Jon Queally

Biden raises minimum wage for all federal contract workers to $15

Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Pramila Jayapal celebrated Monday's announcement from the U.S. Labor Department that all federal contract workers will be paid at least $15 per hour starting in January, but also took the opportunity to argue that should be the wage floor should for all U.S. workers.

"Great news," tweeted Jayapal in response to the news. "Now, let's take this nationwide and give over 30 million workers a much-needed and well-deserved raise."

In a statement on Monday, the Labor Department said the finalized rule—which will apply to all workers employed under or related to federal contracts—will go into effect on January 30, 2022 and is the culmination of an executive order signed by President Joe Biden in April of this year.

The workers who will benefit from the new wage floor, said Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, "do essential work on our nation's behalf. They build and repair the federal infrastructure, clean and maintain our national parks, monuments and other federal facilities, care for our veterans, and ensure federal workers and military service members are provided with safe and nutritious food."

The federal rule will apply to an estimated 325,000 workers as new contracts are signed after January, though some working under existing contracts may not see that pay bump immediately. According to the Labor Department, the rule does the following:

  • Increases the hourly minimum wage for workers performing work on or in connection with covered federal contracts to $15 beginning Jan. 30, 2022.
  • Continues to index the federal contract minimum wage in future years to inflation.
  • Eliminates the tipped minimum wage for federal contract employees by 2024.
  • Ensures a $15 minimum wage for workers with disabilities performing work on or in connection with covered contracts.
  • Restores minimum wage protections to outfitters and guides operating on federal lands.

Workers represented by SEIU applauded the rule.

"It would be such a relief to know that my job is protected because it would mean my family is protected too," said Ana Ayala, a single mother living in Woodbridge, Virginia who works as a janitor and is a member of 32BJ SEIU. "In Virginia, most janitors don't make this much or have these benefits which are so critical as a single mother with a child depending on me."

Ben Zipperer, an economist with the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, said in a lengthy blog post Monday that while the rule touches a relatively small percentage of the U.S. workforce, its impact could have positive reverberations.

"While not a substitute for a universal $15 minimum wage, there may be important spillover effects," said Zipperer, noting that other private employees will likely raise their wages in order to compete for labor and that higher wages will lead to less turnover and higher-quality services in industries like nursing home care.

"All in all this the new $15 minimum wage for federal contracts is excellent policy, another step to fixing a labor market that doesn't deliver adequate wages," he said.

Earlier this year, the Senate Parliamentarian objected to inclusion of an amendment to raise the federal minimum wage for all U.S. workers to $15 an hour and progressives expressed outrage that the Biden administration did not do more to fight back in order to ensure that wages would be lifted for all.

"At a time when millions of workers are earning starvation wages, when the minimum wage has not been raised by Congress since 2007 and stands at a pathetic $7.25 an hour, it is time to raise the minimum wage to a living wage," Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said at the time

Ocasio-Cortez heckles Kevin McCarthy when he says 'Nobody elected Joe Biden to be FDR'

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was among those who shouted backed overnight during the historic and "unhinged" marathon speech by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy when the Republican from California stated that there was no person in the country who voted for President Joe Biden last year who did so because they hoped he would act like former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who ushered through the 20th century New Deal.

Quoting a recent comment from Rep. Abigail Spannberger (D-Va.) during his speech in order to argue that Democrats are misguided to make sweeping social investments as part of their Build Back Better Act—which received a final vote in the House on Friday morning—McCarthy stated, "Nobody elected Joe Biden to be FDR."

From the gallery in response, a voice can be heard responding, "I did." Later it was confirmed that this was Ocasio-Cortez.

Watch:

After Ocasio-Cortez's exclamation, someone else in the gallery responded, "Me too."

"Effective heckling is a lost art, but AOC managed to silence McCarthy for at least a few seconds." noted The Intercept's Robert Mackey.

In total, McCarthy spoke for eight hours and 32 minutes before finally ending his roundly criticized antics just after 5:00 am Friday.

