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Progressives Embrace Climate and Tax Deal, Despite Disappointments

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WASHINGTON — With enactment of a major piece of Democrats’ domestic agenda in sight within days, progressives in Congress are rallying, grudgingly but decisively, around a climate, health and tax package that is a shadow of the ambitious cradle-to-grave social policy overhaul they once demanded.

Bowing to the realities of their party’s thin majorities in the House and Senate, liberals appear poised to embrace a package that has been written, slashed and rewritten again to suit the centrists in their ranks — then presented to them as the only option to achieve even a sliver of their aspirations while Democrats still control the government.

“It’s a gun to your head,” Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont and the chairman of the Budget Committee, said in an interview on Friday. He lamented that two Democratic holdouts — Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — had insisted on vastly scaling back the spending and tax increases before they would agree to the package.

“Am I disappointed in that? I surely am,” he said, declining to commit to vote for the final product. “On the other hand, what you’ve got to weigh is that the future of the Earth is at stake.”

The measure, which faces a crucial test vote on Saturday and is on track to clear Congress by the end of next week over unanimous Republican opposition, will fulfill some long-sought Democratic priorities, delivering the party and President Biden a victory going into the midterm congressional elections. With nearly $400 billion in climate and energy proposals, it is the largest single federal investment in the effort to slow the heating of the planet — “nothing to sneeze at,” Mr. Sanders conceded.

It would also extend expanded Affordable Care Act subsidies and make changes in the tax code intended to make it more equitable. And the legislation would hand the pharmaceutical industry a notable defeat by allowing Medicare, for the first time in its history, to negotiate the prices of prescription drugs directly with drugmakers, potentially saving some older Americans thousands of dollars each year.

“The American people are on our side,” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, proclaimed at a news conference on Friday. “The American people know we’ve been pushing these priorities, and they overwhelmingly support what Democrats are doing.”

But the measure does not have any of the proposals to invest in public education and expand the nation’s safety net for parents by providing child care, paid leave or a monthly payment to most families with children.

Sitting in a conference room on Friday, Mr. Sanders — who had pushed to spend as much as $6 trillion — ticked through some of those omissions, characterizing most parts of the legislation as modest steps forward. He has taken to the Senate floor in recent days to describe his dismay at what he sees as the bill’s inadequacies and has vowed to force votes in the coming days to try to bulk it up.

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There have also been additions that have angered progressives. Mr. Manchin secured several concessions for his coal-producing state and the fossil fuel industry, including tax credits for carbon capture technology and a requirement that the federal government auction off more public waters and lands for drilling. He also won a separate pledge to complete a contested pipeline in West Virginia.

Ms. Sinema jettisoned a proposal aimed at narrowing a tax break enjoyed by wealthy businesspeople, including private equity executives and hedge fund managers, that allows them to pay a much lower tax rate on some income than other taxpayers.

Mr. Schumer noted on Friday that while some lawmakers were disappointed to see that proposal scrapped, several liberal senators were pleased that it had been replaced in the bill with a new tax on company stock buybacks.

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Still, the acceptance of the plan by progressives reflects a substantial shift in their posture. With Democrats newly in control of Washington last year, liberals in the party had envisioned a transformative domestic policy plan that would spend as much as $3.5 trillion, funded through tax hikes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans, to provide child care and parental leave, shore up care for the elderly and disabled, and expand public education.

They flexed their muscles at crucial moments, at one point refusing to support a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package that was a major piece of Mr. Biden’s agenda until they could be assured of the success of the social policy and climate plan. But with Republicans solidly opposed, Democratic leaders had no room to maneuver in the 50-50 Senate, giving Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema effective veto power over the package.

Mr. Manchin, a defender of coal and oil, said he feared exacerbating inflation by overspending. Ms. Sinema embraced investments in the fight against climate change but balked at plans to overhaul the tax code and increase tax rates on corporations and the wealthy. Negotiations dragged on for months, and only weeks ago they appeared to have cratered, leaving the climate and tax measures stalled. But in the space of a week, Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema both came around after substantial changes to win them over.

Liberals said the resulting package was less than they wanted but a clear indication of their influence on Capitol Hill and at the White House, where, they argued, their strong advocacy for a more ambitious bill helped prevent the plan from shrinking even further.

“You have to acknowledge that this is a huge step forward and this is a huge progressive win,” Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington, the chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in an interview. “And that’s not to say that everything is a progressive win.”

The measure could still change. Senators on Friday announced plans to include $4 billion for fighting drought in the parched Western states, while the Senate’s rules officials were reviewing whether the bill adhered to the arcane requirements of the budget reconciliation process. Those rules, which shield the measure from a Republican filibuster, could force revisions in the coming days.

While liberals set their ambitions high, particularly after successfully muscling through the $1.9 trillion pandemic aid bill in March 2021 without Republican votes, some Democrats said that the rise in inflation in recent months had tamped down enthusiasm for substantially more federal spending.

“Looking back, the $3.5 trillion package was too aggressive — I know others would disagree,” Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, said in an interview. “But when you’ve got a 50-50 Senate, the idea that we could fix everything in one bill was, again, probably too aggressive.”

Mr. Warner, who helped negotiate the $3.5 trillion budget blueprint that allowed Democrats to begin work on the package and worked closely with Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema to assuage their concerns, conceded that the legislation had its disappointments. “This has been, you know, obviously, a long and winding road, but I think there’s a pretty darn good product,” he added.

Liberals have focused in particular on the investment in climate change, pointedly crediting young activists and voters for pushing their party to act.

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“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — the Finance Committee has never done anything like it,” said Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the committee’s chairman.

Democratic leaders said they believed they had enough support from Democrats in both chambers to push the measure through Congress over the next week. In an indication of that confidence, House Democratic leaders asked lawmakers to prepare to return to Washington on Aug. 12 for final passage of the measure.

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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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