What 'Crisis'? Border Agent Encounters With Migrants Drop By 70 Percent

What 'Crisis'? Border Agent Encounters With Migrants Drop By 70 Percent

The Department of Homeland Security reports hat there has been a sharp drop in the numbers of encounters between border agents and migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border since May 11, when border policies implemented by the administration of former President Donald Trump expired.

However, Republican lawmakers continue to describe the situation at the border as a "crisis."

“We have seen, as I think everybody knows, a significant decrease in encounters at the border, more than 70 percent reduction since the lifting of Title 42 on May 11,” Assistant Secretary for Border and Immigration Policy Blas Nuñez-Neto told reporters at a press conference at the Port of Brownsville, Texas last Wednesday.

Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the Trump administration invoked Title 42, a section of the Public Health Service Act of 1944 that governs public health measures. The policy allowed the government to deny migrants the ability to seek asylum, which aligned with Trump’s calls to restrict immigration at the southern border.

The public health emergency ended on May 11, and the government reverted to Title 8, the section of the U.S. Code that governs what its name calls “Aliens and Nationality.” The Biden administration put in place policies that prohibit asylum applications from migrants who have traveled through Canada and Mexico after leaving their home nations.

Nuñez-Neto said that through several of the post-Title 42 procedures the administration has set up, such as enhancements to the Customs and Border Protection agency’s app, CBP One, migrants seeking travel to the United States made more than a thousand appointments.

At the Brownsville border crossing, he said, he had observed migrants choosing to make voluntary withdrawals, exercising the option to return to Mexico to avoid detention and deportation after an unauthorized border crossing. Nuñez-Neto attributed this to policies put in place under Biden that allow for expedited removal from the United States of those who have crossed the border unlawfully, including a five-year ban on reentry for those who have been removed.

“Our approach, to build lawful, safe, and orderly pathways for people to come to the United States, and to impose tougher consequences on those who choose not to use those pathways, works,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said during a May 11 White House briefing.

As the administration announced the reduction in border encounters and drug seizures, congressional Republicans continued to characterize the situation at the border as a crisis, a claim they have been making since early in Biden’s presidency.

“It is time for this administration to face the toll its refusal to enforce our nation’s laws takes on the men and women who are charged with defending it,” Rep. Mark Green, chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said in a press release posted on the committee’s website marking the retirement of U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz. “Amid a devastating and historic border crisis created by his boss and President Biden, Chief Ortiz had an impossible job, but one he did with honesty and dedication.”

Rep. Clay Higgins, chair of the committee’s Subcommittee on Border Security and Enforcement, announced that he would hold a hearing on June 6 “to examine the Biden administration’s failure to prepare for the end of Title 42 on May 11.”

“I look forward to this opportunity to shed light on this devastating border crisis and demand the Biden administration enforce our nation’s laws in the wake of Title 42,” Higgins said in a statement announcing the event, falsely claiming, “President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas have failed this country with their open border policies.”

Republican lawmakers and officials at the state level expressed similar concerns. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced that he would be sending National Guard units to the southern border, as did South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster.

The language Republicans use to describe the situation is the same as that used by the anti-immigration group Federation for American Immigration Reform, which in a January 21, 2021, press release accused Biden of “inducing an immigration and border crisis.”

The federation has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which noted:”FAIR leaders have ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists and have made many racist statements. Its advertisements have been rejected because of racist content.”

As part of their ongoing attacks on Biden over immigration policy, many Republicans in Congress recently promoted a hoax, heavily featured on Fox News, that homeless veterans had been displaced from housing in hotels in New York state to make room for asylum seekers.

In a tweet responding to the false story, Speaker Kevin McCarthy said that it had occurred due to Biden’s “open-border policies.” McCarthy has not mentioned the hoax since the original story was disproven, and his inaccurate tweet was not deleted.

Reprinted with permission from The American Independent

Kevin McCarthy

Polling Shows Big Majority Of Voters Rejecting GOP Budget Cuts

Recent public polling has shown that there is significant support from the public for legislation to raise the federal debt ceiling, while proposals similar to recent Republican legislation that would cut safety net spending are unpopular.

Congressional Republicans and President Joe Biden are currently debating how to increase the country’s debt ceiling, the amount the government is authorized to borrow to pay debt that it has already incurred. Past increases have been authorized by Congress under both Democratic and Republican presidents.

