Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) organized over 80 House Democrats to sign a letter calling on President Joe Biden to expand Medicare in his administration’s upcoming American Families Plan. The lawmakers are asking Biden to lower the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 60 or even 55, require Medicare to negotiate drug prices, and add benefits such as dental, vision and hearing to Medicare coverage. In the letter, the Democrats argue that this would be “a critical investment in health care to bolster the security of our country’s economy and families.”
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.
Politics & Elections India and Brazil’s COVID Crises Show We Must End the Fiction of Borders Human Rights 125 Democrats Say Military Aid to Israel Shouldn’t Depend on Human Rights Record Prisons & Policing University of California Pushes to Militarize and Expand Its Police Force Politics & Elections Sanders Accuses McConnell of Hypocrisy and Corruption in Scathing KY Speech Immigration DHS Touts Reuniting Just 4 of More Than 1,000 Separated Migrant Families Human Rights Over 10 Million People Could Become Homeless When Eviction Moratorium Ends The Senate passed a bipartisan bill to provide $35 billion to fund water infrastructure in states and on tribal lands on Thursday. The legislation, which sets aside funding for underserved communities, now goes to the House for consideration. The Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act (DWWIA) allows for gradual increases in state funding for water infrastructure programs from 2022 to 2026. It nearly doubles funding for lead removal projects, including removing lead pipes from schools, and allows for over 40 percent of funds to go toward helping underserved and tribal communities. It also promotes investments in projects to improve water infrastructure to be more resilient to the effects of the climate crisis. The legislation passed the Senate 89-2. The two no votes were cast by Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Proponents of the bill say that the bill is desperately needed to improve water infrastructure in the U.S. “To truly ‘Build Back Better,’ our nation must prioritize putting Americans back to work repairing and upgrading the aging pipes we all depend on to deliver our water,” said Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois), lead author of the bill. “Years of failure to make adequate investments in our water infrastructure has led to a status quo where millions of Americans are served their drinking water through what is essentially a lead straw.” Water infrastructure in the U.S. is indeed in need of improvement. In their 2021 infrastructure report, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave drinking water infrastructure in the U.S. a C minus, saying that “the system is aging and underfunded.” Investment in water infrastructure in the U.S. has seen a dramatic decline in the last four decades. A 2020 study by the ASCE found that the investment gap for drinking water and wastewater would grow to $434 billion by 2029 if left unchecked. This is particularly an issue for poor and minority communities. Studies have shown that the problem of a lack of access to clean drinking water — like the still-ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan — is most often experienced by poor communities with large nonwhite populations. A 2019 study by the National Resources Defense Council found that water systems that continually violated the laws on clean drinking water were 40 percent more likely to be located in communities with a high proportion of residents of color. Wide support for the DWWIA in the Senate indicates that there is bipartisan support for infrastructure investments — a topic du jour, thanks to President Joe Biden’s recent infrastructure proposals. Biden’s infrastructure bill also includes a proposal to replace all lead pipes among many other infrastructure improvements, but Republicans have aligned themselves against it. The DWWIA might be a welcome step toward repairing the country’s water systems, but some environmental advocates say that it still won’t be sufficient to address issues of years of racist policies that have long disadvantaged nonwhite communities. “While this legislation is a great start, it cannot be the final investment in communities that have been in peril even before the COVID-19 pandemic further devastated them,” said Julian Gonzalez, legislative counsel for Earthjustice, in a statement. “We look forward to Congress continuing to act through a larger infrastructure package, with significantly more robust funding for removal of lead service lines, more grants to disadvantaged communities and tribal nations, and more funding for ratepayer assistance.” Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
Such programs could help bolster work on the more traditional infrastructure projects as they allow working-class Americans the opportunity to get back into the workplace or advance their own career paths. “Child care is infrastructure. Paid leave is infrastructure. Caregiving is infrastructure. Because if we don’t invest in all three, families can’t get back to work,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) recently tweeted.
