Sanders Unveils Final $3.5T Reconciliation Package Alongside Infrastructure Bill

Senate Democrats have unveiled their $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill with provisions like paid leave, expanding Medicare coverage and proposals to tackle the climate crisis in the U.S. The Democrats plan on passing the bill alongside the bipartisan infrastructure package that’s currently being debated in the Senate. The reconciliation bill, spearheaded largely by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), contains many of the provisions that were carved out of the infrastructure package that President Joe Biden had originally proposed in the spring. That includes traditional infrastructure provisions, such as funding for affordable housing upgrades and transportation.

When Even the Conservative IEA Sounds an Alarm on Climate, the World Must Listen

Like a carousel of bad news coming from all four corners of the globe, the year thus far has borne witness to a litany of extreme weather events and stark research findings with one grim overarching message: The world is still failing miserably to adequately respond to the already devastating impacts of the climate crisis.

Republicans Balk at Infrastructure Adding to Deficit After Opposing Pay Fors

Racial Justice MLK’s Family and Civil Rights Leaders Call for Voting Rights March on Washington Environment & Health Democrats Propose Medicare for a Few More Instead of Demanding Medicare for All Politics & Elections GOP Lawmaker Suing Pelosi Over House Mask Rules Contracts COVID Politics & Elections Republicans Balk at Infrastructure Adding to Deficit After Opposing Pay-Fors Economy & Labor Predatory Banks at Walmarts Made Over 100 Percent of Profits From Overdraft Fees Economy & Labor COVID Relief Packages Dramatically Reduced Poverty. They Should Be Permanent. As amendments to the bipartisan infrastructure bill were being debated in the Senate, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said Thursday that only about half of the $550 billion in new spending proposed by the bill will be paid for and the rest will add to the deficit. The CBO announced that the bill would add about $256 billion to the deficit over the next ten years despite the fact that the bipartisan group working on the bill had promised the entire bill would be paid for. Republicans have warned for weeks that they may not support the bill if it wasn’t fully funded. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said in June that might not support a bill that added to the deficit. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) told The Hill on Thursday that, despite the good provisions in the bill, he believes half of the “pay-fors” in the bill are “fake.” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) has evidently been warning his colleagues for weeks that the bill would likely not be fully covered. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) and Portman circulated a statement saying that the CBO score may not be fully accurate and that the bill would still be fully funded, in an attempt to assuage concerns for now. Still, Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tennessee) is hesitant after the CBO report, falling in step with McConnell’s announcement in June that GOP lawmakers wouldn’t vote for a bill that added to the deficit. A spokesperson for Hagerty told Politico that the senator “cannot in good conscience agree to expedite a process immediately after the CBO confirmed that the bill would add over a quarter of a trillion dollars to the deficit.” Senators, mostly Republicans, introduced a flurry of amendments on Thursday evening but Hagerty’s opposition held up a vote to end debate. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has rescheduled the vote for Saturday. The bill must receive at least 60 votes to advance, thanks to the Senate filibuster. Though Republican opposition to adding to the deficit — and thus potential opposition to the entire infrastructure bill — is unsurprising, it comes after months of negotiations in which the GOP has rejected a wide swath of Democratic proposals that could have prevented any deficit issues at all. President Joe Biden had originally proposed a modest tax increase on corporations and wealthy people to pay for his $4 trillion package. Republicans categorically rejected this proposal, not wanting to undo Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts. Instead, they offered to pay for the bill with user fees, a proposal that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) pointed out was really a tax on the middle and lower classes. Republicans also rejected a proposal to enforce existing tax law on the rich. This pay-for would fund the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to go after rich tax dodgers — many who often donate handsomely to the Republican Party. The IRS funding proposal in the bipartisan bill would have raised an estimated $100 billion over 10 years. The GOP, then, has created its own catch-22 on the infrastructure bill. They won’t agree to a bill that would add to the deficit, but they also won’t agree to any of the pay-fors that would cover additional spending. It’s unclear if Hagerty or other Republicans could be swayed to support the bill — but as Republicans have been delaying the bill for months, Democrats and progressives are growing more impatient. Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Exxon-Influenced Senators Carved Climate Out of Infrastructure Almost Entirely

