• Tyre Nichols’ Parents Set to Attend Biden’s State of the Union Address

    AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

    The parents of Tyre Nichols, the Black man who was fatally beaten by Memphis police officers, have accepted an invitation from the Congressional Black Caucus to attend President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on February 7.

    The invitation came days after the Memphis Police Department released bodycam footage that, as warned, showed an abuse of power that was “heinous, reckless, and inhumane,” reigniting calls for police reform nationwide. Biden, who spoke with Nichols’ mother and stepfather, RowVaughn Wells and Rodney Wells, on the phone, has called the footage “horrific.”

    “It is yet another painful reminder of the profound fear and trauma, the pain, and the exhaustion that Black and Brown Americans experience every single day,” Biden said in a statement. On Sunday, an attorney for the Nichols family demanded Congress pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in the wake of Nichols’ death. As my colleague Noah Lanard wrote

    The bill would ban chokeholds, no-knock warrants in federal drug cases, create a national registry of police misconduct, and force police departments to collect more data, NPR has reported. The bill would also push more money toward community-based policing. It would mostly impact federal law enforcement. 

    Crump argued that there hasn’t been federal police form legislation since Lyndon Johnson was president. “It didn’t happen with Rodney King, it didn’t happen with Michael Brown in Ferguson and it didn’t happen with George Floyd,” he continued. “How many of these tragedies do we have to see on video before we say we have a problem, America?”

    The CBC has also called for a meeting with Biden to discuss national reforms in police departments. In his last State of the Union address, the president came under fire from progressives after declaring the answer to public safety is to “fund the police”—an approach many social justice advocates have argued will only exacerbate violent police instances. NBC reports that Biden’s speech, while still a “work in progress,” is expected to cover gun safety measures, immigration, and threats to democracy.
  • A Month in America

    Patrick Lantrip/AP

    Tyre Nichols was a “good boy” who spent Sundays doing laundry and preparing for the week, his mother told CNN.

    “Does that sound like somebody that the police said did all these bad things?” RowVaugh Wells asked. “Nobody’s perfect, okay, but he was damn near.”

    Among the most gut-wrenching details to emerge from the murder of Tyre Nichols, this quote from his mother is staying with me as we await the release of bodycam footage that will show how Nichols was killed during a traffic stop in Memphis, Tennessee earlier this month. For now, we know that all five police officers involved in Nichols’ beating have been fired and charged with second-degree murder. “Absolutely appalling,” is how David Rausch, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, described the fatal police encounter.  On Thursday, President Biden issued a statement offering his condolences, while calling for peaceful protests ahead of the video’s release. “Violence is destructive and against the law,” the president said, a familiar refrain. Nichols loved his mother and was an adoring father to a 4-year-old boy.

    His death came just days after Keenan Anderson died from cardiac arrest after repeatedly being tased by LAPD officers in another traffic stop. “They’re trying to George Floyd me,” Anderson can be heard saying in body camera footage,  heartbreaking last words recalling a movement that’s slowly receded into memory. These deadly police encounters involving Black men come amid a string of school shootings, another distinctly American plague, one of which involves a 6-year-old boy. In California, back-to-back shootings have left Asian Americans stuck in trauma. 

    Desensitized, outraged, and self-defeated. Watching these tragedies unfold with a relentlessness that only an American in 2023 can uniquely identify with, it’s hard not to feel a mix of these emotions colliding with one another. Tonight’s video release will surely extend our collapse of hope for a less deadly future.

  • It Shouldn’t Just Be Elaine Chao

    Andrew Harnik/AP

    In a rare public statement, Elaine Chao, the former transportation secretary and wife of Mitch McConnell, hit back at Donald Trump’s anti-Asian attacks on Wednesday, claiming that the overtly racist insult “Coco Chow” revealed more about her one-time boss than it did about Asian Americans.

    “When I was young, some people deliberately misspelled or mispronounced my name. Asian Americans have worked hard to change that experience for the next generation,” Chao told Politico. “He doesn’t seem to understand that, which says a whole lot more about him than it will ever say about Asian Americans.”

    It was a measured response; its power relying on the fact that someone had bothered to speak up at all.

    Yet did it have to be her? Reading Chao’s new statement, what struck me was the absence of Republican lawmakers defending her in the accompanying piece. Aside from two Republicans, Alyssa Farah, the former White House communications director under Trump who has since quit MAGA, and Scott Jennings, a GOP strategist and former aide to Chao’s husband, neither of whom are sitting lawmakers with real skin in the game, the piece didn’t include a single Republican lawmaker willing to speak up.

    Chao has previously suggested that repeating Trump’s racist attacks against her—which often includes not only the personalized slur but baseless accusations of secret fealty to Beijing—only fuels his abhorrent taunting. And yet it’s gotten to the point that even she has to say something. And she had to do it alone.

    If you squint hard enough, you’ll find a former official who called the racist attacks “offensive” and a “stain on everything” Trump purportedly achieved for Asian Americans. But that official requested anonymity, a choice that can only be judged as an absurdly craven way to condemn overt racism in 2023.

