Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) has decided that he supports ending the filibuster by modifying it through a “talking filibuster,” which would require senators to speak on the floor to block legislation instead of the traditional filibuster requiring 60 votes to proceed to a final vote.
In a statement, Kelly compared the Senate to NASA, implying that the decisive action of the bare majority should outweigh the hesitations of the minority. It is unclear whether Kelly considered the 1986 Challenger explosion before he offered that comparison to justify his decision — the Challenger rocket did make it off the launchpad, but only survived for 73 seconds before exploding and killing the seven passengers on board.
It is also unclear whether Kelly considered the Biden Administration’s botched withdrawal efforts from Afghanistan late last summer, which caused the deaths of 13 service members at the Kabul Airport.
“As an astronaut and a combat veteran, I can tell you that if NASA or the Navy functioned like the United States Senate, we would never get the rocket off the launchpad and in combat we’d never complete the mission,” said Kelly. “Arizonans deserve a Senate that is more responsive to the challenges facing our country, which is why I’ve spoken with Arizonans and my Republican and Democratic colleagues about their views on what can be done to make this place work better. I’ve considered what rules changes would mean not just today, but years down the road, for both parties and all Arizonans.”
Kelly also asserted that modifying the filibuster was necessary because the country needed to protect mail-in voting and thwart dark money’s influence in elections.
“If campaign finance and voting rights reforms are blocked again this week, I will support the proposed changes to pass them with a majority vote,” said Kelly. “Protecting the vote-by-mail system used by a majority of Arizonans and getting dark money out of our elections is too important to let fall victim to Washington dysfunction.”
State Representative Travis Grantham (R-Gilbert) criticized Kelly’s sudden, hard show of partisanship given the senator’s history of prudence.
“And just like that, Senator Mark Kelly shows his true tyrannical beliefs and destroys any long term future he has representing the people of the great state of Arizona,” wrote Grantham. “For a man with such an amazing service record, what a shameful display of partisanship.”
Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) said they won’t support weakening the filibuster. Last week, Sinema explained in a 20-minute floor speech that scrapping the filibuster wasn’t a “lasting solution” but rather mere partisanship. She described the true issue at hand as the “descending spiral of division” destroying our country.
The Arizona Democratic Party accepted $10,000 ahead of the 2020 election from Chamath Palihapitiya — co-owner of California’s NBA team, the Golden State Warriors — who made viral remarks over the weekend that neither he or anybody else cares about the Uyghur genocide, and that the United States is no better than China. He further stated that he doesn’t believe China is a dictatorship, and dismissed claims that the Uyghur concentration camps are comparable to the Holocaust. Palihapitiya explained that he defends the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) because he doesn’t believe in moral absolutism.
AZ Free News inquired with the Arizona Democrats about Palihapitiya’s remarks and his donation. They didn’t respond to us by press time.
“Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs, okay?” said Palihapitiya. “The rest of us don’t care. I’m telling you a very hard, ugly truth. Of all the things I care about, yes, it is below my line.”
Palihapitiya said that if an issue isn’t at the forefront of someone’s mind, then it isn’t considered caring. He said he cared more about the supply chain crisis, climate change, our flagging health care infrastructure, and how China’s potential plan to invade Taiwan may capsize our economy. He insisted that prioritizing human rights over tactical, strategic issues and believing that every individual is entitled to a basic set of human rights is a “luxury belief.”
“If you’re asking me, do I care about a segment of a class of people in another country? Not until we can take care of ourselves will I prioritize them over us. And I think a lot of people believe that, and I’m sorry if that’s a hard truth to hear, but every time I say that I ‘care about the Uyghurs,’ I’m really just lying if I don’t really care. It’s not a priority for me.” said Palihapitiya. “The reason I believe it’s a luxury belief is because we don’t do enough domestically to actually express that view in real, tangible ways. So until we actually clean up our own house, the idea that we step outside of our borders with us sort of morally virtue signaling about somebody else’s human rights track record is deplorable. Look at the number of black and brown men that are incarcerated for absolutely ridiculous crimes.”
Palihapitiya is also the CEO of Social Capital, a California-based venture capital company, and the board of directors chairman of Virgin Galactic, a California-based spaceflight company founded by Virgin Group founder and business mogul Richard Branson.
Following Palihapitiya’s remarks, Virgin Galactic’s stock price was halved.
