The Forward Five – Wednesday, 3/3/21

Five Things to Know Today

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— Publisher’s Note —

Good morning! Democrats in DC are stuck between a rock (Joe Manchin) and a hard place (Mitch McConnell).

Let me explain.

Current Senate rules require 60 votes to pass anything significant. Why? Because of the filibuster, a self-imposed rule. Originally, it meant a member could delay or stop a bill by talking and talking and talking. The only way to stop the senator’s filibuster was by voting to stop it (a motion known as “cloture”) – but, you had to have 60 votes for the cloture motion to pass. Over time, the talking part went away (for the most part), but the threat of talking meant you still had to have 60 votes for cloture.

So, since the Dems only have 50 votes plus the VP, they need 10 Republicans to vote with them to get anything passed. And with Mitch McConnell leading the Republicans, that’s not going to happen.

The Dems COULD vote by a simple majority to change the rules to get rid of the filibuster completely, thus making all votes simple majorities, and thus making it possible for them to pass all the major legislation they want to pass. (The COVID relief bill is moving under a process called “reconciliation” which only needs 50 votes – but they can only use reconciliation once per budget year.)

So why don’t they just get rid of the filibuster? Because they need all 50 Democrats to vote that way, and one Democratic Senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, is adamant that he will never vote to get rid of the filibuster.

What does this mean? It means that Mitch McConnell is blocking major legislation from being passed, and Joe Manchin is preventing the Democrats from doing anything about it.

As much as this sounds like some “inside baseball” problem, it is actually one of the biggest stories in Washington, now and into the future. The House can pass whatever it wants, and the Senate can schedule a vote on it (before, McConnell wouldn’t even bring things up for a vote), but most of it won’t ever pass as long as this impasse remains.

So, if you read one day that the Dems have figured out a way to get rid of the filibuster, you should schedule a big celebration and break out the champagne. Because it will mean, at last, that our federal government can pass bills that actually make a positive difference.

Bruce Maples, publisher
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Today’s Five Things to Know

3/3 update — Beshear says low case and death numbers in nursing homes show vaccines work; calls Texas governor’s relaxations ‘reckless’

As all the metrics used to measure the coronavirus continued to improve, Gov. Beshear took special note of one that hasn’t received much attention lately: single-digit case and death numbers in the state’s long-term care facilities, where vaccinations are almost complete. (Forward Kentucky)

Ky. House votes to ban death penalty for severely mentally ill

The Kentucky House of Representatives passed a bill Monday banning the death penalty for people with some severe mental illnesses. The mental illnesses included in the list of exemptions are schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, or delusional disorder. (WFPL via Forward Kentucky)

Credit where due — Repubs in Frankfort pass some GOOD bills

With Repubs controlling pretty much everything in this year’s General Assembly, we give them much grief for some of the horrible bills they sponsor and pass. So, it’s only fair that when they actually pass some GOOD bills, we call those out as well. (Forward Kentucky)

State Senate passes bill to change process of filling U.S. Senate vacancy

The Kentucky Senate approved a bill that would change the way a vacancy for U.S. Senate would be filled, a topic that seems particularly timely considering Mitch McConnell’s age.

Currently, if one of Kentucky’s Senate seats becomes vacant during its term, the governor can appoint whomever he wishes to fill the remainder of the term.

Under the new bill, the state executive committee of whichever party currently holds the seat would submit three names to the governor, who would be required to pick one of the three to fill the seat. And, if there are more than three months remaining in the term, a special election would be held to fill the remainder of the term. (It’s more complicated than that, but that is the gist of it.)

Kentucky Senate backs COVID liability shield for businesses

Legislation that would provide broad protections to shield Kentucky businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits won approval from the state Senate after a long debate Monday evening.

Senate President Robert Stivers is lead sponsor of the bill, which passed the chamber on a 24-11 vote and now goes to the House. The House passed its version of virus-related liability protections for businesses in January. Republicans dominate both chambers and will try to reach agreement on a final version before this year’s session ends in late March.

Business groups are pressing for a legal liability shield to block potential litigation as Kentuckians who have dealt with COVID-19 start casting blame for their infections. Opponents of the Senate bill said lawsuits haven’t been surfacing in Kentucky over the transmission of the virus. The Senate measure ran into resistance from some lawmakers who said it’s too broadly written and favors some Kentuckians over others. (Kentucky Today)

Today’s KYGA update

What happened yesterday, what’s planned for today, and the complete published calendar (Forward Kentucky)

Recent Content on Forward Kentucky
[new] indicates item not in a Forward Five before
🔥indicates high # of reads, social media shares, or both

[New] Mitch McConnell throws shade after Donald Trump takes credit for his reelection – The Kentucky Republican had a sassy comeback to the former president’s remarks during his first speech since leaving office. (Brief)

[New] Biden proves he’s got our backs – Going on 86 years ago, Franklin D. Roosevelt made the most pro-union statement ever uttered by an American president. Joe Biden just broke FDR’s record. (Commentary)

Senate committee advances bill to give Louisville civilian review board subpoena power – A Senate committee advanced a bill Monday to give subpoena power to Louisville’s new police civilian review board, a measure supporters say would give it the teeth needed to provide significant oversight of the city’s police department. (Brief)

Republicans are trying to kill what’s left of the Voting Rights Act – In two Supreme Court cases from Arizona that will be heard on March 2, Republicans are trying to kill what remains of the VRA. And Mitch McConnell approves. (Commentary)

🔥 Let’s just say it — there is no bottom – I’ve stopped listening to most pundits when they get on a diatribe about reclaiming the Republican Party. Like Charlie Brown with Lucy Van Pelt and the football, how many times are you going to be fooled? (Commentary)

🔥 Guess what the minimum wage would be if it kept pace with inflation or productivity? – Lots of politicians like to talk about working for minimum wage and how it wasn’t so bad. So, how much were they actually working for, in TODAY’s dollars? (Policy)

🔥“Mule bill” used to gut Kentucky’s open records law – Say goodbye to the open records law as we have known it for 45 years. Its fate rests in the hands of a largely hostile legislature. Its last moments are literally ticking away. (Commentary)

🔥Protect journalists, activists from vindictive lawsuits – It’s one thing for government agencies to deny open records requests from the press or public. It’s quite another for those entities to file lawsuits in retaliation against the requesters. (Commentary)

🔥Repub bill gives half a loaf to Louisville – but with poison pill inside – House Bill 309 SOUNDS like what was needed: subpoena power for the civilian police review board. But the more you look, the worse it seems — not to mention the poison pill inside. (Analysis)

SOS Adams praises new election bills. But how good are they, really? – Two new voting bills have been filed in Frankfort, and SOS Adams says they are great. But how good are they, really? Both Adams and Dr. Josh Douglass weigh in. (News)

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Forward Kentucky is an independent media organization focused on progressive news and issues in Kentucky. Our objectives are to provide journalism that is objective, policies that are effective, and commentary that is progressive. Our goal is to help Kentucky become all that it can be through government that works, for all. We are "the progressive voice for Kentucky politics."

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