Progressives blast GOP for bill adding $114 billion to deficit by enabling tax cheats

Progressive U.S. lawmakers on Monday took House Republicans to task after the Congressional Budget Office said the erstwhile deficit hawks' first bill before the 118th Congress—a measure critics say is meant to "protect wealthy and corporate tax cheats"—will swell the federal deficit by more than $100 billion.

"They all run on reducing the deficit and now the House GOP's first... bill will increase the deficit by $114 billion," tweeted Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). "Make it make sense."

Increasing the federal deficit can help people and the economy. Republicans have been criticized for hypocritically pushing cuts to social safety net programs in the name of fiscal responsibility while being willing to raise the deficit to help corporations and the rich.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the euphemistically named Family and Small Business Taxpayer Protection Act—which faces a vote as soon as Monday evening—would "decrease outlays by $71 billion and decrease receipts by $186 billion over the 2023-2032 period."

That's because the legislation would rescind $72 billion of $80 billion worth of new Internal Revenue Service (IRS) funding authorized under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) passed by the Demorcat-controlled 117th Congress and signed into law last year by President Joe Biden.

In a December 30 letter to colleagues, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) said the proposed bill "rescinds tens of billions of dollars allocated to the IRS for 87,000 new IRS agents" under the IRA, a GOP talking point that has been widely debunked.

"Today, Republicans in Congress demonstrated their commitment to 'fiscal responsibility,'" Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sardonically tweeted. "The first bill advanced by the GOP adds $114 billion to the deficit—by allowing the super-wealthy to cheat their taxes while everyone else pays. Corporate lobbyists are popping champagne."

Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) lamented that the "first order of business in the GOP House of Representatives" will be to "vote to increase the deficit $114 BILLION by letting tax cheats dodge paying what they owe."

"Once again," she added, "they're putting politics over poor and working people."

Advocacy groups also questioned GOP lawmakers' motives for introducing the bill, with Americans for Tax Fairness tweeting that "House Republicans are using their new majority to try and repeal IRS funding that will make rich and corporate tax cheats pay what they owe."

"The GOP wants to let their rich friends keep cheating the rest of us," the group added.

'The GOP is irretrievably broken': Critics react as House adjourns after McCarthy fails to win Speakership

In a signal of what the U.S. House of Representatives could look for like the next two years, the chamber adjourned Tuesday evening after GOP Congressman Kevin McCarthy repeatedly failed to secure the 218 votes needed to become the next speaker due to a revolt by several far-right Republicans.

During the third round of voting, the California Republican received only 202 votes. Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla). joined with the 19 other Republicans who had backed Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) in the second round, while Democrats maintained their support for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).

"Unfortunately, it's the American people who will pay the price for House Republicans' inability to govern."

"If Americans had any doubt that the GOP is irretrievably broken, today's House speaker debacle confirms it," Stand Up America founder and president Sean Eldridge said in a statement after the chamber adjourned until noon Wednesday.

"Political arsonists control the House majority," Eldridge added. "Whether they ultimately choose Kevin McCarthy or another extremist speaker of the House, the MAGA agenda will be the same: sow chaos, waste taxpayer dollars on sham investigations into President [Joe] Biden, and block progress on the pressing issues facing our nation. Unfortunately, it's the American people who will pay the price for House Republicans' inability to govern."

Recalling her warning from just after the November midterms about "Republicans in ruin," Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) took the opportunity to contrast Democratic and GOP House leadership.

"Thinking about how Democrats have delivered for the people time and again," Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) similarly said. "Meanwhile, Republicans can't even deliver for themselves."

Several other progressives in the chamber also piled on, such as Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), who tweeted that "this is embarrassing for McCarthy, and yet another display of Republican dysfunction."

\u201cDem mood rn: Rep. Jamaal Bowman is shouting \u201cy\u2019all don\u2019t get shit done! This is unbelievable!\u201d as he leaves the House chamber\u201d
— Nicholas Wu (@Nicholas Wu) 1672784994

"Based on what is going on today, their ability to govern and pass legislation on their own, I think is tenuous at best," Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) told Politico. "When you bend everything to an ideological position, as opposed to the work of Congress, this is what you end up with."

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) quipped that "Republicans want to run the country. They can't even figure out who they want to run their party."

\u201cWhat goes round comes round. The right-wing habits of chaos and betrayal the GOP unleashed against the American Republic on Jan. 6 are now destroying Lincoln\u2019s party. The sedition you feed is the sedition that feeds on you.\u201d
— Rep. Jamie Raskin (@Rep. Jamie Raskin) 1672785662

Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) tied Tuesday's events to the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, taking aim at ex-President Donald Trump and Steve Bannon, his former White House chief strategist.

"This once-in-a-century humiliation of a party's nominee for speaker is chickens coming home to roost for McCarthy, who whitewashed right-wing insurrectionism on the House floor," said Raskin. "Nobody's getting killed now, but the House GOP now sleeps in the bed they made with Trump and Bannon."

Many of the Republicans who voted for Jordan tend to align themselves with the twice-impeached former president—who in November announced his 2024 campaign, despite various legal issues. However, both Jordan and Trump urging them to back McCarthy was not effective.

\u201cChaos on day one because MAGA Republicans have decided that Trumper Kevin McCarthy is not even extreme enough to be their speaker.\u201d
— Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (@Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib) 1672781125

"Still not sworn in because the Republicans are having a hard time picking their leader," Congressman-elect Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D-Fla.) tweeted Tuesday. "This is a snapshot of how they'll operate for the next two years."

Earlier:

With several far-right allies of former President Donald Trump leading a charge to block U.S. House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy's bid to become speaker of the chamber, the California Republican repeatedly fell short of the votes he needed to prevail on Tuesday.