Since 2020, Palihapitiya has increased the frequency of his sizable campaign contributions. Prior to that, he gave selectively. While working for Facebook in 2011, Palihapitiya donated $5,000 to Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). From 2011 to 2019, Palihapitiya would go on to donate to various Democratic candidates, giving $30,700 to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in 2016 and $5,000 to Florida Democrats in 2018. Then in 2020, Palihapitiya decided to give nearly $180,000 to Democrats’ state organizations. Over $5,300 each went to Alabama, West Virginia, Kansas, Vermont, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Delaware, New Jersey, New York.
The Arizona Democratic Party was just one state to receive the bigger $10,000 allotments of Palihapitiya’s 2020 donations to state parties, alongside North Carolina, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Virginia, Florida, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Georgia, Nevada, Michigan, and New Hampshire.
President Joe Biden’s campaign received a total of $255,600 from Palihapitiya.
Following outcry, Palihapitiya walked back on his remarks. He tweeted a brief explanation sans apology, and insisted that he believes in the importance of human rights. Palihapitiya didn’t mention the Uyghurs in his explanatory statement.
“In re-listening to this week’s podcast, I recognize that I come across as lacking empathy. I acknowledge that entirely,” wrote Palihapitiya. “As a refugee, my family fled a country with its own set of human rights issues so this is something that is very much a part of my lived experience. To be clear, my belief is that human rights matter, whether in China, the United States, or elsewhere. Full stop.”
Although the entire scope of the Uyghurs’ situation remains shrouded in secrecy under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), evidence has surfaced that the Uyghurs have been subjected to a myriad of nearly all conceivable human rights abuses while imprisoned in concentration camps for “re-education,” including: forced sterilization and abortion, torture, sexual abuse and rape, forced labor, and even death.
Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) has kept up a consistent front of indecisiveness concerning whether he supports or rejects abolishing the filibuster rule. The latest from the senator came from remarks to Politico on Monday, in which he alluded that he would take abolition into serious consideration if a “real proposal” were introduced. According to Kelly, fellow Democrats haven’t made decisiveness possible because the proposals discussed change “almost weekly.”
Even in the event a real enough proposal comes to fruition, Kelly shied away from any insinuation of partiality to one solution or another, promising to take into account the country’s “best interests.” If Kelly explained what those “best interests” were, Politico didn’t report them.
All throughout the pandemic, Kelly hasn’t been able to give a solid answer to reporters on the filibuster. The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) compiled a comprehensive record of Kelly’s remarks to the press on the subject from June 2020 to present. Some of the senator’s closest indicators to a stance on abolishing the filibuster came about in September 2020. Kelly didn’t treat it as a serious solution but rather a political talking point.
“I mean, [the filibuster] really shouldn’t be part of the discussion. It’s also very hypothetical and it’s kind of more of the same stuff from a broken Washington,” said Kelly at the time.
Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder Adam Green responded to the Politico coverage with an insinuation that Kelly was feigning indecisiveness. Green, a progressive activist powerhouse, had replied to a disgruntled Democrat supporter vowing to stop funding Kelly over his indecisiveness.
“He is fine. Don’t believe this stuff,” wrote Green.
Prior to Kelly’s election, Green expressed doubt that Kelly was a solid choice for the Senate. Green toldThe Intercept in 2019 that Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-AZ-07) was a better fit.
During a Tuesday speech at Atlanta University Center, a historically black college in Georgia, President Joe Biden characterized the filibuster as a threat to democracy. The president claimed that he’s an “institutionalist,” which is why he wants to destroy the institution. Institutionalists prioritize traditional organizations at any expense.
“Sadly, the United States Senate — designed to be the world’s greatest deliberative body — has been rendered a shell of its former self. It gives me no satisfaction in saying that, as an institutionalist, as a man who was honored to serve in the Senate,” said Biden. “But as an institutionalist, I believe that the threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills, debate them, vote.”
Kyle Rittenhouse told Louder With Crowder (LWC) on Wednesday that Arizona State University (ASU) wasn’t honest in their characterization of his enrollment status, and declared he will attend ASU in the spring despite student activists’ pushback late last month.
Rittenhouse was vindicated by a jury of all charges last month, proving he’d lawfully exercised self defense during the Kenosha riots. During Wednesday’s episode of political news and comedy show Louder with Crowder, Rittenhouse explained that he’s a student at ASU currently.
“Yeah, it’s online. I took a compassionate withdrawal from my classes. My professors offered it and then a week later they gave me a compassionate withdrawal which – thank you for that. But then they came out with a statement saying, ‘Oh no no, he’s not enrolled at ASU anymore.’ I’m enrolled, I’m just not in any classes, but I have a student portfolio,” said Rittenhouse.
