Jon Queally

Bill Gates comes under fire after comments on the global vaccine shortage

Bill Gates, one of the world's richest men and most powerful philanthropists, was the target of criticism from social justice campaigners on Sunday after arguing that lifting patent protections on Covid-19 vaccine technology and sharing recipes with the world to foster a massive ramp up in manufacturing and distribution—despite a growing international call to do exactly that—is a bad idea.

Directly asked during an interview with Sky News if he thought it "would be helpful" to have vaccine recipes be shared, Gates quickly answered: "No."

Asked to explain why not, Gates—whose massive fortune as founder of Microsoft relies largely on intellectual property laws that turned his software innovations into tens of billions of dollars in personal wealth—said that: "Well, there's only so many vaccine factories in the world and people are very serious about the safety of vaccines. And so moving something that had never been done—moving a vaccine, say, from a [Johnson & Johnson] factory into a factory in India—it's novel—it's only because of our grants and expertise that that can happen at all."

The reference is to the Serum factory in India, the largest such institute in the country, which has contracts with AstraZeneca to manufacture their Covid-19 vaccine, known internationally as Covishield.

The thing that's holding "things back" in terms of the global vaccine rollout, continued Gates, "is not intellectual property. It's not like there's some idle vaccine factory, with regulatory approval, that makes magically safe vaccines. You know, you've got to do the trial on these things. Every manufacturing process needs to be looked at in a very careful way."

Critical advocates for robust and immediate change to intellectual property protections at the World Trade Organization when it comes to the Covid-19 vaccines, however, issued scathing indictments of Gates' defense of the status quo.

Nick Dearden, executive director of Global Justice Now, one of the lead partner groups in an international coalition calling for WTO patent waivers at a crucial meeting of the world body next month, characterized Gates' remarks—and the ideological framework behind them—as "disgusting."

"Who appointed this billionaire head of global health?" asked Dearden. "Oh yeah, he did."

Journalist Stephen Buryani, who on Saturday wrote an in-depth Guardian column on the urgent need for the patent waivers and technology sharing, offered a similarly negative view of the billionaire's "awful" arguments against sharing the vaccine technology.

Gates, charged Buryani, "acts like an optimist but has a truly dismal vision of the world."

During the Sky News interview, Gates said it was "not completely surprising" that the richest nations like U.S., U.K., and others in Europe vaccinated their populations first. He said that made sense because the pandemic was worse in those countries, but said he believed that "within three or four months the vaccine allocation will be getting to all the countries that have the very severe epidemic."

Watch the full interview:

COVID-19: Bill Gates hopeful world 'completely back to normal' by end of 2022 www.youtube.com

Offering his interpretation of what Gates was actually throughout the interview, Buryani paraphrased it this way: "We can't make more vaccines, we can't compromise profits, we can't trust poor countries with our technology, and they'll get their scraps after we eat."

"The poverty of vision from [Gates] and other 'leaders' has been astounding," added Buryani. "Smallpox, Polio, both had joined-up responses that shared knowledge and technology across the world. We're happy to let the *pharma* market sort out the biggest crisis of our lifetimes. Totally on autopilot."

While public health experts agree that developing nations may not have the current know-how or capacity to produce advanced vaccines at scale, they argue that is also the result of policy choices that governments and others have made. Earlier this month 66 organizations called on the U.S. to initiate a global vaccine manufacturing program that, in tandem with patent waivers and recipe sharing, would pave the way for ramped up capacity.

"The U.S. government has helped produce hundreds of millions of vaccine doses for people living in the U.S., on a relatively short timeline. The same is needed—and within reach—for all countries," said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen's Access to Medicines program, at the time. "The key missing ingredient is ambitious political leadership, to end the pandemic for everyone, everywhere."

Meanwhile, in a detailed online social media thread earlier this month, journalist and activist Cory Doctor stated that while numerous "people helped create our 'Vaccine Apartheid,' the single individual who did the most to get us here is Bill Gates, through his highly ideological 'philanthropic' foundation, which exists to push his pitiless doctrine of unfettered monopoly."

Doctorow also pointed people to a feature in The New Republic by Alexander Zaitchik earlier this month which details Gates has long used his "hallowed foundation" and position as the "world's de facto public health czar" to defend the intellectual property regime that is now central to the fight between those defending "Vaccine Apartheid" on the one hand and international campaigners fighting for a "People's Vaccine" that would unleash the life-saving inoculations from their corporate masters in the pharmaceutical industry.

According to Zaitchik:

In April [of 2020], Bill Gates launched a bold bid to manage the world's scientific response to the pandemic. Gates's Covid-19 ACT-Accelerator expressed a status quo vision for organizing the research, development, manufacture, and distribution of treatments and vaccines. Like other Gates-funded institutions in the public health arena, the Accelerator was a public-private partnership based on charity and industry enticements. Crucially, and in contrast to the C-TAP, the Accelerator enshrined Gates's long-standing commitment to respecting exclusive intellectual property claims. Its implicit arguments—that intellectual property rights won't present problems for meeting global demand or ensuring equitable access, and that they must be protected, even during a pandemic—carried the enormous weight of Gates's reputation as a wise, beneficent, and prophetic leader.
How he's developed and wielded this influence over two decades is one of the more consequential and underappreciated shapers of the failed global response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Entering year two, this response has been defined by a zero-sum vaccination battle that has left much of the world on the losing side.

Quoted in the piece is James Love, founder and director of Knowledge Ecology International, which studies public policy and intellectual property as it intersects with public health and the drug industry. Love explains just how powerful the influence of Gates and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been in curtailing the conversation around I.P. and vaccines.