Biden has favored a “clean” bill, one that is unattached to other issues. Republicans, led by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, have called for spending cuts in exchange for authorizing an increase.

A poll from Navigator Research conducted from April 20-24 found that 50 percent of respondents support raising the ceiling, while 36 percent are opposed (14 percent said they were “not sure”). The strongest support was among registered Democrats (68 percent), followed by independents (45 percent) and 30 percent of Republicans polled.

When asked to choose between proposals to address the federal deficit, most respondents (79 percent) said they preferred raising taxes on the wealthy and large corporations and closing tax loopholes over making cuts to programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Seventy-seven percent said they were against cutting Medicaid, while 67 percent said they were against making it harder for Americans to qualify for the program.

A majority of respondents (54 percent) also opposed adding work requirements to be eligible for Medicaid.

The results from a CBS poll taken from April 12-14 found that 70 percent of respondents support raising the debt ceiling to avoid defaulting on debts. Without being given the additional context that failing to raise the ceiling could trigger a default, 46 percent were in favor and 54 percent opposed. In CBS’ survey, most said they supported increases in Medicare and Medicaid spending (59 percent), along with an increase in funding of Social Security (63 percent).

But legislation that Republicans in the House of Representatives have passed does not reflect the policies those voters support.

On April 26, a slim House majority voted in favor of the Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023. If the bill became law, it would cut funding of federal agencies, increase obstacles to low-income families who need to access safety net programs, end student loan debt forgiveness, and inhibit recently funded IRS efforts to pursue wealthy tax cheats.

“Speaker McCarthy and House Republicans are threatening to default on our debt in order to force cuts to programs that hardworking families rely on every single day,” the White House said in a tweet criticizing the bill.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer made clear the bill had no chance at passage.

“These measures, and they’re truly extreme, have no place in a debate about avoiding default,” Schumer said in a March 26 speech in the Senate, according to reporting by Newsweek. “I urge Speaker McCarthy to stop wasting any more time on this DOA, dead on arrival, bill.”

Experts have warned that failure to raise the debt limit could trigger a massive blow to the U.S. and global economies, triggering a recession.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Joe Biden

Fox News Poll Shows Public Supports Biden On Guns, Social Security, And Medicare

A new poll released by Fox News shows that a majority of people support President Joe Biden's positions on enforcing gun safety measures and protecting the Social Security and Medicare programs.

The poll, conducted for the conservative outlet in late March, asked voters about their overall approval of Biden and to list which national issues they were most concerned about.

Seventy-four percent of those who responded to the poll said they support Biden's recent executive order intended to increase background checks on gun purchasers, and 71 percent said they believe continuing to fund Social Security and Medicare is more important than reducing the budget deficit.

The executive order Biden signed on March 14 directed the U.S. attorney general's office to ensure firearms sellers are in compliance with requirements that they process sales through the National Instant Background Check System, which determines legal eligibility to own a firearm. The order also instructed members of the Cabinet to promote "red flag" gun laws through partnerships with local law enforcement, health care providers, educators and others. It instructed the Federal Trade Commission to produce a report examining the marketing of guns, particularly to minors.

Biden has repeatedly called on Congress to pass an assault weapons ban. He recently reiterated the call following the March 27 mass shooting at a Nashville, Tennessee, school that killed six, including three children.

Congress passed an assault weapons ban in 1994, but it died in 2004 after it failed to reauthorize it. A 2019 study published by the New York University School of Medicine found that the number of mass shootings had decreased while the ban was in effect and had increased significantly after it expired.

Congressional Republicans oppose a ban. In July 2022, all but two House Republicans voted against legislation that would have reinstated the ban.

Republican lawmakers have expressed support for restricting access to Medicare and Social Security or eliminating the programs entirely, which respondents to Fox News' poll overwhelmingly opposed.

They have not offered a unified budget proposal containing recommendations for addressing Social Security and Medicare, but coalitions within the party and individual members of Congress have backed cuts to funding for the programs.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) in 2022 proposed in his "Rescue America" plan to "sunset" programs and require Congress to repeatedly reauthorize them. He walked back that proposal following public outcry.

