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Democrats have a shortcut to start undoing parts of Trump's legacy

January 18, 2021 in Blogs

By The Conversation

by Daniel Farber, University of California, Berkeley

The Trump administration dedicated itself to deregulation with unprecedented fervor. It rolled back scores of regulations across government agencies, including more than 80 environmental rules.

The Biden administration can reverse some of those actions quickly – for instance, as president, Joe Biden can undo Donald Trump’s executive orders with a stroke of the pen. He plans to restore U.S. involvement in the Paris climate agreement that way on his first day in office.

Undoing most regulatory rollbacks, however, will require a review process that can take years, often followed by further delays during litigation.

There is an alternative, but it comes with risks.

Biden could take a leaf from the Republicans’ 2017 playbook, when congressional Republicans used a shortcut based on an obscure federal law called the Congressional Review Act to wipe out several Obama administration regulations. Some scholars have called these 2017 repeals arguably “the Trump administration’s chief domestic policy accomplishment of its first 100 days.”

Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of interest in having the new Democratic-controlled Congress turn the tables and use the same procedure against Trump’s regulatory rollbacks.

However, this procedure is far from a panacea for undoing Trump’s legacy. Its arcane rules can tie the hands of future administrations without providing clear standards for how it applies, and it offers little time for deliberation.

How Congress could cancel Trump’s rollbacks

The 1996 Congressional Review Act provides a way of undoing new rules issued by executive branch agencies without being mired in agency and court proceedings. Democrats could use it to cancel rollbacks by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department and others.

The Congressional Review Act applies equally whether a rule expands regulation or rolls it back. Within 60 legislative days after a new rule comes out, Congress can disapprove it using streamlined procedures. Senate filibusters are not allowed, and Senate debate is limited to 10 hours. Since only days Congress is in session are counted, the act can apply to regulations that go back several months.

Once a rule is disapproved, it’s dead forever. It can’t be reissued.

But that isn’t all. The act says no rule can be issued in “substantially the same form” without additional authorization from Congress.

How similar does a future rule have to be before it becomes “substantially the same”? There is no definitive answer, so there’s some …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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'It'll be harder to hide': Ex-FDA chief warns mutant coronavirus strains 'may change everything'

January 18, 2021 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 11.1 million people in the United States have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. But the rollout is much slower than had been promised. And former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, in a Twitter thread posted over the weekend, expresses concerns that “persistent high infection” will continue “through spring” unless “we vaccinate enough people.”

Highly infectious new COVID-19 variants have emerged in the U.K., South Africa and elsewhere. And Dr. Gottlieb notes that COVID variants have been making their way to the U.S.:

The U.S., Gottlieb warns, needs to do everything it can to decrease the spread of COVID-19 while getting as many Americans as possible vaccinated:

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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How Bill Barr's work 'laid the groundwork' for the Capitol siege: journalist

January 18, 2021 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

In December, then-Attorney General William Barr infuriated many diehard supporters of President Donald Trump when he acknowledged Joe Biden as president-elect and told the Associated Press that he saw no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. And following the attack on the U.S. Capitol, Barr was sharply critical of Trump’s role in inspiring his followers, saying he orchestrated “a mob to pressure Congress” and calling it a “betrayal of his office.”

Commentators should be careful before giving Barr too much credit, though. Barr was long among Trump’s most vigorous defenders, and journalist Marcy Wheeler — in an article published on her Empty Wheel blog this week — argues that he has a great deal of “complicity” in the violence that occurred in Washington, D.C. on January 6.

Barr, according to Wheeler, promoted “policies that laid the groundwork for the January 6 insurrection” — for example, he spent “months prioritizing the criminalization of Antifa and Black Lives Matter, even as his own department showed that right-wing terrorism was a far more serious problem and the Boogaloos were deliberately attempting to launch false flag operations pinned on Antifa.”

The former U.S. attorney general, according to Wheeler, made “speeches arguing that progressive politics were a threat to the nation” and treated “overt threats against a judge from the Proud Boys as a technicality unworthy of a sentencing enhancement” in the Roger Stone case. Moreover, Wheeler writes, Barr “repeatedly” claimed that “mail-in ballots were prone to fraud in defiance of the evidence — a key part of Trump’s later attempts to undermine the outcome of the election.”