Environment & Health EPA Approval of PFAS for Fracking May Spell a New Health Crisis for Communities Politics & Elections Both the Delta Variant and Thin-Willed Democrats Are Lethal to Our Society Environment & Health Biden Promotes $100 Incentives to Encourage Unvaccinated to Get Their Shots Environment & Health Exxon-Influenced Senators Carved Climate Out of Infrastructure Almost Entirely Environment & Health Chomsky: We Need Genuine International Cooperation to Tackle the Climate Crisis Politics & Elections The Right Wing Wants Misinformation and Manufactured Ignorance, Not Democracy The final negotiations over the infrastructure bill have ground funding down to a paltry $550 billion, from what began as a $2.25 trillion proposal from President Joe Biden. The bipartisan group of senators overseeing the negotiations cut about $29 billion in new spending from the previous draft, eliminating $20 billion of what little climate spending was left in the bill, E&E News reported. Compared to the previous draft of the bill announced in June, the latest and final draft of the bill removes $10 billion from public transit spending and $5 billion from electric school bus funding. It also effectively cut electric vehicle charging infrastructure in half from the previous draft from $15 billion to $7.5 billion. The cuts are yet another instance of drastic reductions that the bipartisan group has repeatedly made to climate provisions from Biden’s original proposal. Electric vehicle funding fell by nearly 96 percent from the first proposal of $174 billion, and transportation funding in general took a $263 billion cut. The bipartisan group, along with Biden, touted the bill as a success. “This deal signals to the world that our democracy can function, deliver, and do big things,” Biden said in a statement. But, so far, the infrastructure negotiations have done more to frustrate Democratic lawmakers and progressive movements than to give them something to celebrate. Progressives have been saying for months that they wouldn’t support a bill that didn’t sufficiently address the climate crisis, adopting the mantra “no climate, no deal.” The sharp cuts to climate provisions in the bipartisan deal are a sharp contrast from the $10 trillion climate, justice and infrastructure bill that progressives had introduced earlier this year, called the THRIVE Act. The bill aims to reduce emission while boosting justice initiatives over the next decade, and climate advocates have lauded it as one of the only proposals in Washington that comes close to matching the scale of the climate crisis. Though the THRIVE Act has little chance of passing, all hope isn’t lost for climate-focused progressives. Democrats were hoping to tack on climate and other provisions cut from the negotiations onto a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that they could pass through a simple majority vote as long as all Democratic senators were on board. However, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s (D-Arizona) recently announced opposition to that plan, throwing progressive support for watered-down reconciliation and infrastructure bills into question. Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-New York) highlighted the enormous sacrifices of bipartisanship. What was gained: “Bipartisanship” What was lost: — Jamaal Bowman (@JamaalBowmanNY) July 30, 2021 Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) pointed out that the motivation of the bipartisan group to cut climate provisions from the bill might have come directly from fossil fuel lobbyists. “Exxon lobbyists bragged about how much influence they had in this deal,” she said on Twitter. “This is what that influence looks like,” she said, sharing the E&E News report on the climate provisions being cut. Indeed, an explosive June report from Greenpeace found that Exxon, continuing decades-long practices of fighting climate policy, was “working hard behind the scenes to eliminate the proposed funding” for Biden’s climate policies. The lobbyists had also targeted a number of the conservative Republicans and Democrats in the bipartisan group, including Senators Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), Sinema, John Tester (D-Montana), Chris Coons (D-Delaware) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia). Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Progressives Reject Watered Down Reconciliation Bill in Rebuttal to Sinema

