WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives will take up by Wednesday the Senate version of the sweeping $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package backed by President Joe Biden, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Monday. Closing in on final approval of one of the biggest U.S. anti-poverty measures since the 1960s, Democrats aim to enact the massive legislation by Sunday, when enhanced federal unemployment benefits are set to expire. The Senate passed its version of the bill after a marathon overnight vote on Saturday. The Senate version eliminated or pared back some provisions included i...
With the 2021 general election now closer than 2020's, Senate Republicans voted Wednesday to request identifying information on Pennsylvania's roughly 9 million registered voters as part of a legislative investigation of former President Donald Trump's loss.
The legal requests are the opening salvo in what could be a long, messy fight over the investigation, which was spurred by unverified claims of voter fraud that have been repeatedly rejected by federal judges, county elections officials, and even Trump's former attorney general.
The 17 subpoenas were approved in a party-line vote by the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, a seldom-used panel that Republican leadership has turned into a vehicle for conducting their investigation.
Specifically, the subpoenas request:
- All emails, legal guidance, and training procedures of the Department of State, which oversees elections, sent to the commonwealth's 67 county boards of election between May 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021.
- A list of all of all registered voters in the commonwealth, including their name, date of birth, driver's license number, last four digits of social security number, address, and date of last voting activity on both November 1, 2020 and May 1, 2021
- A list of everyone who voted in the 2020 presidential election and 2021 primary divided by if they voted in-person, by mail, by absentee ballot, or by provisional ballot
Responses for this round of subpoenas are due Oct. 1. It's unclear who will have access to this data. The Senate is hiring a private vendor to conduct the review, Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, told the Philadelphia Inquirer on Monday.
The panel's chairperson, Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, added that the vendor will be paid with taxpayer money. He is still reviewing vendor candidates, but did not identify any. He also did not rule out issuing further subpoenas for ballots or other election materials.
Much of this information the panel requested is already public, such as when and how voters last cast a ballot, and can be purchased from the Department of State for $20. However, the identifying information, such as the last four digits of voters' social security numbers, and their driver's license numbers, are not in the file.
Dush said the committee was seeking the social security numbers to verify voters' identities, seemingly referencing those claims.
“There have been questions around the validity of people who have voted, whether or not they exist," Dush said. “We're not responding to proven allegations, we are investigating the allegations."
After the meeting, Dush cited sworn affidavits gathered by the state Republican Party to justify his claim of unverified voters. He added he had not yet reviewed those affidavits.
There have been just a handful of proven cases of fraud in Pennsylvania, including a Trump supporter Chester County who tried to impersonate his son to cast a second ballot. The supporter is currently on trial.
However, most Republicans, such as Corman, have instead walked a middle ground.
They've denounced the Wolf administration and the state Supreme Court's actions in the lead up to the election for causing “inconsistencies," and signed letters asking for the state's electoral college results to be tossed out, but haven't branded the issue as “fraud."
Corman even referenced his old stand against the “hue and cry" of Trump supporters who wanted the state Legislature to appoint its own, Trump-supporting electors, overturning the 2020 election result.
He argued that distrust of the election results — fed by Trump and his allies false claims — created a need to address those concerns through a Senate investigation.
“Either we will find things that will better improve our laws, or we will find nothing that will dispel a lot of people's concerns," Corman said Wednesday.
Dush is only running the review after the panel's former chair, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, was ousted after publicly questioning Corman's desire to even hold the review.
Mastriano was a vocal Trump ally who frequently cited claims of fraud, and was even outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 when Trump's supporters attempted to disrupt Congress certifying President Joe Biden's win.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Senate Democrats linked these efforts from Republicans to spread misinformation about the 2020 election to their investigation.
“The manner and the process by which we're going about trying to invalidate voters rights is dangerous and is tied into many activities which crossed the line which has been established not just for this past election cycle, but frankly for the existence of this country," state Sen. Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia, said.
Senate Democrats said after the meeting that they also planned to challenge the subpoenas in state court and seek an injunction blocking their data request, though it's unclear if such a challenge would succeed. Those filings are still pending.
Wolf added in a statement he'd oppose the Senate Republicans efforts, and that the GOP “should be ashamed of their latest attempt to destabilize our election system through a sham investigation that will unnecessarily cost taxpayers millions of dollars."
There isn't even agreement among Pennsylvania Senate Republicans on the investigation . At least two state senators have already spoken out against the effort.
State Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Lycoming, said in a statement last month that he expected the legal battles over the investigation to drag out for three to five years.
Yaw also pushed back on the motive for many who support the so-called election review, who may believe it could find proof of fraud and reinstate Trump. Based on emails he's received, “that is the underlying rationale for many who support an audit," Yaw wrote.
“Unless there is a coup, which is not going to happen in the United States, the 2020 election is over. Biden is the president," Yaw said. “An audit is not going to change that fact irrespective of the outcome."
Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: email@example.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.
For months, as Democratic voters in California seemed complacent in the face of the Republican effort to recall Governor Gavin Newsom, much of the national political and punditry class in the media claimed California would send dire warnings to the Democratic Party.
But now that Newsom trounced in a spectacular victory, with 64% of Californians voting no to the recall, the same political media — always pandering to a bullying GOP — is saying not to read much into the outcome in California.