    Of course, the GOP’s collective shrug at all this isn’t new. That’s turned into a near-obsession for me, and like Trump, I’ll just keep throwing out words at the wall until someone says something. Here are two: monstrous asshole. 

  • Newport News School Board Votes to Fire Superintendent After School Shooting Involving 6-Year-Old

    AP Photo/John C. Clark, File

    In the wake of three school shootings in less than two years, the latest involving a 6-year-old boy, the Newport News School Board on Wednesday voted to fire superintendent George Parker III, citing a loss of trust among the city’s staff and parents.

    Effective February 1, Parker will no longer lead the district’s public school system, which has been reeling after a 6-year-old boy shot his first-grade teacher at Richneck Elementary School earlier this month. 

    “This decision is based on the future trajectory and needs of our school division,” said School Board Chairwoman Lisa Surles-Law said after the 5-1 vote. “In addition, I must relate, we do appreciate the progress of the division under Dr. Parker’s leadership in developing a long-range facility improvement plan and expanded student programs through a focus on mentorship and student leadership. The Newport News School Board thanks him for his service and wishes him nothing but the best moving forward.” 

    Only one board member, Hampton University professor Gary Hunter, supported Parker against calls for his ouster. In a separate 5-1 vote, the school board elected Michele Mitchell, the current executive director of special education for the district, to replace Parker as Newport’s interim superintendent. 

    “For me, it wasn’t about Dr. Parker’s leadership,” Douglas C. Brown, a board member who voted to replace Parker, said at the meeting. “It was a question about whether or not the staff would support his leadership in carrying us through the new challenges we face.” 

    The remarks on Wednesday echoed concerns following two other school shootings in the district, the first at Heritage High School in September 2021, and another that took place two months after at Menchville High School. But scrutiny of Parker’s leadership came into sharp focus following this month’s shocking school shooting at Richneck Elementary School and mounting allegations that school officials had received multiple warnings that a 6-year-old had been in possession of a gun on the day of the shooting. As my colleague Mark Follman wrote:

    The tragedy at Richneck Elementary remains fraught with questions of systemic failure regarding both the family and the school. How did the boy actually get his hands on the gun and know how to use it? Who indicated to school officials in advance that he might have a weapon? What safety protocols did the school system have in place, and why didn’t school officials find the gun with their search? What if any action did they take after that result?

    An attorney for Abby Zwerner, the first-grade teacher who was shot at Richneck Elementary School, said she plans to file a lawsuit against the school board.

  • Trump Is Allowed to Return to Facebook and Instagram

    Former President Donald Trump speaks about filing a class-action lawsuits targeting Facebook, Google and Twitter and their CEOs on Wednesday, July 07, 2021 in Bedminster, NJ. Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Getty

    Donald Trump will regain control of his Facebook and Instagram accounts with tens of millions of followers after his suspension following the January 6, 2021, attack, Facebook parent company Meta announced Wednesday. Trump had been banned from these social media accounts after he helped to incite the violent attack on the US Capitol. Meta said a series of “guardrails” would be in place for the former president.

    Trump announced his candidacy for president in November and his campaign petitioned Facebook to allow him to return to the platforms. The former president is also reportedly planning his return to Twitter after Elon Musk lifted the company’s ban on him in November.

    The restoration of his social media accounts will give Trump a loud and widespread voice that has been quieted by the bans over the last two years. Facebook says that it will penalize Trump, including another suspension from its platforms, if he violates its rules.

    Time will tell. Before his suspension, Facebook had a history of looking the other way when the ex-president violated its rules. Whatever the case, Trump could be tanking his own social media company, Truth Social, if he starts posting on other platforms. And it could, as my colleague Mark Follman has reported, further political violence.

  • Marjorie Taylor Greene Wants to Be Trump’s VP

    Tom Williams/ZUMA

    “Marjorie Taylor Greene is having a moment,” a recent headline declared, one of a host of news reports wondering why the Georgia congresswoman—whose endorsement of the execution of prominent Democrats got her kicked off two congressional committees—is suddenly, sort of, cleaning up her act.

    But as with everything in politics, it seems that unadulterated, DC-brain ambition is at the core of Greene’s curious pivot—and she’s hoping to manifest “Madam Vice President” into reality.

    “She sees herself on the shortlist for Trump’s VP,” Steve Bannon told NBC News, later praising Greene as both “strategic and disciplined.” Another source told NBC that Greene has a “whole vision” to get on Trump’s ticket, and it involves fashioning herself into something of a liaison between the GOP’s worst creatures and what passes for the party’s mainstream these days.

    There’s no word from Mar-a-Lago on whether Trump is seriously considering the far-right congresswoman to be his running mate. For now, he seems mostly occupied with lawsuits and drafting his first tweet for his inevitable return to Elon Musk’s platform. But it’s a strange thing witnessing the ongoing elevation of Greene, with everyone from new BFF Kevin McCarthy to Steve Bannon padding her ascent. Now, will it take her all the way to the Naval Observatory? In a universe where Greene is getting tapped to investigate the government’s Covid response, well, anything’s possible; tomorrow will surely be worse.

