Home Top News As Senate Democrats return to Washington, divisions remain over a spending bill.

As Senate Democrats return to Washington, divisions remain over a spending bill.

Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia promoted the infrastructure bill alongside a bipartisan group of lawmakers at the Capitol in July.
Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

Senate Democrats will return from their summer recess on Monday to confront intraparty divisions over the scope and structure of a $3.5 trillion economic policy bill, as the House races to finish cobbling together the package in the coming weeks.

House Democrats have been working to coalesce around details of the proposal, including releasing their opening proposal on Monday for tax increases on wealthy corporations and individuals, but a number of hurdles remain to ensure that the package can clear the chamber as early as this month. Democratic senators are likely to use a caucus lunch on Tuesday to walk through the work that has been completed over the recess. House committees continue to steadily advance pieces of the legislation.

But the deep differences, including disagreement on the size and funding of the package, have festered for months. Democrats, with razor-thin majorities in both chambers, are using an arcane budget process known as reconciliation to shield the larger package from a Republican filibuster in the Senate and advance what could be the most significant expansion of the social safety net since the 1960s.

The differences are most apparent over the revenue provision, as moderate Democrats resist some of the sweeping tax increases Mr. Biden and liberal Democrats have proposed.

The proposal from House Democrats would raise the corporate tax rate to 26.5 percent for the richest businesses and impose an additional surtax on individuals who make more than $5 million. But it is unclear how much that will change in the coming weeks, as people briefed on the details cautioned that the text could still change to secure enough Democratic votes.

Key representatives of the opposing wings of the caucus appeared on multiple news shows on Sunday morning to defend their positions before the Senate’s return.

Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, reiterated that he would not support spending $3.5 trillion, saying that Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, “will not have my vote” on a package of that size.

“Chuck knows that — we’ve talked about this,” Mr. Manchin said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We’ve tried to help Americans in every way we possibly can, and a lot of the help that we’ve put out there is still there, and it’s going to run clear until next year, 2022, so what’s the urgency?”

He also voiced skepticism that the legislation would be finished by the end of the month, adding that the hasty time frame “makes no sense at all,” and raised concerns about some clean energy and tax provisions.

But when asked later on “State of the Union” about Mr. Manchin’s comments, Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who leads the Budget Committee, said “it’s absolutely not acceptable to me” to reduce the size of the package.

“I don’t think it’s acceptable to the president, to the American people or to the overwhelming majority of the people in the Democratic caucus,” he added. “Many of us made a major compromise in going from the $6 trillion bill that we wanted.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California has committed to a Sept. 27 vote on the bipartisan infrastructure package in the House, and Democrats hope to have completed the second economic package before then. The top Senate rules enforcer has also begun hearing arguments over whether certain provisions in the $3.5 trillion bill adhere to the strict rules that govern the reconciliation process.

Senior leaders will also have to soon confront a potential lapse in government funding on Oct. 1 if Congress does not act, as well as the looming deadline to prevent the federal government from defaulting on the national debt.

Gov. Gavin Newsom campaigning in Sun Valley, Calif., on Sunday.
Credit…Alex Welsh for The New York Times

According to Gov. Gavin Newsom, California residents have two days left to decisively reject a Republican takeover of the nation’s biggest and most powerful Democratic stronghold.

His leading rival, the conservative radio host Larry Elder, has promised that his first moves as governor would be to lift the vaccine and mask mandates that Mr. Newsom put in place. Mr. Newsom argues that his policies have helped California begin to recover from the worst of the pandemic. The recall election, he has said repeatedly, “is a matter of life and death.”

On Monday, President Biden is set to join the governor in Long Beach to make his case — the last in a stream of national Democratic leaders to offer their support in the final days of the campaign to help Mr. Newsom keep his job.

The governor’s opponents, meanwhile, say that Mr. Newsom, facing a dire threat to his political career, is merely reaping what he has sown over the course of a pandemic that has shuttered businesses and kept children out of classrooms.

