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Marathon McCarthy Speech Highlights GOP Leader’s Play for Speaker

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WASHINGTON — 

It’s no secret that Kevin McCarthy wants to be the next speaker of the House. The Republican leader made that clear Thursday night and into Friday morning in the most literal way possible: by speaking — longer than any member of the chamber ever has.

McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) commanded the floor for 8 hours and 32 minutes, breaking Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s February 2018 record of 8 hours and 7 minutes, while stalling passage of a $1.7-trillion social spending bill that congressional Democrats intend to pass without any bipartisan support.

In his marathon speech, McCarthy addressed a wide range of topics including provisions in the massive social spending bill and possible amendments, previous presidents, his family’s politics, COVID-19, Elon Musk and Tesla, slavery, Afghanistan, immigration, drug trafficking and more, often stopping to call attention to heckling Democrats or to needle Pelosi (D-San Francisco).

“Last night, Speaker Pelosi attempted to jam through the most expensive bill in our country’s history for a vote,” McCarthy said in a statement to The Times on Friday. “This was wrong. Our country needed to hear a real debate. I did the best I could, for as long as I could, to explain to the American people how this bill would hurt our country in nearly every way imaginable. While we succeeded in delaying the vote for a day — we will continue to fight for our families, our community, and our country to stop this bill from becoming law.”

House Democrats scrapped plans to vote on the measure late Thursday night as McCarthy was still speaking but passed the bill Friday morning in a 220-213 vote. Republicans uniformly opposed the bill, and all but one Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden of Maine, supported it. It now heads to the Senate, where it’s expected to be revised into a policy that satisfies the concerns of centrist Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

Reporters spotted several Republicans coming toward McCarthy on the floor Friday morning to shake his hand, and one of the most important Republicans also showed he took notice.

“Great job by Kevin McCarthy last night, setting a record by going over 8 hours of speaking on the House Floor in order to properly oppose Communism,” former President Trump said in a statement. “We must never forget what the Democrats have done, at the highest level of evil. If [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell had fought, you would have a different Republican President right now.”

The “magic minute” House rule allows party leaders to speak for an unlimited amount of time during debate. House Republicans said that they had no idea McCarthy would speak nearly as long as he did but that they were in awe of how well he highlighted the flaws they see in the bill and showed the differences between the two parties.

“What he’s proving is that he’s got not only the chops to do the job, but he’s got the courage to actually get out there in front and lead,” Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Santa Clarita) said in an interview. “I think what the leader did last night was necessary and was glad to be there. I was there from the beginning until the very end.”

“I want to thank my colleagues for standing with me, for standing with their constituents, as we do everything in our power to stop this bill,” McCarthy said as his speech began to wind down. “I hope the American public learned a little more. I hope my colleagues did, too.”

McCarthy endured the hours of standing and talking required, as well as Democratic Twitter trolling and heckling inside the chamber.

“What do you think’s going to happen to inflation if this bill becomes law? It’s only going to even be greater than the first $2 trillion this body wasted,” McCarthy said. “From bank surveillance to bailouts, this bill takes the problems President Biden and Democrats have already created and makes them much, much worse. It’s no secret that this bill is too extreme, too costly and too liberal for the United States.”

The speaker’s office described McCarthy’s speech as a “temper tantrum” and “meandering rant that has nothing to do with the Build Back Better Act.”

“I didn’t even pay attention to the speech,” Pelosi told reporters after the legislation passed. “I don’t even listen to most of the speeches on the other side, because they’re not fraught with meaning or fact, so I don’t have my computer get bothered with that.”

Asked if she cared that McCarthy had broken her record for longest floor speech, she said she “barely noticed.”

During her record-long speech in 2018, Pelosi read testimonies from “Dreamers” — people brought illegally to the U.S. as children — in an unsuccessful effort to secure a vote on legislation protecting the group from deportation.

At the White House, Press Secretary Jen Psaki mocked McCarthy’s speech.

“Kevin McCarthy said a lot of words — a lot of words,” she said, noting that he mused about being in Tiananmen Square and a metaphorical swim competition between the U.S. and other countries after World War II.

“What he did not talk about was cutting the cost of child care, cutting the cost of elder care, what we were going to do around the country to bring more women into the workforce, to protect our climate,” Psaki said. “That, in our view, tells us everything you need to know about Kevin McCarthy’s agenda and what he supports.”

McCarthy’s unexpected marathon speech began a day after House Democrats censured Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), who had posted, and deleted, an edited anime video depicting himself killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Democrats also stripped Gosar of his committee assignments Wednesday, as they did with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) in February over racist rhetoric and support of violence against Democrats.

