any fur­ther video or oth­er evi­dence?’ He said ‘no.’ That is the crux of the prob­lem: he lied. To me per­son­al­ly and to the House Repub­li­can cau­cus. This pains me to no end to reveal. He is my friend.”

Near­man was giv­en unlim­it­ed time by the House Demo­c­ra­t­ic major­i­ty to speak against his expul­sion. He offered only brief remarks, reit­er­at­ing that he thinks the Capi­tol should be open to the pub­lic, and declin­ing to apol­o­gize for his actions.

The onset of the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic in the spring of 2020 prompt­ed the clo­sure of most pub­lic build­ings in Ore­gon and many oth­er places. Since then, build­ing access has become some­thing of an obses­sion for many Repub­li­cans, even though leg­isla­tive pro­ceed­ings remain acces­si­ble through elec­tron­ic means.

The sci­ence shows that large gath­er­ings of peo­ple can eas­i­ly become super­spread­er events that allow COVID-19 to be rapid­ly and effec­tive­ly trans­mit­ted. That is why build­ings like the Capi­tol were closed to all except those who work there. New­er vari­ants of COVID-19 are even more trans­mis­si­ble than the first per­mu­ta­tion of the virus, which makes adher­ence to phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing and mask­ing pro­to­cols all the more impor­tant for the unvaccinated.

Mike Near­man’s expul­sion is a water­shed moment for the Pacif­ic North­west. It is the first time that a right wing extrem­ist has been kicked out of a state leg­is­la­ture in our region. Matt Shea should have been the first last bien­ni­um, but sad­ly, Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­cans refused to join Democ­rats in mov­ing to oust him. Ore­gon House Repub­li­cans are to be com­mend­ed for com­ing togeth­er and decid­ing that Near­man had to go. That took dis­ci­pline and unity.

Oth­er extrem­ists, like Wash­ing­ton’s Robert Suther­land, remain in the Pacif­ic North­west­’s leg­is­la­tures and con­tin­ue to under­mine democ­ra­cy and the rule of law. The work to hold them account­able must continue.

Thursday, June 10th, 2021

Washington’s COVID-19 vaccination progress correlated by NPI’s May 2021 statewide poll

Wash­ing­ton State is inch­ing clos­er to the mile­stone of hav­ing sev­en­ty per­cent of all peo­ple ages six­teen and old­er vac­ci­nat­ed against COVID-19, Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee announced at a news con­fer­ence yes­ter­day.

“We’ve had con­sid­er­able suc­cess and vac­ci­na­tion and we are now close to being able to essen­tial­ly ful­ly reopen our state,” said Inslee.

“We’ve had sub­stan­tial reduc­tion in the risk to peo­ple who have had this vac­cine. We have saved hun­dreds and thou­sands of lives and it is a great joy to know that thou­sands now have a huge fac­tor to save their lives with this vaccine.”

As of press time, 7,301,374 vac­cine does had been admin­is­tered in Wash­ing­ton State, with 3,443,407 peo­ple ful­ly vac­ci­nat­ed and 3,925,186 peo­ple hav­ing ini­ti­at­ed vac­ci­na­tion, accord­ing to the DOH vac­cine progress track­er.

“More than two thirds of our peo­ple in our state have ini­ti­at­ed their vac­ci­na­tions,” Gov­er­nor Inslee not­ed at his press con­fer­ence, call­ing out Seat­tle for hav­ing already sur­passed the sev­en­ty per­cent mile­stone ahead of the state as a whole.

Our pub­lic opin­ion research cor­rob­o­rates Wash­ing­ton State’s offi­cial data.

In our most recent statewide poll of like­ly 2022 vot­ers, con­duct­ed over two weeks ago for us by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling, 63% of respon­dents said that they had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vac­cine, while 37% had not.

Here’s the exact ques­tion we asked, and the responses:

QUESTION: Have you per­son­al­ly received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vac­cine, or not?

ANSWERS:

  • Yes (have received a dose): 63%
  • No (have not received a dose): 37%

The uni­verse for our poll was, of course, like­ly 2022 vot­ers, not Wash­ing­ton’s six­teen plus pop­u­la­tion as a whole. Still, giv­en that Wash­ing­ton has auto­mat­ic vot­er reg­is­tra­tion and tends to vote at high­er per­cent­ages than oth­er parts of the coun­try, we fig­ured we might see a cor­re­la­tion in our data. And indeed, we did.

Washington State's progress vaccinating people against COVID-19

A visu­al rep­re­sen­ta­tion of our COVID-19 vac­ci­na­tion poll finding

Our sur­vey of 992 like­ly 2022 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field pri­or to Memo­r­i­al Day, from Tues­day, May 25th through Wednes­day, May 26th, 2021.

(As men­tioned, over two weeks have elapsed since this poll was in the field. Offi­cial vac­ci­na­tion fig­ures were low­er then than they are now.)

The poll uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines (50%) and text mes­sage answers from cell phone only respon­dents (50%).

It was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.1% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval.

It was only a few weeks ago that get­ting a COVID-19 vac­cine required some resource­ful­ness. Now, thank­ful­ly, the vac­cines are wide­ly available.

With the low hang­ing fruit hav­ing been metaphor­i­cal­ly plucked, Wash­ing­ton State’s elect­ed and pub­lic health offi­cials have been try­ing to keep the momen­tum going by com­ing up with new incen­tives to get the pop­u­la­tion vaccinated.

These mea­sures include a recent­ly announced lot­tery (Shot of a Life­time) that includes cash prizes and oth­er give­aways. Any­one who has already been vac­ci­nat­ed is sup­posed to have already been entered to win in the lottery.

If you’d like to check to see if you’re in the sys­tem, you can do so here.

As Gov­er­nor Inslee men­tioned, the data clear­ly shows that near­ly all the peo­ple who are get­ting hos­pi­tal­ized with COVID-19 in Wash­ing­ton are unvac­ci­nat­ed. Pro­tect your­self, your fam­i­ly, your friends, your col­leagues, and your com­mu­ni­ty from this hor­ri­ble dis­ease by get­ting vac­ci­nat­ed today if you haven’t already.

Thursday, June 10th, 2021

Housing advocates team up to help renters understand their recently expanded rights

As Wash­ing­ton State moves clos­er to its planned June 30th ces­sa­tion of COVID-19 relat­ed restric­tions, hous­ing advo­cates are doing all they can to ensure that renters are pro­tect­ed from being kicked out of their homes, espe­cial­ly in the event that the evic­tion mora­to­ri­um cur­rent­ly in place is allowed to expire.

On May 28th, the Wash­ing­ton Low Income Hous­ing Alliance offered a webi­nar to explain the new statewide ten­ant pro­tec­tions that pro­gres­sive orga­ni­za­tions worked hard to get enact­ed into law. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Ten­ants Union of Wash­ing­ton State, the King Coun­ty Hous­ing Jus­tice Project, and the North­west Jus­tice Project all spoke as part of the pro­gram. The webi­nar was record­ed, and can be watched on demand at any time by click­ing the play but­ton below.

If you don’t have time to watch the webi­nar, here’s a read­out of the event.

Ter­ri Ander­son from Ten­ants Union of Wash­ing­ton State began the webi­nar with some back­ground on issues sur­round­ing ten­an­cy in Washington.

Ander­son not­ed that due to the pan­dem­ic, renters have expe­ri­enced sub­stan­dard liv­ing con­di­tions and increased risk of evic­tion. Addi­tion­al­ly, Black and Brown fam­i­lies are at greater risk of becom­ing home­less because of eviction.

Vallen Solomon of the King Coun­ty Hous­ing Jus­tice Project then sum­ma­rized the ben­e­fits of House Bill 1236, which Gov­er­nor Inslee signed the bill into law on May 10th, 2021. Cham­pi­oned and prime spon­sored by State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Nicole Macri, this bill requires land­lords to state a rea­son before evict­ing someone.

HB 1236 aims to pro­tect res­i­den­tial ten­ants from the begin­ning to end of their ten­an­cies by penal­iz­ing the inclu­sion of unlaw­ful lease pro­vi­sions and lim­it­ing the rea­sons for evic­tion, refusal to con­tin­ue, and termination.

In May of 2020, NPI’s poll­ster asked 1,070 like­ly Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers what they thought of Macri’s bill. 60% of those sur­veyed (three-fifths) said they agreed with the idea, while 34% dis­agreed. 6% were not sure.

Here’s the ques­tion we asked, and the respons­es we received:

QUESTION: Under cur­rent state law, land­lords may evict ten­ants with­out pro­vid­ing a rea­son. Do you strong­ly agree, some­what agree, some­what dis­agree, or strong­ly dis­agree that the Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture should improve land­lord-ten­ant rela­tion­ships by requir­ing land­lords to give a rea­son when attempt­ing to move some­one out of a home?

ANSWERS:

  • Agree: 60%
    • Strong­ly: 36%
    • Some­what: 24%
  • Dis­agree: 34% 
    • Some­what: 14%
    • Strong­ly: 20%
  • Not sure: 6%

Our sur­vey of 1,070 like­ly 2020 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Tues­day, May 19th through Wednes­day, May 20th, 2020.

It uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines and text mes­sage answers from cell phone only respondents.

The poll was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.0% at the 95% con­fi­dence level.

Thanks to Gov­er­nor Inslee’s bill action, evic­tions will have to be for cause going for­ward. The sev­en­teen jus­ti­fi­able caus­es are found in sec­tion 2(2) of the law. Some exam­ples of cau­sa­tion for evic­tions are:

  • non-pay­ment of rent
  • ten­ant com­mits waste or nui­sance upon the premises
  • land­lord plans to demol­ish or sub­stan­tial­ly reha­bil­i­tate premises
  • ten­ant know­ing­ly and inten­tion­al­ly mis­rep­re­sent­ed mate­r­i­al facts in their application

There are some excep­tions out­lined in sec­tions 2(1)(b) and 2(1)©.

These excep­tions refer to fixed term leas­es that become month-to-month and long or suc­ces­sive term leas­es that do not become month-to-month.

Next, Mered­ith Bruch from North­west Jus­tice Project gave an overview of right to attor­ney leg­is­la­tion for evict­ed indi­vid­u­als. She began by stat­ing that there is no absolute right to coun­sel, it is depen­dent on the avail­abil­i­ty of funding.

Right to coun­sel also does not apply to the medi­a­tion stage.

Cur­rent­ly, OCLA (the Office of Civ­il Legal Aid) is dis­pers­ing more fund­ing to legal aid providers and vol­un­teer lawyer programs.

They plan to cre­ate a new evic­tion defense screen­ing line with one pri­ma­ry point of intake to smooth out bureau­crat­ic issues.

To be eli­gi­ble for these ser­vices, you must be “an indi­gent ten­ant in an unlaw­ful detain­er pro­ceed­ing”. OCLA has already approved the hir­ing of attor­neys in sev­er­al areas of the state, but ramp­ing up this process will take time.

Tam­my Artzen of North­west Jus­tice Project out­lined the repay­ment plans under the cur­rent evic­tion mora­to­ri­um (20–19.6).

These repay­ment plans apply to “rent and oth­er charges” as a result of COVID-19 and dur­ing a state of emer­gency until the mora­to­ri­um ends.

There are a few vari­a­tions of this type of plan, how­ev­er, all of them have a com­mon con­tin­gency of ‘rea­son­able­ness’.

