Jayapal Presses Biden to Cut Off Infrastructure Talks With Republicans
Politics & Elections 100+ Democracy Scholars Issue Dire Warning About Threats to Voting Rights in US Racial Justice Robin D.G. Kelley: The Tulsa Race Massacre Went Way Beyond “Black Wall Street” Politics & Elections Democrats Remind Biden That Bipartisanship on Infrastructure Is “Hopeless” Politics & Elections The Fight Against Fascism Isn’t Over Politics & Elections Even With Light at the End of the Pandemic Tunnel, We Mustn’t Be Complacent Environment & Health Here’s How to Fight Climate Destruction and Environmental Racism Simultaneously As President Joe Biden prepared to continue talks with the Senate GOP’s lead infrastructure negotiator on Wednesday, progressive Democrats in Congress implored the White House to stop wasting precious time wrangling with a party that has repeatedly shown it is uninterested in pursuing an adequate legislative package. “It’s time to go big, bold, and fast on an infrastructure plan that repairs bridges and roads — but also guarantees paid leave and child care,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said late Tuesday. “The GOP isn’t going to meet us halfway. It’s time to go alone — and get this done.” Last week, a group of Republican senators unveiled the outlines of an infrastructure proposal that called for just $257 billion in new spending over eight years — a far cry from the $1.7 trillion in above-baseline spending Biden offered as a compromise proposal. Republicans flatly rejected that offer as excessive, even though the president lopped roughly $500 billion off his initial American Jobs Plan. Progressive lawmakers, and even some centrists, have grown increasingly frustrated in recent weeks as Biden’s talks with the GOP have predictably moved toward less spending as Republican negotiators attempt to strip out key climate proposals and other measures they consider extraneous, including elder care. “Time is tick, tick, ticking past. Every day spent on hopeless bipartisanship is a day not spent on climate,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said Tuesday. “We can survive bumpy roads; a ruined planet is for eons.” And yet, as Politico reported Tuesday, “the White House continues to see upside to infrastructure negotiations with Republicans, even as the talks run on longer than President Joe Biden initially planned.” “The president still has faith in his ability to win over reluctant Senate Republicans and advisers see benefits — reputationally and politically — in working across the aisle,” according to Politico. But leading progressives, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), have warned of the potentially disastrous consequences of dragging out negotiations with Republicans, both for the climate and for Democrats’ chances of holding on to their slim congressional majorities. The Vermont senator and other progressives in Congress have proposed spending $10 trillion over the next decade on rebuilding the United States’ core infrastructure, combating the climate crisis by expanding renewable energy, and tackling economic and racial inequities. “What happens if they spend week after week, month after month ‘negotiating’ with Republicans who have little intention of addressing the serious crises facing the working families of this country?” Sanders wrote in a CNN op-ed last week. “What happens if, after the passage of the vitally important American Rescue Plan — the Covid-19 rescue package signed into law by President Biden in March — the momentum stops and we accomplish little or nothing?” Sanders, the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, has said he is prepared to move forward on infrastructure and other priorities using budget reconciliation, a filibuster-proof process that allows lawmakers to pass spending bills with a simple majority. But Biden and conservative Senate Democrats, most prominently Joe Manchin of West Virginia, have balked at using reconciliation without first attempting to attract Republican support. Manchin, whose vote Senate Democrats need to move forward with their agenda, indicated last week that he would be willing to let infrastructure talks with the GOP continue until the end of the year in the hopes of eventually reaching a bipartisan deal. As The Hill reported Tuesday, “The White House and congressional Democrats have said they want to get an infrastructure deal passed before the August recess.” “But the more time lawmakers devote to infrastructure,” the outlet noted, “the more uncertain it becomes whether Biden can get other priorities passed before the midterms.” With pressing agenda items such as voting rights expansion, immigration reform, and a major safety net boost at risk of dying in the Senate, Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) echoed Jayapal’s call for Democrats to move ahead with their policy priorities unilaterally. “Instead of wasting our energy negotiating against ourselves for an infrastructure package that Republicans clearly have no interest in passing,” Bush tweeted, “let’s put our energy into abolishing the filibuster, passing the policy we were elected to deliver, and getting ish done for our people.” This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.
