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    Bernie Sanders suggests he may support primary challengers against Manchin and Sinema

    Bernie Sanders suggests he may support primary challengers against Manchin and SinemaProgressive Vermont senator believes ‘there’s a very good chance’ Democrats will face challenges over their filibuster stance Bernie Sanders has said he may consider supporting primary challengers against colleagues Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, the two Democrat holdouts in debate over whether to amend the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation.The progressive Vermont senator told reporters on Tuesday that he believes “there is a very good chance” that Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, and Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona, will face primary challenges because of their stance on the filibuster.He said home-state voters would be disappointed that the pair have refused to support changing Senate rules to overcome a Republican filibuster against major voting legislation while also balking at the massive, Biden-backed spending and social plan known as Build Back Better.When asked if he would consider backing such primary challengers, Sanders replied, “Well, yeah.”Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats, didn’t elaborate on his comment, but it is unusual for senators to suggest they would be willing to campaign against colleagues from their own party.Sanders’s sentiments also lay bare progressives’ growing frustrations with the more conservative senators, Manchin and Sinema, whom the left has blamed for stalling many of Biden’s top legislative priorities.Manchin and Sinema say they support the legislation but are unwilling to change Senate rules to muscle the legislation through the chamber over Republican objections. With a 50-50 split, Democrats lack the 60 votes needed to overcome the Republican filibuster.Manchin is expected to deliver a floor speech on Wednesday afternoon outlining his position on changing chamber rules to allow voting rights legislation to move forward. Yesterday he countered Sanders’s comments, saying he would not be bothered by a primary challenger.“I’ve been primaried my entire life. That would not be anything new for me,” he said Tuesday, when asked about fellow Democrats urging voters not to back him in a primary. “I’ve never run an election I wasn’t primaried. This is West Virginia, it’s rough and tumble. We’re used to that. So bring it on.”Sanders remains one of the nation’s leading progressive voices after strong Democratic presidential primary bids in 2016 and 2020 – and is still popular enough nationally to potentially affect Senate primaries around the country.Manchin and Sinema are not up for re-election until 2024, but both could face serious primary challengers then. Democratic representative Ruben Gallego of Arizona, who has sharply criticized Sinema for not supporting the voting rights legislation, has not ruled out launching a challenge against her.Manchin and Sinema are also experiencing some external pressure as they resist efforts to change the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation. Emily’s List, the progressive group that backs female candidates who support abortion rights and has deep ties to Democrats, said it would withhold its endorsement from Sinema because of her stance on filibuster reform.“Our mission can only be realized when everyone has the freedom to have their voice heard safely and freely at the ballot box,” Emily’s List’s president, Laphonza Butler, said in a statement released on Tuesday.Naral Pro-Choice America, which supports abortion rights and is also influential in top Democratic circles, released its own statement suggesting it would no longer support or endorse Manchin or Sinema because of their stances on the legislation.The voting rights legislation in question is the Freedom to Vote: John R Lewis Act, which civil rights activists say is vital to safeguarding American democracy as Republican-led states pass new restrictive voting laws. It would make election day a national holiday while ensuring access to early voting and mail-in ballots – both of which have become especially popular during the Covid-19 pandemic. The package also seeks to let the justice department intervene in states with a history of voter interference, among other changes.