Repay­ment plans must be rea­son­able for the ten­ant, although rea­son­able is nev­er clear­ly defined, leav­ing a loop­hole in legal jargon.

Artzen advised that ten­ants on a repay­ment plan make a bud­get, be clear about their cir­cum­stances, apply for assis­tance, and com­mu­ni­cate in writing.

Next, Mered­ith Bruch intro­duced the Evic­tion Res­o­lu­tion Pro­gram (ERP).

ERP began in King, Clark, Pierce, Thurston, Sno­homish, and Spokane coun­ties and may expand to oth­ers depend­ing on fund­ing from the Office of the Admin­is­tra­tor of the Courts (OAC) and buy-ins from local supe­ri­or courts via local order.

How­ev­er, ERP adop­tion is not mandatory.

Once the evic­tion mora­to­ri­um is lift­ed, all land­lords in the above coun­ties are required to par­tic­i­pate before they can file rent-relat­ed evictions.

Ten­ant par­tic­i­pa­tion, how­ev­er, is voluntary.

Local state Dis­pute Res­o­lu­tion Cen­ters (DRC) will han­dle the case process.

Bruch then out­lined some ten­ant cautions.

Ten­ants must respond with­in four­teen days of their first notice from the DRC.

Addi­tion­al­ly, ten­ants should only agree to a pay­ment plan that they know they can keep. Arntzen briefly named three pro­tec­tions against hous­ing denial. They are: no late fees, report­ing under­paid rent, and med­ical his­to­ry inquiry.

Last­ly, Vallen Solomon con­clud­ed the brief­ing by explain­ing what the evic­tion process will look like after the mora­to­ri­um is lift­ed. Solomon said peo­ple can be evict­ed once the mora­to­ri­um expires if they are being evict­ed for rental debt pri­or to March 1st (2020), if they are being evict­ed for non-rent, or if they have default­ed or refused a pay­ment plan that meets SB 5160’s requirements.

In cas­es with debt pri­or to March 1st, 2020, land­lords do not need to offer an addi­tion­al repay­ment plan nor do they need to go through mediation.

Addi­tion­al­ly, in the event of a non-rent relat­ed evic­tion, land­lords do not need to show proof of a pay­ment plan as set out in SB 5160.

With respect to non-pay­ment evic­tions after the mora­to­ri­um ends, SB 5160 requires land­lords offer the ten­ant a repay­ment plan and medi­a­tion. Solomon says it is unclear how long the evic­tion process will take at this point. There are many com­pli­cat­ing fac­tors that can impact the entire process, like set cal­en­dar caps, DRC lim­its on case­load, right to coun­sel, and oth­er unknowns.

As men­tioned, Gov­er­nor Inslee has yet to extend the evic­tion mora­to­ri­um past June 30th, though NPI and oth­er orga­ni­za­tions have request­ed that he do so.

With ten­ants who are deal­ing with non-rent and non-pay­ment fac­ing an uncer­tain future, it is essen­tial that pro­gres­sive orga­ni­za­tions work togeth­er to help renters under­stand their new­ly expand­ed rights and legal options.

Wednesday, June 9th, 2021

The fight over Keystone XL is over: In a big win for our Earth, the pipeline won’t be built

This day has been a long time in the mak­ing, but it’s final­ly arrived.

At long last, we can say that one of the most immoral, cli­mate destroy­ing projects in mod­ern times has been scrapped. The Key­stone XL pipeline has met its demise!

Good rid­dance, we say.

TC Ener­gy said in a state­ment that it decid­ed along with the gov­ern­ment of Alber­ta to end the multi­bil­lion-dol­lar pipeline.

Activists who have spent more than a decade hop­ing to bury the project for good react­ed with joy at the news Wednesday.

“When this fight began, peo­ple thought Big Oil couldn’t be beat,” said Bill McK­ibben, who led sit-ins against Key­stone XL in 2011 at the White House. “But when enough peo­ple rise up we’re stronger even than the rich­est fos­sil fuel companies.”

Indeed!

In the end, not even Don­ald Trump’s four year occu­pa­tion of the White House could save the envi­ron­men­tal­ly destruc­tive, long trou­bled pipeline project.

“TC Ener­gy Cor­po­ra­tion con­firmed today that after a com­pre­hen­sive review of its options, and in con­sul­ta­tion with its part­ner, the Gov­ern­ment of Alber­ta, it has ter­mi­nat­ed the Key­stone XL Pipeline Project (the Project),” the com­pa­ny said in a state­ment post­ed to its web­site and dis­trib­uted through P.R. chan­nels.

“Con­struc­tion activ­i­ties to advance the Project were sus­pend­ed fol­low­ing the revo­ca­tion of its Pres­i­den­tial Per­mit on Jan­u­ary 20th, 2021.”

“The Com­pa­ny will con­tin­ue to coor­di­nate with reg­u­la­tors, stake­hold­ers and Indige­nous groups to meet its envi­ron­men­tal and reg­u­la­to­ry com­mit­ments and ensure a safe ter­mi­na­tion of and exit from the Project.”

Key­stone XL rep­re­sent­ed an effort by extreme­ly pow­er­ful, pol­lut­ing inter­ests to keep the Unit­ed States and Cana­da wed­ded to fos­sil fuels, while increas­ing the prof­its of bil­lion­aires like the Koch broth­ers, who are already very wealthy.

The pipeline’s boost­ers repeat­ed­ly sought to steam­roll Native Amer­i­can tribes and farm­ers in their attempts to seize right of way for the trans­port of oil from the dirty tar sands of Alber­ta. Although Pres­i­dent Oba­ma denied TC Ener­gy a per­mit to build the pipeline in 2015, the com­pa­ny did not give up. It found the ally it need­ed less than two years lat­er in 2017, when Don­ald Trump gained power.

But Trump did not remain in the White House long enough to save the pipeline.

Upon arriv­ing at 1600 Penn­syl­va­nia Avenue on Jan­u­ary 20th, Joe Biden pro­ceed­ed to prompt­ly revoke the Unit­ed States’ sup­port for the pipeline project.

Many pipeline boost­ers held out hope that the new admin­is­tra­tion’s oppo­si­tion could be over­come. But even­tu­al­ly, TC Ener­gy con­clud­ed it couldn’t.

The pipeline’s demise is a blow to oil-addict­ed politi­cians like Alber­ta Pre­mier Jason Ken­ney. Ken­ney was so deter­mined to see the pipeline built that he involved the tax­pay­ers of Alber­ta in the project.

“Today’s loss is anoth­er exam­ple of how Jason Ken­ney has failed our ener­gy sec­tor,” NDP ener­gy crit­ic Kath­leen Gan­ley said in a news release.

“From his embar­rass­ing war room to his over­due and over-bud­get inquiry, he’s failed to cre­ate jobs,” Gan­ley added, refer­ring to Ken­ney’s use of tax­pay­er funds to pro­mote his oil agen­da and “inves­ti­gate” for­eign based envi­ron­men­tal groups.

“Now, his mis­man­age­ment and com­plete incom­pe­tence on this file has cost the peo­ple of Alber­ta north of $1 bil­lion,” Gan­ley added.

Sev­er­al Cana­di­an oil boost­ers said it was time to focus on oth­er projects.

“Instead of bemoan­ing the can­cel­la­tion of Key­stone XL, how­ev­er, Cana­da should see this as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to put more empha­sis on direct access to off­shore mar­kets. Specif­i­cal­ly, the TMX pipeline will allow Cana­da to take advan­tage of direct exports to key mar­kets in the Indo-Pacif­ic,” wrote Jeff Kuchars­ki, a con­trib­u­tor to The Globe and Mail, Canada’s news­pa­per of record.

The TMX project is a grave threat to the envi­ron­men­tal health of the Pacif­ic North­west, and is mov­ing for­ward over the objec­tions of the peo­ple of British Colum­bia and their NDP-led gov­ern­ment thanks to a bad rul­ing by Canada’s Supreme Court. Last year, Tran­sCanada’s CEO admit­ted that the TMX pipeline expan­sion has bal­looned in cost, from around $7.4 bil­lion to $12.6 billion.

Like the exist­ing pipeline, TMX’s planned ter­mi­nus is in Burn­a­by, a port in the Sal­ish Sea, across the mar­itime bor­der from Wash­ing­ton State waters.

The Cana­di­an gov­ern­ment, under Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, has also approved a slew of oth­er pipeline projects despite claim­ing to be com­mit­ted to reduc­ing emis­sions and cli­mate dam­age. Trudeau’s crit­ics say he has done very lit­tle to lead on cli­mate. The Prime Min­is­ter’s pledges and green talk are fierce­ly belied by his repeat­ed advo­ca­cy for oil pipelines, includ­ing Key­stone XL.

In the case of TMX, Trudeau became the pipeline’s eleventh hour sav­ior when he arranged for the Gov­ern­ment of Cana­da to buy the pipeline from Hous­ton-based Kinder Mor­gan. TMX is now owned and con­trolled by Cana­da Devel­op­ment Invest­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (CDEV), a Crown corporation.

As impor­tant as Key­stone XL’s demise is, it’s essen­tial to remem­ber that there are oth­er very destruc­tive oil pipeline projects mov­ing for­ward right now that need to be stopped. The Earth­’s cli­mate has already been cat­a­stroph­i­cal­ly dam­aged; it’s up to us to pre­vent our com­mon home from becom­ing fur­ther imperiled.

Tuesday, June 8th, 2021

The Biden-Harris administration’s American Rescue Plan is popular with Washingtonians

Vot­ers in Wash­ing­ton State are big fans of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty’s chief 2021 leg­isla­tive accom­plish­ment thus far, with three in five express­ing sup­port for the Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan cham­pi­oned by the Biden-Har­ris admin­is­tra­tion, a sur­vey recent­ly con­duct­ed for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute has found.

60% of nine hun­dred and nine­ty two like­ly 2022 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers sur­veyed late last month by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling said they sup­port­ed the Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan, while 32% were opposed and 8% were not sure.

The American Rescue Plan is very popular with Washingtonians

The Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan is very pop­u­lar with Washingtonians

Approved in Con­gress with only Demo­c­ra­t­ic votes and signed into law by Pres­i­dent Joe Biden on March 11th, 2021, the Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan autho­rizes $1.9 tril­lion of invest­ments to help the nation recov­er from the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic and “Build Back Bet­ter”, in the words of Biden’s 2020 cam­paign slogan.

The Plan:

  • pro­vid­ed for $1,400 eco­nom­ic impact pay­ments to most individuals;
  • expand­ed unem­ploy­ment benefits;
  • extend­ed nutri­tion assistance;
  • sig­nif­i­cant­ly boost­ed the Child Tax Credit;
  • pro­vid­ed bad­ly need­ed resources for pub­lic health research and pan­dem­ic response, includ­ing to the CDC, FDA, and Indi­an Health Services;
  • autho­rized bil­lions of dol­lars in fund­ing for Amtrak, air­lines, pub­lic tran­sit agen­cies, K‑12 schools, col­leges, and universities;
  • and, among oth­er pro­vi­sions, cre­at­ed a Restau­rant Revi­tal­iza­tion Fund and added more fund­ing to the Pay­check Pro­tec­tion Program.

A high lev­el fact sheet describ­ing the Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan, cre­at­ed and pub­lished by the White House, is avail­able from Wik­isource.

The text of the Act is avail­able from Congress.gov.

