U.S. Government & governance Jan-July 2021

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28 July
$1 Trillion Infrastructure Deal Scales Senate Hurdle With Bipartisan Vote
The vote was a breakthrough after weeks of wrangling among White House officials and senators in both parties, clearing the way for action on a top priority for President Biden.
Senator Mitt Romney of Utah and other Republicans who negotiated the deal urged their colleagues to support a measure they said would provide badly needed funding for infrastructure projects.
The 67-to-32 vote, which included 17 Republicans in favor, came just hours after centrist senators in both parties and the White House reached a long-sought compromise on the bill, which would provide about $550 billion in new federal money for roads, bridges, rail, transit, water and other physical infrastructure programs.

27 July
The Great Vote Suppression Campaign of 2021
Biden needs to use his bully pulpit to get federal voting rights legislation passed before it’s too late.
(Brennan Center) Between January 1 and July 14, according to new Brennan Center research, more than 400 bills that included provisions that restrict voting access have been introduced in 49 states. During that same time, 18 states have enacted 30 laws that make it harder for people to vote. The laws make mail voting and early voting more difficult. They impose harsh voter ID requirements. They make purging eligible voters from the rolls more likely.

26 July
Andrew Tanner: Fourth America is Almost Over — Americans Want a Divorce.
All complex systems like countries, go through a regular four-step cycle of fast growth, slowing growth, collapse, and reorganization.
The pace can vary dramatically, but is ultimately a function of changing social values as older generations give way to younger, shifting economic incentives, and the balance of power between political parties. The cycle never ends, and the shift from one phase to the next can only be deferred, never halted.
Change comes during the reorganization phase when — and America will likely soon reach this critical point — people self-sort into groups who start adapting to the new reality and building new structures to cope with it.
Fourth America is collapsing as the postwar global international order decays, the digital generations — Xers, Millenials, and Zoomers — become the majority, and wealth inequality within and between nations reaches the same extreme levels they did back in the Gilded Era, during Third America before the Great Depression.
On top of it all, carbon pollution has caused the climate to begin an inexorable shift to a new, warmer regime. A process that will magnify every other kind of dysfunction already afflicting the world.

19 July
GOP: Bipartisan infrastructure deal has ‘no chance’ on Wednesday
As the Senate nears a pivotal test vote on a bipartisan framework, mounting Republican resistance to moving forward includes key moderates.

13 July
Biden calls passing voting legislation ‘a national imperative’ and castigates voting restrictions based on ‘a big lie’
President Biden on Tuesday delivered his most forceful condemnation yet of the wave of voting restrictions proposed in Republican-led states nationwide — efforts the president argued are the biggest threat to American democracy since the Civil War. …while he intensified his explanation of the stakes, his speech did not include a call for the Senate to change the filibuster, which is seen by advocates as the best, and perhaps only, way to usher in the kinds of changes Biden is seeking.
At the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, in a room filled with images of Benjamin Franklin and quotes from Daniel Webster and Theodore Roosevelt, Biden compared the new laws to voter suppression by the Ku Klux Klan and to the Jim Crow-era laws that disenfranchised nearly all voters who were not White and male. He railed against laws that restrict access — calling them “raw and sustained election subversion” — and said that the 2022 midterm elections could highlight the damaging effects of the new laws.
“Hear me clearly,” he added. “There’s an unfolding assault taking place in America today, an attempt to suppress and subvert the right to vote and fair and free elections. An assault on democracy, an assault on liberty, an assault on who we are.”
Heather Cox Richardson July 13, 2021
“Are you on the side of truth or lies; fact or fiction; justice or injustice; democracy or autocracy?”
In a speech at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia today, President Joe Biden asked his audience to take a stand as he called defending the right to vote in America, “a test of our time.”
Biden explained that the 2020 election has been examined and reexamined and that “no other election has ever been held under such scrutiny and such high standards.” The Big Lie that Trump won is just that, he said: a big lie.
Nonetheless, 17 Republican-dominated states have enacted 28 laws to make it harder to vote. There are almost 400 more in the hopper. Biden called this effort “the 21st-century Jim Crow,” and promised to fight it. He pointed out that the new laws are doing more than suppressing the vote. They are taking the power to count the vote “from independent election administrators who work for the people” and giving it to “polarized state legislatures and partisan actors who work for political parties.”
Pressured by allies, Biden escalates fight for voting rights
(AP) — Biden’s afternoon speech in Philadelphia on voting comes a day after Texas Democrats decamped for Washington in an effort to deny their GOP-controlled Legislature the necessary quorum to pass a bill placing new restrictions on voting in the state.
The lawmakers, who arrived in the nation’s capital Monday night, said they were prepared to stay in Washington — out of the reach of Texas law enforcement — until a special legislative session concludes early next month. It marks a dramatic new showdown over voting in America.
[S]tate Rep. Chris Turner, the leader of the Texas Legislature’s House Democrats, predicted that their efforts would ultimately be futile unless congressional Democrats take bolder action to overcome a Senate Republican blockade of the…For the People Act, …that could roll back some of the restrictions that have been approved or are advancing in the Republican-led states, including Texas.

10 July
The Big Question of the 2022 Midterms: How Will the Suburbs Swing?
Democrats and Republicans are already jockeying for a crucial voting bloc that soured on Donald Trump, tilted to Joe Biden and now holds the key to the second half of the president’s term.
(NYT) Pursuing a bipartisan infrastructure deal and trumpeting a revived economy and progress against the pandemic, President Biden is trying to persuade the nation that Democrats are the party that gets things done. His message is aimed at holding on to a set of voters in next year’s midterms who could determine the fate of his agenda: suburbanites who abandoned former President Donald Trump in droves.
Mr. Biden made his pitch again on Friday when he signed an executive order intended to protect consumers from the anti-competitive practices of large businesses.
But Republicans are also going to war for suburban votes. The party is painting the six-month-old Biden administration as a failure, one that has lost control of the Southwestern border, is presiding over soaring crime rates and rising prices and is on the wrong side of a culture clash over how schools teach the history of racism in America.