Ilhan Omar slams Joe Manchin: 'He isn’t negotiating — he is killing the bi​ll'

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar issued fresh public rebuke of Sen. Joe Manchin late Tuesday night, accusing her fellow Democrat of openly sabotaging the Build Back Better agenda that is at the center of their party's effort to make sweeping social investments to lift up the American working class in the midst of the ongoing pandemic by expanding Medicare, curbing childhood poverty, increasing affordable housing, spending big on climate, offering paid family leave, and initiating universal pre-K and childcare.

With reporting overnight that the White House has agreed in principle to drop the topline number of the reconciliation package down to $1.9 trillion—a number that progressives initially staked for a ten-year program at $10 trillion, later $6 trillion, and then $3.5 trillion—Omar said it was "time we all recognized" what Manchin is doing.

Omar's tweet was in response to reporting that Manchin as recently as Tuesday afternoon had still not budged from his offer to drag the overall price tag of the legislation down to $1.5 trillion.

"Sadly, his shameful tactics will cost his constituents much needed investments for themselves and families," Omar warned.

The Washington Post reports that President Joe Biden told Democrats in Congress during a White House meeting Tuesday that the $1.9 trillion should be the new target for ongoing negotiations that have pitted nearly the entire Democratic caucus against Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona—both of whom have been showered with campaign funds from corporate interests groups.

According to the Post:

By the White House's calculations, a package up to $1.9 trillion would allow them to accomplish some of their most significant priorities. That includes at least some expansion of Medicare to offer new benefits to seniors, the introduction of universal prekindergarten, and billions of dollars to address climate change, the sources said, cautioning that many of the details must still be worked out.

But slimming down the package also is sure to force Democrats to make some sacrifices. The path put forward by the White House could extend new, expanded child tax credit payments recently adopted by Congress, but perhaps for only one additional year, three of the sources said. It would offer new money to make housing more affordable, yet far less than Democrats once envisioned. And it would provide paid leave, except only four weeks of benefits, rather than the 12 weeks some had once proposed, according to one of the people in the room.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, warned people against focusing on the topline number but voiced optimism following the White House meeting she and other progressives attended with Biden on Tuesday afternoon.

"I want to thank President Biden for his leadership and for continuing to fight for his visionary, transformative, and popular Build Back Better Act. We had a very productive and necessary conversation about the urgent need to deliver the full Build Back Better agenda," Jayapal said in a written statement issued by the CPC after the meeting.

"We feel progress is being made toward an agreement that will make transformational investments in the five priorities that the CPC laid out months ago," Jayapal added, "specifically the care economy — including child care, pre-K, paid leave, and home and community based care; housing; health care; climate action; and a roadmap to citizenship for immigrants."

Appearing on CNN, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday it was time for corporate media outlets and other pundits to stop asking progressives to "go smaller" and start asking obstructionists in the party like Manchin to "go bigger."

Outside progressive critics, meanwhile, took issue with what appears to them like growing capitulations by the White House and Democratic leadership to the obstruction of Manchin, Sinema, and other corporate-backed members of the party.

The reduced ambition expressed by the White House on Tuesday, said columnist Wajahat Ali, is "[thanks] to the butchering of Manchin, Sinema and the greed of their corporate lobbyists."

And The Daily Poster's David Sirota said: "Congratulations to Biden and the Democrats—they've taken their own bill from $6 trillion, to $4 trillion, to $3.5 trillion, to $1.9 trillion, to $1.5 trillion, and are now well on the way to just 2 bucks and a used Casio [watch]."

'Indefensible': US billionaires became $2.1 trillion richer in 19 months of pandemic

American billionaires grew in number and expanded their collective fortunes by $2.1 trillion since Covid-19 sparked a worldwide pandemic nineteen months ago, according to a new analysis unveiled Monday.

