Jake Johnson

Ron DeSantis signs 'outrageous and blatantly unconstitutional' bill into law

Florida's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed into law a bill that civil rights groups warn is designed to crack down on peaceful demonstrations and criminalize dissent by redefining "rioting" in an overbroad way and creating draconian new felonies for protest-related offenses.

While DeSantis and the bill's Republican sponsors in the Florida legislature presented HB1 as a response to the attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters earlier this year, critics say the measure—crafted well before the January 6 attack—is in fact a reaction against the racial justice protests that followed the police killing of George Floyd last May.

"Let's be clear: this is not an anti-riot bill, regardless of what supporters claim," Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said in a statement Monday. "It is a bill that criminalizes peaceful protest, and the impact HB1 will have on Floridians cannot be disputed. Each and every provision harkens back to Jim Crow."

Kubic went on to warn that under the new law—which is part of a wave of similar Republican measures under consideration nationwide—protesters could be arrested and charged with a felony if others at a protest or gathering became violent or disorderly, even if they themselves didn't." According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, HB1 defines rioting as a public disturbance by at least three people with "common intent to mutually assist each other in disorderly and violent conduct."

"The goal of this law is to silence dissent and create fear among Floridians who want to take to the streets to march for justice," said Kubic. "Every single Floridian should be outraged by this blatant attempt to erode our First Amendment right to peacefully assemble. It is outrageous and blatantly unconstitutional. Gov. DeSantis' championing of and signature on this law degrades, debases, and disgraces Florida and our democracy."

As the Orlando Sentinel reported Monday, the new law makes blocking a highway a felony offense and "creates a broad category for misdemeanor arrest during protests, and anyone charged under that provision will be denied bail until their first court appearance."

The law also "grants civil legal immunity to people who drive through protesters blocking a road, which Democrats argued would have protected the white nationalist who ran over and killed counter-protester Heather Heyer during the Charlottesville tumult in 2017," the Sentinel noted.

Democratic state Sen. Shevrin Jones said in a statement Monday that HB1 "undermines every Floridian's constitutional rights, and it is disgusting that the GOP would rather empower vigilantes and silence voices than listen to the majority of Floridians who oppose this dangerous bill."

"The governor's spectacle is a distraction that will only further disenfranchise Black and brown communities," said Jones.

Progressives fume as Democrats eye smaller corporate tax hike to appease centrists

Senate Democrats are reportedly considering lowering the corporate tax rate proposed in President Joe Biden's infrastructure plan from 28% to 25% to mollify centrists in the caucus, a backtrack that would leave hundreds of billions of dollars in potential revenue on the table.

Citing sources close to negotiations over the nascent infrastructure package, Axios reported Sunday that "Democrats close to the White House expect Biden will accept 25% and pocket it as a political win."

But progressives found little to celebrate in settling for a corporate tax rate 10% lower than it was during the Obama administration. In 2017, then-President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans lowered the rate from 35% to 21% as part of their massive and unpopular tax cut legislation.

"The top corporate tax rate before Trump was 35%. Saying 'corporations must pay their fair share' should mean that pre-Trump rates are the starting point," said Ohio congressional candidate Nina Turner. "We also need to close the loopholes companies use to get away with paying $0 in federal income taxes."

Earlier this month, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)—the most conservative Senate Democrat and a key swing vote—said in an appearance on a local radio show that he and "six or seven other" Democratic senators "feel very strongly" about moving to a 25% tax rate instead of 28%. Senate Democrats can't afford to lose a single vote given their narrow control of the upper chamber, leaving individual senators with significant power to shape legislation.

According to Axios, "Democrats who've privately hinted they may be uncomfortable with going to 28% include Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner of Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and Jon Tester of Montana."


Manchin, for his part, has offered little by way of concrete justification for his push for a smaller corporate tax hike. In 2012, the West Virginia Democrat supported an Obama proposal to lower the corporate tax rate from 35% to 28%—a rate Manchin now apparently believes is too high.

In response to Manchin's new stance on the 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."

Haggling over the proposed corporate tax hike comes as Democrats are attempting to chart a path forward for Biden's infrastructure package amid unified Republican opposition to the roughly $2.3 trillion plan. Last week, Manchin's fellow West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R) suggested that keeping in place the current 21% corporate tax rate is a "non-negotiable red line" for the GOP in infrastructure negotiations—a position that one top Democrat rejected as absurd.

"Corporate revenue is down nearly 40% from the 21st century average since Republicans' tax giveaway," Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement. "In 2018, the United States was dead last among OECD countries in how much corporate tax revenue it collected as a share of GDP."