  • Tyre Nichols’ Attorneys: Memphis Police Stop That Led to Death Was a “Nonstop Beating”

    AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

    On January 10, Tyre Nichols, 29, died. Three days before, Nichols was stopped by Memphis police and beaten for three minutes, according to lawyers for his family. Investigations are underway.

    Today, nearly two weeks after his death, Tyre Nichols’ family met with law enforcement and were shown footage of his death. The video has not been released to the public. But lawyers for Nichols’ family describe gut-wrenching bodycam footage of his violent arrest at the hands of five former Memphis police officers. 

    “What he was in [that video] was defenseless the entire time,” Attorney Antonio Romanucci said. “He was a human piñata for those police officers. It was unadulterated, unabashed, nonstop beating of this young boy for three minutes.”  

    In the video, the family said they saw the officers kick, pepper spray, and use a stun gun while Nichols repeatedly asked, “What did I do?” The family’s attorney said he yelled for his mother three times near the end of the footage.

    Nichols’ death sparked protests across the city. Demonstrators, in part, demanded the release of footage showing his death. The Shelby County District Attorney’s office said in a statement that they’d release the footage either this week or next week. “Transparency is a priority for the DA’s Office, and we understand the public’s desire for immediate release. However, it’s important that the release does not compromise the investigation,” the statement said

    On Friday, the Memphis Police Department announced in a statement that they fired all five officers involved in the beating after an internal investigation concluded that they’d violated several department policies, including excessive force and failure to render aid. 

    According to ABC News, the District Attorney has stated that they will be looking into criminal charges for the officers. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Justice Department will also be conducting their own criminal investigations into Nichols’ death, while the family’s legal team tackles a civil one. 

    “We’re going to get justice for my son Tyre if that’s the last breath I take,” said Rodney Wells, Nichols’ stepfather, through tears at the press conference. 

  • New York to George Santos: Resign

    AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

    Earlier this month, in his first on-the-record statement rejecting calls to resign after he admitted to lying about huge swaths of his resume, a defiant Rep. George Santos insisted that he would step down only if voters turned against him. “We’ll find out in two years,” Santos said.

    But Santos may not have to wait until reelection to find out. A new Siena poll, the first to directly ask registered voters in New York about their scandal-plagued congressman, revealed that 59 percent of those surveyed want Santos to step down. Seventeen percent said he should not resign, and 23 percent didn’t have an opinion. 

    The poll, of course, is just one snapshot of Santos’ tanking support across the Empire State. But if Santos’ tenure in Congress, as he claims, truly relies on the will of his constituents, the survey is not good news, particularly as multiple investigations into his financial background pick up steam. Let’s review just some of the lies and falsehoods surrounding Santos’ brief but tumultuous time in Congress so far:

    My colleagues David Corn, Dan Friedman, and Noah Lanard also recently looked into allegations that Santos conned a prominent GOP donor, Andrew Intrater, who also happens to be a cousin of a sanctioned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. Santos’ scandals are not limited to the United States, either. As my colleague Isabela Dias has reported from Brazil: 

    A popular Brazilian late-night TV show called Fantástico aired a segment with new findings about Santos. The congressman reportedly used different names and nationalities—like Russian—on dating app profiles. He used variations of his name, too, including George Devolder, Anthony Devolder, and Anthony Zabrovski.

    The Brazilian TV show reported that Santos splurged while living in Niterói in 2008 with his mother, who passed away in 2016, and his sister. In an interview, a woman called Adriana Damasceno claimed to have met Santos at a Bingo parlor. Damasceno said they became friends and that during a trip to the United States in 2011, he went “shopping under her name, withdrew all the money she had in the bank, and even pawned jewelry.” When asked about whether she had reported anything to authorities, Damasceno said Santos bragged about having dual citizenship—American and Brazilian—and that she felt powerless to come forward.

    Where will the Santos mystery take us next? I have no clue. But New Yorkers are making it clear they’re not amused.

  • Amazon Potentially Fined 0.000013 Percent of 2021 Revenue Over “Serious Worker Injuries” at Warehouses

    Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal/Zuma

    Three Amazon warehouses exposed workers to safety issues that put them at risk for “lower back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders,” the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced today. Amazon faces a proposed penalty of $60,260—or roughly 0.000013 percent of its reported $469,822,000,000 2021 revenue.

    Safety inspections at warehouses in Deltona, Florida; Waukegan, Illinois; and New Windsor, New York found that workers were required to work long hours lifting heavy items, which predisposed them to developing musculoskeletal disorders.

    “Each of these inspections found work processes that were designed for speed but not safety, and they resulted in serious worker injuries,” Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker said in a statement. “While Amazon has developed impressive systems to make sure its customers’ orders are shipped efficiently and quickly, the company has failed to show the same level of commitment to protecting the safety and well-being of its workers.”

    It seems unlikely that a roughly $60,000 fine will spur Amazon to rethink its operating procedures. The working conditions at the factories cited by OSHA are part of a larger pattern of Amazon ignoring worker safety.

