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Texas Governor Signs “Death Star” Bill Stripping Power From Local Officials

Greg Abbott’s move prevents local governments from passing needed regulations on things like labor rights, the environment, and more.

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott

A new Texas law backed by Republicans, business lobbying interests, and Governor Greg Abbott strips power from local officials to regulate things like housing, worker protections, the environment, public health, and more. In other words, Texas Republicans are stopping cities from being able to govern themselves.

House Bill 2127, nicknamed the “Death Star” bill, bans a city or county from enacting laws that contradict anything in Texas state code in nine areas: agriculture, business and commerce, finance, insurance, labor, local government, natural resources, occupations, and property.

The law is so extreme that it not only prevents localities from passing their own laws, it actually overturns existing ones that may differ from state code.

Proponents say the law, which is set to take effect September 1, helps business owners to avoid having to navigate different regulations in different localities. (Won’t someone please think about the “small” business owner who has the means to operate stores in San Antonio and Austin and Dallas?!)

But in practice, as The Texas Tribune notes, this law would block local ordinances providing benefits to workers like mandatory paid sick leave or water breaks for construction workers (meanwhile, heat-related deaths on construction sites have doubled in the last 10 years compared to the previous decade).

The law will also ban cities from passing new rules against predatory lending without first getting approval from the Texas legislature. That’s a problem when predatory lending—like other capital-driven interests—is always innovating in how it can screw the everyday person.

And when business interests like the Texas Association of Business and Texas Construction Association applaud the legislation, you can imagine that this is all only the tip of the iceberg of things companies are ready to get away with more easily. After all, the law is so remarkably broad, many residents don’t even know the extent to which other codes (already passed or in their interest to advocate for) will now be barred.

The law’s leading proponents were Representative Dustin Burrows and Senator Brandon Creighton.

Burrows, an attorney, is married to someone whose family has been involved with cattle ranching and oil and gas; surely, the family will appreciate the even further weakening of agricultural and natural resource regulations. Cattle ranching is notorious for scandal and corruption—especially in Texas—while oil and gas interests have always enjoyed preferential treatment in America as they decimate our natural landscape and wildlife. The new law will make it all the easier.

Creighton, meanwhile, is the principal and owner of a real estate company, Creighton Realty Partners, and the general counsel for the real estate and development company Signorelli Company. Fortunately, any future developments the companies pursue will not have to deal with pesky regulations, like making sure the workers building the fancy buildings don’t die of dehydration from sweltering heat made worse by those aforementioned hardworking oil and gas executives.

Texas is showing us what has always been the case: Conservatives’ conception of “local control” just means “I control you.”

Supreme Court Delivers Major Win for Native Rights and Tribal Sovereignty

In a stunning ruling, the Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket/Getty Images
A Tlingit mother with her child in the village of Kake, located on Kupreanof Island in Tongass National Forest, Alaska

The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected challenges to the Indian Child Welfare Act, a major win for Native rights and the protection of Indigenous culture.

The justices voted 7–2 to uphold the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA, a law that prioritizes ensuring Native American children are adopted by Native American families. The law, enacted in 1978, has helped uphold tribal sovereignty and stabilize Native communities.

“The bottom line is that we reject all of petitioners’ challenges to the statute, some on the merits and others for lack of standing,” Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote in the majority opinion.

The court heard arguments in November for Haaland v. Brackeen. The Brackeens, a white evangelical couple from Texas, fostered a Cherokee and Navajo boy. But when they tried to formally adopt him, the Navajo Nation intervened, arguing that a Navajo family should adopt him instead.

The main issue at play went much further than simply who could or could not adopt an Indigenous child. As The New Republic’s Matt Ford explained, the big question was about the extent of tribal sovereignty and “whether tribal governments—and this country’s Indigenous peoples—are a legitimate part of the American constitutional order.”

The ICWA is also hugely significant for the longevity of Native culture. The law was implemented in an attempt to rectify the decades of Indian boarding schools, when Native children were taken from their families, cut off from their culture, and subjected to horrific abuse for the sake of forcing them to assimilate to white culture. Making sure that Native children stay with Native families allows for cultural knowledge to be passed on.

The Supreme Court shocked everyone last week when it ruled in favor of voting rights for Black residents of Alabama. Thursday’s ruling was another huge win for human rights. Only Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito voted against the ICWA (surprise, surprise).

In his concurring opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch pointed out that Native Americans are often denied justice at the Supreme Court. “But that is not because this Court has no justice to offer them,” he wrote. “Our Constitution reserves for Tribes a place—an enduring place—in the structure of American life.”