Journalist Jonathan Swan, in an article published by Axios this week, reports that Trump was quite disappointed when Barr described the president’s belief in a “stolen election” as “bullshit.” But Wheeler strongly disagrees with media accounts of a “wise old Attorney General Bill Barr who stood up against the president’s worst instincts, wisely resisting the urge to politicize investigations, trump up claims of voter fraud, chase the theories of Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, and back a violent crackdown against Trump’s opponents.”

That description of Barr, according to Wheeler, is a “fictional character” now being promoted in the mainstream media — and the fact remains that Barr spent months defending Trump at every turn, she stresses.

“The reality is that (for) over two years…. Billy Barr helped to create …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Martin Luther King warned about people like Trump and his ilk — and knew how to respond to their crimes

January 18, 2021 in Blogs

By Salon

Time is broken in the Age of Trump. The ability to distort reality is one of fascism’s greatest powers. World-historical events are collapsed down into a few days or weeks. Perspective is lost.

Over the course of two weeks, the American people experienced an attempted fascist coup by Donald Trump and then his subsequent impeachment for inciting insurrection. On Inauguration Day, two weeks after Trump’s supporters overran the U.S. Capitol building, Joe Biden will finally become president of the United States of America.

This essay is being published on Monday, Jan. 18, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It is now two days before Inauguration and five days after Trump’s impeachment. These days feel like years.

Dr. King was martyred by a white supremacist assassin in 1968. More than 50 years later, white supremacists with their Confederate flags, Nazi tattoos and T-shirts and other symbols of hate, attacked the U.S. Capitol with lethal results. Once again, we are reminded that white supremacy and the color line are a type of changing same in America.

The forces of white supremacy and American Apartheid that Dr. King fought against those decades ago were never fully exorcised or vanquished.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a civic holiday in America, one when the country celebrates its own belief (which is really a comforting lie) that it transcended racism and white supremacy through the blood sacrifice of one man and the other (acceptable) heroes of the civil rights movement.

Dr. King’s civic holiday has its obligatory rituals. There will be the documentaries and other films and movies about his life and the civil rights movement. Famous people will offer words of wisdom. There will be disappointment. There will be hope. There will be marches and gatherings — made even more poignant and surreal by life in a time of plague.

And on Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2021, the juxtaposition of Donald Trump’s ignominy with King’s moral vision and life of sacrifice will be almost impossible to ignore.

One of the obligatory public rituals on this day is the summoning of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech, which is often misrepresented and willfully distorted.

In the (white) American popular imagination, King’s dream of racial equality and real democracy are understood as being something accomplished with the …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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GOP senator slams his party for 'winking at QAnon' — and sounds the alarm about its influence

January 18, 2021 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

When a violent mob of insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, some of them could be seen showing off the letter “Q” — representing the QAnon conspiracy cult. The attack itself was seen by many adherents as a culmination of the QAnon worldview.

Sen. Ben Sasse, a conservative Nebraska Republican who openly opposed efforts to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory, examines QAnon’s influence on his party in an article published by The Atlantic this week. And the senator stresses that other Republicans need to publicly condemn QAnon and other extremists for the good of their party.

“Until last week, many party leaders and consultants thought they could preach the Constitution while winking at QAnon,” Sasse explains. “They can’t. The GOP must reject conspiracy theories or be consumed by them. Now is the time to decide what this party is about.”

QAnon adherents ascribe to a false and delusional worldview in which the federal government of the United States, especially Democrats, has been infiltrated by an international cabal of child sex traffickers, pedophiles, Satanists and cannibals and that President Donald Trump was put in the White House to lead the struggle against the cabal. The conspiracy fiction has deep roots in anti-Semitic myths. Some QAnon supporters in the GOP have been elected to Congress, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

According to Sasse, no good can comr from having extremists like Greene in the Republican Party.

“The newly elected Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs,” Sasse writes. “She once ranted that ‘there’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out, and I think we have the president to do it.’ During her campaign, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had a choice: disavow her campaign and potentially lose a Republican seat, or welcome her into his caucus and try to keep a lid on her ludicrous ideas. McCarthy failed the leadership test and sat on the sidelines.”

Sasse continues, “If the GOP is to have a future outside the fever dreams of internet trolls, we have to call out falsehoods and conspiracy theories unequivocally. We have to repudiate people who peddle those lies.”

The Nebraska …read more

Source: ALTERNET