An overall 70% surge of wealth among the nation's richest individuals since March of 2020 has resulted in approximately 130 new billionaires, found the new report released by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). In a statement, the groups noted that there are now 745 people with "10-figure bank accounts" compared to the 614 that existed when the pandemic first hit.

In total, those 745 billionaires now hold $5 trillion in collective wealth, which the groups note is "two-thirds more than the $3 trillion in wealth held by the bottom 50% of U.S. households."

While ATF and IPS have been tracking the explosive growth of the uber-wealthy throughout the pandemic, the latest figures come as Democrats in Congress continue to negotiate with themselves over the cost and scope of President Joe Biden's 'Build Back Better' agenda which aims to provide expanded Medicare, paid family leave, universal childcare and pre-K, bold climate action, and an expanded childhood tax credit to alleviate childhood poverty and provide a more robust economic foundation for millions of working American families.

According to IPS/ATF:

The great good fortune of these billionaires over the past 19 months is all the more stark when contrasted with the devastating impact of coronavirus on working people. Almost 89 million Americans have lost jobs, over 44.9 million have been sickened by the virus, and over 724,000 have died from it.
To put this extraordinary wealth growth in perspective, the $2.1 trillion gain over 19 months by U.S. billionaires is equal to:
  • 60% of the $3.5 trillion ten-year cost of President Biden's Build Back Better plan.
  • The entire $2.1 trillion in new revenues over ten years approved by the House Ways and Means Committee to help pay for President Biden's Build Back Better (BBB) investment plan.

At the heart of their latest analysis, said ATF executive director Frank Clemente, is the failure to adequately tax these outrageous and growing fortunes.

"This growth of billionaire wealth is unfathomable, immoral, and indefensible in good times let alone during a pandemic when so many have struggled with unemployment, illness, and death," said Clemente. "For practical and moral reasons, Congress must start effectively taxing the outsized gains of billionaires."

Like other advocates, IPS and ATF are calling for much higher and stricter taxation on the windfall profits of the billionaire class—especially in light of the social needs that the pandemic has made so apparent.

Currently under consideration in Congress is the Billionaires Income Tax (BIT) bill, spearheaded by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oreg.), chairman of the Finance Committee, which Clemente and Chuck Collins, director of IPS' Program on Inequality and the Common Good, say is the best piece of legislation to target the wealth of the super-rich. As the new analysis notes:

Most of these huge billionaires' gains will go untaxed under current rules and will disappear entirely for tax purposes when they're passed onto the next generation. Under Wyden's BIT, billionaires will start paying taxes on their increased wealth each year just like workers pay taxes on their paychecks each year.
The tax will apply only to taxpayers whose wealth exceeds $1 billion: about 700 households. It will be assessed annually on tradable assets, such as stocks, where the value of the asset is known at the beginning and end of the year. For non-tradable assets, such as ownership in a business or real estate holdings, taxes will be deferred until the asset is sold.

"Billionaires are undertaxed and playing hide-and-seek with their substantial wealth," said Collins. "Targeted tax increases on billionaires, including the proposed Billionaire Income Tax, would rebalance the tax code and reduce these glaring abuses in who pays for the services we all depend on."

In a statement last month following the release of a White House report on the average income tax rate of U.S. billionaires, Wyden said that it's shameful for the nation's wealthiest to pay lower tax rates than most working Americans.

"Billionaires are paying a mere 8 percent tax rate, lower than millions of working Americans," said Wyden.

"It's time for a Billionaire's Income Tax that ensures billionaires pay taxes just like the nurses and firefighters," he added. "Nurses treating Covid-19 patients pay their taxes with every paycheck, and they know it's fundamentally unfair that billionaires and their heirs may never pay tax on billions in stock gains. Instituting a Billionaire's Income Tax would go a long way toward creating one fair tax code, rather than one that's mandatory for working people and another that's optional for the fortunate few."