During both rounds of voting, McCarthy got only 203 votes from his fellow Republicans, several short of the 218 votes needed to win the leadership position. In the second round of voting, GOP Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio) received 19 votes.

That came after Jordan secured just six votes in the first round, when 10 Republicans supported Rep. Andy Biggs (Ariz.) while Reps. Byron Donalds (Fla.) and Jim Banks (Ind.) as well as former Rep. Lee Zeldin (N.Y.) each received one vote.

Defectors included outspoken backers of Trump—who urged members to support McCarthy—including GOP Reps. Lauren Boebert (Colo.) and Matt Gaetz (Fla.), who nominated Jordan for the second round even though the Ohio Republican had already spoken in support of McCarthy.

For both rounds, every Democrat backed Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), who ended up with more votes than McCarthy but did not win the majority needed for the speakership. Jeffries is expected to become the House minority leader.

Leading up to the first vote, McCarthy agreed to some demands by his detractors, who include members of the House Freedom Caucus. He agreed to include in the House rules a stipulation that members can vote to unseat the speaker at any time, but refused to pledge to hold votes on some bills proposed by ultra-conservative members. He also did not pledge that the party's political action committee would decline to fund primary challengers.

No other members can be sworn in until the speaker is elected, and the House will not be able to proceed with any official business until the matter is resolved.

The second round of voting began shortly after McCarthy lost the first round, with Jordan once again giving a nominating speech in support of the California lawmaker.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) tweeted that McCarthy's failure to win the leadership post shows "the rise of the extreme MAGA caucus [has] already had ramifications."

"House Republicans are showing the American people that they can't govern," said Lieu.

Anticipating the revolt by some House Republicans, The Washington Post noted last week that "the last time a speaker election took more than one ballot was in 1923, when Speaker Frederick Gillett (R-Mass.) was reelected on the ninth ballot."

Trump unleashes unhinged rant as Jan. 6 panel plans to recommend criminal charges

Donald Trump took to his beleaguered social media app late Saturday to lash out against the House committee investigating the January 6 insurrection following reports that the panel is planning to use its final meeting Monday to recommend criminal charges against the former president and 2024 White House hopeful.\

"They say that the Unselect Committee of Democrats, Misfits, and Thugs, without any representation from Republicans in good standing, is getting ready to recommend Criminal Charges to the highly partisan, political, and Corrupt 'Justice' Department for the 'PEACEFULLY & PATRIOTICLY' speech I made on January 6th," Trump wrote on Truth Social. "This speech and my actions were mild & loving, especially when compared to Democrats wild spewing of HATE. Why didn't they investigate massive Election Fraud or send in the Troops? SCAM!"

The former president's outburst came after several outlets reported Saturday that the House January 6 panel, which has spent more than a year investigating the 2021 insurrection and outlining its findings in public hearings, intends to vote Monday to refer Trump and some of his top aides to the Justice Department.

Politico reported that the panel has proposed several criminal charges for Trump, including "18 U.S.C. 2383, insurrection; 18 U.S.C. 1512(c), obstruction of an official proceeding; and 18 U.S.C. 371, conspiracy to defraud the United States government."

"DOJ, which is already pursuing a criminal probe of Trump's Jan. 6-related actions, is not required to consider referrals from Congress, which have no legal weight," Politico noted. "However, the select committee plans to act in the hopes that lawmakers' input can influence prosecutorial decision-making. Panel chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) has also raised the possibility of referrals to outside entities like bar associations for the constellation of lawyers involved in election subversion efforts."

Noah Bookbinder, president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), said Saturday that the recommended charges appear sensible.

"Obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. are charges for which the evidence against Donald Trump in connection with efforts to overturn the 2020 election [is] exceedingly strong," Bookbinder wrote on Twitter. "Insurrection is a harder charge to prove criminally and not strictly necessary. But it is what happened, and the committee did a remarkable job showing the connection between Trump's actions and the mob's violence. I think it is the right call to include it in a referral."

According to The Guardian, the House panel is also "likely to proceed with criminal referrals against top former White House advisers, including the former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and to make civil referrals to the House Ethics Committee for GOP members of Congress and recommend disbarments for Trump lawyers."

US weapons makers set to profit as 'pacifist' Japan readies $320 billion military buildup

In a significant departure from its postwar national security strategy—nominally limited to self-defense along with hosting U.S. troops—Japan on Friday announced its plan to embark on a five-year, $320 billion military buildup to secure offensive strike capacity amid growing regional tensions.

Japan "faces the severest and most complicated national security environment" since the end of World War II, according to the new blueprint unveiled by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's conservative government, which named China as its "biggest strategic challenge," followed by North Korea.

Acknowledging that the pursuit of cruise missiles represents "a major change to Japan's postwar security policy," Kishida told reporters that obtaining them is "indispensable" to preempting foreign aggression.

As Al Jazeera reported, Japan worries that Russia's invasion of Ukraine "has set a precedent that will encourage China to attack Taiwan, threatening nearby Japanese islands, disrupting supplies of advanced semiconductors, and putting a potential stranglehold on sea lanes that supply Middle East oil."

In response to those concerns, Japan plans to buy long-range weapons capable of striking China, including hundreds of Lockheed Martin's Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles—a boon for one of the biggest players in the powerful U.S. arms industry, which is already poised to rake in hundreds of billions of dollars in public money following Congress' passage of an $858 billion military budget for next fiscal year.

As NPR reported, "Japan also plans to develop its own weapons, including advanced fighter jets, hypersonic missiles, and armed drones."

According to Al Jazeera, Japan is also preparing to "stockpile spare parts and other munitions, reinforce logistics, develop cyber-warfare capabilities, and cooperate more closely with the United States and other like-minded nations" in a purported attempt to "deter threats to the established international order."

