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Voting bill puts Democrats on a fast track with filibuster

When they passed a $ 1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill this month, Democrats in Congress overtook their Republican opposition, using the budget reconciliation process to present a case study on it. happens when they don’t fold back for GOP membership.

Today, as they began hearings on a major voting bill, Democrats were doing a different math. Bill is ineligible for reconciliation and is almost certain to meet deadlock in the Senate, given the threat of a Republican filibuster.

Few, if any, questions divide the country along partisan lines more than voting rights. The debated bill, the For the People Act, was passed by the House on party lines without Republicans voting for it. Knowing that it’s next to impossible to get 10 Republicans to join Democrats in bypassing a filibuster, Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer puts Democrats on a collision course with the existential filibuster debate.

But at today’s hearing, he took the opportunity to narrow the gap between Democrats and Republicans on this issue. “Today, in the 21st century, there is a concerted national effort to limit the right of citizens to vote and truly have a voice in their own government,” Schumer said, later chanting, “Shame! Shame! ”Among Republican lawmakers.

There is a poetic irony and also perfect logic in the fact that a debate on filibuster would result in a franchise law. Not only because filibuster reform involves the Senate changing its own voting rules, but also because the most high-profile uses of filibuster throughout history have often been to block civil rights.

Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat from Georgia, in a recent Senate speech, briefly linked the Law for the People to the filibuster debate. “It is a contradiction to say that we must protect the rights of minorities in the Senate while refusing to protect the rights of minorities in society,” he said.

Pressure increased among Democratic insiders this week for changes to the filibuster. Senators have started airing their support for the practice’s end, and a report in Axios released today quotes people close to President Biden as saying he was prepared to reverse the maneuver, although the White House has been publicly discreet on the matter.

Just as Democratic senators have been strident in their calls for federal voting laws today, Republicans have been combative in their arguments against the bill. Some have expressed outrage at the legislation’s proposal to end the mandatory 3-3 partisan split in the Federal Election Commission, a move Democrats have deemed necessary to promote reform.

“This bill is designed to permanently corrupt the electoral process, and it is a brazen and shameless takeover by Democrats,” said Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

Minority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell said states “just aren’t trying to suppress voters in any way.”

West Virginia Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito argued the bill attempted to fix a voting system that did not need to be fixed, a position that appeared to go against Republican narratives prominent claim that the 2020 election was supposed to be tainted with voter fraud.

But Democrats see an opportunity to advocate for filibuster reform with the For the People Act, a sweeping bill that would establish fundamental national voting rights standards and create independent, non-partisan commissions to manage the Congress redistribution process.

State-level Republican lawmakers have proposed hundreds of bills this year that would restrict voting rights, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, and the GOP will control the redistribution process next year in many key states. . Democrats in Congress see this bill as an increasingly urgent bulwark against voting restrictions and gerrymandering that could perpetuate targeted voting deprivation, tilting the balance of political power for years to come.

Of course, it’s not yet certain that Senate Democrats will even unite in support of the bill. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who votes against his party with some regularity, is the only Democrat who has not sponsored him, and he has yet to show unequivocal support. If he supported him, he should also work to roll back the filibuster (which he and at least one other Democratic senator, Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, have yet to address) in order to give meaning in this support. whatever.

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Fox puts on a show for a former Trump aide, but shoots down claims he hired another.

Larry Kudlow, the former CNBC star who served as director of President Donald J. Trump’s National Economic Council, is returning to broadcasting.

Mr Kudlow has been named host of a new daily show on Fox Business which is expected to begin later this year, the channel said on Tuesday. He will also appear on Fox Business and Fox News as an on-air financial analyst starting February 8.

This is the first major televised concert achieved by a senior Trump aide who remained in the White House until the president’s term ended last week. It is also a coup to hire for Fox Business, which rivals CNBC and will now feature one of its rival’s longtime players.

Fox said he would provide more information on Mr Kudlow’s new weeklong schedule at a later date.

The hiring of Mr. Kudlow is the latest example of the revolving door between Fox News and members of the Trump administration. But another prominent Trump advocate may not be heading to the Rupert Murdoch-owned network so soon.

