Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a memoir and a novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.
Reprinted with permission from DailyKos
Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia isn't exactly helping the White House forge a compromise between the liberal and centrist wings of the Democratic party. But let's be real, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona is almost single-handedly blowing up the entire Democratic agenda along with any chances of the party keeping its congressional majorities next year.
So after Sinema made several trips to the White House to meet with President Joe Biden in recent days, White House staffers were headed to her office on Wednesday.
Why? Because exactly no one can figure out what she wants or how to get her to say what she wants.
"Literally, one senator—one Senator—Kyrsten Sinema, is holding up the will of the entire Democratic party," Rep. Ro Khanna of California told CNN's John Berman Tuesday night.
"The president keeps begging her—tell us what you want, put a proposal forward," added Khanna.
Khanna, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, noted that progressives have been open to compromise all along the way—coming down from a $6 trillion budget bill to a $3.5 trillion budget bill, offering to front-load the benefits and shorten their life in order to get the measure within reach of Democratic moderates. But how do you compromise, Khanna wondered, when Sinema won't lay down a marker?
"What's mind-boggling is you have unanimity in the House — tomorrow the Speaker could get a deal in the House on a number," Khanna said, adding that he believed at least 48 Democratic senators could also back that deal, and probably Manchin too.
"This is not progressive versus moderates," he said, "this is the entire Democratic Party and Joe Biden versus Kyrsten Sinema."
Khanna went on to say that no one appears to know what Sinema wants—not her colleagues, not the president, not even House moderates.
Strong words, but they also appear to be totally on target.
As Politico reported, Sinema has refused to go into detail on the budget bill until the bipartisan infrastructure plan she helped negotiate clears the House.
"During a private meeting with the president, Sinema made clear she's still not on board with the party's $3.5 trillion social spending plan and is hesitant to engage on some specifics until the bipartisan infrastructure package passes the House," wrote Politico.
Meanwhile, House progressives are committed to downing that infrastructure bill unless a firm agreement can be reached between the House, the Senate, and the White House on the Democrats-only budget bill.
"They need to come up with their counteroffer and then we sit down and negotiate from there," Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington State told NBC News' Sahil Kapur Wednesday afternoon.
As TPM's Josh Marshal points out, it's entirely possible that Sinema simply isn't enough of a policy savant to articulate what she wants done to the $3.5 trillion budget bill and why.
Whatever Sinema thinks she's doing, she appears to have already secured a primary challenge in her state. A group of Democratic Arizona organizers launched an effort on Wednesday to fund a would-be primary challenger to Sinema in 2024.
"Either Sinema votes to end the filibuster, or we fund a primary challenger," warned a fundraising page set up by a group called the "Future Primary Challenger of Kyrsten Sinema."
"If the existential stakes for working families, our democracy , and our planet don't move her, maybe existential political stakes will," tweeted Kai Newkirk, founder of the progressive grassroots organization For All.
"The President keeps begging her, tell us what you want. Put a proposal forward," says Rep. Ro Khanna of Senator Ky… https://t.co/qnJOqqewPe— Anderson Cooper 360° (@Anderson Cooper 360°) 1632878773.0
Reprinted with permission from AlterNet
On Tuesday evening Senate Republicans killed debate on the For the People Act, a key component of Democrats' agenda to protect democracy, expand and strengthen voting rights, and reduce the influence of dark money in elections. As Senators were voting on the motion to begin debate on the bill, news broke that the GOP Whip, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota had announced another critical piece of Democratic legislation, the infrastructure bill, was even further in doubt.
GOP Senators appeared to be orchestrating a complete and total shutdown of key legislation critical to President Joe Biden's progressive agenda.
Democratic Majority Leader Schumer immediately denounced Republicans' "blockade."
Sen. Thune also said Republicans would oppose a slimmed down version of a voting rights bill:
Thune contradicts Blunt when asked just now if GOP leadership would come out against narrower measures like the VRA… https://t.co/HdFGI3L8Cp— Andrew Solender (@Andrew Solender) 1624399129.0
60 votes were required to begin debate on the voting rights bill. The motion failed in a 50-50 vote. As voting was taking place GOP Minority Leader Mitch mcConnell could be seen huddling with other top Republican Senators including John Cornyn of Texas and John Kennedy of Louisiana.
The only option to pass the bill now would be for a simple majority of Senators agree to kill the 60-vote filibuster. Some are supporting a modification to 55 votes. Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona had steadfastly refused to support killing the filibuster.