The conservative Republican Study Committee counts as its members 172 House Republicans. Last year, the committee released a 2023 budget proposal titled "Blueprint to Save America" that called for the retirement age to be gradually increased.

Individual Republicans have expressed support for cuts and changes that would limit eligibility for benefits under the entitlement programs.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said the consistent funding of the programs should be disrupted and subjected to a vote as discretionary spending each year. Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-TX) suggested that "some sort of means-testing potentially" could be implemented to limit who can receive benefits.

Biden vocally supports the programs and has promised to veto attempts to curtail them.

In his most recent budget, released March 9, Biden called for "protecting and strengthening" Social Security. Biden has proposed raising taxes on those earning above $400,000 to continue funding Medicare beyond the current projected date of insolvency in 2028 and "at least into the 2050s," according to the White House.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

President Biden addresses NATO allies in Poland

Biden Offers 25-Year Plan To Bolster Medicare Finances

In an op-ed published in the New York Times on Tuesday, President Joe Biden discussed his upcoming federal budget proposal and celebrated the Inflation Reduction Act, the 2022 law that included provisions requiring Medicare to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. He criticized Republican proposals to repeal the IRA and proposed policies he said would preserve funding for Medicare beyond 2050 without cutting benefits or limiting who can receive them.

Biden wrote:

[M]y budget will extend the Medicare trust fund for more than another generation, an additional 25 years or more of solvency — beyond 2050. These are common-sense changes that I’m confident an overwhelming majority of Americans support.

MAGA Republicans have a different view. They want to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act. That means they want to take away the power we just gave to Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices. Get rid of the $35 per month cap for insulin we just got for people on Medicare. And remove the current $2,000 total annual cap for seniors.

If the MAGA Republicans get their way, seniors will pay higher out-of-pocket costs on prescription drugs and insulin, the deficit will be bigger, and Medicare will be weaker. The only winner under their plan will be Big Pharma. That’s not how we extend Medicare’s life for another generation or grow the economy.

H.R. 812, proposed by Rep. Andrew Ogles (R-TN), calls for the complete repeal of the Inflation Reduction Act. The legislation has 22 co-sponsors, all Republicans; it has been referred to a subcommittee of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

The Inflation Reduction Act authorized the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to negotiate prices with drug manufacturers for the drugs most widely used by those enrolled in Medicare. According to the AARP, the most expensive commonly prescribed drugs include blood thinners Eliquis and Xarelto and diabetes medications Trulicity and Jardiance.

The law also imposed a $35 monthly cap on out-of-pocket insulin costs for Medicare recipients, which took effect on Jan. 1. Senate Republicans defeated a provision to apply the cap to insulin costs for those covered under private insurance. Drug manufacturer Eli Lilly recently announced that it would voluntarily cap the costs of its insulin, and its CEO said the $35 cap "should be the new standard in America."

Biden said that his upcoming presidential budget, to be released later in the week, will expand Medicare's authority as well as policies in the Affordable Care Act, referred to as Obamacare, that also lowered prescription drug prices.

"My budget will build on drug price reforms by strengthening Medicare’s newly established negotiation power, allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for more drugs and bringing drugs into negotiation sooner after they launch," Biden wrote.

Biden said his budget will increase the Medicare tax rate to five percent from 3.8 percent for those with an income above $400,000, including from sources such as investments or trusts. Biden argued, "When Medicare was passed, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans didn't have more than five times the wealth of the bottom 50 percent combined, and it only makes sense that some adjustments be made to reflect that reality today."

Meanwhile, the House Republican Study Committee offered a fiscal year 2023 budget that would raise the retirement age for Medicare to 67 from the current age of 65. More than 150 Republican House members, a majority of the caucus, are members of the committee.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) in 2022 offered up a "Rescue America" plan that called for all federal laws to expire after five years and be reauthorized by Congress, including Medicare and Social Security. Scott revised his plan on February 17 to exclude the popular programs from sunsetting following months of criticism from Democrats.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Following Biden's Medicare Rule, Eli Lilly Caps Insulin Cost At $35

Following Biden's Medicare Rule, Eli Lilly Caps Insulin Cost At $35

Drug manufacturer Eli Lilly announced on March 1 that it would cap the monthly out-of-pocket cost to patients of a prescription for insulin at $35 a month.

