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Bernie Sanders Says He Cannot “in Good Conscience” Vote for Debt Ceiling Bill

“The future of the world is literally at stake,” the Vermont senator wrote in announcing his opposition.

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Senator Bernie Sanders

Amid the day-to-day rough-and-tumble of Washington, D.C., we become susceptible to forgetting that days turn to months, and months turn to years. But as the sands of time drift, scientists have been loudly warning about the prognosis of our planet as we know it: It’s not “we need to change before it’s too late,” but “we are on the final brink of being too late.”

On Wednesday, Senator Bernie Sanders announced his opposition to the debt ceiling agreement Republicans ironed out with the White House due to its giveaways to fossil fuel companies and its targeting of social services.

“The best thing to be said about the current deal on the debt ceiling is that it could have been much worse,” Sanders began in a statement. “Instead of making massive cuts to health care, education, childcare, nutrition assistance, and other vital programs over the next decade, this bill proposes to make modest cuts to these programs over a 2-year period.”

Sanders panned the agreement for austerely cutting programs for working people, while doing nothing to challenge entrenched power centers in America, like the bloated military budget or Big Pharma. And he also focused on one of the more puzzling add-ins (whose presence in the bill can only be explained as a favor to Joe Manchin, an emblem of fossil fuel corruption): the expediting of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

“At a time when climate change is, by far, the most existential threat facing our country and the entire world I cannot, in good conscience, vote for a bill that makes it easier for fossil fuel companies to pollute and destroy the planet by fast-tracking the disastrous Mountain Valley Pipeline,” Sanders said. “When the future of the world is literally at stake we must have the courage to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and tell them, and the politicians they sponsor, that the future of the planet is more important than their short-term profits.”

Sanders instead offered an alternative path for the Biden administration. “The fact of the matter is that this bill is totally unnecessary. The President has the authority and the ability to eliminate the debt ceiling today by invoking the 14th Amendment,” Sanders said. “I look forward to the day when he exercises this authority and puts an end, once and for all, to the outrageous actions of the extreme right-wing to hold our entire economy hostage in order to get what they want.”

Sanders’s statement was refreshing—not just for its refusal to cave to the hostage situation that Republicans built but for its clarity in reiterating that while the latest episode of D.C. melodrama plays out, indeed, the health of the planet as we know it is “literally at stake.”

Such a statement of opposition stands in stark contrast to those put out by the likes of Nancy Mace or the extremist House Freedom Caucus, as they complain the bill does not do enough to cut government investment in the lives of its people.

“Deficit reduction cannot just be about cutting programs that working families, the children, the sick, the elderly, and the poor depend upon,” Sanders said. “It must be about demanding that the billionaire class and profitable corporations pay their fair share of taxes, reining in out-of-control military spending, reducing the price of prescription drugs, and ending billions of dollars in corporate welfare that goes to the fossil fuel industry and other corporate interests.”

Greg Abbott Appoints Election Skeptic as Interim Texas Attorney General

John Scott once agreed to represent Donald Trump in his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott

Governor Greg Abbott on Wednesday appointed the former Texas secretary of state, who was involved in trying to overturn the 2020 election, as interim attorney general.

The state House voted overwhelmingly on Saturday to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton for a raft of alleged crimes, including bribery and abuse of office. It was only the third impeachment in Texas history. Paxton had to immediately step aside from his duties and could be removed from office entirely, pending the result of a Senate trial.

Abbott announced Wednesday that John Scott, a lawyer and the former secretary of state, would fill in while Paxton’s trial plays out. Abbott appointed Scott as secretary of state in October 2021, and he served through the midterm elections until the end of 2022.

The official press release listed Scott’s many qualifications, including that he “aided then-Attorney General Abbott’s efforts to hold the Obama Administration accountable and sue President Obama more than any other Attorney General.” While working under Abbott as deputy attorney general, Scott also defended the Texas voter identification law that federal courts ultimately found was discriminatory and created an undue burden on Black and Hispanic voters.

Scott’s initial appointment to state secretary was controversial for a few reasons. First, he was appointed after the legislative session had ended, so he never had to go through the traditional confirmation process.

But more significantly, he also briefly agreed to represent Donald Trump in his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Scott signed on as counsel to a lawsuit Trump filed to stop the certification of Pennsylvania’s election results. (He filed a motion to withdraw as attorney for the plaintiffs a few days later.)