“In adopting the Indian Child Welfare Act, Congress exercised that lawful authority to secure the right of Indian parents to raise their families as they please; the right of Indian children to grow in their culture; and the right of Indian communities to resist fading into the twilight of history.”

This article has been updated.

Trump Had a Get Out of Jail Free Card and Chose Not to Use It

Trump could have avoided being charged in the classified documents case, but he ignored his lawyers.

Donald Trump
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Donald Trump could have avoided being indicted in the classified documents case, but he didn’t want to listen to his own lawyers.

Trump pleaded not guilty on Wednesday for mishandling classified documents and making false statements to federal authorities. He faces 37 criminal charges, which could get him 20 years in prison. But a new report from The Washington Post reveals that it didn’t have to be this way. In fact, the former president repeatedly rejected options that would have prevented the indictment.

Trump’s attorney, Christopher Kise, had wanted to try to negotiate with the Justice Department, the Post reported. He had suggested returning all the documents in exchange for the department agreeing not to charge Trump.

But Kise never approached federal prosecutors because Trump wasn’t interested. Instead of listening to his own legal team and advisers, Trump only wanted to get advice from Tom Fitton, the head of the conservative group Judicial Watch. Fitton and a few other people incorrectly told Trump, and even tried to convince his legal team, that he could keep the classified material.

The FBI subsequently raided Mar-a-Lago and found hundreds of sensitive documents stashed in various rooms throughout the resort. Trump has been charged with keeping national defense information without authorization, making false statements, and conspiring to obstruct justice. The investigation also revealed that Trump lied to his lawyers about how many documents he still had and may even have tried to hide boxes of documents from them. Lawyers were also prevented from searching certain rooms.

Fitton told the Post that Trump was “in a good mood” and “ready to fight.” Fitton also blamed Trump’s legal team for not fighting the federal subpoenas hard enough.

But former White House chief of staff John Kelly said it’s no surprise that Trump steamrolled his legal team. “He’s incapable of admitting wrongdoing,” Kelly told the Post. “He wanted to keep it, and he says, ‘You’re not going to tell me what to do. I’m the smartest guy in the room.’”

Kelly had previously told the Post that Trump was “scared shitless” of actually being held accountable for a change.

It is growing ever more clear that the only person Trump can blame for his current situation is himself.

Republicans Declare Banning Universal Free School Meals a 2024 Priority

As states across the country move to make sure students are well fed, Republicans have announced their intention to fight back.

Republican Study Committee Chairman Kevin Hern speaks at a podium
Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images
Republican Study Committee Chairman Kevin Hern

States across the country are moving to provide universal free school meals to all our children. Meanwhile, Republicans are trying to stop them from doing just that.

The Republican Study Committee (of which some three-quarters of House Republicans are members) on Wednesday released its desired 2024 budget, in which the party boldly declares its priority to eliminate the Community Eligibility Provision, or CEP, from the School Lunch Program. Why? Because “CEP allows certain schools to provide free school lunches regardless of the individual eligibility of each student.”

The horror.

Of note is that the CEP is not even something every school participates in; it is a meal service program reserved for qualifying schools and districts in low-income areas. The program enables schools that predominantly serve children from low-income backgrounds to offer all students free breakfast and lunch, instead of means-testing them and having to manage collecting applications on an individual basis. As with many universal-oriented programs, it is more practically efficient and, as a bonus, lifts all boats. This is what Republicans are looking to eliminate.

It’s the kind of provision that many would want every school to participate in. Why not guarantee all our children are well fed as they learn and think about our world and their place in it, after all?

But indeed, as California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, and as of this week, Vermont, all move to provide universal free school meals in one form or another—and at least another 21 states consider similar moves—Republicans are trying to whittle down avenues to accomplish that goal.

Along with trying to stop schools from giving all their students free meals, the proposed 2024 Republican budget includes efforts to:

  • cut Social Security and Medicare
  • make Trump’s tax cuts for the top 1 percent permanent
  • impose work requirements on “all federal benefit programs,” like food stamps and Medicare
  • extend work requirements on those aged 55–64
  • bring back all of twice-impeached and twice-arrested former President Donald Trump’s deregulations, including the weakening of environmental protection.

And that’s just a taste of their hopes and dreams. But don’t mistake it all as just wish-casting: “The RSC Budget is more than just a financial statement. It is a statement of priorities,” the party assures in the document.

Republicans Are Bringing Back Their Plan to Gut Social Security and Medicare

A new budget proposal for the 2024 fiscal year makes sweeping cuts.

Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg

Republicans have claimed over and over again that they are not trying to cut Social Security and Medicare. Heck, Joe Biden got them to agree they would not make cuts to the programs, in a memorable verbal maneuver during his State of the Union speech earlier this year.