Nation­al sur­veys from Quin­nip­i­ac, Mon­mouth, and oth­ers have con­sis­tent­ly found broad sup­port for the Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan — with even some Repub­li­can vot­ers sup­port­ive — so our find­ing is not a sur­prise. But it’s nice to have a state lev­el data point to go along with all of the nation­al data we already have.

Since the Plan has already been in the news a lot and is the most con­se­quen­tial leg­is­la­tion of this Con­gress, we opt­ed not to describe its pro­vi­sions in our ques­tion, to ensure our ques­tion would be as sim­ply and neu­tral­ly word­ed as pos­si­ble. Here’s the text of the ques­tion and the respons­es that we received:

QUESTION: Do you strong­ly sup­port, some­what sup­port, some­what oppose, or strong­ly oppose the Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan, also known as the most recent COVID-19 relief bill?

ANSWERS:

  • Sup­port: 60% 
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 45%
    • Some­what sup­port: 15%
  • Oppose: 32%
    • Some­what oppose: 11%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 21%
  • Not sure: 8%

Notably, more Wash­ing­to­ni­ans strong­ly sup­port the Plan than oppose it altogether.

Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers almost unan­i­mous­ly favor the Plan, with 92% of those sur­veyed express­ing sup­port (81% strong­ly, 11% some­what). Repub­li­can vot­ers are most­ly opposed (72%), although 18% did say they sup­port the plan, with 10% not sure. A major­i­ty of inde­pen­dents are also sup­port­ive: 56% sup­port the plan, 30% oppose it. 13% of inde­pen­dents said they were not sure.

Nation­al polls have pre­vi­ous­ly found high­er per­cent­ages of Repub­li­can vot­ers sup­port­ive of the Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan. How­ev­er, Wash­ing­ton has few­er vot­ers who iden­ti­fy as Repub­li­cans than many oth­er states in the country.

Our sur­vey of 992 like­ly 2022 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Tues­day, May 25th through Wednes­day, May 26th, 2021.

It uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines (50%) and text mes­sage answers from cell phone only respon­dents (50%).

The poll was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.1% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval.

Pres­i­dent Joe Biden was favor­ably rat­ed by 54% of poll respon­dents, a find­ing we released last month. An even high­er num­ber of respon­dents — 56% — expressed sup­port for abol­ish­ing the fil­i­buster in the Unit­ed States Sen­ate.

Monday, June 7th, 2021

Understanding Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator imperiling U.S. democracy’s future

Joe Manchin sure is the wrong per­son to be reliant upon in a crisis.

The lone remain­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic mem­ber of Con­gress from West Vir­ginia declared in a guest essay yes­ter­day that he is firm­ly and res­olute­ly opposed to H.R. 1, the For the Peo­ple Act, and will nei­ther vote for it nor help end the fil­i­buster to allow the Unit­ed States Sen­ate to be run demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly pri­or to the midterms.

“I believe that par­ti­san vot­ing leg­is­la­tion will destroy the already weak­en­ing binds of our democ­ra­cy, and for that rea­son, I will vote against the For the Peo­ple Act,” Manchin wrote in a guest essay for the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

“Fur­ther­more, I will not vote to weak­en or elim­i­nate the fil­i­buster. For as long as I have the priv­i­lege of being your U.S. sen­a­tor, I will fight to rep­re­sent the peo­ple of West Vir­ginia, to seek bipar­ti­san com­pro­mise no mat­ter how dif­fi­cult and to devel­op the polit­i­cal bonds that end divi­sions and help unite the coun­try we love.”

“Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy is some­thing spe­cial, it is big­ger than one par­ty, or the tweet-filled par­ti­san attack pol­i­tics of the moment. It is my sin­cere hope that all of us, espe­cial­ly those who are priv­i­leged to serve, remem­ber our respon­si­bil­i­ty to do more to unite this coun­try before it is too late,” Manchin concluded.

Manch­in’s unground­ed, unre­al­is­tic com­men­tary quick­ly prompt­ed a lot of angry respons­es from Demo­c­ra­t­ic and pro­gres­sive activists and commentators.

Many of them were served up, fit­ting­ly enough, on Twitter.

“I’ve bris­tled at the notion that if you don’t sup­port blow­ing up the fil­i­buster, you’re not a Demo­c­rat. Or you don’t sup­port all gov­ern­ment spend­ing, you’re not a D,” tweet­ed Joe Lock­hart. “But Joe Manchin, when you don’t sup­port the right to vote for every Amer­i­can, you are not a Demo­c­rat. Not even close.”

“If vot­ing rights leg­is­la­tion had to be ‘bipar­ti­san’, [the] 15th Amend­ment would’ve nev­er passed. It’s aston­ish­ing that Joe Manchin calls right to vote ‘fun­da­men­tal’ but won’t back For the Peo­ple Act that would stop great­est roll back of vot­ing access since end of Recon­struc­tion,” tweet­ed Ari Berman.

“Joe Manchin is so twist­ed,” declared the Rev­erend Dr. William Bar­ber II, one of the great­est preach­ers in the coun­try. “We need both the For The Peo­ple Act and the John Lewis Vot­ing Rights Advance­ment Act. He knows the VRA is going to be chal­lenged and is a tar­get for the Repub­li­cans. And if he want­ed to pass the VRA, why for eight years has he not done any­thing to pass it?”

“Mitch McConnell and Joe Manchin are work­ing in a bipar­ti­san way to dis­man­tle our nation’s pur­suit of democ­ra­cy,” added Charles Book­er.

Even Fox’s Chris Wal­lace was crit­i­cal of Manchin, ask­ing if he was naive.

You might be sur­prised to learn that Manchin sig­naled open­ness ten years ago to fil­i­buster reform, but that was before he got on this big bipar­ti­san­ship tear.

Ah, bipar­ti­san­ship. I’m not sure there is any­one in Unit­ed States pol­i­tics who is more in love with that adjec­tive right now than Joe Manchin.

It takes two to tan­go, though, and con­gres­sion­al Repub­li­cans who are “priv­i­leged to serve” have no inter­est in unit­ing the coun­try or col­lab­o­rat­ing with Democ­rats to make vot­ing reforms “bipar­ti­san”. I can count on my fin­gers the num­ber of Repub­li­cans who will some­times buck their par­ty, but only for some­thing minor.

Susan Collins might vote for a Biden nom­i­nee she likes once in a while. Mitt Rom­ney and Lisa Murkows­ki will occa­sion­al­ly back a piece of leg­is­la­tion, like the bill to estab­lish a bipar­ti­san com­mis­sion to inves­ti­gate the Jan­u­ary 6th attacks. Even more Repub­li­cans can be found when the objec­tive is com­mit­ting mon­ey to counter Chi­na’s influ­ence, which the End­less Fron­tier Act seeks to do.

But on any­thing major, the Repub­li­cans will be nays. All of them.

That’s espe­cial­ly true with respect to vot­ing rights. Repub­li­cans aren’t going to sup­port any leg­is­la­tion that would impede them from get­ting back into power.

That includes the the John Lewis Vot­ing Rights Advance­ment Act, which Manchin brought up as some­thing he does sup­port in his guest essay for the Gazette Mail.

“My Repub­li­can col­league, Lisa Murkows­ki, has joined me in urg­ing Sen­ate lead­er­ship to update and pass this bill through reg­u­lar order,” Manchin wrote.

“I con­tin­ue to engage with my Repub­li­can and Demo­c­ra­t­ic col­leagues about the val­ue of the John Lewis Vot­ing Rights Advance­ment Act and I am encour­aged by the desire from both sides to tran­scend par­ti­san pol­i­tics and strength­en our democ­ra­cy by pro­tect­ing vot­ing rights.”

Um, what? What desire from both sides is Manchin talk­ing about?

Lisa Murkows­ki is one Repub­li­can. She is unrep­re­sen­ta­tive of her par­ty and of Mitch McConnel­l’s cau­cus. In the absence of the fil­i­buster, one Repub­li­can would be enough to pass a bill with­out the need for a tie-break­er. And one Repub­li­can vote does get you the thin veneer of “bipar­ti­san­ship”.

But since Manchin is opposed to get­ting rid of the fil­i­buster, it would take ten Repub­li­cans to get the bill prop­er­ly before the Sen­ate for con­sid­er­a­tion and a vote on final pas­sage. Those addi­tion­al Repub­li­can votes do not exist.

Fur­ther­more, the John Lewis Vot­ing Rights Advance­ment Act, while impor­tant and a very good idea, bare­ly scratch­es the sur­face of what is ulti­mate­ly need­ed to pro­tect vot­ing rights and access to the bal­lot in this coun­try, as the Rev­erend Dr. Bar­ber said in the tweet I repro­duced above. That’s why the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives put togeth­er H.R. 1 and sent it over to the Senate.

And even H.R. 1 isn’t enough. But it’s sub­stan­tial, and would prob­a­bly get us clos­er to a more uni­form elec­tion sys­tem that pro­tects the right to vote.

How­ev­er, as we know, Repub­li­cans don’t have any inter­est in that.

Wher­ev­er they cur­rent­ly have pow­er, Repub­li­cans are pass­ing bills intend­ed to stop peo­ple from vot­ing in this coun­try. I wrote about these bills last Sun­day, pro­vid­ing the com­plete text of four of them right here on the Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate.

We can see that not only are Repub­li­cans not inter­est­ed in pass­ing bills like the John Lewis Vot­ing Rights Advance­ment Act, they are laser focused on going in the oth­er direc­tion. Telling­ly, Manchin did­n’t acknowl­edge what Repub­li­cans in Texas, Geor­gia, Iowa, and Flori­da have been up to recent­ly in his guest essay.

Manchin does, how­ev­er, rec­og­nize that Mitch McConnell is obsessed with get­ting his pow­er back. When McConnell orches­trat­ed a fil­i­buster of the bipar­ti­san com­mis­sion to inves­ti­gate the Jan­u­ary 6th attacks, Manchin lament­ed:

“There is no excuse for any Repub­li­can to vote against this com­mis­sion since Democ­rats have agreed to every­thing they asked for. Mitch McConnell has made this his polit­i­cal posi­tion, think­ing it will help his 2022 elec­tions. They do not believe the truth will set you free, so they con­tin­ue to live in fear.”

Curi­ous­ly, despite that expe­ri­ence, here is Joe Manchin only a few days lat­er vain­ly preach­ing bipar­ti­san­ship again. If he real­ly believes that the truth will set peo­ple free (and by the way, it won’t and does­n’t… that’s an Enlight­en­ment myth), then why does­n’t he acknowl­edge the truth? Twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry style bipar­ti­san­ship is dead, no mat­ter how fer­vent­ly Manchin wish­es it weren’t.

Repub­li­cans are not inter­est­ed in help­ing to coop­er­a­tive­ly gov­ern the coun­try, and they have proven this over and over again for more than decade.

But Manchin would rather chase after uni­corns then deal in real­i­ty.

To put it anoth­er way: The process seems more impor­tant to him than the out­come. Leg­is­la­tion on some­thing like vot­ing rights is only worth doing in his book if it’s bipar­ti­san. Bring back those wun­ner­ful olde tyme pol­i­tics!

To that, Repub­li­cans say: Great! That means we win, and noth­ing will get done.

About a month ago, Iowa’s Chuck Grass­ley told con­stituents that he was con­fi­dent Manchin would hold out as a voice and a vote against H.R. 1.

“We think we’ve got him nailed down,” Grass­ley was quot­ed as say­ing.

Yes­ter­day, Manchin proved those words to be true.