US climate movement takes aim at Biden White House 'to change course of history'

Organizers for climate justice are making final preparations Sunday ahead of five days of planned actions this week to confront President Joe Biden over the urgent need to declare a climate emergency, ditch fossil fuels, and move swiftly to create a green energy economy that can create millions of new jobs in the process.

"As fires burn, oceans rise and cities flood, we're mobilizing to Washington D.C. to demand that President Biden act on climate justice right now," said Joye Braun, a frontline community organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), a key member of the coalition behind the week-long mobilization dubbed "People vs. Fossil Fuels" which will kick off Monday, include daily civil disobedience at the White House, and culminate Friday with a march on the Capitol Building for a mass sit-in.

"The fossil fuel industry has brought devastation to our homelands and it's time that we bring this fight to Biden's doorstep," said Braun.

The coalition—which includes IEN, 350.org, Sunrise Movement, Center for Biological Diversity, Zero Hour, Friends of the Earth USA, Oil Change International, Climate Justice Alliance, and many others—is calling on the U.S. president to "declare a climate emergency, stop all new fossil fuel projects, fight for climate justice, and launch a just and renewable energy revolution."

The group's detailed and complete list of demands can be found here and those who wish to get involved can visit this page on the coalition's website.

In their invitation to join the cause and back the demands put forth by front-line organizers from around the country, the coalition said: "We are asking you to stand with us. As representatives of communities who have carried the brunt of the harm from fossil fuels for generations, we ask you to join us in solidarity. If we all come together, put our bodies on the line in the name of climate justice, we may be able to change the course of history."

The 'Build Back Fossil Free' coalition organizing this week's mobilization says that Biden has both the executive authority and the popular mandate to act aggressively to address the climate crisis but so far has not acted with nearly enough urgency.

"Biden is faced with a momentous decision, and I and others will be gathering in Washington to encourage that decision: to declare a climate emergency, stop the petrochem build-out, and usher in a just transition to a clean, green renewables economy," said John Beard, director of the Port Arthur Community Action Network, a Texas group fighting the oil and gas industry in the Gulf Coast.

"President Biden came into office promising bold action to transform our economy with renewable energy and good jobs, but he passed the buck to a dysfunctional Congress," said Jean Su, director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Energy Justice program. "Biden has immense executive powers to speed the end of the fossil fuel era and ignite a just, renewable-energy revolution. Without executive action on fossil fuels, there's no way for the president to protect us from the climate emergency. We're calling on Biden to reclaim his power from coal- and gas-state Senators and show us he can be our Climate President."

According to organizers:

By refusing to stop major fossil fuel projects, President Biden has broken his promises to protect Indigneous rights, prioritize environmental justice, and fully address the climate crisis.

Despite the President's rhetoric, his administration has failed to stop major projects like the Line 3 tar sands pipeline, defended oil drilling in the Arctic, promoted fossil fuel exports, and allowed drilling, mining and fracking to continue on Native and public lands.

Meanwhile, the impacts of the climate and pollution crisis have only grown worse. Hurricanes have devastated communities from New Orleans to New York City. Wildfires have burned millions of acres across the West. Historic droughts and heatwaves have gripped most of the country. And every day, millions of Americans, especially Black, Brown, and Indigenous People, breathe air and drink water poisoned by fossil fuel pollution.

As Common Dreams reported, over 300 scientists last week backed the demands of the coalition and said that to avert 'uncontrollable climate chaos,' Biden must move more swiftly and concretely to end the age of fossil fuels.

"U.S. scientists are done speaking calmly in the face of inaction," said Sandra Steingraber, a biologist and co-founder of the Concerned Health Professional of New York, who signed a letter alongside 337 colleagues. "Terrified by our own data, we stand in solidarity with the People vs. Fossil Fuels mobilization and its demands. President Biden, listening to science means acting on science. It means stopping new fossil fuel projects, opposing industry delay tactics, and declaring a national climate emergency."

Dr. Shaye Wolf, climate science director at the Center for Biological Diversity who also signed the letter, said, "When scientists across the U.S. are imploring the president to get the country off fossil fuels, it's time to listen."