"Republicans' insistence that the most profitable companies in the world shouldn't contribute a single penny to investments in roads, schools, and our clean-energy future is simply not acceptable," Wyden added.

'Completely unreasonable': Dems push back against GOP demand for no corporate tax hike in infrastructure plan

Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said Thursday that keeping in place the current 21% corporate tax rate is a "non-negotiable red line" in infrastructure negotiations, a position that Democratic lawmakers rejected as "completely unreasonable" as they face pressure from progressives to forge ahead without the GOP.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement Thursday that "corporations have never contributed less to federal revenues than they do now" thanks in large part to the 2017 Republican tax cuts, which slashed the corporate rate from 35% to 21%.

"Our analysis of CBO data shows corporate revenue is down nearly 40% from the 21st century average since Republicans' tax giveaway," said Wyden. "In 2018, the United States was dead last among OECD countries in how much corporate tax revenue it collected as a share of GDP."

"Republicans' insistence that the most profitable companies in the world shouldn't contribute a single penny to investments in roads, schools, and our clean-energy future is simply not acceptable," the Oregon Democrat added.

Capito is part of a 20-member bipartisan group of senators that is aiming to construct an alternative to President Joe Biden's $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal, but the GOP has yet to publicly offer any concrete suggestions—a signal, according to some observers, that Republicans are not actually interested in negotiating.

Earlier this week, Capito said an infrastructure package totaling between $600-$800 billion—a dramatic cut to Biden's opening offer—would be the "sweet spot" for Republicans. Asked to explain why she prefers that range, Capito replied: "It's just a ballpark figure. It doesn't—it may not even be that much. I don't know. I just kind of threw that out as a talking point."

"This is such a silly process," Adam Jentleson, a former Senate staffer, said in response to Capito's comments. "Republicans are unserious and there is simply no reason for Democrats to cut the bill by 60% or more. There's a point where bipartisanship starts becoming entirely about vanity and posturing."

If Senate Democrats refuse to heed growing calls to eliminate the 60-vote legislative filibuster, they will need to win over at least 10 Republicans or use the restrictive budget reconciliation process to pass an infrastructure package.

Following Capito's remarks on Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—chair of the Senate Budget Committee—told HuffPost that he believes "Democrats have finally caught on that we're not going to be negotiating forever."

"If Republicans are serious, I'd love to hear their ideas," said Sanders. "If they're not, we'll have to move along."

Despite Republicans' vocal dismissals of his infrastructure proposal and refusal to entertain any corporate tax increases, Biden has publicly remained committed to pursuing compromise. Ahead of a meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Monday, the president said that he is "prepared to negotiate as to the extent of the infrastructure project, as well as how we pay for it."

While corporate tax hikes are anathema to big business-friendly Republicans, they are broadly popular with the U.S. public. According to a Morning Consult poll released last week, nearly two-thirds of U.S. voters support raising corporate taxes to fund Biden's infrastructure proposal.

Progressive lawmakers in the House and Senate, meanwhile, are pushing Biden and congressional Democrats to pursue a much more sweeping package that includes major investments in core infrastructure and climate as well as caregiving and other priorities.

"It's time to go big and it's time to go bold, and enact these as part of a single, ambitious package," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement last week, countering a push by some centrist Democrats to split the plan into two separate bills.

"We agree that it's time for transformative change," said Jayapal, "and we look forward to working with the Biden administration to expand on their proposal and ensure that the American Jobs Plan goes big to truly meet the needs of the public."

'Shame': Biden to advance Trump-era sale of $23 billion in F-35s and a​rmed drones to UAE

The Biden administration has reportedly informed Congress that it is planning to advance a $23.4 billion sale of weaponry to the United Arab Emirates that was inked under former President Donald Trump, a move anti-war critics denounced as a betrayal of President Joe Biden's recent pledge to end U.S. support for "offensive operations" in Yemen.

One of the major members of the Saudi-led coalition that has been bombing and strangling Yemen since 2015, the UAE is set to receive 50 F-35 fighter jets, more than a dozen armed drones, and billions of dollars worth of munitions from the U.S. if the deal receives final approval.

A State Department spokesperson told HuffPost Tuesday that "the administration intends to move forward with these proposed defense sales to the UAE, even as we continue reviewing details and consulting with Emirati officials to ensure we have developed mutual understandings with respect to Emirati obligations before, during, and after delivery."

The spokesperson would not comment on the New York Center for Foreign Policy Affairs' ongoing lawsuit against the State Department over the sale, which the nonprofit group says is illegal.