"If you said to an ordinary person, 'We're in a pandemic. Let's figure out everyone who can make vaccines and give them everything they need to get online as fast as possible,' it would be a no-brainer," Love told TNR. "But Gates won't go there. Neither will the people dependent on his funding. He has immense power. He can get you fired from a U.N. job. He knows that if you want to work in global public health, you'd better not make an enemy of the Gates Foundation by questioning its positions on I.P. and monopolies. And there are a lot of advantages to being on his team. It's a sweet, comfortable ride for a lot of people."

Back at the beginning of the pandemic in March of 2020, said Love, "Things could have gone either way, but Gates wanted exclusive rights maintained." That, argues, was crucial in terms of what has happened since.

As Doctorow also suggests in his exploration of the issue, the fix was in from the beginning in terms of intellectual property and the Covid-19 pandemic and nobody should take seriously Gates' argument that there's simply not enough time to make lifting patent protections a priority at this point.

"Having sabotaged the efforts by poor countries to engage in the kind of production ramp-up the rich world saw as vaccines were being developed, it may NOW be too late," tweeted Doctorow. "Because of my bad ideas THEN, it's too late NOW."

Share vaccine recipes with poor during pandemic? One of world's richest men says 'no'

Bill Gates, one of the world's richest men and most powerful philanthropists, was the target of criticism from social justice campaigners on Sunday after arguing that lifting patent protections on Covid-19 vaccine technology and sharing recipes with the world to foster a massive ramp up in manufacturing and distribution—despite a growing international call to do exactly that—is a bad idea.

Directly asked during an interview with Sky News if he thought it "would be helpful" to have vaccine recipes be shared, Gates quickly answered: "No."

Asked to explain why not, Gates—whose massive fortune as founder of Microsoft relies largely on intellectual property laws that turned his software innovations into tens of billions of dollars in personal wealth—said that: "Well, there's only so many vaccine factories in the world and people are very serious about the safety of vaccines. And so moving something that had never been done—moving a vaccine, say, from a [Johnson & Johnson] factory into a factory in India—it's novel—it's only because of our grants and expertise that that can happen at all."

The reference is to the Serum factory in India, the largest such institute in the country, which has contracts with AstraZeneca to manufacture their Covid-19 vaccine, known internationally as Covishield.

The thing that's holding "things back" in terms of the global vaccine rollout, continued Gates, "is not intellectual property. It's not like there's some idle vaccine factory, with regulatory approval, that makes magically safe vaccines. You know, you've got to do the trial on these things. Every manufacturing process needs to be looked at in a very careful way."

Critical advocates for robust and immediate change to intellectual property protections at the World Trade Organization when it comes to the Covid-19 vaccines, however, issued scathing indictments of Gates' defense of the status quo.


Nick Dearden, executive director of Global Justice Now, one of the lead partner groups in an international coalition calling for WTO patent waivers at a crucial meeting of the world body next month, characterized Gates' remarks—and the ideological framework behind them—as "disgusting."

"Who appointed this billionaire head of global health?" asked Dearden. "Oh yeah, he did."

Journalist Stephen Buryani, who on Saturday wrote an in-depth Guardian column on the urgent need for the patent waivers and technology sharing, offered a similarly negative view of the billionaire's "awful" arguments against sharing the vaccine technology.

Gates, charged Buryani, "acts like an optimist but has a truly dismal vision of the world."

During the Sky News interview, Gates said it was "not completely surprising" that the richest nations like U.S., U.K., and others in Europe vaccinated their populations first. He said that made sense because the pandemic was worse in those countries, but said he believed that "within three or four months the vaccine allocation will be getting to all the countries that have the very severe epidemic."

Watch the full interview:


COVID-19: Bill Gates hopeful world 'completely back to normal' by end of 2022 www.youtube.com

Offering his interpretation of what Gates was actually throughout the interview, Buryani paraphrased it this way: "We can't make more vaccines, we can't compromise profits, we can't trust poor countries with our technology, and they'll get their scraps after we eat."


"The poverty of vision from [Gates] and other 'leaders' has been astounding," added Buryani. "Smallpox, Polio, both had joined-up responses that shared knowledge and technology across the world. We're happy to let the *pharma* market sort out the biggest crisis of our lifetimes. Totally on autopilot."

While public health experts agree that developing nations may not have the current know-how or capacity to produce advanced vaccines at scale, they argue that is also the result of policy choices that governments and others have made. Earlier this month 66 organizations called on the U.S. to initiate a global vaccine manufacturing program that, in tandem with patent waivers and recipe sharing, would pave the way for ramped up capacity.

"The U.S. government has helped produce hundreds of millions of vaccine doses for people living in the U.S., on a relatively short timeline. The same is needed—and within reach—for all countries," said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen's Access to Medicines program, at the time. "The key missing ingredient is ambitious political leadership, to end the pandemic for everyone, everywhere."

Meanwhile, in a detailed online social media thread earlier this month, journalist and activist Cory Doctor stated that while numerous "people helped create our 'Vaccine Apartheid,' the single individual who did the most to get us here is Bill Gates, through his highly ideological 'philanthropic' foundation, which exists to push his pitiless doctrine of unfettered monopoly."


Doctorow also pointed people to a feature in The New Republic by Alexander Zaitchik earlier this month which details Gates has long used his "hallowed foundation" and position as the "world's de facto public health czar" to defend the intellectual property regime that is now central to the fight between those defending "Vaccine Apartheid" on the one hand and international campaigners fighting for a "People's Vaccine" that would unleash the life-saving inoculations from their corporate masters in the pharmaceutical industry.


According to Zaitchik:

In April [of 2020], Bill Gates launched a bold bid to manage the world's scientific response to the pandemic. Gates's Covid-19 ACT-Accelerator expressed a status quo vision for organizing the research, development, manufacture, and distribution of treatments and vaccines. Like other Gates-funded institutions in the public health arena, the Accelerator was a public-private partnership based on charity and industry enticements. Crucially, and in contrast to the C-TAP, the Accelerator enshrined Gates's long-standing commitment to respecting exclusive intellectual property claims. Its implicit arguments—that intellectual property rights won't present problems for meeting global demand or ensuring equitable access, and that they must be protected, even during a pandemic—carried the enormous weight of Gates's reputation as a wise, beneficent, and prophetic leader.