Manchin clear­ly does­n’t like what is hap­pen­ing to the coun­try, but bewil­der­ing­ly, it appears he only wants to take cor­rec­tive action if the very peo­ple who are busy enabling the destruc­tion of Amer­i­ca’s polit­i­cal norms are on board.

That’s a sil­ly, mad­den­ing posi­tion to hold. But, if you’re try­ing to make sense of it, it helps to know where Manchin comes from, and who he is.

Manchin rep­re­sents West Vir­ginia, a small state that has become zeal­ous­ly, fever­ish­ly Repub­li­can. He has sur­vived sev­er­al elec­toral purges of Democ­rats from high office, rid­ing on the strength of his per­son­al rep­u­ta­tion and name famil­iar­i­ty. He’s a rather unique polit­i­cal fig­ure, both with­in and beyond his state.

He does­n’t owe his Sen­ate seat to the DSCC, the DNC, or nation­al pro­gres­sive orga­ni­za­tions, as FiveThri­tyEight’s Per­ry Bacon has observed.

In 2018, his last cam­paign, Manchin won reelec­tion with less than fifty per­cent of the vote. He got 290,510 votes, while Repub­li­can Patrick Mor­risey got 271,113 votes and Lib­er­tar­i­an Rusty Hollen got 24,411 votes. If Hol­len’s vot­ers had backed Mor­risey, Manchin would have been defeat­ed… in a Demo­c­ra­t­ic year.

Because he won reelec­tion to a new six year term three years ago, Manchin did not face vot­ers in 2020, when Trump’s name was on the bal­lot, and was not at risk of being vot­ed out of office at that time by Trump’s base.

But in 2024, Manch­in’s luck could eas­i­ly run out. He will be up. If he runs again, he could con­ceiv­ably end up on the bal­lot with Trump, since Trump has not been barred from run­ning again for the office of Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States.

Even if the Repub­li­cans nom­i­nate some­one else, Manchin is going to find it hard to pull anoth­er rab­bit out of a hat. While I don’t and can’t know the future, I fig­ure Joe Manch­in’s odds of get­ting reelect­ed in 2024 are pret­ty steep.

Don­ald Trump got 68.62% of the vote across West Vir­ginia last year. Not a sin­gle coun­ty in the state backed the Biden-Har­ris tick­et. Not even one.

The Wikipedia arti­cle on the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in West Vir­ginia says of the state’s south­ern region: “This coal-min­ing, union-heavy region was once among the most heav­i­ly Demo­c­ra­t­ic places in the nation; Logan Coun­ty, for exam­ple, broke 72% of its bal­lots for Bill Clin­ton in 1996, 61% for Al Gore in 2000, and even 52% for John Ker­ry in 2004; but by 2008, John McCain flipped it to the Repub­li­can col­umn with 54% of the vote, which increased to 68% for Mitt Rom­ney in 2012 and by 2016 and 2020, it had vot­ed 80.9% for Trump.”

All this has hap­pened dur­ing Joe Manch­in’s polit­i­cal career.

In 1982, he was elect­ed to the West Vir­ginia House of Del­e­gates. In 1986, he moved over to the West Vir­ginia State Sen­ate. In 2000, he won his first statewide race and became Sec­re­tary of State. In 2004, he was elect­ed Gov­er­nor, and held that office until 2010, when he resigned to run for the Unit­ed States Senate.

West Vir­gini­a’s trans­for­ma­tion into a devout right wing bas­tion has accel­er­at­ed, rapid­ly, since Manchin left the state­house for the U.S. Capitol.

When Manchin left Charleston for Capi­tol Hill, he did so with state gov­ern­ment large­ly in Demo­c­ra­t­ic hands. Manch­in’s suc­ces­sor, Earl Ray Tomblin, was a Demo­c­rat. The Sec­re­tary of State was a Demo­c­rat (Natal­ie Ten­nant), the long­time Attor­ney Gen­er­al was a Demo­c­rat (Dar­rell McGraw), the Com­mis­sion­er of Agri­cul­ture was a Demo­c­rat (Gus R. Dou­glass), the Trea­sur­er was a Demo­c­rat (John Per­due), and the Audi­tor was a Demo­c­rat (Glen Gainer).

Today, all those posi­tions — all of them — are held by Republicans.

The same shift has tak­en place in the state’s con­gres­sion­al delegation.

In 2014, when Manch­in’s seat­mate Jay Rock­e­feller decid­ed to retire, Democ­rats failed to hold his U.S. Sen­ate seat. It went instead to Repub­li­can Shel­ley Moore Capi­to. 2014 was also the year that West Vir­gini­ans dumped long­time Demo­c­ra­t­ic U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Nick Rahall, send­ing hin into retire­ment after sev­er­al decades of ser­vice in the House. (Rahall was first elect­ed in 1976.)

With Rahal­l’s loss, the entire three mem­ber U.S. House del­e­ga­tion from West Vir­ginia became Repub­li­can. It has remained so since.

Manchin is — real­ly and tru­ly — the last promi­nent Demo­c­rat left stand­ing in a state that used to be Demo­c­ra­t­ic to its core. And he knows it.

Manchin also knows that Democ­rats need his vote to pass any­thing in the Unit­ed States Sen­ate. As a mem­ber of a fifty per­son cau­cus, his word alone is enough to sink a bill, at least in the eyes of Belt­way polit­i­cal writ­ers who churn out who’s win­ning, who’s los­ing right now analy­sis on a dai­ly or week­ly basis.

Manchin is milk­ing this dynam­ic for all that it’s worth on a reg­u­lar basis, keep­ing him­self the cen­ter of atten­tion. In the showhorse vs. work­horse metaphor, Manchin is far and away the showhorse by a coun­try mile.

The guest essay he wrote for the Charleston Gazette-Mail did­n’t just gen­er­ate press for him; it gen­er­at­ed nation­al above the fold headlines.

That was by design.

Democ­rats should­n’t be hostage to Manch­in’s whims. They should­n’t need Manch­in’s vote to pass any­thing in the Sen­ate. He ought to sim­ply be the most con­ser­v­a­tive mem­ber of the cau­cus, rather than the linch­pin of the majority.

But unlike in 2013, when Har­ry Reid embraced fil­i­buster reform for nom­i­nees and mar­shaled the votes to get it done, Democ­rats don’t have a fifty-five mem­ber cau­cus. Instead, they have the barest of majori­ties, with Vice Pres­i­dent Kamala Har­ris avail­able to break ties as need­ed. Chuck Schumer can’t spare Manch­in’s vote. Democ­rats need him on board to do any­thing for the time being.

The par­ty failed to beat vul­ner­a­ble Repub­li­can incum­bents like Susan Collins and Thom Thillis last year despite mak­ing a huge effort to knock Mitch McConnell out of pow­er. The cur­rent major­i­ty was only belat­ed­ly secured thanks to the incred­i­ble vic­to­ries of Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in Geor­gia on Jan­u­ary 5th.

Were it not for those Geor­gia vic­to­ries, Mitch McConnell would still be in con­trol of the Sen­ate and Joe Manch­in’s dreams of bipar­ti­san­ship would not be a hot top­ic right now. The road back to the major­i­ty has cer­tain­ly been a roller coast­er for Democ­rats. There has been both the agony of defeat and the ecsta­sy of victory.

In a way, Manch­in’s guest essay yes­ter­day is help­ful. It sends a clear mes­sage: I want to remind you that I’m unre­li­able, and I sim­ply can­not be count­ed upon to do what’s best for the coun­try, even in a very dark hour when I could be of tremen­dous help to mil­lions of Amer­i­cans by offer­ing coura­geous lead­er­ship.

Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Chuck Schumer ought to force Manchin to take a vote against the For The Peo­ple Act by bring­ing it up soon for the Sen­ate’s con­sid­er­a­tion. If Democ­rats can’t get the bill through the Sen­ate, they can at least make an issue out of it. As for pro­gres­sive orga­ni­za­tions seek­ing to hold Manchin account­able, the best course of action is to cre­ative­ly ensure that he and his staff have to hear from Amer­i­cans upset with his bad choic­es on a reg­u­lar basis.

Spend­ing mon­ey on ad cam­paigns in West Vir­ginia or cam­paign­ing against Manchin is not a good use of resources. As Manchin him­self observed a few weeks ago: “What are they going to do — they going to go into West Vir­ginia and cam­paign against me? Please, that would help me more than anything.”

Sunday, June 6th, 2021

Donald Trump erects a tower of lies for the midterms and a bid to regain power in 2024

The mirth on Twit­ter after Don­ald Trump’s eighty-five-minute Sat­ur­day night speech was that the ex-Pres­i­dent had put on his pants back­wards. The Trump detrac­tors got the argu­ment back­wards: Trump’s pants were actu­al­ly on fire.

Metaphor­i­cal­ly, anyway.

The tow­er of lies, pre­sent­ed to North Car­oli­na Repub­li­cans, is designed to cre­ate an alter­na­tive real­i­ty for vot­ers on the right, and to cement in place Trump’s role as the Repub­li­can Party’s not-to-be dis­put­ed boss and 2024 nominee.

Don’t cheer. Don’t chuck­le. The man is a threat to the republic.

He con­tin­ues to under­mine faith in the elec­toral process, wild­ly claim­ing that “thou­sands” of dead peo­ple vot­ed last Novem­ber, in an elec­tion that was “the crime of the cen­tu­ry.” How come? Joe Biden and the Democ­rats used “COVID-19 and the mail-in bal­lots to steal an elec­tion,” with Trump adding: “What hap­pened to this coun­try in that last elec­tion is a disgrace.”

He cheered on efforts by Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tures to lim­it and restrict vot­ing rights, shout­ing out false­hoods about drop box­es and mail-in bal­lots. With allowances only for mail-in bal­lots for the sick, he advo­cat­ed that all Amer­i­cans be required to line up on Elec­tion Day. Restore hours-long lines in minor­i­ty precincts.

With the nation slow­ly return­ing to post-pan­dem­ic nor­mal­cy, Trump trum­pet­ed what has become the right wing’s lie of the hour.

Trump demo­nized Dr. Antho­ny Fau­ci, direc­tor of the Nation­al Insti­tute of Aller­gy and Infec­tious Dis­eases, blamed Chi­na for the nov­el coro­n­avirus and – in one line that real­ly went over – demand­ed $10 tril­lion in “repa­ra­tions.”

The dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign – waged morn­ing to mid­night on Rupert Mur­doch’s prof­it gen­er­at­ing Fox cable chan­nel – has a trio of goals.

Dis­tract pub­lic atten­tion from a vast­ly effec­tive vac­ci­na­tion cam­paign. Draw atten­tion away from the Trump regime’s lag­gard and chaot­ic response to the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic. Dump on the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion, which the Biden admin­is­tra­tion has rejoined.

As in all things Trumpy, there is self-celebration.

“Now every­body is agree­ing that I was right when I very ear­ly on called Wuhan as the source of COVID-19, some­times referred to as the Chi­na Virus [but only by racists]. To me it was very obvi­ous, from the begin­ning, but I was bad­ly crit­i­cized, as usu­al. Now they’re all say­ing, ‘He was right’.”

We are like­ly to see much more of this in weeks ahead.

While Amer­i­can pres­i­dents by tra­di­tion keep a low pro­file after leav­ing office – except for Ronald Reagan’s trip to Japan where the Gip­per was paid $3 mil­lion to give two speech­es – Trump is hit­ting the hus­tings with cam­paign-style speech­es. He is play­ing king­mak­er, using Saturday’s appear­ance to endorse Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ted Budd for North Carolina’s open Sen­ate seat.

