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What Happened When One Illinois Town Passed Reparations Adam Popescu

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Louis Weathers, 88, at the home he’s owned for more than 60 years in Evanston, Illinois, on June 23, 2023. (Mustafa Hussain for The Free Press)

Louis Weathers came into this world 70 years after the Civil War ended, 70 years after slavery was abolished in the United States. And yet in 1935, when his mother went into labor, the local hospital in Evanston, Illinois, wouldn’t admit her because of her skin color. Louis’s father had to drive her two hours to a hospital that would let a black woman give birth to her baby.

In the early 1950s, Weathers was the first black kid to go to the local public high school. The teacher picked on him; so did the white kids. 

“If I raised my hand, she wouldn’t call on me, because she didn’t want the white kids to see I knew the answer,” Weathers told me. “She called on me when I kept my hand down to make me look stupid.”

When he tried to buy a house, years later, white real estate agents steered him away from the better neighborhoods with better schools, where you almost never saw cops and it was safe to take an evening stroll. Even if he’d been able to visit those neighborhoods, it wouldn’t have mattered; the discriminatory practice of redlining made it nearly impossible for a black applicant to get a mortgage for a house outside black neighborhoods. 

Eventually, Weathers—who served in the Korean War and became a postal worker—acquired his own piece of Evanston. Sure enough, it was in a black neighborhood. It was a compact house with white shingles, big windows facing the street, hedges, and five steps that led up to the front door.

That was more than 60 years ago. Weathers still lives there.

Recently, Weathers, now 88, redid his kitchen and floors. That cost about $10,000—money he would not have had were it not for the city of Evanston.

“I didn’t get the 40 acres and a mule,” Weathers said, chuckling. “But last year, I got $25,000 in reparations from the city.”

Ramona Burton, 74, “couldn’t believe her luck” when she was awarded $25,000 in reparations last year. (Mustafa Hussain for The Free Press)

In November 2019, Evanston, Illinois—which is mostly white and wealthy, with a black community comprising 16 percent of its population of 75,000—passed a resolution creating the Reparations Fund and the Reparations Subcommittee. 

It was not until March 2021 that the city pledged that it would set aside funds for its first round of reparations, and it was a far cry from the plan favored by many Democrats in Washington, which would allocate $800,000 to every black household in the country for a total cost of at least $10 trillion. But it was the first time any jurisdiction in the United States has attempted—in any formal, financial, or legislative sense—to look back over the long, winding course of American history and to do something about the country’s often sordid treatment of African Americans. Not just with speeches or gestures or monuments. But with money.

“People were in awe of us,” Evanston city council member Robin Rue Simmons, the plan’s architect, said in November 2019, shortly after the historic 8–1 vote.

City council member Ann Rainey said she was unaware “of even one city that was doing anything along these lines. There’s a lot of talk of equity and diversity, but nobody was talking about reparations except for us.”

When he flew in from San Francisco a few weeks later to celebrate the new reparations plan, actor and activist Danny Glover echoed that sentiment. “It’s the beginning of a process,” Glover said at a town hall at a church, joined by hundreds of enthusiastic locals. “This is the most intense conversation, I believe, that we’re going to have in the twenty-first century.”

It seemed as though Evanston might be a model for the rest of America—starting with California, with a population of nearly 40 million, including more than 2.2 million black residents.

Last May, a task force estimated that black Californians could each receive up to $1.2 million in return for harmful treatment of their ancestors, sending their report to Governor Gavin Newsom and the state legislature.

Now, Newsom appears to be backing away, saying reparations are “about much more than cash payments.” It turns out that reparations are expensive, and it’s unclear whether they do much.

Consider, well, Evanston.

Reparations in the city have done practically nothing to lay the seedbed for the “intergenerational wealth” its supporters envisioned. That’s because the city could afford only to allocate $400,000 for its first round of recipients, meaning only a tiny fraction of Evanston’s black community has received any money: out of roughly 12,000 black residents in the city, only 674 have applied for reparations, and out of those 674, only 59—total—have received them. 

