Christmas is still more than two months away — but that hasn't stopped President Joe Biden from ruining the holiday, at least in the minds of Republican lawmakers and right-wing pundits.
"This is the guys who is trying to steal Christmas," the House Republican caucus tweeted this week, typo and all, alongside a strangely framed picture of Biden's back as he walked away from a podium. "Americans are NOT going to let that happen."
This sort of holiday culture war sentiment is, of course, nothing new for high-profile conservatives. The "War on Christmas" as a rhetorical concept dates back to at least 2005, with the release of a book written by the right-wing radio host, John Gibson, appropriately titled, "The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought."
Since then, it has become an annual yuletide tradition of sorts for Americans to debate whether the country is sufficiently deferential to the plurality of its citizens who celebrate the Christian holiday, and a favorite topic for conservative-leaning news outlets like Fox News as the end-of-year news cycle slows. But this year's histrionics are notable for one reason, at least — they're starting months earlier than normal.
The outrage du jour this time around is centered around rising inflation and a growing supply-chain crisis, which is causing a number of shipping bottlenecks that have slowed the modern economy's system of just-in-time delivery and threaten to roll back the dizzying array of consumer choices Americans have come to expect around the holidays.
Though there are myriad issues causing the current snarls — with an ongoing pandemic deserving most of the blame for all of them — Fox News and other right-wing outlets have seized on the idea that Biden's policies are what's causing the situation. It's not exactly an unpopular opinion, with an October Quinnipiac poll showing that just 29% of Americans think the economy is in "good" condition.
But some outlets have taken the argument a step further, seeming to suggest that Biden and in some cases public health health authorities are actively conspiring to stifle Christmas celebrations for some reason.
The "War on Christmas" rhetoric began this year on Oct. 4, to be exact, with a segment on Fox & Friends that also managed to work in a shot on right-wing boogeyman Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House COVID-19 adviser under both Biden and former President Donald Trump.
"No wonder Dr. [Anthony] Fauci is about to cancel Christmas," host Brian Kilmeade lamented, apparently referring to a statement of caution Fauci had made weeks earlier about planning large family gatherings in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. "We're not going to have any presents anyway, so it's going to really work out," Kilmeade added.
The segment was full of these sentiments, from host Greg Gutfeld calling 2021 America a "dystopia" to Dana Perino's insistence that the Biden Administration was entering a "crisis of confidence danger zone" over his handling of the situation.
Over the last week, it has quickly become a Republican talking point that Biden is "stealing" or "ruining" Christmas — even Trump got in on the action, blasting out a mass email through "Save America," his PAC, dubbing this year's holiday "Biden's Blue Christmas."
The House Republican caucus even tweeted out a picture Thursday of Biden's face superimposed on Dr. Suess' iconic Christmas-hating character "The Grinch."
The Biden White House, for its part, doesn't dispute that things like slow shipping and marginally higher prices for consumer goods are happening. Instead, officials have taken to pointing out that a lot of the problems impacting the economy right now began last year while Trump was president, and have defied the easy solutions championed by Republicans, like ending enhanced pandemic-era unemployment insurance.
The Biden Administration this week announced it would move several California ports to a 24-7 schedule that will hopefully speed up supply chain delays, though it remains to be seen whether the effort will have an impact.
"There will be things that people can't get," a senior White House official told Reuters this week when asked about holiday shipping. "At the same time, a lot of these goods are hopefully substitutable by other things."
"I don't think there's any real reason to be panicked, but we all feel the frustration and there's a certain need for patience to help get through a relatively short period of time."
According to a report from the Wall Street Journal's Byron Tau, Congressional investigations into criminal wrongdoing are in danger of becoming a thing of the past as witnesses increasingly game the system and partisan squabbling undermines the process.
With former Donald Trump advisor Steve Bannon balking at turning over documents and testifying under oath about the events of Jan 6th before a House select committee investigating the Capitol riot, Tau writes investigations are more about political power plays and less about seeking the truth.
According to the report, even if congressional committees are able to make the case for a criminal referral they are at the mercy of the Justice Department no matter who heads it up.
That, coupled with attorneys making unfounded claims that must then wend their way through the courts -- which could take months and even years due to the appeals process - are making recent investigations an exercise in futility for House or Senate members.
Using the Bannon case as an example, Anne Tindall, a lawyer who has worked both on Capitol Hill and in federal agencies on congressional investigations, told Tau, "The pressure here should be on the Department of Justice—at least with respect to Bannon to show that he isn't above the law, that a congressional subpoena is a lawful subpoena and the Department of Justice will ensure that he lives up to his obligations."
Writing, "The committee's efforts have exposed how powerless the modern Congress is without support from the courts or the Justice Department when witnesses or presidential administrations refuse to comply," the Journal's Tau added, "Under Democratic and Republican control alike, Capitol Hill investigators conducting probes have seen their subpoenas ignored, their requests for documents from administrations of both parties stonewalled and their lawsuits bogged down in procedural legal battles."
The report also notes that administrations have learned to play "hardball," when an investigation is being conducted by members of the opposing party.
Writing, "members of Congress have come to view these fights largely through a partisan lens, rallying to defend their party's interests rather than stick up for the institutional interests of Congress," Tau summed up the problem by explaining, "The result has been a slow erosion of congressional power as witnesses have realized that a combination of institutional paralysis and partisan gridlock would protect them from consequences."
According to Jonathan Shaub, a law professor at the University of Kentucky, the current investigation may still bear fruit -- Justice Department willing.
"The one difference now is that when Trump was the president, his Department of Justice would refuse to prosecute anyone for criminal contempt of Congress. Now Merrick Garland is the attorney general," he explained. "You might see the Justice Department begin the process."
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Joe Manchin fumes after Bernie Sanders Op-Ed in West Virginia paper calls out obstruction of Biden agenda
Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia lashed out Friday after a major newspaper in his home state published an op-ed by Sen. Bernie Sanders that called out Manchin's obstruction of his own party's Build Back Better reconciliation package.
"Congress should proceed with caution on any additional spending and I will not vote for a reckless expansion of government programs," Manchin said in a statement shared on social media.
https://t.co/iU96GLGzsT https://t.co/ly944dr2dE— Senator Joe Manchin (@Senator Joe Manchin) 1634338997.0
"No op-ed from a self-declared Independent socialist is going to change that," he added.
At issue is an op-ed by Vermont Sen. Sanders—an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats—published in the Charleston Gazette-Mail in which he calls the proposed reconciliation bill "an unprecedented effort to finally address the long-neglected crises facing working families and demand that the wealthiest people and largest corporations in the country start paying their fair share of taxes."
Sanders details how the proposal would take action to tackle the climate emergency and make sweeping investments in Americans' wellbeing including through lowering prescription drug prices, expanding Medicare, continuing cash payments to working class parents, and making community college tuition-free.
"Poll after poll shows overwhelming support for this legislation," wrote Sanders. "Yet," he continued, "the political problem we face is that in a 50-50 Senate we need every Democratic senator to vote 'yes.' We now have only 48. Two Democratic senators remain in opposition, including Sen. Joe Manchin." The other is Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
"This is a pivotal moment in modern American history," Sanders continued. "We now have a historic opportunity to support the working families of West Virginia, Vermont, and the entire country and create policy which works for all, not just the few."
The op-ed was published the same day the New York Times and CNN reported that Manchin's opposition to the Clean Electricity Performance Program—dubbed "the most impactful climate investment under consideration in Congress"—would likely mean it's left out of the budget package.
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