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GOP Senators Torpedo Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal They Endorsed

Reprinted with permission from American independent

Senate Republicans used the filibuster rule on Wednesday to block consideration of a bipartisan infrastructure deal — weeks after several of them endorsed the $579 billion package.

Every member of the Democratic Senate majority backed beginning consideration of H.R. 3684, a procedural step needed to debate and pass the bipartisan framework, but because Senate rules require a three-fifths supermajority for this type of legislation, the Republican minority was able to block it.

President Joe Biden proposed a $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan in March, asking Congress to improve the nation's transportation, water systems, broadband, clean energy, climate change, and caregiving infrastructure.

On June 16, after lengthy negotiations, a bipartisan group of senators agreedon a deal, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, to invest $579 billion in "core infrastructure" programs only, including transportation, broadband, and water systems.

Republican Sens. Richard Burr (NC), Bill Cassidy (LA), Susan Collins (ME), Lindsey Graham (SC), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Rob Portman (OH), Mitt Romney (UT), Mike Rounds (SD), Thom Tillis (NC), and Todd Young (IN) all signed onto a joint statement with 10 members of the Democratic majority, affirming their support for the deal.

"We support this bipartisan framework that provides an historic investment in our nation's core infrastructure needs without raising taxes," the statement read. "We look forward to working with our Republican and Democratic colleagues to develop legislation based on this framework to address America's critical infrastructure challenges."

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) endorsed the plan later that day.

On June 24, Biden signed on to the bipartisan plan and has been urging its passage since.

"We should be united on one thing: passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, which we shook hands on," he said on Monday. "We shook hands on it."

But not long after the agreement, some Republicans began to have second thoughts.

Some objected to acknowledgements by Biden and Democratic leaders in Congress that they would later try to pass some of their other priorities — including the omitted climate change, child care, and caregiving "human infrastructure" provisions — through a separate budget reconciliation process, without any GOP support. Graham complained that this plan amounted to extortion.

They then abandoned one of the key provisions that financed the bipartisan agreement: a crackdown on wealthy tax dodgers who are not currently paying their fair share. Portman said Sunday that they had dropped the provision due to "pushback" from Republican senators who did not want to give more money to the understaffed Internal Revenue Service to enforce the tax code.

Again, Graham protested the deal he'd backed, telling Axios on June 30, "There's some people on our side who don't like empowering the IRS; I don't mind empowering the IRS if it's a reasonable thing to do. But I mean, how much uncollected taxes can you gather with $40 billion?"

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer moved to bring up the framework on Wednesday as a way to speed up the bill writing process. "I understand that both sides are working very hard to turn the bipartisan infrastructure framework into final legislation, and they will continue to have more time to debate, amend and perfect the bill once the Senate votes to take up this crucial issue," the New York Democrat explained to colleagues on Monday. "But they have been working on this bipartisan framework for more than a month already, and it's time to begin the debate."

Republicans said they were not ready to move forward.

Senate Republican Whip John Thune — who memorably ran for his seat in 2004 by lambasting the Democratic incumbent for using his position "to slow down, to obstruct, to stop" then-President George W. Bush's agenda — opposed even beginning debate on the bipartisan infrastructure framework. "I can't say we will have every Republican, but he [Schumer] is not going to get 60," he vowed Monday.

On Wednesday, all of the 11 Republican backers who supported the bipartisan deal previously — along with the rest of the Republican minority — voted against debate on the matter.

Schumer voted "no" as well, for procedural reasons.

"At the end of the vote, I changed my response [from a yes] to a no so that I may move to reconsider this vote at a future time," the majority leader explained, moments after the vote failed, 49 to 51.

Due to Schumer's last-second maneuver, the Senate is still able to reconsider the vote in the future. Alternately, the Democratic majority could simply add the provisions to a budget reconciliation package and pass it with a simple majority, if they can remain united.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Republicans Oppose More IRS Audits Of Super-Rich Tax Evaders

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

A provision in the bipartisan Senate infrastructure bill announced on June 24 would provide for investing more money in enforcement of laws targeting top earners who evade payment of taxes. Republican senators are furious.

Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the third-ranking member of the minority party leadership, told Axios on Wednesday that "spending $40 billion to super-size the IRS is very concerning." "Law-abiding Americans deserve better from their government than an army of bureaucrats snooping through their bank statements," he said.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn warned of "a huge potential for abuse": "Bigger government results in more waste, fraud, and abuse."

"Throwing billions more taxpayer dollars at the IRS will only hurt Americans struggling to recover after waves of devastating lockdowns," said Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. "Instead of increasing funding for the IRS, we should abolish the damn place."