Kayleigh McEnany, the former White House press secretary, included an “employment contract” with Fox News on a federally mandated disclosure form she filed earlier this month, reporting that she had landed a job on the cable channel.

On Tuesday, Fox News had a different message for Ms. McEnany: Not so fast.

“Kayleigh McEnany is currently neither an employee nor a contributor to Fox News,” the network said in a statement.

Ms McEnany and Fox News spoke after polling day of a potential on-air role, according to a person briefed on the negotiations who requested anonymity to share details of the private talks. But the network has put those talks on hold, even though it remains open to hiring Ms McEnany at a later date, the person said.

Ms McEnany did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

As Mr. Trump’s most prominent on-air advocate in the tumultuous weeks following his loss in November, Ms. McEnany was a frequent guest on Fox News broadcasts, especially Sean’s prime-time show. Hannity.

Prior to joining the White House, Ms. McEnany was an on-air commentator for CNN. She began her media career with Fox News after college, working for Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and the father of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, another former press secretary to Mr. Trump.

Ms Sanders joined the network as an on-air contributor shortly after leaving the Trump administration in 2019, but she and the network recently severed ties after announcing her candidacy for governor of the Arkansas.

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Pompeo puts Cuba back on terrorist sponsor list, constraining Biden plans

WASHINGTON – The State Department named Cuba as a sponsor state for terrorism on Monday in a last-minute foreign policy stunt that will complicate plans by the new Biden administration to reestablish friendlier relations with Havana.

In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited Cuba’s hosting of 10 Colombian rebel leaders, as well as a handful of American fugitives wanted for crimes committed in the 1970s, and Cuba’s support for the authoritarian leader. from Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.

Mr. Pompeo said the action sent the message that “the Castro regime must end its support for international terrorism and the subversion of American justice.”

The New York Times reported last month that Mr Pompeo was weighing the move and had a plan to do it on his desk.

The action, announced days before the end of the Trump administration, reverses a measure taken in 2015 after President Barack Obama restored diplomatic relations with Cuba, calling its decades of political and economic isolation a vestige of the cold War.

Once in office, President Trump acted swiftly to undermine Mr. Obama’s policy of openness, much to the delight of Cuban American and Latino voters in Florida who hailed his aggressive stance on both Havana and its ally. socialist and anti-American, Mr. Maduro. .

Other Republicans applauded Mr Trump, saying Havana had failed to enforce policy reviews and continued to suppress dissent, breaking promises it made to the Obama administration.

U.S. officials say the plan to restore Cuba to the terrorist sponsor list was developed, breaking the standard process, by the State Department’s Office of Western Hemisphere Affairs, not its office. counterterrorism campaign, which would generally play a central role in such a decision. .

Monday’s designation said Cuba had “repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism,” according to the State Department’s criteria for adding countries to the list, which only includes three other countries: Iran. , North Korea and Syria.

The move automatically triggers US sanctions against Cuba – likely to have negligible effect, experts said, given the scale of US sanctions against Havana.

But the action could be a token deterrent for businesses, adding “just another among many disincentives to seek opportunities to export, import or provide services to Cuba,” said John Kavulich, president. of the Cuban-American Trade and Economic Council.

Mr. Pompeo’s statement cited Cuba’s refusal to extradite 10 leaders of the Colombian National Liberation Army, also designated a foreign terrorist organization, who have lived in Havana since 2017. The leaders visited Havana in 2017 for Cuba-organized peace talks to end a long-running insurgency in Colombia, and did not return home.

The National Liberation Army claimed responsibility for a bombing of a police academy in Bogotá in January 2019, which killed 22 people and injured more than 87 others.

Mr. Pompeo also cited the presence in Cuba of three fugitives accused or convicted of murder in the early 1970s, including Joanne D. Chesimard, 73, a former member of the Black Liberation Army now called Assata Shakur. , and who remains on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list for killing a New Jersey state soldier in 1973.

He also said that the Cuban government “was engaged in a series of malicious behavior throughout the region” and that its intelligence and security services “were helping Nicolás Maduro to maintain his grip on his people while allowing terrorist organizations to escape. operate.” He said the Cuban government has supported Colombian rebels beyond its borders and that its assistance to Mr. Maduro has helped create “a permissive environment for international terrorists to live and prosper in Venezuela.”