Pharma Breaks Lobbying Record Defending High Drug Prices and Vaccine Patents
The pharmaceutical industry spent a record $92 million lobbying the federal government during the first three months of 2021, putting Big Pharma on track to break its annual spending record for a second year in a row. The intense lobbying comes as countries across the world are demanding access to COVID vaccine technology and many Democrats are pushing to expand Medicare and lower prescription drug prices.
Progressives in Congress Should Unite to Slash Biden’s Military Budget
Politics & Elections Facebook Will Announce Tomorrow Whether Trump and His Fascist Posts Can Return Economy & Labor Mutual Aid Efforts Are Working to Fill the Gaps of Biden’s COVID Response Economy & Labor Amazon’s Anti-Union Bullying Shows Why We Need the PRO Act Economy & Labor Tax Dodgers Owe US Over $7 Trillion, Says Janet Yellen Politics & Elections Biden Picks Warren Ally to Oversee Student Aid, Signaling Shift on Student Debt Human Rights Over 10 Million People Could Become Homeless When Eviction Moratorium Ends Imagine this scenario: A month before the vote on the federal budget, progressives in Congress declare, “We’ve studied President Biden’s proposed $753 billion military budget, an increase of $13 billion from Trump’s already inflated budget, and we can’t, in good conscience, support this.” Now that would be a show-stopper, particularly if they added, “So we have decided to stand united, arm in arm, as a block of ‘no’ votes on any federal budget resolution that fails to reduce military spending by 10 to 30 percent. We stand united against a federal budget resolution that includes upwards of $30 billion for new nuclear weapons — slated to ultimately cost nearly $2 trillion. We stand united in demanding the $50 billion earmarked to maintain all 800 overseas bases, including the new one under construction on Okinawa, be reduced by at least one-third, because it’s time we scaled back on plans for global domination.” “Ditto,” they say, “for the billions the president wants for the arms-escalating Space Force, one of Trump’s worst ideas, right up there with hydroxychloroquine to cure COVID-19. And, no, we don’t want to escalate our troop deployments for a military confrontation with China in the South China Sea. It’s time to ‘right-size’ the military budget and demilitarize our foreign policy.” Progressives uniting as a block to resist out-of-control military spending would be a no-nonsense exercise of raw power, reminiscent of the way the right-wing Freedom Caucus challenged the traditional Republicans in the House in 2015. Without progressives on board, President Biden might not be able to secure enough votes to pass a federal budget that would then greenlight the reconciliation process needed for his broad domestic agenda. For years, progressives in Congress have complained about the bloated military budget. In 2020, 93 members in the House and 23 in the Senate voted to cut the Pentagon budget by 10% and invest those funds instead in critical human needs. A House Spending Reduction Caucus, co-chaired by Reps. Barbara Lee of California and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, emerged with 22 members on board, including all four members of the “Squad” but also quite a few more moderate or mainstream Democrats. We also have the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the largest in Congress, now with almost 100 members in the House and Senate. Caucus chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., is all for cutting military spending. “We’re in the midst of a crisis that has left millions of families unable to afford food, rent and bills,” she told The Nation. “But at the same time, we’re dumping billions of dollars into a bloated Pentagon budget. Don’t increase defense spending. Cut it — and invest that money into our communities.” Now is the time for these congresspeople to turn their talk into action. Consider the context. Biden urgently wants to move forward on his American Families Plan rolled out in his recent address to Congress. The plan would tax the rich to invest $1.8 trillion over the next 10 years in universal preschool, two years of tuition-free community college, expanded health care coverage and paid family medical leave. In the spirit of FDR, Biden also wants to put America back to work with a $2 trillion infrastructure program that will begin to fix our decades-old broken bridges, crumbling sewer systems and rusting water pipes. This could be his legacy, a Green New Deal-lite to transition workers out of the dying fossil fuel industry. But Biden won’t get his infrastructure program and American Families Plan with higher taxes on the rich, almost 40% on income for corporations and those earning $400,000 or more a year, unless Congress first passes a budget resolution that