Even South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who backed the bipartisan framework, complained, "There's some people on our side who don't like empowering the IRS; I don't mind empowering the IRS if it's a reasonable thing to do. But I mean, how much uncollected taxes can you gather with $40 billion?"

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley tweeted on May 17, this year's Tax Day, "Im all for catching tax cheats +closing tax gap BUT Biden plan 2pump more $ into IRS & expand bank reporting is ripe for overreach + imposes more burdens on small biz/family farms."

Earlier in the year, Biden introduced the American Jobs Plan, a $2.25 trillion transportation, climate, water, broadband, child care, and caregiving infrastructure package, and the American Families Plan, a $1.8 trillion package investment in paid leave, free preschool and community college, and affordable health care. He proposed funding the plans by raising tax rates on corporations and those earning $400,000 or more and by spending $80 million more to enforce existing tax laws.

Republicans unanimously opposed the plans, drawing what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called a "red line" against any tax increases for wealthy Americans or businesses.

Instead, a group of 10 Republican and Democratic senators agreed on a plan to boost enforcement by half of Biden's initial request to help fund $567 billion in new transportation, broadband, and water system infrastructure spending. They proposed that the rest of the funding would come from sources that would include petroleum sales, wireless spectrum auctions, and unused 2020 relief funds.

The White House says $40 billion in spending to improve tax law enforcement would more than pay for itself, bringing in $140 billion. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says it would bring in $103 billion over a decade. All of this is money already owed to the government under existing tax law.

"There's just a ton of money out there that we're not collecting," former IRS Commissioner Charles Rossotti told the Washington Post on Friday. "Why don't we collect some of that before we raise taxes on the people that are already paying?"

In recent years, the IRS has had to cut back on enforcing the law due to massive budget reductions. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, between 2010 and 2018, the budget for enforcement dropped 24%, the number of enforcement personnel drop 31%, and the audit rate for millionaires dropped 61%.

"The steep decline in audits for high-income individuals stemming from IRS underfunding means that low- and moderate-income households claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) are now audited at roughly the same rate as the top 1 percent of filers," Chye-Ching Huang — then the senior director of economic policy with the Center — told the House Ways and Means Committee in February 2020.

An April report by the Center for American Progress noted that while recent official estimates suggest the United States loses about $600 billion a year in unpaid revenue "on April 13, 2021, IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig told Congress that he believes the United States is losing much more revenue—possibly $1 trillion or more every year."

Seth Hanlon, one of the report's authors, told The American Independent Foundation in May that smarter IRS enforcement would mean more compliance for the richest Americans — but fewer audits for everyone else.

"The whole point is it will let the IRS target audits in a smarter way, so honest people are gonna be less likely to be audited. People earning under $400,000 — as long as they're tax compliant — are gonna be less likely to be audited. The audit rate for those earning under $400,000 won't go up," he said.

Polling show strong popular support for making sure richer Americans pay their fair share. An April Monmouth University poll found 65% support for funding Biden's spending proposals with increased revenue from those making more than $400,000, compared to 33% opposition.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Senate Republicans Whining Over Biden’s ‘Two-Track’ Infrastructure Plan

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Senate Republicans are upset that President Joe Biden plans to enact other spending legislation after striking a deal with them on infrastructure.

The infrastructure deal calls for about $579 billion in new spending on transportation, water systems, power, and broadband infrastructure. It does not include most of the climate change, child care, and caregiving funding — described as "human infrastructure" — that Biden requested in his original $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan.

Democrats plan to enact some of these priorities separately — as well as the health care, paid leave, and educational investments from Biden's American Families Plan— through the budget reconciliation process, without any GOP support.

Biden, who ran on campaign promises to enact such legislation, said Thursday he plans to sign the packages together. While most bills — including the bipartisan infrastructure deal — require a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate, a loophole allows passage of some taxation and spending legislation to pass with a simple majority.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lamented soon after that Biden was "caving completely" to the "left-wing base" by doing both.

"Less than two hours after publicly commending our colleagues and endorsing the bipartisan agreement, the president took the extraordinary step of threatening to veto it," McConnell (R-KY) complained, referencing Biden's statement that he would not sign one bill without the other. "It was a tale of two press conferences — endorse the agreement in one breath and threaten to veto it in the next."

McConnell was not part of the bipartisan negotiations or the infrastructure deal that was eventually struck. His endorsed GOP negotiating team — led by West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito — was unable to reach an agreement previously after they offered only a fraction of the new spending Biden had requested.

Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) had similar complaints. "Democrat [sic] leaders, including the president, have undermined their own negotiators and the Republicans who've been negotiating in good faith," he tweeted. "They're holding bipartisanship hostage for partisanship."

