A bill that grants statehood to Washington, DC, passed the House Oversight Committee last week, setting up a vote before the full House on April 22. It is expected to pass the House but faces a less certain future in the Senate with the 60-vote threshold to break a filibuster. If it were to become a state, DC’s 700,000 citizens would make up the country’s only plurality-Black state.
The House Judiciary Committee held a historic vote on Wednesday advancing a bill to create a commission on paying reparations to the descendants of people enslaved in the U.S. H.R. 40, sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), would establish a 13-person panel to study the effects of slavery and racial discrimination in the U.S. and recommend appropriate remedies. All Republicans on the Committee voted against advancing the measure.
A bill to address hate crimes directed at Asian-Americans passed a procedural hurdle in the Senate on Wednesday, opening debate on the measure. S.728, sponsored by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), would create a new position at the Justice Department to expedite the review of hate crimes related to the pandemic, require the DOJ to strengthen guidance for state and local government hate crime reporting, and broaden channels for reporting hate crimes.
- Six Republicans opposed moving the bill forward: Sens. Cotton (R-AR), Cruz (R-TX), Hawley (R-MO), Marshall (R-KS), Paul (R-KY), and Tuberville (R-AL). Many Republican objections to the bill originate in its language connecting the rise in hate crimes to the pandemic. For instance, Cruz called the measure “a Democratic messaging vehicle designed to push the demonstrably false idea that it is somehow racist to acknowledge that Covid-19 originated in Wuhan, China”.
A group of three Congressional Democrats introduced legislation to expand the Supreme Court to 13 justices on Thursday. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), and Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY), was quickly dismissed by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters “it’s an idea that should be considered” but she has “no plans to bring it to the floor.”
Sen. Markey: ”Senate Republicans have politicized the Supreme Court, undermined its legitimacy, and threatened the rights of millions of Americans, especially people of color, women, and our immigrant communities. This legislation will restore the Court’s balance and public standing and begin to repair the damage done to our judiciary and democracy, and we should abolish the filibuster to ensure we can pass it.”
- Related: “Dems wrestle with whether to nudge a justice off the Supreme Court,” Politico.
- Related: “The national opinion poll, conducted on Thursday and Friday, found that 63 percent of adults supported term or age limits for Supreme Court justices. Another 22 percent said they opposed any limits and the rest did not express an opinion,” NBC News.
President Biden’s second large legislative package, to shore up America’s infrastructure, faces an uncertain future in Congress as certain issues already divide the Democratic caucus. One of the biggest sticking points is the SALT deduction cap imposed by Republicans in their 2017 tax bill, limiting the state and local tax dedication people can take when calculating their federal income tax at $10,000.
Democrats in favor of lifting the cap point to its politically motivated origin – Americans in blue states largely benefit from the deduction. However, the main beneficiaries of a SALT cap repeal are high-income Americans, leading some Democrats to support the cap. Reps. Thomas Suozzi (D-NY), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) released a joint statement vowing to oppose the entire infrastructure bill unless the SALT deduction is restored: “No SALT, no deal.” On the other side of the issue, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) told reporters:
“I don’t think that we should be holding the infrastructure package hostage for a 100-percent full repeal on SALT, especially in the case of a full repeal… Personally, I can’t stress how much that I believe that is a giveaway to the rich.”
Meanwhile, a group of Republicans is preparing a counteroffer to Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure bill, estimated to be about one-third the size. While there is not yet a consensus on what will be included, Republicans have objected to the corporate tax hikes in the Democratic proposal and complain that it includes provisions that they say don’t count as infrastructure. They suggest that the government impose “user-fees” to consumers of federal services and goods to pay for an infrastructure bill:
“My own view is that the pay-for ought to come from people who are using it. So if it’s an airport, the people who are flying,” Sen. Mitt Romney told reporters on Wednesday. “If it’s a port, the people who are shipping into the port; if it’s a rail system, the people who are using the rails; If it’s highways, it ought to be gas if it’s a gasoline-powered vehicle.”
Critics say such a plan would shift the financial burden from companies onto people:
“At a time when they have been struggling, even before the pandemic, but especially during the pandemic … to lay an additional burden on them is completely unfair and it’s unacceptable,” [AFSCME President Lee] Saunders said. “The American people believe, and as a matter of fact the polls show this, that corporations should step up to the plate and share the burden and accept the responsibility of putting the house back in order.”
