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Kevin McCarthy Begs Republicans to Back His Unfinished Debt Ceiling Plan

This isn’t the first time McCarthy has had to ask his party to please just get behind him.

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Kevin McCarthy’s debt ceiling bill goes up for a vote next week—despite being so unpopular in his own party that he is reportedly begging people to back it.

The House speaker unveiled a plan Monday to raise the debt ceiling into next year, so that the United States won’t default on its debt. Democrats and Republicans are locked in a protracted battle over the debt limit, and the GOP had previously indicated they were willing to hold the debt ceiling hostage in order to reduce government spending.

McCarthy offered few specifics about his plan, which has turned many of his fellow House Republicans off. Although House Rules Chairman Tom Cole told CNN Tuesday the debt limit bill will go up for a vote next week, McCarthy reportedly begged his colleagues to back the measure in a closed-door meeting earlier in the day.

McCarthy told Republicans that his deal isn’t about getting everything they want but about getting President Joe Biden back into negotiations, according to CNN. But many Republicans are unsure about the bill, particularly members of the House Freedom Caucus.

The far-right wing of the House Republicans was primarily responsible for forcing all of us to sit through seemingly endless rounds of votes for House speaker in January. Scott Perry, who chairs the caucus, said McCarthy’s debt proposal was too vague. “I don’t know what’s in the package completely—that’s the issue,” he told reporters.*

Anna Paulina Luna said the proposed budget cuts “should go further,” while Andy Biggs—who ran against McCarthy for speaker—said the proposal was a “long ways away” from what he would support.

“I’m not at the table,” Biggs said.

Other, more moderate Republicans also think the debt limit bill needs work. Nancy Mace said that holding the vote next week is “probably not” enough time to convince her to support the measure. Marc Molinaro said the GOP is “making progress, but we’re still taking a look at it.”

McCarthy promised not to touch Medicare or Social Security when cutting federal spending, a particular sticking point in the budget debate. Republicans have generally tried to end the entitlement programs since they began nearly a century ago, despite the idea being wildly unpopular. Slashing Social Security and Medicaid have repeatedly been suggested during recent debt ceiling debates.

Republican Matt Gaetz has proposed a plan for Medicaid work requirements, while Dusty Johnson proposed a separate plan for food stamp work requirements. It’s unclear which, if either, plan will make it into the bill. While work requirements would definitely reduce Medicaid costs, they would do so by denying health care to countless people.

McCarthy holds a razor-thin majority in the House, and he needs 218 votes to get his bill passed. It’s unclear if he can rally all the support he needs to push the measure through. Democrats are refusing to compromise on the debt ceiling, and if the battle goes on much longer, the United States could be in serious trouble.

The government already hit the debt ceiling in January, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has previously warned the U.S. could default on its debt by the summer if the cap isn’t raised. “It’s simply a recipe for economic and financial catastrophe to think we can pay some of our bills and not all of them,” Yellen told the Senate Finance Committee in mid-March.

* This piece originally misstated the leader of the Freedom Caucus.

Democrats Should Listen to Mitch McConnell for Once

McConnell has made the Republican Party’s stance on Dianne Feinstein and the Judiciary Committee more than clear.

Mitch McConnell sounded the death knell Tuesday on any chance of Dianne Feinstein staying in Congress. For once, Democrats should listen to him.

Feinstein hasn’t been in the Senate for more than six weeks due to complications from having shingles. Her absence has put many key votes, including judicial confirmations, on hold. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would grant her request to let another Democratic senator temporarily serve in her place on the Judiciary Committee.

A few Republicans have said they will refuse to let that happen, but McConnell put the final nail in that coffin Tuesday. “Senate Republicans will not take part in sidelining a temporarily absent colleague off a committee just so Democrats can force through their very worst nominees,” the chamber minority leader said in a floor speech.

Calls for Feinstein to step down have begun to grow, even within her own party. Representatives Jamaal Bowman and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tactfully urged the senator to resign on Monday, joining their colleagues Ro Khanna and Dean Phillips.

Feinstein announced in February that she would not run for reelection. She has had a long and storied career, but it has been sullied in recent years by reports that she is no longer mentally capable of serving.

