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Republicans Successfully Weaponize the Defense Bill for Their Culture Wars

Republicans have successfully used the defense bill to target abortion, diversity, and LGBTQ people.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy bangs the gavel in the Capitol
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House Speaker Kevin McCarthy

House Republicans voted Friday to add hundreds of amendments to the defense bill, successfully using the budget as a tool in their culture wars.

The House of Representatives voted 219–210 for the amended bill, completely along party lines. The measure now goes to the Democratic-controlled Senate, where the GOP’s ideological amendments have little chance of passing.

The Republicans’ extreme changes include banning the Department of Defense from spending federal funds on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, which military officials consider critical not only for recruiting fresh talent, but also for combating extremism in the ranks.

The GOP has also blocked the military from reimbursing travel expenses for service members who have to travel for an abortion. Another amendment prohibits the Defense Department from reimbursing travel costs for people who travel for gender-affirming care.

The DOD would be barred from flying Pride flags, and using federal funds to support green energy initiatives.

The radical, bigoted bill has little chance of making it through the Democratic-controlled Senate. But it’s a clear sign of the lengths that Republicans will go to wage war on things they disagree with (instead of, you know, actual issues).

Arizona Republican Says He “Misspoke” During Rant About “Colored People”

Representative Eli Crane’s comment immediately sparked outrage in the chamber.

Representative Eli Crane
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Representative Eli Crane

Arizona Republican Eli Crane gave a nod to the times of segregation on the floor of the U.S. Congress on Thursday.

“My amendment has nothing to do with whether or not colored people or black people or anybody can serve. OK? That has nothing to do with any of that stuff,” Crane began, prompting shock throughout the floor.

Crane’s comments came as he offered an amendment to the nation’s annual defense spending cornucopia that he said would ban the consideration of “race, gender, religion, or political affiliations, or any other ideological concepts as the sole basis for recruitment, training education, promotion, or retention decisions.”

The amendment was just one of many GOP-pushed amendments dealing with culture war issues, rather than, for instance, reappropriating the destructive and wasteful military spending towards anything that actually serves people.

The comments prompted Representative Joyce Beatty, former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, to ask for the words to be struck down from the record. “I find it offensive, and very inappropriate,” Beaty said. “I am asking for unanimous consent to take down the words of referring to me or any of my colleagues as ‘colored people.’”

Crane injected, requesting to amend his comments to “people of color,” but Beatty insisted the words be removed, which they were by unanimous consent.

“In a heated floor debate on my amendment that would prohibit discrimination on the color of one’s skin in the Armed Forces, I misspoke,” Crane said afterward. “Every one of us is made in the image of God and created equal.”

Language is always evolving, and the connotations words hold are grounded in the histories surrounding them. “Colored people” is associated heavily with the times of slavery, segregation, and Jim Crow: times during which the term referred to Black people as property, and then as categories to be avoided or held separately from white society.

Consequently, the term is a relic of the ills in America’s past—and not a term one may use if they’re interested in staying away from that past.

Meanwhile, also this week, Crane’s Senate Republican colleague Tommy Tuberville insistently refused to acknowledge that white nationalism is racist.

Hypocrite Nancy Mace Backs Abortion Measure She Called “Asshole” Amendment

The Republican representative revealed her true colors.

Representative Nancy Mace
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Representative Nancy Mace

Representative Nancy Mace voted to use the defense budget to limit abortion access, despite previously branding the amendment as an “asshole move.”

Republicans have packed the new NDAA with amendments targeting some of their favorite culture wars, including banning the military from funding diversity, equity, and inclusion programs; banning Pride flags; and barring the Department of Defense from reimbursing travel costs for service members who have to travel for an abortion.

Mace has repeatedly urged her party to take a more centrist stance on abortion, warning that the GOP’s extreme restrictions on the procedure could cost them elections. But she has yet to take her own advice, and Thursday night was no exception.

“We should not be taking this vote, man. Fuck,” she told her staff in an elevator in reference to the anti-abortion amendment, Politico reported. “It’s an asshole move, an asshole amendment.”

Hours later, though, she fell in line with her party and voted to include the amendment in the defense budget.

But Mace tried to have it both ways, telling Politico, “I’m all for having these conversations and debates, but doing so as part of a bill which could jeopardize our national security is wrong. Traditionally the NDAA is bipartisan legislation. This year’s bill could be historically partisan.”

The amendment will definitely alienate House Democrats, whose support is needed to pass the bill. The change is also unlikely to survive the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Mace’s vote is a clear sign of how desperate Republican leadership is to crack down on abortion access. But it’s an even clearer sign of how untrustworthy Mace is.

The South Carolina representative has repeatedly urged her party to move towards the center, and not just on abortion. She talks a good talk, but she has yet to actually walk the walk. If anything, she walks just as far to the right as the colleagues she has been warning.

