AMERICA'S CONGRESS NOW BACK TO WORK
Congress has been on break since March 29, and tomorrow members will go
back to Washington, D.C., to resume work. The next weeks are going to be
busy for the lawmakers, not least because the political ground in
America appears to be shifting.
In the two weeks the lawmakers have been back in their districts, a lot
The Biden administration released the American Jobs Plan
on March 31, calling for a $2 trillion investment in infrastructure. The
plan includes traditional items like railroads and bridges and roads; it
also uses a modern, expansive definition of infrastructure, including
support for our electrical grid, green energy, and clean water delivery,
as well as the construction of high-speed broadband to all Americans.
The plan also defines childcare and eldercare as infrastructure issues,
an important redefinition that will not only help more women regain a
foothold in the economy, but will also help to replace manufacturing
jobs as a key stabilizer of middle-class America. The administration is
selling the infrastructure plan, in part, by emphasizing that it will
create jobs (hence "American Jobs Plan" rather than something like
"American Infrastructure Act").
President Biden has proposed paying for the plan by raising the
corporate tax from 21 percent to 28 percent (it was 35 percent before
Trump's 2017 tax cut) and by increasing the global minimum tax from 13
percent to 21 percent (so that companies cannot stash profits in low-tax
He has also proposed saving money by ending the federal tax breaks for
fossil fuel companies and by putting teeth in the enforcement of tax
laws against corporations who have skated without paying taxes in the
The president also put together a blue-ribbon, bipartisan commission to
look at the question of adjusting the Supreme Court to the modern era.
While people are focusing on the question of whether the number of
justices on the Supreme Court should be increased -- it has held at 9 since
1869, even as three more circuits have been added -- the commission is also
looking at "the length of service and turnover of justices on the
It is only very recently that justices grimly held onto a
Supreme Court appointment until death; the positions used to turn over
with some frequency. The commission is an astonishingly distinguished
group of scholars, lawyers, and judges.
Nonetheless, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) claimed the
establishment of the commission displayed "open disdain for judicial
And yet, the Supreme Court itself undermined his position in favor of a
nonpartisan judiciary late Friday night. It issued an unsigned opinion
in which the court decided, by a vote of 5-4, that state restrictions on
private religious gatherings during the pandemic infringed on people's
First Amendment rights to the free exercise of religion. Chief Justice
John Roberts joined the minority.
Biden has also asked Congress to take on the issue of gun control, after
yet more mass shootings in the country. And overshadowing all is the
Democrat's demand for the passage of voting rights legislation that
would protect voting, end gerrymandering, and curb the influence of big
money in U.S. elections.
While the legislative world has been rocking, so has the world of the
The party is torn between the Trump wing and the business wing, and
in the course of the past few weeks, that rift has widened and
On March 25, Georgia passed a sweeping new voting restriction law.
Legislators argued that they were simply trying to combat voter fraud,
but the law, in fact, significantly restricts voting hours and mail-in
voting, as well as turning over the mechanics of elections to partisan
committees. The Georgia law came after a similar set of restrictions in
Iowa; other states, including Texas, are following suit.
But this attack on voting rights is not playing well with the corporate
leaders who, in the past, tended to stand with the Republicans.
Leaders from more than 170 corporations condemned the new Georgia law,
saying, "We stand in solidarity with voters -- and with the Black
executives and leaders at the helm of this movement -- in our
nonpartisan commitment to equality and democracy. If our government is
going to work for all of us, each of us must have equal freedom to vote
and elections must reflect the will of voters." Major League Baseball
grabbed headlines when it decided to move this summer's All-Star game
out of the state.
Following the corporate pushback over the Georgia law, the leader of the
business Republican faction, Mitch McConnell, said that it was "stupid"
for corporations to weigh in on divisive political issues, although he
specified he was "not talking about political contributions."
Republican lawmakers have said that corporations should not take
political stances, a position that sits uneasily with the 2010 Supreme
Court Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, which
said that corporate donations to political candidates were a form of
political speech and could not be limited by the government. The
so-called "Citizens United" decision opened up a flood of corporate
money into our political system.
Yesterday, more than 100 corporate executives met over Zoom to figure
out how to deal with the voter suppression measures coming out of
Republican legislatures. They discussed that political unrest is bad for
business (this is very true -- one of the key reasons the American South
had insufficient capital investment after the Civil War was that
investors could not be sure their money wouldn't disappear during social
unrest) and are calling for corporations to continue to take a stand
against voter restrictions, including by withholding money from
This puts the Republicans in a bad spot.
The insistence of state Republican legislators that they must protect
against voter fraud reflects their determination to cling—without
evidence—to the argument Trump lost the election only because the
Democrats cheated. This is not true and has been thoroughly debunked.
But, having sold their voters this Big Lie, they now need to follow
And yet, backing Trump right now is a dicey proposition.
Since the lawmakers have been in Washington, D.C., more and more
information has come out about key Trump supporter Republican Matthew
Gaetz (R-FL), who is alleged to be involved in a number of shady deals
in Florida, including -- allegedly -- being party to moving underaged
girls across state lines for sex.
While Gaetz insists he is a victim of "leaks and... lies," it is notable
that only Trump Republican Representatives Jim Jordan (R-OH) and
Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) have come to his defense. Others are
remaining gingerly silent, which has only permitted the story to
Trump himself continues to make trouble for the party.
He continues to raise money for his own coffers and last month demanded
that the Republican National Committee stop using his name or picture on
fundraising materials. It appeared he was reconciling with the party
when he agreed to give a speech at the end of the RNC's donor summit.
Instead, on Saturday night, at an invitation-only meeting of top donors
at Mar-a-Lago, the former president's Florida resort, Trump abandoned
his scheduled calls for unity and instead used a speech to the attendees
to reiterate that the 2020 election was stolen from him and to attack
party members whom he considers insufficiently loyal, including Mitch
Meanwhile, there were "White Lives Matter" rallies planned by neo-Nazis
and Proud Boys for today in cities across the country to promote white
nationalism and, as one organizer said, make "the whole world tremble."
But, in the end, virtually no one showed up.
With the Justice Department indicting the January 6 insurrectionists
and popular voices turning against the forces Trump encouraged, the
angry Trump base appears to be going underground.
So, in the face of remarkably popular Democratic proposals to rebuild
the country -- proposals that will kill the central principle of the
Republican Party since the time of President Ronald Reagan that the
government must get out of the economy -- Republicans are split between
their voting base, which wants Trumpian voter restrictions, and their
donor base, which recognizes that those restrictions will destabilize
The spring is going to see a remarkable game of political chess.
©Heather Cox Richardson
Letter from an American