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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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    ‘We need him to deliver’: Biden faces wrath of disappointed supporters

    Joe Biden‘We need him to deliver’: Biden faces wrath of disappointed supporters The US president hopes to be a transformational figure like FDR but inaction on voting rights, the climate crisis and social policy has fuelled frustrationDavid Smith in Washington@smithinamericaSat 23 Oct 2021 02.00 EDTLast modified on Sat 23 Oct 2021 02.07 EDTWhen Joe Biden huddled with a group of historians in March, the conversation revolved around thinking big like one of his predecessors, Franklin Roosevelt, architect of the New Deal. Biden, it seemed, wanted to join him in the first rank of transformational US presidents.Six months later, a very different gathering took place this week outside the White House gates. Five young climate activists, holding signs and sitting on folding chairs, began an indefinite hunger strike. It was a visceral expression of disgust at what they see as Biden’s willingness to think small and break his promises.Biden gives strongest signal he’s ready to move to end Senate filibusterRead more“Young people turned out in record numbers to elect him on his climate commitments,” said Nikayla Jefferson, 24, an activist helping the quietly determined hunger strikers on the edge of Lafayette Park. “But over this past month he’s almost given up. He’s not being a leader in this moment in the way that we need him to deliver.”A growing sense of betrayal is shared by campaigners for everything from gun rights to immigration reform, from racial justice to voting rights, who saw Democrats’ governing majority as a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Instead party infighting has put Biden’s agenda in jeopardy and could result in voter disillusionment in next year’s midterm elections.The 46th president came into office promising to attack four crises – coronavirus, climate, economy and racial justice – but has seen his approval rating sink to 42% after colliding with some harsh political and economic realities.These include tepid jobs growth, labour strikes, rising inflation and petrol prices, logjams in the global supply chain, a record number of arrests at the US-Mexico border and a botched withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan that raised unexpected questions about his competence.Even routine business, such as appointing an ambassador to Japan, appears to have become jinxed: Biden’s choice for Tokyo, Rahm Emanuel, provoked a backlash from liberals because of his record on racial justice as mayor of Chicago.Worries that Biden has lost his way have been intensified by his failure to hold an open-to-all press conference since taking office in January. In that time he has done only 10 one-on-one interviews – far fewer than Barack Obama or Donald Trump at the same stage.But the biggest sense of a stalled presidency derives from seemingly interminable wrangling among congressional Democrats over Biden’s $1tn physical infrastructure bill and a $3.5 trillion social and environmental package.Two senators in particular, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have demanded cuts to the reconciliation package, prompting public acrimony with Senator Bernie Sanders and other progressives that has come to dominate Washington and crowd out other urgent causes.Biden’s proud march into the history books appears to have descended into internal party mudslinging.Jeff Merkley, a Democratic senator for Oregon, told the Meet the Press Daily programme on the MSNBC network: “It’s completely taking the air out of the balloon for the Biden presidency. It’s hurting Biden. It’s hurting the Democrats. It’s undermining the vision of all the accomplishments we will have as being highly significant.”With his legislative agenda in limbo if not peril, Biden was this week forced to step in, host both factions at the White House and take a more aggressive role. This gave some Democrats fresh hope of a breakthrough but indicated that he will pare down the $3.5tn package in favor of a more modest proposal, threatening a clean electricity programme that was the centerpiece of his climate strategy.It also underlined concerns that Biden is yielding to corporate interests on fossil fuels, prescription drug prices and tax increases. Critics say he has become so consumed with the grind of policy sausage-making that he has lost sight of big picture issues dear to his supporters.Among them is the fate of democracy itself.Last week Senate Republicans deployed a procedural rule known as the filibuster to block, for the second time, debate on sweeping reforms that would protect the right to vote. Activists who knocked on doors and raised funds for Biden warn that his failure to prioritize the issue above all others could prove his biggest regret.LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, said: “Do I believe that he’s against voter suppression? Absolutely. Do I think that he supports voting rights? Absolutely. Do I believe that he is willing to use the full power of his office and his administration to ensure that voters that voted for him are not punished for voting for him? That’s yet to be seen.”In a CNN town hall on Thursday night, Biden signaled support for filibuster reform. But he should have pushed the cause earlier and more forcefully, Brown argues.