McCarthy had privately called Gosar before the Arizona Republican took the clip down and issued a public statement explaining his intentions for sharing the video, in addition to addressing his colleagues directly at a conference meeting Tuesday morning. Shortly after his censure vote, Gosar reposted the offending tweet.

McCarthy suggested Democrats were hypocrites for setting what he called a new precedent in allowing the majority party to remove members of the other party from committee assignments. He criticized party leaders for taking no action against Democrats who’ve been accused of making antisemitic comments or remarks that he said encouraged violence.

McCarthy has struggled at times to unite both wings of his caucus. Conservative hard-liners want to punish a group of Republicans who supported a bipartisan infrastructure bill earlier this month, while moderates want McCarthy to rein in his more controversial members like Gosar, Greene and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who despite crediting McCarthy for “bringing it on the floor” Thursday night described his speech as “a really long death rattle” Friday.

“The outcome was already determined as a consequence of poor leadership and poor strategy,” Gaetz said.

McCarthy signaled that Gosar and Greene would get new committee assignments if House Republicans win back the majority, and that Democrats such as Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) and Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin) would have to survive a floor vote in a GOP majority to retain their spots on congressional panels, echoing comments Greene previously said he’d told her privately.

Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale), who’s known McCarthy for almost 20 years and shared a house with him near Sacramento when the two served in the Legislature, said McCarthy is in “prime position” to become the next speaker of the House if Republicans win the majority next November.

“I think he has easily four-fifths of the conference already in his column, and he’ll just have to work with a few folks to shore up what it takes to get over the top,” LaMalfa said. “I think he’s by far in the best position to continue to lead the conference, either as leader or as a possible speaker.”

Bob Shrum, director of the USC Center for the Political Future and a former speechwriter for the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), said McCarthy’s speech “will be famous for being famous, not for anything else.”

Shrum also dismissed the idea that the drama of the “magic minute” speech could quell internal party rumbling.

Every Republican leader in recent history “has run into a really fractious opposition from inside their own caucus,” Shrum said, pointing to the previous two GOP speakers as examples. “It happened to John Boehner, who just gave up. It happened to Paul Ryan, who just gave up and walked away. And it could very well happen to Kevin McCarthy.”

Indeed, a Thursday night tweet from Greene foreshadowed the potentially turbulent path ahead for McCarthy to win the speaker’s gavel, even as McCarthy himself has predicted Republicans could gain upward of 60 seats next fall.

“Hopefully when @GOPLeader finishes his strong speech against the Democrat communist takeover of America, he takes action to hold the unlucky 13 accountable for making the horrific BBB vote possible tonight,” Greene tweeted, referring to the 13 House Republicans who voted for a bipartisan infrastructure bill that President Biden signed into law on Monday. “Kick the traitors out of @HouseGOP, & lead. #ActionsSpeakLouder.”

Times staff writer Chris Megerian contributed to this report.

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Original Article: latimes.com

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Why Mexico’s President Is Promoting a Recall Against Himself

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MEXICO CITY — 

Standing before hundreds of thousands of cheering supporters in downtown Mexico City’s central square, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador saved his most striking comment for the end of his speech.

He urged the Mexicans packed into the Zócalo to participate in an April referendum to decide whether they want to boot him from office more than two years early.

“None of, ‘They chose me for six years and I can do whatever I want,’” López Obrador said at the rally Wednesday to mark his midterm. “If one who governs is not up to the task and obeying the people, revoke their mandate and out!”

The president, 68, likely believes he has nothing to worry about.

Recent polls show that about two-thirds of the public approve of his performance since taking office in 2018 on a platform that promised a radical transformation of Mexican society to combat corruption and inequality and to roll back free-market economic policies.

Families and marching bands making their way to the Zócalo passed vendors hawking gray-haired López Obrador dolls and posters with the hashtag #QueSigaAMLO, or “may AMLO continue,” referring to the president by his initials. Many said they view a referendum, authorized by a 2019 constitutional reform spearheaded by the president, as proof of his honest character when compared to decades of presidents accused of corruption.

“AMLO is the first president that dares to put himself to the test before the people,” said Debanhi Andrea Garcia, 22, who drove 14 hours from the state of Nuevo León with her boyfriend. “Because he’s like that, we support him.”

Supporters of López Obrador hold banners in support of the president at Mexico City’s Zócalo.

(Manuel Velasquez / Getty Images)

Mexicans have until Dec. 25 to sign a petition supporting the referendum, which can move forward only with the signatures of at least 3% of eligible voters, among other caveats.

