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Sanders warns Dems not to waste time catering to obstructionist GOP

Sen. Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said Saturday that amid the immediate emergencies of climate change, Covid-19, mass unemployment, and homelessness, congressional Democrats cannot afford to dampen their infrastructure ambitions in the hopes of winning support from obstructionist Republicans.

"The time is now to go forward," Sanders (I-Vt.) told the Washington Post. "This country faces enormous crises that have got to be addressed right now. When you have half a million people who are homeless, I'm not going to slow down."

"This country faces enormous crises that have got to be addressed right now. When you have half a million people who are homeless, I'm not going to slow down."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders

"When the scientists tell us we have five or six years before there will be irreparable damage done because of climate change," the Vermont senator added, "I'm not going to slow down."

Sanders' remarks came as the Democratic leadership is weighing how to proceed with the roughly $2.3 trillion infrastructure package President Joe Biden unveiled last month, a proposal that will serve as a starting point for congressional negotiations. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said she hopes to pass infrastructure legislation by July.

But unified Republican opposition to the package and growing complaints from conservative deficit scolds within the Democratic caucus are threatening to impede work on the package that progressives hope to transform into a sprawling bill that deals with a wide range of priorities, from climate to affordable housing to prescription drug prices.

On Monday, the Senate parliamentarian gave Democrats a green light to use the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process for additional spending legislation this year, granting the party the option to move ahead with an infrastructure measure without Republican support.

Sanders told the Post that he is preparing to use the reconciliation tool, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has not publicly committed to that strategy as the Biden administration continues to hold out hope for a bipartisan compromise. With the legislative filibuster in place, Senate Democrats would need the support of at least 10 Republicans to pass an infrastructure bill through regular order.

"The president believes that there's a path forward to get... this American Jobs Plan passed with bipartisan support," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a Thursday briefing. "That's why he's going to invite Democrats and Republicans here. That's why he's going to hear from them on their ideas that they've already put forward."

But progressive lawmakers have cautioned the Biden administration against weakening an infrastructure package they believe is already insufficient in a likely futile effort to win over Republican lawmakers, who unanimously voted against a broadly popular $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package last month.

"Let's not water down a bill for a party that's not actually interested in bipartisanship or wait for Republicans to have some awakening on climate change," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said earlier this month. "Let's move with the urgency and boldness that this moment calls for."

In a report released Thursday, Adam Hersh of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Mark Paul of the New College of Florida argued that under-spending in response to the current crises risks long-term damage to the economy and the climate—a warning progressives cited as all the more reason to quickly push ahead with an ambitious recovery package.

In an appearance on MSNBC Saturday, Sanders said that Republican lawmakers are "probably not" going to accept arguments in support of big spending on climate solutions, core infrastructure, caregiving, and more.

"They live in their world, and their world will be trying to obstruct as much as possible what Biden and many of us in the Congress are trying to do," Sanders said, arguing that the GOP's top priority is "trying to divide us up by stressing xenophobia, racism, [and] making it harder for people to vote."

"Our job," Sanders said, "is to rally the American people around an agenda that works for workers and the middle class, who have been neglected for so many years. It is the right thing to do policy-wise, it is the right thing to do politically."

Union to file charges against Amazon over 'blatantly illegal conduct' in Bessemer election

This is a developing news story... Check back for possible updates...

As Amazon on Friday received the votes needed to defeat a unionization effort at its Bessemer, Alabama warehouse, the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union announced that it intends to formally object to the election results and file unfair labor practice charges against the tech behemoth for "unlawfully interfering" with employees' right to organize.

"We won't let Amazon's lies, deception, and illegal activities go unchallenged, which is why we are formally filing charges against all of the egregious and blatantly illegal actions taken by Amazon during the union vote," said Stuart Appelbaum, president of RWDSU, the union that attempted to organize the roughly 6,000 Bessemer warehouse workers.

"We won't let Amazon's lies, deception, and illegal activities go unchallenged."
—Stuart Appelbaum, RWDSU

"Amazon knew full well that unless they did everything they possibly could, even illegal activity, their workers would have continued supporting the union," Appelbaum said. "That's why they required all their employees to attend lecture after lecture, filled with mistruths and lies, where workers had to listen to the company demand they oppose the union. That's why they flooded the internet, the airwaves, and social media with ads spreading misinformation. That's why they brought in dozens of outsiders and union-busters to walk the floor of the warehouse."

"Amazon's conduct has been despicable," added Appelbaum. "We demand a comprehensive investigation over Amazon's behavior in corrupting this election."

The RWDSU's statement came as an initial tally showed that Bessemer workers voted decisively against forming a union following a monthslong process that saw Amazon deploy a variety of aggressive anti-union tactics, fearing that a union victory would galvanize similar organizing efforts nationwide.

Nearly 1,800 of the 3,215 total votes cast went against the union while 738 ballots were in favor, according to the National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) count.

If RWDSU challenges the election results, there will be "a hearing to investigate the union's claims against Amazon," as HuffPost labor reporter Dave Jamieson explained Friday.

"NLRB officials could potentially set aside the results and order a new election if they find Amazon's behavior to be as egregious as the RWDSU has portrayed it," Jamieson noted. "A lengthy dispute could eventually go before the NLRB's board in Washington, which President Joe Biden could reshape in Democrats' favor as early as August."

In a statement on Friday, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka applauded Bessemer workers for courageously fighting for collective bargaining rights in the face of "systematic bullying and intimidation by one of the largest companies in the world."

Trumka argued that Amazon's "outrageous behavior" throughout the Bessemer election spotlights the urgent need for Congress to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, a proposed revamp of U.S. labor law that would strengthen union rights and crack down on employers' coercive activities. The bill won House approval in March but has run up against the 60-vote legislative filibuster in the Senate.

"Our rights have been steadily eroded by a handful of powerful elites," said Trumka. "We can't allow this societal failure to deprive one more worker of the freedom to organize. This is the fight of our time, and it starts with passing the PRO Act."

Others echoed Trumka's call for passage of the PRO Act, arguing the measure would have prevented Amazon from waging such a vicious anti-union campaign.

"We need the PRO Act because nearly every fucking thing Amazon did to harass and intimidate their workers throughout the election in Bessemer (which took longer than a presidential election!) would be illegal," said Ryan Kekeris, communications director of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.

"Imagine the 2020 elections but only [former President Donald] Trump was allowed to talk to voters, Biden had to stay in Canada and shout over the border, and Trump and his supporters had unfettered access to corral U.S. voters into a room, forbid you from leaving, and tell you that you had to vote for Trump," Kekeris continued. "Now imagine that under the eyes of the law this is considered completely fair and legal. That is how U.S. labor law works right now."