"It is our hope that the Biden administration would put mitigating a humanitarian crisis of global proportions before putting arms in the hands of an aggressor nation like the UAE," Justin Russell, principal director of the New York Center for Foreign Policy Affairs, told HuffPost, referring to UAE interventions in Yemen and Libya.

Shireen Al-Adeimi, an assistant professor at Michigan State University, said the decision to advance the $23 billion weapons sale is "more evidence that Biden's pledge to end the war on Yemen was only performative."


In December, the then-Republican-controlled Senate voted down a resolution that would have blocked the Trump White House's lame-duck arms sale to the UAE, prompting calls for Biden to swiftly cancel the deal upon taking office.

During his first week in the White House, the Biden administration imposed a temporary freeze on arms sales to the Saudi kingdom and said it would more closely examine the UAE deal. At the time, the UAE ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba evinced no concern about the move, saying that "the UAE anticipated a review of current policies by the new administration."

Anti-war activists warned that the UAE agreement, which will likely take years to complete, would put more high-tech weaponry under the control of a country that has shown complete disregard for human rights in Yemen and elsewhere.

"Just as you can predict the consequence of selling a loaded pistol to a serial murderer, you can anticipate the damage that will be wrought by this arms deal," Michael Eisner and Sarah Leah Whitson of Democracy for the Arab World Now wrote for The Nation in December. "The UAE has a well-documented track record of using its advanced weaponry to launch aggressive and unlawful incursions into other countries, engaging in systematic human rights violations, and war crimes along the way."

Kate Kizer, policy director at Win Without War, said Tuesday that allowing the UAE deal to proceed "is an absurd decision that flies directly in the face of President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken's stated commitment to centering human rights in our foreign policy."

"We have to stop choosing political expediency over human rights," Kizer added.

Just 0.2% of COVID vaccine doses have gone to poor nations as rich countries shield pharma monopolies

The head of the World Health Organization estimated in a recent address that of the more than 700 million coronavirus vaccine doses that have been administered across the globe, just 0.2% have gone to people in low-income nations—inequity that experts warn will persist unless rich countries end their obstruction of an international effort to suspend vaccine patents.

Speaking to the media on Friday, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus warned that "there remains a shocking imbalance in the global distribution of vaccines" as pharmaceutical companies cling to their monopoly control over technology that was developed with large infusions of public money.

"On average in high-income countries, almost one in four people has received a vaccine. In low-income countries, it's one in more than 500," said Tedros. "Let me repeat that: one in four versus one in 500."

Tedros went on to lament the struggles of the global vaccine initiative COVAX, which he said "had been expecting to distribute almost 100 million doses by the end of March" but has instead only sent out 38 million due to "a marked reduction in supply." COVAX has partnered with several major pharmaceutical companies, including AstraZeneca and Pfizer, in an effort to ensure access to vaccines in developing countries.

"The problem is not getting vaccines out of COVAX; the problem is getting them in," said Tedros.


The Associated Press reported Saturday that "as many as 60 countries, including some of the world's poorest, might be stalled at the first shots of their coronavirus vaccinations because nearly all deliveries through the global program intended to help them are blocked until as late as June."

"COVAX, the global initiative to provide vaccines to countries lacking the clout to negotiate for scarce supplies on their own, has in the past week shipped more than 25,000 doses to low-income countries only twice on any given day. Deliveries have all but halted since Monday," AP noted. "During the past two weeks, according to data compiled daily by UNICEF, fewer than two million COVAX doses in total were cleared for shipment to 92 countries in the developing world—the same amount injected in Britain alone."

According to a recent Bloomberg analysis of vaccination data, "the world's least wealthy continent, Africa, is also the least vaccinated. Of its 54 countries, only three have have inoculated more than 1% of their populations. More than 20 countries aren't even on the board yet."

The ongoing struggles of COVAX and the inadequacy of bilateral vaccine agreements have only served to heighten calls for more sweeping action at the international level to redress inequities that could prolong and intensify the global pandemic.

One effort, led by South Africa and India, to temporarily lift vaccine-related intellectual property rights has gone nowhere due to wealthy World Trade Organization members such as the United States and the United Kingdom, whose opposition has left vaccine production largely under the control of major pharmaceutical corporations.

Proponents say South Africa and India's patent waiver—supported by more than 100 nations around the world and predictably opposed by the pharmaceutical industry—would accelerate production and distribution of doses by allowing manufacturers to replicate vaccine formulas.


Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), wrote in a blog post Friday that "getting the world vaccinated is not about some feel-good gestures, like a few billion dollars for COVAX."

"It means pulling out all the stops to produce and distribute billions of vaccines as quickly as possible. To do this, we need the cooperation of the whole world and the elimination of all the barriers to the production and distribution of vaccines," Baker argued. "This would mean suspending intellectual property claims over these vaccines. From a moral standpoint, this should not be a tough call since governments paid for so much of the development costs."

"What are we going to do if a new and more deadly vaccine-resistant strain develops in Zambia or Burma? I don't want to hear another chorus of 'who could have known?' from our intellectuals who missed another huge one," Baker continued. "Let's get it right this time, even if it means having to do things a little differently. Our leaders are not forced to take a vow of incompetence."

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."

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

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.

"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."

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), chair emeritus of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Friday that he supports "RWDSU's filing an objection to the conduct of the election and related unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board—a right that they clearly have under the National Labor Relations Act."

"Amazon's workers deserve to be treated better than they have been on the warehouse floor," added Pocan, "and better than they have been during this election."

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 sweeping and 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."

Congress urged to reject Biden's 'unconscionable' $715 billion Pentagon budget

President Joe Biden on Friday is reportedly expected to request a $715 billion budget for the Pentagon for fiscal year 2022, a slight increase from the previous year and a far cry from the substantial reduction that progressive lawmakers and advocacy groups are demanding.

Politico reported late Thursday that the Pentagon budget topline the president is set to propose represents "a roughly 1.5% increase in defense spending from the current year's [$704 billion] level, making it effectively an inflation-adjusted budget boost." The $715 billion would be for the Pentagon only, not including military-related spending for other agencies such as the Energy Department, which maintains the country's nuclear weapons.

While Biden's expected Pentagon request is lower than the $722 billion projected for FY2022 by the Trump administration in its final budget blueprint, analysts and anti-war critics said any increase in the Defense Department's bloated budget would be unacceptable.

"Following a year of deadly proof that throwing money at the Pentagon does not keep us safe from modern-day threats, it is unconscionable to not only extend Trump's spending spree, but to add to it," Erica Fein, advocacy director of Win Without War, said in a statement. "We urge Congress to reject the topline Pentagon funding proposal and cut back Pentagon spending to at least the Obama-Biden levels."

"While we're repeatedly asked how we will afford to address these truly existential threats, the same question is never asked of adding to the Pentagon's already-overstuffed coffers," Fein continued. "Let's be clear: continuing to funnel near-limitless resources into the pockets of arms manufacturers while underfunding public goods only undermines the safety of people in the United States and around the world."


William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Program at the Center for International Policy, said late Thursday that "the Biden administration's decision to increase the Pentagon budget from near-record levels is both misguided and disappointing."

"At a time when over half a million Americans have died in a pandemic, climate change continues to have catastrophic impacts, and there is an urgent need to address racial and economic inequality, it is apparent that the greatest challenges to our lives and livelihoods are not military in nature," added Hartung. "The Pentagon budget should reflect these realities."

White House budget proposals are effectively messaging documents that outline the administration's spending priorities, so the topline Pentagon figure could change significantly as Congress negotiates spending levels for the next fiscal year.

As hawkish Republican lawmakers clamor for an even larger Pentagon budget increase, dozens of progressive members of Congress have pressured Biden in recent weeks to slash Defense Department outlays.

"Hundreds of billions of dollars now directed to the military would have greater return if invested in diplomacy, humanitarian aid, global public health, sustainability initiatives, and basic research," a group of 50 House Democrats led by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) wrote in a letter to Biden last month.

In a separate letter to congressional committees on March 24, a coalition of advocacy groups argued that at least $80 billion can easily be slashed from the FY2022 Pentagon budget by canceling additional purchases of F-35 fighter jets and Trump's Space Force, among other costly boondoggles.

"The Pentagon budget—which jumped more than $130 billion during the Trump presidency—is replete with spending on overpriced weapons that don't work, rip-off deals for private contractors, gigantic investments in pointless or outdated weapons systems, and waste and mismanagement so severe the agency cannot pass an audit," Public Citizen president Robert Weissman said in a statement Thursday. "It is, indeed, a tribute to the power of the military-industrial complex."

"There are hundreds of billions of dollars to be saved by appropriate cuts to the Pentagon budget," Weissman added. "What is most important for the FY22 budget is that it be smaller than FY21, in order to signal that we are finally moving in the right direction and shifting resources from the Pentagon to investments in people."

'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."

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."

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.

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.

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."

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