5 July
Ignore the chatter. Stuff is getting done. And both parties are helping.
By Art Cullen, editor of the Storm Lake Times in northwest Iowa
Biden campaigned on a belief that bipartisanship has a chance. It does, when you have no choice but to act.
(WaPo Opinion) The embers of bipartisanship glow in the Senate, fed by wildfires in the West and Seattle steaming at 108 degrees. Which only begins to explain how the Growing Climate Solutions Act passed the Senate on a 92-to-8 vote last week. … The bill, which enjoys bipartisan support in the House, directs the Agriculture Department to establish a framework based in science by which polluters could buy offset credits from farmers and foresters to plant crops that sequester carbon. [and paves the way for a national carbon-credit trading market.]
Everyone already knows Biden has endorsed an infrastructure deal drafted by a bipartisan group of senators. A bipartisan bill to help reshore crucial pharmaceutical and computer component manufacturing from Asia cleared the Senate overwhelmingly. What does this all mean? Things are getting done. Both parties are helping, despite the rhetoric

30 June-4 July
Why America’s Politics Are Stubbornly Fixed, Despite Momentous Changes
The country is recovering from a pandemic and an economic crisis, and its former president is in legal and financial peril. But no political realignment appears to be at hand.
Alexander Burns
(NYT) Over a period of weeks, the coronavirus death rate plunged and the country considerably eased public health restrictions. President Biden announced a bipartisan deal late last month to spend hundreds of billions of dollars rebuilding the country’s worn infrastructure — the most significant aisle-crossing legislative agreement in a generation, if it holds together. The Congressional Budget Office estimated on Thursday that the economy was on track to regain all of the jobs it lost during the pandemic by the middle of 2022.
And in a blow to Mr. Biden’s fractious opposition, Donald J. Trump — the dominant figure in Republican politics — faced an embarrassing legal setback just as he was resuming a schedule of campaign-style events. The Manhattan district attorney’s office charged his company, the Trump Organization, and its chief financial officer with “sweeping and audacious” financial crimes.
Not long ago, such a sequence of developments might have tested the partisan boundaries of American politics, startling voters into reconsidering their assumptions about the current president, his predecessor, the two major parties and what government can do for the American people.
Amid the mounting drama of the early summer, a moment of truth appears imminent. It is one that will reveal whether the American electorate is still capable of large-scale shifts in opinion, or whether the country is essentially locked into a schism for the foreseeable future, with roughly 53 percent of Americans on one side and 47 percent on the other.
Biden Gained With Moderate and Conservative Voting Groups, New Data Shows
President Biden cut into Donald Trump’s margins with married men and veteran households, a Pew survey shows. But there was a far deeper well of support for Mr. Trump than many progressives had imagined.

24-25 June
Infrastructure deal now in doubt; GOP senators ‘blindsided’
(AP) — President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure deal was thrown in doubt Friday as Republican senators felt “blindsided” by his insistence that it must move in tandem with his bigger package, while the White House doubled down on the strategy and said it should have come as no surprise. The rare accord over some $1 trillion in investments faced new uncertainty barely 24 hours after Biden strode to the White House driveway, flanked by 10 senators from a bipartisan group, with all sides beaming over the compromise.

Biden rebuts doubts, wins bet on bipartisanship
(AP Analysis) …on Thursday, it was Biden, the Washington careerist schooled in the ways of compromise, standing in front of the White House, flanked by Democrats and Republicans alike, claiming a bipartisan deal had been struck on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package.
Bipartisanship Lives, and Biden Takes a Bow
Finally, Infrastructure Week is for real.
By Susan B. Glasser
(New Yorker) …up until now, there has been almost no evidence to bolster Biden’s case. Congress has been so riven by extreme partisanship that it could not even agree to a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6th attack on the Capitol. On Thursday, in fact, Pelosi announced, “with great solemnity and sadness,” a plan to appoint a House select committee on the insurrection, it being within her power to do so without the support of the Republican minority. Biden’s $1.9-trillion COVID-relief package received no Republican votes. And, although Thursday afternoon also produced an apparent breakthrough in talks on police reform, another Biden priority, it already appears that gridlock will prevail on many matters on which Biden hopes to make progress, such as gun control and—as a test vote in the Senate showed, earlier this week—voting rights.

23 June
GOP filibuster blocks Democrats’ big voting rights bill
(AP) — The Democrats’ sweeping attempt to rewrite U.S. election and voting law suffered a major setback in the Senate Tuesday, blocked by a filibuster wall of Republican opposition to what would be the largest overhaul of the electoral system in a generation.
The For the People Act, would touch on virtually every aspect of how elections are conducted, striking down hurdles to voting that advocates view as the Civil Rights fight of the era, while also curbing the influence of money in politics and limiting partisan influence over the drawing of congressional districts.
But many in the GOP say the measure represents instead a breathtaking federal infringement on states’ authority to conduct their own elections without fraud — and is meant to ultimately benefit Democrats.
It failed on a 50-50 vote after Republicans, some of whom derided the bill as the “Screw the People Act,” denied Democrats the 60 votes needed to begin debate under Senate rules. Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black woman to hold her office, presided over the chamber as the bill failed to break past that filibuster barrier.
Heather Cox Richardson: June 22, 2021
the Republicans are defending the same principle that Senator Stephen A. Douglas advanced when he debated Senate candidate Abraham Lincoln in Illinois in 1858.
…all 50 of the Republicans voted against the measure, which would have helped to combat the voter suppression laws being enacted by Republican-dominated legislatures across the country. According to the nonpartisan Voting Rights Lab, 18 states have put in place more than 30 laws restricting access to the ballot. These laws will affect around 36 million people, or about 15% of all eligible voters.
… I found it chilling to hear Douglas’s argument from 1858 echo in the Senate today, for after seeing exactly how his argument enabled white southern legislators to cut their Black neighbors out of the vote in the 1870s and then pass Jim Crow laws that lasted for more than 70 years, our lawmakers should know better.
… Congress will recess after Thursday and won’t resume business until July 12. The big push to pass a voting rights measure will happen then.

