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A Populist Democrat Announces Challenge to Josh Hawley on January 6

Lucas Kunce wants to take on the Missouri Republican who incited rioters on January 6 (and then ran away), and he’s got a powerful new campaign ad.

Lucas Kunce
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

On January 6, 2021, Senator Josh Hawley was caught on camera running from the same incursion he helped cause. Two years later, as Hawley has continued running from culpability for his role in the attack on the Capitol, he now faces his own democratic challenge. Friday morning—January 6, 2023—populist Democratic candidate Lucas Kunce announced his bid to unseat Hawley.

In his announcement, Kunce took Hawley to task for much more than inciting January 6. Hawley was sent to a “fancy prep school” by his “banker daddy,” while Kunce’s family relied on their neighbors “to survive bankruptcy and medical bills.” Hawley joined an elite corporate law firm after graduation, while Kunce joined the Marines. Hawley supported anti-labor “right-to-work” laws, while Kunce posits himself as a committed anti-monopolist. Hawley had initially voted “no” on a bill to ease health care access for veterans exposed to burn pits; Kunce, who had been exposed to burn pits himself, rallied the cause for the bill.

Kunce told The New Republic that the hardships he faced are a large part of why he’s involved in politics. “When my little sister was born and had an open heart surgery, my family went bankrupt. We made it because the people in that neighborhood came by our house, brought us more tuna casseroles than we could eat.”

Kunce first ran for office in 2022, vying to fill Republican Roy Blunt’s vacant seat. In a crowded Democratic primary, Kunce lost to late-entrant and Anheuser-Busch heiress Trudy Busch Valentine, who then went on to lose the general election to Republican Eric Schmitt by 13.5 points. The primary still displayed Kunce’s formidability. Valentine, whose assets were worth as much as $214.7 million, largely self-funded her own $3.4 million campaign. Meanwhile, Kunce fundraised $4.6 million, more than half of which came from donations smaller than $200.

Kunce’s candidacy offers Democrats of all stripes the opportunity to rally behind someone who could truly give Hawley a run for his money (no pun intended). Missouri went for Trump by 15 points in 2020, but Hawley only beat Claire McCaskill by about six points in 2018. Kunce’s résumé and unhesitating will to expose Hawley as the faux-populist he is—and connect him to everything wrong with America—might be enough to make this race a contest.

“Generally, everyday people do the right things. You see that on ballot measures, and neighbors helping each other out,” Kunce said, referring to the success of statewide initiatives to legalize marijuana, reject right-to-work laws, increase the minimum wage, and expand Medicaid. His goal, Kunce said, is to give power back to, and trust, everyday people. “That’s the exact opposite of Josh Hawley—this guy’s all about power for himself. We’re launching on January 6 because it’s a great example of what a fraud he is. When he thought it was gonna bring him power, he’s raising his fist, he’s riling everybody up, and then the second shit gets real and hits the fan, he’s running for the exits.”

What has Kunce been doing while preparing for his Senate run? “I’ve been rereading Lord of the Rings,” he said, reminiscing of his mother taking him to the library as a kid for free entertainment. “Kinda nerdy, but hey, I play Magic: The Gathering, no shame.” He’s also been listening to his country favorites: Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard. “And for TV, I did just watch Wednesday. I thought it was really good.”

This post has been updated.

This Is Now the Longest Battle for House Speaker Since Before the Civil War

And Kevin McCarthy’s quest for the House speaker gavel continues.

Representative Kevin McCarthy looks down and walks away from reporters
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Kevin McCarthy has broken yet another record for the sheer number of times he’s lost his bid for House speaker. We are now entering territory not seen since before the Civil War.

The House entered its tenth round of voting on Thursday, after McCarthy lost the seventh, eighth, and ninth rounds. The last time at least 10 ballots were needed to pick a House speaker was in 1859, when Republican William Pennington was finally elected on the forty-fourth ballot. In all of Congress’s history, there have only been 14 floor fights where more than two ballots were needed to confirm the House speaker. The longest one took 133 rounds of voting.

McCarthy has not gained any votes in the last three days, despite reportedly making major concessions Wednesday evening to the 20 Republicans opposing his bid. He even reportedly promised a one-member “motion to vacate,” meaning only one House member could force a vote to oust the speaker. (Currently, five members are required.) Instead, McCarthy has lost three votes since the first round.

But he has shown no sign of backing down.