'Why the US Senate is so broken': Manchin vow to preserve filibuster imperils voting rights and much more

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia late Wednesday reiterated his opposition to abolishing—or even weakening—the 60-vote legislative filibuster, a stance that could imperil his party's hopes of passing popular legislation to protect voting rights, reform the inhumane U.S. immigration system, raise the federal minimum wage, and more.

In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Manchin described the archaic Senate rule as a "critical tool" to uphold "our democratic form of government" and declared that "there is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster."

"'There is bipartisan support for voting reform,' Manchin writes, as Republicans introduce 361 bills to restrict voting rights in 47 states."
—Ari Berman, Mother Jones

Manchin's characterization of the 60-vote threshold runs directly counter to the argument from progressives—and a growing number of conservative Democrats—that the rule threatens democracy by giving the minority party inordinate power to tank bills supported by a majority of members of Congress and broad swaths of the U.S. public.

In a narrowly divided Senate, the existence of the filibuster in its current form also gives lone senators like Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.)—another strident defender of the filibuster—significant leverage to influence legislation.

"Joe Manchin represents a state that is 1/22 the population of California and 92% white yet he can singlehandedly block policies supported by 70-80% of Americans," noted Ari Berman of Mother Jones. "This is why the U.S. Senate is so broken."

Manchin claimed in his op-ed that there is "bipartisan support" for many of the Democratic Party's top priorities—including infrastructure investments and some of the voting rights reforms proposed in the For the People Act—and expressed skepticism about using the filibuster-proof reconciliation process to pass major spending bills without needing Republican support.

But Manchin did not specifically explain how Senate Democrats can convince at least 10 Republicans to support key legislation when they have vocally opposed even the most basic elements of President Joe Biden's recently unveiled infrastructure package and dismissed the For the People Act as a "partisan power grab."

"Manchin is setting himself up to be Mr. Gridlock," said Adam Jentleson, a former Senate staffer and an outspoken advocate of filibuster reform. "He's putting himself on the hook to deliver 10 GOP votes on everything. When he fails, as he will, he'll be the one blocking broadly popular policies that improve people's lives and which Dems must pass to hold the majority in 2022."

Manchin's op-ed came as House Democrats continue to voice frustration with the Senate filibuster, which has consigned many popular House-passed bills to an increasingly crowded legislative graveyard.

After the Senate parliamentarian ruled Monday that Democrats can pass additional spending bills this year through the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) tweeted that "this is a temporary fix to a systemic issue."

"Enough with the procedural hurdles—just abolish the filibuster," Khanna added, embracing a position backed by a growing number of Senate Democrats in recent weeks. Scrapping the filibuster would require the support of the entire Senate Democratic caucus plus a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris.

Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the third-highest ranking House Democrat, lashed out at Manchin over his position on the filibuster and the For the People Act in an interview with HuffPost last week.

"I'm insulted when he tells me that it's more important to maintain a relationship with the minority in the U.S. Senate than it is for you to maintain a relationship with the minority of voters in America," Clyburn said. "That's insulting to me."

"Since when do [the minority party's] rights take precedence over your fellow Democrat [Sen. Raphael] Warnock, who saw his state just pass laws to keep him from getting reelected?" Clyburn continued. "And you're going to say it's more important for you to protect 50 Republicans in the Senate than for you to protect your fellow Democrat's seat in Georgia. That's a bunch of crap."

While Manchin has refused to waver in his opposition to eliminating the filibuster, he recently voiced support for reviving the talking filibuster. Such a change would represent a dramatic break from the current no-show filibuster, which allows senators to obstruct legislation by sending an email.

The West Virginia Democrat did not mention that potential reform in his new op-ed.

Ezra Levin, co-executive director of progressive advocacy group Indivisible, expressed hope Wednesday that despite his latest comments, Manchin can still be moved on the filibuster issue with sufficient organizing and pressure.

"Manchin is right that democracy reforms have broad bipartisan support. Just not in the Senate," Levin said. "Ultimately there's not much new in his op-ed—it's all talk until the vote is called. Like all politicians, he'll stick his finger in the wind, and it's up to us to change the weather."

Warnings of attempt to 'sabotage' diplomacy as Israel reportedly attacks Iranian ship

Israel reportedly informed U.S. officials that it was behind a Tuesday mine attack on an Iranian vessel stationed in the Red Sea, a dangerous escalation that came on the same day American and Iranian negotiators took part in European-led talks in Vienna on the 2015 nuclear agreement.

The timing of the attack, which Iranian media outlets reported Tuesday without assigning blame, raised suspicions that it was carried out with the express purpose of undermining steps toward a diplomatic solution on the nuclear accord. In 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump violated the agreement, which Israel's right-wing government has opposed from the beginning.

"Israel appears to be stepping up attacks on Iran to undermine diplomacy," argued Mohammad Ali Shabani, editor of Amwaj.media. "Same Catch 22 for Tehran as before: respond, and get blamed. Don't respond, and invite further attacks. One exit: Statements of condemnation from Iran's counterparts in Vienna."

Jamal Abdi, president of the National Iranian American Council, tweeted in response to the mine attack that "some U.S. lawmakers advocate for Israel to be in the room for any talks with Iran, presumably so they can blow negotiations up from the inside as well as the outside."

The New York Times reported that while Israeli officials had yet to publicly comment on the attack as of Tuesday night, "an American official said the Israelis had notified the United States that its forces had struck the [Iranian] vessel at about 7:30 am local time."

"There was no official Iranian confirmation of the attack as of Tuesday night," the Times noted, "but several Telegram social media channels operated by members of the Revolutionary Guards blamed Israel for the explosion."

Saeed Khatizadeh, a spokesperson for Iran's foreign ministry, told reporters Wednesday morning that "no fatalities were caused by the incident, and technical evaluations on how the incident occurred and its origins are underway."

The reported Israeli attack took place as Biden administration officials joined representatives from Europe, Iran, and other parties to the nuclear accord to discuss a potential U.S. return to the 2015 agreement, which Biden says he supports.

Abbas Araghchi, Iran's deputy foreign minister and lead negotiator in the talks, said Tuesday that the talks are on "the right track" but "it's too soon to say it has been successful."

Anti-war groups in the United States are hoping for a diplomatic breakthrough following years of saber-rattling by Trump, whose aggressive rhetoric and actions repeatedly dragged the U.S. and Iran to the brink of all-out military conflict.

"The American people, and the Iranian-American community in particular, want the Biden administration to resolve our ongoing disputes with Iran through diplomacy," Abdi said in a statement earlier this week. "Under Trump, the specter of war loomed large and was only narrowly avoided. It is encouraging to see renewed momentum toward a return to the deal under Biden."

"The U.S. can't afford to let this window pass without restoring the strong nonproliferation agreement that already navigated the difficult politics of Washington and Tehran," he added. "It is time to reseal the deal."

Did Democrats blow their chance to repeal a slew of Trump's regulatory attacks?