Correction: This article has been updated to better describe the planned events in Washington, D.C. over the course of the week.

Trump promotion of Michigan rally decried as 'childish, petulant' and 'downright dangerous'

After former President Donald Trump urged supporters Friday to attend a rally on the steps of the Michigan Capitol building in Lansing next week in order to demand an audit of the 2020 election in which Trump was soundly defeated by President Joe Biden, at least one top Democrat in the state warns that the ongoing Republican obsession with what has become known as the "Big Lie" is a threat that cannot be ignored.

In his statement on Friday, Trump declared:

Big Michigan Rally coming up on Oct. 12th, on the Capitol steps in Lansing, where Patriots will demand a Forensic Audit of the 2020 Presidential Election Scam. The Voter Fraud is beyond what anyone can believe. Anyone who cares about our Great Country should attend, because unless we look to the past and fix what happened, we won't have a future or a Country.

While Tuesday's rally is being organized by the Election Integrity Fund & Force—a non-profit in the state that claims its goal is to curb "attempts to subvert the integrity of our elections"—Trump's promotion of it and his attendance, says state House Democratic Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Township), is as much about the former president's political future as it is about the GOP effort to sow continued doubt over Biden's victory in 2020.

"This is the same inflammatory rhetoric that brought men armed with assault rifles to these very steps last year and endangered the lives of our lawmakers and staff," warned Lasinski Friday night as she referenced events in April of 2020 when armed right-wing protesters stormed the State House as they objected to Covid-19 public health efforts.

"This childish, petulant behavior is not only embarrassingly unbecoming of a former president, it's downright dangerous," Lasinski added. "Efforts like this to undermine faith in our democracy are no longer just about overturning the 2020 election, they're about eroding trust and laying the groundwork to overturn the next election."

While right-wing extremists and GOP apologists for the former president "are stuck in the past reliving Trump's loss," Lasinksi said her party, both in Lansing and in the nation's capital, remain focused on the nation's future by "beating back Covid-19 and bringing billions in relief funding home from D.C. to deliver support for working families."

It was unclear how many might attend Tuesday's rally in Michigan, Trump is also in Iowa on Saturday for a similar campaign-style rally as chatter about the likelihood of his seeking to regain the presidency in 2024 intensifies.

Former aides to Trump have stated their belief that he will run again and a Pew survery out this week showed that despite his loss in 2020, 67 percent of Republicans "would like to see Trump continue to be a major political figure for many years to come" and 44 percent hope he leads the GOP ticket in 2024.

'Stop this madness': Outrage after appeals court reinstates Texas abortion ban

Reproductive rights advocates lashed out overnight following a ruling by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals which reinstated a near-total ban on abortion in Texas just days after a separate federal court had placed the state's law on hold pending final judicial review, most likely by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Friday night decision by the 5th Circuit—packed wiith judges appointed by former President Donald Trump and known as the nation's most right-wing appellate court—arrived two day after U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman of Austin issued a 113-page ruling which granted the U.S. Justice Department's request for an injunction to halt the law, known as S.B. 8, which prevents providers from offering abortion care to women after just six weeks of pregnancy.

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, responded with outrage to the 5th Circuit's ruling that has once again shut down the ability for women in the state to seek care to which they are constitutionally entitled.

"The Supreme Court needs to step in and stop this madness," said Northrup in a statement. "It's unconscionable that the Fifth Circuit stayed such a well-reasoned decision that allowed constitutionally protected services to return in Texas."

After Wednesday's ruling by Judge Pitman, some clinics in the state attempted to deliver services that had been put on hold by the new law's implementation.

Noting that the 5th Circuit's ruling "had been expected by many abortion providers," the New York Times reported "at least six clinics in Texas had begun conducting abortions beyond the limits of the new law this week" while "most of the state's roughly two dozen providers had opted not to take that step as the case moved through the courts."