Who Is Kevin Hern? More on McCarthy Defectors’ New Nominee for House Speaker

A new potential challenger to Kevin McCarthy’s bid for House speaker emerges.

Representative Kevin Hern puts his hand to his chin
Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Kevin Hern is the newest Republican nominee for speaker, as Kevin McCarthy continues losing his bid for the gavel.

Representative Lauren Boebert nominated the Oklahoma representative in the ninth round of voting on Thursday, claiming he can be the one to “unify the party.” Hern, for his part, voted once again for McCarthy in the ninth round of voting.

A McDonald’s franchise tycoon, Hern first joined Congress in 2018 and is estimated to be one of its richest members, with reported assets worth as much as $142.7 million. He offloaded shares in 12 different oil and gas companies while serving on the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. He also bought between $300,000 and $615,000 in shares of UnitedHealth Group while sitting on the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees Medicare issues.

In 2021, Hern failed to properly disclose nearly two dozen stock transactions, altogether worth as much as $2.7 million, violating the STOCK Act, which mandates congressional stock transparency. Hern has also called for increasing defense funding, while being an investor in Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, which manufacture weapons that have been sent to Ukraine.

Not to be limited to financial corruption, Hern was one of the 126 Republicans who signed onto a lawsuit to overturn the 2020 presidential election results. In July 2021, Hern was one of just 16 members (all Republicans) to vote against a bipartisan bill to expand and ease immigration processes for Afghan allies of the United States military during its invasion of Afghanistan. Hern was also among a group of Republicans who voted against a bill that sought to expand health care services to military veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxins during their careers. And if that all wasn’t enough, Hern wrote an August 2022 op-ed against drug pricing controls.

Though perhaps it’s unlikely that Hern will actually become speaker, he represents the Republican Party just as sufficiently as the next candidate.

Israeli Forces Have Killed Four Young Palestinians in Five Days

We’re barely into the new year.

Palestinian kids hang a poster of 15-year-old Adam Ayyad during his funeral at Bethlehem’s Dheisheh refugee camp in the occupied West Bank on January 3.

The new year can be a significant time for many: of change, of resolve, of recognizing where one fell short and where they could grow. But apparently not for Israel. Israeli forces have now killed four young Palestinians in 2023; in other words, almost as many Palestinians dead as there have been days in the new year.

On Thursday, Israeli forces shot 16-year-old Amer Abu Zaytoon during a raid on Nablus in the West Bank. According to journalist Bakr Abdelhaq, residents said Abu Zaytoon was shot while walking in a refugee camp raided by the forces.

“There were armed clashes. They besieged the home of former prisoner Hassan Araysheh and then proceeded to raid it and beat family members inside, before arresting him,” Abdelhaq told Al Jazeera.

On Tuesday morning, Israeli forces killed 15-year-old Adam Issam Shaker Ayyad during a raid on Bethlehem, in the southern West Bank. Ayyad was the victim of yet another Israeli raid on a refugee camp; the young boy apparently studied at a U.N.-funded school in the Dheisheh camp.

On Monday morning, Israeli forces killed two more young men in a raid in the town of Kufr Dan: Mohammad Samer Hoshiyeh, 22, and Fouad Mohammad Abed, 25. At least three others were injured in the raid, including one in critical condition.

These four young Palestinians are only part of the ongoing violence Palestinains face; headline statistics don’t always include the thousands injured or the masses of demolished homes.

Last year, Israeli forces killed at least 171 Palestinians in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, making it the deadliest year since the U.N. began tracking. The rate so far in 2023 outpaces that.

And without further global pressure on Israel’s insistent campaign against Palestinian people, there looks to be no slowing down for their seemingly hardened resolve. The most far-right Israeli government ever has just been sworn in. A coalition led by Benjamin Netanyahu, the fifth government in four years boasts ministers like new National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has been convicted in the past for inciting racism and support for a terrorist group, and new Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a self-proclaimed “proud homophobe” who has advocated a “shoot to kill” approach when dealing with Palestinian children throwing stones.

Matt Gaetz Votes for Donald Trump for House Speaker in Sign That This Will Never End

Gaetz is one of 19 Republicans who have voted against Kevin McCarthy every round.

Representative Matt Gaetz
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

In a sign that Republicans are definitely taking this whole thing seriously, Matt Gaetz threw everyone a curveball and voted for Donald Trump for House speaker on Thursday.