    Over the span of a month this summer, four Amazon workers died in separate incidents, some of which critics suspect were caused by excess heat. (As my colleague Emily Hofstaedter has reported, climate change has made heat a rising cause of on-the-job deaths, but OSHA has not updated its regulations accordingly.) Last month, after a worker died of a heart attack at a Colorado Springs warehouse, managers reportedly hid the body with cardboard bins while workers continued their shifts, unaware of the death.

    Remarkably, Amazon faced no fines after six people died at one of its warehouses during a Category 3 hurricane, as we reported last year. One worker reportedly sent a text prior to his death that said, “Amazon won’t let us leave.”

  • Sinema and Manchin High-Five Over Refusing to Reform the Filibuster In a Room Full of the Richest People on Earth

    Bill Clark/Zuma

    Two years after Sen. Kyrsten Sinema voted against raising the minimum wage with an exaggerated thumbs-down, the Arizona Independent once again reduced political debate to an infuriatingly twee hand gesture.

    This time, she initiated a high-five with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) over their shared refusal to reform Senate rules. At a World Economic Forum event in Davos, Switzerland, Sinema denounced partisanship as “not healthy for democracy” before celebrating a process that stifles political action by requiring 60 senators’ approval before a bill can be brought to a vote.

    “While some would say that there were reluctant folks working in Congress in the last two years,” she said, gesturing to herself a Manchin, “I would actually say that that was the basis for the productivity for some incredible achievements that made a difference for the American people in the last two years.”

    “We still don’t agree on getting rid of the filibuster,” Manchin said.

    “That’s correct,” Sinema said, tossing her hand in the air.

    Watch the exchange here:

    For the full story of Sinema’s transformation from radical activist to Senate obstructionist, check out my colleague Tim Murphy’s profile here.

  • Republicans Are Now Flipping Out Over Gas Stoves

    Eva Marie Uzcategui/AFP/Getty

    First, they were incandescent lightbulbs. Then, low-flow showerheads. Now, in their seemingly never-ending quest to remove “wokeness” from their appliances, Republicans have set their sights on waging a war on behalf of gas stoves. The brewing battle comes amid reports that the US Consumer Product Safety Commission is considering a ban on the beloved kitchen appliance, citing research linking emissions from gas stoves to a litany of respiratory health conditions, including children’s asthma. But the Republican outrage, which has already launched another culture war, appears to once again distort what’s actually happening. 

    There was Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who on Tuesday tweeted, “Democrats are coming for your kitchen appliances. Their desire to control every aspect of your life knows no bounds—including how you make breakfast. They just can’t help themselves.” Podcaster and professional transphobe Matt Walsh insisted that President Biden would have to pry his gas stove from his “cold, dead hands.” Then we had this strangely ominous tweet from the Oklahoma Libertarian Party:

    Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis dove into the storm this morning, borrowing from a phrase with pro-slavery sentiments.

    Despite the right’s angry insistence, no such plan for the government to seize gas stoves exists. As I wrote earlier this week as news of a potential ban circulated, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission is considering a ban on new gas stoves and setting emissions standards for them. That’s a far cry from the Republican fiction going around, depicting Biden agents storming peaceful kitchens and leaving giant, gas-stove holes while all you wanted to do was enjoy some pancakes. Any potential ban is an extension of the Biden administration’s efforts to encourage more Americans to go electric after including a rebate of up to $840 in the Inflation Reduction Act for those who wanted to purchase new electric cooking appliances.

    Responding to the predictable GOP ire, the CPSC emphasized that there is no plan to ever confiscate people’s kitchenware. Potential regulations would apply to new products, and going electric would be entirely voluntary.

    Of course, that hasn’t stopped conservatives from crying about governmental overreach. But their faux handwringing has conveniently omitted mention of the increasing evidence pointing to serious health concerns from gas stove emissions. As we’ve reported,  research has shown that gas stoves are hazardous, even when they’re turned off. A new study released earlier this month found about one in eight cases of childhood asthma stem from pollution from gas stoves. But it doesn’t seem like you’ll hear anything about that from Marjorie Taylor Greene.

  • Florida Congresswoman Explains What It’s Like to Be Forced to Carry a “Dead Baby” to Term

    Lynne Sladky/AP

    Until today, Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) had kept the story of her traumatic, pre-Roe pregnancy private. But during a congressional debate on abortion policy, she opened up about being forced to carry a dead baby to term—and warned lawmakers of the deadly consequences of a federal abortion ban.

    Wilson said that she became pregnant, intentionally, shortly after getting married in 1968. At seven months, the fetus stopped moving, but her doctor was prohibited by law from inducing labor. Wilson said she was “forced to carry my dead baby” until she went into labor at eight and a half months.

    “After three days, I left the maternity ward in a wheelchair, empty-handed, no baby,” she said. “We had a small graveside burial for baby boy Wilson, and the doctors were so afraid that I would also have had to have a graveside burial. Do not take us back to the days before Roe v. Wade.”

    Wilson urged lawmakers to consider her story when considering abortion restrictions, now that the right to choose is no longer protected by law.

