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Tag: nancy pelosi

Martin Luther King's Family Joins Call For US Voting Reform

Washington (AFP) - Members of Martin Luther King Jr's family joined marchers Monday in Washington urging Congress to pass voting rights reform as the United States marked the holiday commemorating the slain civil rights leader.

King's son Martin Luther King III spoke at the march, warning that many states "have passed laws that make it harder to vote" more than half a century after the activism of his father.

The march's message was aimed at boosting support for the Freedom to Vote Act currently before the Senate, and which passed in the House of Representatives last week.

But the bill faces an uphill battle as President Joe Biden negotiates with two holdout senators in his own Democratic Party to change a procedural rule that would allow Congress to pass the law without Republican support.

Biden argues the bill is vital to protecting American democracy against Republican attempts to exclude Black and other predominantly Democratic voters through a spate of recently enacted laws at state and local levels.

Marchers at Monday's Peace Walk echoed demands made by MLK more than 60 years ago as they chanted, "What do we want? Voting rights! When do we want it? Now!"

Many carried posters printed with King's image and his famous 1957 appeal to "Give us the ballot," which called on the federal government to enforce Black Americans' right to vote nationwide, including in the heavily segregated South.

"We march because our voting rights are under attack right now," pastor Reverend Wendy Hamilton told AFP at the demonstration.

"As a matter of fact, our democracy is very fragile," said Hamilton, a local politician in Washington, whose residents themselves do not have full representation in Congress.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and members of the Congressional Black Caucus, such as Terri Sewell from Alabama and chairwoman Joyce Beatty from Ohio, also spoke at the march -- as did King's 13-year-old granddaughter Yolanda Renee King.

King's daughter Bernice King also took to the social media platform to call for the Senate to pass voting reform.

"If these state voter suppression laws persist, the America my father dreamed about will never come to be," she wrote.

At the White House, Vice President Kamala Harris urged senators to pass the Freedom to Vote Act in honor of King's legacy.

King "pushed for racial justice, for economic justice and for the freedom that unlocks all others: the freedom to vote," she said.

She denounced bills under consideration or already passed in state legislatures that she said could make it harder for 55 million Americans to cast ballots.

"To truly honor the legacy of the man we celebrate today, we must continue to fight for the freedom to vote, for freedom for all," Harris said.

Biden and Harris last week visited the crypt where King -- who was assassinated in 1968 at age 39 -- and his wife, Coretta Scott King, are buried in Atlanta.

'Titan': Former US Senate Leader Harry Reid Dies At 82

Washington (AFP) - Former US Senate majority leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat who rose from humble beginnings to lead the upper chamber during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, has died aged 82.

"I am heartbroken to announce the passing of my husband," his wife, Landra, said in a statement released to US media, adding he died "peacefully... surrounded by our family."

Reid, who used his experience in Congress to help Obama steer his landmark Affordable Care Act through the Senate, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2018.

Laconic and soft-spoken, Reid was born and raised in the mining town of Searchlight, Nevada on December 2, 1939, in a house with no hot water or indoor toilets.

A prize-fighter in his youth, he used his pugilistic instincts to work his way up to becoming one of the longest-serving majority leaders in the history of the US senate, and even called his memoir The Good Fight.

Current Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said Reid was "one of the most amazing individuals I've ever met."

"He never forgot where he came from and used those boxing instincts to fearlessly fight those who were hurting the poor & middle class," Schumer said on Twitter.

'Skill And Determination'

Despite his hardscrabble upbringing, he was elected to the Senate in 1986 and became the upper chamber's Democratic leader in the 2004 elections. He served as Senate majority leader from 2007 to 2015.

Reid often referred to his working class origins -- his father was a miner, his mother a laundress, and neither parent graduated from high school.

He hitchhiked 40 miles (65 kilometers) as a teenager to attend the nearest high school, and then graduated from Utah State University and put himself through George Washington University Law School by working nights as a member of the US Capitol police.

Quixotic, he once filibustered the Republicans by himself for nine hours, by reading from the history book he wrote about his hometown of Searchlight.

Reid was more conservative than most other Democrats in the Senate. A practicing Mormon, he was staunchly against abortion rights -- a stance that sometimes found him working at cross purposes with others in his Democratic caucus.