How he's developed and wielded this influence over two decades is one of the more consequential and underappreciated shapers of the failed global response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Entering year two, this response has been defined by a zero-sum vaccination battle that has left much of the world on the losing side.

Quoted in the piece is James Love, founder and director of Knowledge Ecology International, which studies public policy and intellectual property as it intersects with public health and the drug industry. Love explains just how powerful the influence of Gates and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been in curtailing the conversation around I.P. and vaccines.

"If you said to an ordinary person, 'We're in a pandemic. Let's figure out everyone who can make vaccines and give them everything they need to get online as fast as possible,' it would be a no-brainer," Love told TNR. "But Gates won't go there. Neither will the people dependent on his funding. He has immense power. He can get you fired from a U.N. job. He knows that if you want to work in global public health, you'd better not make an enemy of the Gates Foundation by questioning its positions on I.P. and monopolies. And there are a lot of advantages to being on his team. It's a sweet, comfortable ride for a lot of people."

Back at the beginning of the pandemic in March of 2020, said Love, "Things could have gone either way, but Gates wanted exclusive rights maintained." That, argues, was crucial in terms of what has happened since.

As Doctorow also suggests in his exploration of the issue, the fix was in from the beginning in terms of intellectual property and the Covid-19 pandemic and nobody should take seriously Gates' argument that there's simply not enough time to make lifting patent protections a priority at this point.

"Having sabotaged the efforts by poor countries to engage in the kind of production ramp-up the rich world saw as vaccines were being developed, it may NOW be too late," tweeted Doctorow. "Because of my bad ideas THEN, it's too late NOW."

'Utterly disgusting': Big Pharma lobby blitz against vaccine patent waivers denounced

As campaigners worldwide continue their efforts to unleash live-saving vaccine patents and technology from the profitable control of major pharmaceutical corporations this week, new reporting by The Intercept details the "army of lobbyists" Big Pharma has aimed at U.S. lawmakers in order to kneecap the global push to lift intellectual property through a waiver at the World Trade Organization.

"We have multiple safe and effective vaccines, what we lack now is the political will to increase their supply and facilitate the distribution of these vaccines everywhere."
—Abby Maxman, Oxfam AmericaIn a story published Friday, journalist Lee Fang cites "newly filed disclosure forms from the first quarter of 2021" to reveal that "over 100 lobbyists have been mobilized to contact lawmakers and members of the Biden administration, urging them to oppose a proposed temporary waiver" of patent protections at the WTO—a push led by India and South Africa and backed by the World Health Organization, over a hundred nations, and public health experts and justice advocates worldwide.

According to Fang's reporting:

Pharmaceutical lobbyists working against the proposal include Mike McKay, a key fundraiser for House Democrats, now working on retainer for Pfizer, as well as several former staff members to the U.S. Office of Trade Representative, which oversees negotiations with the WTO.

Several trade groups funded by pharmaceutical firms have also focused closely on defeating the generic proposal, new disclosures show. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and the International Intellectual Property Alliance, which all receive drug company money, have dispatched dozens of lobbyists to oppose the initiative.

In response to the revelations, Heidi Chow, senior policy and campaign manager for the U.K.-based Global Justice Now, called the corporate lobbying blitz fighting against increased vaccine production "utterly disgusting and immoral" amid a global pandemic that has already claimed north of 3 million lives worldwide.

"Millions continue to die because pharma monopolies have created vaccine scarcity in the global south," tweeted Chow. "We need a #PeoplesVaccine."

Shailly Gupta, communications adviser to the Access Campaign with Doctors Without Borders, which advocates for a global system in which vaccine technology is made universally available to the world's poorest nations, also shared Fang's story as she bemoaned the "pandemic profiteering" it represents.


On Friday, as Common Dreams reported, Sen. Bernie Sanders led other U.S. lawmakers in Congress in a demand to the Biden administration to back the WTO waiver as they presented a petition signed by over 2 million people.

"We have the tools to save human lives, and those tools should be readily available to all people," said Sanders during an online event Friday. "Poor people in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and throughout the world have as much a right to be protected from the virus, to live, as people in wealthier nations. To me, this is not a huge debate, this is common human morality."

Abby Maxman, president and CEO Oxfam America and who also participated in the event, said, "We have multiple safe and effective vaccines, what we lack now is the political will to increase their supply and facilitate the distribution of these vaccines everywhere." President Biden, she urged, "must seize this historic opportunity to mobilize vaccine access to all by supporting the WTO proposal by South Africa, India, and others to temporarily waive intellectual property rights related to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments to encourage generic manufacturing in their own markets."

But even as the international movement for the WTO waiver has gained steam, including in the U.S., Fang reports how the effort "has encountered fierce opposition from leading drug companies, who stand to lose profit and who fear that allowing a waiver would lead to less stringent IP enforcement in the future."


In a column for The Guardian on Saturday, science and environmental writer Stephen Buranyi argues the intransigence of the wealthy nations "seems mind-bogglingly shortsighted." According to Buranyi:

The world desperately needs coronavirus vaccines. About 430m doses have been produced so far this year, enough for about 215 million people. And of the doses already given, about half have gone to the richest 16% of the world's population. Covax, the World Health Organization initiative to transfer vaccines to nations in need, has delivered just 38m doses. According to analysis by the Center for Global Development and the Economist, nations in the global south may not reach widespread vaccination until 2023.

The situation is dire, and we need more vaccines. At the moment, there is no worldwide joined-up effort to expand production. As incredible as it sounds, after all the public money that went into vaccine development, making and distributing them has been left entirely up to the market. Each company has its own—totally secret—recipes and supply chains, and they insist no other approach is possible.