Northrup said the situation is untenable for women in Texas.

"Patients are being thrown back into a state of chaos and fear," she said, "and this cruel law is falling hardest on those who already face discriminatory obstacles in health care, especially Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, undocumented immigrants, young people, those struggling to make ends meet, and those in rural areas. The courts have an obligation to block laws that violate fundamental rights."

Physicians for Reproductive Health (PRH) called the decision "devastating" but vowed to continue the legal battle as well as their mission to serve those Texans in need.

"Texas, there are organizers, lawyers, providers, and advocates around the country who are ready to continue following your lead and supporting your needs," the group tweeted last Friday. "We will keep going, together."

20 state AGs file suit over Dejoy plan to sabotage USPS

Twenty state Attorneys General on Friday filed a joint complaint in an effort to block changes to the U.S. Postal Service enacted last week by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and which critics warn are an overt effort to cripple the mail service from within by slowing delivery times while also increasing the cost to consumers.

The official complaint filed by the 20 AGs is directed at the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), which is charged with providing independent oversight of the USPS, but which the suit alleges betrayed its mandate by allowing the controversial plan put forth by DeJoy to move into implementation on October 1 without proper review.

According to a statement from the office of Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson:

The complaint details DeJoy's failure to follow federal law in making harmful Postal Service changes. Ferguson asserts these major Postal Service changes, which range from eliminating working hours, slowing delivery of first-class mail and removing equipment, threaten the timely delivery of mail to millions of Americans who rely on the Postal Service for delivery of everything from medical prescriptions to ballots.

"Millions of Americans depend on the mail every day to receive their prescriptions, pay bills, receive Social Security checks, send rent payments and more," Ferguson said in the statement. "One political appointee does not get to decide the fate of the Postal Service. There is a process that demands accountability from the American public for a reason—and I will fight to ensure the public gets a say."

In addition to Washington, the complaint was backed by the Attorneys General of Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia, and Rhode Island.

The AG's suit comes amid a relentless barage of criticism aimed at DeJoy and demands for his ouster, as well ire aimed at the Postal Service Board of Governors, for putting forth a plan that experts on the USPS say is paving the pathway for the beloved agency's demise.

As Christoper S. Shaw, author of the the book First Class: The U.S. Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threat, wrote in an op-ed for Common Dreams last week, "While previous postmasters generals sought faster mail delivery, DeJoy stands out for his wish to make it slower."

As Shaw's piece notes:

DeJoy claims that lowering service standards offers an outstanding opportunity to cut costs because hauling mail overland on trucks will prove cheaper than using air transportation. Lost in this short-term calculus is the cost to American citizens and to the health of the Postal Service in the long run. Degrading standards of service and discarding competitive advantages is not a formula for long-term relevance.

In response to the complaint, the USPS claimed the filing "has no legal or factual merit" and said "the Postal Service intends to move to dismiss it pursuant to the rules" of the PRC process.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, however, said in a statement that the changes made by DeJoy "destroy the timely mail service that people depend on for medications, bill payments, and business operations in rural parts" of his state. According to Stein's office:

The 10-year plan would undermine the Postal Service, including changes that would enact slower service standards for first-class mail and other packages, change the location of post offices, and adjust rates. The plan would slow down USPS standard delivery for 30 percent of mail from three days to five days, increase the price of each piece of mail by six to nine percent, and put these changes in place without doing anything to effectively address the larger Postal Service budget deficit.

The Postal Regulatory Commission is an independent federal agency that has oversight over the Postal Service's operations. Federal law requires the Postal Service to go to the Commission whenever it makes a change to postal services that will affect the entire country. The attorneys general contend that DeJoy failed to do so, and without the proper review, DeJoy's plan could lead to future problems with mail delivery. The attorneys general are requesting that the Commission order the Postal Service to request a review of the full extent of the ten-year plan, affording the States and the public an opportunity to provide comment.

