April 23-24, 2024: Biden in charge; Republicans in disarray, chasing their own tails

With the passage of the national security supplemental bill through the House of Representatives on Saturday, Punchbowl News noted today, President Joe Biden became the winner of this Congress. When the Republicans took control of the House in January 2023, they vowed to impeach Biden and members of his Cabinet, overturn the signature legislation the Democrats had passed in 2021 and 2022, and force the Democrats to accept draconian  immigration policies.

Instead, the impeachment effort against Biden collapsed into ridiculousness as, after months of hearings by the Committee on Oversight, Democrat Jared Moskowitz of Florida moved to impeach Biden and asked committee chair James Comer (R-KY) to second the motion. Comer refused. That admission that the point of the investigation into Biden was to create media soundbites against him was widely assumed to be the end of that project. Last week, on April 17, the top Democrat on the committee, Jamie Raskin of Maryland, called it “a propaganda experiment” and asked Comer: “What is the crime that you want to impeach Joe Biden for and keep this nonsense going?… Tell America right now.” Comer answered: “You’re about to find out very soon.”

The House did, in fact, vote to impeach Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas—the first time that a cabinet secretary has been impeached in almost 150 years—but senators refused even to hold a trial, saying that Mayorkas’s implementation of Biden’s policies in the absence of congressional legislation to provide more security at the border was not a high crime or misdemeanor.

House Republicans did not get the deep cuts they wanted to funding for the Internal Revenue Service, measures to address climate change, social welfare measures, or the budget in general. Instead, leaders have had to rely on Democrats to carry the weight of keeping the government funded, while Republicans have repeatedly been caught touting the internal improvements they voted against. Republicans demanded a strong border security measure, forced senators to spend months hammering one out, and then killed it in an astonishing own goal, at Trump’s demand. And the extremists did not succeed in abandoning Ukraine.

Instead, they have had a bruising fight in which they threw out their own speaker, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and had trouble replacing him. Shortly thereafter, he left Congress, leading the way for more than 20 Republican representatives, including five committee chairs, who have said they will not seek reelection. They had to expel one of their own members, George Santos (R-NY), a serial liar who is under indictment for crimes associated with campaign financing—only the sixth time in U.S. history the House has expelled a member.

In November 2023, extremist representative Chip Roy (R-TX) charged his colleagues with throwing away their shot at changing the country. He demanded one of them “explain to me one material, meaningful, significant thing the Republican majority has done.” 

Now those opposed to the extremists are firing back, publicly charging them with killing border security. Tony Gonzales (R-TX) went further, telling Dana Bash of CNN on Sunday: “It’s my absolute honor to be in Congress, but I serve with some real scumbags. Matt Gaetz [R-FL], he paid minors to have sex with him at drug parties. Bob Good [R-VA] endorsed my opponent, a known neo-Nazi. These people used to walk around with white hoods at night. Now they’re walking around with white hoods in the daytime.”

The chaos of the House has shifted the weight of governance toward the White House, and Biden has taken advantage of that shift to put in place measures popular with the majority of Americans. Today, on Earth Day, Biden also honored the idea of a government that works for the people when he spoke at the Prince William Forest Park in Triangle, Virginia, a national park developed in the 1930s by the government’s Works Progress Administration under the New Deal.

Biden called attention to the country’s historic investment in addressing climate change under his administration. He noted that that investment has created a clean-energy manufacturing boom that has attracted hundreds of billions of dollars in private-sector investment and created more than 270,000 new jobs.

In Virginia, Biden announced $7 billion in federal grants for solar projects for more than 900,000 low- and middle-income households, saying those projects would save those households about $400 a year annually, more than $350 million total. The projects will also create nearly 200,000 jobs.

Biden also announced the launch of the website to apply to join the American Climate Corps (ACC), an initiative modeled after New Deal president Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Over its nine-year existence, the CCC employed more than three million young men improving the nation’s public lands, forests, and parks, many of whom earned their high school diplomas thanks to the educational opportunities connected to the program.

When the administration unveiled the American Climate Corps program last year, more than 42,000 young people expressed interest within weeks. The first ACC jobs will start in June. Beginning this summer, ACC members will have access to training in trades, thanks to a partnership between the program and the North America’s Building Trades Unions’ nonprofit partner TradesFutures.

This national shift toward a government focused on the good of ordinary Americans is facing a backlash.

As right-wing voices have lost control in Congress, they have worked aggressively to take over states. There, they have pushed extreme abortion bans, gutted labor laws including for child labor, restricted voting, banned books from public schools, worked to privatize education, and so on—precisely the sort of reactionary state movements the U.S. Supreme Court used the Fourteenth Amendment to undermine from the 1950s to the 1970s.

Today, on Earth Day, The Guardian reported that Louisiana’s flagship state university, Louisiana State University (LSU), has permitted oil and chemical companies to influence research and teaching activities concerning climate change in exchange for donations to the university.

The attempt to cement right-wing dominance in the states in opposition to a more liberal national government is a political tradition almost as old as this country, but in 2024 it is being challenged. On Friday, April 19, Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, voted overwhelmingly to join the United Auto Workers (UAW), despite a letter from the Republican governors of six southern states—Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas—warning the workers that unionization would stop auto manufacturers from expanding in their states.

Similar votes, with similar opposition from Republican leaders and business interests, failed in 2014 and 2019. This time, 73% of the workers voted to join the UAW, which has just negotiated strong contracts with the Big Three U.S. automakers. In a statement, Biden said: “Let me be clear to the Republican governors that tried to undermine this vote: there is nothing to fear from American workers using their voice and their legal right to form a union if they so choose. In fact, the growing strength of unions over the last year has gone hand-in-hand with record small business and jobs growth alongside the longest stretch of low unemployment in more than 50 years. I will continue to stand with American workers and stand against [Republicans’] effort to weaken workers’ voice.”

Tennessee reporter Phil Williams noted that the Beacon Center, a right-wing think tank in the state, tried to tell Tennesseans that the UAW has a “radical political agenda,” but its own latest poll shows that the people of Tennessee view the UAW’s unionization efforts in the state favorably. (The research also shows that only 12% of likely voters in Tennessee believe the current U.S. tax system is “fair and effectively supports public services.”)

Today also saw the opening statements of The People of the State of New York v. Donald J. Trump. The prosecution outlined a 2015 meeting in Trump Tower in which Trump, his then-fixer Michael Cohen, and David Pecker, the chief executive officer of American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, struck an agreement to influence the 2016 election by finding negative information about Trump and hiding it, publishing flattering stories about Trump, and attacking Trump’s political opponents.

The defense said Trump is innocent and called Cohen a liar, pointing out that he is a convicted felon (without noting that he committed crimes in Trump’s service).

Pecker took the stand for about 20 minutes before court ended for the day. He is expected to testify again tomorrow.