    Associated Press contributed to this report
    TopicsBernie SandersDemocratsUS voting rightsUS politicsnewsReuse this content More

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    Bernie Sanders says Democrats are failing: ‘The party has turned its back on the working class’

    InterviewBernie Sanders says Democrats are failing: ‘The party has turned its back on the working class’Steven GreenhouseIn an exclusive interview, the senator says it’s time to ‘step up and take on the greed of the ruling class in America’ Senator Bernie Sanders has called on Democrats to make “a major course correction” that focuses on fighting for America’s working class and standing up to “powerful corporate interests” because the Democrats’ legislative agenda is stalled and their party faces tough prospects in this November’s elections.The White House is likely to see his comments as a shot across the bow by the left wing of a party increasingly frustrated at how centrist Democrats have managed to scupper or delay huge chunks of Biden’s domestic policy plans.In an interview with the Guardian, Sanders called on Joe Biden and the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, to push to hold votes on individual bills that would be a boon to working families, citing extending the child tax credit, cutting prescription drug prices and raising the federal hourly minimum wage to $15.Such votes would be good policy and good politics, the Vermont senator insisted, saying they would show the Democrats battling for the working class while highlighting Republican opposition to hugely popular policies.“It is no great secret that the Republican party is winning more and more support from working people,” Sanders said. “It’s not because the Republican party has anything to say to them. It’s because in too many ways the Democratic party has turned its back on the working class.”Sanders, who ran for the party’s nomination in both 2016 and 2020, losing out in fierce contests to Hillary Clinton and then Biden, is a popular figure on the left of the party. The democratic socialist from Vermont remains influential and has been supportive of Biden during his first year as the party tries to cope with the twin threats of the pandemic and a resurgent and increasingly extremist Republican party.But his comments appear to reflect a growing discontent and concern with the Biden administration’s direction. “I think it’s absolutely important that we do a major course correction,” Sanders continued. “It’s important that we have the guts to take on the very powerful corporate interests that have an unbelievably powerful hold on the economy of this country.”The individual bills that Sanders favors might not attract the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster, and a defeat on them could embarrass the Democrats. But Sanders, chairman of the Senate budget committee and one of the nation’s most prominent progressive voices, said, “People can understand that you sometimes don’t have the votes. But they can’t understand why we haven’t brought up important legislation that 70 or 80% of the American people support.”Sanders spoke to the Guardian on 6 January, the same day he issued a statement that the best way to safeguard our democracy is not just to enact legislation that protects voting rights, but to address the concerns of “the vast majority of Americans” for whom “there is a disconnect between the realities of their lives and what goes on in Washington”.He said millions of Americans were concerned with such “painful realities” as “low wages, dead-end jobs, debt, homelessness, lack of healthcare”. In that statement, he said, many working-class Americans have grown disaffected with the political system because “nothing changes” for them “or, if it does, it’s usually for the worse”.In the interview, Sanders repeatedly said that Democrats need to demonstrate vigorously and visibly that they’re fighting to improve the lives of working-class Americans. “The truth of the matter is people are going to work, and half of them are living paycheck to paycheck,” Sanders said. “People are struggling with healthcare, with prescription drugs. Young families can’t afford childcare. Older workers are worried to death about retirement.”Sanders has long been troubled by America’s increasing wealth and income inequality, but he made clear that he thinks it is time for Democrats to take on the ultra-wealthy and powerful corporations – a move he said vast numbers of Americans would support. “They want the wealthy to start paying their fair share of taxes,” he said. “They think it’s absurd that Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk don’t pay a nickel in federal taxes.”He praised Biden for pushing for improved childcare and extending the child tax credit. But he said it would also be good to “show working people that you are willing to step up and take on the greed of the ruling class in America right now.” He pointed repeatedly to the high prices for prescription drugs as an example of “corporate greed”.