In lieu of a statement, Obama made public a letter he had written to Reid shortly before his death, in which he said: "I wouldn't have been president had it not been for your encouragement and support, and I wouldn't have got most of what I got done without your skill and determination."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Reid a "titan," describing him as "a leader of immense courage and ferocious conviction who worked tirelessly to achieve historic progress for the American people."

Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader in the Senate, said that Reid's rise from poverty to political power was a "quintessentially American story, and it took Harry's legendary toughness, bluntness, and tenacity to make it happen."

Biden's COVID-19 Relief Bill Created Millions Of Jobs, Report Confirms

A new report from the Roosevelt Institute found that the American Rescue Plan — the $1.9 trillion spending bill passed by Democrats and signed into law by President Joe Biden in March — blunted some of the worst economic effects of COVID-19.

"There are many achievements to celebrate, from millions more jobs and higher wages to greater economic security and increased worker power," the report's authors, Mike Konczal and Emily DiVito, wrote. "And even better, we avoided the worst-case alternative: the weaker, slower recovery that was projected if the American Rescue Plan (ARP) had not passed, and deeper harm to those who've historically been left behind by past recoveries."

The stimulus package pushed growth beyond government predictions across several categories, including employment, wages, and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to the report.

Before the stimulus package was passed, the Congressional Budget Office and the Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee predicted a slow, grinding recovery similar to the one that followed the 2008 economic recession. But after the American Rescue Plan went into effect, unemployment rates fell rapidly with the addition of more than 1.3 million jobs. At present, the U.S. economy is rebounding roughly eight times faster than it did after 2008.

The American Rescue Plan has been especially crucial for younger and lower-income workers. Using data from the Atlanta Federal Reserve, the Roosevelt Institute found that workers aged 16 to 24 saw a 9.7 percent wage increase, while the bottom quarter of wage-earners saw a 5.1 percent increase — even when accounting for inflation.

The American Rescue Plan has also benefited American workers more broadly. According to
Arindrajit Dube, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, the bottom 70 percent of workers have seen "real wage growth" over the past two years. Given that U.S. wages have remained stagnant for decades, this represents a significant shift in favor of American workers. From 1964 to 2018, the average American hourly wage increased by just two dollars, adjusted for inflation — a paltry 10 percent raise over the course of 54 years.

Other benefits have accrued to the bottom of the economic pyramid.

The Roosevelt Institute's analysis found that, in large part because of the American Rescue Plan, the wealth of the bottom 50 percent of households has grown 63 percent from pre-pandemic levels. Now, the bottom half of Americans collectively own $3 trillion.

Despite these wins for American workers, staggering levels of wealth inequality persist. The wealthiest one percent controls more than $42 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve. Still, the American Rescue Plan has given economic relief to millions of U.S. households, many of whom were struggling long before the COVID-19 pandemic began. In 2018, 40 percent of Americans said they would struggle to cover an unexpected $400 expense, the Federal Reserve found.

As a result of this newfound economic security, workers are now better positioned to find new and better jobs, according to the Roosevelt Institute's report. The authors point to markers of worker mobility, which are at historic highs. They also argued that workers now have more leverage to fight for better working conditions, with nearly 1,000 strikes and labor actions taking place this year. And data show that workers largely support this resurgent labor movement: fully 68 percent of Americans say they approve of unions, the largest share since 1965.

The report also notes that, according to the International Monetary Fund, the American economy is expected to grow by nearly 8% between 2020 and 2022. This far outpaces the economic growth rates of comparable countries such as Canada, Germany, Japan, and Italy. It even outpaces the IMF's earlier projections for the United States, which had GDP increasing by less than 2% over the same time period.

This sharp uptick in U.S. economic growth is "a direct effect" of the American Rescue Plan, according to the Roosevelt Institute report.

The United States still faces very real challenges, including new coronavirus variants, supply chain issues, and "surprising inflation," the report's authors write. But overall, they argue, the American Rescue Plan's successes "deserve a central place in the story of this recovery. Everything, from rapid job growth on down, was a choice based on prioritizing full employment. That was the right decision."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Congress Averts Government Shutdown One Day Before Deadline

Washington (AFP) - The US Congress approved a stopgap funding bill Thursday in a rare show of cross-party unity to keep federal agencies running into 2022 and avert a costly holiday season government shutdown.