12 June
Ross Douthat: How Joe Manchin Can Fix the Filibuster
(NYT) …there is a half measure available that Manchin should consider as an alternative to abolition: weakening the filibuster by taking its threshold to 55 votes instead of 60.
As a practical matter a 55-vote threshold puts a lot of things that the West Virginia senator favors more in play — from the gun-control measure he hashed out with Pat Toomey in the Obama years to infrastructure spending and the Jan. 6 commission in this presidency — while still throwing up a strong impediment to ideological legislating. It gives the kind of Republicans he’s most inclined to work with more power in the Senate, without creating a situation where activists can expect moderate Democrats to constantly join 51-49 votes. It adapts the filibuster in a reasonable way to our age of heightened polarization, maintaining protections for the minority, while making some deals that used to be possible available again.
The Dark Money Influencing Senator Manchin’s Right-Wing Agenda
(Truthout) New reporting by CNBC has found that the advocacy arm of Charles Koch’s network has been pressuring Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) to oppose key Democratic priorities like voting rights and labor provisions.
The Koch advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity, has been orchestrating an online campaign to push Manchin to stand against proposals like the For The People Act, or S.1, Democrats’ keystone voting rights bill, and the abolition of the filibuster.
Heritage Action, the advocacy side of the conservative Heritage Foundation also organized a rally in March to get Manchin to oppose legislation like the For the People Act.
Groups like Heritage Action have their own reasons for opposing the For the People Act, however. In a leaked video obtained by Mother Jones, Heritage Action leaders bragged about writing voter suppression legislation that is then hawked by Republican state legislators across the country.

The world is horrified by the dysfunction of American democracy
Brian Klaas
As Biden and Senate Democrats grapple with how aggressively to protect democracy in the United States, this should be a wake-up call. Until the United States yet again becomes more of an example to be emulated, it — and the world — will remain a dark and dangerous place for democracy.
(WaPo Opinion) Data released Thursday from Pew Research shows that our allies are beyond delighted that the Trump presidency has ended. Confidence in U.S. leadership has soared. Our friends are breathing a sigh of relief.
But buried in that story about the United States’ post-Trump redemption is some seriously bad news: U.S. allies see our democracy as a shattered, washed-up has-been. We used to provide a democratic model for the world, but no longer. The chaos, dysfunction and insanity of the past several years have taken a predictable toll.
…these numbers coming out of our allies aren’t just depressing bits of polling trivia. They have real-world consequences. And they highlight a disturbing, inescapable dilemma that the Biden administration must confront: Until the United States fixes its broken democracy at home, it will be unable to effectively fight authoritarianism abroad.
Put bluntly: The United States’ authoritarian slide isn’t just a domestic policy issue. It’s a foreign policy disaster, too.

8 June
Senate Democrats Pass $250 Billion Bipartisan Bill With One Simple Trick
Schumer & Co. passed a massive bill investing in scientific research at home by invoking the threat of Chinese technological advancement.
On Tuesday, Democrats’ negotiations on a bipartisan infrastructure bill fell apart for good, as Republicans failed to budge past $330 billion in new investment — far from the $1 trillion that President Biden planned for the effort, which effectively doubles as his climate bill. …
With the clock rapidly counting down the hours until Democrats are expected to lose their legislative control of Congress, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is facing a formidable challenge: How does his party pass big, bipartisan, 12-figure bills without resorting to the once-a-fiscal-year process of budget reconciliation?
What Would the John Lewis Voting Rights Act Actually Do?
The John Lewis Act aims to restore provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that were struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013 on grounds that they were obsolete. While a previous version of the legislation passed the House in 2019, it never secured a vote in the then-Republican Senate. A new version of the bill is under development by the Congressional Black Caucus, which is again updating the provisions the Court found fault with, to ensure the bill will pass judicial muster if enacted. Its sponsors estimate the bill will be introduced in late June or in July.
By announcing his opposition, Joe Manchin has effectively killed the For the People Act (H.R. 1/S. 1) that the House has passed twice and that every other Democratic senator is co-sponsoring. So attention is naturally shifting to the proposed John Lewis Voting Rights Act that Manchin does support (with modifications), claiming with no real evidence that it — unlike H.R. 1/S. 1 — can command bipartisan support. In either event, he says, he will not support eliminating or weakening the power to filibuster that requires 60 votes for passing any non-budget legislation in the Senate.

3 June
Vice President Harris May Be ‘The Busiest Woman In Washington
(NPR) President Biden has now tasked her with some large responsibilities, including:
finding the root causes of mass migration from Central America to the United States;
boosting vaccination rates; and
protecting voting rights.

Heather Cox Richardson June 1, 2021
Today, more than 100 scholars who study democracy issued a letter warning that “our entire democracy is now at risk.” The letter explains that the new election laws in Republican-led states, passed with the justification that they will make elections safer, in fact are turning “several states into political systems that no longer meet the minimum conditions for free and fair elections.”
If we permit the breakdown of democracy, it will be a very long time before we can reverse the damage. As a nation spirals downward, the political scientists, sociologists, and government scholars explain, “violence and corruption typically flourish, and talent and wealth flee to more stable countries, undermining national prosperity. It is not just our venerated institutions and norms that are at risk—it is our future national standing, strength, and ability to compete globally.”
The scholars called for federal action to protect equal access to voting and to guarantee free and fair elections. They back the reforms in the For the People Act.

31 May
After defeating restrictive voting bill, Texas Democrats send loud message: ‘We need Congress to do their part’
Texas Democrats who defeated a Republican effort to pass a suite of new voting restrictions with a dramatic late-night walkout from the state House chamber on Sunday have a message for President Biden and his allies in Congress: If we can protect voting rights, you can, too.
The surprise move by roughly 60 Democratic lawmakers headed off the expected passage of S.B. 7, a voting measure that would have been one of the most stringent in the nation, by denying Republicans a required quorum and forcing them to abruptly adjourn without taking a vote.

Heather Cox Richardson: May 17, 2021
In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson urged Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act to “help rid the Nation of racial discrimination in every aspect of the electoral process and thereby insure the right of all to vote.” And yet, in 2013, the Supreme Court gutted that law, and in the wake of the 2020 election in which voters gave Democrats control of the government, Republican-dominated states across the country are passing voter suppression laws.
Today, Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) begged their colleagues to reinstate the Voting Rights Act. In 2006 a routine reauthorization of the law got through the Senate with a vote of 98-0; now it is not clear it can get even the ten Republican votes it will need to get through the Senate, so long as the filibuster remains intact.