If she does not step down now, she will effectively hand control of the Senate to Republicans. The GOP will be able to hold up votes and even determine the outcome of judicial nominations, which are becoming increasingly important as human rights battles play out in courts across the nation.

If Feinstein does resign, California Governor Gavin Newsom would appoint her replacement, and President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees would no longer be stuck in limbo with a split Judiciary Committee.

Some people have come to Feinstein’s defense. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said Monday that Feinstein “has the right…to decide when she steps down,” while former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blamed the calls to resign on sexism.

But as Senator Amy Klobuchar said Sunday, “this isn’t just about California, it’s also about the nation.” Feinstein’s final act of service to her country could be ceding power. It would be an act of service to herself to do so with her dignity intact.

Iowa Senate Rolls Back Child Labor Law in the Dead of Night

While most of their constituents were asleep, Iowa Republicans voted to make it easier to hire minors to work in places like meat freezers.

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Iowa state Capitol building. An Iowa state flag is flying in front.

Before the sun had even risen on Tuesday, the Iowa Senate passed a bill to loosen child labor laws, allowing the employment of kids in previously restricted fields like roofing, demolition, and working in meat freezers.

Republicans pushed through Senate File 542 just before 5 a.m. Tuesday morning after a marathon session, with only two Republicans voting against the bill. The bill now moves to the House, and Republicans have trifecta control in Iowa.

Pushed by lobbyists including the Iowa Restaurant Association and Iowa Grocery Industry Association, the bill would allow 14- to 17-year-olds to work in some fields that violate federal labor law, such as freezers or meat coolers (settings notorious for child and migrant labor violations).

The bill also allows 15-year-olds to do loading work for items up to 30 pounds. A waiver from the labor commissioner can increase that number to 50 pounds, and it can also enable them to do assembly-line work.

The bill also extends the amount of time companies can have kids under 16 work—until 9 p.m. during the school year and until 11:00 p.m. during the summer. It moreover allows the employment of minors for up to six hours a day during a school week, two hours higher than currently allowed. Employers could have kids above the age of 16 work the same number of hours as adults.

Senators spent hours debating the bill, and the hours stretched on thanks to Republican stalling. The bill’s floor manager, Senator Adrian Dickey, as well as Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver refused to answer questions from Democrat Bill Dotzler during debate. After further closed-door sessions and several failed Democratic attempts to amend the bill, the Republican-led Senate finally voted to pass the bill in the wee hours of the morning.

Republicans have framed the bill as both a benefit to children and a means to help fill in a supposed labor shortage.

On the former, Republicans blocked a Democratic amendment on additional workers’ compensation for teenagers who get injured while working. And on the latter, opponents have argued that the labor shortage didn’t just happen out of nowhere.

“The biggest reason we have a labor shortage is because our wages are too low,” state Senator Clair Celsi told Iowa Starting Line. “Most of the states touching Iowa all have higher wages.” Thirty states have a minimum wage higher than Iowa’s $7.25 per hour.

Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show that unemployment rates per job opening in Iowa have in fact reached, and at some points dipped even lower than, pre-Covid rates. The claims of a labor shortage seem more about preventing labor from demanding better benefits and conditions; such a goal can be all the more easily accomplished when employing minors who may not be primed to join a union or demand more rights.

The bill seeks to create more legal pathways to justify the preexisting issue of corporate child labor exploitation already rampant in this country.

The Senate voted on the child labor law just days after Iowa Representative Sami Scheetz encountered what appeared to be a minor working at a construction site; Scheetz allegedly asked the worker his age, and the site supervisor told the worker in Spanish to say he was 18.

Twitter Quietly Rolls Back Ban on Misgendering Trans People

Twitter reversed a policy to protect trans people from hate speech on the platform.

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Twitter secretly changed its hateful-conduct policy to remove protections for transgender users, opening them up to even more online abuse.

The social media network implemented a rule in 2018 prohibiting users from referring to trans people by the wrong gender or by their dead name, meaning the name they were given prior to transitioning. Under the policy, misgendering or deadnaming trans people was considered “targeting others with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category.”