Mr. Elder was making his own last push. On Sunday, he held a news conference with the actor Rose McGowan, who accused Mr. Newsom’s wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, of trying to bribe her to prevent her from publicly disclosing her sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. A spokesperson for Ms. Siebel Newsom told ABC News that the allegation was “a complete fabrication.”

Mr. Elder said he had continued to describe his candidacy as one meant to rescue Californians from, as he put it in a tweet on Sunday, the chaos, failure and corruption of the Newsom administration and to appeal to voters frustrated with pandemic restrictions, homelessness and crime.

Before voters are two seemingly simple questions: Should Mr. Newsom be removed from office? And if so, who should replace him?

Recent polls and voter turnout data suggest that a victory for Mr. Newsom is likely.

Which means that analysts will be focusing attention on the particulars of the next few days: Will there be a final surge of in-person voting by Republicans who have been dissuaded from dropping their ballots in the mail by baseless but widespread allegations of election fraud? How much support will each of the top Republican candidates garner? If he prevails, will Mr. Newsom emerge more powerful, with an energized base eager to re-elect him next year? Or will he be vulnerable, either to a Republican challenger, or to Democrats who believe they could better mobilize first-time, young and Latino voters?

Though more than 35 percent of California’s active, registered voters have already cast their ballots, tomorrow night is the deadline.

Students who went to ITT Technical Institutes, a problem-plagued chain that abruptly closed its doors in 2016, are among those whose loans have been forgiven.
Credit… Sandy Huffaker for The New York Times

More than 500,000 student borrowers — with nearly $10 billion in student loan debt — had their loans erased this year, Stacy Cowley reports for The New York Times.

President Biden has so far fended off calls for the kind of blanket debt cancellation that is a top priority of many progressive lawmakers, but a parade of relatively modest eligibility and relief enhancements adds up to a significant expansion of support for beleaguered borrowers. And more may be coming: The Education Department said it was planning regulatory changes to programs aimed at helping public servants and those on income-driven repayment plans.

There is plenty of incentive for the federal government — the primary lender for Americans who borrow for college, holding $1.4 trillion in debt owed by 43 million borrowers — to fix faltering relief programs soon. Since the pandemic took hold in March 2020, virtually all of those loans have been on an interest-free pause, which is scheduled to end Jan. 31. And every loan discharged is one fewer for the agency to service.

The department’s actions so far have generated little controversy — few oppose giving military personnel, disabled borrowers and defrauded students the relief to which they’re legally entitled — but the idea of more broadly canceling student debt is a lightning rod. Republicans dislike the idea of saddling taxpayers with the cost, and its critics on the left see it as a subsidy for those with expensive professional degrees.

“Our overall goal is permanent change,” said Kelly Leon, an Education Department spokeswoman. “We are building a student loan system that works for borrowers and provides them the relief authorized by Congress that has proven elusive for far too long.”

The push for widespread debt cancellation has overshadowed calls to mend glaring administrative problems that urgently need to be addressed, advocates say. READ THE ARTICLE →

Laphonza Butler said she believed that new abortion restrictions enacted in Texas and looming in other states would energize Democratic women.
Credit…Vivien Killilea/Getty Images

Emily’s List, the fund-raising powerhouse that has helped elect hundreds of women who support abortion rights, has chosen Laphonza Butler, a former union leader and well-connected Democratic strategist in California, as its next president.

Ms. Butler, 42, who grew up in Southern Mississippi, will be the first woman of color — and the first mother — to lead the organization, one of the nation’s most influential political action committees.

She will take over Emily’s List at a particularly fraught time, with Democrats facing the dual challenges of a difficult midterm election and the most fundamental and widespread threats to abortion rights since the Supreme Court established a constitutional right to abortion in Roe v. Wade in 1973.

In an interview, Ms. Butler said she believed that new abortion restrictions enacted in Texas and looming in other states would energize Democratic women, providing both a wake-up call and a potent line of attack for candidates backed by Emily’s List.

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