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Climate and Tax Bill Scales Crucial Senate Hurdle, Paving Path to Passage

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WASHINGTON — A divided Senate took a crucial step on Saturday toward approving Democrats’ plan to tackle climate change, bring down health care costs and raise taxes on large corporations, with a test vote that paved the way to enact a significant piece of President Biden’s domestic agenda in the coming days.

The measure advanced on a party-line vote of 51 to 50, with all Republicans opposed and Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie.

The action suggested that Democrats, after more than a year of internal feuding and painstaking negotiation, had finally coalesced behind legislation that would provide hundreds of billions of dollars for climate and energy programs, extend Affordable Care Act subsidies and create a new federal initiative to reduce the cost of prescription drugs, particularly for older Americans.

Much of the 755-page legislation would be paid for by tax increases, which Democrats have said are intended to make the tax code more equitable.

The vote put the bill on track to pass the Senate as early as Sunday, with the House expected to give its approval by the end of the week. That would provide a major boost to Mr. Biden at a time when his popularity is sagging, and it would hand Democrats a victory going into midterm elections in November in which their congressional majorities are at stake.

“The bill, when passed, will meet all of our goals: fighting climate change, lowering health care costs, closing tax loopholes abused by the wealthy and reducing the deficit,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, said on the Senate floor on Saturday. “This is a major win for the American people and a sad commentary on the Republican Party as they actively fight provisions that lower costs for the American family.”

The hard-won agreement, which includes the most substantial investment in history to counter the warming of the planet, came after a flurry of intense negotiations with two key Democratic holdouts, Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

Just weeks ago, Mr. Manchin, a conservative-leaning Democrat from a red state, had said he could not agree to include climate, energy and tax measures in the domestic policy plan this summer given his concerns that doing so would exacerbate inflation. But he and Mr. Schumer stunned lawmakers in both parties late last month with the news that they had quietly returned to the negotiating table and struck a deal that included those proposals.

And on Thursday, Ms. Sinema announced she, too, would move forward after extracting concessions, including dropping a provision that would have narrowed a tax break that allows private equity executives and hedge fund managers to pay substantially lower taxes on some income than other taxpayers do.

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Democrats were speeding the bill through Congress under the arcane budget process known as reconciliation, which shields certain tax and spending measures from a filibuster but also strictly limits what can be included.

Republicans remain unanimously opposed to the measure and have feverishly worked to derail it, fuming at the resurgence of a plan they thought was dead. Blindsided by the deal between Mr. Schumer and Mr. Manchin, they have scrambled to attack the bill as a big-spending, tax-hiking abomination that will exacerbate inflation and damage the economy at a precarious moment.

“Democrats are misreading the American people’s outrage as a mandate for yet another — yet another — reckless taxing and spending spree,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader.

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He condemned a “tidal wave of Washington meddling” that he said would result from the prescription drug plan, which he said would take “a buzz saw to the research and development behind new, lifesaving medical treatments and cures.”

But Democrats have rebranded the transformative cradle-to-grave social safety net and climate plan they once called “Build Back Better” as the Inflation Reduction Act. Operating with a razor-thin Senate majority that gave their most conservative members strong influence over the measure, Democrats have jettisoned hundreds of billions of dollars in proposed spending on domestic programs, as well as many of the tax increases they had pitched to pay for it.

Outside estimates have indicated that the measure would not force a huge increase in federal spending or impose substantial tax hikes outside of large corporations, and it is projected to reduce the federal budget deficit by the end of the decade.

That did not stop Republicans from arguing that it would be disastrous for the economy and for Americans. Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, branded it the “Manchin-Schumer Tax Hike of 2022.”

Republicans spent much of the past week trying to devise ways of slowing or blocking the legislation by arguing that it violated the reconciliation rules. (They did, however, indicate privately that they would refrain from forcing the Senate clerks to read the bill aloud, after a similar maneuver last year prompted an outcry.)

Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate parliamentarian, and her staff labored into the early hours of Saturday morning to determine whether the bill’s components violated those rules, which require each provision to have a direct effect on federal spending or revenue. Early Saturday, she instructed Democrats to trim the scope of a proposal intended to keep the increase in drug prices from outpacing inflation, saying that a proposed rebate could apply only to drugs purchased by Medicare, not by private insurers.

But top Democrats announced that most of the legislation remained intact after Ms. MacDonough’s review, including a plan to allow Medicare to directly negotiate the price of prescription drugs for the first time, restrictions on new electric vehicle tax breaks and a fee intended to curtail excessive emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas that is commonly emitted from oil and gas leaks.