Trump Super PAC Paid Melania Six Figures to Speak at Their Own House: Report

The payment was not visible in the super PAC’s initial federal reports.

Donald and Melania Trump dressed up
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

When it comes to Donald Trump, it’s all just one, giant grift.

A new report from The New York Times published Thursday reveals that the top super PAC affiliated with the former president paid Melania Trump $155,000 for a “speaking engagement” at their own residence in Mar-a-Lago.

In other words, Trump effectively got his biggest supporters to pay his wife six figures to speak at his fundraising event at his house.

The payment to Melania—made in December 2021 by Donald Trump’s super PAC at the time, Make America Great Again, Again (which has since shuttered)—was not listed on the super PAC’s list of expenditures made public last year. Instead, the hefty remittance to his wife was initially disclosed as two payments (of $125,000 and $30,000) to the “Designer’s Management Agency,” where Melania is a client.

In a personal financial disclosure filed Thursday, Trump made clear that the super PAC’s $155,000 December 2, 2021 expenditure went to his wife. That payment lines up with a private fundraising dinner for the super PAC, held at the Trumps’ residence at Mar-a-Lago. One seat at that event cost $125,000.

“The Make America Great Again, Again super PAC also spent more than $350,000 at Mar-a-Lago in 2021 and 2022,” the Times notes.

This is not the first time that Trump has used his presidency and political campaigns to make his own family richer. CREW has tracked more than 3,700 conflicts of interest when it comes to the Trump family—like events held at Trump properties, publicly promoting the Trump Organization as president, to boosting his own pocket with countless visits to Trump hotels and golf courses.

The House Ethics Committee Is Coming for Matt Gaetz

A revived investigation into the congressman’s alleged sexual misconduct is ramping back up.

Matt Gaetz is back in hot water.

CNN reports that House Ethics Committee investigators have started to reach out to witnesses amid a recently revived investigation into allegations that the Florida Republican engaged in sexual misconduct, illicit drug use, and other misconduct.

When the investigation was first opened in 2021, the committee was looking into whether Gaetz violated sex trafficking laws, in connection with an alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old. He was also being investigated for employing campaign funds for personal use, accepting a bribe, and sharing inappropriate images or videos on the floor of the House.

Gaetz told CNN that the inquiry is “not something I’m worried about, I’m focused on the work.”

“It’s also funny that the one guy who doesn’t take the corrupt lobbyist and PAC money seems to be under the most Ethics investigation,” ignoring that there are, in fact, scores of other representatives who also do not take PAC money.

The investigation was first delayed as the Department of Justice underwent its own federal criminal investigation into the same allegations, concluding without bringing any charges.

Now, the committee is making contact with witnesses for what appears to be the first known time since it first re-upped the investigation. Within these recent contacts, the committee has reportedly focused on potential lobbying violations. A source noted to CNN that those questions are not necessarily the only ones being asked to the full slate of witnesses, however.

Of note is that the House ethics investigation has resumed under Republican leadership, as the committee is now chaired by Representative Michael Guest of Mississippi.

While Gaetz has often clashed with party leadership, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told CNN he doesn’t “know anything about” the investigation. He declined further questions and referred them to the committee. McCarthy has no influence over the committee’s investigation; any involvement would violate rules.

Though Gaetz himself has held that he did no wrong, at least three people have testified under oath that Gaetz asked twice-impeached and twice-indicted former President Donald Trump for a preemptive presidential pardon regarding the Justice Department’s investigation into the slate of allegations.

Summer Lee Bats Away Pentagon’s Limp Excuses for Huge Viagra Budget

“Do you know how many bridges in my district of Pittsburgh could be repaired with that amount?” the progressive representative asked.

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Representative Summer Lee

While Congress prepares to vote on yet another massive American defense package, different members have different priorities. Republicans, not satisfied with the progress on imposing their radical agenda, are looking to cram it into the defense bill as well. Progressives like Summer Lee, however, are going after the real issue at hand: how much trillions of dollars we spend not only on the war machine, but the most frivolous purchases within it, too.

“How much on average does the military spend on Viagra each year?” the Pittsburgh Representative asked John Tenaglia, a principal director at the Department of Defense, during a hearing on Wednesday.

“I don’t have that figure,” Tenaglia responded.

“About $41.6 million,” Lee responded. “Do you know how many bridges in my district of Pittsburgh could be repaired with that amount?” Lee continued, noting that the city’s Fern Hollow Bridge, which collapsed recently, would cost about $25.3 million to rebuild—a fraction of how much the Department of Defense has apparently spent on the erectile dysfunction pill.

“How much did the Department of Defense spend on snow crab and Alaska king crab in 2018?” Lee persisted. Tenaglia did not know the amount. “According to Open The Books, it was 2.3 million. Do you know how much the Pittsburgh City Council spends each year serving the county’s unhoused population? Only 1.2 million, but they’re certainly not being served Alaska king crabs.”

