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Kevin McCarthy’s Hollow Victory Will Have Economic and Political Consequences in the US





As Kevin McCarthy waited for the official tally, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, the election denier and conspiracy theorist, crouched beside him for a selfie.Bill Clark / Getty Images

Early Saturday morning, amid scenes redolent of the nineteenth century, when brawls occasionally broke out on the floor of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy was elected Speaker of the 118th Congress. After it was all over—after McCarthy had angrily confronted the holdout Matt Gaetz in full view of the C-SPAN cameras; after a fellow-congressman had to grab the McCarthy ally Mike Rogers, of Alabama, around the throat to keep him from lunging at Gaetz; after enough of the holdouts had finally agreed to end this four-day political debacle in a fifteenth ballot—after all that, the best the fifty-seven-year-old Californian could manage, when his Democratic opponent Hakeem Jeffries finally handed him the wooden gavel, was a lame wisecrack, followed by a telling admission. “That was easy, huh?” McCarthy said. “I never thought we’d get up here.”

Be careful what you wish for. Perhaps the most revealing image of the ugly night came shortly after the final ballot had been completed. As McCarthy sat waiting for the official tally, Marjorie Taylor Greene, the far-right election denier and conspiracy theorist who represents Georgia’s Fourteenth District, crouched down beside him to take a cheek-to-cheek picture with the soon-to-be Speaker. In February, 2021, eleven House Republicans voted with the Democrats to strip Greene of her committee assignments. McCarthy wasn’t among them, but he did issue a statement “unequivocally” condemning some of her incendiary statements, which included endorsing political violence against Democrats and suggesting that some school shootings had been staged. After McCarthy’s tortuous elevation, things are very different. In return for backing McCarthy, Greene will likely receive new committee assignments and be treated, by Party leaders, as an important ally, despite the fact that just last month she said the January 6th insurrection would have succeeded if she and Steve Bannon had been in charge of it. Based on his own self-serving modus operandi, McCarthy doesn’t have much choice but to comply; if he is to get anything done over the next two years, he will need to retain the support of Greene and many other far-right extremists.

This prospect is already raising alarms on Wall Street, where attention is focussing on the need to raise the debt ceiling and prevent a U.S. government default—an imperative that will probably become pressing by the summer. Earlier this week, Representative Ralph Norman, of South Carolina, who is a member of the Freedom Caucus, called on McCarthy to “shut down the government rather than raise the debt ceiling,” adding that this demand was “a non-negotiable item.” In this instance, it would be a mistake to focus exclusively on the MAGA crazies: months ago, McCarthy and Senator John Thune, of South Dakota, both made clear that they favored using the debt limit to force big cuts in spending. But McCarthy’s humiliation has made clear how little flexibility he will have in managing his own caucus during the debt-ceiling brinkmanship.

A repeat of the 2011 debt-ceiling crisis, in which the G.O.P.-led House of Representatives defied President Barack Obama, now seems likely, and it could be a lengthy one. Ultimately, perhaps, even the members of the Freedom Caucus won’t want to be held responsible for a financial crash that tanks their voters’ 401(k) plans and endangers the mighty dollar, especially at the start of another Presidential-election campaign. But who really knows?


More immediately, McCarthy’s hollow victory opens the way for months more of G.O.P. performance art, which will likely encompass passing legislation that has no chance of being enacted by the Democratic-controlled Senate and holding innumerable conspiracy-theory-stoking hearings into the COVID-19 pandemic, Hunter Biden, and anything else that might garner favorable coverage on Fox News and Newsmax. Along the way, the enduring fealty of many House Republicans to Donald Trump is also likely to become clear.

The new rules agreement for the 118th Congress, to which McCarthy acceded in order to win over the MAGA holdouts, and which will almost certainly be voted through on Monday, calls for the establishment of three new investigative subcommittees. The first would look into the origins and handling of the pandemic, and would surely zero in on Anthony Fauci, a frequent target of right-wing attacks. The second would examine “the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party.” And the third would address the “Weaponization of the Federal Government”—more or less the adoption of a far-right slogan that implies the “Deep State” is targeting ordinary American citizens.

In a letter to his fellow-Republicans last week, McCarthy said this third panel would be modelled on the nineteen-seventies Church Committee, which examined abuses by the F.B.I., the C.I.A., the I.R.S., and the National Security Agency. Characterizing it this way makes a mockery of history. Senator Frank Church, the Idaho Democrat who led the bipartisan Church Committee, was an Army veteran who turned against the Vietnam War and also campaigned for environmental protection. The new subcommittee would operate under the auspices of the House Judiciary Committee, which Jim Jordan, the right-wing Ohio firebrand who led Trump’s impeachment defense in January, 2021, is expected to chair. Under the proposed rules agreement, the subcommittee would have the authority to examine “how executive branch agencies collect, compile, analyze, use, or disseminate information about citizens of the United States, including any unconstitutional, illegal, or unethical activities committed against citizens of the United States.” The agreement also states explicitly that this authority would extend to “ongoing criminal investigations.” On Saturday, Politico reported that this reference appeared to have been added to the rules during last-minute negotiations between McCarthy and his ultra-right opponents. Although Trump is not named explicitly, the added language would appear to give the new subcommittee license to look into, and perhaps hold up, the Justice Department’s investigations of his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and his post-Presidential mishandling of hundreds of classified documents. In a televised interview, David Jolly, a former Republican congressman from Florida, said that the establishment of the committee was almost like legitimizing the January 6th insurrection.