“When you fight for those that fight for you, you go in the midterms with an advantage. I think they squandered that with choosing the wrong strategy. They miscalculated. Black folks may not have another real, viable party option but we always have options,” she said.Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, a leading civil organization, described the White House’s passivity about safeguarding democracy as “appalling”. He told the Washington Post: “I have heard from many of my colleagues and members that the lack of priority around voting rights will be the undoing of the legacy for this presidency.”Disenchantment was evident again last weekend when dozens of advocates for immigration reform staged a virtual walkout on administration officials during a video meeting. They are critical of Biden’s continuation of Trump-era border policies such as forcing migrants to wait in Mexico pending asylum hearings and deploying a public health order known as Title 42 to expel migrants at the border over concerns about Covid-19.Ariana Saludares, an advocate from the New Mexico-based community organization Colores United, who took part in the walkout, said: “Title 42 is a sham. Politicians, including the current administration, use it to explain that those coming across the borders have higher rates of infection. We have the numbers from our shelters along the borders to show that that is absolutely false.”Speaking by phone from Puerto Palomas, a small border town in Mexico suffering water shortages, Saludares asked: “Where is Joe Biden? Where is Kamala Harris? Where are all of these things they said that they would be able to provide us with after such a ‘horrible period’. And now what? It leaves a lot of people wondering what actually are they doing?”The disappointment of grassroots activists spells trouble for Democrats ahead of midterm elections for the House of Representatives and Senate that historically tend to favour the party that does not hold the White House. Ominously seven House Democrats have announced they will retire rather than run for re-election, with another five seeking other elected office.Democrats fear a replay of 2010, when the tortuous but ultimately successful passage of Obama’s Affordable Care Act did not prevent a crushing defeat in the midterms. And looming in the distance is Trump, who seems likely to run for president again in 2024, a prospect that fills many observers with dread for the future of American democracy.Bill Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution thinktank in Washington and former policy adviser to President Bill Clinton, said: “This is obviously a delicate moment in the Biden presidency. Right now the Biden agenda is the equivalent of airplanes in a kind of a crush, circling above an airport that doesn’t have enough runways to accommodate all of them simultaneously.“Things will look different once some of the planes begin to land and I do expect that the infrastructure bill and a pared-down reconciliation bill will in fact be enacted into law well before the end of the year. That will change the mood to some extent. The situation is not quite as bad as it looks – but it’s bad enough.”But not everyone is doom and gloom. Antjuan Seawright, a Democratic strategist based in Columbia, South Carolina, was more upbeat. “I feel cautiously optimistic,” he said. “Joe Biden has demonstrated over time his ability to take a licking and keep on ticking. He’s also demonstrated that when people count him out, he always teaches them that they do not know how to count.“When the ink dries about the story of this piece of history, you’re going to see that as the continued theme when it comes to Joe Biden. I believe we’re right where we need to be. Mike Tyson has a quote, ‘The key to being successful is peaking at the right time,’ and I think Joe Biden will in the end do just that.”TopicsJoe BidenUS politicsDemocratsUS domestic policyUS voting rightsUS midterm elections 2022featuresReuse this content More

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    Biden gives strongest signal he’s ready to move to end Senate filibuster

    Joe BidenBiden gives strongest signal he’s ready to move to end Senate filibusterAfter voting rights defeat, president expresses mounting frustration over rule that allows 41 senators to block legislation Ed Pilkington@edpilkingtonFri 22 Oct 2021 09.21 EDTLast modified on Fri 22 Oct 2021 14.08 EDTJoe Biden has given the strongest indication yet that he is willing to end or whittle down the Senate filibuster as a means of overcoming Republican intransigence and moving ahead with reforms to voting rights, the debt ceiling and possibly more.Speaking in Baltimore a day after Senate Republicans yet again blocked legislation designed to secure access to the ballot box for all Americans, Biden expressed mounting frustration at the filibuster, which effectively gives the conservative minority a stranglehold