The story of what happened in Evanston and the first reparations law in American history—and what might soon happen in other cities considering similar measures—is the story of what the most contentious public policy issue in the country looks like when it is actually put into practice, when ideals meet reality, when vision meets bureaucracy.

Is the lesson of Evanston that reparations can’t work? Or that the city didn’t go far enough? Or that, in trying to do something—anything—it actually made things worse?

Ramona Burton spent $25,000 in reparations money on eight new windows, a new roof, chimney repair, and an upgrade to her electricity. (Mustafa Hussain for The Free Press)

America has been talking about reparations since before the Civil War ended.

On January 16, 1865, three months before the South surrendered, Union General William T. Sherman issued Special Field Orders, No. 15—which famously called for giving former slaves 40 acres. (The mule came later.)

But after President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, President Andrew Johnson overturned the order, and only a small minority of the nearly four million former slaves ever got their land.

Since then, black Americans like Louis Weathers have struggled to come by their 40 acres. The failures of Reconstruction, the subjugation and violence of Jim Crow, the deeply entrenched poverty of the black American ghetto—all of these forces have worked against black homeownership. That explains, in part, why only 44 percent of black Americans own their homes while 72.7 percent of white Americans do.

In 1989, Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers introduced HR 40 (as in 40 acres), which called for a commission to look into reparations. Every Congress thereafter, Conyers reintroduced the bill. Every Congress, it went nowhere. 

In 2007, Senator Barack Obama, running in the Democratic presidential primary, indicated he was against reparations. “I think the reparations we need right here in South Carolina is investment, for example, in our schools,” he said at a candidates’ debate in Charleston. (The only Democrat to support reparations was Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, now managing Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidential bid.)

Then, in 2014, the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates published a watershed essay in The Atlantic called “The Case for Reparations.” “The idea of reparations is frightening not simply because we might lack the ability to pay,” he wrote. “The idea of reparations threatens something much deeper—America’s heritage, history, and standing in the world.”

Five years later, in June 2019, Congress held hearings on reparations for the first time. Coates testified. The night before the hearings, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said: “I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago, for whom none of us currently living are responsible, is a good idea.”

Polls show that about two-thirds of Americans agree with McConnell.

But then, in May 2020, George Floyd was killed, and all the furies that had been building over so many decades—around police brutality, crime, economic disparity, and a widespread feeling among black Americans that America had never confronted its past—exploded across the country.

All of a sudden, the conversation around reparations shifted.

“Sometimes, it takes a while for a great injustice to provoke a truly effective movement that overthrows it,” explained the author Adam Hochschild, who was involved in the civil rights movement in Mississippi and has written books on the slave trade in Britain. “It took us a century, for instance, to get from the end of slavery to the Voting Rights Act.”

In July 2020, Asheville, North Carolina’s city council voted to provide reparations to black residents. (That has yet to materialize.) By February 2021, Obama appeared to have changed his opinion. “If you ask me theoretically, ‘Are reparations justified?’ The answer is yes. There’s not much question,” the former president said. 

A current view of Eagle Street, the oldest black neighborhood in Asheville, North Carolina. (Cornell Watson for The Free Press)

And while federal reparations (HR 40) went nowhere, various states and cities started to take up the cause.

In May 2021, California launched its task force to explore a reparations plan. 

The following month, mayors from 11 cities across the country, including Los Angeles and Tullahassee, Oklahoma (population 97), pledged support for reparations. In November 2022, Providence, Rhode Island, allocated $10 million for reparations. This past February, Illinois launched a task force to study the issue. New York is expected to do the same. 

Many, if not all, of these jurisdictions took their cue from Evanston, which didn’t necessarily offer a blueprint for policymakers but made it easier, politically, for other cities and states to embrace the cause. 

Ron Daniels, the head of the National African American Reparations Commission, has said Evanston “actually makes the case and boosts the efforts and momentum for the federal legislation.”

And yet, the question remains: why has Evanston’s reparations plan, so far, achieved so little?

To start, residents must have lived in Evanston between 1919 and 1969. All qualified residents are then thrown into a lottery, and the lucky few are chosen. “They select you by giving you a number and putting the number in a bingo machine to see who wins,” Kevin Brown, a black attorney who belongs to the group Evanston Rejects Racist Reparations, told me. “It’s undignified.” 