"Unthinkable under past administrations, the rapid arming of Japan... will double defense outlays to about 2% of the gross domestic product (GDP) over the next five years, and increase the defense ministry's share to about one-tenth of all public spending," the news outlet noted. "It will also make Japan the world's third-biggest military spender after the U.S. and China, based on current budgets."

Kishida contends that Japan's existing missile defense systems are no longer up to the task of intercepting missiles fired by its neighbors. According to The Associated Press: "North Korea fired more than 30 ballistic missiles this year, including one that flew over Japan. China fired five ballistic missiles into waters near Japanese southern islands including Okinawa."

"When threats become reality, can the Self-Defense Force fully protect our country? " the prime minister asked Friday. "Frankly speaking, the current (SDF capability) is insufficient."

The five-year military spending proposal approved by his cabinet asserts that "counterstrike capacity is necessary," though it won't be implemented prior to 2026, when the deployment of U.S.-built cruise missiles is set to begin.

Although successive Japanese governments have intimated that counterstrikes to neutralize foreign attacks would be permissible under the country's long-standing military restrictions, there had previously been little appetite for ensuring such capability.

As AP noted: "Because of its wartime past as an aggressor and national devastation after its defeat, Japan's postwar policy prioritized the economic growth while keeping its security light by relying on American troops stationed in Japan under their bilateral security agreement. Japan's defense buildup has long been considered a sensitive issue at home and in the region, especially for Asian victims of Japanese wartime atrocities."

However, the growing military might of China, a record number of North Korean missile launches in recent months, and escalating fears that China could emulate Russia by invading nearby Taiwan have provoked a shift in public opinion, with surveys finding that roughly two-thirds of Japanese voters now support bolstering the country's military.

"Still, in a nod to the sensitivity of the issue, the documents rule out preemptive strikes, and insist Japan is committed to 'an exclusively defense-oriented policy,'" Al Jazeera reported.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Friday warned Japan that "hyping up the so-called China threat to find an excuse for its military build-up is doomed to fail" and urged the country to "reflect on its policies."

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, meanwhile, called Japan's shift "a bold and historic step to strengthen and defend the free and open Indo-Pacific."

Japan's beefed-up military roadmap comes just weeks after the U.S. announced its plans to deploy up to six nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to northern Australia, where they would be close enough to strike China.

Relations between the U.S. and China have deteriorated since August, when U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other members of Congress visited Taiwan (the Republic of China, or ROC) despite opposition from Beijing, which—along with most of the international community, including Washington since the 1970s—considers the breakaway province to be part of the People's Republic of China (PRC).

Deviating from more than four decades of "One China" policy—in which the U.S. recognizes the PRC as the sole legal government of China and maintains informal relations with the ROC while adopting a position of "strategic ambiguity" to obscure how far it would go to protect Taiwan—U.S. President Joe Biden has repeatedly threatened to use military force in response to a Chinese invasion of the island.

Although Biden warned earlier this year that Russia's assault on Ukraine has brought the world closer to "Armageddon" than at any point since the Cuban Missile Crisis, his move to station B-52 bombers in Australia further increases the global risk of nuclear war. Japan's new stance could escalate the prospects of war in the Indo-Pacific as well.

"After elevating its defense cooperation with Australia to semi-ally levels in recent years, Japan hopes to practice [its] new capability in joint exercises hosted by Australia and including U.S. militaries as well," AP reported. "Last month, Japan and the United States held a major joint military exercise in southern Japan to step up the allies' readiness."

Momentum to 'replace Sinema' already building after she ditches Dems

While the White House and Democratic congressional leadership are publicly hoping U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema's departure from the party won't change much in Washington, D.C., progressives in her home state of Arizona and across the nation are already pushing to replace the newly declared Independent if she runs for reelection in 2024.

The "Primary Sinema" campaign rebranded on Saturday as "Replace Sinema" following the senator's Friday announcement—which came just days after Democrats secured 51 seats in the Senate with Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) winning his second crucial runoff in as many years.

The Change for Arizona 2024 PAC project was launched in September "to educate the public about the ways Kyrsten Sinema has let down Arizonans and caved to special interests," said the campaign, which has raised over $500,000 from thousands of grassroots donors. "Now, as Kyrsten Sinema has left the Democratic Party, the group's effort will shift toward defeating her in a potential three-way general election and replacing her with a real Democrat."

Sinema—who insists she won't caucus with the GOP—is now one of three Independents in the upper chamber, joining Sens. Angus King (Maine) and Bernie Sanders (Vt.), who both caucus with the Democrats. Sanders notably sought the party's nomination for president in 2016 and 2020.

The "Replace Sinema" campaign on Sunday spotlighted Sanders' morning appearance on CNN, during which he called her out for so far serving as a "corporate Democrat" who, along with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), has "sabotaged enormously important legislation."

"I happen to suspect that it's probably a lot to do with politics back in Arizona," Sanders said of Sinema abandoning the party. "I think the Democrats there are not all that enthusiastic about somebody who helped sabotage some of the most important legislation that protects the interests of working families and voting rights and so forth."

"So I think it really has to do with her political aspirations for the future in Arizona," added Sanders, who said he'd be watching closely to see who may challenge her in two years. "But for us, I think nothing much has changed in terms of the functioning of the U.S. Senate."

In response to a video Sinema shared about her decision—which she has framed as an attempt to "stay focused on solving problems and getting things done for everyday Arizonans"— Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted that "not once in this long soliloquy does Sinema offer a single concrete value or policy she believes in."

"She lays out no goals for Arizonans, no vision, no commitments," the progressive "Squad" member added. "It's 'no healthcare, just vibes' for Senate. People deserve more. Grateful this race and nomination has opened up."

Pushing back against Sinema's statements about the move, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) said: "Bye Felicia… This isn't about the party, this is about your pharma donors! Stop lying!"