“There is no issue that people care more about than that we pay the highest prices for prescription drugs in the world,’’ he said, adding that the pharmaceutical industry has 1,500 lobbyists in Washington who “tried everything to make sure we don’t lower the cost of pharmaceuticals”.The senator said: “I think the Democrats are going to have to clear the air and say to the drug companies – and say it loudly – we’re talking about the needs of the working class – and use the expression ‘working class’. The Democrats have to make clear that they’re on the side of the working class and ready to take on the wealthy and powerful. That is not only the right thing to do, but I think it will be the politically right thing to do.”Last Wednesday evening, Sanders did a nationwide live stream in which he talked with the leaders of three long strikes: Warrior Met Coal in Alabama, Special Metals in West Virginia and the Rich Product Corporation’s Jon Donaire Desserts subsidiary in southern California. Noting that hedge funds or billionaires own large stakes in all three companies, he railed against those companies for offering modest raises or demanding that workers pay far more for health coverage even though the owners’ wealth has soared during the pandemic thanks to the booming stock market.“These entities, where the people on top have done phenomenally well, are squeezing their workers and lowering the standard of living for workers who are striking,” Sanders said. “It’s unacceptable.”In December, Sanders went to Battle Creek, Michigan, to support 1,400 Kellogg’s workers who were on strike at cereal factories in that city as well as in Memphis, Tennessee; Omaha, Nebraska; and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In the interview, Sanders said, “I think the Democratic party has to address the long-simmering debate, which is, Which side are you on? Are we prepared to stand with working families and take on powerful corporate interests?”Sanders voiced frustration with the lack of progress on Biden’s Build Back Better legislation, which the Democrats sought to enact through budget reconciliation, a process that requires only a simple majority to pass. That effort was slowed by lengthy negotiations with the centrist senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona – and then blocked when Manchin said he opposed the $2tn package, sparking leftwing fury and deep frustration in the White House.“We have tried a strategy over the last several months, which has been mostly backdoor negotiations with a handful of senators,” Sanders said. “It hasn’t succeeded on Build Back Better or on voting rights. It has demoralized millions of Americans.”He called for reviving a robust version of Build Back Better and also called for holding votes on individual parts of that legislation that would help working-class Americans. “We have to bring these things to the floor,” Sanders said. “The vast majority of people in the [Democratic] caucus are willing to fight for good policy.”Sanders added: “If I were Senator Sinema and a vote came up to lower the outrageously high cost of prescription drugs, I’d think twice if I want to get re-elected in Arizona to vote against that. If I were Mr Manchin and I know that tens of thousands of struggling families in West Virginia benefited from the expansion of the child tax credit, I’d think long and hard before I voted against it.”Sanders also called for legislation on another issue he has championed: having Medicare provide dental, vision and hearing benefits. “All these issues, they are just not Bernie Sanders standing up and saying this would be a great thing,” he said. “They are issues that are enormously popular, and on every one of them, the Republicans are in opposition. But a lot of people don’t know that because the Republicans haven’t been forced to vote on them.”TopicsBernie SandersDemocratsUS politicsinterviewsReuse this content More

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    Elon Musk targets Bernie Sanders over tax: ‘I keep forgetting you’re still alive’

    Elon Musk targets Bernie Sanders over tax: ‘I keep forgetting you’re still alive’
    Tesla founder responds to senator’s ‘fair share’ tweet
    Musk sold nearly $7bn of stock after controversial Twitter poll
    Biden approval ratings plunge amid crisis over inflation
    Elon Musk waded into yet another Twitter controversy on Sunday, the Tesla owner and world’s richest person responding to a tweet about tax from Senator Bernie Sanders by writing: “I keep forgetting that you’re still alive.”If the super-rich want to live for ever our planet is truly doomed | John HarrisRead moreSanders, 80, wrote: “We must demand that the extremely wealthy pay their fair share. Period.”Musk, 50, is also the owner of SpaceX and has a personal worth estimated at around $271bn, making him by some counts the richest person ever.He also tweeted: “Want me to sell more stock, Bernie? Just say the word …”Sanders did not immediately respond. Melissa Byrne, a progressive activist and former Sanders staffer, tweeted: “Folks, quit buying Tesla. Don’t reward abusive men.”This week, Musk sold nearly $7bn of shares in Tesla, more than $5bn after asking Twitter followers to vote on whether he should do so and more than $1bn on Friday.Jason Benowitz, senior portfolio manager at Roosevelt Investment Group in New York, told Reuters: “We expect the share sales will continue, as Musk holds millions of options worth billions of dollars that would otherwise expire worthless, and he has also prearranged share sales.”Tesla’s share price fell after Musk’s Twitter followers said he should sell stock. But the shares remain hugely valuable.Musk staged the Twitter poll