over large swaths of policy.Twitter admits bias in algorithm for rightwing politicians and news outletsRead more“We’re going to have to move to the point where we fundamentally alter the filibuster,” the president said.At a CNN town hall in Baltimore on Thursday night, Biden hedged on how far any reform would go. “That remains to be seen,” he said, “in terms of fundamentally altering it or whether or not we just end the filibuster straight up.”Asked by the moderator Anderson Cooper whether he would consider ending the filibuster on the issue of voting rights alone, Biden replied: “And maybe more.”The filibuster has emerged as the rock upon which the ship of the Biden presidency could founder. The Senate mechanism locks in minority rule by allowing just 41 senators out of the 100 who sit in the chamber to block legislation.The present Senate has a 50:50 split between Democrats and Republicans, though the Democrats hold the majority by dint of Kamala Harris, the vice-president’s, tie-breaking vote. Yet the Democratic agenda is still stymied across important areas of public policy by the filibuster, which requires Democratic whips to find 60 votes to pass legislation.On Wednesday the Republican group led by Mitch McConnell applied the filibuster once more to hold back the Freedom to Vote Act. The bill would be the most significant overhaul in US election procedures in a generation, countering the wave of voter suppression measures that have been championed by Republicans across the states this year.Progressive Democrats have been increasingly pressuring Biden to be more aggressive on the filibuster in order to secure fundamental reforms. But the president is in a tight spot given the resistance to change from within his own ranks.Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator from West Virginia, and Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona, have both said they would oppose limiting the filibuster. Given universal Republican opposition to change, it would take a unanimous vote of all 50 Democrats to push this through.Biden told the CNN town hall that entering into the hornet’s nest of the filibuster at this moment could make it harder for him to pass other pieces of signature legislation. “I lose at least three votes right now to get what I have to get done on the economic side of the equation, the foreign policy side of the equation.”The president did not stipulate which three senators he had in mind.Earlier this month the Democrats began focusing on the idea of scrapping the filibuster in the critical area of the debt ceiling. Republican opposition pushed the nation to the brink of defaulting on its debt, though McConnell backed down at the last minute.Biden told the town hall that “the idea that, for example, my Republican friends say that we’re going to default on the national debt because they’re going to filibuster that and we need 10 Republicans to support us is the most bizarre thing I ever heard.”He said that if a similar clash reoccurred, “you’ll see an awful lot of Democrats being ready to say, ‘not me. I’m not doing that again. We’re going to end the filibuster.’ But it still is difficult to end the filibuster beyond that.”TopicsJoe BidenUS SenateUS politicsUS CongressnewsReuse this content More

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    Are lobbyists trying to gut Biden’s budget? No one knows – and that’s the problem | David Litt

    OpinionUS politicsAre lobbyists trying to gut Biden’s budget? No one knows – and that’s the problemDavid LittOur campaign finance system makes it nearly impossible to track money in politics or hold our representatives accountable Fri 22 Oct 2021 06.27 EDTLast modified on Fri 22 Oct 2021 06.32 EDTJoe Biden’s Build Back Better reconciliation bill has been stuck in limbo – and conservative Democrats are in fundraising heaven.West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, who raised more than $400,000 from the oil and gas industry while the bill was being negotiated, is now poised to gut Biden’s clean-energy plan. Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema spent the summer and fall collecting checks from corporate groups and Trump donors who oppose the Biden agenda, then helped cut the size of the reconciliation package by approximately half.Biden’s budget could transform life for working women. Don’t let Manchin gut it | Moira DoneganRead morePolitical horse-trading is nothing new, and the version of Build Back Better that seems likely to pass would improve tens of millions of American lives. But there’s still something unseemly about the way this bill has been negotiated. Were the Senate’s holdouts demanding a principled compromise? Acting out of genuine concern for their constituents’ interests? Or were they trading favors for campaign cash?It’s impossible to know for certain which provisions, if any, were cut because of wealthy campaign donors. But that’s precisely the problem, and it goes far beyond one bill and two senators. Our campaign finance system – one that has existed for barely more than a decade – makes it nearly impossible to distinguish between politics-as-usual, influence peddling and outright bribery. That’s not just