And yet the Republican Study Committee (of which some three-quarters of House Republicans are members) just released its desired 2024 budget, in which the party seeks to, you guessed it, cut Social Security and Medicare.

And note their seriousness. “The RSC Budget is more than just a financial statement. It is a statement of priorities,” the party assures in the document, released Wednesday.

The proposed budget would effectively make cuts to Social Security by increasing the retirement age for future retirees.  The document seeks to assure people that there would only be “modest adjustments” but does not list what Republicans think the new retirement age should be.

On Medicare, Republicans propose requiring disabled Americans to wait longer before getting benefits and turning Medicare into a “premium support” system, a long-floated Republican idea that essentially turns the government program into a voucher scheme. Such a scheme would remove the guarantee for seniors to have affordable access to Medicare.

Republicans also call for “pro-growth tax reform” (read: cutting taxes for the wealthy and corporations); “work requirements” (imposing more requirements on poor people trying to attain social services); and “regulatory reforms that increase economic growth” (encouraging the sort of deregulation that welcomes crashing financial institutions, corporate-poisoned rivers, and more than 1,000 train derailments a year).

As far as taxes go, the party wants to make permanent the individual provisions of Trump’s tax cut bill, which gave a roughly $49,000 annual tax cut to the top 1 percent and only $500 to those in the bottom 60 percent. In doing so, they’d add nearly $2.5 trillion to the deficit over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The party also wants to eliminate the estate tax, which only impacts those who inherit assets worth at least $13 million.

On work requirements, the budget calls for “all federal benefit programs [to] be reformed to include work promotion requirements.” As in, food stamps, Medicare, you name it: They want it subject to work requirements. And sorry, Andrew Yang: The budget explicitly says it opposes any efforts to implement proposals like universal basic income.

The budget also takes issue with the “significantly lower labor force participation rate of 64.6% for those aged 55-64,” saying it supports extending work requirements for this group. There could be any number of reasons fewer people in this age group are working: physical or mental health issues, needing to help take care of their children or grandchildren, or just not wanting to work for their entire life on earth. Instead of imaging how to navigate or meet any of those reasons, Republicans’ solution is to force them to work more.

Speaking of families, the budget also aims to eliminate a provision that allows schools to provide free school lunches to all their students; instead, it aims to means-test which kids are allowed to have free lunch and which ones aren’t.

On regulation, the budget includes a litany of ways it aims to stymie regulation. One of many provisions involves reinstating Trump’s deregulatory executive orders, including a range of orders related to environmental protection. In the wake of smog enveloping one-third of the country, thousands of dead fish washing up on Texas’s shore, and East Palestine, Ohio’s waterways being poisoned, Republicans are pursuing less environmental protection.

And all this is just a sampling of Republicans’ explicit “priorities” they are pursuing in 2024.

Democratic Congressman Reveals the Fatal Flaw in GOP’s Biden Investigation

If you’re claiming someone has all the evidence, that person should probably agree with you.

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
Representative Daniel Goldman

A Democratic representative on Wednesday revealed the fatal flaw in Republicans’ latest attempt to smear Joe Biden: Their supposed informant has already debunked their so-called evidence.

House Republicans have accused the Biden family of corruption for months but have been unable to provide any actual evidence linking Biden or his son Hunter to any wrongdoing. Most recently, House members were allowed to see an FBI document, which the GOP claims includes audio recordings of Biden and Hunter Biden accepting a bribe.

During an Oversight Committee hearing on Wednesday, Democratic Representative Daniel Goldman said he had been eager to see the FD 10-23, a form the FBI uses to note unverified information from confidential sources. But he soon realized that the document was “just a three-year-old secondhand, hearsay, uncorroborated rehashing of Rudy Giuliani’s bogus allegations that he got from corrupt Ukrainian officials.”

Giuliani and Donald Trump first pushed the conspiracy that the Biden family accepted a $10 million bribe to remove former Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin in 2016 to stop a probe into Hunter Biden’s role at the oil company Burisma Holdings. Several Republican lawmakers say that not only does the FBI form they saw last week mention this bribe but that a Burisma executive has audio recordings of Biden and Hunter Biden accepting the money. Both Anna Paulina Luna and Marjorie Taylor Greene said that executive is Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevsky.

This claim has been repeatedly debunked by multiple State Department and intelligence experts on Russia and Ukraine.

But Goldman highlighted the main flaw in Republicans’ argument: “You know who else also debunked these allegations? Mykola Zlochevsky”—the same man Republicans claim has the secret incriminating audio recordings.