So far, the initiative has received more than 703,000 signatures from Mexicans who have valid voting credentials, or 25% of the required total, according to the National Electoral Institute, an independent agency overseeing the process. (That tally includes signatures that will be discarded because they are duplicates or have other irregularities.)

Officially called the “revocation of mandate,” the measure follows other efforts by the president to increase citizen engagement in public policy. López Obrador has also backed referendums to decide whether former Mexican presidents should be prosecuted for alleged crimes, on the construction of a new airport near Mexico City and on the development of a tourism train line that would run through the Yucatan Peninsula.

“He does conceive his power as being a function of people reiterating their support actively,” said Francisco González, a professor of Latin American politics at Johns Hopkins University. “He wants it officially confirmed to give him that comfort of being the popular leader who is doing the right thing for Mexico.”

Since taking office, López Obrador has also expanded social welfare programs while introducing sharp austerity measures. He has halted renewable energy projects, promoted a constitutional reform to increase the country’s control of the electricity market, and given more power to the military — putting it in charge of projects such as the tourism train.

President López Obrador gives an address to mark the midpoint of his term.

(Manuel Velasquez / Getty Images)

His critics say that he hasn’t done enough to reduce high levels of homicides, including many killings of women and attacks against journalists and public officials. Dozens of candidates across the country were assassinated ahead of last spring’s midterm elections for governorships and legislative and mayoral seats.

Critics also are concerned about López Obrador’s attacks against democratic agencies that could check his power, notably the National Electoral Institute. He has repeatedly disparaged the independent agency, which last May sanctioned him for making statements in at least 29 news conferences that it said could be considered government propaganda that could influence the midterm elections. In Mexico, such statements by public officials are generally barred during the election season.

But the president’s vision of transformational change continues to resonate among many voters who view him as a paternal figure. López Obrador is in constant dialogue with his electorate, holding press conferences every morning that last hours.

“The figure he has constructed of an honest man, an honorable man, an incorruptible man — that helps him in a society that is used to seeing terribly corrupt politicians,” said René Torres-Ruiz, a political scientist at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City.

Even if enough signatures are gathered, hurdles to a referendum remain. The National Electoral Institute’s members have said that the agency doesn’t have the budget to carry out the vote and at least 40% of eligible voters must participate for the referendum to be binding. The referendum on former presidents last August fell far short of the 40% voting figure.

Ariadna Gomez, left, and another volunteer collect signatures for a referendum on whether Mexico’s president should continue.

(Leila Miller / Los Angeles Times)

Stephanie Brewer, the director for Mexico and migrant rights at the D.C.-based Washington Office on Latin America, said that winning a referendum would increase López Obrador’s perception that he could move forward freely with his agenda.

“What he wants is to come out of the vote, supposing there is one, politically strengthened with this renewed and amplified popular mandate,” she said.

Opposition parties have accused the president’s supporters of twisting the stated purpose of the referendum into a tool to promote López Obrador’s agenda. The 2019 reform called for a referendum to “revoke” a president’s mandate rather than “ratify” it and a complaint before the National Electoral Institute by the National Action Party referenced how volunteers have registered voters next to posters that advertise the referendum as a means of promoting the president rather than recalling him from office.

Luis Cházaro, a congressman from the Party of the Democratic Revolution, told The Times that the referendum “has been transformed into a promotional tool for the party.” He does not plan to participate.

In Coyoacán, a cobblestoned neighborhood in Mexico City known for Frida Kahlo’s home, volunteers last Sunday gathered signatures at a plaza in front of posters of the president that said “may AMLO continue.”

Ariana Garcia, a 24-year-old volunteer, said she uses the term “ratification” for people she senses like the president and “revocation” for those she thinks oppose him.

“People tell you, ‘But I don’t want my president to leave,’ so we tell them, ‘OK, then in this case you can ratify your support for the president,’” she said.

A supporter of López Obrador listens to his speech at a rally to commemorate the president’s midterm.

(Marco Ugarte/Associated Press)

Roberto Garcia, a systems engineer in Mexico City, said that he would vote against the president, uncomfortable that the federal government recently issued a decree that requires federal agencies to automatically approve infrastructure projects that are deemed to be of interest to the public or national security. He also sees the referendum as “a type of manipulation,” suspicious of why the president has contradicted the National Electoral Institute, saying it has enough funding to hold a vote he himself has fought for.

María de los Angeles Resendiz, a grandmother of 10 from the state of Mexico, will support López Obrador without hesitation.

Resendiz, 62, watches the president’s 7 a.m. news conferences each day with her husband while preparing breakfast and washing dishes. If she needs to skip one, she’ll track it down later on YouTube. She also listens to summaries in case she’s missed something.