With the clock ticking down to the 11:59 pm Friday deadline, the Senate voted by 69 to 28 to keep the lights on until February 18 with a resolution that had already advanced from the House.

The "continuing resolution" avoids millions of public workers being sent home unpaid with Christmas approaching, as parks, museums and other federal properties and services closed.

"I am glad that, in the end, cooler heads prevailed -- the government will stay open," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

"And I thank the members of this chamber for walking us back from the brink of an avoidable, needless and costly shutdown."

Congress watchers had expected to see the resolution getting a rough ride in the Senate, where a small group of hardline Republicans threatened to tank the measure in protest over the White House's pandemic response.

But Democrats agreed to allow a straight majority vote on defunding President Joe Biden's vaccine-or-testing mandate for large companies, which promptly failed as expected.

The right-wing Republican group, led by Utah's senior senator Mike Lee, argues that the mandate is an assault on personal liberty.

780,000 Dead

The pandemic has killed more than 780,000 people in the United States and the troubling new Omicron variant of the coronavirus has raised fears of a winter surge in cases.

But legal challenges have mounted against Biden's edict requiring vaccination or weekly tests for some sections of the US workforce, including companies with more than 100 employees.

Lee had campaigned to remove federal funding to implement the mandate and was backed by right wingers in both chambers.

"If the choice is between temporarily suspending non-essential functions on the one hand and, on the other hand, standing idle as up to 45 million Americans lose their jobs, their livelihoods, and their ability to work, I'll stand with American workers every time," he said.

The figure Lee cited would represent more than a quarter of the 157 million people that make up the US workforce, according to the Pew Research Center.

Only five percent of unvaccinated adults say they have left a job due to a vaccine mandate, according to an October survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In the evenly divided upper chamber, any single senator can torpedo any vote.

But the majority of Senate Republicans -- including their leader Mitch McConnell -- were against the move, fearing they would be blamed for a shutdown.

Ahead of the House vote McConnell had indicated that Republicans would support the continuing resolution, although he gave no indication that he bring Lee and the other hold-outs to heel.

Deadlocked

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the most senior Democrat in the House of Representatives, earlier hit out at Lee and his backers, accusing them of "defiance of science and public health."

If Congress had failed to keep the government open, the closures would have begun just after midnight on Saturday and would likely have bled into the following week.

There has never been a shutdown during a national emergency such as the pandemic, but the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the 2018-19 stoppage wiped $11 billion from the economy.

The stopgap measure buys legislators time to negotiate full-year spending bills for the rest of fiscal 2022.

And with the threat of a shutdown off the table, Democratic leadership is now free to focus on passing Biden's domestic agenda -- a $1.8 trillion social welfare and climate spending plan.

The bill is central to Biden's legacy, but risks failing because of feuding between the Democrats' progressive and centrist factions.

Lawmakers are also deadlocked over the prospect of a first-ever US debt default that would erase an estimated six million jobs and wipe out $15 trillion of household wealth, tanking the economy.

The government is likely to run out of cash on or soon after December 15, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned, unless Congress raises the federal borrowing cap.

But Republicans say they won't help, despite having pressed for hikes under former president Donald Trump, because they want no part in the Democrats' historically large package of social reforms.

Capitol Rioter Who Brought Gun On January 6 Said He Was Hunting Pelosi

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham and others on the far-right have been accusing Democrats of exaggerating the violence that occurred when Donald Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6. And they have dismissed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's January 6 select committee as overblown political theater. But according to Politico, 56-year-old Indiana resident Mark Mazza — one of the defendants charged with bringing a gun to the Capitol that day — has implied to investigators that he would have committed violence against Pelosi had he been able to get to her.

Politico's Kyle Cheney reports, "An Indiana man charged with carrying a loaded firearm to the Capitol on January 6 told investigators that if he had found Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 'you'd be here for another reason,' according to court documents posted over the weekend. Mark Mazza, 56, is the latest of about half a dozen January 6 defendants charged with bringing a gun to the Capitol. In this case, Mazza allegedly carried a Taurus revolver known as 'The Judge,' which is capable of firing shotgun shells — two of which were in the chamber, along with three hollow-point bullets. A Capitol Police sergeant obtained the weapon after allegedly fending off an assault from Mazza."