When Zlochevsky was asked by Politico in 2020 whether Biden had ever assisted Burisma while he was vice president, he said simply, “No.” Zlochevsky also said that “no one from Burisma ever had any contacts with VP Biden or people working for him” while his son was on the company board.

Goldman also pointed out that the FBI, alongside a U.S. attorney appointed by then-President Donald Trump, had reviewed the bribery accusation when it was made in 2020 and found it to be unsubstantiated.

Republicans, led by Oversight Chair James Comer, have insisted that Biden is guilty of corruption, despite repeatedly admitting that they have no evidence, they don’t know if their information is legitimate, and they don’t even really care if the accusations are accurate. Comer barely seems to know how many supposed informants he has, but he still brings up the investigation every chance he gets.

“Chairman Comer has asked, ‘Why is this committee the only committee that’s investigating him?’ And that’s the right question: Why?” Goldman said. “Because everybody else who’s looked at it has found these allegations to be completely bogus. So let’s move on.”

Lindsey Graham: If You Can Indict Trump for January 6, You Could Go After Any Republican

… OK, and?

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

Lindsey Graham is putting up a banner week of patheticness.

Earlier this week, Graham temperamentally snapped at a news anchor on live television after he was simply asked straight-up whether he believes twice-impeached and now twice-arrested Donald Trump did anything wrong.

Then, on Wednesday, Graham expressed a maximally incoherent version of the classic “if they can arrest Donald Trump for [any one of his dozens of lifetime crimes], imagine what else they can do”:

“If the special counsel indicts President Trump in Washington, D.C., for anything related to January 6, that will be considered a major outrage by Republicans because you could convict any Republican of anything in Washington, D.C.,” Graham told CNN’s Manu Raju.

Let’s break this down, step by step. Graham seems to suggest:

A) It’s outrageous to hold Trump legally accountable for helping incite an attack on the nation’s capital.

B) If he is held accountable, you could convict any Republican (which maybe says more about where he thinks the party stands in relation to Trump and his misdeeds).

C) It’s outrageous for any of that recourse to happen in Washington, D.C., the site where the January 6 attack took place.

Somehow, every step of Graham’s formulation sounds dumber than the next. To be holding onto some imagined reality in which a man who lost an election by 7,000,000 votes spent months spurring up conspiracies about said election, actively tried influencing officials across the country to help him overturn said election, and encouraged his loyal supporters to rise up on a specific day is not, perhaps liable for the ensuing chaos, is one thing.

To also argue that indicting that chaos in the jurisdiction where it occurred is for some reason out of bounds is another thing.

And of course, the cherry on top is Graham’s admission that if Trump was held accountable for such actions, there logically would be other Republicans to follow (even if Trump is held accountable, it’s unlikely any other members of Congress would really go down with him).

Graham’s commitment to a guy who has had the party lose over and over and over again is embarrassing. A reminder, once again, of Graham’s words in 2016: “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed … and we will deserve it.”

Conservatives Are Running Out of Things to Eat

A new right-wing boycott is going after Frosted Flakes because of Tony the Tiger.

Noam Galai/Getty Images for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes
Tony the Tiger

Another day, another right-wing call to boycott a brand for appearing even slightly tolerant of transgender people.

Conservatives are now calling to boycott Frosted Flakes cereal after their official mascot, Tony the Tiger, was pictured with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney at the Tony Awards on Sunday.

This is unfortunately not the first time that Mulvaney has been at the center of a far-right firestorm. Both she and Bud Light received backlash in March over a campaign she did with the beer brand. That incident has kicked off a spree of right-wing calls for boycotts.

But at this rate, conservatives are rapidly running out of places to eat, drink, and shop. Far-right podcast host Joey Mannarino announced he would be “dumping out my Frosted Flakes” over its association with Mulvaney and switching to Froot Loops. He did not seem to realize that both cereal brands are owned by Kellogg’s, so he’s not actually sending his money somewhere else.

People are also boycotting Chick-fil-A because it has an H.R. department. They are refusing to eat at Cracker Barrel after the chain posted favorably about Pride on social media.

Right-wingers are boycotting Target, Walmart, and Kohl’s for their Pride merchandise. Target has even received bomb threats. Nike and Adidas are selling trans-inclusive athletic wear, so they’re off the table too. The North Face did a campaign featuring a drag queen named Pattie Gonia, so conservatives are shopping elsewhere.

They may want to skip Patagonia too, since the company has also partnered with Pattie Gonia. While they’re at it, people on the far right will probably also have to drop Ruger, Black Rifle Coffee, Home Depot, and Molson Coors, all of which have teams dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

If conservatives really want to only support nonwoke businesses, their options are growing fewer by the day.

