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Celerity's Journal
Celerity's Journal
March 2, 2021

The filibuster hurts only Senate Democrats -- and Mitch McConnell knows that. The numbers don't lie.

My own add - Sinema wants a 60 vote threshold on EVERY legislative action!. Not joking.



Cutting off debate in the Senate so legislation can be voted on is done through a procedure called "cloture," which requires three-fifths of the Senate — or 60 votes — to pass. I went through the Senate's cloture votes for the last dozen years from the 109th Congress until now, tracking how many of them failed because they didn't hit 60 votes. It's not a perfect method of tracking filibusters, but it's as close as we can get. It's clear that Republicans have been much more willing — and able — to tangle up the Senate's proceedings than Democrats. More important, the filibuster was almost no impediment to Republican goals in the Senate during the Trump administration. Until 2007, the number of cloture votes taken every year was relatively low, as the Senate's use of unanimous consent agreements skipped the need to round up supporters. While a lot of the cloture motions did fail, it was still rare to jump that hurdle at all — and even then, a lot of the motions were still agreed to through unanimous consent. That changed when Democrats took control of Congress in 2007 and McConnell first became minority leader. The number of cloture motions filed doubled compared to the previous year, from 68 to 139.

Things only got more dire as the Obama administration kicked off in 2009, with Democrats in control of the House, the Senate and the White House. Of the 91 cloture votes taken during the first two years of President Barack Obama's first term, 28 — or 30 percent — failed. All but three failed despite having majority support. The next Congress was much worse after the GOP took control of the House: McConnell's minority blocked 43 percent of all cloture votes taken from passing. Things were looking to be on the same course at the start of Obama's second term. By November 2013, 27 percent of cloture votes had failed even though they had majority support. After months of simmering outrage over blocked nominees grew, Senate Democrats triggered the so-called nuclear option, dropping the number of votes needed for cloture to a majority for most presidential nominees, including Cabinet positions and judgeships. The next year, Republicans took over the Senate with Obama still in office. By pure numbers, the use of the filibuster rules skyrocketed under the Democratic minority: 63 of 123 cloture votes failed, or 51 percent. But there's a catch: Nothing that was being voted on was covered by the new filibuster rules. McConnell had almost entirely stopped bringing Obama's judicial nominees to the floor, including Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.

McConnell defended the filibuster on the Senate floor last week, reminding his counterparts of their dependence on it during President Donald Trump's term. "Democrats used it constantly, as they had every right to," he said. "They were happy to insist on a 60-vote threshold for practically every measure or bill I took up." Except, if anything, use of the filibuster plummeted those four years. There are two main reasons: First, and foremost, the amount of in-party squabbling during the Trump years prevented any sort of coordinated legislative push from materializing. Second, there wasn't actually all that much the Republicans wanted that needed to get past the filibuster in its reduced state after the 2013 rule change. McConnell's strategy of withholding federal judgeships from Obama nominees paid off in spades, letting him spend four years stuffing the courts with conservatives. And when Trump's first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, was filibustered, McConnell didn't hesitate to change the rules again. Trump's more controversial nominees also sailed to confirmation without any Democratic votes. Legislatively, there were only two things Republicans really wanted: tax cuts and repeal of Obamacare. The Trump tax cuts they managed through budget reconciliation, a process that allows budget bills to pass through the Senate with just a majority vote.

Republicans tried to do the same for health care in 2017 to avoid the filibuster, failing only during the final vote, when Sen. John McCain's "no" vote denied them a majority. The repeal wouldn't have gone through even if the filibuster had already been in the grave. As a result, the number of successful filibusters plummeted: Over the last four years, an average of 7 percent of all cloture motions failed. In the last Congress, 298 cloture votes were taken, a record. Only 26 failed. Almost all of the votes that passed were on nominees to the federal bench or the executive branch. In fact, if you stripped out the nominations considered in the first two years of Trump's term, the rate of failure would be closer to 15 percent — but on only 70 total votes. There just wasn't all that much for Democrats to get in the way of with the filibuster, which is why we didn't hear much complaining from Republicans. Today's Democrats aren't in the same boat. Almost all of the big-ticket items President Joe Biden wants to move forward require both houses of Congress to agree. And given McConnell's previous success in smothering Obama's agenda for political gain, his warnings about the lack of "concern and comity" that Democrats are trying to usher in ring hollow. In actuality, his warnings of "wait until you're in the minority again" shouldn't inspire concern from Democrats. So long as it applies only to legislation, the filibuster is a Republicans-only weapon. There's nothing left, it seems, for the GOP to fear from it — aside from its eventual demise.