"The Postal Service," said Stein, "is an essential government service, and it cannot restructure without considering how those changes will affect millions of Americans."

Progressives hold the line as 'Manchema' side with the rich against Biden Agenda

Political observers predicted three options late Thursday as it remained unclear whether Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi would still hold a vote on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, or BIF, which has stirred a Capitol Hill fight between a small band of corporate Democrats in Congress and the rest of the party anchored by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

As of this writing, there was no final word other than promises earlier in the day by Pelosi that a vote would come—even though fresh public comments from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) made it clear that a chasm remains between his opposition and that of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and House Democrats on the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act that must ultimately be passed via the bicameral reconciliation process.

According to Politico, a vote is possible, but it remains unclear where the votes would come from to see it pass. Citing sources, the outlet reported:

During a private leadership meeting Thursday morning, several members of Pelosi's team expressed reservations about bringing the bill to the floor given the lack of support within the caucus. But later, during a private meeting with moderate Democrats, Pelosi reiterated her intention to hold the vote later in the day, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions.
How it could work: Multiple Democrats said one way it could work would be to hold the vote open until Pelosi can corral enough members for passage, whether that be from the progressive wing of the caucus or from Republicans who support the infrastructure bill. One member described it as a "staredown" strategy. Bring in the troops: Pelosi has also called in reinforcements from labor groups, who are sending letters to members of Congress urging them to support the bill.

The three most likely outcomes for a Thursday night vote include: 1) Pelosi pulls the scheduled vote from the floor because she knows she doesn't have the votes; 2) the vote is held and members of the CPC and other Democrats vote it down as they have promised to do; or 3) a vote is held and enough renegade Republicans join with some number of Democrats to sabotage the progressive efforts to block the bill before an agreement on reconciliation is reached.

Those likely scenarios were laid out, among others, by Ezra Levin, co-founder of the progressive advocacy group Indivisible, during an appearance on MSNBC's "The Beat" just after 6:00 pm ET where he told host Ari Melber that CPC members were right to be holding the line against Manchin and Sinema, increasingly referred to as "Manchema" by detractors in recent days. As he tweeted just ahead of his appearance:

In a political memo on Thursday, the advocacy group Accountable.US issued a warning—with a finger pointed directly at Manchin, Sinema, and a small group of Wall Street-back Democrats in the House—that big money was again sabotaging the democratic process in Washington, D.C. and at the worst possible moment. According to the memo:

It's not often stars align in favor of everyday working families, and it may not happen again for years. It makes no sense to squander this opportunity to level the playing field for everyday Americans after years of Washington keeping their thumb on the scale for millionaires and billion dollar corporations — especially wasteful tax breaks for the rich that never manage to trickle-down to anyone else.
And yet, there are some Democrats that are choosing to adopt the 'concerns' of the corporate special interests that have managed to do well even during a pandemic and effectively want to keep the system rigged in their favor. It's a red flag that money from greedy industries have corrupted the reconciliation process.

According to the analysis based on campaign finance data, "in August 2021 alone—in the heat of Congressional negotiations on the Build Back Better agenda—the moderate Democrats holding up the reconciliation process, including Sens. Sinema, Manchin, and U.S. Reps. Cuellar, Gonzalez, Gottheimer, Schrader, and Murphy, banked over $150,000 in campaign donations from corporate interests—including those that are helping lead business groups opposing the bill."

Appearing on MSNBC's "The ReidOut" just after 7:00 pm, CPC chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) reiterated the position that there will be no support for the BIF from progressives without the reconciliation package coming first. "This isn't some crazy idea," said Jayapal, "this is the president's agenda."

Other members of the CPC, such as Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), spent the day also vowing to stand their ground and explaining why:

And Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y) lashed out at the hypocrisy and irrational arguments of Manchin who has tried to claim that sweeping investments in pre-K education, healthcare for seniors, community college, and tackling the climate crisis are unaffordable.