Lee also cited a 2016 House investigation that found the F-35 program raking up “hundreds of millions of dollars in added costs due to mismanagement and negatively affected military readiness,” noting that the entire program is estimated to cost $1.7 trillion—”enough to completely eradicate student loan debt.” She continued, citing the Government Accountability Office finding that just between May 2018 and October 2022, about  million F-35 parts valued at $85 million were “lost.”

After decades of reckless and boundless military spending, it’s high time Americans begin to understand how high the costs really are. Representative Lee joins a rising progressive caucus communicating the real stakes that the establishment keeps away from the public.

Republicans Move to Gut Climate Funding Amid Heatwaves, Floods, and Smog Storms

Ted Cruz and his Republican colleagues want to defund efforts to stop climate change, even as their constituents suffer.

Senator Ted Cruz
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Senator Ted Cruz

Millions of Americans have been enveloped in throat-scratching smog, have lost their homes and livelihoods in catastrophic floods, and have been facing extreme heat bubbles that have left people collapsing and even dying. Meanwhile, Republicans are working even harder to defund efforts to stop climate change.

While most of the conservative political establishment has proven wholly disinterested in even pretending to care about climate change—at the behest of their big fossil fuel and transportation corporate donors—Senator Ted Cruz and his Senate Commerce Committee GOP colleagues are leading a new charge to roll back climate funding in Biden’s proposed 2024 budget.

Fox reports that the Republican senators are pushing a memo to reject funding provisions focused on “equity” and “environmental justice” at agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and National Science Foundation (NSF).

Equity and environmental justice are the kinds of goals you may imagine an admirable comic book superhero pursuing (and there are indeed examples!), not something that elected American officials should be railing against.

But perhaps that helps clarify who society’s villains are.

NOAA’s goals, for instance, like building a “climate-ready nation” that can support underserved coastal communities—and ensure that people of all stripes are taken care of—was apparently too much for Cruz. The out-of-touch senator called such basic objectives “ancillary progressive causes,” revealing his disdain for millions of Americans.

The Republican-led memo also railed against NASA’s DEI office and its Earth Science program’s interest in helping the aviation community reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 (a bare minimum goal for pretty much every industry if we still want to have a healthy planet for our children).

“NASA should not become a plaything for anti-fossil fuel environmentalists,” the senator aka corporate puppet wrote in the memo. “The Committee would like to see funding for these missions targeted at worthy scientific enterprise and not the advancement of political agendas,” he added, while advancing Republicans’ own corporate-friendly political agenda.

Cruz’s committee also attacked funding requests to support agricultural practices that decrease emissions. In other words, they’re standing in the way of the government supporting farmers and ranchers in decreasing their impact on the very same environment their livelihoods depend upon.

And the Republicans also couldn’t stand the idea of investing into affordable, more environmentally-friendly housing, or sustainable clean water or transit systems, saying that the goals apparently have “virtually nothing to do with NSF’s statutory responsibilities.”

The NSF was established by Congress seven decades ago to promote the progress of science; advance the nation’s health, prosperity, and welfare; and secure the national defense. All goals directly related to climate resiliency and environmental protection. But no surprise Cruz cares little about any of that.

As of writing, there are over 113 million Americans—more than a third of the country—under extreme heat alerts. A heat wave in Florida has had the ocean reaching the hottest level on record, with some waters clocking in at hot tub-like temperatures.

Over the past month, before the planet reached the hottest week recorded ever, at least 25 Texans have died in the sweltering heat (all constituents of Ted Cruz, who is fighting tooth and nail to turn the heat up more). That death toll is likely just the beginning of the damage we may experience in the weeks to come.

The drastic heat comes while thousands of homes and businesses have been swept away by disastrous flooding in Vermont and New York—with rainfall coming in at a faster rate than even Hurricane Irene.

All of which has followed an ominous smog storm induced by climate change-aggravated wildfires. The omnipresent smog cloud, which enveloped most of America, seemed to be a foreboding warning of all the aforementioned disasters—and what else might be next.

But rest assured, amid all this, Ted Cruz and his Republican colleagues are doing everything they can to make it all worse.

Millionaire Disney CEO Whines That Writers’ Demands Are Not “Realistic”

Disney Chief Bob Iger says workers who want fair pay are expecting too much.


Disney CEO Bob Iger, who is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, says the current Hollywood strike for fair pay is “unrealistic.”

The Writers Guild of America has been on strike since May, and SAG-AFTRA, the actors union, is poised to join them as soon as Thursday. Among their contract demands are adjustments to compensation to account for streaming services, and the promise that they will not be replaced by AI.