In recent weeks, progressive public interest organizations have identified—and implored congressional Democrats to repeal—dozens of former President Donald Trump's last-minute regulatory attacks on consumers, the environment, immigrants, Social Security, and more.

But by the time the deadline to introduce so-called "resolutions of disapproval" against the pending rules came and went Sunday, Democratic lawmakers had only taken aim at six Trump-era regulatory actions—and they have until next month to pass those resolutions to prevent the rules from taking effect.

"It's an ominous signal that congressional Democrats are not fully committed to maximizing their power."
—David Dayen, The American Prospect

Under an obscure 1996 law titled the Congressional Review Act (CRA), Congress has the power to nullify newly finalized federal regulations within 60 legislative days. Because CRA resolutions are not subject to the Senate filibuster, they require just a simple-majority vote in both chambers to pass.

While Republicans wasted little time jettisoning more than a dozen Obama-era regulatory moves when they took control of Congress in 2017, Democrats did not show similar urgency to use their authority under the CRA after winning back both chambers earlier this year.

As The American Prospect's David Dayen argued Tuesday, the majority party's failure to adequately wield the CRA has a lot "to do with the difference between Democrats and Republicans in Congress when it comes to regulatory matters."

"Most Republicans have a regulatory reform staffer in their offices. Most Democrats don't," Dayen noted. "As a result, the process was a scramble, funneled through a House and Senate Democratic leadership that had a muted, at best, interest in using the tool. Strong pushback outside of Congress finally yielded the handful of resolutions that did manage to beat the deadline."

"But even if this landed in a not-disastrous place," Dayen added, "it's an ominous signal that congressional Democrats are not fully committed to maximizing their power."

One unnamed observer told Dayen that "Democrats get owned on regulatory issues day in and day out."

"The problem," the person said, "is they didn't want to do the work."

Jeff Hauser, director of the Revolving Door Project, echoed that sentiment in a tweet on Tuesday:

The six CRA resolutions that Democrats managed to introduce ahead of the April 4 deadline include measures targeting Trump's weakening of Obama-era methane rules, one of the former president's many attacks on Social Security beneficiaries, and a gift to predatory lenders.

"If they let the clock run down, they will essentially concede that the CRA is just one more legislative maneuver that only Republicans are allowed to exploit."
—Mark Joseph Stern, Slate

However, according to The Prospect, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has not yet committed to holding a vote on all six CRA resolutions. The New York Democrat has promised to take action shortly on resolutions dealing with the Obama methane rules and a regulation on workplace bias claims, HuffPost reported Monday.

Should congressional Democrats fail to pass their six resolutions by next month, the Biden administration will still have the ability to scrap the surviving Trump-era regulations—but it will have to do so through the arduous, months-long administrative process.

"The considerable policy benefits aside, helping Biden help people faster is plainly good politics," wrote Eleanor Eagan, research director at the Revolving Door Project. "Rightly or wrongly, Democrats' control of both chambers of Congress will depend a great deal on Biden's performance over the next two years. And while the [Covid-19] recovery bill made for a strong start, that goodwill is unlikely to endure for the duration of this Congress absent additional action."

In a column last month, Slate's Mark Joseph Stern noted that "many Democrats have complained that the filibuster has stymied their agenda—yet they now have a brief opportunity to slash away at Trump's legacy with a simple majority, and they are blowing it."

"If they let the clock run down," Stern added, "they will essentially concede that the CRA is just one more legislative maneuver that only Republicans are allowed to exploit."

To halt '30-year race to the bottom,' Yellen calls for global minimum tax on corporations

In an effort to end what she called the "30-year race to the bottom on corporate tax rates," U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Monday urged her counterparts around the world to join her in embracing a global minimum tax aimed at preventing companies from shifting profits offshore to slash their bills.

The proliferation of so-called "tax havens" around the world in recent years contributed to the sharp decline in the average global corporate tax rate—which has fallen from around 40% in 1980 to 24% today—as countries adjusted their rates downward to either attract multinationals or prevent companies from seeking to stash their profits elsewhere.

Yellen argued in a speech to The Chicago Council on Global Affairs Monday that the "pressures of tax competition" are eroding corporate tax bases across the world, undermining nations' efforts to establish "stable tax systems that raise sufficient revenue to invest in essential public goods and respond to crises."

As the Washington Post's Jeff Stein reported last month, "From 2000 to 2018, 76 countries cut their corporate tax rates, according to the OECD. Over that same period, 12 countries maintained their corporate tax level, and only six increased them. In 2000, more than 55 countries had corporate tax rates above 30 percent. Now, fewer than 20 do."

In her address, Yellen vowed to work with G20 nations to "agree to a global minimum corporate tax rate that can stop the race to the bottom."

"Together we can use a global minimum tax to make sure the global economy thrives based on a more level playing field in the taxation of multinational corporations, and spurs innovation, growth, and prosperity," she added.

Gabriel Zucman, an associate professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, applauded Yellen's push for a global minimum tax, a proposal he has long supported as a way to eliminate incentives for offshoring.

"A high global minimum tax can change the face of globalization—by making its main winners (multinational companies) pay more in taxes, instead of them paying less and less," Zucman said following Yellen's remarks Monday.

While Yellen didn't specify a preferred rate for the proposed global minimum tax, U.S. President Joe Biden's recently released infrastructure proposal calls for hiking the minimum tax on U.S. multinational corporations to 21 percent—up from the current 10.5% level set by the GOP's 2017 tax law—and calculating the rate "on a country-by-country basis so it hits profits in tax havens."

In a paper (pdf) published earlier this year, Zucman and two of his colleagues offered an example of how Biden's minimum corporate tax proposal would likely work:

In its simplest form, collecting the tax deficit of multinationals involves taxing the foreign earnings of U.S. multinationals at some minimum rate (21% in the case of Biden's proposal), with credits given to offset foreign taxes paid. For example, imagine that Apple books $10 billion in profits in Ireland—taxed in Ireland at 5%—and $3 billion in Jersey—taxed in Jersey at 0%. The United States would tax Apple's Irish income at 16% and Apple's Jersey income at 21%.
More broadly, the United States would impose country-by-country taxes such that Apple's effective tax rate, in each of the countries where it operates, equals at least 21%. In other words, the United States would, for its own multinationals, play the role of tax collector of last resort: it would collect the taxes that foreign countries chose not to collect.
This policy does not violate any international treaty. It does not require the cooperation of tax havens. It doesn't even require new data: the necessary information exists.

Commentators in Ireland are already fretting about what the Biden administration's push for a global minimum tax could mean for the country's status as one of the world's most welcoming tax havens. Cliff Taylor of The Irish Times warned last week that "the Republic's 12.5% corporate tax rate is facing a new threat, with the United States signaling its support... for a global minimum corporate tax rate."

