In the last two days, for example, the House has voted to slash 39% of the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and 13% of the budget of the National Park Service. It voted to require the Biden administration to advance oil drilling off the Alaska coast. It has voted on reducing the salary of the EPA administrator, the director of the Bureau of Land Management, and the Secretary of the Interior to $1 each.
Today, Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT), who was former president Trump’s Interior Secretary until he left under accusations of misconduct, introduced a bill to ban Palestinians from the United States and to revoke any visas issued to Palestinians since October 1 of this year.
Although the U.S. has resettled only about 2,000 Palestinians in the last 20 years, ten other far-right members of the House signed onto Zinke’s bill, which draws no distinction between Hamas and Palestinian civilians.
This blanket attack on a vulnerable population echoes Trump’s travel ban of January 27, 2017, just a week after he took office. Executive Order 13769 stopped travel from primarily Muslim countries—Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen—for ninety days. The list of countries appeared random—Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, countries from which terrorists have sometimes come directly to the U.S., weren’t on the list—and appeared to fulfill a campaign promise and assert a new view of executive power.
Insisting that immigrants endanger the country is a key tactic of authoritarians. Excluding them is a central principle of those eager to tear down democracy: they insist that immigration destroys a nation’s traditions and undermines native-born Americans.
To direct his communications team, Johnson has tapped Raj Shah, a former executive from the Fox News Corporation, who was a key player in promoting the lie that Trump won the 2020 presidential election.
Johnson has hired Shah to be his deputy chief of staff for communications and, according to Alex Isenstadt of Politico, “help run messaging for House Republicans.”
The extremists are doubling down on Trump and his election lies even as his allies are admitting in court that they are, indeed, lies.
Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows is in trouble with the publisher of his memoir after admitting that under oath that the election had been fair. The publisher is suing him for millions in damages for basing his book on the idea that the election had been stolen and representing that “all statements contained in the Work are true.” The publisher says it has pulled the book off the market.
House extremists continue to back Trump even as he is openly calling for an authoritarian second term.
On Wednesday, Jonathan Swan, Charlie Savage, and Maggie Haberman of the New York Times reported that Trump was frustrated in his first term by lawyers who refused to go along with his wishes, trying to stay within the law, so Trump's allies are making lists of lawyers they believe would be “more aggressive” on issues of immigration, taking over the Department of Justice, and overturning elections.
John Mitnick, who served in Trump’s first term, told the reporters that “no qualified attorneys with integrity will have any desire to serve as political appointees” in a second Trump term.
Trump has also made it clear he and his allies want to gut the nonpartisan civil service and fill tens of thousands of government positions with his own loyalists.
Trump’s allies believe that agencies like the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Securities and Exchange Commission should not be independent but should push the president’s agenda.
This week, Trump vowed to take over higher education too. In a campaign video, he promised to tax private universities with large endowments to fund a new institution called “American Academy.” The school, which would be online only, would award free degrees and funnel students into jobs with the U.S. government and federal contractors.
In admirable understatement, Politico’s Meridith McGraw and Michael Stratford noted: “Using the federal government to create an entirely new educational institution aimed at competing with the thousands of existing schools would drastically reshape American higher education.”
Republicans appear determined to push their agenda over the wishes of voters.
In Ohio, where voters on Tuesday will decide whether to amend the state constitution to make it a constitutional right to “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions,” Republicans first tried to make it harder to amend the state constitution, and then, when voters rejected that attempt, the Republican-dominated state senate began to use an official government website to spread narratives about the constitutional amendment that legal and medical experts called false or misleading.
In an unusual move, the Republican secretary of state, Frank LaRose, quietly purged more than 26,000 voters from the rolls in late September.
Virginia officials also reported last week that they had accidentally removed more than 3,400 eligible voters from the rolls.
Toughts & Comments
There's stuff about a potential universal, free higher education program that I will want to address for research purposes.
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