27 April
US marks slowest population growth since the Depression
(AP) Altogether, the U.S. population rose to 331,449,281 last year, the Census Bureau said, a 7.4% increase over the previous decade that was the second-slowest ever.
The state population figures, known as the apportionment count, determine distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal spending each year. … The numbers released Monday, along with more detailed data expected later this year, will be used by state legislatures or independent commissions to redraw political maps to account for shifts in population.
Texas was the biggest winner — the second-most populous state added two congressional seats, while Florida and North Carolina each gained one. Colorado, Montana and Oregon all added residents and gained a seat each. States losing seats included Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The report also confirms one historic marker:  For the first time in 170 years of statehood, California is losing a congressional seat.

22-26 April
If D.C. Becomes a State, the National Mall Gets to Vote for President
(New York) The presidency is the most powerful position in the country, but it could accidentally wind up with a new perk: the ability to cast electoral votes. That’s because, as a result of a constitutional quirk, the current push for D.C. statehood would leave a remnant federal district in which the White House might be the only permanent residence. It’s one of the more bizarre features of the long-running fight to grant congressional representation to the 700,000 taxpaying residents of the District of Columbia.
U.S. House approves Washington D.C. statehood bill as Senate fight looms
By Ashraf Khalil The Associated Press
A decades-long movement to reshape the American political map took a further step Thursday as the House of Representatives approved a bill to make the U.S. capital the 51st state.
Voting along party lines, the House approved the bill 216-208.  The proposal faces a far tougher fight in the Senate, where simple Democratic control of the chamber won’t be enough.
The legislation proposes creating a 51st state with one representative and two senators, while a tiny sliver of land including the White House, the U.S. Capitol and the National Mall would remain as a federal district. Instead of the District of Columbia, the new state would be known as Washington, Douglass Commonwealth — named after famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who lived in Washington from 1877 until his death in 1895.
Heather Cox Richardson April 22, 2012
Today there are three stories in the news about the mechanics of government that add up to a much larger story about American democracy.
The admission of D.C. as a state, as well as the popular new voting rights bill, … the infrastructure bill, and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (which bans chokeholds, limits military equipment on our streets, and requires body cameras) all come down to whether the Senate will preserve the filibuster, which enables the 50 Republicans in the Senate—who represent 40.5 million fewer Americans than the 50 Democrats in the Senate—to stop the passage of bills unless the majority can nail together 60 yes votes.
It seems to me that these three stories about the mechanics of our government show that our democracy is in a bad place right now. Republicans have stacked the deck in their favor for a long time and have come to rely on that unfair system, rather than policies that appeal to voters, to retain power.

7 April
Paul Waldman: The Senate just moved one step closer to sanity
Democrats just won a major victory in the form of a ruling from the Senate parliamentarian. The path is now clear for them not only to pass an infrastructure bill but also to use budget reconciliation — which allows a bill to be passed with a simple majority and not a supermajority — as many times as they want.
… the American Rescue Plan was passed via reconciliation, which is only supposed to happen once per fiscal year. In this case it was technically the 2021 reconciliation bill, allowing for another reconciliation bill — likely for infrastructure — to be passed this year, since that would cover fiscal 2022.
That would have been the only opportunity for Democrats to pass anything this year with 51 votes, overcoming Republicans’ determination to filibuster everything on President Biden’s agenda. But on Monday evening, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that the parliamentarian, who referees the chamber’s processes and procedures, has approved what was essentially a hidden tool in the law, permitting Democrats to use reconciliation rules to pass new bills, including infrastructure, as revisions to the previous reconciliation bill.

2 April
The American Rescue Plan’s secret ingredient? Flexible state and local aid.
Mark Muro, Eli Byerly Duke, and Joseph Parilla
(Brookings) The investment opportunity is magnified by the fact that the funding for state and local governments appears to be incredibly flexible, and therefore even more supportive of innovative recovery solutions. Despite scattered carping about the need for more “accountability,” the most striking and underdiscussed aspect of ARP is that it represents not only the largest positive fiscal jolt to state and local budgets in decades, but also the one most supportive of local discretion.
In technical terms, the funds are substantial. They are available for use until 2024 and encumbered with minimal restrictions—a big departure from the norm of federal grants. Major provisions of the package are permissive and make clear that ARP money can be used to backfill revenue declines; respond to COVID-19’s public health and recessionary impacts; or invest in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure

30 March-7 April
Fact Check: How Colorado, Georgia Voting Laws Differ Despite Conservatives’ Claims

Inside Corporate America’s Frantic Response to the Georgia Voting Law
Companies like Delta are caught between Democrats focused on social justice and populist Republicans. They face major political consequences no matter what they do.
Over the past five years, corporations have taken political stands like never before, often in response to the extreme policies of former President Donald J. Trump.
But for corporations, the dispute over voting rights is different. An issue that both political parties see as a priority is not easily addressed with statements of solidarity and donations. Taking a stand on voting rights legislation thrusts companies into partisan politics and pits them against Republicans who have proven willing to raise taxes and enact onerous regulations on companies that cross them politically.
Nate Cohn: Georgia’s Election Law, and Why Turnout Isn’t Easy to Turn Off
Making voting convenient doesn’t necessarily translate into more votes, research shows.
(NYT) There’s nothing unusual about exaggeration in politics. But when it comes to the debate over voting rights, something more than exaggeration is going on.
There’s a real — and bipartisan — misunderstanding about whether making it easier or harder to vote, especially by mail, has a significant effect on turnout or electoral outcomes. The evidence suggests it does not.
Faith leaders plan April 7 boycott over Georgia voting law
Goal is to push Coke, Delta, Home Depot to oppose restrictions here and in other states
(Atlanta Journal-Constitution) The measure, which Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law last month, harkened back to the days of Jim Crow racism, said Jackson, presiding prelate of the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s 6th District of Georgia.
The AME’s 6th District is also a plaintiff in one of three lawsuits challenging the Republican-backed law.
How Georgia’s voting law could backfire
(Politico Nightly) African Methodist Episcopal Bishop Reginald T. Jackson and other Georgia faith leaders announced a national boycott today, starting April 7, of Coca-Cola, Home Depot and Delta — three Atlanta-based companies — over the state’s new voting law. The boycott could eventually extend to other companies including UPS, Aflac, Georgia Power and UBS.
President Joe Biden has called on Major League Baseball to move the All-Star Game out of Atlanta in response to the law, a move that Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp called “ridiculous.”
The new law, which requires ID for a mail ballot, is “inhumane,” Jackson told Nightly today. In addition to the boycotts, the AME church joined one of three lawsuits challenging the Georgia voting restrictions in federal courts.
Nightly spoke with Jackson today about the boycott and why he believes it’s necessary.
“… We need them to demonstrate their opposition to these bills. If we did not announce the boycott, I am not sure they would have made a public statement. We said to them there are four things they have to do in order for us not to have the boycott.
The first: Hold a press conference and speak in opposition to SB 202. The second thing — you have 361 bills and 47 states which in some way try to suppress the votes of Black and brown people — they have to speak out nationally against these bills in these other states. We expect them to use their lobbies and financial resources to fight these bills. The third thing: They have to publicly come out in support of H.R. 1 and H.R. 4, federal legislation that would counteract and nullify the bill passed in Georgia. Finally, we said to these corporations: You all have to help pay for this litigation.”
Delta CEO takes a stand against ‘unacceptable’ Georgia voting law
The new Georgia law is part of a tide of Republican-sponsored election bills introduced in states across the US after former President Donald Trump’s false assertions about fraud in the 2020 elections.
(Al Jazeera) Civil rights and voting rights groups have filed multiple federal lawsuits challenging the Georgia law. Activists also have turned their attention to congressional Democrats’ push for sweeping federal action on voting rights. Democrats’ measures in Washington could effectively override many of the changes being enacted in Georgia and considered in dozens of other state legislatures led by Republicans.
Georgia faces growing number of legal challenges over new voting law
Because federal courts have made it harder to prove intentional racial discrimination, “a partisan intent, even if it overlaps with race, may well not be enough,” one expert said.
(NBC) Civil rights groups have now filed at least three legal challenges to Georgia’s newly enacted law changing state election procedures, putting it to the courts to decide if the law’s passage was simply the result of bare-knuckled politics or whether it crossed the line into illegal discrimination.

25-26 March
Biden calls Georgia law ‘Jim Crow in the 21st Century’ and says Justice Department is ‘taking a look’
(CNN) Georgia is the first presidential battleground to impose new voting restrictions following Biden’s victory in the state, but the bill, which Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law Thursday evening, is part of a national Republican effort to restrict access to the ballot after the 2020 election saw record turnout.
Georgia bans giving water to voters in line under sweeping restrictions
(Reuters) – Georgia on Thursday enacted broad voting restrictions championed by Republicans that activists said aimed to curtail the influence of Black voters who were instrumental in state elections that helped Democrats win the White House and narrow control of the U.S. Senate.
As soon as Republican Governor Brian Kemp signed the law, voting rights activists vowed to challenge it. The provisions add a new ID requirement for absentee ballots and limit ballot drop boxes.

22 March
Trump officials hindered at least nine key oversight probes, watchdogs said. Some may finally be released in coming months.
Tensions between federal watchdogs and the administration they monitor are not uncommon. But 11 inspectors general or their senior aides who served under Trump, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal government deliberations, said hostility to oversight reached unprecedented levels during his time in office.
The result, they said, was that government hid wrongdoing from the public and important reforms to improve government efficiency were ignored. With Trump now out of office, advocates for government accountability predict other damaging revelations may only now begin to emerge.
… Thirty-eight of the 75 inspectors general who monitor the government’s largest agencies are by law appointed by the president and confirmed by Congress. President Biden has not yet made any nominations for any of the 13 of the jobs that are vacant and being filled in an acting capacity.

Heather Cox Richardson March 22, 2021
The “For the People Act” has now gone on to the Senate, where Republicans recognize that it would “be absolutely devastating for Republicans in this country.”
The bill will die so long as Republican senators can block it with the filibuster, and if it does, the Republican voter suppression laws that cut Democrats out of the vote will stand, making it likely that Democrats will not be able to win future elections. That reality has put reforming the filibuster back on the table. While President Biden, as well as Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) have all expressed a wish to preserve at least some version of the filibuster, they are now all saying they might be willing to reform it. This might mean making election bills exempt from the filibuster the way financial bills are, or going back to the system in which stopping a measure actually required talking, rather than simply threatening to talk.
Both parties recognize that their future hangs on whether HR 1 passes, and that hangs on the filibuster.

20-22 March
‘It’s not a local issue anymore’: D.C. statehood moves from political fringe to the center of the national Democratic agenda
(WaPo) The issue, once a fanciful dream of local activists, now enjoys near-unanimity inside the Democratic Party. Many congressional Democrats mention it in the same company as the party’s other top voting rights priorities, putting it at the center of the internal battle over whether to change Senate rules to allow for major legislation to pass with a simple majority.
The jolt of momentum stems in part from an increasingly urgent desire among Democrats to act while they have power to erode what they see as Republican structural advantages in the nation’s democracy — including the Senate. D.C. statehood would probably result in two additional Democratic senators, shifting the dynamic in a chamber where members from conservative, rural states can wield disproportionate influence over legislation, federal courts and presidential nominations.
Statehood supporters have also presented statehood for the District, a city with a Black plurality, as a crucial element of the broader racial justice movement that has energized liberal activists across the country.
The fight is arriving on Capitol Hill: The House Oversight and Reform Committee on Monday will convene a hearing on a statehood bill, and Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said in an interview that he expects that the bill will pass the House before summer.
Statehood advocates still face major obstacles: They do not yet have 51 allies inside the Senate, and as long as the body’s filibuster rule requiring a supermajority margin for most legislation remains intact, it will take even more support than that.
The key question as the House considers D.C. statehood: Do we believe in the ‘consent of the governed’ or not?
Why Republicans Have No Good Arguments Against D.C. Statehood
(New York) The Constitution requires that the capital of the United States be located in a federal district outside the control of any one state government. It does not require that the boundaries of that district remain fixed. The District of Columbia ceded the portion of its land lying west of the Potomac River in 1846. Democrats propose to cede most of the rest of the land to a new state, shrinking the federal district to the small area occupied by federal buildings downtown.
Both parties have partisan reasons for their positions on D.C. statehood. The difference is that Democrats also have a principled reason, while the “principles” trotted out to justify Republican opposition are farcical.
At today’s hearing on D.C. statehood, Representative Jody Hice argued that D.C. does not deserve statehood because it “would be the only state in America without a car dealership, without a landfill.” D.C. does in fact have car dealerships. Why would the absence of dedicated retail outlets for selling automobiles preclude representation in Congress? Why would the lack of buried trash do so? There is no reason; it’s just a hunt for distinctions that can be turned into a meaningful basis for discrimination.