Environment & Health Chomsky: We Need Genuine International Cooperation to Tackle the Climate Crisis Politics & Elections Conservative Democrats Are Endangering Humanity. Exhibit A: Kyrsten Sinema. Politics & Elections The Right Wing Wants Misinformation and Manufactured Ignorance, Not Democracy Politics & Elections Trump Pushed Then-DOJ Head Rosen Daily to Probe False Fraud Claims in Late 2020 Politics & Elections Progressives Reject Watered Down Reconciliation Bill in Rebuttal to Sinema Racial Justice Bob Moses Embodied Collective Struggle for Black Freedom and Human Liberation After Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) threw a bomb into the Democrats’ plan to pass a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, progressives are fighting back, saying that they won’t accept a bill that doesn’t include and sufficiently address their priorities. “Progressives have been clear from the beginning: a small and narrow bipartisan infrastructure bill does not have a path forward in the House of Representatives unless it has a reconciliation package, with our priorities, alongside it,” said Congressional Progressive Caucus leader Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) in a statement on Wednesday. Sinema said on Wednesday that she doesn’t support a $3.5 trillion bill and said she’d work in the coming months to negotiate the bill. But Democrats had wanted to pass the reconciliation bill in tandem with the bipartisan infrastructure bill before the Senate went into recess in early August, so Sinema’s opposition to the $3.5 trillion proposal as it’s written throws the Democrats’ plan for a loop. The Arizona senator said that she would vote to adopt the budget resolution, which is the first step to getting the reconciliation bill passed. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), who has led the reconciliation bill effort, said Wednesday that the Senate has the required 50 votes needed to adopt the resolution. There’s no guarantee, however, that the bill will pass the whole chamber from there as it is — and, with House progressives standing against watering down the bill, there’s no guarantee it will pass at all if Sinema is successful in shrinking it. The potential blocking of the reconciliation package also means that the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which passed a cloture vote Wednesday night, might be in jeopardy as well. “The votes of Congressional Progressive Caucus members are not guaranteed on any bipartisan package until we examine the details, and until the reconciliation bill is agreed to and passed with our priorities sufficiently funded,” Jayapal said. “The investments we identified months ago are long-standing Democratic priorities, including affordable housing, Medicare expansion, strengthening the care economy, climate action, and a roadmap to citizenship.” The reconciliation bill in its current form contains proposals to address all of these things. Sanders has said that though the bill is a step down from the $6 trillion figure he had originally proposed, the $3.5 trillion bill still contains everything he wants, just for a shorter period of time. Indeed, $3.5 trillion was already a compromise for progressives, many of whom stood behind a $10 trillion infrastructure and climate bill earlier this year. Members of Congress like Representatives Mondaire Jones (D-New York) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) expressed frustration and threatened to pull their support for the bills on Wednesday. “Without a reconciliation package that meets this moment, I’m a no on this bipartisan deal,” Jones said on Twitter. Ocasio-Cortez issued a scathing statement responding to Sinema’s announcement, saying “Good luck tanking your own party’s investment on childcare, climate action, and infrastructure while presuming you’ll survive a 3 vote House margin.” Ocasio-Cortez also pointed out that the bipartisan infrastructure agreement was formed by all white senators. “A lot of times, ‘bipartisan agreements’ are just as defined by who people in power agree to exclude than include,” she wrote. This isn’t the first time progressives have made threats to pull their support for the infrastructure and reconciliation bills. They have been emphasizing for months that they would not support a bill without provisions to address the climate crisis, for instance. They have said that, not only is now perhaps the only time President Joe Biden will get to massively cut emissions, but it’s also an opportunity to demonstrate to potential midterm voters that Democrats deserve to keep their majority in Congress. But the White House is evidently celebrating the bipartisan infrastructure bill anyway, despite the fact that it’s only about a quarter of the size of Biden’s original proposal and excludes vital provisions on climate and raising taxes on wealthy people and corporations to fund the bill. While Biden took a victory lap touting the infrastructure bill Wednesday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called the items cut out of the infrastructure bill “shiny objects.” But as even just the past weeks have demonstrated, action on climate is anything but trivial, which is why Democrats and progressives have been insistent on keeping addressing climate issues in the bipartisan deal. Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

84 Democrats Sign Letter Demanding Civilian Climate Corps in Reconciliation Bill

As Democratic leaders hash out the details of the upcoming $3.5 trillion reconciliation deal, dozens of Democratic lawmakers are uniting behind a proposal to create a Civilian Climate Corps and rallying for its inclusion in the bill. Eighty-four Democrats signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) urging them to incorporate their proposal for the Corps on Tuesday.

Democrats Prepare $6 Trillion Infrastructure Bill That Sidesteps GOP

Senate Democrats are in talks over a $6 trillion reconciliation package that would sidestep Republican opposition and contain provisions over and above President Joe Biden’s infrastructure proposals to address the climate crisis and expand Medicare. The package would adopt many provisions from Biden’s twin economic packages, the $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan and the $1.9 trillion American Families Plan. It would include provisions to expand the child tax credit and establish universal pre-kindergarten and paid leave, according to The Washington Post — all provisions that are currently missing from the infrastructure proposal offered by centrist senators, which has been panned by progressives.

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.

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Over 600 Public Water Systems in California Communities Face Risk of Failure

A familiar scene has returned to California: drought. Two counties are currently under emergency declarations, and the rest of the state could follow. It was only four years ago when a winter of torrential rain finally wrestled the state out of its last major drought, which had dragged on for five years and left thousands of domestic wells coughing up dust.