March 2, 2021

Sen. Joe Manchin on ending the filibuster: 'Jesus Christ, what don't you understand about 'never'?'


In a democracy, 50% plus one equals a governing majority. But in the US Senate, it takes 60 votes — or arcane maneuvers like budget "reconciliation" — to get much of anything done thanks to the filibuster, a Senate rule allowing a senator or senators from the minority party to hold up a bill, which has ossified into a permanent obstacle. And that, Sen. Joe Manchin said on Monday, will "never" change so long as he's around.

Democrats, in control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, are eager to utilize their trifecta to deliver memorable reforms ahead of the next mid-term elections, which have historically seen the ruling party suffer setbacks. Some of it can be done the 50 plus one way: the $1.9 trillion stimulus package on track to be passed this week includes $1,400 checks, a $400 per week boost in unemployment, and billions in aid for state and local governments. But a ruling by the Senate's parliamentarian means it will not include a hike in the minimum wage — and Republican support for $15 an hour by 2025 does not appear to be in the offing.

But, as critics are quick to note, there is nothing in the US Constitution that demands that a Senate majority's legislation be stymied in perpetuity by a filibuster (and the need to get 60 votes to end debate). Indeed, that simple Senate majority could elect to just do away with what is just a tradition, not a law. Manchin, the senator from West Virginia, is one of two Democrats standing in the way of that (the other is Arizona Sen. Krysten Sinema). And he's not going to change his mind.

"Never!" he shouted at a journalist who asked if setbacks to the Democratic agenda might lead him to reconsider, per a pool report filed Monday night by Bloomberg News' Erik Wasson. "Jesus Christ, what don't you understand about 'never'?" If Manchin's party is unable to move forward with other big-ticket items, however, expect rank-and-file Democrats and members of the press to keep asking him the question.

March 2, 2021

How funny that Republicans in 2020 attacked Democrats as being radically out of step with Americans.

And yet it’s not ⁦@AOC⁩ or ⁦@BernieSanders voting against an economic recovery bill 76% of Americans support. Republicans are the radicals.

On this topic, progressives like @BernieSanders and @aoc worked hard to elect Joe Biden, even though they consider him to be on the far end of their party’s ideological spectrum. Democrats are behaving like a functioning party that wants to govern. Republicans gesture.


With Congressional Stimulus Fight Looming, 76% of Voters Back $1.9 Trillion Plan, Including 60% of Republicans

89% of Democrats said they support the proposed COVID-19 aid package


March 2, 2021

truth in advertising

March 2, 2021

Kathleen Rice, Democratic House Rep for NY-04: The time has come. The Governor must resign.


Cuomo Accused of Unwanted Advance at a Wedding: ‘Can I Kiss You?’

The young woman’s account follows two separate accusations that Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed two female state employees.

March 2, 2021

The four 'I's of a new socio-ecological contract

A ‘socio-ecological contract’ has emerged as a way to conceive together the transitions needed to steer out of today’s crises to safer harbour. But what does it entail?


The challenges of the ecological transition are immense and a socio-ecological contract is needed to confront them. The notion of ‘contract’ implies reaching a strong agreement, with a long-term perspective, which works for all parties concerned—this cannot be an agreement vulnerable to the vagaries of day-to-day politics. Fundamentally, such a new contract should link the social and environmental dimensions of the transition—including the underlying economic model. This was the theme of a conference held in February by the European Trade Union Institute and the European Trade Union Confederation. There are four dimensions to the contract, or four ‘I’s: ideas, interests, institutions and indicators.

Ideas, or how to frame the issues

The right framework to define the issues and problems is essential. Depending on which narrative dominates, these will be very different and entail different public policies. Three main frameworks stand in competition. In the first, we are faced solely with the climate issue. In this vision, the challenge is essentially to adapt capitalism through the (accelerated) use of existing technologies or technologies close to maturity (innovation), while keeping these changes manageable, to ensure continuity with the society we live in today—albeit possibly making it a little more egalitarian. The second framework is broader: here, we are facing not only a climate crisis but also an accelerated decline of biodiversity and scare resources. This narrative therefore calls into question the ‘traditional’ capitalist system and seeks to promote a new stage of green capitalism, aimed at ensuring a sustainable and just transition. Different dimensions are examined—not only production but also consumption. Furthermore, the question of inequalities is central. The third addresses the fundamental philosophical question of the human being’s place in nature and in the ‘hierarchy’ of species (‘deep ecology’). In this framework, what is needed is a cultural revolution which would fundamentally question capitalism and our vision of the world. It is not entirely clear which of these options is winning out, although debate generally oscillates between the first and the second—the implicit model for what follows.