But public policy experts like Dean Baker, co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), have endlessly explained that alternative approaches are both available and possible, but that Big Pharma interests continue to block the political pathway to achieving them.

"With the pandemic costing millions of lives around the world and costing our economies trillions in lost output," Baker wrote earlier this month, "we really should be asking whether the current system serves us well in producing vaccines, tests, and treatments. Incredibly, public debate is so dominated by the pharmaceutical industry and its allies that we are primarily seeing celebration of the system's dubious claims to success, rather than discussions of the ways in which system was and is failing us in addressing the pandemic."

As political activist Lauren Steiner tweeted in response to Fang's reporting, pharmaceutical giants who are blocking patent waivers that could save millions of lives and help bring a much faster and comprehensive end to the Covid-19 pandemic "should change their name from the health care industry to the death industry."

Arkansas GOP condemned for veto override that continues 'discriminatory crusade against trans youth'

Defenders of LGBTQ rights denounced Republican legislators in Arkansas on Tuesday for overriding a veto by Gov. Asa Hutchinson just a day earlier that had been seen as a hard-won victory for the trans youth and other gender nonconforming people in the state.

The final passage of HB1570, which would block doctors from providing gender-affirming care or referring patients for such care, came in the wake of sustained opposition to what the state ACLU chapter described as "one of the most extreme and harmful anti-trans bills in the country."

Champions of trans youth who had 24 hours earlier celebrated Monday's veto by Hutchinson denounced Tuesday's 71-24 vote in the state House and the 25-8 vote in the Senate—large enough majorities to override the governor's signature.

"This bill will drive families, doctors and businesses out of the state, and sends a terrible and heartbreaking message to transgender people who are watching in fear," the national ACLU tweeted immediately after the votes were announced.

While advocates expected the override, the vote was a major setback for those who had fought against it.

"Today Arkansas legislators disregarded widespread, overwhelming, and bipartisan opposition to this bill and continued their discriminatory crusade against trans youth," said Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas executive director, in a statement after the vote.


Still, groups vowed to fight on.

"Trans youth in Arkansas: We will continue to fight for you," said the ACLU. "We will always have your back, and we'll be relentless in our defense of your rights."

The group added that it was already preparing litigation to combat the new law. "As we speak," they said.


"Attempting to block trans youth from the care they need simply because of who they are is not only wrong, it's also illegal, and we will be filing a lawsuit to challenge this law in court," Dickinson said. "We are hearing from concerned families all over the state who are afraid about the impact of this bill and others like it. We are committed to doing all we can to support these families and ensure they know how to continue to fight for their rights and get the care and resources they need."

'Democrats will lose in 2022': Anger Grows as Biden bows to un-elected parliamentarian on $15 minimum wage

After the Democrats in the House approved a far-reaching Covid-19 relief package early Saturday with all but two members of the caucus on board, progressive anger and despair escalated over the Biden administration's refusal thus far to make sure the $15 minimum wage increase remains in the bill as it heads to the U.S. Senate.

As journalist David Sirota, founder of the The Daily Poster and former staffer for the 2020 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, put it on Saturday: "If you were writing a Dickensian novel, it would be about millions of desperately poor people being promised a $15 starvation wage, and then watching their millionaire senators tell them that a parliamentary adviser in the palace said no."

While Biden and his administration have made clear they will not move to use Harris' authority as presiding officer of the Senate to disregard or overrule the Parliamentarian's determination, the anger on the progressive left—both inside and outside of Congress—has only grown since Thursday.

Winnie Wong, political strategist and another Sanders campaign alumnus, said the choices for Biden and Harris are now quite stark and suggested the stakes are much higher than many top Democrats appear to understand or acknowledge:


On Sunday morning, the national advocacy and organizing group Women's March tweeted:


Addressing the issue Saturday morning on MSNBC, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Democrats have no choice but to "muscle it through" the Senate given the campaign promises made to voters leading up to last year's elections.

"We can't back to voters in two years," explained Jayapal, "and say, 'You know, we made you a promise—you delivered us the House, the White House, and the Senate—but a parliamentarian told us that we can't do it.'"


In a column on Saturday, The New Republic's Osita Nwanevu argued that there is simply nobody but Democrats themselves to blame for failure to include the $15 minimum wage increase in the Senate's Covid-19 relief package. "Not Republicans. Not the Senate parliamentarian. Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, and even Joe Biden are to blame for squandering their party's majority power," he wrote.

According to Nwanevu:

It has been written and said that the gambit failed because the Senate parliamentarian ruled that including the minimum wage increase would violate reconciliation rules. This is false: The Senate parliamentarian is a wholly powerless functionary who can be overruled at any time by the party holding the White House and Congress—both of which, as you might recall, are now controlled by the Democratic Party. The gambit failed because the White House and many Democrats in Congress opposed overruling the parliamentarian.

As Common Dreams reported Friday, a progressive coalition—including One Fair Wage, Women's March, People's Action, Center for Popular Democracy, and dozens of others—have sent a letter (pdf) to Biden and Harris and are cicrulating a petition demanding that the parliamentarian's guidance be disregarded so that the increase can be included in the Senate bill.

"As President of the Senate, Vice President Harris has the Constitutional power to disregard the recommendation of the Senate Parliamentarian and include this provision in the COVID relief legislation," the letter states.

Noting that the "vast bipartisan majority of Americans support" raising the wage, the groups tell Biden in their letter that he "simply must rise up for the communities who turned out in record numbers to elect him and support the Vice President in taking this action on behalf of his Administration."


While critics spent the weekend blasting the president and vice president for hiding behind the Senate rules, Nwanevu was among those who said an alternative path is clearly possible—if only Biden would fight.


