Bombshell revelations about former President Donald Trump's attempts to steal the 2020 presidential election inspired conservative Washington Examiner columnist Quin Hillyer to examine why the American system was so vulnerable to what he described as a "ludicrous scheme" by the former president.
In Hillyer's opinion, the major reason Trump believed he could get Vice President Mike Pence to throw out certified electoral college votes from seven different states is because of ambiguities in the Electoral Count Act, which was first enacted in 1887.
In particular, he said that the ECA creates a "Rube Goldberg-like" legal mechanism that can be widely abused by opportunistic lawyers such as John Eastman, who encouraged Pence to reject the certified votes and then send the election back to state legislatures.
"The reason those remote possibilities existed even in Eastman's convoluted, theoretical form is that the ECA is so cumbersome and poorly written," argued Hillyer. "It is the ECA whose so-called "safe harbor" terms determined the disputed 2000 Bush-Gore presidential election, and it is the ECA that sets up a highly elaborate procedure describing how Congress should react if a dispute exists about the validity of each state's electoral slate. The Rube Goldberg-like interplay between the ECA and the 12th Amendment, and questions about the ECA's own constitutionality, are what create the muddle Eastman wanted to exploit."
Hillyer also elaborated the dire consequences that would occur if Pence had actually gone through with Trump and Eastman's plans.
"If Pence had acted upon the advice in the Eastman memo, the whole U.S. body politic might have come apart at the seams, creating weeks of Jan. 6-like riots instead of just one day," he wrote. "A single day was bad enough. The best way to avoid another like it is to write a law whose meaning we can count on."
Writing for MSNBC, producer Steve Benen noted that in 2010 it was the GOP that threatened then-President Barack Obama with an ultimatum of, "Give us trillions of dollars in spending cuts, or we'll crash the economy on purpose."
It happened again in 2013 when Republicans threatened not to allow the debt ceiling to increase. In that battle, they said they'd raise the debt ceiling but only if Democrats stopped the Affordable Care Act from taking effect, approved the Keystone XL pipeline, mandated a "means testing" structure for Medicare, took the Wall Street regulations and made them more friendly to Wall Street, increased oil drilling and stopped any and all efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency to stop the climate crisis.
"No, seriously, that's what was included on the party's ransom note," wrote Benen.
Obama didn't allow it, and the government went into a shutdown for 16 days, the second-longest in history up until that point. Trump would surpass this in 2018-2019.
Benen explained that the same thing is happening again, and once again Republicans are threatening to destroy the economy if their demands aren't met. Speaking during her weekly press briefing, Pelosi called it for what it is: "Mitch McConnell is holding the economy hostage."
It's an ironic statement because, in 2012, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell called the debt ceiling "a hostage that's worth ransoming."
McConnell hasn't made it clear what he wants in exchange for not destroying the economy, Benen wrote.
"We see Republicans pointing a gun at our economy, but we don't see the ransom note with demands that would lead the party to put the gun away and let the economy go unscathed," he argues.
He recalled a piece he did about Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who claimed that increasing the debt limit would make it easier for Democrats "to add trillions more in debt." The debt ceiling right now reflects the bills coming due for last year, not Biden's agenda. Biden's infrastructure plans and other budget items won't begin until the next fiscal year. But Republicans voted three times to increase the debt under Donald Trump, in part because he kept adding such a massive amount to the bill, $7.8 trillion.
Cruz's spokesperson responded to Benen, saying in a statement that Democrats "are 100% capable of raising the debt ceiling through the reconciliation process without a single Republican vote — a process that can't be filibustered."
He then turned around and told Benen that the Republicans aren't holding the economy hostage and that Democrats could use the reconciliation process so the GOP can't filibuster it. Benen noted that it at least explains why there was no ransom note.
The budget Democrats are crafting would do four major things that Republicans support: "prevent a government shutdown, extend the debt ceiling, and fund both disaster relief and Afghan resettlement."
But they're going to filibuster it anyway. "It's why I characterized the GOP's position as foolish: Republicans are telling Democrats to extend the debt ceiling while simultaneously preventing Democrats from voting on a bill that would extend the debt ceiling."
He explained that McConnell outlined the things he thinks Democrats must do to "release the hostage." He wants an increase in the debt ceiling, then revise the Build Back Better package with the budget reconciliation bill.
Benen asked simply: Why not just pass an increase to the debt-ceiling?
Donald Trump is once again taking aim at former president George W. Bush, this time over this support for Wyoming GOP Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who voted to impeach Trump over what she says is his role in inciting the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
"Bush is the one who got us into the quicksand of the Middle East," and "the Middle East was left in worse shape after 21 years than it was when he started his stupidity," Trump said in a statement on Wednesday, slamming Bush's support for the "warmongering and very low polling" Cheney.
Trump is backing a Republican opponent of Cheney in Wyoming's GOP primary next year. He attacked Bush over his foreign policy choices after news broke that Bush is sponsoring an Oct. 18 campaign fundraiser for Cheney in Dallas.
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