If you win the lottery, you don’t actually get a check—the money must go toward a mortgage, rent, or home renovations, and is overseen by a city-approved bank or nonprofit. (Though after months of debate, a few weeks ago the city voted to start doling out cash payments.)

Cicely Fleming, the only Evanston city council member to oppose the reparations plan, called it part of “a white paternalistic narrative that black folks are unable to manage their own monies.” 

And whatever the case, Evanston won’t be able to hand out reparations for long. As of now, there’s only about $2.2 million in the city coffers.

That’s because the city had planned to cover reparations with a cannabis sales tax. And officials wildly overestimated how much money that would bring in.

When I asked Evanston city council member Devon Reid whether anyone on the council had thought about how the city would pay for reparations, he said: “I honestly don’t think we ever fully considered it.” When they voted for the measure, he added, “I thought, ‘What the hell are we doing? We’ll never be able to meet this obligation.’ ”

Ramona Burton at her home in Evanston, Illinois, on June 23, 2023. (Mustafa Hussain for The Free Press)

Other jurisdictions are looking elsewhere besides cannabis sales to cover reparations. Providence, for example, has diverted funds from the Covid relief it received from Washington, D.C. 

But as far as William Darity, a Duke economist who has studied reparations, is concerned, none of these piecemeal efforts—not in Evanston and not in any other city—amount to actual reparations.

“Municipalities can’t afford to fix this problem,” he said. A serious reparations plan, Darity went on, must include the descendants of slaves; narrow the wealth gap; feature direct cash payments to recipients in the form of a trust or an annuity; and be paid for by the federal government. He estimated the total cost would be $13 to $14 trillion—or $350,000 per black American. 

“Look,” Meleika Gardner, a radio personality and the founder of Evanston Rejects Racist Reparations, told me, “race is a difficult conversation—trauma, pain, the wealth gap.” 

She added that the conversation around the Evanston reparations program wasn’t real. It felt, to Gardner, like window dressing meant to make white people feel good. “I feel like white supremacists feel like if they give us real reparations, in terms of money, that will put us on a level playing field,” Gardner said. “They don’t want that to happen.” 

Shelby Steele, a black intellectual best known for his 1998 book The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America, says that all of these details are beside the point.

“Reparations won’t work,” Steele said. No matter how generous they are. “We’re fighting yesterday’s battle.”

Slavery and Jim Crow are a “permanent stain on the soul of America,” Steele said. But, he continued, the United States had attempted to narrow the racial wealth gap—with affirmative action and any number of social welfare programs at the federal, state, and municipal levels—and they all failed.

“America has dumped trillions of dollars into these programs, and the gap between white and black is wider than ever,” said Steele. (The Rand Corporation recently reported that the wealth gap between whites and blacks has worsened in recent decades, with the average black household having $24,000 in savings, and the average white household, $189,000.) Steele continued: “We’re using the injustice of the past as an excuse for not facing our fate—for not taking responsibility for our families, education, investments.” 

Coleman Hughes, a black writer and podcaster who testified before Congress in opposition to reparations for slavery, said he supports the measure for those affected by Jim Crow—the institutionalized racial segregation that was violently enforced in the South and persisted across much of the rest of the country for the century following the Civil War. 

“I am for reparations insofar as the people harmed are still alive,” Hughes said. “That’s why I draw a distinction between redlining and slavery.”

Polls show many Americans agree with Hughes. “The number one issue is perception of deservedness,” Tatishe Nteta, a University of Massachusetts–Amherst political scientist, told me, citing a January 2023 UMass poll. “If you focus on living victims of Jim Crow, which was experienced by a large percentage of the American population still alive today, is there a higher level of support?” Nteta seemed to think there was.

Oralene Simmons in front of the City Building of Asheville during a Juneteenth celebration in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. (Cornell Watson for The Free Press)

If you want to meet someone who, as Hughes put it, was harmed by Jim Crow and is still alive, go to Asheville and spend some time with Oralene Simmons, an 81-year-old fixture in the city.