to make a point about a “billionaires tax” proposed by Democrats in Congress, saying: “Note, I do not take a cash salary or bonus from anywhere. I only have stock, thus the only way for me to pay taxes personally is to sell stock.”Proponents of the billionaires tax say they want to target “unrealised capital gains”, meaning rises in the value of stocks owned by ultra-rich Americans who currently pay very little in tax.Sanders is a democratic socialist independent from Vermont who caucuses with Democrats in the Senate. He rose to global prominence with strong runs for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 and 2020, losing out to Hillary Clinton and then Joe Biden.As chair of the Senate budget committee and a champion of fairness in taxation, Sanders is pushing for Biden’s Build Back Better package of spending on health and social care and climate crisis mitigation to make it out of Congress and into law.Build Back Better would be funded by tax increases on corporations and the very wealthy. The billionaires tax is not part of the package but its chief proponent, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, condemned Musk’s Twitter stunt last week.Saying he wanted to “ensure billionaires pay tax every year, just like working Americans”, Wyden added: “Whether or not the world’s wealthiest man pays any taxes at all shouldn’t depend on the results of a Twitter poll.”Musk has a history of controversial – and sometimes costly – behaviour on social media. In October, he responded to Wyden’s tax proposals with a tweet.“Eventually they run out of other people’s money and then they come for you.”TopicsElon MuskUS taxationBernie SandersUS politicsUS domestic policyTeslanewsReuse this content More

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    ‘Finally doing right’: Democrats’ big bill offers Sanders chance to deliver

    Bernie Sanders‘Finally doing right’: Democrats’ big bill offers Sanders chance to deliver The progressive senator is close to realizing many of his policy goals – but can he unite the party behind Biden’s plan?Lauren Gambino in Washington@laurenegambinoSun 24 Oct 2021 03.00 EDTLast modified on Sun 24 Oct 2021 03.01 EDTWhen making the case for progressive policy, the veteran leftwing senator Bernie Sanders often cites public opinion. “Poll after poll,” he’ll say, before running through a list of ambitious initiatives that the “vast majority of the American people want”, from lowering the cost of prescription drug prices to expanding Medicare, establishing paid family and medical leave and confronting the climate crisis.Versions of these programs – initiatives once considered nothing more than liberal pipe dreams – are at the heart of Joe Biden’s sprawling domestic policy bill pending before Congress. But despite the popularity of the specific proposals, the legislation has a polling problem. Poll after poll shows that most Americans have no idea what’s actually in the bill.Furious, Sanders livestreamed a panel discussion on Wednesday titled What’s in the Damn Bill?. To the thousands of viewers who joined the broadcast, Sanders said the Democrats’ multitrillion-dollar spending package was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rebuild the American economy in fairer and more equitable way.“This is not radical stuff,” he said. “This is finally doing right by the American working class and having the courage to stand up to big-money interests.”After decades of furious speech-making from the political fringe, followed by two popular but ultimately unsuccessful bids for the presidency, the democratic socialist from Vermont is – against all the odds – the closest he’s ever been to delivering on the policy ideas that have defined his political career.Whether Sanders succeeds in his quest for a legislative legacy could determine the fate of Democrats in next year’s midterm elections – and of Biden’s presidency.“He has the most power and influence that he’s had at any point in his political career,” said Faiz Shakir, his chief political adviser. “He’s at the apex here. But as he’s acquired more power, so, too, has he acquired more responsibility.”Shakir said Sanders’ approach had changed because the environment had changed. Whereas before Sanders was pushing against the system, now he is at the center of the policy decisions, working within a Democratic party that has embraced much of his expansive platform.As chair of the powerful Senate budget committee and a member of the Democratic leadership, Sanders has been deeply involved in negotiations over the size and scope of the spending package. If and when an agreement is reached, he will play a lead role in drafting the legislation, which Democrats plan to steer through Congress over the unified opposition of Republicans.