That rule was in place until April 7, according to the internet archive the Wayback Machine. But by the next day, the second sentence had been removed from Twitter’s policies. As civil rights lawyer Alejandra Caraballo pointed out, this opens the door to even more abuse toward trans people, who are already subjected to a lot of hatred both on- and offline.

Twitter did not announce the change, meaning that people are only just learning about it 10 days after the fact. GLAAD slammed the switch as “the latest example of just how unsafe the company is for users and advertisers alike.”

“Social media companies committed to maintaining safe environments for LGBTQ people should be working to improve hate speech policies, not deleting long-standing ones,” GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement, noting that civil rights groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, have categorized misgendering and deadnaming people as a form of hate speech.

Ellis also pointed out that TikTok, Pinterest, and Meta have trans protection policies, making Twitter an outlier.

Hate speech has risen dramatically on Twitter since Elon Musk took over in October, although he insists otherwise. A report released in December by Media Matters and GLAAD analyzed tweets from nine prominent right-wing figures and accounts and found that in the first month under Musk’s leadership, there was a 1,200 percent increase in retweets of posts that use the word “groomer,” a homophobic slur.

The social media research group National Contagion Research Institute found that in the 12 hours after Musk bought Twitter, use of the n-word increased almost 500 percent. Musk has let Nazis back on Twitter, given blue verification check marks to the Taliban, and shared transphobic memes and Nazi photos himself.

Democrats Begin to Call for Feinstein’s Resignation

Republicans are not going to help Democrats replace Dianne Feinstein on the Judiciary Committee. So there’s only one option left.

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On Monday, Representatives Jamaal Bowman and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez expressed support for the resignation of Senator Dianne Feinstein, as the congressional veteran’s absence leaves key votes, including on juridical nominations, in limbo.

Last week, Representative Ro Khanna became the first Democrat to call for Feinstein’s resignation, with Minnesota Representative Dean Phillips echoing Khanna’s call shortly after.

“Yes, you know, she’s had a very long and stellar career, you know, but missing that many votes, you know, stops us from moving forward judge nominations,” Bowman cautiously told CNN’s Manu Raju.

Ocasio-Cortez echoed Bowman’s remorseful tone, saying that “it is unfortunately something that … is appropriate to consider in this case.”

The growing calls for Feinstein’s resignation comes amid the tanking of Senator Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer’s idealistic vision to keep Feinstein in office but find a replacement for her on the Judiciary Committee. Sixty senators would have to approve the Feinstein replacement, which means a few Republicans would have to join the effort. While there is precedent for unanimous support for committee reappropriation, enough key Senate Republicans have announced they are not interested in playing along this time. With Feinstein missing, the committee is split, and Biden’s judicial nominees will continue to be blocked.

Now the options are far and few between for Democrats. And the stakes are no less heightened with the backdrop of the scandalous financial entanglements of one of the most powerful jurists in the country, Clarence Thomas.

Though calls for Feinstein’s resignation continue to grow, both in and outside of government, some members of Congress have been less open to the idea. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said Monday that Feinstein was “voted by her state to be senator for six years; she has the right, in my opinion, to decide when she steps down.” Former Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi has insinuated the calls are rooted in sexism, saying she doesn’t “know what political agendas are at work that are going after Senator Feinstein.”

Meanwhile, most Democrats have been largely mum or deferential up to this point, allowing the likes of Khanna to be the lone voices against leadership that has relentlessly stood by Feinstein. But the growing calls may signal a sea change. Other members of Congress who have publicly been on the fence could be primed to come out in support of Feinstein gracefully resigning given the narrowing options.

On Sunday, Senator Amy Klobuchar told ABC that “if this goes on month after month after month, then she’s gonna have to make a decision with her family and her friends about what her future holds because this isn’t just about California, it’s also about the nation.” Klobuchar, by no means someone who is routinely out of step with the party center, may be indicative of how many Democrats feel. Given the sparse options and less and less time to confirm judges (and how crucial courts have come to be: from abortion access and immigrant protection to labor and civil rights), Democrats can ride off the movement spurred by Khanna and Phillips, and now Ocasio-Cortez and Bowman, to encourage Feinstein to conclude her career in the best way possible.