The move comes after the enactment of the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which includes a monthly $35 cap on out-of-pocket insulin costs for Medicare recipients that took effect on January 1.

It also follows President Joe Biden's remarks during his State of the Union address on February 7:

Every day, millions need insulin to control their diabetes so they can stay alive. Insulin has been around for 100 years. It costs drug companies just $10 a vial to make. But, Big Pharma has been unfairly charging people hundreds of dollars – and making record profits. Not anymore.

We capped the cost of insulin at $35 a month for seniors on Medicare. But there are millions of other Americans who are not on Medicare, including 200,000 young people with Type I diabetes who need insulin to save their lives.Let’s finish the job this time.

Let’s cap the cost of insulin at $35 a month for every American who needs it.

Asked during an interview with CNN on Wednesday morning, "Why now?" Eli Lilly CEO Dave Ricks said: "This is a culmination of about seven years of work we've been doing to reduce the price of our insulins. … But with the change last year in the Medicare Part D benefit, the senior benefit, to $35, we think that should be the new standard in America. And so, while we could wait for Congress to act or the health care system in general to apply that standard, we're just applying it ourselves."

"Lilly is taking these actions to make it easier to access Lilly insulin and help Americans who may have difficulty navigating a complex healthcare system that may keep them from getting affordable insulin," the company said in a press release.

According to the American Diabetes Association, 8.4 million Americans use insulin, a synthetic version of a hormone that regulates the amount of glucose in the blood. Eli Lilly and two other pharmaceutical companies produce 90 percent of the world's insulin. The two other drug manufacturers, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi, have not followed Lilly's change in policy.

Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law on August 16, 2022, following its passage in Congress with only Democratic votes in favor of the bill. When the law was being debated in the Senate, Democrats proposed an amendment that would have capped out-of-pocket costs for insulin for many with private insurance, in addition to those with coverage through Medicare. Most Republicans opposed it, and they succeeded in defeating it.

"Last year, we capped insulin prices for seniors on Medicare, but there was more work to do. I called on Congress – and manufacturers – to lower insulin prices for everyone else," Biden tweeted on Wednesday in response to Lilly's announcement. "Today, Eli Lilly is heeding my call. Others should follow."

Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA), who worked on the original legislation to cap costs, tweeted: "Because of my bill with @SenatorWarnock [Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia] to lower insulin costs for every patient in America to $35 a month, Eli Lilly has announced they will cut the cost of their insulin. This expands on our program that caps monthly out-of-pocket costs to $35 a month or less."

"When Democrats capped the price of insulin at $35 for millions every Republican voted no and then blocked expanding the cap for all Americans. Republicans want insulin to stay expensive. This move today is because of Democrats," Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) tweeted.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Republicans Silent As Unemployment Drops To Lowest Level Since 1969

Republicans Silent As Unemployment Drops To Lowest Level Since 1969

Republican leaders who repeatedly praised positive economic developments under former President Donald Trump were silent following the release on Friday of better-than-expected employment news.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 517,000 jobs were added to the economy in January and the unemployment rate fell to 3.4%, the lowest rate since May 1969.

Under Trump, unemployment reached as high as 14.7 percent at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020, and when President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, the rate was 6.3 percent.

Revisions were also reported on Friday for previous jobs reports, showing an additional 400,000 jobs had been added in 2021, for a record total of 7.1 million, while 200,000 jobs were added to the 4.6 million jobs total in 2022 — the second-largest figure in U.S. history.

"Put simply, I would argue the Biden economic plan is working," said the president in remarks to reporters at the White House. Addressing those who had criticized his economic policies, he added "Today's data makes crystal clear what I've always known in my gut: These critics and cynics are wrong."

Before the report was issued, according to CNBC, Dow Jones had estimated that the economy had added 187,000 jobs. Michelle Meyer, chief U.S. economist for the Mastercard Economics Institute, told CNBC that the report was "phenomenal."

The official social media accounts of Republican leaders in the House and Senate made no mention of the positive data.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's only mention of the word "job" came in a tweet posted Friday morning that read, "I’m honored to have the job of Speaker, and I will work hard each and every day for YOU—the American people." In 2018, by contrast, when the Conference Board's index of consumer confidence rose, McCarthy wrote: "The economy is BOOMING. And we're just getting started. #MAGA"

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell similarly ignored Friday's news about jobs. In 2018, however, he tweeted that under Trump the country had achieved the "lowest unemployment rate since 1969."

Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, who serves as the Republican whip in the Senate, tweeted in 2018: "Great news. The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced today that the unemployment rate dropped to its lowest level since 1969 (3.7 percent)." Thune was silent about the latest report.

Other members of the House Republican leadership team also failed to mention the report, but were previously effusive about positive news while Trump held office.

In 2018, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise and House Majority Whip Tom Emmer tweeted praise for low unemployment figures; House Republican Conference chair Elise Stefanik and House Republican Policy Committee chair Gary Palmer did the same in 2020.

The official Twitter account of the House Republican Conference released a tweet on Friday attacking Biden over immigration policy but said nothing about the jobs report. Senate Republicans accused Biden of having "tanked the economy" but made no reference to the record-low unemployment rate.

The jobs report follows other recent positive economic indicators. Inflationary pressures have eased as prices for consumer goods decreased in December, while gas prices are at a national average of $3.49/gallon, far below the record $5-a-gallon price reached in June 2022.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Under Biden, More Jobs Created Than Last Three GOP Presidents Combined

Under Biden, More Jobs Created Than Last Three GOP Presidents Combined

The latest jobs report shows that the unemployment rate has also reached a 50-year low.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday released its jobs report for December 2022, showing that 223,000 jobs were added to the economy, while the unemployment rate has fallen to 3.5 percent.

The new report shows that a total of 10.7 million jobs were added in the first two years of President Joe Biden’s term. By contrast, under the three Republican presidents who preceded Biden — Donald Trump, George W. Bush, and George H.W. Bush — U.S. job production was much slower.

At the conclusion of George H.W. Bush’s four-year presidency in 1993, 2.6 million jobs had been created. During George W. Bush's two terms, between 2001 and 2009, 1.3 million jobs were created; and 3 million jobs were lost during Trump’s single term.

Trump has the worst record on jobs since the Great Depression, and is the only modern president who left office with a negative jobs record. Under Trump, unemployment hit a record high of 14.7 percent in April 2020, and when Biden took office in January 2021, the unemployment rate was 6.3 percent.

Biden’s record is more in line with those of his Democratic predecessors, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, with 12.5 million and 22.7 million jobs added during their presidential terms, respectively.

The current unemployment rate of 3.5 percent is the lowest since 1969. The bureau's report also showed an increase in employment for workers with disabilities to a level higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment among Black and Hispanic workers also fell.

“Today’s report is great news for our economy and more evidence that my economic plan is working,” Biden said in a statement. “We still have work to do to bring down inflation, and help American families feeling the cost-of-living squeeze. But we are moving in the right direction.”

Biden noted additional actions by his administration designed to help the economy grow, including construction projects underway that are funded under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Biden also cited efforts to strengthen supply chains and expand domestic manufacturing with legislation like the CHIPS and Science Act.

“We have more work to do, and we may face setbacks along the way, but it is clear that my economic strategy of growing the economy from the bottom up and middle out is working,” Biden added.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Biden's Latest Investment In Electric Vehicles To Create 11,000 Union Jobs

Biden's Latest Investment In Electric Vehicles To Create 11,000 Union Jobs

The Department of Energy announced on Monday that it had finalized a $2.5 billion loan to Ultium Cells LLC, a joint venture of General Motors and LG Energy Solutions. The company plans to build factories in Ohio, Michigan, and Tennessee for construction of lithium-ion battery cells for electric vehicles.

"This loan will jumpstart the domestic battery cell production needed to reduce our reliance on other countries to meet increased demand and support President Biden's goals of widespread EV adoption and cutting carbon pollution produced by gas-powered vehicles," Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement.

The federal dollars will be added to the billions in private funds that GM and LG are investing in the projects. The venture, which is expected to create over 11,000 new jobs, includes an Ohio plant with more than 700 workers who recently voted to unionize.

According to the department, the Ultium project is expected to require 6,000 construction jobs in building the facilities and 5,100 jobs for their operation.

On Dec. 9, workers at Ultium's facility in Lordstown, Ohio, voted 710-16 in favor of joining the United Auto Workers union. President Joe Biden released a statement praising the decision, saying, "American and union workers can and will lead the world in manufacturing once again."