includes a top line for military and non-military spending. Both the budget resolution and the reconciliation bill that would follow are filibuster-proof and only require a simple majority in the House and Senate to pass. Easy. Maybe not. To flex their muscles, Republicans may refuse to vote for a budget resolution crafted by the Democratic Party that would open the door to big spending on public goods, such as pre-kindergarten and expanded health care coverage. That means Biden would need every Democrat in the House and Senate on board to approve his budget resolution for military and non-military spending. So how’s it looking? In the Senate, Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a state that went for Trump over Biden more than two to one, wants to scale back Biden’s infrastructure proposal, but hasn’t sworn to vote down a budget resolution. As for Sen. Bernie Sanders, the much-loved progressive, ordinarily he might balk at a record high military budget. But if the budget resolution ushers in a reconciliation bill that lowers the age of Medicare eligibility to 60 or 55, the chair of the Senate Budget Committee might feel compelled to hold his fire. That leaves antiwar activists wondering if Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a critic of the Pentagon budget and “nuclear modernization,” would consider stepping up as the lone holdout in the Senate, refusing to vote for a budget that includes billions for new nuclear weapons. Perhaps with a push from outraged constituents in Massachusetts, Warren could be convinced to take this bold stand. Another potential holdout could be California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who co-chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, the committee that oversees budgeting for nuclear weapons. In 2014, Feinstein described the U.S. nuclear arsenal program as “unnecessarily and unsustainably large.” Over in the House, Biden needs at least 218 of the 222 Democrats to vote for the budget resolution expected to hit the floor in June or July. But what if he can’t get to 218? What if at least five members of the House voted no — or even just threatened to — because the top line for military spending was too high and the budget included new “money pit” land-based nuclear missiles to replace 450 Minuteman III ICBMs, deployed since the 1970s. Polls show that most Democrats oppose “nuclear modernization” — a euphemism for a plan that is anything but modern, given that 50 countries have signed onto the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which would make nuclear weapons illegal, and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires the U.S. to pursue nuclear disarmament to avoid a catastrophic accident or intentional nuclear holocaust. Now is the time for progressive congressional luminaries such as the Squad’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Presley to unite with Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Jayapal, as well as Lee, Pocan and others in the House Spending Reduction Caucus to stand as a block against a bloated military budget. Will they have the courage to unite behind such a cause? Would they be willing to play hardball and gum up the works on the way to Biden’s progressive domestic agenda? Odds will improve if constituents barrage them with phone calls, emails and visible protests. In a time of pandemic, it makes no sense to approve a military budget that is 90 times the budget of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The billions saved from “right-sizing” the Pentagon could provide critical funds for addressing the climate crisis. Just as we support putting an end to our endless wars, we also support putting an end to our endless cycle of exponential military spending. This is the moment to demand a substantial cut in the Pentagon budget — and to defund new nuclear weapons. This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.
Biden to Publicly Recognize Armenian Genocide, Ending Decades of U.S. Silence
“Within the United States and outside the United States, the American commitment to basic human values has been questioned now for decades,” Ghazarian said. “It is very important for people in the world to continue to have the hope and the faith that America’s aspirational values are still relevant, and that we can in fact to do several things at once. We can in fact carry on trade and other relations with countries while also calling out the fact that a government cannot get away with murdering its own citizens.”
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Chomsky on the ‘joke’ of ‘Russian interference’ and the savagery of US sanctions
Noam Chomsky says that ongoing US claims of Russian interference are a joke — all the more so as the US continues to ravage multiple states with savage sanctions that target...