In 1961, Simmons became the first black student to attend Mars Hill College (now Mars Hill University), a Christian school near Asheville, in western North Carolina. More than a century before she matriculated, her great-great-grandfather, Joseph Anderson, a slave, had been held by the college as collateral and subsequently stowed in jail—while the college paid off its debts.

One night, Simmons recalled, she was alone in her dormitory when a group of white boys outside her room threatened to hang her from a nearby oak tree. Simmons crouched behind some furniture. After what felt like an eternity, the boys faded away. It was terrifying, she told me, but not unusual. That kind of thing, she said, happened “all the time.”

A memorial dedicated to Joseph Anderson, Oralene Simmons’ great-great-grandfather, who was enslaved and used to pay off the debt of the construction of Mars Hill University. (Cornell Watson for The Free Press)

I met Simmons on the first day of a two-day Juneteenth festival commemorating the emancipation of slaves 158 years ago. She gave the opening speech.

It was, for a while, a glimpse of what a post-racial America might look like: black people and white people on Asheville’s Pack Square listening to a local band cover Tina Turner, dance groups, food trucks, a children’s art station. 

Then, just before 9 p.m., as the festivities were winding down, there was a scuffle—and suddenly, the sounds of shots being fired, followed by cars peeling away, cops flooding the square, paramedics, an ambulance, police putting up police tape, police interviewing witnesses, two kids whisked to the hospital, and a 16-year-old arrested for allegedly pulling the trigger. 

It was awful and sad, and depending on your politics, a reminder of why reparations are needed or an argument against them—a window into the lingering despair faced by black Americans decades after the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which brought an official end to Jim Crow; or a perfect illustration of a self-destructive culture that no amount of government aid can change.

Earlier that day, I met Tony Clegg outside the Erskine-Walton Apartments, a public housing complex in Asheville. 

Clegg is 37, and the first time he got arrested he was 14. He’s been to prison three times. But then, he said, his caseworker got him on the straight and narrow, and he got a job driving a forklift. Now he has a fiancée and four (soon to be five) kids. He thinks constantly about the world they’re growing up in.

Reparations, Clegg said at last, would “give my kids a different life.”

Sandra Mosley, a 58-year-old grandmother who also lives in the projects, more or less agreed. “Give back what was taken from people like my parents,” she told me. “Help this younger generation.”

Sandra Mosley with her grandson in front of her home in Asheville, North Carolina’s historically black Southside neighborhood. (Cornell Watson for The Free Press)

Mosley was in her socks and standing on her front lawn. Her grandson, who is autistic, was holding a slice of pizza in one hand and grabbing her leg with the other. All around her, she noted, were signs of collapse: parentless children, drug abuse, neglect. 

When I pressed her about how she’d spend the money, she laughed, and her daughter, smoking a Black & Mild cigar, smirked and shook her head.

“Fix what’s broken,” Mosley said. “Housing, education. Use reparation money to get old people off the street.” 

Tangela Harper, 48, who was at a barbecue down the block from Mosley, said reparations meant building things, making daily life better, easier—for example, filling a nearby city pool that had been drained.

“They can’t give back my grandma’s house, but they can give back the pool,” she said.

Louis Weathers, 88, in his kitchen in Evanston, Illinois, on June 23, 2023. (Mustafa Hussain for The Free Press)

For those in Evanston, like Weathers, who have received reparations, it’s been a nice boost, but hardly life-changing. (“I could spend that money in a day,” Michael Weathers, Louis Weathers’ 61-year-old son, said of the $25,000 payment. Or, he said, laughing, “on a lady.”) 

When I asked Oralene Simmons about all this, she sounded like Louis Weathers—less fired up, more philosophical. The essence of reparations, in her eyes, was not about money so much as a way of thinking. 

It meant a great deal to her, she said, that when she died, she would be buried next to her great-great grandfather, on the campus of the college that once owned him and now honored him—and included, in its student body, Oralene Simmons’ granddaughter. That kind of recognition, she said, is “real power.” 

She added: “That, to me, is worth something. That’s reparations.”