Others also took aim at Sinema's wealthy donors and history of obstructing key priorities of President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats, including efforts to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and increase taxes on corporations.

"We are not surprised that she would once again center herself," Alejandra Gomez, executive director of Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA), told The New York Times. "This is another unfortunate, selfish act. It is yet another betrayal—there [has] been a slew of betrayals, but this is one of the ultimates, because voters elected her as Democrat, and she turned her back on those voters."

While suggesting her shift won't impede the party, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said in a statement that "this is a predictable outcome for Sinema as she has entirely separated herself from any semblance of representing hardworking and struggling Arizonans. Her alignment with wealthy and corporate interests has crippled her ability to support the Democratic agenda."

Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, told The Hill that "she should join her friends on Wall Street in 2024, and Democrats should nominate someone truly on the side of the working class who can unite and win Arizona."

Morris Pearl, chair of the Patriotic Millionaires, highlighted that "in the past year alone, she torpedoed efforts to raise corporate taxes in Biden's Build Back Better Act, killed the momentum to change the carried interest loophole in the Inflation Reduction Act, and tanked the movement to change the filibuster to safeguard American elections—all things that Democrats rightly wanted to do to make life better for working people."

"By registering as an Independent, Sinema is just admitting what the rest of us have known for years—she has no allegiance to the Democratic Party or Democratic voters. Sinema works for her ultrarich, corporate donors, and no one else," he added. "Her label change might improve her prospects of winning a corporate board room seat after her inevitable demise in 2024, but it won't change the fact that she has never and will never have the best interests of ordinary Arizonans and Americans at heart."

Waleed Shahid of Justice Democrats tweeted that "Sinema and her big corporate donors know her politics have no path forward among Democratic primary voters. She's made this decision simply to cling to power as one of corporate America's leading obstructionists to the Democratic Party agenda."

"After seeing her horrifically low poll numbers with Democratic voters, Sinema is once again doing everything she can to protect herself and big corporate donors at the expense of multiracial democracy," Shahid told The Hill.

"Either Kyrsten Sinema is actively helping the Republican Party by splitting the Democratic vote, or she is a fundamentally self-interested person who would rather throw lives under the bus than give up her political career," said Ellen Sciales of the Sunrise Movement, who wants to see a progressive challenger. "We're wondering if she's just trying to force the Democratic Party to not challenge her in 2024 because she knows her polling is incredibly unpopular."

"There's a whole question about her calculus here," Sciales continued. "One thing is really clear: She's not thinking about the people of Arizona, she's thinking about her own political career."

As the Times detailed:

The working assumption in Arizona political circles has long been that progressive anger at Ms. Sinema was concentrated among Democratic political activists, and that she could survive a primary from her left. But recent polling suggests that she has lost the confidence of many Arizona voters outside the center-right Chamber of Commerce types whom she has cultivated with the latest iteration of her political identity.
A Civiqs survey conducted shortly before Election Day found she had an approval rating of just 7% among the state's Democrats, 27% among Republicans, and 29% among Independents.

While some such as Pearl were more optimistic about 2024, others warned that despite victories by Democrats in statewide races last month, the party could face a significant battle if it runs a candidate and Sinema seeks reelection—a topic she has declined to address in recent days, despite an abundance of media attention.

NBC News reported on comments from a leader in the state Democratic Party, which last year censured Sinema after she opposed reforming Senate rules to pass a voting rights bill:

"I am not surprised. But I'm still shockingly disappointed at how awful she continues to be," said Michael Slugocki, an outgoing vice chair of the Arizona Democratic Party. He said Sinema has had "no relationship and no contact with the state party for months" and did not inform them prior to her decision.
"It does shake up this race" in 2024, he said. "She's deliberately trying to make it difficult for Democrats in Arizona.
He added that her decision could also make it harder for Democrats to carry Arizona on the presidential level again in two years, if she spends two years attacking her party and splintering its successful coalition. "It does make things more difficult for Joe Biden, but I don't think she cares at all."

Arizona-based pollster Mike Noble, chief research and managing partner at OH Predictive Insights, told The Hill that "the fastest growing political party in the state is actually Independent voters."

"There's got to be representation for folks more in the middle," he said. "I could absolutely see Democrats having a progressive candidate, Republicans having a more hard-right candidate, and then you have Sinema in the middle. Absolutely there is a path to victory there for her."

Stacy Pearson, an Arizona-based Democratic strategist who wasn't surprised by Sinema's move given criticism from the party in their state, agreed that Sinema has a decent shot at winning.

"Democrats in Arizona only comprise 30% of the electorate," Pearson pointed out. "It's the smallest bloc behind Republicans on top and Independents in second place."

Grijalva told the Times that he would support fellow Democratic Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego if he runs for Senate in 2024 but also issued a warning: "Anybody that underestimates Sen. Sinema is being foolish… She's going to be formidable if she decides to run."

The newspaper interviewed Gallego, who referenced Warnock's Tuesday win:

"I wish she would have waited for the Democrats at least to enjoy a couple more days after the victory," he said. "But, you know, she's not known really for thinking of others."
Mr. Gallego said he would make a decision about what office to seek in 2024 in the new year. He had just gotten off the phone with his mother, who was catching up on the news.
"She said: 'I heard Sinema is not running. Make sure to talk to me before you do anything,'" Mr. Gallego said.

The other potential Democratic candidate whose name is already making the rounds is another Arizona congressman: Greg Stanton, a former Phoenix mayor who on Friday tweeted an image of results from a statewide survey about his possible run for Senate.