Feinstein can resign of her own volition, focus on regaining her health without a timeline pressuring her, and enjoy her life after a long-storied career in the Senate. And to top it all off, she’ll leave a legacy that many politicians fail to secure: shedding a bit of ego and knowing when to leave.

Now Ron DeSantis Wants to Put Mickey Mouse in Prison

The Florida governor’s war on Disney continues.

Ron DeSantis
Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Ron DeSantis’s latest plan to get back at Disney is so bad, it’s criminal.

The Florida governor has been engaged in the weirdest back-and-forth with Disney World since 2022, after the company’s then-chairman condemned DeSantis’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. DeSantis retaliated by stripping the park of its autonomous governing powers and installing a leadership board of allies.

Disney, in turn, snuck a clause into the development agreement that dramatically limits what the new board can actually do. Apparently, all board members failed to read the contract. And now, in a pettiness masterclass, Disney doesn’t need board approval for major construction projects, nor can the board use Disney branding. The clause lasts until “21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III”—meaning it could last for 100 years.

Well now, DeSantis has a new idea to one-up the House of Mouse: turn it into a big house.

DeSantis rhetorically wondered what to do with the land around Disney during a Monday press conference. “Someone even said, ‘Maybe you need another state prison.’ Who knows?” he said. “I just think that the possibilities are endless.”

It’s not entirely clear what DeSantis thinks he is achieving by taking on Disney. Brandon Wolf, the press secretary for LGBTQ rights organization Equality Florida, described the governor’s latest threat as “a truly unhinged display of ego.”

DeSantis is widely expected to announce he’s running for president in 2024, and many of his latest actions (or lack thereof) are clearly to set himself up for campaigning as an “anti-woke” champion. But he’s doing so at the cost of his current constituents.

Areas of southern Florida are still experiencing historic rainfall and flooding, and DeSantis has been noticeably absent from the state response.

The Catholic League Probably Should Have Thought Twice Before Chiming In on Budweiser

The organization got torn apart on social media by those who remember the church’s famous scandals: “Makes sense, I know you want to encourage people to bring their kids.”

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The Catholic League is drawing a line in the sand on sexual exploitation. The organization that aims to defend “the rights of Catholics—lay and clergy alike—to participate in public life without defamation or discrimination” (that is to say: not be investigated for rampant sexual abuse) has bravely come out to say that it will not serve Budweiser at its fiftieth-anniversary dinner.

The groundbreaking news came in a tweet for which the organization ended up having to hide the replies just as vigorously as the Catholic Church has covered up allegations of sexual abuse by clergy members. In what has become one of 2023’s most inane far-right culture wars, the Catholic League joins the most out-of-touch (and bearded) entities in America in whipping up outrage against Bud Light for having run a single ad that featured a transgender woman.

Outrage toward the ad stems from the rampant transphobia embodied by a very loud, very radical minority of society that looks to foment anti-trans anger whenever a chance arises. Factually untrue and simply discriminatory notions of some phantasmic “trans agenda” aiming to exploit children serves as the vessel for that bigotry.

Most of the people who’ve gone to performative lengths to own Budweiser on social media have merely shot weird videos of themselves pouring cans of beer they bought down the drain. The Catholic League has taken the bold boycott a step further by refusing to serve the beverage at a party commemorating the legacy of such a prominent institution.

After all, who better to stake moral claims on child exploitation than an organization dedicated to defending Catholic clergy members from “defamation”? The League’s own website boasts of particular members who speak praises on the organization’s work.

There’s the late Benedict Groeschel, who once said that “[priests accused of sexual abuse] are among the most penitent people I have met in my life. When you pick up the media, you don’t hear about the penitence,” and that “a lot of the cases, the youngster—14, 16, 18—is the seducer,” which is certainly a take. Then there’s Archbishop Sean Patrick O’Malley, whose Catholic Charities of Boston organization ended its adoption services after state law required that gay people be allowed to adopt children. And who can forget Cardinal Timothy F. Dolan, who allegedly moved nearly $57 million into a trust fund that would keep the money away from victims of clergy sexual abuse demanding compensation?