    “Abortion does not only apply to women who have decided for themselves they’re not ready to have a child,” she said. “Abortion affects women who are at risk of facing medical emergencies, life-altering emergencies and death.”

    Watch Wilson’s testimony here:

  • Tell Us About Coming of Age During #MeToo

    This October marked five years since the #MeToo movement began. At the time, we reflected on the ways we’d been treated at school, at the office, at home. We named abusers. And upon this most recent anniversary, I’ve been thinking specifically about what the movement has meant for those who “grew up” during this period.

    When #MeToo first took off, many reflected on the past. But a younger generation faced a future in which formative milestones would likely be altered by a movement still unraveling before the culture. Their first jobs, college years, early dating ventures all shaped by this cultural phenomenon. They came of age in an era where so many of the past ideas about sex, relationships, and power were changing rapidly.

    That’s how we started a project to report on what it was like to come of age during #MeToo. And we’d love for you, our readers, to help.

    If you are under 30, we want to hear about how the #MeToo movement has impacted your life. Did it affect any of the big decisions you made in the last five years? Have you shifted the language you use to discuss consent, or around what media you consume? Did it change the way you navigated dating or dating apps? Have you reconsidered any personal or professional relationships?

    Let us know by filling out this form.

  • The Case Against a More Cinematic C-SPAN

    Bill Clark/AP

    The internet is in rare agreement: C-SPAN, the famously staid public affairs network, had a banger week.

    Measured in television ratings, that’s indisputable; Americans were apparently riveted by Kevin McCarthy’s marathon humiliation, and who could blame them? But the attendant praise for a C-SPAN gone wild—the direct result of the chaos the network’s cameras were there to film—has convinced some that we should give C-SPAN producers full control over what they’re able to film, allowing the network to create a cinematic event out of turgid committee meetings. The logic appears rooted in several ideas but the main one seems to be that increased transparency is a good thing. Maybe the country wouldn’t be such a divisive shithole if we could see more Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Paul Gossar in conversation, forgetting that the guy once tweeted an anime depicting him killing her. Oh, and the memes. Little vape hits so satisfying, why not make room for more? 

    But there’s a real danger in believing that the C-SPAN we saw last week, while surely more entertaining, offered an authentic glimpse into the inner workings of Congress.

    As my colleague Tim Murphy wrote for the magazine, we live in a post-Trumpian era teeming with shitposters, lawmakers clamoring for virality with a shamelessness that can only be judged as repulsive. C-SPAN was created to undo such media distortion. But, in the blog era, that’s harder to imagine: Everything is fodder for a post. Adults who run our country now obsess over ways to appear in headlines claiming they’ve DESTROYED political foes, whose long game doesn’t extend much further than to create endless content. This sickness consumes many of the stars of the current Republican Party, but Democrats are far from immune. In fact, Democrat Katie Porter emerged last week with what might be the best possible argument against a free-roaming C-SPAN:

    Politics is inherently performative; we all know this. Yet whipping out “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” in 2023, as if we’re still stuck in the Obama years, exceeds tolerable levels of cringe. Such moments, themselves little prayers hoping to excite a certain corner of the internet, feel intensely out of step with the overwhelming desensitization of being subsumed by nearly a decade of political corniness and mendacity. One easily imagines Porter, days into McCarthy’s struggle and realizing that much of the country is watching, convening with aides to brainstorm tortured content they’d eventually fundraise off of. That’s normal DC brain for you, sure. But why let them commit such corny atrocities under the guise of faux transparency?

    The chance of getting zoomed in on by a C-SPAN camera would also play to some of the worst instincts that animated the very grandstanders responsible for last week’s Republican paralysis. While political observers pondered over what this rowdy group could possibly want by holding the whole thing hostage, consideration of just three of the biggest McCarthy holdouts—Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, Andy Biggs—suddenly rendered all that political guesswork silly. You could pore over the list of concessions and realize that nothing quite matched their singular impulse to chase clout. Be vile because why the hell not? Remain permanently drunk on pursuing endless fights. I’m all for C-SPAN producers enjoying themselves. But a zoomed-in version of Gaetz’s rot is a price too big.

    Of course, not everything we witnessed via C-SPAN last week was contrived. George Santos seemed genuinely lonely, that guy really did almost hit the other guy, and Americans did get a view into political wheeling and dealing. But none of that is enough to warrant the belief that permanent, free-roaming access to floor discussions is true transparency.

    I reject a future marred by a C-SPAN gaze. At least when it’s clout chasing on CNN it’s clear what game is being played.

  • Hakeem Jeffries Just Made History—and Gave a Helluva Speech

    Alex Brandon/AP

    On Saturday, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries made history as the first Black lawmaker to lead a congressional party, making a splash with his first official speech as House Minority leader in the wee hours of the morning.