"Democratic leaders were cagey on Friday about how they would approach the 2024 race or a potential Independent Sinema campaign," according to the Times. "Representatives for Senate Democrats' campaign arm and for Senate Majority PAC, the leading Democratic super PAC devoted to Senate races, declined to comment on Friday afternoon about Ms. Sinema's move."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement that Sinema "asked me to keep her committee assignments and I agreed. Kyrsten is Independent; that's how she's always been. I believe she's a good and effective senator and am looking forward to a productive session in the new Democratic majority Senate. We will maintain our new majority on committees, exercise our subpoena power, and be able to clear nominees without discharge votes."

Whilte House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre struck a similar tone:

Sen. Sinema has been a key partner on some of the historic legislation President Biden has championed over the last 20 months, from the American Rescue Plan to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, from the Inflation Reduction Act to the CHIPS and Science Act, from the PACT Act to the Gun Safety Act to the Respect for Marriage Act, and more. We understand that her decision to register as an Independent in Arizona does not change the new Democratic majority control of the Senate, and we have every reason to expect that we will continue to work successfully with her.

Meanwhile, progressive strategist Max Berger said of Sinema ditching Democrats, "The level of shamelessness that it takes to do something like this at this particular moment in history, it's really mind-boggling."

"The White House and leadership have no choice but to treat her like a very important figure in the Senate, but they should be working to defeat her as quickly as possible," he argued. "No one should have the slightest amount of deference or respect for her because what she's done is a betrayal of the voters of Arizona and of American democracy and it's loathsome."

Democracy defenders vow to sue after GOP-led Arizona county refuses to certify election

Pro-democracy advocates are expected to sue a rural Arizona county after a pair of GOP officials on Monday refused to certify this month's electoral outcomes despite a complete lack of evidence of miscounting.

Heeding the calls of former President Donald Trump and other prominent Republicans who have repeatedly lied about voter fraud and advocated for rejecting the popular will, the Cochise County Board of Supervisors declined to certify the results of the November 8 midterm elections in which Democratic candidates won races for governor, secretary of state, and state attorney general.

"There is no reason for us to delay," said the board's Democratic chair, Ann English, who was outnumbered by the county's two Republican supervisors, Tom Crosby and Peggy Judd.

In a 2-1 vote, the board called for "a Friday meeting to have further presentation on the accreditation of the voting machines," according to Arizona Republic reporter Mary Jo Pitzl. Crosby demanded "presentations" from Democratic Secretary of State and Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs as well as "people who spoke November 18 about alleged issues with accreditation."

In the words of Democratic election attorney Marc Elias, "The only presentation Cochise is going to get is in a courtroom."

Elias, the founder of Democracy Docket, said the county "will be sued" for missing Monday's legally mandated deadline to approve the official vote tally.

Hobbs' office had previously pledged to sue if the county missed the deadline. Prior to Monday's vote, Arizona's election director, Kori Lorick, said in a statement that the secretary of state "will use all available legal remedies to compel compliance with Arizona law and protect Cochise County voters' right to have their votes counted" if the board refused to fulfill its "nondiscretionary duty."

Following the vote, Sophia Solis, a spokesperson for Hobbs, told The Associated Press that "the Board of Supervisors had all of the information they needed to certify this election and failed to uphold their responsibility for Cochise voters."

According to NPR, Crosby and Judd's move jeopardizes the votes of more than 47,000 residents in the GOP-dominated jurisdiction in southeastern Arizona, near Tuscon. Solis told the news outlet that the secretary of state's office intends to file a lawsuit on Monday.

As NPR reported:

Many election watchers have been raising concerns that Republican officials may disrupt the process for making the election results official after GOP leaders in Cochise County voted on November 18 to wait to decide whether to certify the results until the legal deadline on Monday.
They cited claims about the certification of election equipment, which Lorick confirmed had been tested and properly certified. Still, Crosby and Judd have called for a meeting on Friday to discuss the claims.
In the opposite corner of Arizona, another Republican-controlled county—Mohave County—may end up following Cochise County's lead in not certifying election results. Last week, GOP officials there said they want to hold off on making a decision until Monday's deadline in order to make a political statement. They recessed their meeting Monday and are set to resume their discussion later in the day.

Elsewhere in the country on Monday, Pennsylvania's Luzerne County Board of Elections also refused to certify the midterm results.

"Certifying election results is a ministerial task," Elias tweeted. "This is what election subversion looks like in 2022."

Suggesting that another lawsuit is coming, Elias wrote on social media that right-wing board members in Luzerne County should ask their counterparts in Arizona's Cochise County "how well this ends for them."

Scientists revive ‘zombie’ virus after 50,000 years trapped in Siberian permafrost: report

As our world continues to warm up, vast areas of permafrost are rapidly melting, releasing material that's been trapped for up to a million years. This includes uncountable numbers of microbes that have been lying dormant for hundreds of millennia.

To study these emerging microbes, scientists from the French National Center for Scientific Research have now revived a number of these "zombie viruses" from the Siberian permafrost, including one thought to be nearly 50,000 years old – a record age for a frozen virus returning to a state capable of infecting other organisms.

The team behind the study, led by microbiologist Jean-Marie, says these ancient viruses are potentially a significant threat to public health, and further study needs to be done to assess the danger that these infectious agents could pose as the permafrost melts.

The researchers warned it may just be the tip of the iceberg:

"One-quarter of the Northern Hemisphere is underlain by permanently frozen ground, referred to as permafrost," researchers wrote in the paper.
"Due to climate warming, irreversibly thawing permafrost is releasing organic matter frozen for up to a million years, most of which decomposes into carbon dioxide and methane, further enhancing the greenhouse effect. Part of this organic matter also consists of revived cellular microbes (prokaryotes, unicellular eukaryotes) as well as viruses that remained dormant since prehistorical times."

According to Global News:

In 2014, the same researchers unearthed a 30,000-year-old virus trapped in permafrost, the BBC reported. The discovery was groundbreaking because after all that time, the virus was still able to infect organisms. But now, they’ve beaten their own record by reviving a virus that is 48,500 years old.