Although his stint on Team Trump was brief, he seems to have carried that election skepticism into his role in the Texas government. While he eventually conceded that Joe Biden won the 2020 election and that Texas’s elections were fair and secure, he also continued to fuel election misinformation among voters.

Scott’s office oversaw a nearly yearlong audit of the 2020 election results in four of Texas’s largest counties, including the Democratic-leaning Harris and Dallas counties. None of the audits showed there had been any fraud.

During his time as secretary of state, Scott also helped shepherd in a controversial voting law that had been prompted by Trump’s false claims that fraudulent votes were cast. The law rolled back a lot of initiatives that made it easier for people of color to vote, including drive-thru voting, early voting, and mail-in ballot applications. Instead, the law created new identification requirements for mail-in voting, set up monthly reviews to prove voters’ citizenship, and increased protections for partisan poll watchers.

If Right-Wingers Want to Boycott “Woke” Companies, Add This AR-15 Manufacturer to the List

If all it takes is a DEI director or a celebration of Pride to be woke, the list of companies the right should boycott is actually quite long.

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An attendee views an AR-15-style rifle during the NRA convention in Indianapolis on April 15.

Chick-fil-A, Target, Bud Light, and more have all become targets of the far right for having even a hint of association with LGBTQ people or efforts to promote diversity, equity, or inclusion.

And with Pride Month right around the corner—with millions of people across the country ready to rejoice in the joy of embracing one’s own sense of love and celebrate other people’s liberation too—it might prove difficult for those on the far right to keep track of all the companies they’ll need to bravely rise up against.

Ruger, for instance—one of the top firearm manufacturers in America—has its own set of diversity and inclusion policies.

Here’s a list of other brands the far right can try going after for the high crime of purporting to care about LGBTQ people or diversity, equity, and inclusion:

This list, of course, is not comprehensive. But if the far right really wants to weed out the dregs of the woke agenda, they’re going to have to go after some of their favorite American brands.

GOP Congressman Says Debt Bill Should Go After Low-Income Housing Too

With a House vote on the bill quickly approaching, Glenn Grothman is making one last attempt to cut even more social services.

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Representative Glenn Grothman

Republicans are now upset about the debt ceiling bill for another reason: It doesn’t go after low-income housing.

The White House–backed debt limit deal narrowly cleared the House Rules Committee on Tuesday by a vote of 7–6. During the meeting, several lawmakers proposed amendments to the bill, including Wisconsin Republican Glenn Grothman. He expressed frustration that the bill would only impose work requirements on food stamps.

“They left low-income housing untouched,” he said. “I think as far as discouraging work and discouraging marriage, I think low-income housing is even a more dangerous program than the food stamps. So I’m including low-income housing in the mix of having work requirements.”

This is not necessarily a new line of attack for Republicans. When they pushed through their disastrous budget bill in April, their plan included slashing funding for housing and homelessness programs by nearly a quarter. Housing advocates warned that hundreds of thousands of families could face eviction and possible homelessness if the policy were implemented.

This is one of the first times, though, that the GOP has been so vocal in opposing low-income housing. It’s also definitely the first time that someone has argued affordable housing discourages people from getting married.

Very few people seem to like the debt deal, with far-right Republicans arguing it hasn’t gone far enough with spending cuts and progressives warning it has gone too far in cutting aid. A major sticking point for progressives is the changes to food assistance. The bill would impose work requirements for the SNAP program, or food stamps, and lower the number of people who qualify for work requirement exemptions.

The bill would also change the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, potentially making it harder to get cash assistance. What’s more, the Congressional Budget Office found that food stamp work requirements wouldn’t actually help the deficit.

Grothman put his amendment forward the day before the House’s expected vote and just a few days before the United States is expected to default. His move is a sign that some far-right Republicans won’t go down without a fight. Even if the bill passes, they’re going to try and take down every social service they can in the process.

The Big Problem With Chris Christie’s Presidential Announcement

The former New Jersey governor’s anti-Trump New Hampshire bet isn’t likely to pay off.

ASTRID STAWIARZ/GETTY IMAGES
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

Next week, Chris Christie will make it official: At a town hall on Tuesday in Manchester, New Hampshire, the former New Jersey governor will announce that he is running for president.