During the election campaign, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. spoke of a return to Mr. Obama’s more open approach to Havana, pledging to “quickly reverse Trump’s failed policies that inflicted prejudices to the Cuban people and have done nothing to move forward. democracy and human rights. “

While the Biden administration may remove Cuba from the terrorism list, this will require a review process that could take months.

Ted A. Henken, associate professor of sociology at Baruch College in New York City, called the designation the Trump administration’s “final symbolic gesture” towards Cuba, as well as a reward for the Cuban community in exile and Latino voters sharing the same ideas. turned out in surprisingly high numbers for the president in November.

“It’s unwarranted on the basis of merits or evidence,” he said. “Cuba is a dictatorship that systematically denies basic rights to its citizens, but it has not been shown to engage in terrorist activities.”

“The designation is politically motivated for a national audience in the United States,” he added.

William LeoGrande, professor of government at the American University in Washington, noted that Mr. Trump’s numerous sanctions against Cuba meant that the new designation would have little additional effect.

Over the past two years, Cuba has been subjected to the toughest US sanctions in the past 50 years, which have contributed to rationing and deep shortages of basic necessities like medicine and food. Its economy shrank 11% last year, according to Alejandro Gil, Cuban Minister of the Economy.

Mr LeoGrande said the designation could hamper legal financial transactions involving US financial institutions, such as a US airline that pays the Cuban government a landing fee, as banks increasingly wary of surveillance additional of these exchanges from Washington.

Banking transactions through third countries could also be affected. During Mr. Trump’s tenure, European banks became increasingly reluctant to issue payments to Cuban state-owned enterprises. The island’s terrorism designation could further reduce risk appetite.

Mr. LeoGrande said the Cuban government would seek to avoid escalation of the conflict, anticipating that Mr. Biden would try to improve relations.

In the streets of Havana, the news was greeted with anger. “It’s a lie,” said Sergio Herrera, 45, a bicycle taxi driver.

“Trump’s neck is in a noose politically, and“ is looking for excuses, ”he said.

Michael Crowley reported from Washington, Ed Augustine from Havana and Kirk Semple from Mexico City.

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With objection to Biden’s victory, Josh Hawley puts his party in a tie

But others have grown frustrated that Mr Hawley has pushed the party into a lose-lose choice and has done little to explain his actions. When Republican senators convened on New Years Eve to discuss the impending certification process, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, twice asked Mr. Hawley to explain his views. The requests were met in silence; Mr Hawley was not online, aides said, due to a scheduling conflict.

He still has not said which states he intends to oppose. House Republicans are eyeing six: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. But Mr Hawley has so far chosen only Pennsylvania, where he argues that a law easing restrictions on postal voting violated the state Constitution.

Mr McConnell had vigorously discouraged senators from joining the House’s objections, warning that this could put Republicans in a difficult position, especially those who would be re-elected in 2022. Senator Roy Blunt, the senior state senator of Mr. Hawley is one of them.

“I think if you have a plan, it should be a plan that’s likely to work,” Mr Blunt told reporters on Sunday, though an aide declined a request for an interview with Mr Hawley.

In the face of Republican criticism, Mr. Hawley wrote to his colleagues saying he would rather have a debate in the Senate “for all the American people to judge” rather than “by press release, conference call or email”.

It is a position other senators might be reluctant to put their colleagues in, but like Mr. Trump, Mr. Hawley prides himself on breaking Washington conventions.

He often promotes his education in a small town in western Missouri, rising up against coastal elites who he says have used big business, technology and the media to slowly marginalize workers. Although he has deeply conservative views on abortion rights and other cultural issues, he speaks comfortably about the dignity of work and unions in language often used by the left. When the coronavirus pandemic began to ravage the economy last year, he first pushed for government-sponsored salary replacement and then $ 2,000 direct payments to Americans, teaming up with Senator Bernie Sanders , independent from Vermont.

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Xavier Becerra puts environmental justice at the forefront

Esther Portillo, director of organization of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, one of the groups involved in the fight against San Bernardino, said winning wouldn’t mean stopping development. Instead, she said, it would be “to carefully consider the environmental impacts that we will have and to minimize those impacts as best we can.”