He is rous­ing fol­low­ers to put the fear of God in Repub­li­can office hold­ers who do not do his bid­ding. A con­ven­tion of Geor­gia Repub­li­cans on Sat­ur­day booed Gov­er­nor Bri­an Kemp, who refused to over­turn Joe Biden’s Novem­ber vic­to­ry in the Peach Tree State. And he is lay­ing ground­work for a 2024 run.

Daugh­ter-in-law Lara Trump, on Sat­ur­day, said “the Don­ald” has gone two-for-two in car­ry­ing North Car­oli­na. Why not make it three-for-three, she asked.

Of course, that assumes Trump won’t be “rein­stat­ed” to the White House this August, as a result of Ari­zona Sen­ate Repub­li­cans efforts to “recount” Mari­co­pa Coun­ty bal­lots or per­haps the lat­est Geor­gia lawsuit.

In a new video for the Nation­al Repub­li­can Sen­a­to­r­i­al Com­mit­tee, Trump declares: “We’re gonna take back the Sen­ate, take back the House and we’re gonna take back the White House – and soon­er than you think.”

Up front in the Greens­boro, North Car­oli­na, audi­ence was ex-White House Chief of Staff Mark Mead­ows. The New York Times has just exposed that Mead­ows repeat­ed­ly pres­sured the Jus­tice Depart­ment to inves­ti­gate con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries about the 2020 elec­tion, in weeks before Trump left office (and insti­gat­ed the Jan­u­ary 6th assault on the U.S. Capitol).

Jus­tice was expect­ed to “inves­ti­gate” a the­o­ry that Trump oppo­nents in Italy had deployed mil­i­tary tech­nol­o­gy and satel­lites to remote­ly tam­per with vot­ing machines in the Unit­ed States to switch Trump votes to Joe Biden.

At the same time, of course, Trump was pres­sur­ing Geor­gia Sec­re­tary of State Brad Raf­fensperg­er, “So look, all I want to do is this. I just want to fine 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.”

Trump is now out to purge Raf­fensperg­er, a Repub­li­can who is up for reelec­tion in 2022. He has endorsed Repub­li­can chal­lenger Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jody Hice.

Trump is not only prep­ping to run again, but he is run­ning from mul­ti­ple inves­ti­ga­tions, includ­ing in his old home state. The comp­trol­ler of the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion was called before a spe­cial grand jury on Fri­day, as part of an inves­ti­ga­tion by the Man­hat­tan Dis­trict Attor­ney and New York State Attor­ney General.

They are look­ing at pos­si­ble crim­i­nal manip­u­la­tion of prop­er­ty valuations.

It will be argued, of course, that Trump is hurt­ing Repub­li­cans’ prospects in 2022 with his false claims and con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, and by seek­ing to purge such Repub­li­can office­hold­ers as Sen­a­tor Lisa Murkows­ki, R‑Alaska, and Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Liz Cheney, R‑Wyoming. Nor is the party’s image helped by Sen­a­tor Mitch McConnell, R‑Kentucky, blam­ing Trump for the Jan­u­ary 6th insur­rec­tion, then say­ing he would vote in 2024 to put Trump back in the White House.

Still, then “45th Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States,” as Trump fash­ions him­self, has a big fol­low­ing who believe his fantasies.

Even the rel­a­tive­ly sub­dued North Car­oli­na crowd erupt­ed in cheers when he false­ly declared: “I’m not the one try­ing to under­mine Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy. I’m the one who’s try­ing to save it.” They also cheered lusti­ly for restric­tions designed to stop Black, Brown, Indige­nous, and young peo­ple from voting.

Lies work when repeat­ed often enough, and not refuted.

Just remem­ber los­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates whose man­agers have declared: “The Amer­i­can peo­ple are too smart to believe some­thing like that.”

Music to the ears of Lee Atwa­ter in 1988 and Karl Rove in 2004.

Trump is back.

Expect a sum­mer full of ral­lies, camp fol­low­ers spout­ing Q‑Anon non­sense, and Trump leav­ing the stage to ova­tions that would send Hitler to bed happy.

Friday, June 4th, 2021

Judge Mary Roberts: Seattle’s JumpStart revenue ordinance is legal and constitutional

The City of Seat­tle has the legal author­i­ty to levy an excise tax on annu­al pay­rolls of $7 mil­lion or high­er with employ­ees who make $150,000 or more annu­al­ly, a King Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court judge ruled today, dis­miss­ing a legal chal­lenge against Coun­cilmem­ber Tere­sa Mosqueda’s Jump­Start rev­enue ordi­nance in a land­mark win for the City Coun­cil and the peo­ple of the Emer­ald City.

“The City has author­i­ty to tax all busi­ness activ­i­ties in the City,” Judge Mary Roberts ruled in a signed opin­ion. “The pay­roll expense tax is an excise tax mea­sured by pay­roll expens­es and paid by busi­ness­es that engage in busi­ness with employ­ees in the City. Employ­ees do not pay the tax.”

“The court con­cludes that the pay­roll expense tax is a per­mis­si­ble tax on the priv­i­lege of doing busi­ness. The court rules, as a mat­ter of law, that the City’s pay­roll expense tax is a valid excise tax on busi­ness under the tax­ing author­i­ty grant­ed to cities by the Wash­ing­ton State Con­sti­tu­tion and statutes.”

The Court took no posi­tion on the wis­dom of the ordi­nance, Roberts not­ed, only its legal­i­ty. Roberts grant­ed the City’s motion to find the tax con­sti­tu­tion­al, and ordered that the Seat­tle Met­ro­pol­i­tan Cham­ber of Com­merce’s com­plaint for declara­to­ry judg­ment and all its claims be dis­missed with prejudice.

The Cham­ber, whose mem­ber­ship includes cor­po­ra­tions that would pay the tax, decid­ed to file a legal chal­lenge after the Coun­cil approved the ordinance.

The Cham­ber has the option of appeal­ing Roberts’ rul­ing, but it would have to per­suade the appel­late courts that Judge Roberts erred in reach­ing her con­clu­sions. We agree with City Attor­ney Pete Holmes that Seat­tle is on firm legal ground and well posi­tioned to con­tin­ue to pre­vail should an appeal be filed.

Here is Roberts’ decision:

Judge Mary Roberts’ rul­ing in Seat­tle Met­ro­pol­i­tan Cham­ber v. City of Seattle

“Con­grat­u­la­tions to the broad swath of Seat­tle small and large busi­ness own­ers, res­i­dents, hous­ing and home­less­ness advo­cates, labor unions, equi­ty-based orga­ni­za­tions, envi­ron­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions, and more, who helped me intro­duce and pass Jump­Start Seat­tle, for yet anoth­er vote of con­fi­dence in our pro­gres­sive rev­enue pro­pos­al,” said prime spon­sor Coun­cilmem­ber Tere­sa Mosque­da.

Councilwoman Teresa Mosqueda takes her oath of office in 2017

Coun­cil­woman Tere­sa Mosque­da takes her oath of office in 2017 (Pho­to: Seat­tle City Coun­cil, repro­duced under Cre­ative Com­mons license)

“This is anoth­er vic­to­ry for the res­i­dents of Seat­tle led by the City Attor­ney’s office, who was instru­men­tal pro­vid­ing coun­sel while draft­ing the bill, and now defend­ing the law,” Mosqueda’s state­ment added. “I am glad to have this friv­o­lous chal­lenge behind us, since the real­i­ty is the oppo­nents say they want the same invest­ments Jump­Start will fund: more afford­able hous­ing, path­ways out of home­less­ness, and eco­nom­ic resilience for our local econ­o­my. We now have the assur­ance that this pro­gres­sive rev­enue stream is coming.”

Seat­tle Cham­ber CEO Rachel Smith said the orga­ni­za­tion will con­sid­er its options. The Cham­ber could file an appeal, as not­ed above, or accept Roberts’ decision.

“We are dis­ap­point­ed by the court’s deci­sion,” said Smith in a state­ment.

“We believe our lawyers pre­sent­ed a strong case for why this tax on employ­ee com­pen­sa­tion goes beyond the city’s author­i­ty, and we are work­ing with our legal team to explore next steps. We remain com­mit­ted to being a cham­pi­on for mem­bers on this issue. We filed this legal chal­lenge as part of our duty to ful­ly vet poli­cies that impact the busi­ness community.”

“The top pri­or­i­ty for the Cham­ber and our mem­bers is a strong and inclu­sive eco­nom­ic recov­ery,” Smith added. “Today’s rul­ing under­scores the need for the city to put for­ward a sus­tain­able recov­ery plan to emerge from the pan­dem­ic and revi­tal­ize our region. The pro­jec­tions for the Jump­Start Tax depend on busi­ness­es reopen­ing and many more peo­ple com­ing back to work in Seattle.”

“We stand ready to col­lab­o­rate with city lead­ers on good policy.”

Orig­i­nal­ly approved last July, the Jump­Start rev­enue plan suc­cess­ful­ly over­came oppo­si­tion both from with­in City Hall and beyond it.

May­or Jen­ny Durkan vetoed the ini­tial ordi­nance, but a super­ma­jor­i­ty of the Coun­cil over­rode the veto and passed an amend­ed ver­sion of the plan.

The plan’s sup­port­ers include orga­ni­za­tions like El Cen­tro de la Raza, Wash­ing­ton Low Income Hous­ing Alliance, Seat­tle-King Coun­ty Coali­tion on Home­less­ness, Hous­ing Devel­op­ment Con­sor­tium of Seat­tle King Coun­ty, Enter­prise Com­mu­ni­ty Part­ners, the Church Coun­cil of Greater Seat­tle, Ply­mouth Hous­ing, Youth­Care, the Arc of King Coun­ty, and Sol­id Ground, along with MLK Labor, IUPAT Dis­trict 5, UFCW Local 21, UNITE Here Local 8, and many oth­er labor unions.

The fact sheet below from the coali­tion that assem­bled to sup­port the ordi­nance explains its pur­pose and how the invest­ments will improve Seat­tle’s qual­i­ty of life.

Jump­Start Seat­tle one pager

The case is No. 20–2‑17576–5.

Tuesday, June 1st, 2021

Biden administration halts scheme to drill in Arctic Refuge while backing ConocoPhillips’ planned expansion on Alaska’s North Slope

The Biden admin­is­tra­tion on Tues­day sus­pend­ed oil drilling leas­es in Alaska’s Arc­tic Nation­al Wildlife Refuge, grant­ed by the Trump regime days before Trump left office. The deci­sion could set the stage for a con­clu­sion to the forty-year bat­tle over whether to open the Refuge’s coastal plain to drilling. The plain serves as a calv­ing ground to more than 100,000 ani­mals of the Por­cu­pine Cari­bou Herd.

The Arc­tic Refuge, at nine­teen mil­lion acres, is America’s largest wild­land, and major habi­tat not only for cari­bou but wolves, polar bears off the Beau­fort Sea as well as bar­ren ground griz­zly bears. The coastal plain lies just to the east of the Prud­hoe Bay oil field, where pro­duc­tion is on the decline.