Interests, or actors and their strategies

There are also three key interests. The first is the state, back in fashion because it seems to be the only institution capable of setting long-term objectives. This is a welcome development after decades of neoliberal questioning. Its return to favour should not however let us forget important critical analyses of the state and its supposed neutrality: old questions about the dominant interests defended by the state and about state control—questions coming from the Marxian tradition as well as from its later critics—deserve to return to the debate too. The most important aspect here is conflict. As shown by Hans Bruyninckx, director of the European Environment Agency, conflicts between different interests will be at the heart of the argument about ideas. The financial institutions are becoming more central to the discourse on the transition, particularly on what constitutes ‘green’ investment (and the parallel ‘social’ taxonomy). Yet, as underlined by Ann Pettifor, there is a fundamental contradiction here: to give a central role to financial institutions means submitting once again to their power, which will then be almost impossible to limit. As collective actors, trade unions are increasingly finding themselves at the centre of these debates, particularly because climate issues are having and will have significant consequences in many sectors: automotive, heavy industry, construction, agriculture, chemicals, waste and recycling, mines and so on. The key question is what place they will have. On the one hand, there are the challenges of coping with restructuring (including geographical aspects) and retraining (often within a sector, such as construction). But the primary issue, as stressed by the economist Mariana Mazzucato, is securing a role in the definition of problems and thus also of solutions—not only managing the consequences of change. In this regard, the trade union movement has a rich tradition. It has been a key actor in the struggles for decent wages and social protection but also over health and safety, working conditions, worker participation and working-time reduction—and, in particular, in the debate on alienation and liberation from work. This heritage should make unions key figures in setting the narrative.

Institutions, or standing the test of time

For a power balance to settle and stabilise in the long term, it is necessary to have public institutions—in the sociological sense. This is the forgotten dimension of this debate and undoubtedly the most complex. Here we could consider citizens’ assemblies and their legislative extension; to what extent the environmental dimension is taken into account in such official bodies as the Economic, Social and Environmental Council in France; the development of an environmental role for works councils, and the emergence of environmental delegates. But, on the whole, this is not much. We are seriously missing European-level arenas which can not only serve as platforms for debate—on the points where consensus can quickly be reached and on those where further discussion is needed—but also have the capacity to influence decisions in the medium to long term.

Indicators, or what to measure

There is a long-standing debate on indicators that go beyond gross domestic product. Various projects have been developed to do so, generally complex and ambitious, by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Joseph Stiglitz, Eloi Laurent and so on.It’s important to simplify, to focus on the strong links between social and environmental issues. These mainly concern social inequalities, which mirror climate inequalities and the just transition, and diversity and participation, which reflect the challenge of biodiversity loss. We should therefore have two series of indicators which would measure the social dimension of the transition. For example, on inequalities we could consider not only the classic indicators—the Gini coefficient, the ratio of top-to-bottom income quintiles and the rate of poverty—but also salary inequality, average (and maximum) salaries of chief executives, the number of poor workers and so on. Regarding diversity, we could include the integration of non-nationals, visible minorities and refugees, the participation of women on company boards, the capacity of education to promote social emancipation, the participation of workers, civic and citizen participation and so forth. This is a limited set of issues in relation to the much wider question of wellbeing or the definition of a ‘good life’. But it does have the advantage of being able to take quickly into account the challenges of work and its quality in equal measure. The different dimensions of the four ‘I’s sketched out here deserve further exploration, individually and in terms of how they interrelate. It is a matter of establishing a dominant narrative which frames the challenges as well as identifying the appropriate actors and their alliances. Such alliances will have to be created in institutions to achieve consensus in the long term but also to open up spaces of permanent dialogue. To measure progress, indicators of inequality and diversity could help mark the path ahead. This is the true meaning of a socio-ecological contract—something we have to create together.

March 1, 2021

'Green pass': European Commission to propose EU-wide vaccine passports for summer


Europeans may be allowed to travel more freely this summer with a new digital vaccination passport in a plan set to be laid out by the European Commission. Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen announced the plan for a "digital green pass" in a speech to German lawmakers on Monday and then added some details on Twitter. The "digital green pass" would provide proof that a person has received the vaccination as well as test results for anyone who has not yet been vaccinated. It would also include information on recovery for anyone who has previously contracted Covid-19. "The aim is to gradually enable them to move safely in the European Union or abroad - for work or tourism," von der Leyen tweeted.