17 March
Republicans: End the Filibuster, and We’ll Punish America by Enacting Our Agenda
By Jonathan Chait
McConnell benefits from rules that allow him to enact all the changes he cares about — lax regulation of business, tax cuts, and confirming judges — either with just the presidency, or the presidency plus a majority. He fears allowing his caucus to actually enact laws carrying out most of their promises. That is why the bogeyman role of Hawley and Paul is so revealing. They represent McConnell’s fear of having to translate conservative demands into concrete legislation. He’d much rather use the passions of his base to get elected, and then use that power for ends McConnell cares about.
The House Brings Back the Equal Rights Amendment
By Ed Kilgore
…the underlying reality is that this basic expression of equal rights between men and women cannot be placed in the Constitution where it manifestly belongs because the Republican Party is in perpetual debt to a Christian Right movement that views anti-ERA activism as one of its foundational experiences. More to the point, conservative Evangelical and traditionalist Catholic leaders committed to all-male leadership of the Church (and, in the former case, of the family) object to the ERA on its merits. Add in the possibility that the ERA implies reproductive rights and conservative religious opposition is complete.
Making Republican senators and their conservative allies articulate their not-very-popular grounds for opposing a step once thought to be a bipartisan no-brainer may be useful for Democrats even if it is doomed to defeat. It’s certainly not an issue on which Republicans would prefer to fight out the 2022 midterms.

10 March
Stacey Abrams Has a Plan to Dismantle the Filibuster and Protect Voting Rights
And she thinks it can get support from reluctant centrist Democrats.
(Mother Jones) “Republicans are rolling back the clock on voting rights,” she says. “And the only way to head that off is to invoke the elections clause of the Constitution, which allows the Congress—and the Congress alone—to set the time, place and manner of elections at a federal level.”
The problem is that Republicans will surely use the filibuster to set an impossible 60-vote threshold for any such effort—and that two centrist Democratic senators, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, have said they oppose abolishing the filibuster. That’s why Abrams proposes tweaking it to allow major voting rights legislation to pass, and she thinks her plan can get reluctant Democrats on board.

8 March
Biden marks ‘Bloody Sunday’ by signing voting rights order
(PBS Newshour) A new executive order from President Joe Biden directs federal agencies to take a series of steps to promote voting access, a move that comes as congressional Democrats press for a sweeping voting and elections bill to counter efforts to restrict voting access.
Biden’s order includes several modest provisions. It directs federal agencies to expand access to voter registration and election information, calls on the heads of agencies to come up with plans to give federal employees time off to vote or volunteer as nonpartisan poll workers, and pushes an overhaul of the government’s Vote.gov website.

4-10 March
We Already Got Rid of the Filibuster Once Before
The House used to have a filibuster too. And when legislators got rid of it, the result was a more democratic, productive institution.
(The Atlantic)  Although H.R. 1 has passed the House, it remains in the pile of campaign promises—a higher minimum wage, an assault-weapons ban, comprehensive immigration reform, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, and more—that under current Senate rules need 60 votes or more to pass, an essentially insurmountable requirement in today’s deeply polarized, evenly split legislature.
The demise of the House filibuster ought to be better remembered, and not just because it’s one of the most dramatic episodes in American political history. The procedural battle that took place more than a century ago holds an important lesson for lawmakers of both parties today: Ending the filibuster may be messy, but it won’t destroy a legislative body. In fact, in a polarized age, the only guaranteed cure for political dysfunction is majority rule.
Pressure grows on Biden to end the filibuster
(WaPo) Pressure is building on President Biden, a longtime backer of traditional Washington rules, to do away with the filibuster and other procedures, as Democrats press him to seize what could be a fleeting moment of power to enact a progressive agenda.
Liberals have long pushed for sweeping changes like expanding the Supreme Court, ending the electoral college and banning gerrymandering. But as Biden faces a critical stretch of his presidency, even moderate Democrats are urging more immediate changes — particularly rewriting the filibuster, so that at the very least fewer bills need 60 votes to pass the Senate.
Democrats increasingly worry that popular pieces of Biden’s agenda will hit a wall in the Senate, including his plans for climate change, immigration, gun control, voting rights and LGBT protections. Failing to enact them, they fear, could be a political disaster for Democrats as well as a substantive one.
More Democrats join the effort to kill the filibuster as a way of saving Biden’s agenda.

How Dems Can Turn Filibuster Reform Into the ‘Moderate’ Option
(New York) Through the opening weeks of the Biden presidency, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have held the line against altering the legislative filibuster. To progressives’ dismay, these Democratic senators have forced their party to advance relief through a byzantine process that has delayed the bill’s passage and narrowed its scope. Nevertheless, since the bulk of Biden’s first big bill was reconciliation eligible, the moderates’ fetishization of the filibuster has condemned their party to headaches — but not yet to paralysis. Soon, that will change.
On Wednesday, House Democrats passed the “For the People Act,” the package of anti-corruption and voting-rights reforms that Nancy Pelosi’s caucus has treated as its top priority since taking control of the House in 2019.
… In the Senate, Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar — no one’s idea of a progressive firebrand — vowed to send the bill to the Senate floor. If Republican support is founding wanting, Klobuchar said that her committee will ask itself, “Is there [a] filibuster reform that could be done generally or specifically?”