Chris Christie’s case for the presidency primarily boils down to two arguments. The first is that he’s sort of like Donald Trump—a brash, loud jerk who says what he thinks and brings a certain WFAN regular caller vibe to politics—but, crucially, is not Donald Trump. The thinking here is that Republican voters want someone who is a jerk (probably true) but would like that person to be more competent and even-keeled than the former president (the jury is still out). On this point, moreover, Christie may have the thinking backward: GOP voters like Donald Trump when he is brashly criticizing other Republicans (like Chris Christie) but may not be quite so keen on hearing an establishment figure go at Trump. Still, Christie is betting that he can outmuscle Trump on the debate stage—the way he once bullied Marco Rubio (but not ... Donald Trump).

On that point, Christie is also betting big that New Hampshire is the place to mount his political comeback. There is some logic to this. In 2020, Joe Biden easily bested Trump in the Granite State, performing five points better than Hillary Clinton did in 2016. New Hampshire voters may be souring on Trump, the thinking goes; in any case, primary campaigns need momentum and Christie is banking on finding some in New England. The big problem with this theory though is that Christie has been here before. Christie famously destroyed Rubio’s presidential campaign on a New Hampshire debate stage shortly before the state’s 2016 primary. Doing so didn’t help Chris Christie—he dropped out shortly after the election after winning a shade over 20,000 votes (7 percent) in the state’s primary in 2016. Instead, the candidate he helped was … Donald Trump. Christie is betting that the game has changed since, but he’s an even more marginal figure in Republican politics now than he was then, even if the taint of Bridgegate has worn off. There’s nothing to suggest that this time around will be any different for Christie.

“Moderate” Nancy Mace Goes on Steve Bannon’s Show to Complain About Debt Bill

Bannon, a white nationalist, thanked Mace for being “one of the leaders of having people grow a set.”

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Representative Nancy Mace

Self-proclaimed “independent” and “caucus of one” Representative Nancy Mace brought a set of literal brass balls to Steve Bannon’s War Room program, as she whipped up support for sending the country into default.

Mace appeared on the far-right host’s show Wednesday, digging into her opposition to the debt ceiling bill. She seemed to have impressed Bannon after posting a nearly 20-tweet thread on Tuesday criticizing the bill.

“Her Twitter threads … have been some of the best,” Bannon said Wednesday.

Progressives are opposed to the bill, by virtue of having been made hostages who have to agree to increased work requirements for food aid and economic assistance for the poorest Americans. Mace’s opposition, however, is rooted in the bill not doing enough cutting.

Mace claims to have taken issue with the government’s growth over the last three years—so much so that she had no problem appearing on a white nationalist’s show to complain about the debt bill.

When she wasn’t explaining her strong opposition to the government making people’s lives better—or calling herself “independent” because of her supposedly “moderate” views on abortion (Mace has continually fallen in line with Republicans on anti-abortion bills)—she was showing off a pair of literal brass balls she brought from South Carolina, to illustrate how she apparently has more balls than her Republican colleagues by being opposed to any bill that doesn’t cut more from the government.

Wednesday was not the first time Mace appeared on Bannon’s show. Just a little over two weeks ago, the South Carolina Republican joined Bannon to talk about the House Oversight Committee’s never-ending and fruitless investigations in Joe Biden.

“It’s Cruelty”: House Progressives Slam Debt Ceiling Bill as Vote Nears

“This never should have been the case in the first place,” said Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal.

Representative Pramila Jayapal speaks at a press conference
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Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Representative Pramila Jayapal

White House and Republican negotiators seem confident that the new debt ceiling bill will pass, but it’s going to be a long fight to get there.

At least 33 Republicans have already signaled they will vote against the bill, with several calling for Kevin McCarthy to be ousted from the speakership over the measure. And many progressives don’t like the bill either.

Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal told reporters Wednesday that she would vote “no” on the debt bill and implied that many other caucus members would do the same. She noted the Democratic caucus meeting had a somber tone because “people feel like this never should have been the case in the first place.”

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said earlier this month that she would “never” vote for legislation that included spending cuts to programs or lacked a “clean” debt ceiling, meaning an increase without conditions. Her office confirmed her stance on Tuesday. Representative Greg Casar told MSNBC he would also vote “no,” describing the bill as a “ransom deal” and a “hostage situation.”

Representative Ro Khanna said that he believed enough Democrats would back the bill so that the United States won’t default, but “some of us are going to vote no on principle.”

“We don’t believe that you should be taking away food assistance from the most vulnerable when we have an affordability crisis, that you should be hurting people who are student loan borrowers,” he told Morning Joe.