While jobs tend to be the main selling point of new developments, a union chapter, Teamsters Local 1932, has joined in the fight against the airport’s expansion. Randy Korgan, the local secretary-treasurer, said: “Alright bring the jobs, but make sure you manage the environmental impact, with the impact on the community – make sure these people have a good benefits, that they will be able to live in the area and buy houses in the area. “

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal will hear the airport case in February.

The involvement of the attorney general in local conflicts can irritate those who strongly support development. Steve Brandau, a Fresno County supervisor, was a member of Fresno City Council during some of the heated disputes over warehouse expansion plans. “It is infuriating that the AG’s office, Attorney General Becerra, steps in and is even tougher than the local lawyers,” he said. Quoting a long-standing conservative refrain, he said that in the long run, such activities “end up doing business completely out of state.”

Mr. Mataka acknowledged the friction in Fresno. “They thought we were out of our way,” he says. “Unfortunately for them, the attorney general is responsible for enforcing the California Environmental Quality Act. We were on our way.

Mr Becerra said his office worked carefully with the local government before filing a brief in a case and looked for ways to find compromises. Some communities, he said, don’t understand that their old ways of doing business leave communities underserved. They say, “We did it 20 years ago, why can’t we do it now?” he said.

He cited his experience as a 12-term congressman saying he views the role more as a negotiator than a fighter. “You’re always looking for votes,” he said, “even across the aisle. I don’t want people to be blind.

Fresno resident Katie Taylor applauded the state’s work in her city. She is 75 years old and takes care of her 51 year old daughter with Down’s syndrome. The increase in truck traffic is maddening, she said. “It’s just trucks, trucks, trucks, coming and going.”

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Oil ‘transition’ debate pledge puts climate at center of campaign finale

WASHINGTON – Joseph R. Biden’s Thursday night pledge to ‘get out of the oil industry’ to tackle climate change brought the issue to the fore for the latter part of a campaign year in which global warming has played a bigger role than ever.

Mr Biden’s statement in the closing moments of Thursday’s debate gave President Trump what his campaign saw as a huge opportunity to blunt his opponent’s appeal to working-class voters. Mr Biden’s campaign attempted to play it down, saying he was simply saying he would phase out long-standing tax subsidies for the oil industry.

But the shift away from fossil fuels is the inevitable end of Mr Biden’s promise to end net carbon pollution by 2050. The policy has energized some young voters and helped unite the left and moderate wings of the Democrats, but always posed risks for Mr. Biden.

“Last night Joe Biden made a clear threat to 19 million Americans with his promise to wipe out the oil industry. No rotation or cleanup by Biden or his team can correct this mistake, ”said Steve Guest, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee on Friday morning.

In no political year has climate change been as dominant an issue as 2020.

The two presidential debates examined the issue for the first time in history. Mr Biden has campaigned fiercely on promises of reduced emissions from global warming, and President Trump has even worked sporadically to moderate his long-standing climate denial by promoting tree planting as an environmental solution.

But the closing moments of the debate reverted to an older question: Can the nation switch to clean energy from fossil fuels without huge economic and political disruption?

“Basically what he’s saying is he’s going to destroy the oil industry,” Mr. Trump accused, adding, directly to the camera, “will you remember that, Texas? of that in Pennsylvania, Oklahoma?

The line recalled the Republican response in 2016 to Hillary Clinton’s recognition that “we are going to put a lot of miners and coal companies out of business” as the nation shifts to clean energy. These comments resonated in coal mining states like West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wyoming.

Mr Biden’s comments may have brought into play a new set of states that have seemed friendly to Mr Biden, such as Texas and New Mexico. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, an endangered freshman Democrat in New Mexico, said on twitter, “We need to work together to promote responsible energy production and stop climate change, not demonize a single industry.”

Although more talked about than stated, the transition from fossil fuels will be necessary to meet Mr. Biden’s goals of eliminating emissions from the energy sector by 2035 and achieving net zero emissions in the economy. by the middle of the century.