The Energy Department also said that investment in the Ultium project aligns with Biden's goal of having the United States achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, which means reducing greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere as much as possible to fight global climate change, according to the United Nations.

Reducing emissions is also a part of the Paris Agreement on reducing global temperature rise. The United States withdrew from the agreement under former President Donald Trump, but rejoined in February 2021 under Biden.

In December 2021, Biden signed an executive order directing the federal government to work toward achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, in part by mandating the transition of the government vehicle pool, consisting of 600,000 cars and trucks, to zero-emission vehicles.

Biden has also prioritized federal investments in U.S.-based manufacturing of batteries, such as the Ultium project, to create a supply chain of parts for electric vehicles that are manufactured domestically, without reliance on foreign production of most of the components.

In a statement announcing the investment program in October, the White House noted: "China currently controls much of the critical mineral supply chain and the lack of mining, processing, and recycling capacity in the U.S. could hinder electric vehicle development and adoption, leaving the U.S. dependent on unreliable foreign supply chains."

The Biden administration has made strategic investments to initiate production of those components within the United States. The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act includes tax credits for consumers purchasing electric vehicles made with American-produced components.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Paul Whelan's Brother Says Biden 'Made Right Decision' On Briner Swap

Paul Whelan's Brother Says Biden 'Made Right Decision' On Briner Swap

Multiple Republican members of Congress on Thursday responded to the release of WNBA player Brittney Griner from Russian custody by blaming the Biden administration for not also rescuing veteran Paul Whelan, who is also being held in Russia.

Russia has alleged that Whelan is a spy and isn’t eligible for the same sort of prisoner swap as Griner.

Griner was arrested at a Russian airport in February and sentenced to nine years in prison for drug charges. The Russian government agreed to exchange Griner for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was sentenced to 25 years in U.S. federal prison in 2012.

Whelan was arrested in December 2018 and was accused by the Russian government of espionage, a charge he and his family deny. Whelan’s capture and detainment began while former President Donald Trump was in office, and his administration failed to negotiate Whelan’s release.

President Joe Biden explained why Whelan had not been a part of the exchange in a speech.

“We’ve not forgotten about Paul Whelan, who has been unjustly detained in Russia for years,” Biden said. “This was not a choice of which American to bring home. We brought home Trevor Reed when we had a chance earlier this year. Sadly, for totally illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul’s case differently than Brittney’s. And while we have not yet succeeded in securing Paul’s release, we are not giving up.”

Biden said that U.S. diplomats will continue to negotiate for Whelan’s release and called on Russia to ensure his health and humane treatment while he remains detained.

Whelan’s family members welcomed Griner’s release and noted the different circumstances of the two cases.

“The Biden administration made the right decision to bring Ms. Griner home, and to make the deal that was possible, rather than waiting for one that wasn’t going to happen,” David Whelan, Paul’s brother, said in a statement.

Republican members of Congress on Thursday accused Biden of abandoning Whelan without noting that it is the Russian government under President Vladimir Putin — not Biden — who excluded Whelan from the prisoner exchange.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy claimed that the prisoner swap was “a gift to Vladimir Putin, and it endangers American lives,” and added, “leaving Paul Whelan behind for this is unconscionable.”

“Joe Biden’s prisoner swap with Vladimir Putin released Viktor Bout, the notorious ‘Merchant of Death’ who armed America’s worst enemies. And it left behind Paul Whelan, a Marine veteran who’s languishing in a Russian jail cell on trumped-up charges,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) wrote in a statement.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) said freeing Griner was “weak and disgusting,” and added that “doing so while leaving Paul behind is unforgivable.”

“It is a bitter pill to swallow that Mr. Whelan remains in custody while we release the ‘Merchant of Death’ Viktor Bout back to Russia,” wrote Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Rep. Mike Waltz (R-FL) accused Biden of putting “celebrities over veterans” in securing Griner’s release, while Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) said Biden had left Whelan behind.

“I can’t help but think of Paul Whelan, who’s been ABANDONED by this White House,” wrote Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX).

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) said Whelan’s ongoing detention was a sign of “weakness” from the Biden administration. Rep Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) said the swap was “another bad deal made by Biden.”

Rep. Lisa McClain (R-MI) called the swap “unforgivable,” while Rep. Kat Cammack (R-FL) said it was “unacceptable.”