In a last-ditch effort to defeat the measure, Republicans were set as early as Saturday evening to begin forcing a rapid-fire series of votes on politically toxic amendments — an hourslong ritual known as a vote-a-rama that reconciliation measures must survive in order to be approved. In the evenly divided Senate, all 50 members of the Democratic caucus will have to remain united to ward off any changes proposed by Republicans and win final passage.

“What will vote-a-rama be like? It’ll be like hell,” vowed Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. Of Democrats, he said: “They deserve this.”

Democrats, too, still could change the bill. They are expected to essentially dare Republicans to strip a proposal to cap the cost of insulin for all patients, a popular measure that violates the budget rules because it would not directly affect federal spending.

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And at least one member of the Democratic caucus, Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont and the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, has said he plans to force votes on amendments to improve the legislation.

“This is a totally inadequate bill, but it does, to some degree, begin to address the existential threat facing the planet,” Mr. Sanders said in an interview on Friday. “I’m disappointed.”

Most Democrats, however, were trying to rally their colleagues to stay united against any amendments — including those that could be offered by fellow members of their caucus — to preserve the delicate consensus around the bill and make sure it could become law.

“What I care about is that we get to 50 votes, OK, at the end, and that means we have got to keep this deal together,” Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, told reporters. “What matters is that we’ve cut a deal, and we need to keep that deal intact.”

Lisa Friedman, Stephanie Lai and Sheryl Gay Stolberg contributed reporting.

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A journalist since 1994, he also founded DMGlobal Marketing & Public Relations. Glover has an extensive list of clients including corporations, non-profits, government agencies, politics, business owners, PR firms, and attorneys.

Politics

Abrams for Governor Releases New Memo Highlighting Motivating Impact of Abortion Among Georgia’s Democratic Voters

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Internal campaign polling shows that abortion is a bigger motivator for Georgia Democrats than it is for Georgia Republicans 

(ATLANTA) –  Abrams for Governor campaign manager, Lauren Groh-Wargo, released a new memo detailing the motivating impact of abortion among voters in Georgia’s 2022 elections. The memo showcases how the victory of abortion rights supporters in Kansas is a great sign for Democrats in Georgia and across the country.

Additionally, yesterday, the campaign released a new TV ad, Signed, featuring women in Georgia calling attention to the dangers of Brian Kemp’s extreme abortion ban.

“Georgia’s women and those who love them have the ability to fight for reproductive freedom, liberty from interference into private medical decisions, and the full scope of health care. The gubernatorial race is already close, the incumbent is below 50%, and Kemp’s extreme and unpopular attacks on women are disqualifying to a substantial majority of voters,” said Lauren Groh-Wargo. “The time to act is now – this race can be won, provided that we invest in the people of Georgia and ensure that they can hear about how Stacey Abrams will deliver for Georgians, stop Kemp’s far right, extreme agenda, and how Kemp’s radical tenure has already and will continue to endanger women across the state.”

Recent polling from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows that Kemp’s radical anti-abortion laws are wildly unpopular with Georgia voters — with Georgia voters opposing the overturning of Roe 39%-54%, Kemp’s six-week ban 36%-54%, and a total ban on abortion 21%-72%. Abrams for Governor’s internal polling is consistent with what the AJC poll shows when it comes to the motivational impact of abortion on this election. Georgia Democrats are almost completely unified in telling pollsters that abortion is important and motivational to them in 2022.

Overall Abrams for Governor’s internal research has shown:

  1. Abortion is a bigger motivator for GA Democrats than it is for GA Republicans.
  2. Independent voters in GA are overwhelmingly pro-choice and Kemp’s record of criminalizing abortion is very damaging among them.
  3. A measurable block of GA Republican voters defect from Kemp’s hard-right orthodoxy on abortion and oppose Kemp’s anti-choice agenda.

Abortion access and women’s liberty are on the ballot this year in Georgia. In his first year, Governor Kemp’s priority was signing one of the country’s most extreme and dangerous abortion laws, a law that prevents women from getting life-saving healthcare. His cruel bill sets women up to be investigated and criminalized if they miscarry; threatens to jail doctors who provide life-saving care; and forces rape and incest victims to file police reports to access care. His law bans abortion before most women know they are pregnant, stripping women of their freedom and dictating the personal medical decision of women and their families. This election is a contrast between having a governor who will fight to protect women’s reproductive freedom versus a Governor bent on controlling women’s bodies for his political gain.

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What U Need Is… Join the BWOPA and Partners Statewide Listening Session / Conversation on Reparations Now!

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Biden Is an Uneasy Champion on Abortion. Can He Lead the Fight in Post-Roe America?

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WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court’s decision to end the constitutional right to an abortion in the United States after nearly 50 years has set in motion a generational struggle over Republican efforts to ban the procedure in states across the country.