On March 29, according to Cheney, two investigators from the Capitol Police went to Mazza's home in Shelbyville, Indiana, where he told them, "I thought Nan and I would hit it off. I was glad I didn't because you'd be here for another reason. And I told my kids that if they show up, I'm surrendering. Nope, they can have me, because I may go down a hero."

Former President Trump has tried to paint the Capitol rioters as largely nonviolent, but Cheney points out that in fact, a variety of things were used as weapons on January 6.

"The mounting evidence has undercut claims by former President Donald Trump and his allies that the mob attacking the Capitol was unarmed," Cheney notes. "In addition to the growing number of firearms authorities suspect were carried onto Capitol grounds, rioters brought knives, axes, batons, tasers, bats, poles and even a crutch and hockey stick. Others stole police shields and used metal barricades and furniture as makeshift weapons. But Mazza's case is the most clear-cut yet of a loaded firearm on Capitol grounds that day."

Cheney continues, "Prosecutors obtained the gun from the alleged assailant himself and used its serial number to trace it back to him. They located Mazza after learning that on January 8, Mazza himself reported the gun stolen to local authorities. He told the Shelbyville police that it was taken from his car on January 5 while he was driving through Ohio. Mazza's report was entered into a national database, which Capitol Police accessed as they attempted to find the gun's owner."

House Censures Gosar And Strips Him Of Committee Posts

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

One week after Rep. Paul Gosar posted a video depicting the murder of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a violent attack on President Joe Biden, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 223-207, to censure the Arizona Republican and strip him of his assignments on two congressional committees.

Gosar posted the repugnant video to Twitter and Instagram. It depicted himself killing Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, and leaping at Biden with two swords drawn. The photoshopped rendering was derived from the anime program Attack on the Titan. When Gosar posted the now-deleted tweet, he asked: "Any anime fans out there?"

Though Gosar removed the video after a firestorm of outrage and criticism, he did not issue a public apology and before the vote Wednesday, Gosar doubled down, insisting the video was mere jest.

"It was not [a threat of violence]. I reject the false narrative categorically. I do not espouse violence... it was not my purpose to make anyone upset," he said before likening himself to one of the nation's founders, Alexander Hamilton. "If I must join Alexander Hamilton, the first person to be censured by this House, so be it, it is done."

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez addressed the House before the vote, making a solemn plea for basic integrity and human decency while calling out the abdication of the leader of House Republicans, Kevin McCarthy.

"It is sad. It is a sad day in which a member who leads a political party in the United States cannot bring themselves to say that issuing a depiction of murdering a member of Congress is wrong and instead, decides to venture off into a tangent about gas prices and inflation," she said.

The incitement of violence by Gosar "trickles down," she said, urging that a line finally be drawn in the sand. Ocasio-Cortez has been the subject of much derision and has become a favorite target right wing extremists.

"This is where we must draw the line, independent of party, identity, or belief. It is about the core recognition of human dignity, of value and worth," she said.

In addition to censure, Gosar has also been removed from two committees: The House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which he sits on with Ocasio-Cortez, and the House Committee on Natural Resources.

Significantly, the censure resolution highlights the ubiquitous nature of harassment against women in office. It notes that "violence against women in politics is a global phenomenon meant to silence women and discourage them from seeking positions of authority and participating in public life, with women of color disproportionately impacted."

A 2016 survey by the Inter-Parliamentary Union found 82 percent of women legislators have experienced psychological violence and 44 percent of women have received threats of death, sexual violence, beatings, or abductions during their term.

According to the Congressional Research Service, just 23 members — before Wednesday — have been slapped with censure. Gosar's resolution highlighted how the congressman "used the resources of the House of Representatives to further violence against elected officials" and to "spread hateful and false rhetoric."

The censure resolution also laid bare a critique of McCarthy, noting the vote Wednesday followed because "the leadership of the Republican Party has failed to condemn Representative Gosar's threats of violence against the President of the United States and a fellow member of Congress."

Such videos, the resolution continues, can "foment actual violence and jeopardize the safety of elected officials, as witnessed in this chamber on January 6, 2021."

Ahead of the censure vote Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Jim Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat and the House Majority Whip, reminded a Fox news reporter that even Rep. Gosar's own family has called for his expulsion from Congress for what his sister dubbed "sociopathic fantasies."