“In many ways he’s the author of this,” Shakir said. “And that’s one of the many reasons I think you see him rising to the occasion, rolling up his sleeves and making sure he is putting in all of his legislative efforts to get this across the finish line.”Initially Sanders proposed a $6tn budget blueprint, then settled for a framework that was nearly half that. Now he is working closely with Democrats in Congress and at the White House to reach a deal even smaller in scope that will satisfy the objections of the party’s centrists without sacrificing progressive priorities.Sanders knew his opening bid was unrealistic, given the dynamics of the Senate. But he hoped it would widen the parameters of the debate and ultimately what was possible. Progressives have repeatedly cited their willingness to accept a $3.5tn plan, and continue to negotiate downward, as proof of their commitment to dealing in good faith, compared with the centrists in their party, who they argue have not been forthcoming.As Democrats scramble to cobble together a deal, it’s the holdout senators Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, and Kyrsten Sinema, of Arizona, who hold effective veto power over which policies will survive and which must be dropped. Their objections have potentially imperiled plans for free community college, raising taxes on the wealthy and a climate program that would help the US meet its ambitious emissions goal.But every concession made to accommodate them moves the bill further and further from Sanders’ initial vision, leaving progressives deeply worried that Democrats will squander what they view as their best chance in decades to transform the American economy and confront the climate crisis.The California congressman Ro Khanna, who was among a group of progressives summoned to the White House for an Oval Office meeting this week, was optimistic that Democrats were close to a deal that progressives could accept, if not celebrate.“We’ve finally broken through,” he said. “And we will take the win because it establishes the principle that investments in people are needed in a democracy.”Republicans, however, view the imprimatur of a self-described socialist as a political gift.Progressives are now heavy-weights in the Democratic party | Gary GerstleRead moreUnified in their opposition to the spending bill, they have warned that the legislation is an attempt to fundamentally remake the American government in the image of a European-style social democracy while claiming the additional spending will stoke inflation and hurt economic dynamics.“This bill represents Bernie Sanders’ socialist dream,” the Republican senator John Barrasso said during a press conference, raising a 2,000-page draft of the Democrats’ spending package. “It is a nightmare for American taxpayers.”With no room for error, the stakes couldn’t be higher for Democrats. To pass, the bill will require the support of every Democrat in the Senate, a caucus that ranges the ideological spectrum from the democratic socialist Sanders to the conservative centrist Manchin.The senators have competing world views. Whereas Sanders believes the bill has the potential to be “one of the most important pieces of legislation since the New Deal”, Manchin has warned that the scale of it risks “changing our whole society to an entitlement mentality”.Sanders has publicly and privately sought to persuade Manchin and Sinema to support Biden’s agenda. It hasn’t always been diplomatic.Tensions escalated dramatically last week, when Sanders placed an op-ed in Manchin’s home state newspaper detailing how an expansion of the social safety net would help the people of West Virginia, which has one of the highest rates of poverty in the country. In a statement, Manchin fired back that “no op-ed from a self-declared independent socialist” would sway him.Behind closed doors, Manchin and Sanders continued to tangle, with the West Virginian reportedly making clear that he was comfortable passing nothing.Publicly, the senators have signaled that they are making progress. When they ran into each other outside the Capitol last week, Manchin threw his arm around Sanders and asked reporters to take a picture of them.As they returned to their cars to leave, Manchin shouted: “Never give up, Bernie.”Sanders hardly needed the encouragement.Sanders has become a ubiquitous presence on the Sunday political talkshows. He traveled to Indiana and Iowa in an effort to drum up support for the bill, intentionally visiting parts of the country that voted for Donald Trump. When he’s not selling the budget bill, he’s working to craft it, aides say.The planet is in peril. We’re building Congress’s strongest-ever climate bill | Bernie SandersRead moreSanders successfully lobbied the White House to back a plan to extend new dental, vision and hearing benefits to the tens of millions of American seniors on Medicare, a measure initially left out of the proposal. The senator’s healthcare push put him at odds with House leadership, who would prefer to permanently strengthen the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, or to expand Medicaid services to poor adults in mostly Republican-led states that refused to do so under the healthcare law.Biden said on Thursday that including all three benefits would be a “reach” but suggested a voucher program for dental coverage was possible. Though greatly pared back, it would nevertheless be a victory for Sanders, who has long sought to make Medicare the foundation for a national health insurance program, which he calls Medicare for all.As part of negotiations, Sanders has worked closely with the leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, especially the chairwoman, Pramila Jayapal, the Washington congresswoman who has emerged as a leader in negotiations over the president’s agenda.In a showdown last month, House progressives threatened to derail a vote on a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill championed by