The Catholic League’s own president, Bill Donohue, once said that “there is no ongoing crisis—it’s a total myth,” with regard to the rampant child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. “In fact, there is no institution, private or public, that has less of a problem with the sexual abuse of minors today than the Catholic Church.” He said this while in the same breath adding that he figured that “only” … “maybe half” of some 300 accused priests were guilty.

Also on Monday, ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was charged with sexually assaulting an 18-year-old more than 45 years ago; McCarrick had been previously found to have sexually molested adults and children. Two weeks ago, the Maryland attorney general released a 463-page investigation detailing revelations of Baltimore Catholic Clergy members abusing hundreds of children and teenagers.

Anywho, while the Catholic League is not busy taking bold stands on grooming, it is promoting a movie called Buying Off Black America, which features eminent voices like Vivek Ramaswamy and Ben Carson, or complaining that the FBI keeps investigating it.

No Charges for Police Officers Who Shot Black Man Almost 50 Times

Cops fired more than 90 rounds at Jayland Walker, who was unarmed at the time.

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A grand jury has decided not to bring state criminal charges against Ohio police officers who fatally shot a 25-year-old Black man during a car and foot chase last summer.

Police in Akron attempted to pull Jayland Walker over for an alleged traffic violation the night of June 27, 2022. Walker did not stop, and officers in pursuit allege that they saw a flash of light come from the driver’s side of the car, which they believed to be the muzzle flash of a gun, according to their accounts of the encounter. 

Body camera footage shows officers pursuing Walker as he drove away from the scene; he  eventually jumped out of his car and ran. While he attempted to flee on foot, the eight officers on the scene said they thought he was moving to draw a gun. They subsequently fired a total of 94 bullets at him. 

Walker suffered 46 gunshot wounds and died on the scene. He was unarmed, although a gun was found in his car. The officers involved were put on paid leave during the investigation into the shooting but were ultimately brought back for administrative duty during a staffing shortage. The grand jury was seated last week to determine whether to indict any of the officers.

“The grand jury just a little while ago issued what is called a no bill, meaning that there will be no state criminal action, no charges at the state level,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost told a press conference Monday.

Akron has been bracing for the grand jury’s decision, after Walker’s death sparked citywide protests last summer. Police used tear gas to disperse protesters outside the Akron Police Department headquarters and arrested about 50 people (most of those charges were dropped).

But many Ohio residents are furious—and not without cause: The barrage of stories of Black people, particularly young Black men, being killed feels relentless. And few of those victims seem to get justice. Just last week, 16-year-old Ralph Yarl was shot twice in the head when he went to the wrong house to pick up his siblings. Yarl survived. Authorities have released the shooter, sparking widespread criticism. 

“We’ve seen it too many times. A routine traffic [stop] ends in death, and a family and community mourns the loss of a son,” Representative Emilia Strong Sykes, who represents the district Akron is in, said in a statement. “As this country and community reckons with another tragic death, we find ourselves yearning for a justice system that protects us all.”

Sykes said she will ask the Department of Justice to investigate the Akron Police Department’s practices. “The safety and security of our neighborhoods requires trust between the community and the law enforcement officers who have taken an oath to protect and serve, but this trust has been violated and must be rebuilt.”

Trump’s Plans for the Federal Workforce: Weird Tests and Mass Firings

America’s top civics knower also promises to pile on more corporate deregulation—even after the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and the derailment in East Palestine.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump, who brings to the federal government two impeachments and a criminal indictment, is making reelection commitments, threatening further cuts to regulations—the sort that might allow corporations to get away with even more chaos beyond disasters like the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment and collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. He also plans to impose some sort of mandatory test on federal employees.

On Friday, Trump made the remarks on a video posted on Twitter. “I will require every federal employee to pass a new civil service test,” Trump began, saying the test will cover all facets of Trump’s vision of a “constitutional, limited government,” including due process, equal protection, free speech, religious liberty, federalism, and—in a matter that both figuratively and literally hits close to home—Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

“I know all about that at Mar-a-Lago, don’t I?” Trump posed, insinuating that criminal investigations into his potential illegal seizing of classified documents—no less any of the other inquiries he faces—are somehow unconstitutional.