But inside the West Wing, President Biden has made it clear that he is uncomfortable even using the word abortion, according to current and former advisers. In speeches and public statements, he prefers to use the word sparingly, focusing instead on broader phrases, like “reproductive health” and “the right to choose,” that might resonate more widely with the public.

Mr. Biden, a practicing Catholic who has drawn on his faith to shape his political identity, is now being called on to lead a fight he spent decades sidestepping — and many abortion rights advocates worry that he may not be the right messenger for the moment.

Once an outright critic of abortion rights and later a committed but quiet defender of them, Mr. Biden has a history that gives activists pause.

“This is not necessarily the guy that I am sure most activists wanted in the seat when this happened,” said Jamie L. Manson, the president of Catholics for Choice, referring to the court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade. “It’s unfortunate because he has so much power and we need him to really get out of his comfort zone.”

For five decades, Mr. Biden has talked openly about the power of his religion, portraying himself as an advocate for workers and a warrior for social justice. His faith also had guided him toward what he once called a “middle of the road” approach to abortion — essentially, not voting to limit abortion, but not voting to fund it either.

And like other Democrats of his generation, Mr. Biden used the existence of Roe v. Wade’s protections to avoid pushing for legislation that might have enshrined the ruling in federal law.

Now, a growing chorus of women’s groups, progressive Democrats and abortion rights activists see the decision to overturn Roe as an indictment of that middle-ground approach, saying Democrats like Mr. Biden have tiptoed too carefully around the issue for years.

The Supreme Court’s decision, they say, must be met with an equally fierce legal, political and rhetorical response. And after a decisive vote this past week to defend abortion rights in deeply conservative Kansas, many Democrats see this as the moment to run more assertively on the issue.

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Mr. Biden’s advisers say that his views on abortion have changed over time and that he is deeply committed to abortion rights. Laphonza Butler, the president of Emily’s List, a group that helps elect Democratic women who support abortion rights, said she was satisfied that Mr. Biden and his team were “using every tool at their disposal” to fight for the cause.

But the president’s history on abortion — informed by his religion and the Democratic Party’s years of careful political calculations — has left him struggling to live up to the expectations of those in his party who want a new strategy and a new energy.

“Yes, there are limits to executive branch power, there are limits to what the president can do,” said Andrea Miller, the president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health. “But this just feels like you’ve got to push the boundaries right now. This is a time to pull out all the stops. This is a time to take risks.”

In 2007, Mr. Biden wrote in his memoir “Promises to Keep” that his position on abortion had “earned me the distrust of some women’s groups.” In the book, he recounted a 1973 conversation with a veteran senator who said his cautious approach was a “tough” one.

“‘Yeah, everybody will be upset with me,’ I told him, ‘except me. But I’m intellectually and morally comfortable with my position,’” Mr. Biden wrote in the book.

Now, he finds himself championing abortion rights. In June, just days after the court’s ruling, he appeared miffed when a reporter noted that some activists did not believe he was the right person to lead the fight against Republican efforts to ban the procedure.

“I’m the only president they got,” he said.

Mr. Biden has often said that his views on abortion — and the proper role for government to play in regulating it — are the result of his faith. In 1982, when he voted in favor of a constitutional amendment pushed by Republicans to allow individual states to overturn Roe v. Wade, he said: “I’m probably a victim, or a product, however you want to phrase it, of my background.”

The Catholic Church considers human life to begin at conception and says that “the intentional killing of a human being living in the womb” is always immoral. Church teachings generally allow for “indirect” abortions when a medical procedure needed for another lifesaving reason results in the death of a fetus. But many Catholics disagree with the church’s official position. In a Pew Research Center survey released last month, 60 percent of Catholics in the United States said abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Other Democratic politicians have faced difficult moments navigating their stands on the issue. The leaders of the American Catholic Church have publicly rebuked Catholic politicians like John F. Kerry, the former Massachusetts senator, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi for their stances.

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By his own admission, Mr. Biden is a deeply religious person who rarely misses a chance to attend Mass.

Last year in St. Ives, a seaside town in Cornwall on the southern tip of England, Mr. Biden, who was attending the annual Group of 7 meeting with world leaders, slipped into the back pews of the Sacred Heart and St. Ia Church for Mass with about 50 other parishioners. The Rev. Philip Dyson had been given a heads-up just minutes before the arrival of the president and his wife.

“I did find him gracious and humble and a gentleman,” Father Dyson said, recalling the brief conversation after the Mass. The priest would not talk about whether he offered communion to the president during the service. Some Roman Catholic bishops believe politicians who support abortion should be denied communion.