"One thing Biden might have said to voters," wrote Nwanevu, "in any of the domestic policy speeches and public statements he's made over the past month, is that the minimum wage and other policies are more important than the Senate's rules and that the Senate's rules should be changed to pass them, potentially giving Manchin and Sinema, who do not really care about raising the minimum wage but do care about being reelected, an incentive to support raising the minimum wage and changing the Senate's rules."

Following the passage of the Covid-19 package in the House on Saturday, Ben Jealous, president of the People For the American Way, applauded the approval and said now it is time for the Senate to complete the job.

"It's clear why the Senate must pass this bill: families continue facing economic anxiety, unemployment claims are skyrocketing and people are behind on rent and facing household hunger," said Jealous. "Every element of this package is critically important and they must not be whittled down in the Senate. Therefore, we urge the administration and the Senate to do everything in their power to quickly pass the American Rescue Plan—including the $15 minimum wage increase—to ensure Americans get the help they need."

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) suggested there is no excuse for every single Democrat in the Senate not to get on board with the $15 wage that Biden vowed to pass throughout the election season last year.

"This issue of will there be the votes in the Senate on final package is pretty simple," Khanna said Saturday. "If progressives can compromise and rally around the EXACT package President Biden proposed, is it not reasonable to expect every elected Democrat to do that?" Khanna also appeared on CNN to discuss his position:


Late Saturday, Jayapal repeated her message that Senate passage must follow if Democrats want to fulfill the pledges they made to the American people. "First, we promised workers that we'd give them a long overdue raise. Then, the House passed a $15 minimum wage," she tweeted. "Now, the Senate must do everything necessary to urgently deliver."

"It's been 12 years since we've raised the minimum wage and 30 since we've raised the federal tipped wage," added Jayapal. "We can't keep kicking the can down the road as millions are pushed into poverty. In a crisis like this, working people need all the help we can provide. Let's deliver."

Here are the 210 House Republicans — and 2 Democrats — who voted to deny struggling nation COVID relief

Though House Democrats in the end had the votes to assure final passage of a sweeping Covid-19 relief package overnight—securing approval with a final 219-212 tally—it was the Republican Party membership in total lockstep, joined by two lonely members of the majority party, that voted to deny struggling American families, frontline workers, state governments, local communities, small businesses, and the nation's schools and public health system nearly $2 trillion in urgent assistance to stabilize the economy, beat back the pandemic, and ensure solid footing for a robust recovery.

The two Democrats who sided with the GOP were Rep. Jared Golden, who represents Maine's 2nd District, and Rep. Kurt Shrader, who represents Oregon's 5th District. Direct from the roll call:

golden_schrader.png

In a statement, Golden called the third round of direct stimulus payments to households in his state and nationwide "a waste" of resources and justified his "no" vote as being fiscally responsible as he fearmongered over the deficit by saying at "some point" the bill for the relief spending authorized by Congress over the last year to stem the damage caused by one of the worst pandemics to hit the nation (and the world) in over a hundred years "has to come due." The "no" vote did not go over well with many Maine voters:


For his part, and as of this writing, Schrader neither posted the justification for his vote on social media nor issued a statement via his congressional website. But while the two Democrats were the clear outliers in their party, the GOP proved that they are united in opposition to an increase in the federal minimum wage for American workers and the slate of far-reaching public health and economic rescue efforts included in the bill.


Here are the 210 Republicans—every single member of the GOP caucus—who voted against:

