Republican lawmakers returning to the Capitol after a break are about to be confronted with working with -- and questions about -- Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) this week, reports CNN.
During Congress's Spring break, the controversial Florida lawmaker became even more controversial after it was leaked that he is under multiple investigations related to sex trafficking and allegedly paying women for sex. Now as lawmakers return, they can expect to be inundated with questions from the press as to whether the Gaetz should resign.
As CNN notes, to date, most Republicans have been silent on Gaetz's legal problems.
"When it was first revealed that Gaetz was under investigation by the FBI, the House was in a two-week recess, allowing Republican leaders to largely ignore the scandal and its political implications. Now the House is returning Tuesday to major debates on President Joe Biden's massive infrastructure plan and the record number of unaccompanied minors on the southern border, but questions about Gaetz threaten to distract from Republicans' messaging," CNN reports. "But even before the allegations surfaced, Gaetz didn't have many friends in the House Republican Conference. He quickly rose to prominence through conservative cable television by tying his fortunes to former President Donald Trump and openly challenging Republican establishment leaders like House GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney of Wyoming."
With reports stating that even Donald Trump has been keeping his distance from Gaetz, who is one of his most rabid supporters, one person close to the ex-president said things aren't looking good for the conservative lawmaker.
"With his political future under threat, Gaetz has received only tepid support from Trump. The former President issued a statement saying Gaetz had not asked him for a pardon, adding, 'It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him,'" the report states with the former Trump campaign official stating, "I think everyone's trying to keep it off their plate right now. I think everyone thinks that this is going the wrong direction for him."
The report goes on to note that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is set to speak with Gaetz upon his return after telling reporters the allegations about the lawmaker are "serious" as he also faces a House Ethics Committee inquiry.
CNN reports, "One question looming is whether Gaetz returns to Washington on Tuesday for House votes. He submitted a letter to the House clerk last month allowing him to vote by proxy -- which is allowed under House rules due to the pandemic -- but it's not clear if he will use it. Rep. Michael Waltz, the Florida Republican designated as his proxy, had not been asked to cast votes on Gaetz's behalf as of Sunday evening, according to Waltz's office."
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Republican official wants GOP leadership to take away committee assignments from problematic colleagues
The ongoing internal problems in the Republican Party have deepened as members of a kind of "trouble-makers caucus" have been blocking their colleagues from critical meetings with officials in Washington or from home as well as with constituents.
CNN.com reported about the ongoing feud between members who are getting more desperate to stop problems they perceive with fellow Republicans.
Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) explained that far-right members tend to ask for a roll-call vote on every bill. There are a number of non-controversial bills like the remembrance of someone, the naming of a post office and other minor issues that could easily be decided by a voice vote. Instead, the House is forced to have a vote where each member has to leave whatever they're doing in their office, often a few blocks and several stair flights away, and do a quick vote, then run back.
"The votes have eaten up precious floor time, scrambled travel plans and forced members to pull the plug on both constituent meetings and fundraisers," the report explained. "They maintain there is plenty of time to read the bills and most of the legislation that comes up under the fast-track process are non-controversial."
So, Bacon wants to see some consequences.
“Demanding roll call votes on every bill comes at a cost,” Bacon said. He's in a Republican in a blue district which means a constant fight for his seat. “Some of these vote series go on for hours, and members lose meetings with constituents as an example.”
There are members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, which was founded in the early days of the tea party, that are also irritated with the radical members.
"It’s screwing all of us,” said one member of the conservative officials. It's a strategy that essentially stops all legislative business, which could be the strategy Democrats adopt if they take over in November, the report suggested.
“They’re like second graders, throwing tantrums every day,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), who chairs the House Rules Committee. “It’s clear (House Minority Leader) Kevin McCarthy has no control over his members. I get more complaints from Republicans about these votes than I do from Democrats.”
But he said he has little sympathy for the GOP complaints after they were the ones who demanded a roll call vote to begin with.
“Tough s*it,” he said. “They look like a bunch of clowns.”
Things came to a head before a two-week recess, when members were trying to get out of Washington on Thursday. Over and over Republicans Scott Perry (PA) and Chip Roy (R-TX) demanded roll call votes that led to a number of officials risking missing their flights home. Members could be heard shouting “regular order!” and demanding things move quicker.
Roy makes it clear he has no intention of stopping, claiming, "when you have things pass quickly, without the ability to review it, you’re then accepting all of the language in a bill. Every one of those sentences matter.”
Officials on both sides maintain there is plenty of time to read bills in the fast-track process. It doesn't simply happen the second it's proposed and the issues under that process are non-controversial.
The two men say that their strategy is to attack Democrats trying to pass a bunch of bills before the election that make Republicans look bad. Already Republicans have voted against bills that would make the child tax credit permanent, create paid family leave and maternity leave, a bill to help the baby formula crisis, and a bill to denounce domestic terrorism and provide funding to combat it. It's a request that law enforcement has been making since the last election.