"This is a dark day in this country," Al Sharpton said on MSNBC.
"This is a dark day for Republicans," host Nicolle Wallace replied. "Republicans won't just walk over norms, they will burn them down," she told host Ari Melber during the handoff.
Voting rights expert Ari Berman weighed in, chastising the GOP:
Reprinted with permission from Press Run
As Democrats maneuver to pass a $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill to rescue the U.S. economy, journalists are using the fact that most Republicans oppose the emergency legislation to to raise doubts about President Joe Biden's ability to "unify" the country. Instead of marveling at the fact that the GOP stands poised to reject a bill that is highly popular with voters and would send generous payments to tens of millions of American families, the press keeps its focus on Democrats, while missing the larger story.
Echoing the Republican narrative that Biden is supposed to surrender this agenda to the party out of power days after being sworn into office (that's not how elections work), journalists are misreading the "unity" story. At a White House press briefing during Biden's first week as president, a reporter demanded to know, "When are we going to see one of those substantial outreaches that says, 'This is something the Republicans want to do, too'?"
The press insists that Biden's welcome call for unity, following a bloody insurrection inside the U.S. Capitol last month, now means that any policy push by him is divisive because Republicans oppose it.
The focus on the Beltway political process misses the more meaningful story that continues to unfold in the early weeks of the Biden presidency — he is "unifying" the country because his agenda is wildly popular. Unlike the divisive and unpopular agenda that Trump pushed, and the way he governed by caring only about his Republican base, Biden's first weeks in office have been marked by polling that shows deep public support for his domestic and foreign initiatives. That's key because being a leader who can "unify" the country is more important that being a leader who can pick up some Republican votes in Congress.
The dirty little secret the press doesn't like to dwell on, as it excitedly plays up the "unify" theme? Republicans are committed to opposing Biden, period. Just as they were committed to opposing President Barack Obama. The party's radical obstruction has become so normalized over the last decade that journalists no longer recognize it. Instead, they start legislative conversations from a mythical starting point, assuming there are lots of open-minded Republicans who are willing to support Democratic legislation if the Democratic president would properly court them. (Barack Obama criticized for not knowing how to schmooze his opponents, as if that were the reason they wouldn't budge.)
Following the Republicans' radical obstruction of a Democratic-sponsored gun law in the wake of the Sandy Hook school massacre in Connecticut in 2012, a bill that enjoyed 90 percent public support, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) admitted that most of his Republican colleagues refused to allow a vote in favor because they didn't want a Democratic president to get a 'win.' "There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it," said Toomey.
That GOP partisanship has only hardened today. Yet the press' focus remains fixed on how Democrats can achieve two-party cooperation in the name of unifying the country.
Biden's already doing that. He began his presidency 25 points more popular than Trump, and then began signing a flurry of executive orders designed to eradicate his predecessor's most divisive policies. While Republicans whined about the moves not "uniting" the country, polling show that many of Biden's executive orders enjoy overwhelming public support. They include banning workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation (83 percent support), requiring masks be worn on federal property (75 percent), overturning the ban on transgender people being able to serve in the military (71 percent), restarting the federal DACA program to protect undocumented "Dreamer" children (65 percent), rejoining the World Health Organization (62 percent), and rejoining the Paris climate according (59 percent).
The list goes on and on as Biden forges a path with policy markers that unify the country.
That includes the proposed Covid relief bill. Depicted in the press as being a deeply partisan and divisive issue, simply because the Republican Party stands opposed to the Democratic legislation, the bill enjoys sweeping support nationwide. Nearly 80 percent of Americans support sending $1,400 checks, 79 percent support federal assistance for state and local governments, and 73 percent are in favor of extending unemployment benefits. Even among Republican voters, the Democrats' $1.9 trillion relief bill gets higher approval marks than does Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Politically, the bill represents a home run for Democrats, but the Associated Press depicts it as a "dilemma" for them because Republicans oppose it. (Why isn't it a "dilemma" for the GOP?) And The Wall Street Journal stressed that Biden faced a "big decision" whether to pass the bill even if all Republicans objected. (Spoiler: He does not.)
Meanwhile, Biden continues to garner high marks for his leadership on fighting the pandemic, the most pressing issue facing the country.
Biden is already helping to unify the country, even if Republicans and the press don't want to acknowledge it.
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