Perhaps Trump is right: If they can go after him for taking classified documents, conducting various shady financial and tax-evading schemes, trying to pay hush money to someone he had an affair with, and attempting to overthrow an election, they can go after you too. (This could also be what laws are for.)

“We will put unelected bureaucrats back in their place,” Trump asserted, alluding to his plan to administer a test to the federal workforce to determine whether they will keep their jobs. The idea builds off calls he made last year promising to make “every executive branch employee fireable by the president of the United States.”

Beyond his desire to impose a political test on every government employee, Trump promised to restore the spirit of his previous administration, one that held “for every one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated”—and that he will ask Congress to permanently enshrine this rubric into law.

The legacy of such an administration has been all the more observable as of late. With regard to the more than 1,000 train derailments occurring every year, including the East Palestine disaster, Trump himself deregulated the railroad industry and weakened environmental protection agencies. Contrary to any promises of new jobs, the rail industry’s enabled-by-deregulation pursuit of precision-scheduled railroading has cut jobs and made trains less safe, all in service of corporate profits. In terms of the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, Trump himself opened the doors to its failure by leading a successful campaign to roll back Obama-era Dodd-Frank regulations.

If nothing else, it’s nice for Trump to be honest about what America can expect if he’s reelected: more train derailments, more risk for economic crash, and more authoritarian measures to seize control over the government.

Tennessee House Speaker Faces Growing Calls to Resign

How it started, how’s it going: Cameron Sexton, who led the charge against the “Tennessee Three,” is suddenly in a spot of bother himself.

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Cameron Sexton, the speaker of the Tennessee house

Tennessee’s Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton is facing growing calls to resign amid reports he has lied to his constituents.

The Tennessee state legislature has been under increased national scrutiny since a school shooting in Nashville three weeks ago, when a shooter killed three children and three adults. Republicans, who have a supermajority trifecta in the state House, Senate, and governor’s office, have repeatedly rejected attempts to increase gun control measures.

Things took a turn for the worse when the House voted to expel two Democrats, both Black men, for allegedly violating chamber rules when they joined thousands of pro–gun control protesters in the Capitol building. One white Democrat who also joined the demonstration was not expelled. Both of the two expelled, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, were ultimately reinstated by their district councils.

In the week since their reappointment, Sexton has come under fire after reporter Judd Legum learned the speaker secretly purchased a $600,000 house in Nashville, where he and his family live year-round. Nashville is not in the district Sexton represents.

But Sexton claims to live in a condo in Crossville, a city two hours from the state capital and within the boundaries of his district. And as Legum reported in his newsletter, Popular Information, Sexton has for years claimed daily reimbursements of about $313, which are paid by taxpayers and intended to pay for lodging for state representatives who reside 50 miles or more from Nashville.

Since then, calls for Sexton to step down have mounted rapidly. Thousands of people have signed an online petition for Sexton to resign. The petition, which was started by the Christian social justice group Faithful America, had nearly 19,000 signatures at the time of this writing. “Democracy, racial justice, and gun safety are under joint assault in Tennessee,” the petition said. “We call on Speaker Sexton to resign for his shameful and unlawful power grab.”

Officials from the Cumberland County and Putnam County Democratic Parties, both in the speaker’s district, have also called for him to resign. “Even if it’s determined Sexton merely violated the ‘spirit’ of the residency requirement, his absence from the district means he and his family don’t experience the consequences of his actions,” said Anna Quillen, chair of the Cumberland County Democratic Party, in a statement issued Friday.

She pointed out that schools in her county already receive some of the lowest state funding per student and are likely to receive even less due to a measure that Sexton backed. Sexton’s daughter reportedly goes to private school in Nashville, meaning that his family will never experience the effects of that legislation.

Over the weekend, Jones cited reports on MSNBC when calling out Sexton and other Republican legislators “who are not doing the people’s work, particularly when it comes to poor people and rural people.”