During the seventh vote, which speaker hopeful Kevin McCarthy had already lost, Gaetz called out a vote for “Donald John Trump.” Trump, for the record, still backs McCarthy, was never nominated for House speaker, and doesn’t have a serious chance of winning. Gaetz was the only one to vote for him.

Gaetz is one of 19 Republicans who have remained staunchly anti-McCarthy, although they previously were united behind a challenger candidate, first Jim Jordan and then Byron Donalds.

Gaetz has previously floated the idea of Speaker Trump. If he and his party did agree to vote Trump into speakership, the move would be incredibly unprecedented but not technically forbidden. If he became speaker, one major concern is that Trump would have outsize influence on what legislation comes to the floor.

Legislative power has become fairly centralized in the House speaker, and a Speaker Trump could decide whether bills to keep the government open or raise the debt ceiling ever reach debate.

Fortunately, Gaetz seems alone in his sudden renewed conviction to hand Trump the gavel, with the rest of the House voting for McCarthy, Donald, or Hakeem Jeffries—who has consistently won the most votes every time.

CVS and Walgreens Will Now Sell Abortion Pills After FDA Rule Change

These are two of the biggest pharmacy chains in the country.

Mifepristone (Mifeprex) and Misoprostol, the two drugs used in a medication abortion

CVS and Walgreens, two of the biggest U.S. pharmacy chains, say they plan to offer abortion pills after a rule change this week from the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA announced Tuesday that it would allow retail pharmacies to dispense mifepristone, one of the medications used to induce abortions, for the first time in the United States. Unfortunately, pharmacies in states that have banned abortion since the Supreme Court rolled back the nationwide right to the procedure will not be able to sell the drug.

Pharmacies must first apply for certification from one of the two companies that makes mifepristone. Once they are certified, pharmacists can dispense the drug to anyone who has a prescription.

CVS and Walgreens said Wednesday they were both seeking certification, although they did not specify when they would be able to start dispensing mifepristone. Rite Aid said it was looking into FDA action.

Many reproductive health care experts noted, though, that the FDA rule change is not as big a win as it is being marketed.

Greer Donley, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, pointed out that the certification process is complicated enough that it could turn some pharmacies off. What’s more, there are still multiple barriers to accessing abortion pills, which are highly regulated.

Hayley McMahon, a reproductive health researcher, said that while it’s “significant” that the pharmacy chains have committed to seeking certification, it remains to be seen how much the new FDA rule will affect abortion access.

“This is a step in the right direction, but I do want people to understand that pharmacy certification is still a blatantly unnecessary restriction that is not supported by evidence,” she told The New Republic, referring to the FDA’s decision to continue classifying mifepristone as a high-risk drug, despite no data backing that up.

The second drug needed to complete a medication abortion, misoprostol, is not restricted under the FDA’s high-risk regulation and is already available at retail pharmacies. Anyone prescribed abortion pills will be able to get both medications at any pharmacy certified to dispense mifepristone.

Abortion pills are seen as a key resource in the fight for reproductive rights because they are easier to access than surgical abortions.

Medication abortion currently accounts for more than half of all abortions in the United States, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The pills were already available at reproductive health clinics, from medical care providers, and from mail-order pharmacies. In the two months immediately following the Supreme Court decision, there was also a surge of orders for abortion pills from overseas.

This post has been updated.

Debbie Stabenow Won’t Seek Reelection in 2024, Making a Trickier Senate Map for Democrats

The Democratic senator in a key battleground state is retiring. Here’s who could possibly take her place.

Nathan Howard/Getty Images
Senator Debbie Stabenow

On Thursday morning, Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow announced that she will not seek reelection in 2024. “Inspired by a new generation of leaders, I have decided to pass the torch in the U.S. Senate,” Stabenow said in a statement.

While many congressional announcements can feel full of filler materials, statements like these warrant closer attention at every line. And as Democrats will now have to protect yet another seat in an exceedingly difficult Senate map, the question of who may earn the bid to do so is already buzzing.

Stabenow highlighted how she was the first woman from Michigan elected to the Senate, among other milestones. But, Stabenow continued, “I have always believed it’s not enough to be the ‘first’ unless there is a ‘second’ and a ‘third.’” This may give a clue as to who Stabenow may support among an already wide potential field of candidates.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer led a commanding reelection in November, on the same scale that led the media to fawn over Florida’s Ron DeSantis. Such a performance may be an antecedent to a presidential run, but Biden’s future decision, among other things, could readily skew that calculus. If so, a Whitmer bid for the Senate (especially one blessed by Stabenow) would be formidable.