Caribou in the Arctic Refuge

Cari­bou graze on the coastal plain of the Arc­tic Nation­al Wildlife Refuge, with the Brooks Range as a back­drop. (USFWS)

“Pres­i­dent Biden believes America’s nation­al trea­sures are cul­tur­al and eco­nom­ic cor­ner­stones of our coun­try and he is grate­ful for the prompt action by the Depart­ment of the Inte­ri­or to sus­pend all leas­ing pend­ing a review of deci­sions made in the last administration’s final days that could have changed for­ev­er the char­ac­ter of this spe­cial place,” said Gina McCarthy, Biden’s cli­mate adviser.

Days ago, how­ev­er, the Biden admin­is­tra­tion came down in favor of a Trump regime deci­sion that gave Cono­coPhillips a go-ahead for its Wil­low project, locat­ed in the twen­ty-three mil­lion acre Nation­al Petro­le­um Reserve west of Prud­hoe Bay. Wil­low is antic­i­pat­ed to yield between 100,000 and 160,000 bar­rels a day.

Sev­en­teen envi­ron­men­tal and Indige­nous groups have filed a fed­er­al law­suit to block Wil­low. The project is sup­port­ed by the Arc­tic Slope Region­al Cor­po­ra­tion, the North Slope Bor­ough, and by Alaska’s Repub­li­can con­gres­sion­al delegation.

The con­trast­ing deci­sions have led to a two-step by Alas­ka law­mak­ers and envi­ron­men­tal groups. Trustees for Alas­ka, a defend­er of the 49th State’s envi­ron­ment, said the Biden admin­is­tra­tion was argu­ing that “bare bones Trump era analy­sis of green­house gas emis­sions should be upheld.” But Sen­a­tor Lisa Murkows­ki, R‑Alaska, pro­claimed: “This is a great day for Alaska.”

U.S. Inte­ri­or Sec­re­tary Deb Haa­land, as a mem­ber of Con­gress, signed a state­ment oppos­ing Wil­low. After the admin­is­tra­tion filed its legal brief sup­port­ing the project, Sen­a­tor Dan Sul­li­van, R‑Alaska, sang the prais­es of “an open rela­tion­ship where you can reach out to Cab­i­net officials.”

Added Murkows­ki: “For all the right rea­sons, the admin­is­tra­tion came to the right con­clu­sion and it was the con­clu­sion that we had been argu­ing vig­or­ous­ly for.”

Arctic Refuge panoramic view

The Arc­tic Nation­al Wildlife Refuge, by Zodi­ac in Demar­ca­tion Bay in Alas­ka (Pho­to: Danielle Brigi­da, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

The Nation­al Petro­le­um Reserve is home to the West­ern Arc­tic Cari­bou Herd, even larg­er than the Por­cu­pine herd to the east. Teshekpuk Lake and its sur­round­ing wet­land draw migra­to­ry birds from across North America.

An esti­mat­ed 35,000 White Front­ed Geese and 37,000 Brant mold near the lake, which is also home to 60,000 ani­mals of the Teshep­uk Cari­bou Herd.

The great herds evoked then-Pres­i­dent George H.W. Bush to say that Alaska’s North Slope is home to “more darned cari­bou than you can shake a stick at.”

Both Bush pres­i­dents relent­less­ly pro­mot­ed oil drilling on Alasaka’s North Slope.

The deci­sion to sus­pend leas­es in the Arc­tic Refuge brought a rever­sal of roles, cries of protest from the Alas­ka del­e­ga­tion and cheers from those who have fought against oil drilling on the coastal plain.

“The Trump administration’s efforts to short­cut envi­ron­men­tal laws fall apart when exposed to the facts that fed­er­al sci­en­tists say Arc­tic Refuge drilling can­not be done safe­ly and oil com­pa­nies don’t want to drill there,” Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell, D‑Washington, said in a statement.

“Now it is up to Con­gress to per­ma­nent­ly pro­tect this irre­place­able mil­lion-year-old ecosys­tem and facil­i­tate new eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ties based on pre­serv­ing America’s pris­tine pub­lic lands for out­door recreation.”

But Alaska’s Repub­li­can Gov­er­nor Mike Dun­leavy heat­ed up the par­ti­san boil­er­plate, say­ing in a state­ment: “I oppose this assault on Alaska’s econ­o­my and will use every means nec­es­sary to undo this egre­gious fed­er­al overreach.”

When it passed the Alas­ka Nation­al Inter­est Lands Con­ser­va­tion Act in 1980, Con­gress enlarged the Refuge to nine­teen mil­lion acres and gave a wilder­ness des­ig­na­tion to eight mil­lion acres, but left open to prospect of drilling the Refuge’s coastal plain with the approval of Con­gress. Pro-oil Alas­ka politi­cians have embraced a cause defined by then-Gov­er­nor Sarah Palin: “Drill, baby, drill.”

Cantwell has become the chief defend­er of the Refuge’s wildness.

Maria Cantwell hosting a healthcare town hall

Maria Cantwell smiles as she lis­tens to a con­stituent ques­tion at a health­care town hall (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

She has resist­ed drilling since she arrived in the Sen­ate in 2001.

She out­ma­neu­vered Alaska’s senior Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor Ted Stevens in 2005 when he tried to use a defense autho­riza­tion bill to autho­rize drilling in the Refuge. Stevens erupt­ed on the Sen­ate floor and vowed to cam­paign against Cantwell the fol­low­ing year. (She was reelect­ed with fifty-eight per­cent of the vote.) Repub­li­cans used a sim­i­lar back­door tac­tic in 2017, antic­i­pat­ing drilling rev­enue from the Arc­tic Refuge as part of their Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Cantwell tried to stop the autho­riza­tion but lost on a 52–48 Sen­ate floor vote.

The cause of cli­mate jus­tice has res­onat­ed in Alas­ka, per­haps explain­ing why major oil com­pa­nies shied away from the Trump regime’s call for bids.

Only two small com­pa­nies and a state-owned devel­op­ment cor­po­ra­tion “bit” at the Trump offer. Sev­er­al promi­nent Wall Street banks have flat­ly stat­ed that they will not finance any drilling plat­forms, pipelines or haul roads in the Refuge.

Alas­ka is warm­ing at a faster clip than any oth­er place in America.

Vis­i­tors to Denali Nation­al Park are treat­ed to “drunk­en forests,” trees lean­ing in var­i­ous direc­tions atop melt­ing permafrost.

Cono­coPhillips has promised to install “chillers” on the Wil­low project, to keep the per­mafrost from thaw­ing beneath its drilling operations.

Biden has sus­pend­ed the lease sales made under the Trump regime. But the new admin­is­tra­tion has not bought back or can­celed the leases.

Its action is expect­ed to set off a pro­longed legal battle.

Drilling in the Arc­tic Refuge – “ANWR”, as the indus­try calls it – has long been the holy grail of pro-devel­op­ment Alas­ka politicians.

In its order Tues­day, the Inte­ri­or Depart­ment said the Trump regime’s hur­ry-up drilling lease pro­gram con­tained “mul­ti­ple legal defi­cien­cies” and did not con­sid­er the impact on cli­mate of oil drilling in the high Arctic.

Haa­land has ordered the depart­ment to con­duct “a new, com­pre­hen­sive analy­sis of the poten­tial envi­ron­men­tal impacts of the oil and gas program.”

Polar bears in the Refuge

A polar bear keeps close to her young along the Beau­fort Sea coast in Arc­tic Nation­al Wildlife Refuge. (Pho­to: Susanne Miller/USFWS)

The most elo­quent oppo­si­tion to Arc­tic Refuge drilling has long come from the Gwich’in natives of the iso­lat­ed town of Arc­tic Village.

The Gwich’ins depend on the Por­cu­pine herd, whose vast, cir­cu­lar counter-clock­wise migra­tion route ranges into two Cana­di­an nation­al parks.

“The Gwich’in Nation is grate­ful and heart­ened by the news that the Biden admin­is­tra­tion has act­ed again on its com­mit­ment to pro­tect­ing sacred lands and the Gwich’in way of life,” the Gwich’ins said in a statement.

Pres­i­dent Biden promised dur­ing last year’s cam­paign that he would pro­tect the Refuge. Atti­tudes toward the coastal plain have reflect­ed par­ti­san leanings.

Ex-Pres­i­dent Jim­my Carter and wife Ros­alynn have vis­it­ed the Refuge. The late U.S. Supreme Court Jus­tice William O. Dou­glas was among the first to cam­paign for pro­tec­tion of North Slope moun­tains and wetlands.

By con­trast, Bush II Inte­ri­or Sec­re­tary Gale Nor­ton described the coastal plain as “flat white noth­ing­ness.” Not a per­son with music in her soul.

Sunday, May 30th, 2021

Read the legislation that Republicans have been passing to stop people from voting

Ear­ly this year, the Repub­li­can Par­ty lost con­trol of the White House and the Unit­ed States Sen­ate to the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty after Joe Biden, Kamala Har­ris, the Rev­erend Raphael Warnock, and Jon Ossoff were sworn into office.

Since then, Repub­li­can state leg­is­la­tors in sev­er­al states, espe­cial­ly across the Sun Belt, have been work­ing furi­ous­ly on schemes aimed at stop­ping peo­ple from vot­ing in future elec­tions. And not just any peo­ple, but peo­ple who would most like­ly sup­port Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates and pro­gres­sive causes.

Four states so far have adopt­ed or are poised to adopt sweep­ing anti-vot­er and anti-par­tic­i­pa­tion bills: Geor­gia, Flori­da, Iowa, and Texas. These schemes have right­ful­ly been sub­ject­ed to crit­i­cism and scruti­ny in the mass media, with analy­sis of harms and deep dives into the agen­das of the Repub­li­cans devis­ing the harms.

But while cov­er­age of these bills isn’t too far to find — a quick news search will yield plen­ty of arti­cles — the actu­al bills them­selves are hard­er to find.

That’s why I’ve writ­ten this post. As a research-dri­ven orga­ni­za­tion, we are believ­ers in the use­ful­ness of pri­ma­ry sources. Even a pri­ma­ry source that con­tains pro­pa­gan­da and improp­er state­ments of leg­isla­tive intent can be useful.

So, here are the texts of each one of these anti-vot­ing bills. Note that many of the most oner­ous pro­vi­sions are buried deep with­in. You’ll need to read care­ful­ly to find them. You may want to scroll to the end of each bill and read backwards.

We’ll start with Iowa, the Hawk­eye State, which was first out of the gate.

Iowa: Senate File 413

Gov­er­nor Kim Reynolds signed SF 413 back in March. Among oth­er things, this bill reduces the hours of polling places and requires that bal­lots returned by mail be received before polls close, which is designed to increase dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion rates.

“This is the first major sup­pres­sion law since the 2020 elec­tion. Expect lit­i­ga­tion here and else­where [as] GOP leg­is­la­tures fol­low this path,” Demo­c­ra­t­ic lawyer Marc Elias tweet­ed on March 8th. (Elias sub­se­quent­ly par­tic­i­pat­ed in the fil­ing of a law­suit against this leg­is­la­tion; the orig­i­nal com­plaint is avail­able here.)

Full text of Iowa Sen­ate File 413

Georgia: Senate Bill 202

Next up is the Peach Tree State. Due to the state’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic flip last year, SB 202 has prob­a­bly received the most atten­tion of any of the bills dis­cussed in this post. SB 202 was adopt­ed back in April by Geor­gia Repub­li­cans and Gov­er­nor Bri­an Kemp. Here’s a two minute run­down from Stacey Abrams on what’s in it. You can watch Stacey’s com­ments either before or after you read the bill.