Still, he walked a fine line throughout the campaign, insisting that natural gas production – and the jobs it creates – will remain at the core of America’s energy makeup for several years, so even that he envisions a future powered more by wind, solar and other renewable sources.

Some energy experts have said that the Trump campaign’s attacks on Mr Biden may not have the same resonance as those against Ms Clinton four years ago, largely because public understanding of climate change has increased and the world’s major oil companies have, to varying degrees, made commitments to cut emissions.

“It’s a playbook that they keep coming back to, and it’s less and less effective. The economy is changing and the public is changing, ”said Joshua Freed, who heads the climate and energy program at Third Way, a center-left think tank.

Freed called the level of attention to climate change received in the two presidential debates and throughout the campaign as “delayed” and said he believed the United States had taken a step forward in accepting it. the need to reduce greenhouse gases. “When you have the worst wildfires in history on the west coast, when you’ve flooded after flood after a record storm and hurricane in the rest of the country, you have people saying, ‘That’s a big problem and we want to see it addressed, ”he said.

In NBC’s 12 minutes on climate change Thursday, NBC moderator Kristen Welker described man-made global warming as a fact. She asked candidates for their solutions rather than whether they “believe” in science.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump have engaged in a sustained debate on the economic effects of solving and failing to solve the problem. And for what many analysts said was the first time, contestants were asked to talk about the consequences of pollution on communities of color that live disproportionately near industrial sites.

“His presence in both debates underscores the difference and the extent to which this issue is seen as a voting issue and not just a niche issue in a party primary,” said Robert Gibbs, former press secretary for the White House under President Barack Obama.

“This means that climate change and the solutions to climate change have brought a number of other really important issues to the fore not only of what is being discussed in the final days of the elections, but probably at the top of the order. from the day to the start of the next Congress. It’s fundamentally different, ”said Gibbs.

Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Climate Change Communication Program, attributed the shift to an increase in public awareness and engagement with climate change over the past five years. Mr. Obama has made climate change a centerpiece of his second term. The science around the dangerous consequences of the climate has strengthened. And more and more, Americans are faced with the reality of record extreme weather conditions with floods, hurricanes and wildfires.

“Americans have a different awareness of climate change than they did 12 years ago,” he said.

Keep up with Election 2020

And for the first time, climate change was seen as a major issue for Democrats in the primaries, which Mr Leiserowitz called “very important”.

He also said that Mr. Trump’s outspoken denial of climate science helped bring attention to the issue. “Having a chief climate denier saying this is a Chinese hoax is all helping to sharpen the line between the positions of the two sides,” Leiserowitz said.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who was an economic policy adviser to Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign against Obama, said areas of agreement were poor rallying points. That year, the two candidates not only believed that climate change was real and serious, but had similar proposals to address it.

“I thought it would be a time when the nation would learn a lot about greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr. Holtz-Eakin said. But other than a few press articles, it has been largely ignored.

“Problems become important when they are a point of differentiation between candidates,” said Mr. Holtz-Eakin. “What I finally realized in hindsight is that there’s no point in talking about it because it doesn’t help you choose.”

In the 2020 election, the difference between the candidates could not be more striking.

Mr. Trump has denigrated climate science and installed climate change deniers in prominent positions in both the White House and environmental agencies. He has sought to roll back all federal regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, took action to allow aging coal-fired power plants to continue operating, and encouraged increased production of oil and gas.

During Thursday’s debate, Mr Trump claimed he had “so many different agendas” to tackle climate change, but offered no solution beyond an executive order he signed to support a tree planting initiative of the World Economic Forum. He attacked renewables and wrongly said that retrofitting buildings to make them energy efficient would eliminate windows.

Mr. Biden called climate change an “existential threat to humanity”. His plan calls for spending $ 2 trillion over four years to boost renewable energy.

In 2012, recalled Lanhee Chen, director of policy for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign against Mr. Obama, “there was really no pressure of any kind in the political market to have, for example, your plan on the climate change. In this race, the two candidates also accepted the reality of climate change and the need to tackle it, albeit to different degrees.

But, he said, even the Obama campaign did not raise the issue to force public debate. “Politicians and campaigns reflect the public situation very well. Campaigns don’t tend to spend time on issues that people don’t care about, ”he said.