"It remains to be seen what is passed by the U.S. Congress," Taylor wrote, referring to Biden's infrastructure plan, "but the implication is that if the bulk of this is passed, Ireland's 12.5% rate may no longer be a significant attraction for U.S. companies looking for where to invest."

In a report released Monday, experts at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argued that "reforming U.S. taxes on the foreign profits of U.S. multinationals would position the United States as a global leader in international taxation, which is especially important this year as OECD countries work toward a once-in-a-century global tax deal." More than 140 countries are taking part in the OECD talks, which began in 2017.

"Yellen has expressed a desire to engage 'robustly' in these negotiations, and Congress should support that effort," the report notes. "Moreover, reforming the international tax system would raise significant revenue to invest in infrastructure and workers, which is a far better way to strengthen the economy and support innovation than continuing to permit large-scale tax avoidance by multinationals that drain U.S. revenues and encourage multinationals to locate profits and investment offshore."

Joe Manchin under fire for threatening to block infrastructure bill over corporate tax hike

Senate Democrats late Monday received a green light from the chamber's parliamentarian to pass additional bills through the arcane budget reconciliation process this year, good news for the party's efforts to approve a multi-trillion dollar infrastructure package in the face of unified Republican opposition.

But several conservatives in the Senate Democratic caucus, with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W-Va.) leading the pack, are threatening to stand in the way of the infrastructure proposal unless they get what they want—namely, a smaller tax hike on corporate America.

"'Centrists' always try to neuter whatever is offered just to show how tough they are and own the left. It's all performative and devoid of any sort of principle."
—Krystal Ball, HillTV

In an appearance on a local radio show Monday, Manchin said he and "six or seven other" Senate Democrats "feel very strongly" about reducing the corporate tax rate proposed in President Joe Biden's opening infrastructure bid from 28% to 25%, up from the current rate of 21%.

With their razor-thin control of the chamber, Senate Democrats can't afford to lose a single vote if they opt to push the infrastructure bill through the reconciliation process, which requires a mere simple majority to pass legislation.

"If I don't vote to get on it, it's not going anywhere. So we're going to have some leverage here," Manchin said Monday. Parroting right-wing talking points on the supposedly counterproductive effects of higher corporate taxes, the West Virginia Democrat added, "We have to be competitive and we're not going to throw caution to the wind."

Progressives were quick to slam Manchin's opposition to the proposed 28% corporate tax rate as disingenuous, given his previous support for a 28% rate. Political commentator Mehdi Hasan mocked the notion that Manchin "has put some super serious thought into the difference between a 25% and 28% corporate tax rate and isn't just trying to split the difference between GOP outlier position and reasonable Biden proposal."

Krystal Ball, host of HillTV's "Rising," added that "'centrists' always try to neuter whatever is offered just to show how tough they are and own the left. It's all performative and devoid of any sort of principle."

Speaking to the press Monday afternoon, Biden dismissed the notion that raising the corporate tax rate would harm the U.S. economy.

"There's no evidence of that," the president said. "You have 51 or 52 corporations of the Fortune 500 [that] haven't paid a single penny in taxes for three years. Come on, man. Let's get real."

As The Daily Poster reported late Monday, "Manchin's proposed change would have a huge impact on how the Biden infrastructure plan is paid for, while largely preserving a tax policy that is delivering a disproportionately huge windfall to a tiny handful of executives at major corporations.

"Manchin's move could also particularly benefit private equity firms that have converted from partnership structures to C Corporations to take advantage of President Donald Trump's tax law, which dropped the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent," the outlet noted.

Manchin's comments Monday came hours before the Senate parliamentarian—an unelected official tasked with interpreting and offering advice on the chamber's rules—said Democrats can use the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process to pass additional spending legislation this year, giving the party additional flexibility as it attempts to maneuver around intransigent Republicans without heeding progressive demands to eliminate the 60-vote filibuster.

A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said late Monday that the parliamentarian's advisory ruling "allows Democrats additional tools to improve the lives of Americans if Republican obstruction continues."

"This is what the American people want right now. And our job is to rally the American people in every state in this country to make sure that the government starts working for the working class of this country, not just the 1%."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders

"While no decisions have been made on a legislative path forward... and some parameters still need to be worked out," the spokesperson continued, "the parliamentarian's opinion is an important step forward that this key pathway is available to Democrats if needed."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chair of the Senate Budget Committee, called the parliamentarian's ruling "important" and stressed the need for an ambitious bill that addresses the nation's pressing needs, from climate to core infrastructure to healthcare.

"In other words, right now, what this new reconciliation package is about is dealing with long-term structural problems," Sanders said. "Everybody knows our physical infrastructure is collapsing. We know we can create millions of jobs, transforming our energy system away from fossil fuel. But also we have got to deal with human infrastructure."

Asked Sunday about Manchin's opposition to key elements of Biden's roughly $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, Sanders said "I think we need a grassroots movement that makes it clear to Joe Manchin and everybody else in the United States Senate, including the Republicans, that the progressive agenda is what the American people want."

"They want to raise the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour; they believe that healthcare is a human right, should be universal; they demand that the rich start paying their fair share of taxes," the Vermont senator continued. "These are not my ideas, this is what the American people want right now. And our job is to rally the American people in every state in this country to make sure that the government starts working for the working class of this country, not just the 1%."

'Follow the money': Corporations gave $50 million to GOP lawmakers behind voter suppression onslaught

Since 2015, AT&T, Comcast, UnitedHealth Group, Walmart, and other big businesses have donated a combined $50 million to state Republican lawmakers who are currently supporting voter suppression bills across the United States—generous political spending at odds with recent corporate efforts to rebrand as defenders of voting rights.

A new report (pdf) released Monday morning by consumer advocacy group Public Citizen found that during the 2020 election cycle alone, U.S. corporations donated $22 million to Republican architects of voter suppression bills that are advancing through state legislatures nationwide.

"Corporations should keep their money out of our democracy—and Congress must put the people back in charge by swiftly passing the For The People Act."
—Rick Claypool, Public Citizen

"AT&T [since 2015] has given the most, $811,000," Public Citizen found, citing data from The National Institute on Money in Politics. "AT&T is followed by Altria/Philip Morris, Comcast, UnitedHealth Group, Walmart, State Farm, and Pfizer. Household names that fell just out of the top 25 list... include Nationwide ($182,000), Merck ($180,000), CVS ($174,000), John Deere ($159,000), and Caterpillar ($157,000)."

"This is why you follow the money, not the good PR," Public Citizen tweeted.

The group's findings came after a number of prominent corporations—including AT&T, Comcast, and Georgia-based companies Coca-Cola and Delta—issued statements denouncing a sweeping Georgia voter suppression measure only after Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed it into law last month.