AderholtState: AlabamaNay
AllenState:GeorgiaNay
AmodeiState:NevadaNay
ArmstrongState:North DakotaNay
ArringtonState:TexasNay
BabinState:TexasNay
BaconState:NebraskaNay
BairdState:IndianaNay
BaldersonState:OhioNay
BanksState:IndianaNay
BarrState:KentuckyNay
BentzState:OregonNay
BergmanState:MichiganNay
Bice (OK)State:OklahomaNay
BiggsState:ArizonaNay
BilirakisState:FloridaNay
Bishop (NC)State:N. CarolinaNay
BoebertState:ColoradoNay
BostState:IllinoisNot Voting
BradyState:TexasNay
BrooksState:AlabamaNay
BuchananState:FloridaNay
BuckState:ColoradoNay
BucshonState:IndianaNay
BuddState:N. CarolinaNay
BurchettState:TennesseeNay
BurgessState:TexasNay
CalvertState:CaliforniaNay
CammackState:FloridaNay
CarlState:AlabamaNay
Carter (GA)State:GeorgiaNay
Carter (TX)State:TexasNay
CawthornState:N. CarolinaNay
ChabotState:OhioNay
CheneyState:WyomingNay
ClineState:VirginiaNay
CloudState:TexasNay
ClydeState:GeorgiaNay
ColeState:OklahomaNay
ComerState:KentuckyNay
CrawfordState:ArkansasNay
CrenshawState:TexasNay
CurtisState:UtahNay
DavidsonState:OhioNay
Davis, RodneyState:IllinoisNay
DesJarlaisState:TennesseeNay
Diaz-BalartState:FloridaNay
DonaldsState:FloridaNay
DuncanState:S. CarolinaNay
DunnState:FloridaNay
EmmerState:MinnesotaNay
EstesState:KansasNay
FallonState:TexasNay
FeenstraState:IowaNay
FergusonState:GeorgiaNay
FischbachState:MinnesotaNay
FitzgeraldState:WisconsinNay
FitzpatrickState:PennsylvaniaNay
FleischmannState:TennesseeNay
FortenberryState:NebraskaNay
FoxxState:N. CarolinaNay
Franklin, C. ScottState:FloridaNay
FulcherState:IdahoNay
GaetzState:FloridaNay
GallagherState:WisconsinNay
GarbarinoState:New YorkNay
Garcia (CA)State:CaliforniaNay
GibbsState:OhioNay
GimenezState:FloridaNay
GohmertState:TexasNay
Gonzales, TonyState:TexasNay
Gonzalez (OH)State:OhioNay
Good (VA)State:VirginiaNay
Gooden (TX)State:TexasNay
GosarState:ArizonaNay
GrangerState:TexasNay
Graves (LA)State:LouisianaNay
Graves (MO)State:MissouriNay
Green (TN)State:TennesseeNay
Greene (GA)State:GeorgiaNay
GriffithState:VirginiaNay
GrothmanState:WisconsinNay
GuestState:MississippiNay
GuthrieState:KentuckyNay
HagedornState:MinnesotaNay
HarrisState:MarylandNay
HarshbargerState:TennesseeNay
HartzlerState:MissouriNay
HernState:OklahomaNay
HerrellState:New MexicoNay
Herrera BeutlerState:WashingtonNay
Hice (GA)State:GeorgiaNay
Higgins (LA)State:LouisianaNay
HillState:ArkansasNay
HinsonState:IowaNay
HollingsworthState:IndianaNay
HudsonState:N. CarolinaNay
HuizengaState:MichiganNay
IssaState:CaliforniaNay
JacksonState:TexasNay
Jacobs (NY)State:New YorkNay
Johnson (LA)State:LouisianaNay
Johnson (OH)State:OhioNay
Johnson (SD)State:South DakotaNay
JordanState:OhioNay
Joyce (OH)State:OhioNay
Joyce (PA)State:PennsylvaniaNay
KatkoState:New YorkNay
KellerState:PennsylvaniaNay
Kelly (MS)State:MississippiNay
Kelly (PA)State:PennsylvaniaNay
Kim (CA)State:CaliforniaNay
KinzingerState:IllinoisNay
KustoffState:TennesseeNay
LaHoodState:IllinoisNay
LaMalfaState:CaliforniaNay
LambornState:ColoradoNay
LattaState:OhioNay
LaTurnerState:KansasNay
LeskoState:ArizonaNay
LongState:MissouriNay
LoudermilkState:GeorgiaNay
LucasState:OklahomaNay
LuetkemeyerState:MissouriNay
MaceState:S. CarolinaNay
MalliotakisState:New YorkNay
MannState:KansasNay
MassieState:KentuckyNay
MastState:FloridaNay
McCarthyState:CaliforniaNay
McCaulState:TexasNay
McClainState:MichiganNay
McClintockState:CaliforniaNay
McHenryState:N. CarolinaNay
McKinleyState:West VirginiaNay
MeijerState:MichiganNay
MeuserState:PennsylvaniaNay
Miller (IL)State:IllinoisNay
Miller (WV)State:West VirginiaNay
Miller-MeeksState:IowaNay
MoolenaarState:MichiganNay
MooneyState:West VirginiaNay
Moore (AL)State:AlabamaNay
Moore (UT)State:UtahNay
MullinState:OklahomaNay
Murphy (NC)State:North CarolinaNay
NehlsState:TexasNay
NewhouseState:WashingtonNay
NormanState:S. CarolinaNay
NunesState:CaliforniaNay
ObernolteState:CaliforniaNay
OwensState:UtahNay
PalazzoState:MississippiNay
PalmerState:AlabamaNay
PenceState:IndianaNay
PerryState:PennsylvaniaNay
PflugerState:TexasNay
PoseyState:FloridaNay
ReedState:New YorkNay
ReschenthalerState:PennsylvaniaNay
Rice (SC)State:S. CarolinaNay
Rodgers (WA)State:WashingtonNay
Rogers (AL)State:AlabamaNay
Rogers (KY)State:KentuckyNay
RoseState:TennesseeNay
RosendaleState:MontanaNay
RouzerState:N. CarolinaNay
RoyState:TexasNay
RutherfordState:FloridaNay
SalazarState:FloridaNay
ScaliseState:LouisianaNay
SchweikertState:ArizonaNay
Scott, AustinState:GeorgiaNay
SessionsState:TexasNay
SimpsonState:IdahoNay
Smith (MO)State:MissouriNay
Smith (NE)State:NebraskaNay
Smith (NJ)State:New JerseyNay
SmuckerState:PennsylvaniaNay
SpartzState:IndianaNay
StauberState:MinnesotaNay
SteelState:CaliforniaNay
StefanikState:New YorkNay
SteilState:WisconsinNay
SteubeState:FloridaNay
StewartState:UtahNay
StiversState:OhioNay
TaylorState:TexasNay
TenneyState:New YorkNay
Thompson (PA)State:PennsylvaniaNay
TiffanyState:WisconsinNay
TimmonsState:S. CarolinaNay
TurnerState:OhioNay
UptonState:MichiganNay
ValadaoState:CaliforniaNay
Van DrewState:New JerseyNay
Van DuyneState:TexasNay
WagnerState:MissouriNay
WalbergState:MichiganNay
WalorskiState:IndianaNay
WaltzState:FloridaNay
Weber (TX)State:TexasNay
Webster (FL)State:FloridaNay
WenstrupState:OhioNay
WestermanState:ArkansasNay
Williams (TX)State:TexasNay
Wilson (SC)State:S. CarolinaNay
WittmanState:VirginiaNay
WomackState:ArkansasNay
YoungState:AlaskaNay
ZeldinState:New YorkNay

"Early this morning," tweeted former labor secretary Robert Reich on Saturady, "just 15 days before jobless aid runs out for tens of millions during the worst pandemic in a century, the House voted 219-212 to pass Biden's American Rescue Plan. Every single House Republican voted against it. All you need to know."

'We must get to the truth': Pelosi announces far-reaching probe into Trump's insurrection

Following demands for such a probe both before and subsequent to the Senate's decision over the weekend to acquit former President Donald Trump for inciting the January 6 violence on Capitol Hill, Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced Monday afternoon that she has authorized a 9/11-style commission to further probe the events of that day as well the various dynamics and actions that led up to it.