“If there’s just a voice vote, you’re on record as having supported things that you don’t support,” Perry whined.
Another example that Bacon cited specifically was the federal cyber security bill that did pass unanimously when there was a voice vote this week. But the Freedom Caucus demanded it be a recorded vote. After that one member decided there were jurisdictional issues. Bacon had to then whip lawmakers for the bill's support, ultimately passing overwhelmingly with bipartisan support.
It was only one half-hour into Wednesday's congressional hearing on abortion access when it became clear that the Republican contributions to the day would be loonier than a QAnon message board.
"In places like Washington D.C.," fetuses are "burned to power the light's of the city's homes and streets," claimed Catherine Glenn Foster, who had, just minutes before, sworn not to lie under oath. The GOP-summoned witness let loose the wild and utterly false accusation that municipal electrical companies are powered by incinerated fetuses.
"The next time you turn on the light, think of the incinerators," she said, apparently repeating a misleading talking point from the same anti-choice activists caught stashing fetuses at home. Everything on the right is psychological projection.
So that's where Republicans are these days: Arguing that we live in a janky version of the Matrix, except powered by fetuses instead of actual people.
Foster is not some random nut that Republicans pulled off a soapbox at a subway station minutes before the hearing started. She is a Georgetown law school graduate who is paid $190,000 a year to be the president of Americans United for Life, one of the largest anti-abortion non-profits in the country. So it's not surprising that Foster believed she would get away with this absurd nonsense. Hers was merely one of a truly overwhelming number of lies that poured out of Republican lawmakers and witnesses alike throughout the course of Wednesday's hearing. When lies are coming out like chocolates on a conveyor belt aimed at Lucille Ball, the liars can be assured they've overwhelmed the fact-checkers beyond any hope of accountability.
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The GOP contributions to the hearing were a blizzard of bullshit, meant to totally white out the efforts by Democrats and reproductive rights activists to remind the public of the great human cost that results from banning abortion.
As their actual political views become harder to defend on the merits, Republicans increasingly embrace conspiracy theories and urban legends to justify the unjustifiable.
Republicans pretended progressives don't know what a "woman" is. They insisted that the mere existence of abortion shows that birth control efforts are useless. (On the contrary, the abortion rate has gone down as birth control access has improved.) They pretended, over and over, that the issue at hand was only late-term abortions. In reality, the abortion bans being passed start at two weeks after a missed period, if not sooner. And then there was the repulsive contributions of Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, who pretended that women wait until they go into labor and then abort the pregnancy right before the baby is born. Having made this lie up, he then berated Alabama-based OB-GYN Dr. Yashica Robinson for the existence of a procedure that, quite literally, only happens in his bizarre fantasies. (Thanks to Charles Pierce at Esquire for the transcript.)
Johnson: Do you support the right of a woman who is just seconds away from birthing a healthy child to have an abortion?
Robinson: I think that the question you're asking does not realistically reflect abortion care —
Johnson: In that scenario, would you support her right to abort that child?
Robinson: I won't entertain theoretical —
Johnson: It's not a theoretical, ma'am. You are a medical doctor.
Indeed it is not theoretical — it is entirely fantastical. Johnson's showboating was the equivalent of berating a doctor over unicorn horn removal surgery. But Johnson, eager to talk about anything but the realities of abortion care, continued to play this game. He went on to insist that Robinson answer for killing a baby "halfway out of the birth canal," forcing her to pointedly remind him that actual murder is already illegal.
When lies are coming out like chocolates on a conveyor belt aimed at Lucille Ball, the liars can be assured they've overwhelmed the fact-checkers beyond any hope of accountability.
Anti-choicers love this hypothetical of a woman who aborts during labor. In reality, it makes about as much sense as banning men from touching their penises out of fear one might one day he might cut his off. But of course, Republicans would rather talk about their lurid fantasy lives than the realities of abortion.
In the aftermath of the leaked draft opinion that indicates that the Supreme Court will be overturning Roe v. Wade in a few short weeks, the grim reality of what banning abortion means is just starting to dawn on the larger public. Poverty, child abuse, derailed lives, women trapped in abusive relationships, people mutilated or killed in attempted self-abortions, people being imprisoned for trying to get abortions, and even just the looming anxiety hovering over every sexual encounter: That's what the GOP wants to inflict on Americans, and it is not exactly the most popular politics.
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Sadly, there's nothing surprising about this turn towards wild tales about fetus-powered street lamps and women demanding abortions during labor.