Despite vocal demands for them to speak out and use their influence to fight the bill, those companies were largely quiet as the measure made its way through Georgia's Republican-dominated legislature.

Between 2015 and 2020, according to Public Citizen, corporations donated more than $10.8 million to Georgia Republicans who are supporting the 26 voter suppression bills that have been introduced in the state's legislature this year. Corporations have also donated big to voter suppression advocates in Texas, Arizona, Virginia, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Arkansas.

"From coast to coast, politicians that Corporate America helped elect are pushing racist voter suppression laws," Rick Claypool, research director for Public Citizen's president's office and one of the authors of the new report, told Common Dreams.

"No matter how many PR statements Big Business puts out, its complicity with the anti-democratic forces that want to make voting harder is clear," Claypool added. "Corporations should keep their money out of our democracy—and Congress must put the people back in charge by swiftly passing the For The People Act."

According to the latest tally by the Brennan Center for Justice, legislators have introduced 361 bills with vote-restricting provisions in 47 states this year, and five have become law.

In the wake of the January 6 Capitol insurrection by a mob of Trump supporters, many large corporations vowed to temporarily suspend all political giving as they faced backlash for financially supporting Republican members of Congress who helped provoke the attack with brazen lies about the 2020 presidential election.

But Public Citizen argued Monday that such face-saving efforts—as well as belated disavowals of voter suppression measures—"will amount to a meaningless gesture if corporations continue to bankroll the bills' supporters with future campaign contributions."

"The days in which corporate America can fund politicians and then claim no responsibly for their actions may be coming to an end," the group said. "Corporations seeking to demonstrate their reverence for our democracy could best do so by ending their attempts to influence the outcomes of elections at the federal and state levels."

'EPA needs to step in': Florida workers race to prevent massive spill of radioactive waste

Florida workers over the weekend rushed to prevent the collapse of a reservoir wall containing hundreds of millions of gallons of wastewater from a defunct phosphate mine, a looming environmental catastrophe that prompted mandatory evacuation orders and a declaration of emergency by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

"With 24 more phosphogypsum stacks storing more than one billion tons of this dangerous, radioactive waste in Florida, the EPA needs to step in right now."
—Jaclyn Lopez, Center for Biological Diversity

A leak in the Piney Point reservoir was first reported late last month, sparking fears of a complete breach and possible upending of stacks of phosphogypsum, a radioactive waste product of fertilizer manufacturing. During a briefing on Saturday, a public safety official for Florida's Manatee County warned that "structural collapse" of the storage reservoir "could occur at any time."

To prevent a full-fledged breach and contain spillage, local work crews on Sunday continued actively pumping tens of thousands of gallons of toxic wastewater per minute into Tampa Bay. As The Guardian reported Sunday, Manatee County officials "warned that up to 340 million gallons could engulf the area in 'a 20-foot wall of water' if they could not repair" the leak.

Justin Bloom, founder of the Sarasota-based nonprofit group Suncoast Waterkeeper, said in a statement Sunday that "we hope the contamination is not as bad as we fear, but are preparing for significant damage to Tampa Bay and the communities that rely on this precious resource."

"It looks like this is turning out to be the 'horror' chapter of a long, terrible story of phosphate mining in Florida and beyond," Bloom added.

Aerial footage posted to YouTube by a local news outlet shows the leak at the Piney Point reservoir as of Sunday morning:

The Environmental Protection Agency said late Sunday that it is "actively monitoring the ongoing situation at Piney Point" and has "deployed an on-scene coordinator" to work with local officials.

Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said Sunday that the crisis was "entirely foreseeable and preventable" and cries out for immediate intervention by the federal government.

"With 24 more phosphogypsum stacks storing more than one billion tons of this dangerous, radioactive waste in Florida, the EPA needs to step in right now," Lopez said. "Federal officials need to clean up this mess the fertilizer industry has dumped on Florida communities and immediately halt further phosphogypsum production."

Progressives beg Biden not to take the GOP bait on 'bipartisanship'

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal late Thursday argued that President Joe Biden and Democratic lawmakers should forge ahead with an ambitious infrastructure package without attempting to cater to the minority GOP, a party the Washington Democrat said has no interest in good-faith negotiations or combating the climate crisis.

"Let's not water down a bill for a party that's not actually interested in bipartisanship or wait for Republicans to have some awakening on climate change," said Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. "Let's move with the urgency and boldness that this moment calls for."

Jayapal's message came hours after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) predicted that Biden's roughly $2.3 trillion infrastructure and climate package "is not going to get support from our side," pointing specifically to the plan's proposed rollback of the GOP's 2017 corporate tax cuts.

Republican lawmakers made clear they would object to Biden's proposal before he even released it, but the president still appears to be holding out some hope for a bipartisan package as he faces pressure from progressives to invest much more in revamping the nation's decaying infrastructure and transitioning the U.S. energy system away from fossil fuels.

"I'm going to bring Republicans into the Oval Office; listen to them, what they have to say; and be open to other ideas," Biden said in a speech Wednesday. "We'll have a good-faith negotiation with any Republican who wants to help get this done. But we have to get it done."

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas.), the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, quickly rejected Biden's Oval Office invite as "disingenuous."

As the Washington Post reported, Biden "phoned McConnell on Tuesday to brief him on the details before the White House unveiled the infrastructure plan." A day later, McConnell dismissed the proposal as a "Trojan horse for far-left demands."

With the GOP leaving little doubt about its plans to stand in the way of a package whose broad outlines are extremely popular with the American public—including 50% of self-identified Republicans—progressives are urging the Biden administration and congressional Democrats to go it alone, either by using budget reconciliation or eliminating the Senate filibuster.

"We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in our infrastructure, climate, communities, and people," Jayapal said Thursday. "Now is the time to go big."

Dozens of Democrats urge Biden to take 'critical step' of shutting down Dakota Access pipeline

A bicameral group of more than 30 Democratic lawmakers and Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday called on President Joe Biden to immediately order a shutdown of the Dakota Access pipeline as it undergoes a court-ordered environmental impact review.

"In 2016, we witnessed egregious environmental racism as North Dakota law enforcement officials violently removed protestors from the path of DAPL, many of them from the nearby Standing Rock Sioux Tribe."
—Letter

In January, a federal appeals court upheld a district judge's order for a more extensive environmental assessment of the crude oil project—but reversed the part of the judge's ruling that would have required a pause in pipeline operations during the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' review.

Following the January ruling, a group of five Democratic lawmakers led by Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.) sent a letter imploring Biden to step in and immediately shut down the pipeline, whose ownership group includes Energy Transfer, Phillips 66, and Enbridge. On Thursday, 28 lawmakers from the House and Senate joined the pressure campaign as Indigenous youth rallied in support of the DAPL shutdown call near the White House.