In a letter to congressional colleagues Monday, Pelosi said that an initial probe and report presented by (ret.) Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré focused on the security failings of January 6, as well as the case presented during the impeachment hearings in the House and the trial in the Senate make clear that a more comprehensive investigation is warranted.

"It is clear from [Honoré's] findings and from the impeachment trial that we must get to the truth of how this happened," Pelosi stated.

According to Pelosi's letter:

To protect our security, our next step will be to establish an outside, independent 9/11-type Commission to "investigate and report on the facts and causes relating to the January 6, 2021 domestic terrorist attack upon the United States Capitol Complex… and relating to the interference with the peaceful transfer of power, including facts and causes relating to the preparedness and response of the United States Capitol Police and other Federal, State, and local law enforcement in the National Capitol Region."
As we prepare for the Commission, it is also clear from General Honoré's interim reporting that we must put forth a supplemental appropriation to provide for the safety of Members and the security of the Capitol.

CNN reports that a "commission of this nature would be established by a statute, passed by both chambers and signed into law by the President. The commission members would not be elected leaders and would be outside the government."

'Even David Brooks agrees' Democrats should 'absolutely kill the filibuster'

Even New York Times columnist David Brooks—widely reviled over many years for his "wrongheaded and naive" brand of right-wing commentary—agreed Friday with the many progressive voices arguing that Democrats will ultimately be justified in abolishing the legislative filibuster in the U.S. Senate if Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell continues his obstructionist ways.

In his latest column—titled the "The Case for Biden Optimism"—Brooks contends that if current efforts to forge a bipartisan power-sharing agreement fail, efforts to pass a comprehensive Covid-19 economic relief package put forth by President Joe Biden are stymied, and "Republicans go into full obstruction mode" then the Democrats, led by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, "should absolutely kill the filibuster."

While progressives have been making this argument intensely for weeks, if not months, many were caught off guard by Brooks' endorsement.

"Can't believe David Brooks and I finally agree on a thing," said Winnie Wong, former top aide to the 2020 Bernie Sanders campaign, in response to the column.

"Kill the filibuster. Today. Now," said former secretary of labor Robert Reich in a tweet directed at Schumer. "Hell, even David Brooks agrees."

As columnist Ryan Cooper wrote for The Week on Thursday: "[McConnell] is demanding Democrats preserve his ability to block anything they propose with the Senate filibuster, so he can ruin the country and blame it on them, and he is gambling that moderate Democratic senators will be too scared to call his bluff. Democrats should tell McConnell to go pound sand, and nuke the filibuster right now."

Cooper explained:

Recall that the filibuster allows just 41 senators to block most legislation. Activists have begged Democrats to get rid of the filibuster after witnessing McConnell use it to shamelessly obstruct Democratic priorities and then immediately remove it as an obstacle to his own chief priority, confirming right-wing Supreme Court Justices. Yet so far a crucial segment of moderate Democratic senators have resisted, for reasons of "tradition," or worries it will force them to take difficult votes, or simple timidity. Now McConnell has broken yet another Senate norm by threatening to filibuster the Organizing Resolution unless Democrats agree to keep the legislative filibuster for the next two years. To the best of my knowledge, filibustering the initial organizational rule package in a new Congress has never happened before. (Incidentally, since the Senate will continue to operate under its current rules, that leaves Republicans in charge of the committees so long as it is not passed.)
If Democrats agree, given McConnell's history, he is virtually guaranteed to not allow any normal legislation through, and to drag out the confirmation of any appointee as long as possible. The only way to pass any law will be through the cumbersome and limited reconciliation process. Just as he did under President [Barack] Obama, McConnell wants to throw sand in the gears of government, prevent Biden from accomplishing anything, blame Democrats for the resulting dysfunction, and take back full control of the Senate in two years.

In response to McConnell's request to keep the filibuster in place, Schumer on the Senate floor Friday morning said the proposal "is unacceptable, and it won't be accepted. And the Republican leader knew that when he first proposed it."

In a statement on Thursday, Mairead Lynn, a spokesperson for the watchdog group Accountable.US, also suggested that Schumer should not tolerate McConnell's obstruction for one minute longer and called out the Republican leader's objections to the organizing agreement in the Senate thus far as clearly made in bad faith.

"If McConnell wanted to work with Democrats in good faith," said Lynn, "he would have spent the last two months moving President Biden's Cabinet nominees through the confirmation process—a precedent afforded to every previous president."

McConnell's "unprecedented" and "outsized" demands that would neutralize Democratic control over the Senate, added Lynn, "are nothing more than a last-ditch effort to further obstruct the Biden administration from implementing the will of the people. Enough is enough: McConnell needs to drop his unreasonable demands and let the Senate get to work."

On Thursday, Ezra Klein, Brooks' liberal colleague at the Times, argued that none of the far-reaching bills that Democrats have vowed to pass will be possible in "a Senate in which the filibuster forces 60-vote supermajorities on routine legislation."

Democrats, wrote Klein, "have plenty of ideas that could improve people's lives and strengthen democracy. But they have, repeatedly, proved themselves more committed to preserving the status quo of the political system than fulfilling their promises to voters. They have preferred the false peace of decorum to the true progress of democracy. If they choose that path again, they will lose their majority in 2022, and they will deserve it."

According to Klein, Biden's "agenda will live or die in the Senate"—and if proper action is not taken, he continued, "odds are it will die, killed by the filibuster."

This is exactly why progressive critics have urged Democrats to immediately end the charade orchestrated by McConnell.

In a series of tweets Thursday, Ezra Levin, co-founder of the progressive advocacy group Indivisible, said his read on the situation was this: "McConnell wants to block popular bills this Congress—stuff like D.C. statehood and H.R. 1. He doesn't want to have the filibuster fight with that backdrop, so instead he's picking the fight on a boring-sounding procedure thing hoping it's more favorable ground for him."

