Headlines: September 25, 2020
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The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s body lay in state at the capitol in Washington DC this Friday, a week after her death. She becomes the first woman and first Jewish person to lie in state. Government officials and lawmakers filed by to pay their respects Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden and his wife Jill, and Biden’s running mate Kamala Harris. Top GOP figures Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy were conspicuously absent. On Thursday while Ginsburg’s coffin lay at the Supreme Court President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania paid their respects, both wearing face coverings. As Trump stood a gathered crowd nearby began booing loudly and then chanted “vote him out,” and “honor her wish.”
Democratic Party leaders appear to have capitulated instantly to the Republican push to fill Ginsburg’s seat at lightning speed even though four years ago the GOP refused to allow Obama to fill a vacancy. The Daily Poster on Thursday published parts of an internal memo that outlined a series of possible tactics that Democrats could adopt to undermine a Senate confirmation hearing for Trump’s nominee – tactics that the liberal party seems loathe to use. Even as the minority party Democratic Senators could require procedures that keep GOP Senators who are facing close reelection races to remain in Washington until November 3rd. Instead, in an interview on MSNBC, Democratic Senator Cory Booker said he wanted to appeal to the Republicans’ “sense of decency” over the fight for Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat. Democrats are also introducing a measure to limit Supreme Court justices to 18-year term limits – which would not apply to any current sitting Justice. Trump says he will announce his nominee on Saturday.
On Thursday Trump, for the second day in a row, declined to commit to a peaceful transition of power if he were to lose the election. He said, “We want to make sure that the election is honest, and I’m not sure that it can be,” reviving his favorite claim that the election is not trustworthy because people are being sent ballots in the mail during a pandemic. In a speech, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders warned that, “This is not just an election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. This is an election between Donald Trump and democracy.” Sanders endorsed a call for a national nonpartisan election commission to ensure the integrity of the race. The U.S. Senate in what was an apparent rebuke to Trump’s threats, unanimously passed a non-binding resolution supporting a peaceful transition to power. But Republican Senators have refused to criticize Trump by name, except for GOP Senator Ben Sasse who dismissed concerns saying, “The President says crazy stuff.”
American voters are requesting mail-in ballots in record numbers this year. So far about 28 million voters have requested ballots and states are sending out an additional 43 million mail-in ballots. But depending on which state voters are registered in, mail-in ballots have varying degrees of whether they will count. A small number of states require witness signatures for mail-in ballots and often those whose ballots are rejected are never informed. Meanwhile the Justice Department is coming under criticism for issuing an unusual announcement about a small number of ballots that it says were discarded in Pennsylvania. Federal investigators took the bizarre position of revealing details of an investigation before it was complete and, even more improperly, revealing that the votes were for Donald Trump. Critics worry that such announcements are politicized in order to fuel Trump’s unfounded claims of vote fraud against him. Indeed, on Thursday this is what the President said to reporters seemingly laying the groundwork to question the results of the election. Yet FBI Director Christopher Wray at a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing made clear that there was no coordinated national voter fraud taking place.
In what critics are calling a thinly veiled attempt at bribing people to vote for him, Trump this week announced that his administration would be sending $200 cash cards to seniors ahead of the election to offset costs of rising drug prices—even though there is no funding for such an effort either from the government or pharmaceutical companies. The Wall Street Journal reported that the cards would be paid for by a Medicare trust fund – an attempt that a Kaiser Family Foundation described as “unprecedented.” Republicans meanwhile are taking issue with Democrat Mike Bloomberg’s efforts to pay off former felons’ fines to enable them to exercise their right to vote.
In other news, after years of legally and rhetorically attacking the Affordable Care Act, and claiming to introduce his own, better, healthcare plan, Trump has rebranded Obamacare and is attempting to pass it off as his own. On Thursday Trump signed an executive order protecting those people with “pre-existing” conditions from being price gouged by the insurance industry—even though such a thing is already federal law thanks to Obamacare. Trying hard to sell the 10-year old law as his own Trump bizarrely said, “Obamacare is no longer Obamacare, as we worked on it and managed it very well. What we have now is a much better plan.”
The coronavirus continues to devastate the United States with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and his wife becoming the latest high-profile figures to test positive for the disease. There are now a whopping 40,000 new cases a day over the past week – an increase from 34,000 a day. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predict an additional 20,000 deaths in the nation by October 17th.
In Kentucky where protests over Breonna Taylor’s death continue, calls are mounting for the Republican Attorney General and Trump ally Daniel Cameron to release all the grand jury evidence that led to no charges for the officers who killed her. Kentucky’s only black female legislator Attica Scott was among those arrested in protests and has been slapped with a felony rioting charge. In Los Angeles, where protesters gathered to demand justice for Taylor, a truck slammed into one protester as it attempted to drive the wrong way into a crowd—a now familiar tactic of rightwing Trump supporters. And, a police officer in Seattle, Washington has been suspended for riding his bicycle over the head of a protester who was prone in the middle of the street.