"By shutting down this illegal pipeline, you can continue to show your administration values the environment and the rights of Indigenous communities more than the profits of outdated fossil fuel industries," the lawmakers wrote. "This is a critical step towards righting the wrongs of the past and setting our nation on a path of environmental, climate, and social justice."

A new court hearing on the pipeline is set for April 9.

Indigenous tribes and environmentalists argue that the Dakota Access pipeline—which has leaked repeatedly since it began delivering oil in 2017—is operating unlawfully as its owners continue a yearslong permitting battle.

"This pipeline is now operating illegally. It doesn't have any permits," said Jan Hasselman, an EarthJustice attorney who is representing the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes in their fight against the 1,100-mile pipeline, which stretches from North Dakota to Illinois and has the capacity to transport 570,000 barrels of oil per day.

"The appeals court put the ball squarely in the court of the Biden administration to take action," said Hasselman. "And I mean shutting the pipeline down until this environmental review is completed."

Read the Democratic lawmakers' full letter:

Dear President Biden:
Thank you for the bold early actions your administration has taken to prioritize climate action and environmental justice, including your announcement in January to withdraw permits for the Keystone XL pipeline. We urge you to build on this promising start by ordering a shutdown of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) while it undergoes a court-mandated environmental review.
In 2016, we witnessed egregious environmental racism as North Dakota law enforcement officials violently removed protestors from the path of DAPL, many of them from the nearby Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Fortunately, President Obama denied the pipeline an easement to cross a federal reservoir along the Missouri River, while requiring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This action was quickly undermined by President Trump, who upon taking office reversed course and granted the easement while ignoring the concerns of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
On January 26, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a ruling upholding a March 2020 United States District Court decision that the USACE violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it granted the easement. The USACE did not adequately consider the potential impacts of the pipeline on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, and did not consult with the tribe and other affected communities about those impacts. The tribe draws its water from the Missouri River, and rightfully fears an oil spill could disproportionately affect their drinking water, as well as hunting and fishing rights. The District Court postponed its hearing on the shutdown until April 9th to discuss its plans with the Administration.
In July of 2020, the District Court invalidated DAPL's easement and ordered the pipeline shut down while the USACE prepares an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The federal appeals court has upheld this ruling that the pipeline is illegal and directed the government to make a decision on the pipeline promptly.
As you consider how to proceed, we encourage you to meet with members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other impacted Tribes to better understand how the DAPL affects their lands, treaty rights, and environmental priorities. By shutting down this illegal pipeline, you can continue to show your administration values the environment and the rights of Indigenous communities more than the profits of outdated fossil fuel industries. This is a critical step towards righting the wrongs of the past and setting our nation on a path of environmental, climate, and social justice.

'We need to tax the rich': Global billionaires have grown $4 trillion wealthier during pandemic

A new analysis out Thursday morning shows that the world's 2,365 billionaires have seen their collective fortunes grow by $4 trillion during the coronavirus pandemic, a staggering windfall that prompted demands for a global wealth tax aimed at curbing inequality and funding key priorities such as the lagging international vaccination effort.

Conducted by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) on behalf of the Patriotic Millionaires and Millionaires for Humanity, the new report draws on data from several sources to demonstrate that the wealth of the planet's billionaires jumped 54% amid the global Covid-19 crisis and resulting economic collapse.

"Taxing wealth has to be a key, central policy for all governments if we want to build beyond the skewed and faulty economic system we previously had."
—Morris Pearl, Patriotic Millionaires

"Their combined wealth rose from $8.04 trillion to $12.39 trillion between March 18, 2020 and March 18, 2021," the report notes. "At the global level, the wealthiest 20 billionaires have a combined $1.83 trillion in wealth—with an increase of $742 billion, or 68%, over the pandemic year. In comparison, the 2019 GDP of Spain was $1.3 trillion."

Chuck Collins, researcher with the Program on Inequality at IPS, said in a statement that the enormous wealth billionaires accumulated during the pandemic "should be taxed to cover the cost of vaccinating the world and reducing inequality throughout the global economy."

"Unless we tax the world's billionaires," Collins warned, "the legacy of the pandemic will be accelerated concentrations of wealth and power."

If global billionaires had been required to pay an annual wealth levy modeled on U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) proposed Ultra-Millionaire Tax—which calls for a 2% tax on assets over $50 million and a 3% tax on assets over $1 billion—"they would have paid an estimated $345 billion in wealth taxes," according to IPS.

"The annual revenue from this wealth tax would be more than twice the estimated $141.2 billion cost of delivering Cpvid-19 vaccines to every person on the planet," the group notes, citing cost estimates (pdf) from Oxfam International.

With finance ministers from G20 nations set to meet next week to discuss the coronavirus-induced economic crisis and paths to recovery, Patriotic Millionaires chair Morris Pearl argued that a global wealth tax must be on the agenda.

"Taxing wealth has to be a key, central policy for all governments if we want to build beyond the skewed and faulty economic system we previously had," said Pearl. "The G20 finance ministers, and international finance institutions, need to foster a recovery beyond regressing to the same-old, same-old. We need to tax the rich."

Centrist Democrats panned for demanding revival of major tax break for the rich

A small but potentially influential group of House Democrats on Tuesday threatened to oppose an emerging climate and infrastructure package if it does not restore a tax deduction that overwhelmingly benefits the richest households in the country.

The state and local tax (SALT) deduction was capped at $10,000 as part of the 2017 Republican tax-cut legislation, a change that prompted outcry from centrist blue-state House Democrats who represent the higher-income, higher-tax areas that were disproportionately impacted by the limit. The House voted to eliminate the cap in 2019—a move opposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and other prominent progressives—but the effort died in the then-Republican Senate.

"They could easily just increase the cap a bit so the top one percent doesn't get the lion's share of the benefit. But Gottheimer and Suozzi want to remove the cap entirely, because that's what local oligarchs want."
—Ryan Cooper, The Week

Now, with Democrats in control of the upper chamber, several lawmakers are using their leverage in the narrowly Democratic House to try to force a full repeal of the SALT cap into upcoming legislation. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) estimates that 62% of the benefits of repeal would go to the richest 1%.

In a joint statement late Tuesday afternoon, Reps. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), and Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.) declared that they "will not accept any changes to the tax code that do not restore the SALT deduction and put fairness back into the system."

"We say, 'No SALT, no deal,'" the lawmakers said. "The GOP passed an unfair cap of $10,000 on state and local tax (SALT) deductions to pay for their 2017 tax giveaway. Due to the GOP cap, our home states of New York and New Jersey have been crushed and residents have been leaving for other states."

The trio of House Democrats issued their demand just 24 hours ahead of President Joe Biden's expected release of a $2.25 trillion infrastructure and climate package that the president is aiming to finance by hiking taxes on the wealthy and corporations. While Biden is pushing to partially reverse some elements of the 2017 GOP tax law—including its cut to the corporate tax rate—the initial package is not expected to call for repeal of the SALT cap.