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) suggested that the deal was really "no deal" because Biden also planned to enact a reconciliation package. And Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Politico he would oppose the infrastructure plan because Biden's decision to push other legislation separately somehow amounted to extortion.

"The Dems are being told you can't get your bipartisan work product passed unless you sign on to what the left wants, and I'm not playing that game," he said.

Biden, meanwhile, has been clear throughout the process that the infrastructure package is not his only priority and that this deal did not preclude a reconciliation package.

In initial remarks after meeting with the bipartisan group on Thursday morning, Biden told reporters "there is going to be a two-track system" for the two spending plans.

In an afternoon press conference, he noted that this had always been the plan.

"The bipartisan bill, from the very beginning, was understood there was going to have to be the second part of it," he said. "I'm not just signing the bipartisan bill and forgetting about the rest that I proposed. I proposed a significant piece of legislation in three parts. And all three parts are equally important."

"The question is: How much can we get done? And the bottom line is: When all is said and done, does what you agree to preclude, forever, you getting the things you really want?" he added. "Well, I'm not for that. I'm not going to vote for one of those deals."

As long as Democrats stay united, the GOP will have little power to stop those plans.

Democratic senators from across the political spectrum have indicated that they are on board with passing a major "human infrastructure" bill through the reconciliation process.

"I've come to the knowledge, basically, that budget reconciliation is for reconciling budgets. So it's money matters," West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a staunch holdout on many of Biden's more progressive-leaning policies, told NBC News, while endorsing such a package.

"I think we can, we can make that happen. It's going to be either both or nothing," Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders told reporters, noting that the reconciliation package must address "the needs of working families, climate change and progressive tax reform."

Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) concurred. "Ultimately there's two tracks, and both trains have to arrive at the station at the same time," he said, according to NBC News.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Are Trump And Gingrich Preparing New ‘Contract On America’?

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

In 1994, when President Bill Clinton was serving his first term, then-House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich unveiled his "Contract With America" — a hard-right Republican legislative agenda that Gingrich's critics slammed as the Contract On America. Republicans recaptured the House in the 1994 midterms, and Gingrich became House speaker in January 1995. Now, in the Biden era, Gingrich is a major ally of former President Donald Trump — and according to Politico reporter Meridith McGraw, Gingrich and Trump are joining forces for a new version of the Contract With America for the 2022 midterms. But the 2022 version, McGraw reports, will have a much more Trumpian focus.

"With an eye toward winning back the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections, former President Donald Trump has begun crafting a policy agenda outlining a MAGA doctrine for the party," McGraw reports. "His template is the 1994 'Contract With America,' a legislative agenda released ahead of the midterm elections in the middle of President Bill Clinton's first term. And as a cherry on top, he's teaming up with its main architect — Gingrich — to do it."

McGraw adds that according to a Politico source, Trump recently met with Gingrich, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in South Florida to "begin crafting the document."

"The group is still just beginning to hammer out the details of what a Trumpified Contract might look like," McGraw explains. "But it is likely to take an 'America first' policy approach on everything from trade to immigration. The source described it as 'a policy priority for 2022 and beyond.' Its construction has been teased and talked about for weeks, but the fact that the principals are beginning to put it together underscores Trump's continued interest in trying to shape the Republican Party."

The 77-year-old Gingrich, however, told Politico that he doesn't expect the 2022 plan to be finalized "anytime soon." When Politico asked him to outline some policy priorities that it may include, the former House speaker responded, "It should be positive. School choice, teaching American history for real, abolishing the '1619 Project,' eliminating critical race theory and what the Texas legislature is doing. We should say, 'Bring it on.'"

Like Barack Obama, Clinton went down in history as a president who was decisively reelected but suffered a major setback at the midterms. Then came 1996, a great year for Clinton, who was reelected with 379 electoral votes compared to only 159 for Republican nominee Bob Dole. But Democrats suffered a major pounding in the 1994 midterms.

"The original 'Contract with America' was credited with helping Republicans gain their first majority in four decades after the party picked up 52 seats in 1994 in the House and nine seats in the Senate," McGraw recalls. "Republicans have used it as a template in elections since."

The Politico reporter continues, "In 2010, the so-called Republican 'Young Guns,' led by Reps. Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, and Kevin McCarthy, introduced a much longer version of Gingrich's contract with a 224-page publication outlining policy goals ahead of the midterm elections. And Graham, who was one of the Contract's signatories when he first ran for a House seat in 1994, has frequently advocated for Republicans to adopt Contract-style declarations to unify the party during election years."