- Analysis: “GOP to Biden: Raise Taxes on Our Rural Base, Not Coastal Elites,” New York Magazine
- Related: “Rich people and corporations need to pay up, says IRS head as agency looks to collect $1 trillion in unpaid taxes,” CBS News
A draft document outlining a new caucus led by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) was leaked to the media on Friday, sparking widespread backlash from both parties. The ‘America First Caucus’ includes Reps. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Barry Moore (R-AL), and Louie Gohmert (R-TX); Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) tweeted Friday that he would also be joining. In its introductory document, the Caucus aims to support “uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions” and only accept immigrants who “have demonstrated respect for this nation’s culture”. These white nationalist tropes have been seen before in America, in the early 1900s:
In the 1920 publication “The Rising Tide of Color: The Threat Against White World Supremacy,” Lothrop Stoddard made the same claims, warning that white Americans were being engulfed by the more “fertile” nonwhite races. Americans of “Anglo-Saxon origin,” he insisted, had to restrict immigration to preserve their country for “future generations who have a right to demand of us that they shall be born white in a white man’s land.”
…This popular panic over immigration helped revive the Ku Klux Klan, which pressed the issue aggressively in the early 1920s. The Klan’s imperial wizard warned in 1922 about “the tremendous influx of foreign immigration, tutored in alien dogmas and alien creeds, slowly pushing the native-born white American population into the center of the country, there to be ultimately overwhelmed and smothered.”
Faced with backlash from even House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Greene walked back the very existence of the Caucus the next day… despite her spokesperson seemingly affirming the group hours earlier.
“Be on the look out for the release of the America First Caucus platform when it’s announced to the public very soon,” [Greene’s spokesperson Nick] Dyer said in a statement to CNN Friday.
“The Congresswoman wants to make clear that she is not launching anything. This was an early planning proposal and nothing was agreed to or approved,” he said in an email to CNN [on Saturday afternoon].
Rep. Gosar also tried to distance himself from the Caucus, claiming he never heard of the leaked document before media reports. “I will continue to work on America First issues in the House Freedom Caucus,” he said in a written statement. “I will not let the lying media deter me from the America First work I have been championing for years in the House Freedom Caucus and with President Trump”.
The nationalist and anti-immigrant themes of the America First Caucus came on the heels of Tucker Carlson’s embrace of “replacement theory” live on Fox News. The previous week, Carlson told his audience that Democrats are trying to “replace the current electorate” with “more obedient voters from the Third World” (clip. The Anti-Defamation League immediately called out the white nationalist roots of such an argument:
While couching his argument in terms of what he described as the Democratic Party attempting to replace traditional voters with immigrants from third-world countries, Carlson’s rhetoric was not just a dog whistle to racists – it was a bullhorn.
Make no mistake: this is dangerous stuff. The “great replacement theory” is a classic white supremacist trope that undergirds the modern white supremacist movement in America. It is a concept that is discussed almost daily in online racist fever swamps. It is a notion that fueled the hateful chants of “Jews will not replace us!” in Charlottesville in 2017. And it has lit the fuse in explosive hate crimes, most notably the hate-motivated mass shooting attacks in Pittsburgh, Poway and El Paso, as well as in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The ADL called for his firing; Fox News CEO Lachlan Murdoch refused and Carlson doubled down on his position: “Now, I know that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement,’ if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World. But … let’s just say it: That’s true.” (Clip).
- Further reading: “Tucker Carlson Is Giving ‘Red Pills’ To Millions. White Nationalists Are Thrilled,” HuffPost. “White nationalists praise Tucker Carlson’s full embrace of their “replacement” conspiracy theory,” Media Matters. “The ‘white replacement theory’ motivates alt-right killers the world over,” The Guardian.
Far-right Republican representatives voted against three pieces of legislation that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support last week. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-FL) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO) voted against a bill that reauthorized a national bone marrow donor program… for reasons that have nothing to do with the legislation. Boebert claimed the “bill added hundreds of millions of dollars to the national debt,” but it does not; it doesn’t add any money to the national debt. Greene, on the other hand, claimed to object to “the funding of aborted fetal tissue by taxpayers,” something that the National Marrow Program does not use.
Eight House Republicans voted against the Protecting Seniors from Emergency Scams Act: Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Ralph Norman (R-SC), and Chip Roy (R-TX).
13 Republicans voted against the Fraud and Scam Reduction Act, which creates an advisory office to help monitor scams targeting seniors: Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Ken Buck (R-CO), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Good (R-VA), Gosar (R-AZ), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Hice (R-GA), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Ralph Norman (R-SC), Chip Roy (R-TX), and Pete Sessions (R-TX).