A big sticking point for progressives is the changes the bill would make to food assistance. The deal would impose work requirements for the SNAP program, or food stamps, and lower the number of people who qualify for work requirement exemptions. The bill would also change the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, potentially making it harder to get cash assistance.

Not only will all this make it harder for people to get food aid, but the Congressional Budget Office found that work requirements wouldn’t actually help the deficit all that much.

Senator Elizabeth Warren slammed the bill for “demanding we pinch pennies” on food assistance and health care. “This is not fiscal responsibility. It’s cruelty,” she tweeted Tuesday.

Representative Cori Bush said she was “leaning” toward voting against the deal. “As somebody who was a food stamp recipient, there is absolutely no way I can see myself green-lighting something that will take food from people’s mouths,” she said.

Jim McGovern, a leading anti-hunger lawmaker in the House, put things the most bluntly: Republicans are cutting “funding that helps the most vulnerable in this country,” he said. “Give me a goddamn break.”

“Republicans are unfit to govern,” McGovern said. “I didn’t come to Congress to hurt people. And when I listen to my Republican friends, what is clear to me is that we don’t share the same values.”

Trump Rips Into Former Press Secretary for Mentioning Rising DeSantis Poll Numbers

Trump attacked Kayleigh McEnany, a Trump loyalist, and called her “milktoast.”

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Kayleigh McEnany

On Tuesday, twice-impeached, criminally indicted, and liable-for-sexual-abuse former President Donald Trump attacked his former press secretary, “Kayleigh Milktoast McEnany,” on his far-right social media platform, Truth Social.

Imagine reading that sentence in 2015.

“RINOS & Globalists can have her,” Trump said (“RINOS” meaning Republican in name only).

Trump went after McEnany after she appeared on Jesse Watters’s Fox show, where she discussed Ron DeSantis’s polling in Iowa. “If you look at the polling now, it was Trump [with a] 34 [point lead] in Iowa, it’s now Trump 25,” McEnany said, noting that team DeSantis saw this as a positive sign of growth since announcing the campaign. “Still, Trump’s hugely ahead, but they say they’re closing the gap. That’s their argument,” she followed.

It’s not entirely clear what poll McEnany is citing; the most recent Iowa poll had Trump up by 42 points.

“Kayleigh ‘Milktoast’ McEnany just gave out the wrong poll numbers on FoxNews. I am 34 points up on DeSanctimonious, not 25 up,” Trump lambasted on Truth Social. “She knew the number was corrected upwards by the group that did the poll.”

Trump appeared to be trying to call McEnany “milquetoast,” but, as often is the case, spelling is not his strong suit. It’s not clear what poll Trump is referring to either, for that matter.

“FoxNews should only use REAL Stars!!!” Trump concluded.

McEnany received all that flak for making observations based on numbers she presumably assumed were true. All while still noting that “Trump’s hugely ahead.”

Beyond serving as Trump’s main attack dog and shield against the press for years—both on the campaign side and in the White House—McEnany was among the leading public-facing peddlers of false claims about the 2020 election.

The day after January 6, 2021, McEnany took to the White House press podium to defend the administration, saying that “those who violently besieged our Capitol are the opposite of everything this administration stands for.” It’s a humorous claim now, given Trump has since repeatedly expressed his eagerness to pardon “those who violently besieged our Capitol.”

Twitter Is Now Worth a Third What Elon Musk Paid for It

This is what happens when you keep inviting Nazis to your site.

In this photo illustration, a Twitter logo is seen displayed on a smartphone .
Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Twitter’s value has tanked since Elon Musk took over six months ago, with the company now worth just one-third what he originally paid for it.

Musk paid $44 billion for the social media platform in October, an amount he raised with the help of 19 outside investors, which included Fidelity Investors. The company released its monthly disclosure of portfolio valuations on Tuesday, which revealed just how far Twitter has fallen.

Twitter, under its new name X Holdings Corp., was worth just $6.5 billion at the end of April, a 66 percent drop from when Musk first took the reins.* This is the second time that Fidelity recorded a decrease in Twitter’s value. Just a month after Musk bought it, Twitter’s value dropped 56 percent, according to Fidelity’s valuations report.

Musk insists there’s no issue at Twitter, but he knows better. During an interview with the BBC in April, Musk claimed Twitter was close to being “cash-flow positive.” But just a month before, he reportedly told employees that the company was worth only $20 billion, less than half what he paid for it.