centrists as a way to maintain leverage over the much larger spending bill.The Senate had already passed the public works bill, with the support of all 50 Democrats and 19 Republicans, so it fell to House progressives to, in their parlance, “hold the line”. Sanders offered his vocal support for the blockade, which Khanna, a deputy whip of the progressive caucus, said was “critical” to keeping progressives unified.On the day of the promised vote, Biden ventured to Capitol Hill to meet with the bitterly divided House Democrats. But instead of rallying support for an immediate vote, the president effectively agreed with progressives that the two pillars of his agenda were inextricably linked. The vote was delayed and the infrastructure bill remains stalled, bound up in the bigger battle over the spending package.The maneuver was hailed as a major tactical victory by progressive activists, who have long lamented the tendency of liberal lawmakers to cave to pressure from Democratic leaders during heated policy fights.But Biden’s position frustrated a number of centrist Democrats, particularly those from swing districts who had hoped the president would sign the infrastructure bill into law, allowing them to start campaigning on new funding for roads, bridges and expanded broadband.Progressives, meanwhile, argue that a failure to deliver on their campaign promises would also be politically perilous.Anna Bahr, who served as Sanders’ national deputy campaign secretary in 2020 and is the co-founder of the new consultancy firm Left Flank Strategies, said the debate over Biden’s agenda had helped elevate new progressive leaders. The effect has been a show of force by progressives that she believes will motivate voters and candidates next year.“There’s a family in Congress of like-minded people – there’s a voting bloc,” she said. “The possibility – the likelihood – of moving on some of the issues that Sanders had for so many years been the lonely voice on is absolutely inspiring for a lot of people, especially young people.”On Wednesday night, Sanders was joined by a panel of progressives to help lay out the proposals in the Democrats’ bill. It was a messaging mission, but the forum also provided an occasion to celebrate the ascendancy of the progressive movement in American politics.Introducing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders hailed the New York congresswoman as “one of the outstanding, in my view, political leaders in this country”.Beaming on screen, Ocasio-Cortez thanked him for the introduction. “That’s very kind coming from the OG leader.”TopicsBernie SandersUS politicsJoe BidenDemocratsUS CongressUS SenateUS domestic policyfeaturesReuse this content More

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    Manchin hits back at Sanders criticism in fight over Biden investment plan

    DemocratsManchin hits back at Sanders criticism in fight over Biden investment planVermont senator chides Manchin over lack of support for billProgressive-centrist impasse holds up Biden’s reform agenda Edward HelmoreSat 16 Oct 2021 10.07 EDTLast modified on Sat 16 Oct 2021 10.09 EDTInternal party warfare between progressive and moderate Democrats over Joe Biden’s $3.5tn tax-and-spending package has burst dramatically into the open after Vermont senator Bernie Sanders launched a thinly veiled attack on West Virginia senator Joe Manchin in an op-ed published in the centrist Democrat’s home-state newspaper.Is Hunter Biden’s art project painting the president into an ethical corner?Read moreSanders, writing in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, described opponents of the legislation as “every Republican in Congress as well as the drug companies, the insurance companies, the fossil fuel industry and the billionaire class”.He added that opponents of the bill support a status quo “in which the very rich get richer while ordinary Americans continue to struggle to make ends meet”.Joe Biden’s proposed legislation is an ambitious package on policies such as free education, the climate crisis and healthcare provision that its proponents liken to the domestic reforms of the 1960s Great Society and the 1930s New Deal.However, it has run up against opposition from a group of centrist and conservative Democrats – often spearheaded by Manchin – who balk at its price tag and some of the programs it embraces.Sanders, a democratic socialist from Vermont, said polls showed “overwhelming support for this legislation”.“Yet, the political problem we face is that in a 50-50 Senate we need every Democratic senator to vote yes. We now have only 48. Two Democratic senators remain in opposition, including senator Joe Manchin,” he said.The other senator Sanders was referring to is Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.The column provoked swift pushback from Manchin. “This isn’t the first time an out-of-stater has tried to tell West Virginians what is best for them, despite having no relationship to our state,” he said a tweet.Last month, Manchin said he would not vote for the bill, called the Build Back Better plan, that he characterized again on Friday a “reckless expansion of government programs”.The exchange comes as the full spending package looks increasingly unlikely to pass in its current form, and the progressive-centrist impasse has paralyzed Biden’s domestic reform agenda and action to