Category Archives: U.S. House of Representatives

Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA) blisters GOP’s Speaker nominee Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) in fiery speech

Still from C-Span footage covering the US House Speaker election, October 17, 2023.

The Hill, by Lauren Sforza, October 17, 2023

Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) blasted Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) in an impassioned speech nominating Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) for Speaker on the House floor Tuesday.

“A vote today to make the architect of a nationwide abortion ban, a vocal election denier and an insurrection insider to the Speaker of this house would be a terrible message to the country and our allies,” Aguilar said, speaking of Jordan.

“Mr. Speaker, it would send an even more troubling message to our enemies, that the very people who would seek to undermine democracy are rewarded with positions of immense power,” he continued.

He ripped the GOP’s Speaker nominee for putting the country’s national security at risk, for his role in not certifying the 2020 election results and for launching “baseless investigations.” Jordan has been a leading figure in House impeachment probes into President Biden and his son Hunter.

“We’re talking about someone who has spent his entire career trying to hold our country back, putting our national security in danger, attempting government shutdown after government shutdown, wasting taxpayer dollars on baseless investigations with dead ends, authoring the very bill that would ban abortion nationwide without exceptions and inciting violence on this chamber,” Aguilar said.

“Even leaders of his own party have called him a legislative terrorist,” he added.

That monicker was once used by former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to describe Jordan.

Aguilar also took aim at Jordan for voting no on a series of legislative action, including approving natural disaster relief in states after they were ravaged by hurricanes and wildfires. When listing out examples of what legislative action Jordan opposed, some Democrats appeared to join in chorus, saying “he said no” along with Aguilar.

“When the Mississippi River floods devastated the south and communities across state lines needed Congress to act, he said no,” he said. “When our veterans were suffering from disease and dying as a result of their service to our country and Congress passed a bipartisan solution, he said no.”

The California Democrat criticized the House for considering electing a member “who has not passed a single bill in 16 years.”

Aguilar called on the House to find a bipartisan way forward, accusing Republicans of throwing the House into “chaos” by failing to come to a consensus on a new Speaker. He said that they are gathered to vote on a new leader because “this hallowed chamber has been led to a breaking point by two dangerous forces — extremism and partisanship.”

He also urged those on both sides of the aisle to vote for Jeffries.

“Only Hakeem Jeffries can be trusted to keep his word. Only Hakeem Jeffries can lead us out of the chaos and towards the path of governance. It brings me immense pride to nominate our friend the Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries as Speaker,” he said.

Jordan, who narrowly secured the GOP nomination for Speaker in an internal vote last week, failed to clinch the 217 votes necessary on the first ballot. The vote was 200 for Jordan, 212 for Jeffries and 20 for other members. It’s unclear when a second vote might be held.

Watch Rep. Aguilar’s whole speech here:

In & Out: Laphonza Butler sworn in to US Senate & Rep. Kevin McCarthy dumped as House speaker

[Note from BenIndy: Apologies for putting two major news updates in one post, but not only are these both important stories, they are also worthy of juxtaposition.]

Who is Laphonza Butler, the newest senator from California?

Laphonza Butler was sworn in Tuesday as a new U.S. senator representing California, replacing Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who died last week at the age of 90. Vice President Kamala Harris administered the oath of office at the ceremony in the U.S. Capitol.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said afterwards that Feinstein is “looking down at this moment with pride now that her seat is in good hands.”President Biden called Butler to congratulate her, the White House said.

Butler, a Democrat, was sworn in less than 48 hours after California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced her appointment.

Butler tweeted on Monday that she was “honored” to accept Newsom’s appointment and said, “I am ready to serve.”She stepped down from her role as the president of EMILYs List, a Democratic group dedicated to electing women who support abortion rights, to accept the Senate appointment.In choosing Butler, Newsom kept a 2021 promise to appoint a Black woman to the role. Feinstein’s seat is up for reelection in 2024, and three prominent House Democrats — Reps. Katie Porter, Adam Schiff and Barbara Lee — have already announced they are running.Butler will also serve as the crucial 51st vote for Senate Democrats, who have a slim majority in the upper chamber and are defending several seats in red states in 2024.

Butler will only be the third Black woman to serve in the Senate. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois was the first, serving from 1993 to 1999. Harris was the second, from 2017 until becoming vice president in 2021. Butler was as a senior adviser on Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign.