"If the authors are indeed isolating live viruses from ancient permafrost, it is likely that the even smaller, simpler mammalian viruses would also survive frozen for eons," virologist Eric Delwart from the University of California, San Francisco told New Scientist.

'Americans aren't serfs': House Dems propose end to Wall Street rent-gouging

To help address the nation's housing crisis while at the same time confronting Wall Street greed, three California members of Congress on Saturday touted new legislation to target rent-gouging in the U.S. by private equity firms and investment giants who have gobbled up huge numbers of single-family home and residential units in the years since the 2008 financial crash.

"Wall Street should not be any family's landlord."

Co-authored by Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna, Katie Porter, and Mark Takano, the Stop Wall Street Landlords Act aims to "deter future institutional investments" in the Single Family Residential (SFR) market by ending taxpayer subsidies to profit-seekers as a way to help struggling families battling housing costs amid rising inflation.

If enacted into law, the proposal would impose "a tax on existing and future acquisitions of SFRs" by large institutional investors, a statement from the lawmakers explains. The legislation would also prohibit federal lending institutions Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Gennie Mae from purchasing and securitizing mortgages held by Wall Street firms who leverage their size and ability to purchase large numbers single family homes with debt in order to turn around and rent them out for exorbitant profit—a tactic that by itself pushes rental prices ever higher.

Private equity firms and Wall Street rarely if ever strayed into the single-family housing market prior to the 2008 crash, but the market exploded when large firms were given access to trillions in low- or zero-interests dollars over the last decade and as regulators at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) offered subsidies via federal programs such as Fannie and Freddie. In 2015, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was among those blowing the whistle by telling HUD that it had no business colluding with Wall Street in such a way.

"These Wall Street investors made money by crashing the economy, got bailed out and now they're back to feed at the trough again, scooping up these loans at rock-bottom prices so that they profit off them a second time—and it is up to us to stop that!" Warren said to a cheering crowd during a Washington, D.C. rally in 2015.

In remarks posted online Saturday, Khanna said there may have been a time following the 2008 financial crash where it made sense for private entities to step in to buy residential units as a way to stabilize the housing market, but that in the decade since it has become clear that Wall Street investors have exploited government policies and a lack of oversight to fleece millions of renters who find themselves at the mercy of a housing crisis they did nothing to create and have no way to combat.

Khanna said that with 25 percent of single-family homes in the U.S. being bought up by profit-seeking investors, these firms are "hurting the American dream of home ownership" and the economy overall.

"We need to stop the financialization of housing," Khanna said. "Americans aren't serfs. We're not suppose to pay money to Wall Street to go live in a home. What we need is more American families to own their own homes."

"When I was on the front lines of the foreclosure crisis, I saw firsthand how corporate special interests take advantage of families to line their pockets," said Congresswoman Porter in a statement. "The Stop Wall Street Landlords Act promotes affordable homeownership, so that our kids can live in the same communities they grew up in. I am proud to work with Representatives Khanna and Takano to hold Wall Street accountable."

Takano said, "Wall Street should not be any family's landlord."

“As the housing crisis continues to plague the country, America's middle class is acutely feeling the constraints of our nation's low housing stock and increasing prices," added Takano. "Meanwhile, wealthy investors drive these costs up by monopolizing ownership of single-family residences. The Stop Wall Street Landlords Act takes the urgent steps needed to keep corporate investors out of the single-family housing market."

According to Khanna, "Low- and middle-income families in my district and across the country are being pushed out because of profiteering and unfair practices by large corporate landlords. This legislation will help level the playing field and put a stop to rent gouging in America."

Republican Governors Association accused of illegal coordination with super PAC in Michigan

Progressives in Michigan on Wednesday accused GOP gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon, the Republican Governors Association, and the Get Michigan Working Again super PAC of violating multiple campaign finance laws.

"Desperation to save a floundering campaign has led to potential violations of campaign finance law and potential illegal coordination."

According to a complaint filed by Progress Michigan executive director Lonnie Scott, the Get Michigan Working Again (GMWA) super PAC is providing cover for the Republican Governors Association (RGA)—obscuring how the RGA is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in an effort to help the Trump-backed Dixon defeat incumbent Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

"GMWA has reported spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on independent expenditures [for ads] in the gubernatorial election on its... campaign finance reports," states the complaint. "However, RGA has reported to the IRS [Internal Revenue Service] that it—RGA—actually made those expenditures, not GMWA."

An excerpt from a chart in the complaint documents how GMWA is telling the Michigan public that it is bankrolling Dixon's campaign ads while the RGA is telling the IRS that it—not the super PAC—is really responsible for the expenditures.

A partial list of super PAC contributions to Tudor Dixon (Source: Progress Michigan)

According to Progress Michigan, this is a clear violation of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act because GMWA put its disclaimer on the ads when in fact the RGA—as the actual funder of the ads—should have done so.

In addition, the complaint alleges that because the RGA paid for the ads, the association's "expenditures are in fact in-kind contributions to Dixon which the RGA has failed to report, exceeded the contribution limits, and are illegal because those contributions/expenditures were funded with corporate funds in violation of [campaign finance law]."

"Similarly," the complaint continues, "Dixon has failed to report in-kind contributions from RGA in excess of the contribution limit which are also illegal because they were made with corporate funds."

In a statement, Scott said that "desperation to save a floundering campaign has led to potential violations of campaign finance law and potential illegal coordination."

"This shady shell game between the Republican Governors Association and Get Michigan Working Again super PAC is not only a major violation of Michigan campaign finance law, but also implicates Tudor Dixon and her campaign, which may have been illegally coordinating campaign activities," said Scott.

"Michigan's campaign finance laws," he continued, "are weak enough as it is without outside groups abusing the system."