Adam Popescu is a writer for The Free Press. His last piece was about America’s sovereign movement.

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TGIF: WWIII May Come Tomorrow, But. . . Nellie Bowles

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Google employees protesting at the office. They were later fired. (Via X)

Welcome back. World War III watch over here continues. The Axis of Resistance seemed ready to kick off a major war, but then our Ayatollah stood down. The Houthi Youth at Columbia University camped out in solidarity, but the rebellion was short. Then, at press time, Israel struck back against Iran, so World War Watch resumed. You know what helps my stress? A good book. This one, by your faithful soldier, is out May 14.

→ Trump’s Gettysburg Address: Before Trump hit the campaign trail, I’d forgotten a little what he sounds like. In the amber of my mind, he was just “MAGA” and “Shithole countries” on a loop. Now, thanks to a campaign speech Saturday in Schnecksville, PA, we are back in the game with the craziest American orator who’s ever been in the game. The topic was Gettysburg. And our former president gave an impromptu slam poetry interpretation that left me snapping. 

Gettysburg, what an unbelievable battle that was. I mean, it was so much and so interesting and so vicious and horrible and so beautiful in so many different ways. It represented such a big portion of the success of this country. Gettysburg, wow. I go to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to look and to watch. And the statement of Robert E. Lee—who’s no longer in favor—did you ever notice that? He’s no longer in favor. “Never fight uphill, me boys, never fight uphill.” They were fighting uphill. He said, “Wow, that was a big mistake.” He lost his great general. They were fighting, “Never fight uphill, me boys,” but it was too late.

Vicious and horrible and beautiful. And the sun that blazes over the October sky. Who will watch the watcher? Who will sing the song of the lonely? Check out my self-published novel in the back, Trump says. 

→ Biden continues paying off successful young voters: Sorry, I mean “forgiving student debt.” Biden this week paid off another $7.4 billion in student loans, making his total student loan cancellation something like $153 billion. And by cancellation, I mean tax dollars were used to make the ledger go to zero. How much exactly? From Penn Wharton’s analysis: “We estimate that President Biden’s recently announced ‘New Plans’ to provide relief to student borrowers will cost $84 billion, in addition to the $475 billion that we previously estimated for President Biden’s SAVE plan.” But that goes to really needy people, right? Well, actually, at least 750,000 of those households are “making over $312,000 in average household income.” Meanwhile, to anyone who questions this allocation of resources, the White House answer is to shame them from official White House accounts by listing how much in pandemic loans were forgiven for House Republicans who own individual small business, which is weird because the reason businesses needed pandemic relief was because the White House banned them from operating. It’s a trap! And the only answer is to pay off every Media Studies PhD student’s loan. Colleges, for their part, are now charging up to $100,000 a year. Yes, literally. And since that’s ultimately going to be paid for by the taxpayers, why work to make it less expensive? Why cut corners when you need to remodel the cafeteria?

→ Oh, RFK’s running mate: For a flash I was thinking, Am I an RFK voter? I’m a mom who worries about plastics, and no, I don’t like how our national conversation is getting so divisive these days. And those steely blue eyes. It just felt right. But this week, my love affair hit a snag. Here’s RFK’s new vice-presidential pick, Nicole Shanahan, arguing that the Covid vaccine is not just bad, that it’s not just something she personally doesn’t want and should have the freedom to choose not to take, but that it should be banned. Over to Nicole: “Here is the devastating reality: it is not a safe vaccine, and must be recalled immediately. Many people are suffering who took it.” I guess this is really the agenda: RFK Jr. might be just asking questions, but if Nicole is chief executive, it sounds like she’s going to be executing. And that looks like legally required sound baths and astrology readings. The government understands that you want to take antibiotics, but you haven’t even tried rubbing yourself in honey yet. 

→ Wow, Kari Lake comes out as really pro-choice: Kari Lake, the Republican running for Senate in Arizona, has released a video about how she disagrees with Arizona’s total abortion ban, a ban she previously supported. I’m all for mind-changing. I actually want our politicians to put their finger to the wind every once in a while. Here’s Lake: “We as American people don’t agree on everything all of the time. But if you look at where the population is on this—a full ban on abortion is not where the people are.” 