Butler is the second openly lesbian woman in the Senate, and the first Black lesbian woman in the Senate. She and her wife, Neneki, have a daughter named Nylah. Although Maryland voting records seen by CBS News show a Laphonza Butler of Silver Spring registered to vote in that state, Newsom’s office said Monday that Butler will re-register in California, where she owns a home, when she is sworn in.

Sen. Laphonza Butler, D-Calif., raises her right hand, with her wife Neneki Lee looking on, as Vice President Kamala Harris recites the oath during her ceremonial swearing-in in the Old Senate Chamber in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 3, 2023. | Bill Clark for CQ-Roll Call, Inc., via Getty Images.

What is Laphonza Butler’s professional background?

According to her biography from EMILYs List, Butler grew up in Magnolia, Mississippi, and attended Jackson State University, a historically Black university.

In an interview with Elle in 2021, Butler said that her family wasn’t the kind “that talked about elections or politics at the dinner table, but we were the family that talked about what it meant to be in service to others. What do we do to help somebody?”

In that same interview, she said that while she was working with the SEIU labor union, she was able to “connect it with the jobs my mom had.”

“There have been parallels in my career and what I knew my mom experienced as a worker herself,” Butler said. “I always felt like the work I’ve done has been my opportunity to continue my mom’s journey and to make those jobs better for the children of those workers.”

At the age of 30, Butler was elected the president of the biggest union in California, and the nation’s largest homecare workers union, SEIU Local 2015. She also served as SEIU International’s vice president and president of the SEIU California State Council.

Butler’s biography says she spent 20 years in the labor movement, including working on the campaign to raise the minimum hourly wage to $15 in California, the first state in the country to do so.

Butler was an adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

In 2018, Butler and political consultants Ace Smith, Sean Clegg and Juan Rodriguez formed the political consulting firm SCRB Strategies. Rodriguez ran Harris’ primary 2020 campaign, with Butler as senior adviser.

After Harris left the race, Butler served as director of public policy and campaigns in North America for Airbnb.

Laphonza Butler speaks onstage at the Emily’s List 6th Annual Pre-Oscar Breakfast held at the Beverly Hills Hilton on March 7, 2023 in Beverly Hills, California. | Photo by Gilbert Flores for Variety via Getty Images.

What did Butler do with EMILYs List?

Until being appointed to the Senate, Butler served as the president of EMILYs List, the group that supports women in office who support abortion rights. She was the first woman of color to hold that position.

EMILYs List is fundraising juggernaut for Democrats, having raised nearly $68 million in the 2022 election cycle, according to OpenSecrets.

Butler told the news organization Capital B News in an interview in Feb. 2022 that after the 2016 election, “more than 60,000 women reached out to us from all over the country and wanted to offer themselves for public service.”

“From a tactical point, we have created online communities for them to connect with each other, we have offered online training and made it accessible no matter what community that person is reaching out to us from, we have made sure that we are working to expand the state and local work of EMILYs List,” she said.

EMILYs List issued a statement on Monday praising Butler as a “groundbreaking leader.”

According to the statement from Newsom’s office, Butler will step down from her role at EMILYs List when she joins the Senate.

Kevin McCarthy ousted as speaker in Republican-led House in historic vote

Politico, by Katherine Tully-McManus, September


    • The final vote was 216-210, with nearly all Democrats joining eight conservatives
    • Rep. Patrick McHenry is now the acting speaker. He has all the powers of an elected speaker of the House and was hand-picked by McCarthy as speaker pro tempore in January.

McCarthy out as speaker

For the first time in history, the House has deposed its speaker.

Democrats joined with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and his small group of conservative allies to vote to strip Kevin McCarthy of his gavel Tuesday. It’s unclear who would succeed McCarthy long term, though his allies expect he will try to run for speaker again and members pledged to continue supporting him.

“We’re perfectly happy to drag this out as long as it takes,” said Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.), a McCarthy ally. “We’re all going to be there for the speaker as long as he wants us to be.”

“I’ll continue to support Kevin McCarthy as long as he’s running,” echoed Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.)

The House clerk announced Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) would act as a temporary speaker immediately after the vote concluded. McHenry was selected from a secret list of McCarthy’s hand-picked successors. The Californian’s ally will have all the authority of a regularly elected speaker. There are several questions surrounding that acting speaker, as House rules don’t specifically lay out how soon a new speaker ballot would need to occur.