"His family says he should be [expelled]. And that's what I've said to the media. We're going to censure him. His family thinks he should be expelled. And I think that's up to leader McCarthy. He's the Republican leader. This man is a Republican," Clyburn said.


Bannon Threatens Biden Over Capitol Riot Panel Contempt Charges

By Jan Wolfe and Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former President Donald Trump's longtime adviser Steve Bannon on Monday sought to portray the criminal charges over his defiance of a congressional inquiry into the deadly January 6 Capitol riot as politically motivated, lashing out at President Joe Biden and others.

Bannon, indicted by a federal grand jury on Friday on two counts of contempt of Congress, made his first court appearance, with Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather releasing him on his personal recognizance after a brief hearing. Hours earlier, Bannon turned himself in at an FBI field office in Washington, flanked by black-clad bodyguards.

The conditions set by Meriweather for Bannon's release did not include an order not to talk about the case publicly. Moments after the hearing Bannon addressed a throng of journalists outside the federal courthouse.

"I'm never going to back down. They took on the wrong guy this time," said Bannon, Trump's one-time chief strategist and one of more than 30 people close to the Republican former president called to testify to the Democratic-led House of Representatives select committee probing the January. 6 attack.

Bannon took aim at Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"I'm telling you right now, this is going to be the misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Biden," Bannon said.

"We're going to go on the offense. We're tired of playing defense," Bannon said, who claimed without offering evidence that Biden ordered Garland to bring the charges.

Bannon was indicted on one contempt count for refusing to appear for a deposition before the committee and a second count for refusing to produce documents. The House voted on October 21 to hold Bannon in contempt, leaving it up to the Justice Department, headed by Garland, to decide on bringing charges.

Before surrendering to the FBI, Bannon told reporters, "We're taking down the Biden regime," though he did not specify what he meant by "taking down." A demonstrator standing behind him held a sign that read "Coup Plotter."

A mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6 in a failed attempt to prevent formal congressional certification of his election loss to Biden. The committee is scrutinizing Trump's actions relating to those events. Bannon is the first to face criminal charges arising from the panel's inquiry.

Contempt of Congress is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail along with a fine of up to $100,000, according to the Justice Department. The department on Friday had said Bannon faced a fine of up to $1,000.

Contempt of Congress is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail along with a monetary fine.

Meriweather imposed several conditions on Bannon including surrendering his U.S. passport. Bannon did not enter a plea, with an arraignment scheduled for Thursday.

Executive Privilege Claims

Trump has sought to stonewall the House committee and directed his associates not to cooperate. In defying his subpoena, Bannon cited Trump's insistence -- already rejected by one judge -- that the former president has a right to keep the requested material confidential under a legal doctrine called executive privilege.

Bannon, a prominent figure in right-wing media circles, was an architect of Trump's 2016 presidential victory and served as White House chief strategist in 2017. The former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker and Navy veteran has promoted right-wing causes and candidates in the United States and abroad.

Bannon separately was charged last year with defrauding donors to a private fund-raising effort to boost Trump's pledge to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border. Trump pardoned Bannon before the case could go to trial.

The House committee has said Bannon made public statements suggesting he knew in advance about "extreme events" that would occur on January 6. Bannon said on a January 5 podcast that "all hell is going to break loose tomorrow."

Shortly before the riot, Trump gave a speech to supporters near the White House repeating his false claims that the election was stolen from him through widespread voting fraud and urging them to go to the Capitol and "fight like hell" to "stop the steal."

House investigators hope the Bannon charges will motivate other witnesses including former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who on Friday refused to appear for a deposition, to testify.

Bannon's attorney David Schoen after Monday's hearing emphasized that his client's actions toward his subpoena were guided by Trump's invocation of executive privilege.

"You can't put the genie back in the bottle," Schoen said. "Mr. Bannon acted as his lawyers counseled him to do by not appearing and by not turning over documents in this case."

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Jan Wolfe; Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Will Dunham and Scott Malone)


GOP Leadership Silent Over Gosar's Video Of AOC Murder

A day after Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) tweeted a graphic anime video showing him scaling rooftops to slaughter Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and threaten President Joe Biden, the far-right congressman has faced no repercussions, despite calls for Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to punish him and for social media channels to delete his accounts.

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