Congressional Republicans Frustrated As Biden Rides Strong Approval Ratings

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Congressional Republicans have repeatedly tried to claim that President Joe Biden is already a failure, just a few months into his presidency. But a new poll shows the American public is not buying it.

"It took less than 5 months for President Biden and Speaker Pelosi's Socialist Democratic Agenda to fail," New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, the new chair of the House Republican Conference, tweeted on Tuesday. "Unemployment is up, inflation is rising, & our economy is crippled by unnecessary spending."

Unemployment is actually down since Donald Trump left office in January and the economy is growing.

But that has not stopped numerous Republicans from making similar attacks on Biden.

Tennessee Rep. David Kustoff tweeted Thursday that Biden's "policies are failing the American people. We need a President who will open up our economy and get people back to work."

Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene claimed Friday — incorrectly — that "Biden is failing so fast that his own voters are ready to vote for Trump in '24," apparently unaware of Biden's strong approval ratings.

Some GOP lawmakers have specifically singled out his immigration policies for ridicule.

"The border policies of the Biden Administration are a complete failure and are leading to a massive increase in illegal immigration – with no end in sight," Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina charged on May 11.

Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn on May 6 claimed a drop in deportations was "a failure of leadership."

Others have attacked Biden's handling of jobs and the economy.

"The Dems' 'COVID' recovery plan to pay people MORE on unemployment assistance than they made in their previous job is killing small businesses," wrote Rep. Jodey Arrington of Texas on April 26. "This socialist policy was doomed to fail."

"In just four months, Biden has created four crises," claimed Alabama Rep. Barry Moore, citing the "Biden Border Crisis, Economic Crisis, Energy Crisis, National Security Crisis," as alleged examples. "This administration is failing the American people."

But the repetition of the claim does not appear to have swayed the public.

A new Harvard CAPS/Harris poll, released Monday, found 62 percent job approval for Biden.

His handling of immigration (53 percent approval), the economy (62 percent), stimulating jobs (62 percent) and curbing the pandemic (70 percent) also enjoy broad approval.

This comes as unemployment claims have dropped to pandemic lows and most American adults are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Still, despite the strong public support for Biden, Republicans are fighting against his agenda. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on May 5 that ""One-hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration."

And Republicans reportedly are pulling back from infrastructure talks, upset that Biden wants to spend $1.5 trillion more than they do. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) told Politico on Tuesday that Republicans won't come up to "anywhere near the number the White House has proposed" for the American Jobs Plan.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Done With 2020, Lindsey Graham Is 'Moving On' To Voter Suppresion 2022

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said Monday that he accepts the results of the 2020 election as well as President Joe Biden's win, but supports the myriad voter suppression efforts Republicans are undertaking across the country, ahead of the 2022 midterm contests.

Graham made the comments in response to a reporter's question about the controversial election audit in Arizona, which is based on voter fraud lies and conspiracy theories of a stolen victory, pushed by Donald Trump. That audit has sparked concern from the Justice Department that the audit is not adhering to election law.

Graham claimed to not know much about the audit, but said, "I accept the results of the election," adding that he is ready to "move on."

"2020 is over for me, I'm ready to march on and hopefully take back the House and the Senate in 2022," Graham told reporters in his home state of South Carolina.

The senator did not say whether he believes there was fraud in the November race, but advocated for voter suppression laws ahead of the next election, specifically singling out a desire to make it harder to vote absentee.

"I think it's smart to reform our laws to make sure you are who you are," Graham said, noting he supports voter ID laws. "I think there are a lot of people that feel like bad things happened in the election ... But I think President Trump and the Republican Party needs [sic] to focus on election reform and the upcoming election."

Experts have said repeatedly that voter ID laws are often discriminatory and target low income and minority communities, as well as those with disabilities. Further, those experts say ID laws are largely useless, considering that the kinds of fraud those laws claim to target are rare.

Despite this, a number of states have attempted to make it harder for people to vote in the months since Biden's win, many citing baseless claims fraud in the November election while introducing legislation limiting ballot drop-boxes, shortening early voting, and enacting other strict policies that frequently target minority and low-income communities.

Graham, for his part, initially backed Trump's effort to steal the 2020 election, even suggesting in a November 2020 call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger that mail-in ballots in certain counties in the state be tossed.

"During our discussion, he asked if ballots could be matched back to the envelope. I explained our process, after it went through two sets of signature match, at that point they were separated," Raffensperger said after the call.

He continued, "But then Senator Graham implied for us to audit the envelopes and then throw out the ballots for counties who have the highest frequency error of signatures. I tried to help explain that because we did signature match, you couldn't tie the signatures back anymore to those ballots."