The Commission will present the legislative proposal this month. Von der Leyen said, it will “respect data protection, security and privacy.” The news could provide a significant boost to Europe’s tourism industries ahead of the summer. Leaders of the EU27 met last week to discuss a joined-up approach but no united plan was announced. Spain and several other southern countries have repeatedly requested that the Commission introduce a certificate. Greece had already announced it would create its own vaccine passport system, agreeing a digital "Green Pass" with Israel and entering talks with the UK.

An independently reviewed, real-world study of the Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine in Israel found it had cut transmission in symptomatic cases by 94%, according to data published in the well-regarded New England Journal of Medicine. However, last week, Angela Merkel told German newspaper Allgemeine Zeitung: “First, it must actually be clearly resolved that vaccinated people are no longer infectious.” "As long as the number of those who have been vaccinated is still so much smaller than the number who are waiting for vaccination, the state should not treat the two groups differently."

President Macron also raised concerns about the fairness of vaccine passports on young people at the EU27 virtual meeting. However, he is preparing a “pass sanitaire” or ‘health pass” this week to allow French residents to visit tourist attractions and hospitality venues when they reopen. Residents would register negative PCR tests or vaccination certificates on an application. In the UK, Downing Street confirmed that UK officials will speak to their EU counterparts after Brussels unveiled plans for the passport, Politics Home reported. The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said: “You can expect [the Department for Transport] will work [with], and do speak to countries across the world in terms of how they may look to introduce passports.”

March 1, 2021

Pfizer vaccine may be less effective in people with obesity, says study (about half the antibodies)

Healthcare workers with obesity found to produce only about half the antibodies healthy people do


The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine may be less effective in people with obesity, data suggests. Italian researchers have discovered that healthcare workers with obesity produced only about half the amount of antibodies in response to a second dose of the jab compared with healthy people. Although it is too soon to know what this means for the efficacy of the vaccine, it might imply that people with obesity need an additional booster dose to ensure they are adequately protected against coronavirus.

Previous research has suggested that obesity – which is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) over 30 – increases the risk of dying of Covid-19 by nearly 50%, as well as increasing the risk of ending up in hospital by 113%.

Some of this may be because people with obesity often have other underlying medical conditions, such as heart disease or type 2 diabetes, that increase their risk from the coronavirus, but excess body fat can also cause metabolic changes, such as insulin resistance and inflammation, which make it harder for the body to fight off infections.

This constant state of low-grade inflammation can also weaken certain immune responses, including those launched by the B and T cells that trigger a protective response following vaccination. Separate research has shown that the flu vaccine is only half as effective in people with obesity compared to those who are a healthy weight. The new study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, provides the first direct evidence to suggest a similar problem might occur with Covid-19 vaccines.


The study:

March 1, 2021

Fans at CPAC deny Trump supporters were involved in Jan. 6 attack

'The FBI is a little iffy right now'


Speaking to CNN outside of CPAC, a group of supporters for President Donald Trump disputed his fans' role during the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Donie O'Sullivan interviewed one woman who said that she believed that Trump won the 2020 election, but she wanted him to move on from his claims about it because she thought it would turn people off of supporting him. "Maybe tell people how he feels about the election," said one woman in a MAGA hat. "Not so much to focus on it was stolen but it was sad some of the things that happen and we need to move forward as a country." She explained: "I don't want him to focus on that because people will tune him out."

Another woman with a "We heart Trump" sign said that 80 million Americans supported the former president. In fact, only 74.2 million Americans supported Trump while 81.2 voted for President Joe Biden. Republicans have only been able to win the popular vote once in 20 years. "Do you think it's important for Trump today to come out and condemn the January 6th insurrection?" asked O'Sullivan. "I'm not convinced that was -- was, um, started by -- you see how peaceful we are," she explained. "I'm not convinced yet because there's been no actual investigation done yet. It was assumed that it was us..."

"But all the Trump supporters that have been arrested by the FBI and indicted," said O'Sullivan. "The FBI's a little iffy right now, do you not agree the FBI has had their problems?" she asked. "Is there any -- you don't trust the election officials?" the reporter asked. "Nope," she said. "You don't trust the FBI?" he also asked. "Nope." "You don't trust the courts?" "Nope." "Who do you trust?" "Trump and his supporters," she said. "And anybody that has -- that when I listen to them talk they don't turn my stomach with the disingenuousness."


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Hometown: London
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Current location: Stockholm, Sweden
Member since: Sun Jul 1, 2018, 07:25 PM
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