Eight Republicans voted against McCarthy: Reps. Eli Crane (Ariz.), Ken Buck (Colo.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Matt Rosendale (Mont.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Bob Good (Va.), Nancy Mace (S.C.) and Tim Burchett (Tenn.).

Three House leaders have been floated as potential long-term replacements: Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) and Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.). All three have disavowed any interest in replacing McCarthy — a reality that could change now that the Californian is officially out.

McCarthy’s long-running troubles with his right flank became a full-fledged rebellion in recent days after he called up a stopgap spending patch on Saturday that averted a shutdown without imposing any of the spending cuts or conservative border policies that he’d vowed to push. More Democrats than Republicans voted for that short-term spending bill, essentially guaranteeing the conservative pushback against the speaker.

The last time the House moved to try to evict a speaker was 1910, and the move has never before succeeded.

California launches first-in-nation taskforce to study reparations for Black Americans

The committee’s first meeting marks the beginning of a two-year process to address the harms of slavery and systemic racism

The Rev Dr Robert Turner of the Historic Vernon Chapel AME Church holds his weekly Reparations March in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Photograph: Reuters
The Guardian, by staff and agency, June 1, 2021

A first-in-the-country taskforce to study and recommend reparations for African Americans held its inaugural meeting in California on Tuesday, launching a two-year process to address the harms of slavery and systemic racism.

The meeting of the first state reparations committee in the US coincided with a visit by Joe Biden to Oklahoma, during which the president marked the centenary of the Tulsa race massacre and commemorated the hundreds of Black Americans who were killed by a white mob in a flourishing district known as the “Black Wall Street”. It also comes just over a year after the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minnesota.

A federal slavery reparations bill passed out of the House judiciary committee in April, but it faces an uphill battle to becoming law. The bill was first introduced in Congress in 1989 and refers to the failed government effort to provide 40 acres (16 hectares) of land to newly freed slaves as the civil war wound down.

California’s secretary of state, Shirley Weber, who as a state assemblywoman authored the state legislation creating the taskforce, noted the solemnity of the occasion as well as the opportunity to right a historic wrong that continues today, in the form of large racial disparities in wealth, health and education. African Americans make up just 6% of California’s population yet were 30% of an estimated 250,000 people experiencing homelessness who sought help in 2020.

“Your task is to determine the depth of the harm, and the ways in which we are to repair that harm,” said Weber, whose sharecropper parents were forced to leave the south.

The state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who signed the bill into law last year, issued a formal apology to Native American tribal leaders in 2019. He also announced the creation of a council to examine the state’s role in campaigns to exterminate and exploit indigenous people in the state.

Critics have said that California was not a slaveholding state and should not have to study reparations, or pay for it. But Weber said the state is an economic powerhouse that can point the way for a federal government that has been unable to address the issue. It would not replace any reparations agreed to by the federal government.

In 1988, Ronald Reagan signed legislation providing $20,000 in redress and a formal apology to every surviving Japanese American incarcerated during the second world war.

Members of the taskforce pointed out that Black Americans have heard all their lives that they need to improve themselves, yet the truth is that they have been held back by outright racism and discriminatory laws that prevented them from getting conventional bank loans and buying homes.

Slavery may not have flourished in California as it did in southern states, they said, but African Americans were still treated harshly. Their neighborhoods in San Francisco and Los Angeles were razed in the name of development.

The nine taskforce members, appointed by Newsom and leaders of the legislature, include the descendants of slaves who are now prominent lawyers, academics and politicians.

Steven Bradford, a taskforce member and state senator, said he would like to model a reparations program on the GI bill, allowing for free college and assistance with home-buying.

“We have lost more than we have ever taken from this country,” Bradford said. “We have given more than has ever been given to us.”


Adam Schiff delivers massive smackdown: Trump is “immoral,” “unpatriotic” and “corrupt”

Repost from Salon

Under attack from Trump and the ludicrous Devin Nunes, Intelligence Committee chair focuses on the real question


President Trump held his first rally since mid-February on Thursday in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Sounding alternately buoyant and furious, he took a big victory lap and declared himself to have “won” against the witch hunt. In an extended rant right out of the gate he proclaimed:

After three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax is finally dead. The collusion delusion is over. The Special Counsel has completed his report and found no collusion, no obstruction … Total exoneration, complete vindication. …

The Russia witch hunt was a plan by those who lost the election to take power by framing innocent Americans — they suffered — with an elaborate hoax. They tried to destroy a movement like nobody has ever seen before. They did it because they refused to accept the results of the greatest presidential election results in American history … they perpetuated the single greatest hoax in the history of politics, they have to be — I’m sorry — they have to be accountable.”