a threat to individual policies or pieces of legislation. It’s a threat to public trust in our system of government, and by extension, to democracy itself.For most of the last half-century, it was widely understood that democracy depends upon voters’ trust that their representatives will represent them. That’s why, in 1976, the supreme court ruled that the public interest was served not just by preventing corruption, but by preventing “the appearance of corruption”. The court’s decision made both legal and intuitive sense: if voters decide that the political process is corrupt, they’ll stop engaging with the political process, thus reducing public accountability and opening the door to more corruption.But in 2010, a new, far more conservative supreme court took a completely different view. “We now conclude,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy in Citizens United, “that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” In a series of follow-on decisions, the court’s rightwing majority expanded on this idea: not that the appearance of corruption was good, but that no amount of money in politics could possibly appear corrupt.In the real world, the court’s assertion was almost immediately proven false. In a divided country, one thing Americans can agree on is that rich people and corporations have way too much political power. According to the Pew Research Center, for example, 90% of Americans think it’s important for society that wealthy donors have no more influence than other people – but just 26% of people think that is now the case. A handful of justices chose to ignore the “appearance of corruption”, but it hasn’t gone away just because a conservative supreme court closed its eyes.Fortunately, even in the Citizens United era, there are ways to reduce the political influence of corporate donors and wealthy individuals – and to restore Americans’ faith that government can work for the people.First, we can make it more difficult for lawmakers and wealthy interests to engage in outright, quid-pro-quo corruption. Just this week, a grand jury indicted Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, a Nebraska Republican, for allegedly lying to federal investigators about $180,000 in illegal campaign contributions. This development was remarkable precisely because it was so rare. It’s an open secret that even the campaign finance laws that remain post-Citizens United are broken with impunity. (Two years into his presidency, Donald Trump himself tweeted that campaign finance violations “are not a crime”.) If law enforcement investigated and prosecuted corruption more aggressively, lawmakers might become more careful about crossing, or merely approaching, legal lines.Second, we can do what election law expert Rick Hasen calls “leveling up”. Rather than limiting the amount of corporate money in politics – an impossibility so long as conservatives control the court – we can give ordinary Americans more influence. So-called “democracy vouchers” could give voters tax credits for small-dollar donations to causes they believe in. We could also increase the amount of public funds available for candidates who agree not to take private donations. (Lest anyone try to paint this as some kind of socialist plot, Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush and George W Bush all accepted taxpayer dollars to fund their campaigns.)Finally, we can limit the influence of the other side of the influence-peddling equation: lobbying. In the Citizens United era, corporations and wealthy individuals can spend unlimited sums of money on politicians’ campaigns, then spend unlimited sums of money on lobbyists who ask those same politicians for highly specific favors. It’s hard to imagine a system better suited to erode Americans’ trust in their elected officials. But imagine a sliding-scale tax on registered lobbying, far stricter disclosure requirements on corporate political spending, or perhaps even an Office of Public Lobbying to advocate for groups well-represented in America but poorly funded on Capitol Hill.These changes won’t undo all the damage caused by conservative justices’ Citizen United ruling. But they will help stem the tide. They would give candidates without access to deep-pocketed donors a more level playing field. They would give lawmakers like Manchin and Sinema an alternative to funding their campaigns via wealthy interests – and no excuse not to take it. Most of all, they would give Americans more confidence that the legislative process, while never straightforward or without compromise, is designed to benefit all the people, and not just a privileged few.Democracy is not just under attack from insurrectionists who would commit political violence or would-be autocrats who would overturn an election. It’s under attack from those who seek to undermine its central promise – that representative government can make a positive difference in people’s lives.Ultimately, reducing the influence of corporate and megadonor money isn’t about smoothing the next reconciliation bill’s passage, or even fixing a broken campaign-finance system. It’s about bolstering the American republic as it faces its toughest test in decades.