"It's our hope that a thorough investigation is launched and all parties involved stop misleading Michigan voters," Scott added. "Given the dysfunction of Trump's Republican Party, I understand the RGA's desire to hide their identity through a much nicer sounding name, but doing so at the expense of the full public disclosure required by the campaign finance laws must have consequences."

Brazil votes: Lula wins the First round over far-right Bolsonaro; run-off Oct. 30

BREAKING NEWS - Check back for updates

Brazil’s presidential race will need to go to an October 30th second round after former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva fell short of the 50%+1 he needed to avoid a run-off with extremist incumbent Jair Bolsonaro.

Brazilians voted Sunday in a historic presidential election, with leftist front-runner Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who led in the pre-election polls, winning but still short of the 50% he needed to avoid a runoff election.

There are fears the far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro will not accept a defeat after he warned that he will only leave office if he's "killed, jailed, or victorious" and has called on his base to "go to war" if the vote is "stolen."

Bolsonaro took an early lead as results started coming in but in 2014, when Lula's leftist party last won a presidential election, it only took the lead after two hours of vote counting. Results from Brazil’s poorer northeast, Lula's stronghold, take longer to be counted.

Lula eventually took the lead when 70.00% of the vote was counted.

With 98.04% of the vote counted at 8:45pm EDT:

Brazil Votes 8:46pm

With 70.00% of the vote counted at 7:02pm EDT:

Brazil Votes 7:02pm

EARLIER: With 63.45% of the vote counted at 6:54pm EDT:

Brazil Votes 6:50pm

EARLIER: With 46.46% of the vote counted at 6:35pm EDT:

Results Brazil 1

Lula went into Sunday ahead of Bolsonaro in pre-election polls with 50 percent to 36 percent, according to the final poll from the Datafolha institute.

To win outright and avoid a runoff on October 30th: 50% + 1 votes are needed.

Polls closed at 5:00pm local time (20.00 GMT) or 4:00pm EST.

Official results can be found here: latest Brazil Election Results

California Gov. Newsom proposes windfall profits tax on big oil

California Gov. Gavin Newsom called Friday for a windfall profits tax on oil companies that would go directly back to California residents.

While crude oil prices are down nationally, big oil companies have increased gas prices in California by a record 84 cents per gallon in just the last 10 days.

“Crude oil prices are down but oil and gas companies have jacked up prices at the pump in California. This doesn’t add up,” said Newsom. “I’m calling for a windfall tax to ensure excess oil profits go back to help millions of Californians who are getting ripped off.”

California lawmakers are not due back in session until January 2023, which would be the earliest Californians could see any movement on this.

Calls for windfall profits taxes have increased globally in recent weeks.

On Friday, the European Union agreed to impose a new windfall profits tax on fossil fuel companies reaping massive profits from the high price of oil and natural gas.

And on September 20th, in his opening remarks to the UN General Assembly, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on "all developed economies" to tax fossil fuel companies to help those suffering from the climate and cost-of-living crises.

Guterres’ windfall tax proposal would direct those funds: "to countries suffering loss and damage caused by the climate crisis; and to people struggling with rising food and energy prices."

Guterres accused oil and gas giants of “feasting on a whole bunch of billions of {dollars} in subsidies and windfall profits whereas family budgets shrink and our planet burns.”

Also last week, a report authored by world-renowned economists and advocates called on governments to enact windfall profit taxes and other "emergency" measures to avert a global recession.

The United Kingdom, meanwhile, approved a 25% windfall tax on oil and gas firms in May—but new right-wing Prime Minister Liz Truss has made clear she opposes windfall taxes and won't support any new ones.

'Enough is Enough': Hundreds of thousands march across the UK

Hundreds of thousands people marched and rallied Saturday in over 50 towns and cities across the UK on a National Day of Action protesting the cost of living crisis in the largest wave of simultaneous protests seen in Britain for many years.

The organizers of the 'Enough is Enough' campaign lists their five demands as:

  1. A real pay rise
  2. Slash energy bills
  3. End food poverty
  4. Decent homes for all
  5. Tax the rich

"The people need to be out in the streets and demanding change from this government, and if necessary, a change of government entirely," said Mick Lynch, general secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime, and Transport Workers (RMT), in a TV interview Friday, as he noted that top executives in the rail industry are expected to gain up to £60,000 ($67,000) from the "mini-budget" introduced by the Conservative government last week.

At King’s Cross rail station in central London, activists supported striking rail workers by rallying outside.

MP Jeremy Corbyn, the former Labour leader, spoke to the large crowd in London denouncing the new government’s plans to cut taxes for the richest and benefits for the poorest.

“Our strength is our organization, our strength is our unity,” Corbyn said. “So let’s stand up for what we believe in.”

Don't Pay, a campaign to encourage people to not pay their energy bills, also joined Saturday's rallies.

Glasgow

Nottingham

Sheffield

Liverpool

Birmingam

Norwich

Manchester

Newcastle

Cardiff

New GOP agenda proves these people are just plain nuts

By Jim Hightower

Let me say one word to you: Nuts.

Now, let me say one name to you: Ted Cruz.

Fiddle-faddles like Cruz and Scott have turned the once-proud U.S. Senate into The Little Nut Shoppe on the Hill.

They've become synonymous, with the Texas lawmaker perennially topping national lists of goofy, right-wing political goobers. Only, Ted can't rightly be called a lawmaker, for he's not a serious participant in that process, instead devoting his senatorship to political stunts and picking silly PR fights with a growing list of enemies.

Running out of people to attack, Ted has found another species for his vitriol: Fictional icons. He's been padding his right-wing credentials by going after Mr. Potato Head, Mickey and Pluto, and, believe it or not, the Muppets.