The Biden administration has taken a more adversarial position with the Russian government than Trump, who downplayed concerns about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Biden signed an executive order in April 2021 imposing sanctions on Russia for “actions by its government and intelligence services against U.S. sovereignty and interests.”

Following Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine in February, the Biden administration has — in concert with other governments — imposed multiple sanctions against the Russian government in protest of that nation’s unprovoked aggression.

Additionally, the U.S. government under Biden has sent more than $30 billion in aid to Ukraine as it fights against Russia, along with military equipment like long-range artillery.

Biden has said the U.S. will “stand with the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes” while calling on Russia to “end this unprovoked aggression immediately and remove its troops from Ukraine.”

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Republican Senators Attack U.S. Military's Successful Inclusion Programs

Republican Senators Attack U.S. Military's Successful Inclusion Programs

A new report released by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) criticizes military efforts to increase diversity, even though the U.S. military itself, along with experts and military leaders, say increased diversity improves military effectiveness.

Rubio and Roy provided early access to the report, titled "Woke Warfighters," to Fox News, which has publicly campaigned against anti-LGBTQ equality for years.

"We need to spend more time thinking about how to counter Chinese aircraft carriers and less time thinking about pronouns," Rubio wrote in the report. Roy wrote, "[President Joe] Biden's woke Pentagon is using taxpayer dollars to promote blatant anti-American ideology."

The report features photos of Black and transgender military leaders and members and claims that programs aimed at diversity have become so much of a priority in the armed forces that they are undermining fighting capability.

The Army has put emphasis on diversity in the military since before Joe Biden became president. In 2020, while Trump was in office, the Army launched "Project Inclusion," an initiative designed to increase diversity and equity across the branch.

In a document accompanying the program's announcement, the Army stated that it was important because "The strength of the Army comes from its diversity. Developing and maintaining qualified and demographically diverse leadership is critical for mission effectiveness and is essential to national security."

The Biden administration has committed to increased diversity across the military. The National Security Strategy released by the White House in October stated, "We will strengthen the effectiveness of the force by promoting diversity and inclusion." Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has overseen initiatives designed to address extremism within military ranks.

In March 2021, Biden removed restrictions on transgender military service that had been put in place by former President Donald Trump.

Dartmouth College professor Jason Lyall has studied the effects of diversity on military effectiveness and preparedness. He said in an analysis published by the Washington Post in July 2020, "My research shows that inclusive armies fight harder, suffer lower rates of desertion and defection, and exhibit more creative problem-solving on complex battlefields than armies drawn from marginalized or repressed groups."

Lyall wrote: "Victory on the battlefield over the past 200 years has usually gone to the most inclusive armies, not the largest or best-equipped ones. Inclusion, in other words, is good for military effectiveness."

In May, a group of former Defense Department leaders released a letter in support of increased diversity and inclusion in the armed forces. Among those who signed the letter were Leon Panetta and Chuck Hagel, who served as secretary of defense under former President Barack Obama, and Mark Esper, who served in the same position under Trump.

"Diversity is a strength of the U.S. military, and our experience as senior defense leaders tells us that capable and diverse teams are more effective in today's complex environment," the authors said.

Active members of the armed forces have also spoken out in favor of increased diversity.

Col. Andrew Deaton, a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, wrote in a column for the nonprofit Association of the United States Army, "When leaders are able to leverage the holistic diversity of their soldiers, the unit and mission benefit."

Gen. Mark Milley, current chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a 2021 speech at an ROTC ceremony at Howard University: "Opportunity in our military must be reflective of the diverse talent in order for us to remain strong."

Rear Adm. Keith Davids of the Naval Special Warfare Command was quoted last month on the Navy's official website as saying, "Diversity is a force multiplier and makes us a stronger and more capable fighting force."

Voters have rejected attacks on diversity from Republican officials and candidates. Gubernatorial candidates such as Tudor Dixon in Michigan and Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania, who made anti-LGBTQ positions a key part of their campaigns, were overwhelmingly defeated. Anti-LGBTQ Senate candidates such as Mehmet Oz and Blake Masters also lost their races.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

House Republican Fabricates 'Suspicious Activity' Banking Claim Against Bidens

House Republican Fabricates 'Suspicious Activity' Banking Claim Against Bidens

Rep. James Comer (R-KY) has repeatedly insisted that "suspicious activity" claims filed against Hunter Biden and other members of President Joe Biden's family are rare and indicate possible illegal behavior. But the Treasury Department says it expects millions of such claims to be filed in the next year.