Politics & Elections Biden’s Speech Pointed to a Possible End to Reagan’s Rancid Legacy Prisons & Policing New Report Looks at Strategies to Cut Incarceration of Illinois Women by Half Politics & Elections GOP Rebuttal to Biden’s Speech Flopped Because Progressive Policies Are Popular Environment & Health Hawaii Poised to Become First State to Declare Climate Emergency Environment & Health Progressives Introduce Huge Climate Bill That Rivals Biden Infrastructure Plan Racial Justice Commission Finds Anti-Black Police Violence Constitutes Crimes Against Humanity Progressives on Thursday introduced a $10 trillion climate and jobs bill that would reduce emissions, rebuild infrastructure and address environmental justice over the next decade. The bill rivals President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill, which calls for a much smaller investment. While Biden’s bill calls for a $2 trillion investment in infrastructure over the next decade, the Transform, Heal, and Renew by Investing in a Vibrant Economy (THRIVE) Act calls for $1 trillion per year over 10 years for investment in infrastructure, jobs and climate initiatives. The proposal is being led by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan) and it aims to cut climate emissions in half by 2030 and is centered around equitable change. Highlighting the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and the American Rescue Plan, Dingell said in a press call organized by the Green New Deal Network, “[As the nation is] pivoting from relief to recovery, we’re working together to advance good paying union jobs, racial equity and climate action.” “The pandemic has shined a light on the cracks of our society. It’s placed a burden on vulnerable communities,” said Dingell. “That’s why we need a bold economic renewal plan, and the THRIVE Act is exactly what we need.” “The climate crisis is here. It’s here. This is not some future issue.” said Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colorado), a sponsor of the bill, highlighting wildfires in his state and public health issues due to air pollution. “The most expensive thing our nation has ever done is not be ready for this pandemic. So we have to do the right thing and make investments now to be prepared to save lives” and address the climate crisis, Crow said. One of the main focuses of the bill is job creation — a March report by the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that the THRIVE Act would create about 15.5 million jobs per year. The bill stipulates that the jobs must be high quality, with at least a $15 an hour wage and with benefits like paid family and sick leave. “Unions and the environmentalists have come together and are working together to ensure that we rebuild our country’s economy with a focus on justice and healing,” said Dingell. The bill would also ensure that historically oppressed groups are at the front line of the transition to a greener nation by creating a 20-member board of representatives from frontline communities, unions and Indigenous nations to help guide where investments should be made. Fifty percent of investments from the bill, it stipulates, must go toward frontline communities, which suffer the most from climate impacts. “Policymakers cannot ignore the realities that are facing millions of Black, brown, Indigenous, immigrant and working families all across America. The four crises facing America are literally killing us. They are climate change, the public health pandemic, racial injustice and economic inequality,” said Markey in the press call. “We can’t defeat any of these crises alone. We must develop a roadmap for recovery that addresses them all.” The bill pays particular care to Indigenous people, and requires the government to respect Indigenous nations in the investments put forth by the bill. It attempts to ensure that Native communities would be consulted and their consent sought before things like pipelines are built on Indigenous territory. The THRIVE Agenda and corresponding THRIVE Act was originally introduced by the former Rep. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico), who now serves as the first Indigenous Interior Secretary, and who has long been a champion of Indigenous rights and sovereignty. Polling from Data for Progress last year showed that the THRIVE Agenda pillars, including investing in green infrastructure and recognizing Native sovereignty, are popular — and the agenda has gained over 100 co-sponsors since Haaland introduced it. The THRIVE Act also has the support of Democrats like Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) and Representatives Ilhan Omar, (D-Minnesota), Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) and Ro Khanna (D-California). Though it has little hope of being passed into law, elements of the bill could end up being incorporated into Biden’s infrastructure plan, just as parts of the Green New Deal have been embraced by Biden. Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) reintroduced a $700 billion plan on Tuesday to make child care more affordable for families and establish a universal child care program over the next decade. The proposal would create a network of child care centers so that everyone, regardless of income, can have access to quality child care. It would also make child care free for those who make below two times the federal poverty line, and would ensure that no low- and middle-income families have to pay more than 7 percent of their income for public child care. Warren has previously unveiled a version of the plan in 2019, when she was campaigning for president.
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.
This first portion, a $1.2 trillion package aimed at modernizing the country’s moldering public works and power grids, passed the Senate today by a vote of 69 to 30. This is a significant step. The number of Republicans who voted “Yes,” including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is no surprise, despite the partisan strife that is our collective daily bread these days; 18 GOP senators voted with all 50 members of the Democratic caucus to evade the filibuster earlier in the process, and the bill itself is wildly popular across a broad spectrum of voters.
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.
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: pic.twitter.com/QxjDXiHb1s — 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.
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