As we saw telegraphed as early as Monday, Trump wants revenge. His motto for years has been “get even” and he obviously thinks that wreaking vengeance on his political opponents will keep him in the White House past 2020. Even his decision to back the lawsuit repealing Obamacare, made against the advice of many Republicans, is really just a way for him to exact revenge on his most hated rival — who happens to be a dead man, John McCain.

Trump went out of his way to crudely insult House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff, D-Calif.:

He didn’t talk about the size of his own neck, thankfully.  But he did get a bit more rhetorically pungent, saying, “The Democrats need to decide whether they will continue to defraud the public with ridiculous bullshit.” (Yes, he said bullshit.)

The attack on Schiff is obviously a specific strategy to try to shut down the Intelligence Committee’s ongoing investigation into Trump and Russia. Earlier in the day Trump had tweeted out:

When the House Intelligence Committee held a hearing later that day to hear Russia experts talk about how that country’s intelligence services infiltrate various aspects of American life, the committee’s ranking member and former chair, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., stepped up to make an opening statement:

We should not be used as a platform to spread false information and bizarre conspiracies. We have unique capabilities and authorities to do crucial oversight work and now, frankly speaking, that is not being done.

You read that right. Then Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, read a letter signed by all nine Republicans on the committee demanding that Schiff resign, claiming that he was promoting a demonstrably false narrative and had abused his position to knowingly promote false information about Russian collusion.

This, coming from the same Republicans who contrived the ludicrous alternate universe around a “deep state” plot, culminating in the preposterous “Nunes memo,” could and perhaps should have resulted in convulsions of laughter in the hearing room. The idea of Nunes, the man who was caught red-handed, literally in the middle of the night, conspiring with the White House, accusing anyone else of conspiracy theories really cannot be taken seriously. He is a ridiculous person.

But Schiff didn’t laugh. And he was right not to. This is a serious issue of national security, and he responded with one of the more memorable congressional speeches in a very long time:

If you haven’t heard the whole thing I urge you to listen to it.

The reason that was so important is because Schiff brought the issue back to where it rightfully belongs: in the Congress. The only thing we know right now about any criminal liability is that Robert Mueller’s investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

But none of the events or behaviors Schiff cited are in dispute. Most of it happened right out in public. Whether it was legal or not, it was stupid and it was wrong and no president should be defended for behaving in such a craven, corrupt and unpatriotic way. What he did may not have been criminal conduct, but it was pathologically unethical. Anyone who didn’t find all that behavior suspicious has no business holding a responsible position in the United States government.

Schiff’s speech explains something important that Trump and the Republicans fail to grasp. People know what they saw. That’s why the polls aren’t moving toward the president in the wake of Bill Barr’s letter and Trump’s triumphant victory tour. Whether the president was part of a criminal conspiracy, or was simply so ignorant and corrupt that he didn’t know or care about the ramifications of his actions, isn’t really the question. What Schiff did in that speech was to bring the subject back to the central question: Is this president acting in the interest of the people of the United States, or is he acting in the interest of Donald Trump? I think we know the answer. And it’s not OK.

Some of the Republicans on the panel understood that what Schiff had said was a powerful indictment of their own lack of ethics and morals. After Schiff finished  and attempted to go on, one member demanded to be allowed to respond to his comments, insisting, “No one over here [on the Republican side] thinks that.”

You don’t? Could have fooled us. At every step of the way the Republicans have acted as Trump’s accomplices, refusing even to suggest that he might have done something wrong in all this. They clearly don’t think he did.

I’m willing to be generous and say that at the end of the day we may very well find that Trump is so dim-witted and narcissistic that he literally does not know right from wrong. That obviously makes him unfit for the presidency but it doesn’t make him guilty of conspiring with a foreign government. Fine. But all these Republicans who refuse to even acknowledge the outrageousness of his conduct definitely do know better.They are shameless and that’s hard to fight against, still less to defeat. But Adam Schiff laid out the real issue more successfully than anyone we’ve seen in recent times. Let’s hope it’s the first of many illustrative moments as the Democrats start to provide the serious oversight that has been lacking these past two years.


Heather Digby Parton, also known as “Digby,” is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.