58% of Americans believe US democracy in danger of collapse: poll

WASHINGTON (AFP): One year after the storming of the US Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump, six out of 10 Americans believe the country’s democracy is in danger of collapse, according to a poll released Wednesday.

Seventy-six percent of those surveyed in the poll by Quinnipiac University said they think political instability in the United States is a bigger danger than foreign threats.

A majority of those polled — 58 percent — said they think the nation’s democracy is in danger of collapse. Thirty-seven percent disagreed.

Fifty-three percent meanwhile said they expect political divisions in the country to worsen over their lifetime.

As for the likelihood of another attack in the United States like the one on Congress, 53 percent of those polled said it was very or somewhat likely.

A special committee of the House of Representatives is investigating the January 6, 2021 storming of the Capitol, with 61 percent of those surveyed saying they back the probe. A total of 83 percent of Democrats favor it and 60 percent of Republicans oppose it.

The poll also had bad news for President Joe Biden with just 33 percent of those surveyed saying they approved of the job he was doing.

Fifty-three percent said they disapproved while 13 percent had no opinion.

Biden had a 38 percent job approval rating in a Quinnipiac poll in November.

The nationwide poll of 1,313 US adults was conducted between January 7 and 10 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points, Quinnipiac said.

Capitol assault probe wants testimony from top Republican lawmaker

The Congressional committee investigating the attack on the US Capitol requested testimony Wednesday from top Republican lawmaker Kevin McCarthy, seeking information on his calls with Donald Trump.

The request from the Democrat-led January 6 Select Committee set up a potential clash with McCarthy, the House minority leader who communicated with then-president Trump at the moment hundreds of his supporters violently stormed the Capitol a year ago, forcing lawmakers and the vice president to flee to safety.

The committee said McCarthy had been in contact with Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows in the days before the attack, when Trump and aides were planning an effort to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden as the next president on January 6, 2021.

“We also must learn about how the president’s plans for January 6th came together, and all the other ways he attempted to alter the results of the election,” committee chairman Bennie Thompson said in a letter to McCarthy.

In addition, Thompson said, “You have acknowledged speaking directly with the former President while the violence was underway.”

In the attack, hundreds of Trump backers forced their way into the Capitol, halting the certification of Biden’s election victory over Trump, and forcing Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over Congress, into hiding.

Thompson’s committee is examining if Trump and his advisors encouraged or even plotted the violence.

After January 6, McCarthy told media that he had tried to discourage the effort to block certification, had a “heated” phone conversation with Trump on the day of the attack, and that Trump had at one point accepted some responsibility for it.

“All of this information bears directly on President Trump’s state of mind during the January 6th attack as the violence was underway,” the letter to McCarthy said.

McCarthy, who after the attack criticized Trump but has since resumed his support for the former president, had no immediate response to the letter.

The committee has issued subpoenas to key figures who refused to testify voluntarily, and referred charges of contempt to the Justice Department on two who still refused, former Trump advisor Steve Bannon and the chief of staff, Mark Meadows.

But it was unclear whether the committee would go so far with a senior member of Congress.

It asked McCarthy to testify during the first two weeks of February.

Top US Republican McConnell lashes out at Biden

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lashed out at President Joe Biden on Wednesday, accusing him of widening the US political divide with his push for voting rights reform and call to change the Senate rules.

“We have a sitting president — a sitting president — invoking the Civil War, shouting about totalitarianism and labeling millions of Americans his domestic enemies?” McConnell said in an unusually vitriolic speech on the Senate floor. “Yesterday, he poured a giant can of gasoline on the fire.”

Biden, in a speech in Atlanta, Georgia, on Tuesday, called for a break in the Senate’s supermajority rule so Democrats can override Republican opposition to voting rights reforms that he called crucial to saving US democracy.

Biden said Republicans are passing local laws “designed to suppress your vote, to subvert our elections.”

“History has never been kind to those who sided with voter suppression over voter rights,” the Democratic president said. “I ask every elected official in America: how do you want to be remembered?”

Biden is to meet with Senate Democrats on Thursday to discuss voting rights and changing the rules of the Senate to sidestep Republican opposition.

Biden will attend the Senate Democratic Caucus lunch to discuss the “urgent need to pass legislation to protect the constitutional right to vote,” the White House said.

In his speech, Biden challenged Democrats in the Senate to back two bills already passed by the Democratic-majority House of Representatives that would expand access to the polls and prevent practices that he said are being used to suppress Black and other Democratic-leaning voters.

The 50 Democrats in the 100-member Senate support the two bills but under the current supermajority requirement, 60 votes are needed to bring them to the floor.

If Republicans don’t cooperate then the supermajority requirement, called the filibuster, should be tossed to get the voting rights acts through, Biden said.

“We have no option but to change the Senate rules including getting rid of the filibuster for this,” he said.

– ‘Incoherent’ –

Biden’s speech drew a furious response from McConnell, the conservative senator from Kentucky who served as majority leader until Republicans lost control of the Senate in the 2020 election.

“The president’s rant yesterday was incorrect, incoherent and beneath his office,” McConnell said, calling it “pure demagoguery.”

Biden delivered a “deliberately divisive speech that was designed to pull our country further apart,” he said.

“To demonize Americans who disagree with him, he compared… a bipartisan majority of senators to literal traitors,” McConnell said. “How profoundly — profoundly — unpresidential.”

McConnell said he personally likes and respects Biden, who spent decades in the Senate, but “I did not recognize the man at the podium yesterday.”

Biden, asked about McConnell’s remarks, said “I like Mitch McConnell, he’s a friend.”

Shortly after, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki dismissed criticism of Biden’s Tuesday speech as “hilarious.”

“What is far more offensive is the effort to suppress people’s basic right to exercise… who they want to elect,” she said.

Democrats accuse Republican state legislatures of enacting laws aimed at restricting the voting rights of minorities and curtailing early voting and mail-in voting in an effort to suppress Democratic support.

Republicans warn that a supposedly one-off maneuver could open the floodgates to lifting the filibuster on all sorts of issues, thereby ending any semblance of bipartisanship in the chamber.

The move needs unanimous Democratic support to happen — and that’s far from assured, with at least two of the more conservative Democratic senators — Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — clearly skeptical.

Manchin and Sinema will be the two senators Biden will be seeking to persuade at Thursday’s Senate lunch.

The “Freedom to Vote Act” is designed to make it easier for Americans to cast their ballots by expanding mail-in voting and making Election Day an official holiday.

It also takes aim at voting restrictions imposed in several Republican-led states following Donald Trump’s defeat in the 2020 presidential election.

The other bill, named for civil rights icon John Lewis, would restore anti-discrimination clauses of the Voting Rights Act removed by the Supreme Court in 2013.

Fifteen Black elected officials emotionally urged the Senate Wednesday to pass the voting reform bills to protect minority rights.

“It’s the most fundamental, sacred thing I can think of,” Ohio Representative Joyce Beatty, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, said.