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WATCH: Jim Jordan, Dr. Fauci get into shouting match over COVID restrictions, civil liberties

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During a Thursday congressional hearing, a shouting match erupted between GOP Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio) and Dr. Anthony Fauci over COVID-19 restrictions when Jordan pressed Fauci on when Americans can expect things to return to normal, bringing up civil liberties.

“When is the time?” Jordan asked during House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus hearing titled “Reaching the Light at the End of the Tunnel: Ending COVID-19”. “When do Americans get their freedom back? We had 15 days to slow the spread, turned into a year of lost liberties.”

“When we get the level of infection in this country low enough that it is not a really high threat,” Fauci replied.

“What is low enough? Give me a number […] what metrics, what measures, what has to happen before Americans get their freedoms?” the Ohio Republican asked.

Fauci replied that his message was to make sure as many Americans as possible get vaccinated quickly “to get the level of infection in this country low that it is no longer a threat.”

Unsatisfied, Jordan continued to press him on this until Fauci took issue with the congressman’s framing of the issue as one of civil liberties.

“You’re indicating liberty and freedom. I look at it as a public health measure to prevent people from dying and going to hospital,” Fauci said, adding that life will return to normal when people get vaccinated.

“You don’t think Americans’ liberties have been threatened the last year, Dr. Fauci?” Jordan asked, raising his voice. “They’ve been assaulted!”

Later on, the congressman brought up the various types of COVID-19 restrictions that have been put in place throughout the pandemic—such as those on houses of worship, having guests in one’s home, and curfews—arguing that they violated people’s constitutional rights.

Subsequently, Jordan claimed people have been censored because they dared to disagree with Fauci, citing a video where physicians disagreed with Fauci’s positions. This led to Fauci to claim that the congressman was making things personal.

“It’s not a personal thing,” Jordan claimed, to which Fauci shouted back: “You are! That is exactly what you’re doing.”

After Jordan’s time expired, committee Chairman Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) said that he would be pleased once 90% of Congress is vaccinated. This prompted the Ohio Republican to ask Fauci again for a specific standard.

“When? What are the numbers?” he asked.

“Right now we’re at an unacceptably high level,” Fauci said. “What you’re going to see as more and more people get vaccinated and we get over three million people a day, you’re going to see the level of infection come down and down, and gradually there will be more flexibility for doing the things that you’re talking about.”

Jordan continued to press him for a specific number. But, as Fauci started to give a response, the next committee member began to speak, thanking Clyburn.

“I’d like my question answered!” Jordan shouted, in response to which Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) yelled: “You need to respect the chair and shut your mouth!”

“Don’t worry about this, we’re going to handle this,” Clyburn responded. “I think Mr. Jordan knows me very well, and he knows full well that we’re going to handle this.”

Jordan thanked the South Carolina Democrat, and the hearing proceeded, with the Ohio Republican and Fauci sparring some more in subsequent rounds of questioning.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @DouglasPBraff.

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Minnesota farmer’s lawsuit prompts removal of race and sex-based grant program

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Five months after Minnesota farmer Lance Nistler filed a federal lawsuit with the help of the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), the state has removed race- and sex-based preferences from its Down Payment Assistance Grant Program. This significant policy change followed Nistler’s legal challenge, which highlighted the discriminatory nature of the program’s selection process.

Pacific Legal Foundation writes involvement in Nistler’s case drew attention and criticism from Minnesota progressives. Writing in the Minnesota Reformer, Sigrid Jewett accused PLF of using Nistler “as a pawn in a larger culture war game.” She questioned why a California-based legal firm with numerous Supreme Court victories would be interested in representing a small Minnesota farmer pro bono.

PLF opposes all race- and sex-based preferences in the law, and that’s the real reason the firm chose to represent Nistler. The foundation stands against discrimination in various domains, including government board selections, school admissions, government contracts, and grant distributions, such as in Nistler’s case.

Here are the facts: Minnesota’s Down Payment Assistance Grant Program offers up to $15,000 toward the purchase of farmland. Recipients are chosen through a lottery system. However, before the policy change, even if a recipient was among the first picked through the lottery—as Nistler was, being selected ninth—they could be bumped to the back of the line if they were not a racial minority, female, LGBTQIA+, or otherwise designated as an “emerging” farmer by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

Despite being chosen ninth in the lottery, which awarded grants to 68 applicants, Nistler did not receive a grant. He was moved from ninth to 102nd on the waitlist because he is a white male.

Nistler grew up on his family farm, milking cows. “They would lose money every year,” he says of the family operation. After he left for school, his family sold the cows and switched to farming soybeans, oats, and wheat. Lance’s father and uncle now run the farm, but they’re getting older. Lance, who has a degree in electronic engineering and worked in HVAC, is interested in buying a 40-acre chunk of the family farm, becoming the fourth-generation farmer in his family.

The land isn’t just going to be given to Lance. This is a working farm, and the Nistlers aren’t a wealthy family that can transfer land from one generation to the next without consideration. “My dad and uncle, they don’t have 401(k)s or anything,” Lance says. “I mean, the land and the equipment, that’s their retirement. This stuff isn’t given away. I’m not just going to get it handed down to me and inherited. It has to be purchased, and it is not cheap.”

Despite being from a farming family, Lance considers himself a new farmer—he has never owned farmland before, and he has an electronics background. Buying these 40 acres would be a huge step for Lance, planting him firmly in the farming world, which is what Minnesota’s grant program aimed to do. The idea that he would have qualified as an emerging farmer if only his skin were a different color struck Lance as wrong.

“The country we live in, the idea is it’s equal opportunity for everyone,” he says. “And if that’s what it is, then well, why shouldn’t I have the same chances?”

When Lance filed his lawsuit in January, the complaint argued that the discriminatory process violated the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. The complaint stated:

“Nistler brings this lawsuit to vindicate his constitutional right to equal protection of the law. He brings it to give all Minnesotans a fair chance at a difference-making grant program. He brings it in the hope that he will be able to own that small farm in the near future. He brings it because he is not giving up on his dream.”

In May, after Lance called attention to the unconstitutional policy, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed legislation removing the race and sex prioritization from the program. Now, Minnesota will treat farmers equally—as the Constitution promises.

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