AZ Free News inquired with ASU about the technicality of student portfolios and enrollment. ASU spokesman Jay Thorne told AZ Free News it couldn’t go into detail about Rittenhouse’s enrollment status due to FERPA law. Their official statement contradicted Rittenhouse’s claim, saying he wasn’t enrolled currently.
“Kyle Rittenhouse did not go through the ASU admissions process but was enrolled in two publicly available online courses for this semester. University records show that he is now no longer enrolled, a status precipitated by his own actions,” stated Thorne.
That wasn’t all that Rittenhouse had to say about his future education. Rittenhouse also told LWC that he wasn’t deterred by the socialist and social justice student protestors at ASU.
“There weren’t even a lot of protestors there. It was a very, very small amount. And then people are just like, ‘I thought you were getting an education?’ and I’m like, yes, that’s what I want to do,” explained Rittenhouse. “I want to go to law school. I’m going to ASU in the spring in person. I want to do my four year undergrad there before I take the LSAT and go do my three years of law.”
Some recognizable faces were among the protestors’ number. One of the featured speakers there was Mastaani Qureshi – one of the three women found guilty of ASU’s Code of Conduct for harassing two white male peers with apparently rival political beliefs out of a common space on campus. Mastaani apparently took issue with another white male that represented apparently rival political beliefs, Rittenhouse, for his potential attendance at ASU. She claimed he was a white supremacist, vigilante, and killer.
“We want to say that Kyle Rittenhouse is not just any random killer, he’s a white supremacist killer. He is a vigilante. He is the descendant of white Americans who killed black and brown people. White supremacists back in the day were also acquitted of all charges if we have read history,” asserted Mastaani. “Kyle Rittenhouse didn’t get a guilty verdict because he was f*****g white!”
The entire Kenosha ordeal has shaped Rittenhouse’s career goals. Rittenhouse originally expressed an intent to study nursing, a desire reflected by his reason for being in Kenosha that fateful night last August: to put out fires and administer first aid to anyone present. Then on Wednesday, Rittenhouse confirmed with Crowder that he intends to study law instead of nursing because of the prosecutorial misconduct he witnessed and experienced during his trial.
“I want to be a criminal defense attorney,” said Rittenhouse. “I’m big on, no matter who the person is, I believe everybody deserves fair and good legal representation.”
OJ Simpson jury consultant Jo-Ellan Dimitrius helped select the jury for Rittenhouse’s trial. Rittenhouse said that she was an amazing support for them.
“She’s a phenomenal jury consultant. She’s more than that for us, though. She was a rock for my mom – someone my mom could lean on and hold during this entire ordeal,” said Rittenhouse.
Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) claimed that the Biden Administration’s spending plan, the Build Back Better Act that could cost over $4 trillion, wouldn’t raise taxes for the lower and middle classes and would be paid for in full during an interview with Fox10 on Thursday. As written, the spending plan would cost around $2.15 trillion – but if the provisions are made permanent, that would incur an additional cost well over $2 trillion according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
“And by the way: this is not going to raise taxes on middle and working class Arizonans,” asserted Kelly. “For folks that make under 400,000 a year – families, their taxes will not go up. And by the way, this is going to be paid for by the wealthiest corporations.”
The sentiment that the spending would be paid for in full didn’t align with the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) assessment released last month. The CBO estimated that the spending would result in a net increase in the country’s deficit by $367 billion over the next ten years. Unadjusted, the spending would add to the country’s deficit by $750 billion over the next five years and $160 billion over the next ten years.
Kelly added that Congress was still working over details of the Build Back Better Act – so the CBO report could be considered a working estimate.
The CBO also included a cost breakdown for each policy within the Build Back Better Act; they estimated:
$585 billion for family benefits related to affordable child care, paid family and medical leave, and universal pre-K
$570 billion for climate and infrastructure related to “clean” energy and climate resilience, electric tax credits, “clean” fuel, vehicle tax credits, other climate-related tax benefits, and infrastructure and related tax breaks
$340 billion for health care related to expanded Medicaid, Affordable Care Act tax credits, and health care workforce investments
$325 billion collectively for affordable housing, higher education, workforce, and “other spending and investments”
$280 billion for reducing or delaying the broadening of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA)
$215 billion for tax credits and cuts related to children, earned income, and “other tax changes”
$110 billion for immigration reform
The House passed their version of the Build Back Better Act days before Thanksgiving. The Senate must decide on whether it will accept the bill as is, or modify it. The latter is most likely, considering the sentiments of two senators.
Unlike Kelly, Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) has held out her support for the spending plan. Sinema isn’t alone – Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) also doesn’t support the bill’s price tag. Despite pressure from their party, both senators have insisted that they want the bill reduced drastically in its cost.