match his administration’s commitment to combatting climate change.Central to the dispute between Sanders and Manchin is the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP), a $150bn program within the spending bill, designed to speed the conversion of US electric power generation from fossil fuels to renewable energy.Manchin’s home state is the second largest producer of coal, after Wyoming, according to the US Energy Information Administration, and Manchin has argued that utilities should not receive federal funds for an energy transition they are already making.Manchin is also chairman of the Senate energy and natural resources committee, and holds power over energy components in the bill. He has indicated he aims to reduce the $3.5tn price tag of the spending bill to $1.5tn.But simply dropping the clean energy provision from the proposed legislation would come as major embarrassment to the administration ahead of Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow next month, where Biden will be in the spotlight over matching verbal commitment to climate initiatives with legislative action.In taking the fight to West Virginia, Sanders is redoubling pressure on his party colleague.In comments to reporters last week, Sanders said: “The time is long overdue for him to tell us with specificity – not generalities, but beyond generalities, with specificity – what he wants and what he does not want, and to explain that to the people of West Virginia and America.”From ringside, the White House continues to express its commitment to a compromise solutions to get the economic package, even if it does not reach its full measure of spending.“I’m convinced we’re going to get it done. We’re not going to get $3.5tn. We’ll get less than that, but we’re going to get it,” Biden said Friday.White House Press secretary Jen Psaki described the impasse as an example of “democracy working.”“When it comes down to it, no bill is perfect,” Psaki said on a podcast. “It’s not going to be everything that Joe Biden wants, it’s not going to be everything Joe Manchin wants.”TopicsDemocratsJoe BidenUS CongressUS domestic policyUS politicsBernie SandersnewsReuse this content More

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    Progressives are now heavy-weights in the Democratic party | Gary Gerstle

    OpinionUS newsProgressives are now heavyweights in the Democratic partyGary GerstleThe ambition of Biden’s spending package reveals the distance that US politics has travelled since the Great Recession Tue 12 Oct 2021 06.18 EDTLast modified on Tue 12 Oct 2021 08.32 EDTThe stench of defeat has clung to the Democrats’ failure to get either of their major infrastructure bills passed by Congress during the last week of September. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had committed herself to 27 September as the date by which she would bring to a vote the smaller, bipartisan bill infrastructure package already passed by the Senate. This was going to happen, she said, even if no progress had been made on meeting the progressive Democrats’ key demand: passing the larger reconciliation infrastructure bill at the same time. But Pelosi held no vote that day or even that week, even as she vowed with increasing frequency (and seeming desperation) that one was imminent. The week ended not with a dramatic roll call but with plenty of Democratic handwringing and gleeful Republican predictions that the collapse of Democratic rule and, with it, of Biden’s presidency, was at hand.Treating that fateful week as the moment when the promise of the Biden presidency vanished may be too hasty a conclusion, however. The difficult challenge facing Pelosi was to unite Democrats behind a second infrastructure bill much larger and more ambitious than the first. It was never going to be easy to pass that second bill, and not just because the Democrats were holding a slim majority in the House and the thinnest of majorities in the Senate. It is also the case that a bill of this size and scope has no clear precedent. We hear a lot about FDR’s remarkable accomplishment, passing 15 separate bills in the first 100 days of his New Deal administration in 1933. The Democrats’ second infrastructure bill, if passed, would have been equally remarkable. It is best understood as an attempt to compress the equivalent of Roosevelt’s fifteen separate initiatives into one giant piece of legislation.It’s exhausting simply to read through the list of the second infrastructural bill’s major provisions: universal preschool, subsidies for child and elder care, a program of school lunches, paid medical leave, expansion of Medicare (and Obamacare and Medicaid), massive investments in a green economy, additional investments in physical infrastructure, a Civilian Climate Corps (modelled on FDR’s storied Civilian Conservation Corps), affordable housing, Native American infrastructure, support for historically black colleges and universities, and an expanded green card program for immigrant workers and their families. We’ve heard a lot about the way in which the filibuster warps American democracy and about the arcane process of “reconciliation” that, in a few instances, allows for a filibuster “workaround.” We’ve heard a lot less about how the Democrats, in difficult political circumstances, have come within two Senate votes of achieving a legislative breakthrough