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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) spoke out on Thursday to slam the efforts being made by some Democrats to pack the Supreme Court, calling it a “hostage-taking” move aimed to ensure there is a “sword dangling” over the justices as they try to decide cases in the future.

McConnell said this just before a group of House and Senate Democrats were set to unveil a new bill aimed at packing the court, increasing the number of justices from nine to thirteen.

“It’s not just about whether this insane bill becomes law,” McConnell said, according to Fox News. “Part of the point here are the threats themselves. The left wants a sword dangling over the justices when they weigh the facts in every case. As the Democrat leader threatened just two years ago, Democrats want the justices to know that they will, quote, ‘pay the price,’ end quote, for rulings that Democrats don’t like.”

The bill to pack the Supreme Court is being supported by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), and Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY).

“Our democracy is hanging by a thread. And the far-right majority on the U.S. Supreme Court is cutting it,” Jones said. “The majority’s doctrine is clear: if a law suppresses the right to vote, it is constitutional; if a law protects the right to vote, especially for Black and brown voters, it is unconstitutional. The American people have had enough.”

“Republicans stole the Court’s majority, with Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation completing their crime spree,” Markey added. “Of all the damage Donald Trump did to our Constitution, this stands as one of his greatest travesties.”

Not stopping there, Markey went on to say that the Senate needs to “abolish the filibuster to ensure we can pass it.”

Earlier this week, President Joe Biden signed an executive order that created a commission with a mandate to study whether he should attempt to pack the court. In the wake of this signing, McConnell called the order “an attempt to clothe” an attack on the Supreme Court in “fake legitimacy.”

“But alas, the far left cannot even wait for the fake theatrics of the fake study to play out,” McConnell said on Thursday. “Today Democrats in the Senate and the House have announced that they will once again threaten judicial independence from the steps of the court.”

McConnell then ripped into the way the media is treating what Democrats are doing.

“If Republicans had introduced a bill to add four Supreme Court seats for the last president to full, there would have been weeks of wall-to-wall outrage on every newspaper and cable TV channel,” McConnell said. “Now it seems the main strategies are to either shrug off and look the other way or to actively pay along and somehow lend credence.”

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Congress

GOP Senator Ernst suggests party’s effort to oust Cheney from House leadership is ‘cancel culture’

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Iowa GOP Sen. Joni Ernst, the only female in Senate Republican leadership, is comparing party efforts to remove Rep. Liz Cheney from House leadership to “cancel culture.”

“I feel it’s OK to go ahead and express what you feel is right to express,” she said Monday, according to The Hill newspaper. “Cancel culture is cancel culture no matter how you look at it. Unfortunately, I think there are those that are trying to silence others in the party.”

Ernst spoke two days before House Republicans are almost certain to vote in favor of removing Cheney, of Wyoming, as GOP Conference chairwoman, amid her ongoing, public disagreement with former President Trump over his claims about widespread 2020 election fraud.

House Republicans have essentially argued Cheney is not expressing the position of leadership and the conference and that the feud has become a distraction.

Ernst said she has been a Trump supporter and doesn’t agree with Cheney. However, she argues the GOP should be more focused on winning upcoming elections and regaining control of Congress, rather than going after one of its own.

“What we can do is come together and try to win seats in 2022,” she said. “I think that’s what all of us should be focused on.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy sent a letter to his caucus Monday telling members to expect to vote Wednesday on whether to keep Cheney in the No. 3 House leadership post. He has also backed New York GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik as her replacement. 

Cheney after voting to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot survived a House vote to remove her from leadership.

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Lawmakers to FBI head: ‘We write to request information about the FBI’s illegal spying activities’

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Republican Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona and Jim Jordan of Ohio in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray highlighted a recently declassified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) memorandum opinion and order.

“According to a recently released opinion from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been seriously and systemically abusing its warrantless electronic surveillance authority,” the lawmakers said in the letter. “We write to request information about the FBI’s illegal spying activities.”

The congressmen pressed Wray to “explain why almost a year after the OIG’s report about FISA abuses, the FISC found the FBI to still be abusing its warrantless surveillance authority under section 702” and to supply “a detailed accounting of every instance since December 2019 in which the FBI has queried, accessed, otherwise used information obtained pursuant to section 702 for purposes unrelated to national security.”

They also asked the FBI director to detail what moves he has made “in the wake of the FISC’s November 2020 memorandum opinion and order to prevent the FBI from using its section 702 authorities to surveil, investigate, or otherwise examine U.S. citizens.”

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Grassley asks Secretary of State Blinken to detail conflicts of interest involving John Kerry

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Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley is asking the State Department to release additional information detailing the personal finances of President Biden’s special envoy for climate, John Kerry, and any potential conflicts of interest he has between his official duties and private investments.

Grassley sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday asking his department to specify what Kerry is barred from working on due to potential conflicts of interest.

The request follows Axios reporting Friday that Kerry disclosed millions of dollars in income  from finance and energy firms.

In Grassley’s letter, the senator said it is “unclear exactly what matters Mr. Kerry has been barred from working on and whether he has received any waivers for specific matters that he would otherwise be recused from.”

Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, is asking the department to hand over all emails, memorabilia and documents about all potential conflicts of interest. Grassley gave the department a deadline of May 17 to get him documents.

Among the finances Kerry disclosed were a $5 million salary from Bank of America after his stint in the Obama administration; $382,000 in speaking fees from Deutsche Bank, Waste Management and Cornell University; and $125,000 in consulting fees from The Rise Fund, an investment firm dedicated to renewable and sustainable energy.

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