Axios reported earlier this week that Gottheimer and other centrist Democrats are pushing back against some of the proposed tax increases while simultaneously demanding repeal of the SALT cap as a necessary component of the forthcoming package.

In a column on Tuesday, The Week's Ryan Cooper argued that "Democratic moderates are holding climate policy hostage to get a tax cut for the rich." He continued:

The deduction is effectively a roundabout subsidy of high-tax blue states (because it lessens the burden of paying their often higher taxes), and capping it was a gleeful Republican finger into the eye of places like Maryland, New York, and California. But the benefits of removing the cap would be extraordinarily regressive. It would cost about $357 billion over just five years, and according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, over half of that money would be collected by the top 1 percent. Meanwhile, the bottom four-fifths of Americans would get basically nothing...
There are a modest number of arguably middle-class people affected by the SALT cap, but even in New Jersey and New York the vast majority of people hit by this are very comfortable or better. If Democrats wanted to throw a bone to union pipefitters in Long Island (or whoever) paying huge property tax bills thanks to old homes that have appreciated a lot, they could easily just increase the cap a bit so the top one percent doesn't get the lion's share of the benefit. But Gottheimer and Suozzi want to remove the cap entirely, because that's what local oligarchs want.

Politico reported Tuesday that in addition to Gottheimer, Suozzi, and Pascrell, "several more lawmakers are in conversations about the [SALT cap repeal] effort and plan to formally join in the coming days."

"Right now, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team can only afford to lose three Democratic votes," Politico noted. "The push to revisit SALT—which comes as Biden unveils his multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure proposal on Wednesday—comes with a hefty price tag: $88.7 billion for 2021 alone, and far more for a permanent repeal of the cap."

The idea of repealing the SALT cap has also won buy-in from some House progressives, including Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) and Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.)—though they have not publicly demanded repeal as part of the upcoming infrastructure package.

"There are some members who feel very strongly about it," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told reporters Tuesday. "I'm not sure that our members will see it as one of the fundamental reforms for the tax system that would make the system more fair."

Biden called on to fire Trump Social Security holdovers for 'appalling' relief check sabotage

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, added her name Monday to the growing list of lawmakers and advocacy groups calling on President Joe Biden to fire two Trump-appointed Social Security Administration officials for allegedly sabotaging the effort to deliver relief payments to millions of seniors and people with disabilities.

In a statement, Jayapal (D-Wash.) said it is "appalling and outrageous" that SSA Commissioner Andrew Saul and Deputy Commissioner David Black "have delayed the delivery of survival checks to 30 million Americans."

"In delaying these payments, Commissioner Saul and Deputy Commissioner Black have shown a profound contempt for the American people and are unfit to continue to serve in their roles at the Social Security Administration."
—Rep. Pramila Jayapal

"This is not a game—for millions of people, these checks are a lifeline to put food on the table, refill prescriptions, and put gas in the car," Jayapal added.

As Common Dreams reported last week, the Internal Revenue Service asked SSA to send over key payment information two weeks before the March 11 approval of the latest round of direct relief payments in an effort to ensure Social Security recipients would receive their checks in a timely manner.

But SSA inexplicably failed to provide the information until March 25, significantly delaying the process of distributing the payments to struggling retirees. In a statement that same day, Saul attempted to blame Congress for the hold-up and suggested that anyone criticizing the agency over the delay is casting aspersions on rank-and-file SSA staffers—many of whom have themselves voiced disapproval of Saul and Black's leadership.

"In delaying these payments, Commissioner Saul and Deputy Commissioner Black have shown a profound contempt for the American people and are unfit to continue to serve in their roles at the Social Security Administration," Jayapal said Monday.

"The American people should be able to trust that the senior leadership of the Social Security Administration will advocate on their behalf—not needlessly and cruelly obstruct the delivery of survival checks," the Washington Democrat continued. "Commissioner Saul and Deputy Commissioner Black should be removed from their positions immediately."

Progressives have made clear that Saul and Black's handling of the relief payment information is just one of many reasons they are pressuring Biden to remove the two officials, both of whom were at the center of the Trump administration's yearslong assault on Social Security.

Social Security Works, a progressive advocacy group that has been urging Biden to terminate the SSA leaders for months, argues (pdf) that the president has the authority to unilaterally remove Saul and Black. The two officials' six-year terms aren't set to expire until 2025.

In an op-ed for Common Dreams on Monday, Social Security Works executive director Alex Lawson wrote that "it's unclear if Saul and Black delayed the survival checks in a deliberate attempt to sabotage the Biden administration, or if they are just extremely incompetent."

"But their record shows that they deserve zero benefit of the doubt," Lawson continued. "For years, Saul and Black have worked to cut Social Security benefits and union-bust the agency's workforce. They want to make it harder to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, and easier to take them away. According to a whistleblower report, they threatened to fire judges for approving too many disability claims—which is illegal."

"President Biden, it's long past time," Lawson added. "Fire Andrew Saul and David Black immediately."

Descendants of FDR and his cabinet urge Biden to embrace 'New Deal-scale' public jobs program

With the pandemic-induced economic emergency far from over as weekly jobless claims and long-term unemployment remain sky-high, descendants of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and key members of his Cabinet published an open letter Tuesday morning urging President Joe Biden to embrace a "New Deal-scale" public jobs program to help end the crisis and set the stage for an equitable recovery.

"What President Franklin Roosevelt said, when taking office in the depths of the Great Depression, remains true today: 'A host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return.… Our greatest primary task is to put people to work," the new letter reads. "Today's crisis of unemployment requires a federal response at least as bold as they designed to pull America out of the Great Depression and usher in the New Deal."

"Sustained government investment in our infrastructure and our people lifted us out of the Great Depression and I believe President Biden is thinking along those very same lines."
—Tomlin Perkins Coggeshall, grandson of Frances Perkins

Released as Biden is set to unveil the details of his nascent infrastructure and green jobs package, the letter was signed by James Roosevelt, Jr., the grandson of FDR; Harry Hopkins, the grandson of former Agriculture Secretary Henry Wallace; June Hopkins, the granddaughter of former Commerce Secretary Harry Hopkins; Tomlin Perkins Coggeshall, the grandson of former Labor Secretary Frances Perkins; and Harold M. Ickes, the son of former Interior Secretary Harold L. Ickes.

The descendants of key architects of the New Deal—the ambitious series of programs that helped end the Great Depression of the 1930s and provide permanent economic assistance for millions—argued that a similarly ambitious approach will be necessary to reverse the damage inflicted by the most unequal economic crisis in modern U.S. history.

Specifically, the letter presses Biden to support legislation led by Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) that aims to establish a new jobs program through the Social Security Act, one of the most important and enduring New Deal programs.