“It’s very disturbing to me,” Iger told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Thursday morning. “There’s a level of expectation that they have, that is just not realistic. And they are adding to the set of the challenges that this business is already facing that is, quite frankly, very disruptive.”

Iger said he respects the right of unions to “get as much as they possibly can in compensation for their people,” but people have to be “realistic about the business environment, and what this business can deliver.”

For context, Iger’s estimated net worth in 2019 was $690 million. And that number has likely only gone up. At the time of the Forbes estimate, Disney was paying him a salary of $65.6 million.

Iger left Disney in 2021, but returned the following year. He was paid $15 million in 2022, despite only starting in November. He could earn up to $27 million this year.

His words also ring a little hollow considering that several Hollywood studios boasted about rising profits just days after the writers guild went on strike. Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount saw millions of dollars in streaming profits, while Apple reported revenue in the billions. Meanwhile, writers are being paid pennies in residuals, or their share of the payments for every time an episode of their show gets streamed.

Hollywood executives have also said their plan is to simply let the strike continue until the writers run out of money and have no choice but to go back to work. “The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses,” one executive told Deadline, speaking anonymously. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers has publicly denied the allegations.

Blow to GOP: New York Court Orders New Map That Could Help Dems Retake House

2024 is going to look very different.

Kevin McCarthy purses his lips
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House Speaker Kevin McCarthy

New York Democrats helped the party narrowly lose the House majority by dropping the ball on a slate of races in the last election—and now we have Republicans like George Santos in Congress. But beyond their own mismanagement, redistricted maps drawn by a conservative court stacked by former Governor Andrew Cuomo didn’t help. Now, those maps may be on their way to getting redrawn.

On Thursday, a New York appeals court ordered new congressional maps, turning the pressure even higher on Republicans who fear a fizzled midterm performance may carry over into 2024. In the last election, the current maps at least helped them flip four House seats.

But the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court has ordered the bipartisan Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) to redraw the congressional lines.

The saga surrounding New York’s redistricting stems back to 2014, when residents voted to adopt a constitutional amendment that banned gerrymandering and instituted the IRC to help create fair maps. The commission met last year to draw district lines, but was unsuccessful in completing its work—the party deadlock left the commission’s work in gridlock. Consequently, the Democratic-led legislature took over and drew its own maps.

Republicans sued, and the Cuomo-stacked state Court of Appeals overturned the maps and gave the district-making authority to its own appointed special master. The resultant maps are what helped Republicans make unlikely gains in the blue state.

The court’s Thursday decision responds to a lawsuit filed by Democrats last year arguing that the special master-drawn maps were temporary, and that the commission has to complete its work in drawing maps.

And with their ruling, the commission indeed has its authority once more to draw the maps; and if there is again a deadlock, the legislature now has authority to finish the job. Republicans are appealing the decision, and while the Court of Appeals ruled against the Democrats’ maps last year, the outcome may not hold again this year. The court’s makeup is different, and is now chiefed by Judge Rowan D. Wilson, who himself dissented against the decision last year.

The implications of the case ought not be understated. An array of Republicans—like Santos, or Representatives Mike Lawler and Anthony D’Esposito—in districts that voted for Biden may have a much more difficult time defending their seats come 2024.

New “Insurrection Barbie” Ad Mocks Ted Cruz for Mad Obsession With Children’s Doll

A new ad goes after the Texas senator for caring more about the Barbie movie than his own constituents.


An anti-Ted Cruz group is calling the Texas senator out for focusing more on the Barbie movie than actual issues affecting his constituents.

Cruz has led the charge among Republicans branding the forthcoming Barbie film as Chinese propaganda. One scene of the film has a map in the background that appears to include the so-called nine-dash line, a much-disputed division of territory in the South China Sea. China has used the nine-dash line to mark its controversial territorial claims in the region.

You need to see the map to understand how absurd Cruz’s complaint is. While Vietnam has banned the film over the map, the Philippines has decided to allow the movie because the “cartoonish map” actually only shows a “make-believe journey” of Barbie Land (half of Asia is missing!).

In honor of the senator’s new obsession, the Lose Cruz PAC unveiled a collection of Cruz-inspired Barbies in an ad on Thursday. “Since Ted Cruz is more focused on attacking Barbie than doing his job, we’re launching a new collection of Barbies inspired by his (lack of) work!” the group tweeted.

The dolls include “Insurrection Barbie,” who destroys democracy; “Podcaster Barbie,” who spreads the MAGA agenda; and “Cancun Barbie,” who literally flies away from her responsibilities.

In addition to hating on Barbie, Cruz has tweeted in recent days about opposing transgender rights, about how politicized the FBI and Justice Department are, and about how “woke” President Joe Biden’s climate agenda is.

The last one is particularly ironic given that Texas is currently boiling under a heat dome, which is sending temperatures as high as 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Analysts say the record temperatures are likely due to climate change.