Former Representative Andy Levin could also lead a strong candidacy. Levin, who is Jewish, was a target of inordinate spending from AIPAC—which has funded scores of conservative and election-denying candidates—in his primary loss to Haley Stevens in 2022. Previously endorsed by Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, J Street, and an array of unions, Levin offers progressives a unifying vessel to rally behind in a state hospitable for a strong Democratic performance.

Other rising Democratic stars in Michigan include: Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist (who would be Michigan’s first Black senator), Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (who won a crucial reelection in 2022), and Attorney General Dana Nessel (the first openly LGBT person elected statewide).

And then there is Pete Buttigieg. After catapulting from mayor of a town with a smaller population than Fargo, North Dakota, to momentarily well-known presidential candidate, to now being the face of transportation while millions of people get skeeved by big airlines, Mayor Pete had moved to Michigan earlier this year to apparently be closer to family.

But as 2024 approaches—and his boss may run for reelection—it seems Buttiegeig may have high hopes to carpetbag himself into winning a seat against a wide, strong field of candidates actually from the state.

Lauren Boebert Says No House Speaker Means Congress Isn’t Spending Money (That’s Not True)

Boebert, who has been opposing Kevin McCarthy’s bid for House speaker, doesn’t seem to entirely understand what that means.

Representative Lauren Boebert speaks at a mic
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Lauren Boebert seems to think that just because the House of Representatives is at a standstill, so is the entire U.S. government.

The far-right Colorado representative spent all Tuesday trying to spin the six consecutive fruitless votes for speaker of the House as a win, insisting that if Congress wasn’t able to do anything, then it couldn’t spend money.

But as MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle pointed out, that’s not the case at all.

Any legislation passed in the previous Congress, such as the enormous $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package, is already in motion. Just because the House is completely dysfunctional now doesn’t put that funding on hold.

It’s worth noting that federal spending also covers items such as Boebert’s salary, transportation, and security, so she should probably hope that it doesn’t stop.

Boebert is one of 21 holdouts against Kevin McCarthy’s bid for speaker of the House. She and 18 other far-right Republicans have voted against him every round. They were joined at the end of Tuesday by Representative Byron Donalds, whom the group put forward as a challenger on Wednesday. Representative Victoria Spartz switched Wednesday from voting “yes” to McCarthy to “present.”

Boebert insisted on the House floor Wednesday that McCarthy does not have the votes to become speaker and should withdraw. In the weirdest twist, Fox News host Sean Hannity noted that she and her cohort also do not have enough votes and should probably also withdraw.

The anti-McCarthy group is refusing to budge, though, and other Republicans have inadvertently begun to say the quiet part out loud: They don’t actually care that much about governing, anyway.

Trying to Save McCarthy, Republicans Admit Their Whole Project Is To Not Govern

“If we’re not doing anything, we’re not doing anything,” said one Republican backing Kevin McCarthy.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy smiles as reporters surround him
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Kevin McCarthy has now gone 0–6 in his attempts to become the speaker of the House, with Wednesday’s three votes being entirely identical. Meanwhile, some right-wingers have been admitting that since the Republican project doesn’t stand for much, other than putting their thumbs down, they could realistically pick anyone for the job.

Indeed, Republicans, who spend their days decrying Democrats as radicals who will not compromise or “work with the other side,” are once again proving that they have no interest in actually governing. That’s the whole point of their project: little government involvement in helping people lead a better life. And they’re finding more avenues to articulate this. “The stakes for the speakership of the House are incredibly low,” Ben Shapiro argued, “because all the leader of the House, basically, has to do is say ‘no’ to most of Joe Biden’s proposals.”

Some conservatives are even explicitly arguing that Congress’s inability to pick a speaker and conduct the people’s business is good, because, as Representative Tim Burchett, who backs McCarthy, says happily, “If we’re not doing anything, we’re not doing anything.”

And just as some on the right are openly revealing how hollow the conservative project really is, others are admitting how the wheels of Republican politics tend to turn: not by the will of voters but by which way the wind of the most conspiratorial among them blows. Representative Guy Reschenthaler, who has backed McCarthy’s speakership bid, said Tuesday that the Republicans holding out might change their mind once Fox News’s Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity weigh in. Since then, the stalemate has only grown, and there is no clear end in sight.

As with nearly every drama in Congress, we are reminded once again of the apathetic, cynical conservative project, one that is devoid of any concern with making people’s lives better.