"The 'Jobs for Economic Recovery Act'... is boldly New Deal-ish in its potential to quickly get Americans back to work," the letter reads. "The legislation would enable unemployed Americans to work in wage-paying jobs, carrying out useful projects, until they can be absorbed in the recovering labor market."

"If they were alive today," the letter continues, "we believe our New Deal forebears... would agree that the 'Jobs for Economic Recovery Act' should be included in the recovery plan you send to Congress."

The group also applauds Biden's January executive order directing the Interior Department to begin work establishing a "Civilian Climate Corps," an initiative modeled on a major New Deal public works program.

"We hope your modern-day version will add urban projects, such as building retrofits for energy efficiency, urban gardens and bike paths, and brownfield remediation, in addition to tackling the 21st Century climate challenges identified in your order, like carbon sequestration in soils and plants, and strengthening coastal and marine ecosystems," the letter reads.

The fresh calls for Biden to emulate the New Deal in his response to the coronavirus crisis comes weeks after the president reportedly hosted historians in the White House to discuss "how big is too big—and how fast is too fast—to jam through once-in-a-lifetime historic changes to America."

"President Biden took notes in a black book as they discussed some of his most admired predecessors," according to Axios. "Then he said to Doris Kearns Goodwin: 'I'm no FDR, but...' He'd like to be. The March 2 session, which the White House kept under wraps, reflects Biden's determination to be one of the most consequential presidents."

While some analysts have pumped the breaks on commentary likening the temporary relief programs established by the recently passed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan and the lasting, transformational accomplishments of the New Deal and Great Society, others have argued that Biden "doesn't need to be FDR or LBJ to change America," as New York magazine's Eric Levitz recently put it.

Amid progressive demands for as much as $10 trillion in new infrastructure spending over the next decade, Biden is expected to begin releasing a recovery package that—according to the Washington Post—could call for $4 trillion in spending on a variety of initiatives, including "proposals to repair the nation's physical infrastructure, such as its bridges, railways, ports, water systems and more, as well as revive domestic manufacturing; invest in research and development; expand clean energy investments, and create a nationwide infrastructure for electric vehicles."

Coggeshall, the founder of the Frances Perkins Center and one of the new letter's signatories, said in a statement Tuesday that his "grandmother, an architect of the New Deal and Social Security, would be very pleased with President Biden's leadership in this time of grave economic hardship and inequality."

"Sustained government investment in our infrastructure and our people lifted us out of the Great Depression," Coggeshall added, "and I believe President Biden is thinking along those very same lines."

Read the full letter:

Dear Mr. President:
We write, as the descendants of the men and women who designed the New Deal, to commend your focus on the urgency of big, bold action to create jobs to help America build back better. Specifically, we commend your Civilian Climate Corps Initiative, and we heartily recommend including the "Jobs for Economic Recovery Act" in the upcoming economic recovery package.
What President Franklin Roosevelt said, when taking office in the depths of the Great Depression, remains true today: "A host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return.… Our greatest primary task is to put people to work."
The concept of a Civilian Climate Corps, laid out in your January 27 executive order on climate, harkens back to one of the New Deal's most successful jobs programs, the Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC gave jobs to some three million unemployed young people on projects like dams, phone lines, and irrigation. CCC workers planted millions of trees, built hundreds of trails, and constructed dozens of visitor facilities in parks.
We hope your modern-day version will add urban projects, such as building retrofits for energy efficiency, urban gardens and bike paths, and brownfield remediation, in addition to tackling the 21st Century climate challenges identified in your order, like carbon sequestration in soils and plants, and strengthening coastal and marine ecosystems. We commend your improving on the original CCC to include women and people of color. We recommend a focus on veterans and homeless unemployed, and an element of education and skills training. Many federal agencies can usefully partner in the new CCC, including Agriculture, Interior, Labor, Commerce, HUD, the VA, EPA, and perhaps the Army—which, in the original CCC, played an indispensable role in the logistics of organizing and running the 2500 work camps sprinkled in grateful communities all across America. And of course, the new CCC should rely on the expertise and infrastructure built in more recent years by AmeriCorps and the nation's Corps Network of 130 service and conservation corps.
The "Jobs for Economic Recovery Act"—just reintroduced as S. 784 by Senators Ron Wyden, Tammy Baldwin, Chris Van Hollen, Michael Bennet, and Cory Booker, and whose prior House version has the support of Representatives Danny Davis and Gwen Moore—is boldly New Deal-ish in its potential to quickly get Americans back to work.
The legislation would enable unemployed Americans to work in wage-paying jobs, carrying out useful projects, until they can be absorbed in the recovering labor market. It gives the lead to states, tribes, and local governments in designing specific employment projects to meet the varied needs of a diverse country. Like the new CCC, it ensures that groups left behind by the New Deal's jobs programs—Blacks, Hispanics, Asian and Pacific Island Americans, LGBTQ+ individuals, other minorities, women, and people with disabilities—will get their fair share of wage-paying jobs.
It also is careful not to infringe on the rights of workers and unions, or to displace current employees or spending. Rather, the "Jobs for Economic Recovery Act" will add hundreds of thousands of workers by creating new and useful jobs.
We believe that many of these jobs will advance your priorities on the environment, health, and infrastructure:
  • Your new CCC could be expanded with funds provided under the Act.
  • Public health initiatives, like contact tracing and removing the lead paint that primarily poisons Black, Hispanic, and low-income children, could be bolstered.
  • Major infrastructure projects, such as fixing decaying roads and expanding broadband in rural areas, could also be accelerated under the Act.
Americans want to support themselves and their families by doing useful work, but the COVID-19 pandemic has severely shrunk the labor market. The real unemployment rate, as Federal Reserve Chair Powell and Treasury Secretary Yellen have made clear, remains near 10 percent. The U.S. has shed a net of roughly 9 million jobs in just a year.
To reboot the economy, and to provide paid work in the future for many who will still remain left out and left behind—especially Blacks, Hispanics, other minorities, persons with disabilities, and residents of isolated rural areas and segregated urban neighborhoods—the "Jobs for Economic Recovery Act" is the right policy.
If they were alive today, we believe our New Deal forebears—
  • President Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Vice President, and Agriculture and Commerce Secretary, Henry Wallace
  • WPA Administrator, and Commerce Secretary, Harry Hopkins
  • Labor Secretary Frances Perkins, and
  • Interior Secretary, and PWA Administrator, Harold Ickes
—would agree that the "Jobs for Economic Recovery Act" should be included in the recovery plan you send to Congress. We ask this in their names—above all, because today's crisis of unemployment requires a federal response at least as bold as they designed to pull America out of the Great Depression and usher in the New Deal.
Sincerely yours,
James Roosevelt, Jr.
Henry Scott Wallace
June Hopkins
Tomlin Perkins Coggeshall
Harold M. Ickes

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