2 March
Late tweaks keep HR 1 on track for House passage despite new assault from the right
(The Fulcrum) Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has promised to force a vote on the measure, which would nationalize rules easing access to the ballot, limit the influence of dark money on campaigns, stiffen election security, tighten government ethics rules and seek to end partisan gerrymandering. But he has not signaled how quickly he will do so after House passage — or whether there’s a chance he might use that debate as the moment to undo the decades-long power of 41 dissenting senators to block legislation.
Doing so is the only way HR 1 might get to President Biden for his signature, which the administration formally promised on Monday.

Heather Cox Richardson February 25, 2021
In the face of voter suppression legislation in Republican legislatures around the country, Democrats in Congress are trying to pass a law, called the For the People Act, to stop partisan gerrymandering, limit money in politics, and expand voting access.
The For the People Act, numbered in Congress as H.R. 1 and S. 1, would provide for automatic voter registration across the country and would require paper ballots. It would require that early voting be made available, and would expand mail-in voting. It would authorize $1 billion for upgrades to state voting systems.
The For the People Act Is Popular, Pass It Right Away
(Crooked Media) Next week members of the House of Representatives will be voting on H.R. 1, otherwise known as the For the People Act. The act calls for sweeping reforms to reduce barriers to voting, such as extending early voting periods and automatic voter registration, increasing transparency around money in politics and elevating the voices of small donors. The legislation would also require states to use independent, nonpartisan commissions to form congressional districts. These reforms are urgently needed particularly when reflecting on Republicans’ ongoing battle both during and following the past November election to drastically restrict voting access, actions that would pointedly suppress the votes of people of color.
In a mid-February poll by Data for Progress and Vote Save America, we examined attitudes on H.R.1 through a national sample of 1,555 likely voters. We find that voters overwhelmingly support the legislation and key reforms that the legislation would implement — from limiting money in politics to independent commissions for redistricting.

24 February
(NPR Politics) DeJoy appears before Congress: During a House hearing that became testy at times, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy apologized for widespread mail delays, but blamed them on the U.S. Postal Service being “operationally faulty” and, when asked how long he planned to stay in the role, said: “A long time. Get used to me.” Shortly after DeJoy’s testimony, President Biden announced three nominees to the Postal Service’s Board of Governors, which has the power to appoint — and replace — the postmaster general. 

22 February
Catherine Rampell: Republicans fearmonger about regulation, but deregulation is what left Texas in the dark
(WaPo Opinion) In the throes of the current crisis, as people were dying of hypothermia, Republican former governor Rick Perry a past U.S. energy secretary declared that Texans are willing to suffer extended blackouts for the paramount objective of keeping the feds out of their grid. Apparently the warm, fuzzy feeling some Texans get from bucking regulators must substitute for actual heat.
I suppose Texas’s widespread power failures will create some new employment opportunities for plumbers and electricians, given the many buildings and homes with burst pipes and other structural damage. But for everyone else, the state’s failure to ensure minimum quality standards has been a humanitarian and economic disaster. Amid pandemic-driven unemployment, even more workers were displaced because regulators failed to ensure the basic infrastructure necessary for businesses to function.

Jelani Cobb: Why Impeachment Doesn’t Work
(The New Yorker) ..as with all the provisions of the Constitution, impeachment was designed before American political parties had become a force in electoral politics. There was no way to consider the ultimately dominant effect that partisanship would have on the process, since the partisans had not yet officially emerged.
Partisanship…has been a crucial factor in each Presidential impeachment that preceded it. No President has been impeached while his party held a majority in the House, and only a very small number of representatives have ever crossed over and voted to impeach a President from their own party. Impeachment is, at best, a tool that can deliver justice when a President’s party is a congressional minority, and, at its worst, a mechanism whose bar for success is so high as to nullify its own utility.

15 February
Elizabeth Drew: Impeachment’s Partisan Doom
(Project Syndicate) The US Senate has failed to convict former President Donald Trump for inciting insurrection on January 6. This outcome raises the question as to whether Congress has any effective means of holding a president to account for acts against the Constitution.
One reason to doubt the efficacy of impeachment and conviction as an instrument for removing (at least a Republican) president is that since each state has two senators, small states, whose populations tend to be rural and conservative, have excessive power for their relative size. But the great difference between the impeachment processes pertaining to Nixon, on which there was a bipartisan consensus, and those pertaining to Trump stems mainly from profound changes in the Republican party.

14 February
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy Plans to Roll Out Slower Mail, Higher Prices
While the plan has yet to be finalized, new details of the proposal — first reported by the Washington Post — intensified pressure on President Joe Biden to take decisive action before DeJoy inflicts any more damage on the most popular government institution in the country.
The new details of DeJoy’s plan came as a growing number of Democratic lawmakers and outside progressives are urging Biden  to take the forceful step of terminating every sitting member of the postal board and filling it with officials committed to preserving and strengthening the USPS as a public service. Postal governors, who can remove the postmaster general by a majority vote, must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, which Democrats narrowly control.

8 February
Why Biden Can’t Fire Postmaster General Louis DeJoy
Trying to force DeJoy out could lead to constitutional chaos.
(Slate) During his first weeks in office, President Joe Biden has ousted a number of powerful officials appointed by Donald Trump. One controversial figure from Trump’s presidency, however, remains in office: Louis DeJoy, the notorious postmaster general who almost sabotaged mail voting in the fall and continues to gut the agency, creating catastrophic delays throughout the country. Progressives are furious that DeJoy has kept his post, but Biden’s hands are tied: While the president can fire other high-ranking executive officials at will, federal law bars the president from terminating the postmaster general under any circumstances. Biden can attempt to oust DeJoy indirectly, but that option is fraught with legal uncertainties, and certain to trigger Republican complaints of norm busting. Unless the president is willing to take a significant legal risk, DeJoy will remain in control for months or years to come. (see Biden inherited a USPS crisis. Here’s how Democrats want to fix it.)