That helps explain why Trump supported McCarthy to the end. (During the drama on Friday night, the Lear of Mar-a-Lago called several MAGA holdouts to ask them to support the beleaguered Californian.) But it doesn’t explain how the Republican Party has been reduced to this sorry state, or why McCarthy would still want the job of Speaker in these circumstances. For some questions, there are no good answers.  ♦


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Canada politics: NDP to talk health care with Trudeau – CTV News




Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said that he would sit down with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday to discuss private health care ahead of next week’s summit with premiers.

Trudeau is expected to meet with provincial and territorial leaders in Ottawa next Tuesday to discuss a new health-care funding deal.


“The deal will be a failure if it doesn’t include major commitments to hire more health-care workers,” Singh said Monday, adding that the funding should be kept within the public system.

The last time Trudeau and Singh met one-on-one, as outlined in the confidence-and-supply agreement between the Liberals and the NDP, was in December.

Singh said now is the time for the Liberal government to make clear that funding private health-care facilities will not improve the shortage of health-care workers Canada is facing.

On Monday, legislators’ first day back at the House of Commons after a winter break, the NDP requested an emergency debate on the privatization of health care. The request was denied.

During the first question period of the year, Trudeau said his government will continue to ensure the provinces and territories abide by the Canada Health Act.

“We know that even as we negotiate with the provinces to ensure that we’re delivering more family doctors, better mental-health supports, moving forward on backlogs, supporting Canadians who need emergency care, we will ensure the Canada Health Act is fully respected,” Trudeau said.

“In the past, this government has pulled back money from provinces that haven’t respected it. We will continue to do that.”

Singh said that while health care falls under provincial jurisdiction, he believes the federal government could be using the Canada Health Act more aggressively to challenge for-profit care.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government announced earlier this month that it’s moving some procedures to publicly funded, private facilities to address a growing surgery wait-list, which worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Provinces such as Alberta and Saskatchewan have already made similar moves.

“We think the federal government should be making it very clear that the solution to the current health-care crisis will not come from a privatization, for-profit delivery of care. It’ll only come by making sure we hire, recruit, retain and respect health care,” Singh said.

“Health care is already dramatically understaffed, and for-profit facilities will poach doctors and nurses — cannibalizing hospitals, forcing people to wait longer in pain and racked with anxiety.”

The New Democrats say they’re also concerned that private facilities will upsell patients for brands and services not covered by the province, and tack on extra fees and services.

Singh spent some of Parliament’s winter break holding roundtable discussions on health care in British Columbia to discuss emergency room overcrowding and worker shortages.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2023.  

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Prime Minister stands behind newly appointed special representative on combatting Islamophobia – The Globe and Mail



Amira Elghawaby, a human-rights advocate and journalist, pointed out that the specific sentence from a 2019 article co-authored that has raised ire – that Quebeckers appeared to be swayed by anti-Muslim sentiment – was not her opinion, but rather, a description of a poll’s findings.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stood by his newly appointed special representative on combatting Islamophobia as the country marked the sixth anniversary of the deadly Quebec City mosque shooting, while the Quebec government and federal Conservatives called for Amira Elghawaby to step aside.

Outcry over her appointment dominated headlines in Quebec. The backlash stemmed from a 2019 article co-authored by Ms. Elghawaby – a particular line of which was perceived as showing anti-Quebec sentiment. The piece opposed Bill 21, the Quebec law that bans some public servants from wearing religious symbols, such as hijabs.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Ms. Elghawaby, a human-rights advocate and journalist, pointed out that the specific sentence that has raised ire – that Quebeckers appeared to be swayed by anti-Muslim sentiment – was not her opinion, but rather, a description of a poll’s findings.


After criticism was raised last week, Mr. Trudeau said he expected Ms. Elghawaby to clarify her remarks, which she did, saying she does not believe Quebeckers are Islamophobic. Mr. Trudeau said Monday he is satisfied and wants to move forward.

Ms. Elghawaby’s mandate – to support the federal government in rooting out Islamophobia and highlight the diverse experiences of Canadian Muslims – has grown increasingly urgent. In recent years, hate crimes against Muslims have skyrocketed. And, over the past five years, Canada has taken the dark title of the Group of Seven nation with the highest number of Islamophobic killings, advocates note.

“There are anti-Muslim sentiments across Canada,” Ms. Elghawaby said. “This is not a Quebec issue. This is a Canadian issue.”