    “As John Lewis would sometimes remind us on this floor, we may have come over on different ships but we’re all in the same boat now,” said the New York Democrat, referencing the Civil Rights icon and longtime politician while addressing the 118th Congress. While the entire speech was well received, it was the final portion that really struck a chord with people, both in the chamber and online. Adopting a unique alphabetical format, the congressman’s inaugural speech cleverly lists the Democratic Party’s values with a Sesame Street-esque flair. He even made mention of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago scandal, earning a cheer from the audience. 

    “House Democrats,” he said, “will always put American values over autocracy, benevolence over bigotry, the Constitution over the cult, democracy over demagogues, economic opportunity over extremism, freedom over fascism, governing over gaslighting, hopefulness over hatred, inclusion over isolation, justice over judicial overreach, knowledge over kangaroo courts, liberty over limitation, maturity over Mar-a-Lago, normalcy over negativity, opportunity over obstruction, people over politics, quality of life issues over QAnon, reason over racism, substance over slander, triumph over tyranny, understanding over ugliness, voting rights over voter suppression, working families over the well-connected, xenial over xenophobia, ‘yes, we can’ over ‘you can do it,’ and zealous representation over zero-sum confrontation.” 

    You can watch the full speech here. 

  • Here Are the Concessions Kevin McCarthy Had to Make to Become House Speaker

    Alex Brandon/AP

    It’s finally over. After days of negotiations and 14 failed ballots—the most since 1860—Republican Kevin McCarthy was officially elected speaker of the House early Saturday morning. In exchange for the necessary votes to get him elected, the congressman had to beg, barter, and plead with a group of hardline Republicans who held out for a litany of concessions. 

    Since Wednesday, McCarthy and his supporters have been negotiating with several far-right GOPers, including some who have been implicated in Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election, as my colleague Dan Friedman previously reported. House members like Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), and Scott Perry (R-Pa.) all held out on their votes, until McCarthy eventually won them over. 

    According to CNN, here’s what the holdouts got from McCarthy in exchange for the speakership:

    • Any member can call for a motion to vacate the speaker’s chair
    • A McCarthy-aligned super-PAC (the Congressional Leadership Fund) agreed to not spend in open Republican primaries in safe seats
    • The House will hold votes on key conservative bills, including a balanced budget amendment, congressional term limits, and border security
    • Efforts to raise the nation’s debt ceiling must be paired with spending cuts
    • Move 12 appropriations bills individually, instead of passing separate bills to fund government operations
    • More Freedom Caucus representation on committees, including the influential House Rules Committee
    • Cap discretionary spending at fiscal year 2022 levels, which would amount to lower levels for defense and domestic programs
    • 72 hours to review bills before they come to floor
    • Give members the ability to offer more amendments on the House floor
    • Create an investigative committee to probe the “weaponization” of the federal government
    • Restore the Holman rule, which can be used to reduce the salary of government officials
  • Watch House Republicans’ Near-Fight on the 14th Vote to Elect McCarthy House Speaker

    Andrew Harnik/AP

    It was late. Everyone was fried. And apparently, some Republicans had finally had enough.

    On Friday night, toward the end of the 14th (and penultimate) vote to elect Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as House Speaker, McCarthy found himself walking over to Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican who has been one of most outspoken conservative holdouts in the speakership drama. Gaetz had just voted “present” after repeated votes for other non-McCarthy candidates, and some Republicans believed that would be enough to finally hand McCarthy the gavel. But it wasn’t enough; Gaetz needed to have voted for McCarthy for that to happen.

    So McCarthy approached Gaetz, and the two began a dour-looking conversation that involved a few other nearby GOPers. It was yet another sidebar in a week of sidebars.

    And then Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) rolled up on the group, and the vibe shifted quickly:

    Rogers obviously wasn’t pleased with Gaetz’s grandstanding. He also couldn’t have been pleased by North Carolina Republican Richard Hudson, who ended up restraining Rogers by, strangely, grabbing his face and covering his mouth. According to the Washington Post, “Rogers stormed off the House floor and into a cloakroom. He declined to elaborate on the clash, saying, ‘I think it spoke for itself.’”

    Just another night with the Hold Me Back, Bro caucus.

  • For Four Days, C-SPAN Was the Greatest TV Channel in the World

    A Renaissance paintingBill Clark/CQ Roll Call/AP

    12:29 a.m. ET: The House finally voted confirm Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House. It’s been a wild ride.

    As midnight approached on the fourth day of House speaker voting, things were buzzing on C-SPAN.

    The freely accessible channel trained its briefly liberated cameras on Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as he appealed to holdout Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) to take us out of our misery and vote for him. The dialogue is inaudible, but people shout as McCarthy walks down the aisle. McCarthy hears something that grabs his attention, and he turns around defiantly.

    Things got physical:

    Portrait of a defeated man:

    Members began chanting “one more time” when it became clear that the majority had voted against a motion to adjourn. Buckle up for round 15 of voting:

    Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) says what we’re all thinking:

    Here’s a link to the most riveting television on air.

  • Which Has Stricter Entrance Policies: The House of Representatives or Yankee Stadium?