27 January
Biden Team Rushes to Take Over Government, and Oust Trump Loyalists
President Biden named nearly all of his cabinet secretaries and their immediate deputies before he took office, but his real grasp on the levers of power has come several layers down.
(NYT) When President Biden swore in a batch of recruits for his new administration in a teleconferenced ceremony late last week, it looked like the country’s biggest Zoom call. In fact, Mr. Biden was installing roughly 1,000 high-level officials in about a quarter of all of the available political appointee jobs in the federal government.
At the same time, a far less visible transition was taking place: the quiet dismissal of holdovers from the Trump administration, who have been asked to clean out their offices immediately, whatever the eventual legal consequences.
If there has been a single defining feature of the first week of the Biden administration, it has been the blistering pace at which the new president has put his mark on what President Donald J. Trump dismissed as the hostile “Deep State” and tried so hard to dismantle.

20 January
3 Actions CEOs Must Take to Uphold U.S. Democracy
by Paul Polman
(Harvard Business Review) Summary.
It’s time to reset the private sector’s relationship with politics and move forward in a way that ensures governments run on the will of the people not the power of the dollar. Reactive and piecemeal solutions won’t cut it. We need to fundamentally rethink the way businesses operate in Washington. That means dissolving corporate PACs, ending trade association and corporate lobbying, and advocating for legislative reform that will reverse Citizens United.
It’s time to reset the private sector’s relationship with U.S. politics and move forward in a way that ensures the government runs on the will of the people not the power of the dollar.
After a tumultuous summer of protests against racial injustice, the American public was already calling for shifts in corporate behavior. Now, they seem even more keen for business leaders to take a stand where elected officials fall short. According to a recent survey from Just Capital, 54% of people (both Republican and Democrat) now trust CEOs over politicians to take action to protect and uphold democracy.
But for leaders to earn the right to this trust, they must first recalibrate their own moral compasses. During the Trump administration, many CEOs chose to look the other way as the president stoked the flames of white supremacy and racism, spewed misinformation that cost hundreds of thousands of lives in a deadly pandemic, and continued to deny the existence of our climate crisis. They chose tax breaks and a booming stock market over ethical leadership. Make no mistake: This silence — in the face of repeated assaults on common decency, respect and rule of law — helped to create an atmosphere that allowed the recent insurrection to occur.
Dissolve corporate PACs. Companies need to take the lead on separating policy from politics. One way to do so is by not just pausing political giving (and then resuming it when people stop paying attention) but committing now to end campaign contributions and dissolve corporate PACs, which can be used to obscure the extent of influence peddling.
End trade association and corporate lobbying.  Another way that corporations use their cash to take politics out of the hands of the people is through corporate lobbyists and trade associations.
Citizens United and legislative reform. Finally, CEOs need to push for a reversal of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which held that unlimited spending by corporations and other outside groups on elections was protected as free speech.
The ruling has, frankly, brought the U.S. political system to the point of legalized corruption. In other countries, some businesses offer bribes to escape persecution from already enacted laws. In the United States, bribery happens before the laws themselves are passed — legally. Citizens United reinforced the notion that America’s democracy serves the interests of those who can afford to buy authority. Political spending in the 2020 election cycle alone was $14 billion, making it the most expensive in U.S. history.
Without a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, this could remain the status quo. The private sector must recognize that its long-term license to operate in a stable democracy depends on supporting lawmakers who stand ready to challenge the status quo, not just reduce tax and regulation.

16 January
Reimagining the presidency: 3 constitutional revisions that might bring America back from the brink | Opinion
Conservative, libertarian and liberal scholars reimagine executive power and other aspects of American government in a project for the Constitution Center.
(Philadelphia Inquirer) Does the Constitution need updating? How can its guardrails be strengthened to protect the thoughtful deliberation that Madison considered crucial to the survival of the new republic?
…the National Constitution Center launched the Constitution Drafting Project, which gathered some of America’s leading progressive, conservative, and libertarian scholars into teams to write their own ideal constitutions. Although all three teams disagreed about many details, they converged around the vibrancy of the Constitution itself, and all decided to reform the Constitution rather than start from scratch. In addition, the teams unexpectedly agreed on certain reforms, including limiting executive power.

Two critical and historically connected domestic reforms are the abolition of the Electoral College, which is already in (slow) motion, and reduction of the long lame-duck period which not only has allowed Trump supporters months to plan a violent uprising, but weakens any administration in the eyes of its partners around the world. A hold-over from horse-and-buggy days, it no longer makes sense.
It’s time to abolish the Electoral College
(Brookings) In this paper, I explain the history of the Electoral College, why it no longer is a constructive force in American politics, and why it is time to move to the direct popular election of presidents. Several developments have led me to alter my opinion on this institution: income inequality, geographic disparities, and how discrepancies between the popular vote and Electoral College are likely to become more commonplace given economic and geographic inequities. The remainder of this essay outlines why it is crucial to abolish the Electoral College.
As Joe Biden becomes president, here’s an easy proposal for Electoral College reform
(The Conversation) …why not eliminate winner-takes-all completely, and simply allocate each state’s electors proportionally to the popular vote in that state? If this were nationwide practice, Biden would still have won in 2020, Barack Obama would still have won in 2008 and 2012, and George W. Bush would still have won in 2004. But things get more interesting in the two recent presidential elections in which the Electoral College victor did not win the popular vote.
Of the 700 attempts to fix or abolish the electoral college, this one nearly succeeded
(WaPo) In 1969, Congress almost approved a constitutional amendment to get rid of the electoral college, which meets Dec. 14 to ratify Joe Biden’s election, despite President Trump’s refusal to concede.

Abolish the lame-duck period
(Vox) America’s long lame-duck period gave Trump supporters months to plan a violent uprising. It needs to end. Modern democracies can and do transfer power very rapidly — and much faster than the two and a half months that separate President-elect Joe Biden’s election on November 3, 2020, and his inauguration on January 20, 2021, the official transition date established by the 20th Amendment.
American history is replete with examples of outgoing presidents who actively sabotaged their successor during the lame-duck period — sometimes in the middle of a historic crisis.
The United States, in other words, pays an enormous price for its long lame-duck period. There’s no good reason the US cannot join Canada, Britain, France, India, Japan, and other nations in transitioning swiftly to a new administration after a presidential election.

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