"We won't let massive corporations, billionaires, and a few conservative Democrats stand in the way of delivering transformational progress for millions of working people," Japayal tweeted Thursday evening. "Stick to the plan. Pass both bills, together."

US retreat underway as Taliban retake control of Afghanistan

Nearly two full decades of lies and wishful thinking from U.S. generals, politicians, liberal interventionists, and neoconservative talking heads came into full view Sunday as the Taliban in Afghanistan surrounded Kabul while American military forces and diplomatic personnel rapidly evacuated the U.S. Embassy and the Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani negotiated a surrender and transition government with opposition forces.

With reports that Bagram Air Base and nearby Parwan Prison had both fallen out of Afghan government hands, Taliban spokeperson Suhail Shaheen told the BBC that his group expects a peaceful transfer of power within days and assured the people of Afghanistan, including those in Kabul, that retribution and revenge would not follow.

"We assure the people in Afghanistan, particularly in the city of Kabul, that their properties, their lives are safe. There will be no revenge on anyone," Shaheen said.

The Taliban leadership, he continued, has "instructed our forces to remain at the gates of Kabul" and that they had no plans yet to to enter the city. "We are awaiting a peaceful transfer of power," Shaheen said.

Asked to explain what a "peaceful transfer of power" means in practice, he said: "It means that the city and the power should be handed over to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and then, in future, we will have an Afghan inclusion Islamic government in which all Afghans will have participation."

A press statement issued from the Taliban echoed that message, urging Afghans not to flee their own country and vowing that both their lives and property would not be threatened.


Subsequently—amid reports that President Ghani may have already left the country—Interior Minister Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal announced a "peaceful transfer of power" had been agreed to and that a transitional government was being formed.

"The Afghan people should not worry," Mirzakwal said in a recorded speech, according to Agence France-Presse.

"The safety of [Kabul] is guaranteed," he said."There will be no attack on the city, and the agreement is such that the transition of power will take place in a peaceful manner."


In recent days, anti-war voices who opposed the initial invasion in 2001 and have railed against the U.S. occupation ever since have pointed out the inevitability of what is now unfolding, the rapid return of Taliban rule despite twenty years—during which trillions of dollars were spent and hundreds of thousands of innocent lives were lost—of U.S. military leaders claiming that some kind of victory was possible.


"The tragic events unfolding in Afghanistan are yet further proof of the utter failure of our country's endless wars and the mindset that enables them," said Stephen Miles, executive director of the U.S.-based group Win Without War, on Friday. "Nearly two decades of military intervention and occupation did not build lasting peace. No number of bombs dropped, no length of time occupied, would have."


On Sunday, veteran peace activist Medea Benjamin was among those wondering who—any one in the U.S. military or foreign policy establishment—would ever be held accountable for the deceit or failures in Afghanistan.

"Who is going to be fired for 20 years of horrific failure in Afghanistan?" Benjamin asked on social media. "Who would you suggest?"

In a separate Sunday morning tweet, Benjamin said: "As the blame game for the Afghan crisis heats up, I want to add all who supported this disastrous invasion from the beginning, including those who bashed us at anti-war protests. We were right, you were wrong. We should have never invaded Afghanistan. Period."


With a massive U.S. evacuation operation underway, the United Nations warned Saturday of the potential for a massive refugee crisis as many Afghans—not assured they will be safe or unwilling to live under Taliban rule—try to leave the country. On Friday, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) called on neighboring countries "to keep their borders open in light of the intensifying crisis" and warned that "inability to seek safety may risk innumerable civilian lives." The UNHCR said it was standing ready to help counties scale up their humanitarian and assistance efforts as needed.


In a statement issued by the White House on Saturday, President Joe Biden said the while he had mobilized approximately 5,000 U.S. soldiers to provide security and assist with the evacuation of Afghanistan he was not considering changing course to maintain the occupation of the country which has been ongoing since 2001.

"I was the fourth President to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan—two Republicans, two Democrats," Biden said. "I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth."

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