    Mother Jones; Getty; Rob Tringali/Sportschrome/Getty

    Yesterday afternoon, it hit me. As I watched C-SPAN yesterday, waiting for Republicans to get their shit together, I noticed something surprising: a lack of coffee cups in the hands of our nation’s elected representatives. I usually have an iced coffee glued to my palm, like most who hail from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. How could Rep. Ayanna Pressley and her colleagues bear to sit around the chamber for hours without caffeine?

    There is an obvious answer: Drinks and snacks aren’t allowed on the House floor, no matter what Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) says.

    As boredom over Republicans’ infighting set in, I started reading about which items are prohibited from the House floor and from the Capitol as a whole.

    It struck me that the banned item list was not that extensive (especially since one of Republicans’ first orders of business upon retaking the House was to remove the metal detectors at the entrances to the chamber). Specifically, it struck me that the House was laxer than a place that I, like anyone who hails from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, was been born to hate: Yankee Stadium.

    I think that now is a proper time to do something we’ve needed to do for years: Compare the security standards of the hallowed halls of Congress with those of that soulless stadium in the Bronx. Throughout the list, I will first mention the Capitol’s rules and compare them with those of a team that has not won a World Series since 2009. And then I will decide a winner.

    Bags

    • Bags exceeding the size of 18″ wide x 14″ high x 8.5″ deep are not allowed in the Capitol.  At Yankee Stadium, the permitted dimensions are 16″ x 16″ x 8″.
    • The Capitol prohibits “briefcases, backpacks, and suitcases of any size” in the gallery, and presumably on the floor as well. Yankee Stadium bans “hard-sided bags or containers of any size.” I suppose you could bring a backpack to a Yankees game, as long as it’s not carrying any Tupperware.

    Winner: The Capitol. Capacity is important.

    Guns

    • Come on, use your head. Weapons are a no-go at both venues. Well, kind of: The Capitol Police say that firearms, including replica guns and ammunition, are not allowed in the Capitol; other sources say that congresspeople are allowed to have guns in their personal offices, a rule apparently made to accommodate members who wanted to display ceremonial weapons. It remains unclear whether Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), who holds a concealed carry permit, was ever able to sneak her Glock onto the House floor.

    Winner: Everyone.

    Aerosol cans

    • Not allowed in either location, even if it’s just sunscreen or hairspray. Mace and pepper spray? Forget about it.

    Winner: Capitol. You can’t get sunburned in there.

    Snacks

    • You can bring a snack to a ballgame.
    • No snacks during a session of Congress. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) learned this the hard way.

    Winner: Stadium of team that got swept by the Astros in 2022.

    Laptops

    • Not allowed in the ballpark or on the floors of the House and Senate, although the late Sen. Michael Enzi’s (R-Wyo.) 1997 request to bring his laptop to the Senate floor caused a lot of people to spend a lot of time deciding that Thomas Jefferson wouldn’t like that very much.

    Winner: Capitol. Members are at least allowed to bring their laptops into the building and leave them in their offices. I once went straight to a game (against the Red Sox, of course) from work, with my laptop in tow. I was denied entry to the stadium and had to pay to rent a locker across the street. (Since we’re here: Another day, I foolishly brought a bouquet to the stadium, for my boyfriend’s college graduation. No flowers allowed. I had to pitch them.)

    Cell phones

    • It’s 2023. Cell phones are everywhere. You can take them to Yankee Stadium. 
    • People do take them to the House floor, even if they aren’t exactly allowed.

    Winner: Capitol, for the entertainment value of watching congresspeople texting.

    Helmets

    • Helmets are banned at Yankee Stadium. Rode a Citi Bike to the game? Tough luck.
    • Helmets are allowed on the floor of Congress, as far as I can tell—as long as representatives aren’t wearing them on their heads.

    Winner: Stadium of the team A-Rod played for. Oh, by the way, he and Jennifer Lopez broke up. Guess who she married? Ben Affleck. Guess who he roots for? The fucking Sox.

    Hats

    • There is perhaps no place where a hat is more acceptable than a baseball stadium.
    • In Congress, not so much. Once top hats went out of style, Congress banned head coverings. Hoods were banned in 2012. Following the election of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who wears a hijab, the rule was amended to allow religious headwear.

    Winner: Yankee Stadium, where the Red Sox clinched the 2004 American League Championship Series before going on to win the World Series and break the Curse of the Bambino.

    Projectiles

    • Yankee Stadium banned flying discs and beach balls because it hates fun.
    • The House and Senate have different rules, but former Sen. James Inhofe’s (R-Okla) snowball display suggests that projectiles are more acceptable in the Capitol than in the bleachers.

    Winner: Capitol. If I could, I would throw stuff at the baseball team called the New York Yankees.

    Selfie sticks

    • Remember these? They can be pretty obtrusive, so I suppose it makes sense that they’re banned at Yankee Stadium.
    • I can’t find any info on whether they’re allowed on the House floor, but their ban during the pope’s visit to Congress in 2015 suggests that they were at one time allowed.

    Winner: Capitol. I am pro-selfie.

    I reached out to the Capitol Police and the Sergeant at Arms for comment on some of the gray areas. We’ll keep you posted on their response. But for now, the answer is clear: I’d rather sit through three days of inane Speaker votes than ever step foot in Yankee Stadium again.

    Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the state former Sen. James Inhofe represented.

  • Monster of 2022: Cars Parked in Bike Lanes

    Mother Jones; Courtesy of Grace Molteni; Courtesy of Jacob Rosenberg

    The last time I got in a fight was about four years ago in San Francisco. The incident involved me, my bike, and a car. And when I say fight, I mean a stranger shoved me to the ground and I ran away—the bike under me as I hurried like a child riding a stick that’s supposed to be a make-believe horse. 

    It was a moment of mutual road rage. I was headed home from work on a one-way street, plodding along in the bike lane on the right side. As I approached a side street, a car cut in front of me—ostensibly to make a right turn. Annoying, but acceptable. I tried to slow down. The car, however, did not turn; it parked. In the bike lane. I hit the Toyota and flipped over my handlebars. And, in sort of a beautiful bit of timing, as I was about to make my landing, the car moved forward just a bit. At this point, my shoulder, and general head area hit the pavement. Bam, bam. (I was fine.)

    Propelled by a dose of adrenaline and an overwrought sense of justice, I hobbled over to the car’s window. Before I could even begin to berate anyone, someone yelled: “Keep it fucking moving.” Out of the passenger seat, a man emerged (let’s pretend he was big but I don’t remember). He walked over to me and pushed me to the cement. “Uh, what the fuck?” I asked from the less-than-dominant position of the ground. And then I got up and did what I was told: I kept it fucking moving.

    For me, this was all fine if frustrating. Getting pushed? Okay, I’ve been to middle school, we can deal with it. Crashing on my bike? It happens. But the particular indignity of the next part was what has stuck with me.

    After my time on the cement, I started riding home. And even then I still had to dodge many cars parked in the bike lane. It was like having to clean up the mess your bully made after giving you a swirlie. Navigating the often-obstructed bike lane, swerving into the street where car traffic sped along, I had to look behind me into oncoming traffic. (I’ve been told that making eye contact with drivers forces them to acknowledge you’re a real human being and therefore they will be less likely to hit you.)

    The entire time I kept thinking: What if one of these cars smushes me? And what if after it happens, the driver doesn’t even think it’s their fault? Dying is part of life. But to die at another’s hands (as they grip the wheel) without the perpetrator feeling any twinge of guilt?  That is not a just world in which I want to live. Often when I am almost run down by a car while biking, the thing I realize is: That driver thinks I’m being annoying and I think they’re being evil. The yawning gap in emotion bugs me. 

    That disconnect has been on my mind a lot this year after I moved back to New York City.

    Many of my happiest memories here are attached to biking.  When I had little money, as a freelancer after college, my best friend and I had a cherished weekend tradition. I would steal a roommate’s bike, and we would head down from Bushwick to Sunset Park. There, we ate tacos, and then rode to a cafe in Red Hook, sitting near the water, reading books—pausing now and then to talk. It was a cheap and fun way to spend a day.

    We used some bike lanes. But the thrill was in part listening to loud music in our headphones, dodging cars, and dipping in and out of traffic. It felt like a low-level rebellion. Biking did not feel normal. It was not carefree. At the time, I didn’t mind a car parked in a bike lane—all the better reason to get into the street, try to skim past a vehicle stuck in traffic, yell at someone over an Arthur Russell song that seemingly everyone was listening to.

    That doesn’t seem as appealing now. (Even if I do sometimes indulge.) Now, in a landscape with bike lanes, I am flummoxed by how dangerous it feels to use what seems to be the easiest, best form of transportation to get around town. This year, as Gothamist reported, traffic deaths have gone down slightly but the problem is still massive: In 2022, guns were involved in 246 deaths in New York City; there were 247 traffic deaths. (Despite that, the crime narrative that fueled the governor’s race did not exactly hone in on the automobile.)

    For a week, I kept track of how often I had to go into the street because a car was parked in a bike lane. It was astounding. On average I saw one car parked in a bike lane for every 2.5 minutes of biking.

    For Mother Jones, Abigail Weinberg has written “accidents” don’t exist; they are really safety design flaws. Last year, my colleague Tim Murphy chose cars generally as a monster of 2021, noting that there are few consequences for hitting someone with an automobile. What increasingly irks me about cars is their sheer presumption. To think about designing a city around biking, or walking first is considered to not be serious about the world. It is considered the pipe dream of activists. And that arrogant car chauvinism, for me, is most noticeable when I see a vehicle parked in a bike lane. It is as if a driver has said: I will take that too

    I often wonder if I will be able to bike in New York City when I am sixty. When will be the last time my friend and I can have that day from Sunset Park to Red Hook? 

    When I see a car in a bike lane, it is not only an annoyance but a reminder that creating a livable city—with the fullest meaning of that phrase—will take more than some paint on the ground. I can’t imagine doing something this casually dangerous for the rest of my life. I can’t imagine not doing it either. 


    As usual, the staff of Mother Jones is rounding up the heroes and monsters of the past year. Find all of 2o22’s here.