“It’s controversial, and it’s between him and the Lord,” Father Dyson said.

John Carr, the director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, said that abortion had been the one part of Mr. Biden’s faith that had been a source of conflict for the president and his allies over the years.

“He is a product of Catholic social teaching and Democratic orthodoxy,” said Mr. Carr, who has participated in several small-group discussions with Mr. Biden about religion and politics. “When the two go together, he’s really comfortable with the way he talks, the way he acts. Where he is the least at home is where the two conflict.”

Allies of the president note that since the Supreme Court ruling, Mr. Biden has issued two executive orders aimed at protecting the right to travel for health care and the right to access medications. This past week, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit in Idaho, accusing the state of illegally restricting abortion when the procedure is needed to stabilize a woman’s health.

“The president’s faith is not the problem that we have,” said Representative Katherine M. Clark, Democrat of Massachusetts and the assistant speaker. “The problem is an extremist G.O.P. that says, ‘We don’t respect your faith, your medical history, your circumstance.’”

But for most of his career, Mr. Biden has been viewed with suspicion by abortion rights advocates because of his history on the issue.

In 1984, Mr. Biden voted to praise the “Mexico City Policy,” a decision by the Reagan administration to prevent funding of abortion services abroad. It was a position that would be anathema for a Democratic president today. Over the years since, Republican presidents have routinely reinstated the policy, and Democrats have eliminated it. Mr. Biden rescinded it eight days after taking office.

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For years, Mr. Biden also declined to join other Democrats in opposing the Hyde Amendment, a federal ban on funding for abortion. It was not until 2019 that he reversed himself. Facing intense backlash from within his party, he said he could “no longer support an amendment” that makes it harder for low-income women to get access to an abortion. Although he followed through by submitting budgets without Hyde’s restrictive language, lawmakers added it back in.

As vice president, Mr. Biden fought to exempt Catholic institutions from the Affordable Care Act requirement to provide coverage for contraception. The provision was fiercely opposed by American Catholic bishops, and Mr. Biden tried to make the bishops’ case.

He lost in the end, though the contraception mandate was later struck down by the Supreme Court.

Kathleen Sebelius, who served as secretary of health and human services under President Barack Obama, said that Mr. Biden wanted to “just avoid a battle with the church.”

“I think that’s sort of where he started the conversation,” she said. But she recalled that Mr. Biden eventually acknowledged the impact that denying contraceptive coverage would have for people who worked at Catholic institutions.

“He started in one place, and then gradually moved to a very different place,” she said.

On other issues where Democratic Party positions clashed with Catholic teaching, like support for same-sex marriage, Mr. Biden was quicker to change his position, said Mr. Carr, noting what he called the president’s “passion and eloquence” on L.G.B.T.Q. issues.

But he said abortion had always seemed more difficult for the president.

“Biden has never sought power to make abortion more available,” Mr. Carr said. “It’s just not part of who he is.”

The president admitted as much in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in 2007.

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“I’m a practicing Catholic,” he said. “And it is the biggest dilemma for me in terms of comporting my religious and cultural views with my political responsibility.”

Two days before the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, abortion rights advocates met at the White House with some of Mr. Biden’s top aides and with Vice President Kamala Harris, who has become a forceful voice of the administration on the issue of abortion.

Everyone knew what was likely to happen, after Politico’s publication weeks earlier of a draft opinion in the abortion case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. But some of the people around the table left unhappy with the administration’s plans to respond to the ruling.

“It was a very frustrating meeting where we were looking to the White House for guidance,” Ms. Manson, of Catholics for Choice, said. “And instead, what we got was a recap of all the conversations they had had with all of us.”

Others at the meeting described it differently, saying the administration had spent weeks preparing for the Dobbs ruling in a series of productive meetings with activists.

But the frustration clearly underscored the tension between Mr. Biden and abortion rights activists, many of whom have said publicly that the president’s past positions make it hard for them to trust that he is all-in on the fight.

Mr. Biden’s aides note that he has used the word “abortion” a handful of times since the ruling. And in a statement on Saturday condemning a new Indiana law banning almost all abortions, the White House used the term in reiterating support for reproductive rights.

But some veterans of the abortion rights movement say they remain wary of a president who is uncomfortable with using the word. Others say they are willing to judge Mr. Biden by his actions.

Mini Timmaraju, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said there was value in Mr. Biden’s approach, which can appeal to a broader audience. But she said the president should not avoid using direct, forceful language at a moment when people are scared.

“He’s done that,” she said. “And he’s going to need to get more comfortable with that because this is the modern-day Democratic Party. He’s getting there, from what I can see.”

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Katie Rogers contributed reporting from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York.

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