Amid the fracas, Ms. Elghawaby’s appointment is being celebrated by Muslim and non-Muslim advocates alike.

Stephen Brown, chief executive officer of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, or NCCM, said they are very happy to see Ms. Elghawaby’s appointment, noting she has a long history of advocating for Muslims, is bilingual and very dedicated.

He said the recommendation for the role came out of the National Summit on Islamophobia, in 2021, after the killing of four members of one Muslim family – the Afzaals – in London, Ont., which police said was motivated by anti-Muslim hate. Six Muslim men were killed and another 19 injured in the Quebec City mosque shooting in 2017.

Born in Egypt, Ms. Elghawaby was a baby when her family immigrated to Canada, where her father worked for decades as an engineer with the federal government and her mother raised her and her siblings in an east-end Ottawa suburb.

When Ms. Elghawaby decided to start wearing a head scarf – while studying journalism at Carleton University in the early 2000s – she recalled her father warning her against it. He worried about the barriers that a visible marker of faith could pose, she said.

“I remember telling him, ‘I really believe that Canada is a place where I can put on the head scarf and I can still contribute and I can still succeed,’” she said.

Despite the realities of Islamophobia – ones that cause her to be on guard while at mosque – Ms. Elghawaby said she has always had immense hope for Canada.

Over a career spanning two decades, Ms. Elghawaby has written for CBC News and held forth as a contributing columnist for the Toronto Star; been a founding board member of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network; and worked with the National Council of Canadian Muslims and, most recently, for the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.

In interviews, several people said Ms. Elghawaby is known for her work building connections across communities.

Debbie Douglas, the executive director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, described Ms. Elghawaby as very concerned with how Islamophobia ties into women’s rights and to anti-Black racism, as well as issues of antisemitism.

She pays attention to “the need for real bridge-building and conversations,” Ms. Douglas noted. “You often found her where there’s lots of cross-cultural communications happening.”

Bernie Farber, chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, called Ms. Elghawaby the “perfect appointment.”

“We are living in very dark times,” he said. “Most people allow the darkness to envelop us. Amira is quite the opposite. She insists that there is light.”

He said Ms. Elghawaby has been instrumental in bringing Jewish and Muslim leadership together for difficult conversations. He also described doing trainings – he on antisemitism and she on Islamophobia – for police agencies.

And together, the pair authored the 2019 column that elicited criticism from some.

The pair wrote: “Unfortunately, the majority of Quebeckers appear to be swayed not by the rule of law, but by anti-Muslim sentiment. A poll conducted by Léger Marketing earlier this year found that 88 per cent of Quebeckers who held negative views of Islam supported the ban.”

Ms. Elghawaby said the pair had seen Montreal Gazette reporting on the poll, which stated that “anti-Muslim sentiment appears to be the main motivation for those who support a ban on religious symbols,” and that the poll found most Quebeckers supported Bill 21.

Mr. Brown, of the NCCM, said no one felt that Léger was “Quebec bashing” when it put those numbers out.

Sarah Mushtaq, a community advocate in Windsor, Ont., who writes columns for the Windsor Star, said Ms. Elghawaby’s kindness and wisdom – and ability to navigate tense issues – have made an impact on her.

Part of being a Muslim in the public sphere means that, sometimes, “no one is ever happy with what you said,” she said.

“You never know how certain comments are going to get dug up and misconstrued,” she added.

She said the role of a federal representative dedicated to combatting Islamophobia is “long overdue” and it’s important that a visibly Muslim woman is filling it.

“Despite the naysayers, there’s a lot of people who are grateful that this role exists,” she said. “We are behind her.”

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Parliamentarians kick off return to House of Commons with debate on child care



Parliamentarians kick off return

The economy was top of mind for members of Parliament as they returned to the House of Commons Monday, with the Liberal government kicking off the new sitting with a debate on child care.

Families Minister Karina Gould tabled Bill C-35 last December, which seeks to enshrine the Liberals’ national daycare plan into law — and commit Ottawa to maintaining long-term funding.

The federal government has inked deals with provinces and territories in an effort to cut fees down to an average of $10 per day by 2026.

During a debate today, Gould said all parties should support the bill, and the national plan has begun saving families money.


But Conservative MP Michelle Ferreri said the plan is “subsidizing the wealthy” while failing to reduce wait times for child-care spaces and address labour shortages in the sector.

Ferreri told MPs that the Conservatives would be presenting “strong amendments” to the legislation.

The debate comes amid concerns about a possible recession this year, with both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre saying their focus will be on the cost of living.

But Poilievre’s Tories may have little room to manoeuvre in the legislature.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told reporters upon his return to the House of Commons that he does not believe there is any room to work with the Conservatives during the upcoming sitting.

Instead, the NDP says it plans to push the Liberals to fulfil the terms of the parties’ confidence-and-supply agreement, such as the planned expansion of federal dental care.

Under the deal signed last March, the NDP agreed to support the minority government on key House of Commons votes in exchange for the Liberals moving ahead on New Democrat policy priorities.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2023.

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