She says, “I chose life, but I’m not every woman.” She pivots to Europe, which has all those annoyingly sensible abortion laws, and which is my exact same move: “I had the opportunity to visit Hungary, and it completely changed my view of how we should deal with this complicated, difficult issue.”

Is this Kari Lake sounding normal? In case you need to be reminded of the old Kari, here she is shaking hands with a statue. 

→ Oh no, “get out the vote” helps. . . Trump? Now that young people are for Trump and old people are for Biden, there’s another switcheroo: those who vote less or have never voted are more likely to be Trumpers. Call off the Rock the Vote campaigners! Return the blue t-shirts! The new message for Democrats to win needs to be: do not register new voters. Keep on keeping on. Stay home, save lives.


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April 18, 2024 Heather Cox Richardson

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I will not spend the rest of 2024 focusing on Trump and the chaos in the Republican Party, but today it has been impossible to look away.

In Trump’s election interference trial in Manhattan, Judge Juan Merchan this morning dismissed one of the selected jurors after she expressed concern for her anonymity and thus for her safety. All of the reporters in the courtroom have shared so much information about the jurors that they seemed at risk of being identified, but Fox News Channel host Jesse Watters not only ran a video segment about a juror, he suggested she was “concerning.” Trump shared the video on social media.

The juror told the judge that so much information about her had become public that her friends and family had begun to ask her if she was one of the jurors. Legal analyst Joyce White Vance noted jurors’ fear for their safety was a concern normally seen only “in a case involving violent organized crime.”

Nonetheless, by the end of the day, twelve people had been chosen to serve as jurors. Tomorrow the process will continue in order to find six alternate jurors. 

It is a courtesy for the two sides at a trial to share with each other the names of their next witnesses so the other team can prepare for them. Today the prosecution declined to provide the names of their first three witnesses to the defense lawyers out of concern that Trump would broadcast them on social media. “Mr. Trump has been tweeting about the witnesses. We’re not telling them who the witnesses are,” prosecutor Joshua Steinglass said. 

Merchan said he “can’t blame them.” Trump’s defense attorney Todd Blanche offered to “commit to the court and the [prosecution] that President Trump will not [post] about any witness” on social media. “I don’t think you can make that representation,” Merchan said, in a recognition that Trump cannot be trusted, even by his own lawyers.

An article in the New York Times today confirmed that the trial will give Trump plenty of publicity, but not the kind that he prefers. Lawyer Norman L. Eisen walked through questions about what a prison sentence for Trump could look like.

Trump’s popular image is taking a hit in other ways, as well. Zac Anderson and Erin Mansfield of USA Today reported that Trump is funneling money from his campaign fundraising directly into his businesses. According to a new report filed with the Federal Election Commission, in February and March the campaign wrote checks totaling $411,287 to Mar-a-Lago and in March a check for $62,337 to Trump National Doral Miami.

Experts say it is legal for candidates to pay their own businesses for services used by the campaign so long as they pay fair market value. At the same time, they note that since Trump appears to be desperate for money, “it looks bad.”

Astonishingly, Trump’s trial was not the biggest domestic story today. Republicans in Congress were in chaos as members of the extremist Freedom Caucus worked to derail the national security supplemental bills that House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) has introduced in place of the Senate bill, although they track that bill closely. 

The House Rules Committee spent the day debating the foreign aid package, which appropriates aid for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan separately. The Israel bill also contains $9.1 billion in humanitarian aid for Gaza and other countries. A fourth bill focuses on forcing the Chinese owners of TikTok to sell the company, as well as on imposing sanctions on Russia and Iran. 

At stake in the House Rules Committee was Johnson’s plan to allow the House to debate and vote on each measure separately, and then recombine them all into a single measure if they all pass. This would allow extremist Republicans to vote against aid to Ukraine, while still tying the pieces all together to send to the Senate. As Robert Jimison outlined in the New York Times, this complicated plan meant that the Rules Committee vote to allow such a maneuver was crucial to the bill’s passage.