Before López Obrador took power, Resendiz tried to stay as far away from politics as she could. She became disillusioned when she was a little girl after the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre, in which soldiers killed as many as 300 people at a student protest in Mexico City.

She called López Obrador a “simple” man who has won her confidence with his anti-corruption platform. She eagerly described how his government has set money aside for youth job training and expanded welfare payments to the elderly.

“He’s given us back our dignity,” she said. “I am proud to say that I am Mexican and that he is my president.”

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Original Post: latimes.com

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Op-Ed: the U.S. Shouldn’t Ignore Mexico’s Ongoing Human Rights Catastrophe

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On Dec. 1, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador reached the halfway point of his six-year term. Since his election in 2018, López Obrador has not only failed to improve the country’s disastrous human rights record, he has worked to undo many of the hard-fought gains in transparency and the rule of law that rights groups, activists and campaigners have achieved since the end of one-party rule in Mexico in 2000.

The United States has been noticeably silent regarding the Mexican president’s accelerating attacks on democracy. President Biden has instead chosen to focus on enlisting López Obrador to prevent migrants from reaching the U.S. border.

López Obrador, a prominent anti-establishment figure in Mexican politics for decades, is the kind of populist leader that has become increasingly common in Latin America. He was democratically elected in a landslide on a promise to “transform” Mexico by taking back control of the country from the elites whose policies he blamed for economic inequality, social breakdown and growing violence.

López Obrador inherited a human rights catastrophe. When he came to office in 2018, 12 years of a military-led drug war had led to horrific abuses. Homicides hit staggering numbers. Thousands of people disappeared every year. But he has not addressed these problems. Soldiers continue to kill civilians. Homicides remain at historically high rates. And according to the government’s figures, more than 25,000 people have gone missing on his watch.

Even so, López Obrador has remained immensely popular with his base. He appears to believe that his continued popular support gives him the moral authority to concentrate as much power as possible in his own hands and to attempt to control every part of the state to bring about his promised transformation.

He labels anyone who criticizes him or stands in his way as a “neoliberal” or “conservative,” nebulous groups of supposed adversaries whom he describes as corrupt and morally bankrupt. Leveling this charge allows him to avoid responding to genuine concerns raised by journalists who question him, women’s rights campaigners upset at his lack of action on gender-based violence, Indigenous communities who oppose his megaprojects, environmentalists who disagree with his coal and oil-focused energy policy, and press freedom campaigners concerned about his government’s harassment of journalists, among others.

He has eliminated or proposed eliminating many government agencies not under his direct control, including the independent energy and telecommunications regulators, funds for protecting journalists and responding to climate change and natural disasters, the independent transparency agency and the independent electoral authority. He recently decreed that his government’s construction and infrastructure projects would be automatically granted permits without any review and that as matters of “national security,” would be exempted from transparency rules.

He has also gone after the judicial system, which has delayed or blocked a number of his projects and proposals as abusive or unconstitutional. His efforts to intimidate the judiciary have grown brazen. López Obrador has publicly singled out those whose rulings he dislikes and called for a judge who ruled against him to be investigated.

In April, his coalition in Congress passed a law — since overturned — to extend the term of the Supreme Court chief justice who has ruled in favor of the president. And in August, López Obrador held a referendum on whether the government should put five previous presidents on trial for alleged crimes such as “neoliberalism” and the “privatization of public goods.”

The U.S. policy of ignoring López Obrador’s attacks on the rule of law came into stark relief in June, when Vice President Kamala Harris visited Mexico and met with him. At the end of the trip, a journalist asked the vice president if the United States was concerned about López Obrador’s hostile attitude toward the media and civil society.

Harris initially responded that she had urged the Mexican president to respect the independence of the judicial system, the press and civil society. However, hours later, her spokesperson issued a correction to the Spanish wire service EFE, saying the vice president had been confused; she and the Mexican president had only discussed immigration and the economy, nothing else.

López Obrador will be in office for another three years. His coalition still controls both houses of Congress and he has made it clear that he is willing to amend the constitution if necessary to remove obstacles to achieving his goals. Unless the circumstances change, there are no signs he intends to alter his course.

José Miguel Vivanco is Americas director at Human Rights Watch. Tyler Mattiace is a researcher at Human Rights Watch.

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Source: latimes.com

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Photos: As Roe Vs. Wade Challenged, Demonstrators Gather Outside Supreme Court

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Juanito Estevez, of Freeport, N.Y., holds a cross as he and abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion protesters demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

(Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times)

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Article: latimes.com

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