"To be clear," he added: "Senate Dems have no reason or need to give into McConnell's BS. It would be a colossal mistake of historic proportions for them to give in. And I don't think they will here."

And as Levin put it on Friday in a tweet linking to Brooks' column: "Killing the Jim Crow filibuster is the institutionalist, pro-democracy position."

GOP nightmare of Senate Budget Chair Bernie Sanders is about to come true

The long-held Republican nightmare that a champion of working-class people and the common good—one who has dedicated his political career to curbing poverty and injustice while denouncing corporate greed, endless war, and the cruelty of a for-profit health system that leaves millions upon millions uninsured or without affordable access to care—would assume the powerful position of chairing the Senate Budget Committee is about to become reality.

"Time to face the harsh reality, socialist Bernie Sanders will become the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. He has vowed to use his position to enact his progressive agenda on healthcare, climate, infrastructure spending, and cutting defense spending," Nikki Haley tweeted Saturday.

While it came from Trump's former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations as a kind of ominous warning, Sanders' wife, Jane O'Meara Sanders, was among those who shot back with a clever and simple quip. "Yes he has," she tweeted in response.

Not that Jane Sanders was alone:

"You forgot to mention raising the minimum wage and taxing your rich friends," the organizing group People for Bernie tweeted back at Haley.

Republican fears of Sanders taking over the committee go back to at least 2016 when Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, then Speaker of the GOP-controlled House, said ahead of that year's election: ""If we lose the Senate, do you know who becomes chair of the Senate Budget Committee? A guy named Bernie Sanders. You ever heard of him?"

The GOP trepidation over such a reality is about to materialize now that Democrats have seized razor-thin majority control of the Senate. And, while the gavel is yet to be placed in his hand, Sanders and his staff have signaled in recent days that he will be ready and willing to wield it to push the incoming Biden administration—as well as Democratic leadership in the House and Senate—to enact the kind of bold, working-class friendly policies that fueled both of his presidential runs.

Among the chief powers that the chair of the committee will be able to utilize is fostering legislation through the Senate using the budget reconciliation process—a procedural tool that will allow, even under current rules, legislation to pass with a simple majority.

On Sunday, Sanders posted this social media:

"Yes, we can and we must use budget reconciliation to increase the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour with a simple majority vote in the Senate, just like Republicans did to pass massive tax breaks to the 1%," declared Warren Gunnels, one of Sanders' most senior aides who went out of the way to identify himself as the "Incoming Majority Staff Director" for the "Senate Budget Committee" in a tweet Friday morning.

Following the Democratic wins in Georgia that gave the party back the majority in the Senate, Sanders told Politico in an interview that he has no plans to be sheepish from his perch atop the committee.

"I'm going to use reconciliation in as aggressive a way as I possibly can to address the terrible health and economic crises facing working people today," Sanders told the news outlet. "As we speak, my staff and I are working. We're working with Biden's people. We're working with Democratic leadership. We'll be working with my colleagues in the House to figure out how we can come up with the most aggressive reconciliation bill to address the suffering of the American working families today."

Nina Turner, national co-chair of Sanders' 2020 campaign and now running for U.S. House in her home state of Ohio, has been among those in the progressive movement championing the legislative potential of his powerful new roll in the Senate:

In a tweet on Saturday evening, Sanders himself stated: "When Republicans controlled the Senate they used the reconciliation process to provide huge tax breaks for the rich and large corporations. We're going to use reconciliation to protect working families, the sick and the poor."

Lindsey Graham slammed for equating Trump accountability with divisive 'vengeance'

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham was roundly denounced Sunday after sending a letter to Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer that characterized the pending trial of President Donald Trump as "vengeance" and "political retaliation" that he argued would further divide the nation.

While the U.S. House impeached Trump for his roll in inciting a violent mob of his supporters to storm the nation's capitol building on January 6—an insurrectionist effort unparalled in U.S. history that left at least five people dead—Graham argues in his letter that Schumer, if he proceeds with a trial in the Senate, would be guilty of "one more unconstitutional action in this disgraceful saga" that he said would only "incite further division."

Critics of Graham, however, immediately pounced on the South Carolina Republican for his faulty logic and the disgraceful nature of the letter.

"Lindsey Graham should take the first step towards healing and resign," quipped People for Bernie in response.

"This is basically extortionate: Sorry, no unity until the demands for accountability are dropped," wrote Washington Post political correspondent Greg Sargent. "The answer to this is 'No. You are the ones who have committed the offense. You don't get to set one-sided conditions for unity after what you did.'"

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) unleashed on Graham in a series of tweets, citing the Republican's own behavior that fostered Trump's lies about the outcome of the 2020 election and his long history of two-faced accomodation to Trump's anti-democratic authoritarianism.

"Graham," said Beyer, "pressured election officials in Georgia to throw out lawful ballots and overturn the result." He then added:

Journalist Rachel Bitecofer noted that what Graham is essentially, if not illogically, arguing in his letter to Schumer is "that those responsible for the attack on the Capitol will be held responsible if the Senate lets the main person responsible evade responsibility." But, she adds, "he fails to consider his own culpability at all—which is significant since he lied about fraud."

Likewise, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J) said that it's nearly impossible to take the words of Graham seriously given the role that he, along with so many of his Republican colleagues in Congress, have said and done to the nation in recent months—including those who voted against certification of the President-elect Joe Biden's win.

"For months GOP leaders spread lies about the election," Pascrell tweeted Sunday in response to Graham's letter. "Acting on those lies fascists ransacked the Capitol and *hours later* 138-of-202 (68%) House republicans voted to make trump a dictator."

"Nothing Republican leaders say about unity," he added, "is worth a nickel."

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