The extremist House Republicans were adamantly opposed to the plan because of their staunch opposition to aid for Ukraine. They wrote in a memo on Wednesday: “This tactic allows Johnson to pass priorities favored by President Biden, the swamp and the Ukraine war machine with a supermajority of House members, leaving conservatives out to dry.”

Extremists Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Thomas Massie (R-KY) vowed to throw House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) out of the speakership, but Democrats Tom Suozzi of New York and Jared Moskowitz of Florida have said they would vote to keep him in his seat, thereby defanging the attack on his leadership.

So the extremists instead tried to load the measures up with amendments prohibiting funds from being used for abortion, removing humanitarian aid for Gaza, opposing a two-state solution to the Hamas-Israel war, calling for a wall at the southern border of the U.S., defunding the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and so on.

Greene was especially active in opposition to aid to Ukraine. She tried to amend the bill to direct the president to withdraw the U.S. from NATO and demanded that any members of Congress voting for aid to Ukraine be conscripted into the Ukraine army as well as have their salaries taken to offset funding. She wanted to stop funding until Ukraine “turns over all information related to Hunter Biden and Burisma,” and to require Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to resign. More curiously, she suggested amending the Ukraine bill so that funding would require “restrictions on ethnic minorities’, including Hungarians in Transcarpathia, right to use their native languages in schools are lifted.” This language echoes a very specific piece of Russian propaganda.

Finally, Moskowitz proposed “that Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene…should be appointed as Vladimir Putin’s Special Envoy to the United States Congress.” 

Many congress members have left Washington, D.C., since Friday was to be the first day of a planned recess. This meant the partisan majority on the floor fluctuated. Olivia Beavers of Politico reported that that instability made Freedom Caucus members nervous enough to put together a Floor Action Response Team (FART—I am not making this up) to make sure other Republicans didn’t limit the power of the extremists when they were off the floor.

The name of their response team seems likely to be their way to signal their disrespect for the entire Congress. Their fellow Republicans are returning the heat. Today Mike Turner (R-OH) referred to the extremists as the Bully Caucus on MSNBC and said, “We need to get back to professionalism, we need to get back to governing, we need to get back to legislating.” Derrick Van Orden (R-WI) told Juliegrace Brufke of Axios:  “The vast majority of the Republican Party in the House of Representatives…are sick and tired of having people who…constantly blackmail the speaker of the House.”

Another Republican representative, Jake LaTurner of Kansas, announced today he will not run for reelection. He joins more than 20 other Republican representatives heading for the exits.

After all the drama, the House Rules Committee voted 6–3 tonight to advance the foreign aid package to the House floor. Three Republicans voted nay. While it is customary for the opposition party to vote against advancing bills out of the committee, the Democrats broke with tradition and voted in favor.

Notes:

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/18/opinion/donald-trump-trial-prison.html

https://www.politico.com/live-updates/2024/04/18/congress/hfc-on-alert-00153097

https://www.jns.org/house-rules-committee-debates-israel-aid-package-as-house-speaker-confronts-right-flank/

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/donald-trump-new-york-court-criminal-trial/

https://www.thedailybeast.com/jesse-watters-goes-juror-by-juror-to-sow-doubt-in-trump-hush-money-case

https://www.salon.com/2024/04/18/juror-quits-over-fear-of-being-outed-after-fox-news-host-singled-her-out/

https://www.rawstory.com/jake-laturner/#cxrecs_s

https://www.cnn.com/2024/04/18/politics/mike-johnson-speakership-rules

https://www.rawstory.com/freedom-caucus-2667810851/

https://rules.house.gov/bill/118/hr-8034

https://rules.house.gov/bill/118/hr-8035

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2024/04/18/trump-campaign-funnels-money-to-his-businesses/73344744007/

https://www.axios.com/2024/04/18/mike-johnson-gaetz-motion-to-vacate-ukraine

https://www.axios.com/2024/04/18/jake-laturner-retire-house-gop-kansas

https://www.axios.com/2024/03/27/house-members-retiring-quitting-productivity

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/18/us/politics/house-israel-ukraine-aid-package-explainer.html

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April 17, 2024 Heather Cox Richardson

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