This U.S. senator has dedicated the power and public resources of his office to demonizing popular creatures on "Sesame Street," specifically Big Bird and loveable little Elmo. Ted rants he has proof that Muppets are covert tools of "government propaganda." So, this ridiculous excuse of a senator is saving America from… Muppets.

But for a whole bag of assorted nuttiness, you can't beat Senator Rick Scott's 11-point plan to "Rescue America." A disgraced former healthcare mogul, Cruz's mega-millionaire colleague reinvented himself as a wingnut Florida senator, and he now chairs a policy arm of the Republican Party.

In February, Scott set forth a stunning agenda of far-out right-wing extremism that he says his party will push if they retake the Senate this November, including:

  • Implementing new federal taxes on the poorest half of Americans. So—as Scott puts it—they'll "have skin in the game."
  • "Stopping socialism" by terminating Social Security and Medicare.
  • Spending unlimited billions to build Donald Trump's folly of a border wall (and, ironically, naming the scam after The Donald).

Biden says nukes in Ukraine 'would change the face of war unlike anything since WWII'

In an interview with 60 Minutes set to air Sunday night, President Joe Biden says that his clear advice to Russian President Vladimir Putin if he is "considering using chemical or tactical nuclear weapons" in Ukraine, would be this: "Don't. Don't. Don't."

The question was asked by news correspondent Scott Pelley, who described a current state of affairs in which Putin, after nearly 9 months of protracted war and recent gains by a Ukrainian counter-offensive, is feeling "embarrassed and pushed into a corner."

Asked what he would do in response to any kind of nuclear strike, Biden said, "You think I would tell you if I knew exactly what it would be? Of course I'm not going to tell you." But, he added, "It'll be consequential."

Such a move, said Biden, "would change the face of war unlike anything since World War II."

The comments from Biden come just days after a new report from the Costs of War Project at Brown University's Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs warned that a continued buildup of conventional military weapons by the U.S. and other European allies in Ukraine increases the risk of a nuclear confrontation.

"Russian aggression in Ukraine requires an international response. However, it does not justify increased U.S. military budgets, which could ultimately escalate tensions with Russia and once again lead us down a dangerous path," said Costs of War Project co-director Stephanie Savell.

Instead of increasing the flow of weapons into Ukraine, the paper advises "de-escalatory approaches" to end the war unleashed by Putin's invasion. Such measures should include "direct talks, reviving the arms control agenda, and pursuing military confidence-building measures between NATO countries and Russia."

In a series of tweets late last week, Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, said she was deeply troubled by the way journalists and analysts throw around the term "tactical nuclear weapons" without putting them in their proper context.

"Whether or not the risk is high or low, when we describe what Russian use of nuclear weapons would do in Ukraine, we have to mention that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians would die," Fihn tweeted on Thursday. "Even if it stopped with one bomb, it would be an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe."

"This to me," she added, "is one of the main problems of many nuclear analysts. It is detached from reality and real people, and only talks about abstract strategy and theory. It's how we desensitize decision-makers and the public and make the use of nuclear weapons sound normal and acceptable."

Mediterranean sea ecosystem threatened by heat-induced 'marine wildfire,' scientists warn

Scientists are warning this week that the prolonged and above-average temperatures gripping the Mediterranean Sea are causing a "marine wildfire" that could permanently alter the ecosystem and cause species extinction.

David Diaz of the Spanish oceanographic institute told Le Monde such ocean heatwaves were "the equivalent of underwater wildfires, with fauna and flora dying just as if they had been burned."

The region has suffered an extreme heatwave this month, producing record air temperatures and low winds, causing a significantly hotter and deeper layer of ocean surface water.

As Reuters reported, "The warmer air along with shifting ocean currents and a stable sea surface have warmed coastal Mediterranean waters several degrees Celsius beyond the average temperature of 24°C to 26°C for this time of year."

Some of the highest water temperatures were recorded on the eastern coast of Corsica which hit a peak of 30.7°C in July—more than 6°C warmer than normal for this time of year. Spain's Balearic Islands and the Italian coast saw an increase of 5°C.

"Keep in mind water has more than 4X the heat capacity of air, which means it's much harder for water to warm than air," tweeted Colin McCarthy from his US StormWatch account. "A 6.2°C sea surface temperature anomaly in the Mediterranean is simply astonishing."

The Mediterranean Sea is considered a biodiversity hotspot by scientists—accounting for less than 1% of the world's ocean surface but inhabited by about 10% of all marine species.

Rubén del Campo of the Spanish national meteorological service told Le Monde that the Mediterranean's native populations of "corals, of shellfish, and of fish are suffering enormously."

The Mediterranean hosts up to 20,000 marine species of fauna and flora, 25% of which are native to the region. The sea's endemic Posidonia and Neptune grasses play a vital role in the ecosystem by storing carbon—a hectare of the grass is capable of absorbing 15 times more carbon dioxide every year than a similarly sized piece of the Amazon rainforest.

Emilie Villar, a Marseille-based marine ecologist, told the La Provence 700 Mediterranean species are threatened with extinction and "if the shock lasts too long, or if the species is fixed and cannot migrate, others will fill the void—or, if conditions become too harsh, the Mediterranean risks dying out."

A recent study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B found that marine heatwaves associated with the climate crisis have already destroyed up to 90% of coral populations in parts of the Mediterranean. Additionally, a World Wildlife Fund report last year "found that water temperatures in the Mediterranean were rising 20% faster than the global average, making it the world's fastest-warming sea."

Karina von Schuckmann, an oceanographer at the nonprofit research group Mercator Ocean International, said "Since at least 2003 [marine heatwaves] have become more common and in future they will last longer, cover more sea, and be more intense and severe."

Schuckmann said the most effective course of action to mitigate marine heatwaves is for governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions contributing to global warming.