Two law­suits are pend­ing against the State of Geor­gia that con­tend SB 202 is uncon­sti­tu­tion­al. One was filed by a coali­tion that includes the SCLC, Geor­gia Adapt, Geor­gia Mus­lim Vot­er Project, and Lati­no Com­mu­ni­ty Fund Geor­gia. You can read the amend­ed com­plaint from that coali­tion here.

Full text of Geor­gia SB 202 

Florida: Senate Bill 90

We move now to the Sun­shine State. Gov­er­nor Ron DeSan­tis was so proud of his state’s adop­tion of leg­is­la­tion to dis­en­fran­chise vot­ers and so intent on pleas­ing Don­ald Trump that he arranged for the Fox Noise Chan­nel to have exclu­sive access to the bill sign­ing venue and asso­ci­at­ed “media avail­abil­i­ty”.

Elias and the Democ­ra­cy Dock­et team filed a law­suit against the State of Flori­da min­utes after DeSan­tis signed SB 90. The ini­tial com­plaint can be read here.

Full text of Flori­da Sen­ate Bill 90

Texas: Senate Bill 7

Unlike the oth­er states, Texas’ assault on vot­ing is not yet final because Gov­er­nor Greg Abbott has not signed it. How­ev­er, there is no ques­tion that Abbott will sign it — he has repeat­ed­ly stat­ed how eager he is to put his sig­na­ture on it.

The text below is the con­fer­ence com­mit­tee’s report, from yesterday.

At over two hun­dred pages, it’s a rather lengthy piece of leg­is­la­tion. The Texas Tri­bune describes it as “an expan­sive bill that would touch near­ly the entire vot­ing process, includ­ing pro­vi­sions to lim­it ear­ly vot­ing hours, cur­tail local vot­ing options and fur­ther tight­en vot­ing-by-mail, among sev­er­al oth­er provisions.”

“It was nego­ti­at­ed behind closed doors over the last week after the House and Sen­ate passed sig­nif­i­cant­ly dif­fer­ent ver­sions of the leg­is­la­tion and pulled from each chamber’s ver­sion of the bill,” the Tri­bune report­ed. “The bill also came back with a series of addi­tion­al vot­ing rule changes, includ­ing a new ID require­ment for mail-in bal­lots, that weren’t part of pre­vi­ous debates on the bill.”

Full text of Texas Sen­ate Bill 7

Here in the Pacif­ic North­west, which has two Demo­c­ra­t­ic tri­fec­tas (locat­ed in Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon, respec­tive­ly), we have most­ly been work­ing to get rid of bar­ri­ers to vot­ing instead of putting up new ones.

Attempts to take us back­ward have gone absolute­ly nowhere.

For exam­ple, Doug Erick­sen (R‑WA-42nd Dis­trict: What­com Coun­ty) intro­duced a bill to get rid of vote at home, but it died a moment after it went into the hop­per. It nev­er received a hear­ing and non­par­ti­san staff spent no time ana­lyz­ing it.

Ida­ho is sad­ly a dif­fer­ent story.

Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tors made assault­ing the right to vote and peti­tion a cen­tral focus of the 2021 ses­sion, as this arti­cle from the Ida­ho States­man dis­cuss­es.

A lot of effort went into mak­ing it much more dif­fi­cult to qual­i­fy a statewide ini­tia­tive to the Gem State bal­lot with Sen­ate Bill 1110, because ini­tia­tives can be used to put ideas direct­ly in front of the peo­ple for adop­tion and there­by bypass Ida­ho’s Repub­li­can-con­trolled Legislature.

Repub­li­can Gov­er­nor Brad Lit­tle signed SB 1110 into law on April 19th.

The adop­tion of SB 1110 did not draw any com­ment or protest from neigh­bor­ing Wash­ing­ton-based Repub­li­cans such as failed guber­na­to­r­i­al can­di­date Tim Eyman, who claim to be staunch defend­ers of direct democracy.

Nor have attempts to pass sim­i­lar bills in more than a dozen oth­er states — a nation­wide effort being tracked by our friends at the Bal­lot Ini­tia­tive Strat­e­gy Cen­ter which recent­ly drew the atten­tion of The New York Times.

From Repub­li­cans’ point of view, the ini­tia­tive, ref­er­en­dum, and recall are appar­ent­ly only worth hav­ing in states with Demo­c­ra­t­ic tri­fec­tas or Demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­er­nors. Oth­er­wise, they’re more trou­ble than they’re worth.

The pres­ence of Orwellian lan­guage in the afore­men­tioned Texas, Iowa, Geor­gia, and Flori­da bills (e.g. the use of the name Elec­tion Integri­ty Pro­tec­tion Act) sug­gests that Repub­li­cans are wor­ried about their schemes hold­ing up in court, even if they’re con­fi­dent that they will ulti­mate­ly not be held account­able for pre­vent­ing most­ly Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers from vot­ing in the court of pub­lic opinion.

The law­suit filed by the League of Women Vot­ers against Flori­da’s SB 90 observes in one of its open­ing pas­sages that Repub­li­cans real­ly did­n’t both­er to devel­op a pol­i­cy ratio­nale for the bill. That’s because there isn’t one. SB 90, sim­ply put, is designed to please Don­ald Trump and the cult that wor­ships him.

Togeth­er, these fore­go­ing pro­vi­sions (“Chal­lenged Pro­vi­sions”) tar­get almost every aspect of the vot­ing process, and they do so with­out a legit­i­mate pur­pose, much less a com­pelling state inter­est that can jus­ti­fy their restric­tions on the franchise.

State Sen­a­tor Per­ry Thurston was cor­rect when he described the bill as just one more chap­ter in Florida’s “sor­did his­to­ry” of “try­ing to make it hard­er for peo­ple to vote.”

As Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Omari Hardy apt­ly observed, the bill is “about mak­ing sure that bal­lots cast by eli­gi­ble vot­ers don’t count because they didn’t jump through the myr­i­ad hoops that this bill cre­ates,” and amounts to noth­ing more than “leg­isla­tive engi­neer­ing of the elec­torate to shave off in par­tic­u­lar peo­ple of color.”

The pro­po­nents of the bill had no mean­ing­ful rebuttal. 

The leg­is­la­tor who led the efforts to pass SB 90 in the Flori­da Sen­ate, Sen­a­tor Den­nis Bax­ley, effec­tive­ly acknowl­edged as much, offer­ing instead this glib ratio­nale for the bill: “Some peo­ple say ‘why?’ and I say ‘why not?’ Let’s try it. We can always do it dif­fer­ent­ly next week or next month or next year, but why not try this?”

The answer is because it will deprive law­ful Florid­i­ans of their most fun­da­men­tal rights, under­min­ing the integri­ty of the state’s elec­tions, and once bal­lots are cast, there will be no mean­ing­ful redress for injured vot­ers. The states may be “lab­o­ra­to­ries of democ­ra­cy,” but those “exper­i­ments” must stay with­in the con­fines of the fed­er­al con­sti­tu­tion. This one does not. 

It should be declared invalid and enjoined.

The Unit­ed States bad­ly needs new fed­er­al leg­is­la­tion that would address these state-based attacks on vot­ing. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, H.R. 1 (the For the Peo­ple Act) is present­ly stuck in the Sen­ate because sen­a­tors like Dianne Fein­stein, Joe Manchin, and Kyrsten Sine­ma would rather keep the fil­i­buster than keep our Repub­lic. Unless they can be per­suad­ed to change their minds, the only avail­able means of over­turn­ing these attacks on vot­ing will be judi­cial or bal­lot based.

Sunday, May 30th, 2021

Last Week In Congress: How Cascadia’s U.S. lawmakers voted (May 24th-28th)

Good morn­ing! Here’s how Cascadia’s Unit­ed States Sen­a­tors vot­ed on major issues dur­ing the leg­isla­tive week end­ing Fri­day, May 28th, 2021.

The House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives was in recess.

In the United States Senate

Chamber of the United States Senate

The Sen­ate cham­ber (U.S. Con­gress photo)

BLOCKING CONSIDERATION OF BILL TO CREATE BIPARTISAN COMMISSION TO INVESTIGATE JANUARY 6TH ATTACK: Vot­ing 54 for and 35 against, the Sen­ate on May 28th failed to break a fil­i­buster and pro­ceed with con­sid­er­a­tion of a recent­ly-approved House bill that would estab­lish a bipar­ti­san com­mis­sion to inves­ti­gate the Jan­u­ary 6th, 2021 attack on the Unit­ed States Capi­tol by Don­ald Trump’s mil­i­tant supporters.

Forty-eight mem­bers of the Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus vot­ed for the bill, along with six Repub­li­cans: Lisa Murkows­ki of Alas­ka, Rob Port­man of Ohio, Mitt Rom­ney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebras­ka, Bill Cas­sidy of Louisiana, and Susan Collins of Maine. Nine Repub­li­cans were not present for the vote.

Two Democ­rats were also not present: Ari­zon­a’s Kyrsten Sine­ma and our own Pat­ty Mur­ray. Mur­ray said that she missed the vote due to hav­ing flown to attend a fam­i­ly mat­ter, but released a state­ment con­demn­ing its outcome.

“I’ve heard all the var­i­ous excus­es why Repub­li­cans are oppos­ing this bill,” Sen­ate Major­i­ty Chuck Schumer said in a speech after the vote. “It’s too ear­ly. It goes on too long. It’s not need­ed. Almost all of these excus­es are mer­it­less and were invent­ed in the past two weeks. We all know what’s going on here. Sen­ate Repub­li­cans chose to defend the Big Lie [the attack on U.S. democ­ra­cy] because they believe any­thing that might upset Don­ald Trump could hurt them politically.”

A yes vote was to invoke clo­ture and advance the bill.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Nay (2):
Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors Jim Risch and Mike Crapo

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (1): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell

Not Vot­ing (1): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Murray

Cas­ca­dia total: 3 aye votes, 2 nay votes, 1 not voting

PROCEEDING WITH CONSIDERATION OF THE ENDLESS FRONTIER ACT: Vot­ing 68 to 30, the Sen­ate on May 27th agreed to advance leg­is­la­tion (S. 1260) that would autho­rize $110 bil­lion for tech­nol­o­gy research through 2026. Most of the mon­ey would be invest­ed into arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, semi­con­duc­tors, next gen­er­a­tion wire­less pro­to­cols, quan­tum com­put­ing, and biotech. The leg­is­la­tion is aimed at safe­guard­ing the Unit­ed States’ tech­no­log­i­cal com­pet­i­tive­ness and ensur­ing that the U.S. has the capac­i­ty to man­u­fac­ture its own chips.

This vote fol­lowed the con­sid­er­a­tion of sev­er­al amend­ments, most of which were reject­ed. The suc­cess­ful amend­ments were offered by Ben Sasse (to autho­rize appro­pri­a­tions for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to con­duct research and devel­op­ment in key tech­nol­o­gy focus areas) and Chris Coons (to estab­lish the Foun­da­tion for Ener­gy Secu­ri­ty and Innovation).

A sub­se­quent amend­ment offered by the Pacif­ic North­west­’s Ron Wyden and Mike Crapo was also adopt­ed (to ensure trade is con­duct­ed con­sis­tent with Amer­i­can val­ues, to ensure resilien­cy in crit­i­cal sup­ply chains, to improve trans­paren­cy and admin­is­tra­tion of trade pro­grams and over­sight and account­abil­i­ty of trade agen­cies, and to pro­mote Amer­i­can competitiveness.)