Even the Tennessee Firearms Association Found People Want More Gun Laws

Poll after poll shows Tennesseeans want greater gun regulation after the Nashville school shooting.

Apu GOMES/AFP/Getty Images

If there’s one thing most people in America agree on, it’s that we need more gun laws. And Tennesseans—even ones polled by the Tennessee Firearms Association—are no different.

Published at the beginning of June, the poll found a narrow plurality of people who felt gun laws are not strict enough. Sixty-two percent of people supported red flag laws, policies that stop people from owning a firearm if they are flagged to be a danger to themselves or others; only 25 percent of respondents were opposed.

The results follow two other polls with similar findings. An April poll conducted by Embold Research found 88 percent of respondents supporting background checks for all gun sales and 70 percent in favor of red flag laws.

Another poll conducted by Vanderbilt University found 72 percent of respondents supporting red flag laws, with a whopping 82 percent supporting Governor BIll Lee’s executive order to strengthen background checks. In the context of school shootings, a whole 50 percent supported banning assault weapons outright.

It’s clear that amid the Nashville school shooting that left six people dead, and the subsequent Republican failure to enact gun safety policy (and instead punish three Democrats who stood in solidarity with thousands of Tennesseans demanding action), voters have dramatically flipped their perception of the GOP-led state legislature.

Last year, the Vanderbilt poll found 55 percent of voters approving of the legislature, and 34 percent disapproving—a net approval of 21 percent. Their latest poll showed a net approval of negative 5 percent, with only 43 percent approving and 48 percent disapproving, a 26 percent dip.

The disapproval is unsurprising too given that, while scores of Tennesseans want red flag laws, state Republicans have been staunchly against them. In April, the party issued a incoherent statement announcing their total opposition to red flag laws. “[A]ny red flag law is a non-starter,” the party said, while also saying in the same breath they are “focused on finding solutions that prevent dangerous individuals from harming the public.”

Tennessee Republicans have repeatedly shut down such laws that could’ve prevented the school shooting: once two years ago, and again in April—right after the shooting.

The pattern of disapproval for Republican deregulation comes while 217 House Republicans—including all of Tennessee’s Republican representatives—voted to weaken gun safety regulation on Tuesday; the members voted to repeal regulation over attachments used in the Nashville shooting.

House Republicans Vote to Weaken Gun Safety Regulations as Trump Is Arrested

While everyone was distracted, 217 House Republicans moved to roll back gun regulations.

Seth Herald/Getty Images
A protester sits with an anti–assault rifle sign near the Tennessee State Capitol to call for an end to gun violence and support stronger gun laws on March 30, in Nashville.

While Donald Trump was being arraigned for the second time in months, the rest of his party was busy weakening gun regulations in a country that has suffered at least 291 mass shootings this year alone.

On Tuesday, 217 House Republicans voted to repeal a federal rule designed to curb such senseless violence. Two conservative Blue Dog Democrats, Jared Golden and Mary Peltola, joined Republicans. Two Republicans, Brian Fitzpatrick and Thomas Kean, voted alongside 208 Democrats to protect the gun safety measure.

The Republicans voted to overturn a Biden administration rule issued in January that clarified that any firearm with a stabilizing brace allowing it to be shot from the shoulder counts as a rifle and has to be registered with the government as such.

While the stabilizing brace has been used by gun owners without full use of both of their arms, the attachment has also enabled mass shooters to cause further destruction. One of the guns reportedly used in the Nashville school shooting that left six people dead, for instance, was an AR-15 pistol equipped with a stabilizing brace. Such an attachment was also used in the 2021 mass shooting at a Boulder, Colorado, grocery store that left 10 people dead.

Nevertheless, Republicans voted to weaken oversight over such weapons—just days after survivors from numerous mass shootings visited the Hill to ask members of Congress for even a smidgen of meaningful action on guns.

The vote, House Resolution 44, was part of Republicans’ efforts to restart House floor business amid internal party disputes, after some members last week voted down a rule for the first time in decades, putting House business at a standstill for days.

The vote now heads to the Senate. Even if it passes the narrowly split chamber, President Biden has said he will veto the attempt to weaken gun safety regulation.

Amid the drama and the Republican effort to weaken the government’s ability to protect its people, Democrats have filed measures to welcome floor votes on several measures seeking to reduce gun violence. Representatives Lucy McBath, James Clyburn, and Mike Thompson each filed their own petitions to force votes on things like increasing background checks and banning assault weapons. The Democrats would need just five Republicans to join them in triggering a vote on any of the bills.