on a scale that rivals FDR’s legendary 100 days.And despite pundit declarations to the contrary, Democrats’ attempt at breakthrough is not yet dead. It is true that the reconciliation infrastructural bill no longer has a chance of reaching an expenditure level of $4tn. If such a bill passes, it is likely to be in the $1.5-2tn range. The many major initiatives currently contained within it may have to be shrunk by a third. That will disappoint Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and their supporters, who had originally set their eyes on a $6tn package. Yet, history offers a different perspective. The Biden administration might still deliver a package of programs across its first year totaling $5tn: an estimated $2tn for a downsized reconciliation infrastructural bill; $2tn for America’s Rescue Plan already approved; and the $1tn for the bipartisan infrastructure bill that is sure to pass the House at some point. This “shrunken” 2021 package as a whole would still rival (as a percentage of GDP) government expenditures during the most expensive years of the second world war. It would exceed by more than five times the size of Obama’s 2009 economic recovery plan.The ambition of Biden’s spending package reveals the distance that US politics has travelled since the Great Recession, when Obama relied for economic guidance on a group of economic advisors drawn from the neoliberal world of Robert Rubin and Goldman Sachs, and of Wall Street more broadly—figures such as Timothy Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Peter Orszag, and Michael Froman. Elizabeth Warren had not then launched her political career, and Sanders was a lonely voice in the Senate. They were certainly not regarded as Democratic Party heavyweights. They now are. That Biden ultimately sided with the progressives during the 27 September week is a sure sign of their influence.The progressives’ influence is equally apparent in Biden’s decision, in the days leading up to the expected vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill, to nominate Saule Omarova to be Comptroller of the Currency. Omarova, a law professor at Cornell University, is a radical who wants to democratize and nationalize finance in America in ways never done before. In her legal writings, she has argued that the Federal Reserve ought to be turned into a people’s bank where Americans would keep their deposit accounts (rather than in private banks, as is currently the case). This newly configured Fed, in her vision, would also establish a “national investment authority” charged with directing Federal Reserve capital to projects that serve the public interest. Omarova may not receive confirmation from the Senate; even if she does, she may simply be a pawn in Biden’s campaign to get the mainstream Jerome Powell reappointed as Fed chairman. But by nominating Omarova, Biden has spurred a conversation already underway about how to restructure the Fed in ways that make it less of a cloistered institution serving elite interests and both more transparent and more responsive to the democratic will.Omarova is hardly a singular figure in Biden circles. Stephanie Kelton, an economics professor at Binghamton University and a former chief economist for Democrats on the US Senate Budget Committee, has argued in a widely-read book (The Deficit Myth) that governments can sustain much larger deficits than conventional economic theory prescribes. High-volume government expenditures, properly targeted, she asserts, will not slow economic growth but enhance a “people’s economy.” Lina Khan, appointed by Biden to chair the Federal Trade Commission, believes that social media and e-commerce giants such as Amazon exercise the kind of monopoly power that damage both the economy and American democracy. She has authorized the FTC to scrutinize the practices of these corporate titans with a view toward either breaking them up or subjecting them to much stricter public regulation than they have yet known. More generally, she aims to restore a regime of public regulation of private corporate power that FDR and his New Dealers did so much to bring into being—and that the Reagan Revolution did so much to break up. The bipartisan fury directed at Facebook during congressional hearings last week suggest that Khan’s views may have broad popular appeal.It is still too soon to know which of these progressive views and the governing proposals that issue from them will prevail. The Democrats are operating in a political environment far more hostile than what Roosevelt faced in 1933, when he enjoyed large majorities in the House and the Senate. If they fail to pass versions of both infrastructural bills this autumn, the Democrats will seriously damage their chances of maintaining their majorities in the House and Senate in 2022. But it is also true, as is the case with the populist mobilization that Trump has engendered on the right, that the new progressivism is not going away anytime soon. We have entered a new political era, one in which the principles and strategies that guided the party during the Clinton and Obama eras no longer suffice.
    Gary Gerstle is Mellon Professor of American History at Cambridge and is writing The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order (2022). He is a Guardian US columnist
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