Since taking over, Musk has gone to great lengths to make Twitter profitable. Those methods include firing about three-quarters of all employees, accepting money from the Taliban, not paying rent, and begging people to sign up for the Twitter Blue subscription plan. That last strategy is going super well: Far fewer than 1 percent of the platform’s more than 500 million monthly users subscribe to Twitter Blue.

Musk also gutted content moderation guidelines and let Nazis back online, which has allowed hate speech to flourish on the platform, including on his own profile. These moves sent advertisers fleeing in droves, and any efforts to win them back have been unsuccessful. Musk even self-sabotaged a bit by allowing erstwhile Fox News host Tucker Carlson to launch his new show on Twitter.

So all in all, the tanking market value sounds like just another day at Twitter under Musk.

* This piece originally misstated the valuation of Twitter at the end of April.

Biden Accuser Tara Reade Says She’s Defecting to Russia

“Luckily, the Kremlin is accommodating. So we’re lucky.”

Wikimedia Commons

Tara Reade is defecting to Russia.

On Tuesday, the former Senate aide who had accused President Joe Biden of sexual assault appeared at a Russian state press conference to make the announcement. Flanked by alleged Russian spy Maria Butina, Reade told the press that she no longer feels safe in America.

“I feel very surrounded by protection and safety,” Reade said. “And I just really so appreciate Maria [Butina] and everyone who’s been giving me that at a time when it’s been very difficult to know if I’m safe or not.”

“You have U.S. and European citizens looking for safe haven here,” Reade continued. “And luckily, the Kremlin is accommodating. So we’re lucky.”

Reade’s defection follows reports of Russia apparently being interested in building a special village outside Moscow meant to serve as a refuge for conservative Americans and Canadians.

“To my Russian brothers and sisters, I’m sorry right now that American elites are choosing to have such an aggressive stance,” Reade said during the conference. “Just know that most American citizens do want to be friends and hope that we can have unity again.”

In 2019, Reade spoke out about an alleged workplace culture in Biden’s office rife with abuses of “power and control.” Numerous outlets—including the Associated Press, The Washington Post, and Vox—spoke with her about some of the allegations but declined to report further after finding discrepancies or contradictions.

Then, in 2020, Reade officially accused then-nominee Biden of sexually assaulting her in 1993, when she was a staff assistant in his Senate office. Biden denied the allegations.

Initially, there seemed to be some corroboration. In The New York Times’ initial reporting, one friend was cited as recalling Reade telling her of the allegations at the time. Another friend and Reade’s brother said they had been told of details over time. Even a court document from divorce proceedings in 1996 provided some contemporaneous evidence. “On several occasions petitioner related a problem that she was having at work regarding sexual harassment in U.S. Senator Joe Biden’s office,” read the document. (Reade had divorced her husband, Ted Dronen, after accusing him of being abusive to her and their then-15-month-old daughter. Dronen had acknowledged being violent with her once, but cast doubt on some of her other testimony.)

Meanwhile, according to the Times and elsewhere, others who worked in the office with Reade said they could not attest to such an incident. Staff aides who Reade said she told at the time all said they did not recall the incident. A Politico investigation held that Reade “left a trail of aggrieved acquaintances in California’s Central Coast region who say they remember two things about her—she spoke favorably about her time working for Biden, and she left them feeling duped.”

While not uncommon for survivors, Reade was found to have changed her story numerous times. She also maintained she was fired for retaliation. But a PBS investigation featuring interviews with over 70 former Biden staffers found that Reade lost her job because of poor performance. Reade had written various reasons over the years for why she departed: to pursue acting and writing, out of fatigue at America’s “deception and xenophobia” toward Russia, or to return to the Midwest to be with a boyfriend.

In that vein, Reade has a history of supporting Russia, which makes her defection perhaps a little less surprising. After Russia invaded Ukraine last year, Reade posted a YouTube video praising Russian officials and criticized American censorship of “good news outlets” like state-run network Russia Today. Reade was able to generate such warm relations, she was apparently invited by Russian diplomats to a U.N. Security Council meeting on “weapons diversion”—something she has no expertise on.

Reade told Semafor that she was invited because of her commentary on the invasion. She also called herself a “longtime anti-imperialist” and expressed her frustrations with “Russophobia.”