“For decades, the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has manip­u­lat­ed glob­al com­pe­ti­tion and trade in their favor to grow at America’s expense,” said Sen­a­tor Ron Wyden (D‑Oregon). “It rips off IP, steals tech­nol­o­gy and sends dan­ger­ous coun­ter­feits to our mar­ket. It under­cuts man­u­fac­tur­ers with over­pro­duc­tion and unfair subsidies.”

“It uses cen­sor­ship and dis­crim­i­na­to­ry dig­i­tal poli­cies against its own pop­u­la­tions and Amer­i­can busi­ness­es alike. Worst of all is the prac­tice of forced labor – moral­ly repug­nant on its own, and also a threat to Amer­i­can jobs.”

“Sen­a­tor Crapo and I have an amend­ment that goes after these rip-offs direct­ly. It’s about lev­el­ing the play­ing field with stronger trade rules and quick­er enforce­ment, as well as greater trans­paren­cy in trade.”

“More needs to be done on Chi­nese cen­sor­ship and oppres­sion and I will have plen­ty to say about that before this bill becomes law.”

“For years, Sen­a­tors have been clam­or­ing for a more open process and more amend­ment votes. I can’t tell you how many speech­es I’ve heard on the floor about the virtues of reg­u­lar order,” said Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Chuck Schumer.

“Well, this com­pe­ti­tion bill ought to be the answer to my col­leagues’ prayers. The bill has moved through the reg­u­lar order, fly­ing through var­i­ous Sen­ate Com­mit­tees with stag­ger­ing bipar­ti­san votes. The entire Sen­ate opt­ed to take up the bill by a vote of 86–11. And here on the floor, we’ve held the kind of vig­or­ous, bipar­ti­san, open amend­ment process that Sen­a­tors have been call­ing for.”

A yes vote was to invoke clo­ture and advance a sub­sti­tute ver­sion of the bill.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors Jim Risch and Mike Crapo

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Pat­ty Mur­ray and Maria Cantwell

Cas­ca­dia total: 6 aye votes

KRISTEN CLARKE, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Vot­ing 51 to 48, the Sen­ate on May 25th con­firmed Kris­ten M. Clarke to be an Assis­tant Attor­ney Gen­er­al head­ing the Depart­ment of Jus­tice’s Civ­il Rights Division.

Clarke’s Wikipedia entry states that she “is an Amer­i­can attor­ney who is the pres­i­dent of the Lawyers’ Com­mit­tee for Civ­il Rights Under Law. She pre­vi­ous­ly man­aged the Civ­il Rights Bureau of the New York State Attor­ney General’s Office under Eric Schnei­der­man. In 2019, Clarke suc­cess­ful­ly rep­re­sent­ed Tay­lor Dump­son, the first Black Amer­i­can woman stu­dent body pres­i­dent of Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty, in her land­mark case against white supremacists.”

A yes vote was to con­firm Clarke.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Nay (2):
Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors Jim Risch and Mike Crapo

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Maria Cantwell and Pat­ty Murray

Cas­ca­dia total: 4 aye votes, 2 nay votes

CHIQUITA BROOKS-LASURE, MEDICARE & MEDICAID ADMINISTRATOR: Vot­ing 55 to 44, the Sen­ate on May 25th con­firmed Chiq­ui­ta Brooks-LaSure, of Vir­ginia, to be Admin­is­tra­tor of the Cen­ters for Medicare and Med­ic­aid Services.

The posi­tion is con­sid­ered to be one of the most impor­tant with­in the Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices (DSHS), which is head­ed by Sec­re­tary Xavier Becer­ra. Brooks-LaSure is the first Black per­son to be con­firmed to the post.

“As the offi­cial charged with over­see­ing pro­vid­ing ser­vices to poor and old­er Amer­i­cans in Medicare and Med­ic­aid, Ms. Brooks-LaSure will man­age rough­ly $1 tril­lion of the fed­er­al bud­get in addi­tion to the [Patient Pro­tec­tion] Act’s health insur­ance mar­ket­places and reg­u­la­tions,” The New York Times explains.

A yes vote was to con­firm Brooks-LaSure.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Nay (2):
Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors Jim Risch and Mike Crapo

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Maria Cantwell and Pat­ty Murray

Cas­ca­dia total: 4 aye votes, 2 nay votes

LWIC will be on hiatus next Sunday

The Sen­ate will be in recess this week, con­ven­ing only for what are known as “pro for­ma” ses­sions. The House will also remain in recess beyond tomor­row’s Memo­r­i­al Day hol­i­day. Last Week In Con­gress will return on June 13th.

Friday, May 28th, 2021

Senator Patty Murray has a strong early lead in 2022 U.S. Senate race, NPI poll finds

Wash­ing­ton’s senior Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray is in healthy shape for reelec­tion with about a year and a half to go until the 2022 midterm elec­tions are held, a new sur­vey for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute has found.

53% of a large sam­ple of like­ly 2022 Wash­ing­ton vot­ers sur­veyed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling this week for NPI said they would vote for Mur­ray, a Demo­c­rat, if the elec­tion was being held today, while 37% said they would back Mur­ray’s declared Repub­li­can oppo­nent Tiffany Smi­ley. 10% said they were not sure.

Mur­ray, a mem­ber of the Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­er­ship, is a vet­er­an appro­pri­a­tor who chairs the HELP (Health, Edu­ca­tion, Labor & Pen­sions) Com­mit­tee. Mur­ray for­mal­ly announced the launch her 2022 reelec­tion cam­paign last week. The Sen­a­tor is a spon­sor of NPI’s research and advo­ca­cy, though Mur­ray’s cam­paign had no involve­ment in the design or exe­cu­tion of our survey.

Smi­ley is a self-described “farm girl from rur­al Wash­ing­ton” who has a lengthy his­to­ry of advo­ca­cy for vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies, includ­ing her own hus­band, Scot­ty, who lost his eye­sight while serv­ing Amer­i­ca over­seas in Iraq. Backed by the WSRP, Smi­ley announced her can­di­da­cy for Sen­ate sev­er­al weeks ago.

Our sur­vey of 992 like­ly 2022 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Tues­day, May 25th through Wednes­day, May 26th, 2021.

It uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines (50%) and text mes­sage answers from cell phone only respon­dents (50%).

The poll was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.1% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval.

A small­er per­cent­age of respon­dents expressed sat­is­fac­tion with Mur­ray’s job per­for­mance. 40% said they approved, a plu­ral­i­ty, with 36% dis­ap­prov­ing and 24% not sure. 40% may sound some­what fee­ble for a vet­er­an U.S. sen­a­tor, but it does­n’t actu­al­ly dif­fer that much from the his­tor­i­cal norm. As poll­ster Stu­art Elway explained in a 2010 research note writ­ten eleven Mays ago: “Murray’s rat­ings his­tor­i­cal­ly have been mediocre, which is tempt­ing to poten­tial challengers.” 

Mur­ray missed an impor­tant vote today on advanc­ing leg­is­la­tion to estab­lish a bipar­ti­san com­mis­sion to inves­ti­gate the Jan­u­ary 6th attacks. Mur­ray said in a state­ment that she had to return home to attend to a fam­i­ly mat­ter, but would have vot­ed yes had she remained in D.C. (Nei­ther Mur­ray’s vote nor that of Kyrsten Sine­ma’s would have allowed the Sen­ate to break the filibuster.)

Lack­lus­ter job approval rat­ings have not held Mur­ray back at elec­tion time. Mur­ray has nev­er lost a Unit­ed States Sen­ate race, and only one of her reelec­tion vic­to­ries has been by any­thing resem­bling a close mar­gin. When it counts, Wash­ing­ton vot­ers show up for Pat­ty Mur­ray and give her their support.

Repub­li­cans have recent­ly been trum­pet­ing the results of a sur­vey con­duct­ed by Sur­veyUSA for KING5 as evi­dence that Mur­ray is vul­ner­a­ble in 2022. The sur­vey con­tained a ques­tion ask­ing vot­ers whether Mur­ray should or should not run for a sixth term (a plu­ral­i­ty respond­ed in the neg­a­tive). I explained why this ques­tion was prob­lem­at­ic and the results there­fore worth­less ear­li­er this month.

To find out what vot­ers’ views real­ly are, it’s impor­tant to ask a neu­tral ques­tion, and that’s exact­ly what we did in our sur­vey this week. Here’s the word­ing of our job per­for­mance ques­tion and the answers that we received:

QUESTION: Do you approve or dis­ap­prove of Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray’s job performance?

ANSWERS:

  • Approve: 40%
  • Dis­ap­prove: 36%
  • Not sure: 24%

As we can see, vot­ers express a lot more enthu­si­asm for Mur­ray when asked whether they would vote for her or her Repub­li­can opponent:

QUESTION: If the 2022 elec­tion for Unit­ed States Sen­ate were being held today and the can­di­dates were Demo­c­rat Pat­ty Mur­ray and Repub­li­can Tiffany Smi­ley, who would you vote for?

ANSWERS:

  • Pat­ty Mur­ray: 53%
  • Tiffany Smi­ley: 37%
  • Not sure: 10%

The above is what’s com­mon­ly known as a horser­ace or matchup ques­tion, because it presents a hypo­thet­i­cal to the respon­dents and asks how they would vote. Here, Mur­ray has a com­fort­able six­teen point lead.

What’s inter­est­ing about that num­ber is that it’s the exact same mar­gin we found Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell ahead of Repub­li­can oppo­nent Susan Hutchi­son by three years ago, with five months to go until the Novem­ber 2018 midterm elec­tions. And, it’s the exact same spread that Cantwell actu­al­ly won by!

Take a look:

2021 poll finding2018 poll finding2018 elec­tion result
May 25th-26th, 2021May 22nd-23rd, 2018Novem­ber 6th, 2018
Pat­ty Mur­ray: 53%Maria Cantwell: 52%Maria Cantwell: 58.43%
Tiffany Smi­ley: 37%Susan Hutchi­son: 36%Susan Hutchi­son: 41.57%
Not sure: 10%Not sure: 12%Total Votes: 3,086,168
Mar­gin: 16 pointsMar­gin: 16 pointsMar­gin: 16.86 points

Giv­en that Mur­ray’s lead over Smi­ley is the same size as Cantwell’s lead over Hutchi­son was after Hutchi­son emerged as Cantwell’s like­ly chal­lenger, we can say that Mur­ray is well posi­tioned to win reelec­tion, at least at this juncture.

The Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty, Shift­WA, and oth­ers are free to believe that Mur­ray is vul­ner­a­ble and our polling not cred­i­ble if they want. But our track record speaks for itself. We and Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling have been work­ing togeth­er to mea­sure pub­lic opin­ion in the Pacif­ic North­west for a long time.

Not only did our 2018 U.S. Sen­ate polling hit the mark three years ago, but our 2020 polling cor­rect­ly fore­shad­owed the result in every sin­gle statewide can­di­date elec­tion. Not just in one, or two, but all of them. Every last one.

It’s impor­tant to note that this find­ing is a snap­shot in time, and the elec­toral envi­ron­ment could change between now and Novem­ber of 2022. So we’ll con­tin­ue to check in with Wash­ing­ton vot­ers peri­od­i­cal­ly between now and then to see if any­thing changes, and pub­lish our find­ings here on the Cas­ca­dia Advocate.

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