Graham's conversation with Raffensperger was later included as part of a criminal investigation into Trump's effort to steal the state, according to the Washington Post. The investigation stemmed from Trump's demand that Raffensperger "find" 11,780 ballots — the exact number needed for Trump to be declared winner of the state.

Graham himself also made allegations of fraud in the immediate aftermath of the 2020 election.

"We'll see what that comes up with. So I think you're going to see some major irregularities," Graham said on Nov. 6, 2020, a day before the media called the race for Biden. "Democracy depends upon fair elections. President Trump's team is going to have the chance to make a case, regarding voting irregularities. ... I'm going to stand with President Trump."

After no voter fraud evidence surfaced, and after Trump incited the deadly insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, Graham said that Trump needed to stop pushing voter fraud lies and move forward, voting to certify Biden's win along with the overwhelming majority of the Senate.

Trump, for his part, has not listened.

Since May 12, Trump has published seven posts on his new blog saying there was fraud in the 2020 election and that the election was stolen. One blog post was so full with lies that a Republican election official in Arizona called it "unhinged."

Still, Graham has said he has no intention of ditching Trump, despite the voter fraud lies.

"Can we move forward without President Trump? The answer is no," Graham said earlier in May, when Republicans were waging their effort to remove Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) from leadership. "I've always liked Liz Cheney, but she's made a determination that the Republican Party can't grow with President Trump. I've determined we can't grow without him."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

CNN Poll: GOP Efforts To Discredit Biden Are Failing

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Republicans have been adamant that President Joe Biden's popularity will fall as they vilify his policy proposals, including the coronavirus relief package Congress passed in March and the infrastructure bill congressional Democrats are currently trying to pass.

Yet a new CNN poll released Wednesday found that their strategy has not worked, as Biden — and his policies — remain popular nearly 100 days into his tenure, despite the GOP's best efforts.

According to the CNN poll, 53 percent of Americans approve of the job Biden has done in his first 100 days in office. That approval rating tracks with Biden's approval rating average from FiveThirtyEight, which has hovered around 53 percent since he was sworn in on January 20 — a level he has maintained despite GOP criticism.

Other polls show that despite Republicans' attacks on his policies, both the coronavirus relief package and the infrastructure bill are even more popular than Biden is.

A CBS News/YouGov poll taken between April 21 to April 24 found 58 percent of adults in the United States approve of Biden's infrastructure plan, even though Republicans have been attacking it by saying it is not about infrastructure.

And that same poll found that 66 percent of adults believe the coronavirus relief package — which extended unemployment payments, authorized another round of direct checks, and made a child tax credit more generous to help alleviate childhood poverty — has been "helpful to the economy."

In all, that's a bad sign for Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who told Politico that Biden's "policies are going to be our road to comeback."

Polls show the GOP's strategy of attacking Biden's infrastructure plan because it includes things they argue aren't infrastructure while simultaneously attempting to vilify it because it raises taxes on corporations and the rich is also rife with peril.

A Morning Consult poll from April found that voters believe things like care for the elderly, internet access, and water pipes are infrastructure, despite GOP claims that they aren't.

And voters support raising taxes on those groups. A Monmouth University pollfrom Monday found that 64 percent of Americans support raising taxes on corporations, while 65 percent support raising taxes on those earning more than $400,000 annually.

The fact that Republicans can't seem to make a dent in Biden's popularity appears to be pushing them toward a strategy of running against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the 2022 midterms.

Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee that seeks to elect Republicans to the House, released a memo this week saying Pelosi is unpopular and that tying her to Democratic candidates could help in the quest to win back the House.

But it's unclear that will be the political winner that Republicans think it is.

Stu Rothenberg, a nonpartisan political handicapper, told the American Independent Foundation that, at this stage, he doubts running against Pelosi would be what changed GOP fortunes in the midterms.

"They've got Nancy Pelosi on the brain here, but the reality is that 2022 midterms is likely to be about Joe Biden," Rothenberg said, referring to Republicans. "And, I'd have to see some numbers that would really blow my mind to think that running against Nancy Pelosi would be more effective than running against Joe Biden."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

#EndorseThis: Randy Rainbow Rips Cruz And Graham Over 'Border Crisis'

Randy Rainbow is back with a sassy new parody, this time targeting Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for their border crisis "hypocrisy" in a documentary-style video titled, "TED and LINDSEY!"

Covering their respective idiocies to the tune of the Broadway classic "Kansas City," Randy pays special attention to Graham's sycophantic Trump toadying and the "Cancun Cruz" fiasco. Enjoy!

TED and LINDSEY! - A Randy Rainbow Song Parody www.youtube.com