As their actual political views become harder to defend on the merits, Republicans increasingly embrace conspiracy theories and urban legends to justify the unjustifiable. Want to ban schoolchildren from reading about Martin Luther King Jr.? Just falsely claim that something called "critical race theory" is being taught to school kids and use that as cover. Want to deny trans kids the right to be treated with dignity in public schools? Roll out some wild story about how kids are now "identifying" as cats and using litter boxes in school. Want to rile up the GOP going into the midterms? Screw making any substantive arguments! Just claim that Democrats are conspiring to "replace" white Christians with people of different races and ethnicities, a conspiracy theory lifted directly from neo-Nazis, with the details barely tweaked before being repeated hundreds of times on Fox News.
Of course, in the latter case, the cost is paid in blood. We've seen repeated mass murders as a result of this "great replacement" conspiracy theory, with the latest in Buffalo, New York. This points to another, even darker purpose of the Republican reliance on urban legends instead of evidence: Dehumanizing the targets of their sadistic political views.
Lately, Republicans have accused their political opponents of "grooming" children, which is basically just a way of saying all Democrats are pedophiles. It's an idea directly borrowed from QAnon, just like "great replacement" is borrowed from white supremacist groups. The purpose of this kind of rhetoric is to paint your opponents — or in many cases, your actual targets— as subhuman and therefore deserving of any abuse you dish out, including violence.
Indeed, it's arguable that the abortion debate is how conservatives honed the art of spooling out monstrous false accusations in order to dehumanize their opponents. Falsely accusing doctors and abortion patients of "murder" has been standard conservative rhetoric for decades, and the human cost has been staggering: Assassinations of doctors, the bombing of clinics, and mass shootings of patients. Yet Republicans never let up, because despite claiming to be "pro-life," they can always be counted on to prioritize political point-scoring over actual human life.
So yes, laugh at the weird anti-choice lady raving during a congressional hearing about fetus-powered street lamps. But remember the almost unfathomably deep cynicism that fuels such lies. Republicans are determined to set back women's rights by decades, punish people for having sex, and prop up racial inequities. They frankly do not care how many lives are ruined — or lost — in the process. And they don't care how stupid they sound when they roll out urban legends, so long as they finish the sadistic task of making unwanted childbirth mandatory across much, if not all, of the United States.
Jan. 6 committee says it has evidence that 'directly contradicts' GOP denials of 'reconnaissance tours'
Georgia GOP Rep. Barry Loudermilk is facing scrutiny from the House Select Committee Investigating the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol.
"Based on our review of evidence in the Select Committee's possession, we believe you have information regarding a tour you led through parts of the Capitol complex on January 5, 2021," Select Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) wrote in a letter to Loudermilk on Thursday.
"The foregoing information raises questions to which the Select Committee must seek answers. Public reporting and witness accounts indicate some individuals and groups engaged in efforts to gather information about the layout of the U.S. Capitol, as well as the House and Senate office buildings, in advance of January 6, 2021," read the letter, which was also signed by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY).
"In response to those allegations, Republicans on the Committee on House Administration—of which you are a Member—claimed to have reviewed security footage from the days preceding January 6th and determined that '[t]here were no tours, no large groups, no one with MAGA hats on.' However, the Select Committee’s review of evidence directly contradicts that denial," the letter stated.
The letter proposes a meeting during the week of May 23.
"The letter comes more than a year after some House Democrats accused Republicans of providing tours in the days leading up to January 6 to individuals who later stormed the Capitol," CNN noted. "Rep. Mikie Sherrill, a Democrat from New Jersey, accused Republicans in the days after the insurrection of providing tours to people who then used the information they learned from their visit about the complex's layout to aid in their attempt to interrupt the certification of the 2020 presidential election results."
Sherrill said she saw members of Congress leading groups of people through the Capitol on a "reconnaissance" tour on Jan. 5. Her comments came on Jan. 12, 2021.
The committee investigating the 2021 US Capitol assault plans to stage public hearings in June and release its findings at the height of the midterm election campaign later this year.
Across eight hearings, key witnesses interviewed by the congressional probe will testify publicly for the first time on the alleged plot that led to the January 6 insurrection as well as the events of the day itself.
"We'll tell the story about what happened," Thompson told reporters.
"We will use a combination of witnesses, exhibits, things that we have through the tens of thousands of exhibits... as well as the hundreds of witnesses we deposed or just talked to in general."
The hearings are expected to make for blockbuster television -- potentially on a par with the Watergate hearings or Donald Trump's two impeachments -- as America relives minute by minute the day a mob of the defeated president's supporters stormed Congress to prevent the peaceful transfer of power to 2020 election winner Joe Biden.
The bench of seven Democrats and two Republicans will explore allegations that Trump inspired the violence through months of false claims about election fraud, as part of an illegal plot to stay in power.
Trump and his inner circle deny all accusations of wrongdoing, characterizing their election disinformation and alleged machinations to overturn the results as a good-faith attempt to clear up widespread corruption.
Trump's ultra-loyal Republican base argues that the investigation is a "witch hunt" to distract from rampant inflation and a burgeoning immigration crisis ahead of elections in November that could see the Democrats lose control of Congress.
With additional reporting by AFP