SENATE CONTINUES WORK ON AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN
In coronavirus news today, there were a record 2.4 million vaccines
Florida governor Ron DeSantis (R) is denying any involvement in a
vaccine drive in a private, gated community after which a resident of
the community, former Illinois governor Bruce Rauner (R), made a
donation of $250,000 to the Friends of Ron DeSantis Political Action
This appears to be part of a pattern in Florida, where vaccine
administration seems to track with wealthy communities whose members
donate to the governor's campaign funds.
News about the January 6 insurrection continues to mount, with a
mid-level Trump appointee from the State Department, Federico Klein,
arrested yesterday on several felony charges, including assaulting
police officers, stemming from the riot.
Tonight the New York Times revealed that a member of the
far-right Proud Boys organization was in contact with someone at the
White House in the days before the insurrection.
Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) has catalogued almost 2000 pages of
public social media posts from those representatives who voted to
overturn the election. The material reveals that a few representatives
were active indeed in pushing the idea that the election was stolen and
Trump supporters must fight. Especially active were Paul Gosar (R-AZ),
Mo Brooks (R-AL), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Billy Long (R-MO) and Marjorie
Taylor Greene (R-GA).
Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) is slow-walking the confirmation of Merrick
Garland as attorney general, an odd stance at a time when one would
think we would want all hands on deck to investigate the insurrection
and ongoing domestic terrorism.
The Senate continues to hash out the American Rescue Plan.
After last night's 10 hour and 44 minute reading of the bill by Senate
clerks, demanded by Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), there was a surprise
when Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) requested that the debate on the
bill resume at 9 AM (this morning) and be limited to three hours, rather
than the 20 hours that had been planned. Since no Republicans were there
to object, the presiding officer agreed, and voting on amendments
started at noon.
The big deal today was that Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) balked at what
observers thought was a done deal, withdrawing his support from the
measure's $400 weekly unemployment. Shortly before 8 p.m., Manchin
and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) reached a deal to extend $300
payments through September 6, making the first $10,200 of unemployment
benefits nontaxable for those households whose income is less than
Manchin's position has raised fury on the part of Democrats who are
already mad at the loss of the $15 minimum wage in the bill, and there
are grumblings that Manchin should not have the power to water the
But Manchin is as powerful as he is only because the Senate is split
50-50, and the Republicans -- who represent 41.5 million fewer Americans
than Democrats do -- are refusing to vote for the measure at all, despite
the fact that 77 percent of Americans want it. We have a structural problem
both with the Senate and with the Republican Party.
The Democrats continue to believe they will pass the American Rescue
The popularity of that bill spells trouble for Republicans. President
Biden is making a pitch for Americans who feel that the government has
not responded to the needs of a falling middle class.
The bill expands the earned income tax credit for all Americans, and
almost doubles the child tax credit. These provisions will
disproportionately help poor families, especially families of color. The
measure is expected to cut child poverty in half, while also helping
parents to work by helping them pay for childcare.
Meanwhile, there is another big event on the horizon in Alabama that
suggests a seismic shift in the contours of our political parties.
Workers at an Amazon plant in Bessemer, Alabama, are voting on whether
Amazon opposes the move, which, since Amazon employs more than 400,000
warehouse and delivery workers, is shaping up to be the biggest fight
over unionization in American history.
The company warns that unionization might increase costs and slow
growth, and it has flooded its workers with mandatory anti-union
meetings and anti-union literature -- even posting signs in bathroom
stalls. While workers have complained about working conditions and
mandatory overtime, the company points out that it offers Bessemer
workers benefits and a starting pay of $15.30 an hour, while the federal
minimum wage remains pegged at $7.25.
The reason this unionization effort jumps off the page for politics is
that President Biden recorded a video on February 28 taking a strong
He reminded viewers that "America wasn't built by Wall Street, it was
built by the middle class, and unions built the middle class.
"Unions put power in the hands of workers. They level the playing field.
They give you a stronger voice for your health, your safety, higher
wages, protections from racial discrimination and sexual harassment.
Unions lift up workers, both union and non-union, and especially Black
and Brown workers."
Biden made it clear that the choice to unionize should be made by
workers, without pressure from employers. "The choice to join a union is
up to the workers -- full stop."
Biden has also nominated Boston mayor Marty Walsh, the former president
of the Laborers' International Union of North America, as secretary of
labor. If confirmed, Walsh will be the first union member to serve as
secretary of labor in nearly 50 years. Biden's vocal defense of working
Americans has the potential to rally struggling workers to the Democrats
more firmly than they have rallied for decades.
©Heather Cox Richardson
Letter from an American