In their latest iteration, Newsom "got lucky" because his chief opponent was Larry Elder, right-wing extremist and 25-year radio former radio host who pundits said had a lot of "baggage." This presupposes that some other mythical GOP candidate could have pulled it out. But no other candidate could emerge that didn't support Donald Trump, which is the real poison here.
What actually killed Elder wasn't his "baggage" in the form of things he said on the radio over the years. It was his embracing Trumpism in the here and now. He attacked vaccine and mask mandates, vowing to end them as soon as he took office. That turned out to be a driving force that got many California Democrats and independents concerned about the pandemic to pay attention.
And he promulgated the Big Lie — which he actually previously didn't support, having said earlier this year that "Biden won the election fair and square," only to reverse in August after Trumpists expressed anger. Then he went further and actually promoted a "big lie" about the recall, saying it was tainted with "fraud" before it was even over, following up on Trump's same claim about the recall.
As extreme as all that sounds, it's now pretty standard for GOP elected officials and candidates all across the country. Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida and Governor Greg Abbott of Texas promote both dangerous themes, as do the vast majority of GOP governors.
Former Nevada attorney general Adam Laxalt, challenging Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Mastro, is endorsed by Trump, supports the Big Lie, is against vaccine mandates and is even hinting he's ready to go to court to contest the 2022 election should he lose. Republican Glenn Youngkin, running for governor in Virginia this November and having hugged Trump to get the support of his base, has attended right-wing "election integrity" rallies built on the Big Lie and talks about making "reforms" to battle election "fraud."
I could go on and on, as scores of GOP House, Senate, gubernatorial and state legislative candidates are doing the exact same thing.
And they have no choice because Trump has taken the entire party hostage. That's why it's completely false to say Newsom "got lucky" with Elder. If he got lucky, then every Democrat in a competitive race is going to get lucky.
And what does that claim even mean? It's not like Elder was picked out of thin air and put into place as the main contender to Newsom just by chance. There were over 40 candidates vying to topple Newsom in the recall. Elder rose to the top because that is what the GOP base is now, built on hardcore Trumpism.
And it's even worse — for the GOP — than it seems. In polls before the race, Elder was leading the others with 26% of the vote and would have been elected governor if voters had voted yes on the first question to recall Newsom. But in the election tallies, of those who voted for a candidate after the first question on the recall, Elder pulled in 47% of the vote. That means the GOP consolidated and rallied around him, even as there were more moderate GOP candidates in the race.
The base of the GOP, in California and everywhere, wants Trumpist candidates, because Trump has transformed the party into a ghoulish nightmare of hate and lies, bringing in more and more conspiracists and pushing out people who've rejected Trumpism.
The Washington Post, in a piece that broke from much of the media's narrative, rightly noted that the recall made Newsom stronger, able to repel challengers and look to the future. What he did in California is key for Democrats everywhere: Focus on the dangers of GOP candidates and their embrace of Trump. In races in House battleground districts and in competitive Senate races in 2022, that kind of campaign can make a big difference.
The conventional wisdom that the party in power loses seats in the mid-terms can and must be turned on its head because we are in an extraordinary time in which democracy is in the balance. "Trumpism is not defeated in this country," Newsom said in his victory speech in offering both a warning and a blueprint to Democrats. They need to take that to heart.
Donald Trump Jr. cries Biden has ‘blood’ of his ‘red state enemies’ on his hands as HHS moves to avoid COVID drug shortage
Donald Trump, Jr. is falsely claiming President Joe Biden is responsible for the impending deaths of Americans sick with COVID-19 after the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services bought an additional 1.4 million doses of Regeneron's monoclonal antibody treatments. After discovering that 70% of all monoclonal antibody treatment doses were being ordered by just seven states, HHS announced it is taking over distribution of the life-saving drug.
Florida, Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana – states that have some of the highest per-capita cases of COVID-19 and some of the lowest vaccination rates, have been limiting the supply of monoclonal antibody treatments to the rest of the nation, CNN reports.
"Given this reality, we must work to ensure our supply of these life-saving therapies remains available for all states and territories, not just some," an HHS spokesperson said.
"HHS will determine the amount of product each state and territory receives on a weekly basis. State and territorial health departments will subsequently identify sites that will receive product and how much," the spokesperson said. "This system will help maintain equitable distribution, both geographically and temporally, across the country - providing states and territories with consistent, fairly-distributed supply over the coming weeks."
That's akin to killing people, Donald Trump, Jr. is suggesting.
"Americans will die because of Biden's despicable decision to punish his political enemies in red states by restricting their ability to secure life-saving monoclonal antibody treatments for all that need them," the former president's son, who is not a medical expert, declared on social media. "Their blood is directly on Joe's hands," he added, disrespectfully refusing to address President Joe Biden by his elected position.
Americans will die because of Biden's despicable decision to punish his political enemies in red states by restricting their ability to secure life-saving monoclonal antibody treatments for all that need them.
Their blood is directly on Joe's hands.
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) September 16, 2021
When his father was president Donald Trump, Jr. repeatedly praised the coronavirus vaccine and the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed. But after Joe Biden became President Trump Jr. switched tactics, repeatedly attacking any efforts to promote vaccination or help keep Americans safe through social distancing measures including masks. At least 17 times since Biden was elected Trump Jr. has railed against "vaccine passports" and other methods of protecting Americans' health from the coronavirus that has already killed over 650,000 people in the U.S.
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