    David Litt is an American political speechwriter and New York Times bestselling author of Thanks Obama, and Democracy in One Book or Less. He edits How Democracy Lives, a newsletter on democracy reform
    TopicsUS politicsOpinionDemocratsJoe BidenUS SenateUS CongressBiden administrationcommentReuse this content More

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    ‘Tired of broken promises’: climate activists launch hunger strike outside White House

    Climate crisis‘Tired of broken promises’: climate activists launch hunger strike outside White HouseThe protest comes a day after Joe Biden appeared ready to settle for a smaller environmental proposal ahead of the COP26 summit David Smith in Washington@smithinamericaWed 20 Oct 2021 15.20 EDTLast modified on Wed 20 Oct 2021 16.59 EDTWith little more than sun hats, placards and folding chairs, five young activists have begun a hunger strike in front of the White House urging Joe Biden not to abandon his bold climate agenda.The protest came a day after the US president threatened to water down his $3.5tn social and environmental legislation and with Washington’s commitments about to face scrutiny at the COP26 summit in Glasgow.The five protesters said they will eat no food and drink only water. They intend to gather in Lafayette Park every day from 8am to 8pm until their demands – which include a civilian climate corps, clean energy performance program and funding for environmental justice – are satisfied.The climate disaster is here – this is what the future looks likeRead moreOn Wednesday, in bright autumn sunshine, the quintet stood in a row holding signs including “Hunger striking for my dreams” and “Hunger striking for my future children”. They then sat down in red folding chairs with the words “Hunger strike day one” written in giant letters on the pavement before them.“I’m nervous in that I know that I will go on hunger strike until the demands are met, until I’m absolutely physically unable to,” said Ema Govea, a high school student who turned 18 on Tuesday. “That’s scary and I know my parents are worried and my friends back home are worried.”Biden met privately on Tuesday with nearly 20 moderate and progressive Democrats in separate groups as he appeared ready to ditch an ambitious $3.5tn package in favour of a smaller proposal that can win passage in the closely divided Congress. A provision central to Biden’s climate strategy is among those that could be scaled back or eliminated.Joe Manchin, a conservative senator from coal-rich West Virginia, has made clear that his opposes the Clean Energy Performance Plan, which would see the government impose penalties on electric utilities that fail to meet clean energy benchmarks and provide financial rewards to those that do, in line with Biden’s goal of achieving 80% “clean electricity” by 2030.The hunger strikers, who have worked with the Sunrise Movement youth group, warned that such concessions would be disastrous for the planet.Govea, from Santa Rosa, California, said: “Joe Biden made these campaign promises and we worked really hard on his campaign and to get him elected so that he could stop the climate crisis on these promises that he made.”Abandoning Biden’s commitments would signal to Cop26 that America has failed, Govea added. “I won’t let Joe Biden send a message to the world that he’s willing to give up on climate because I know that the American people, and young people across the country and across the world, are terrified but they’re ready to fight.”The hunger strikers drew TV cameras and curious glances from tourists in an area close to the White House that has reopened after months of security restrictions. As they sat, they spoke to reporters, checked emails and contemplated the long haul ahead.Paul Campion, 24, had skipped his usual breakfast of a bagel with cheese and eggs. He said: “I’m nervous about losing my my body weight, my muscles, about what it will do to my energy, to my brain, but I’m putting my body on the line because I’m here to remind Joe Biden of the promises that he’s made and that the stakes are this high, that young people are out here not eating because it’s this urgent and it’s this important.”Campion, a community organizer from Chicago, and his fellow protesters are “sick and tired of broken promises” from Biden and the Democrats, he continued. “I’m hunger striking because I want to live a full, beautiful life without fear of the climate crisis and I want to have children, I want to play with them in the park and I want to have community dinners where I invite my friends and family over and we sing and we have a bonfire.“That’s the future that we can have if Joe Biden will side with the people and deliver on his own agenda and actually fight for it instead of siding with ExxonMobil executives who are trying to gut his climate agenda and trying to prevent any significant federal action on climate change.”TopicsClimate crisisActivismJoe BidenBiden administrationUS politicsUS SenateUS CongressnewsReuse this content More