Suspicious activity reports, known as SARs, are filed by financial institutions with the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and can be used as the basis for investigations into possible illegal activity, but they are not an indication of guilt or innocence.

SARs can be initiated when bank accounts are involved in any activity out of the ordinary course of business. This includes unusually large or complex deposits that could indicate the account holder is attempting to store funds for an illegal purpose.

Comer's allegations come as the incoming House Republican majority said it will initiate multiple investigations of Biden ahead of the 2024 election.

Comer is currently the highest-ranking minority party member of the House Oversight Committee and is likely to become chair of the committee when Congress reconvenes in 2023. He recently won reelection to represent Kentucky's 1st Congressional District.

House Republicans on Thursday held a press conference announcing their intention to target the Biden family with investigations after the GOP secured a small majority in the midterm election, including allegations that Hunter Biden used his father's position to enrich himself. Many of these accusations have centered on conspiracy theories that a laptop owned by Hunter Biden contains emails connecting the Biden family to corrupt business deals.

"According to media reports, the Biden family accumulated over 150 SARs," Comer said during the event. It is a data point he has frequently referenced to paint the Bidens in a negative light.

During an interview in October on the conservative One America News Network, Comer claimed, "I came from a banking background, and I can tell you, nobody ever gets a suspicious activity report."

Appearing on Newsmax in July, Comer said: "I don't think the American people who don't have banking background understand how few suspicious activity reports are ever filed. The fact that they have had over 150 is mind-boggling. That's got to be a Guinness record."

And in April, Comer told Fox News, "I was the director of the eighth-largest Kentucky-domiciled bank for about a decade, and we mighta had 12 SARs filed among all the banks in our holding company a year."

But the Treasury Department says millions of SARS are filed each year, undercutting Comer's claims of their rarity. A report the department submitted to Congress said that in 2021, 2.8 million reports were filed, and 3.5 million reports are expected in 2022. The department also anticipates over 3.6 million reports for the 2023 fiscal year. According to the Bank Policy Institute, only about 4% of SARS lead to a follow-up by law enforcement, and "a tiny subset" of those investigations result in arrests or convictions.

In Comer's district alone, over 62,000 reports were filed between 2014 and 2022, averaging one filing for every 12 people in the district.

On Oct. 19, the Washington Post fact-checked Comer's claim that the SARs reports indicated that Hunter Biden had "committed serious crimes." The paper awarded Comer "three Pinocchios" for what it calls "significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions."

"Even if as many as 150 SARs were filed concerning Hunter Biden's business dealings — a number that remains unconfirmed — that does not mean that he committed 'serious crimes' or that banks were 'pretty confident' that a serious crime was committed," the Post concluded. "Instead, these reports are merely tips that something may be suspicious — raw intelligence that still needs to be vetted, confirmed and possibly investigated."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

GOP Dark Money Outfit Used Russian Stock Video For Anti-Biden Ads

GOP Dark Money Outfit Used Russian Stock Video For Anti-Biden Ads

A political ad that ran on television on October 28 during a World Series game broadcast and criticized President Joe Biden for aiding Ukraine used stock footage from Russian sources, a review has found. The ad is funded by Citizens for Sanity, a dark money conservative tax-exempt nonprofit group that has supported Republican candidates during the 2022 election cycle.

Politicoreported that Citizens for Sanity began running a six-figure advertising campaign attacking Democrats, starting in August.

The ad that ran during the World Series game shows footage of a Black man in the aisle of a grocery store with text that reads "GROCERIES UP 13%." The video clip is available for purchase on the stock photo and video site iStock.

The creator of the footage is listed on iStock as Elena Perova. The same photographer, who also appears to go by the name Elena Shishkina, has images and video clips for sale on another stock photo site, Dreamstime. The account lists her location as Permskiy Kray in the Russian Federation. Many of the same images can be found on both sites.

The narrator of the ad says: "Now, Biden says that his fight in Ukraine could lead to nuclear Armageddon — World War III." The quote is taken out of context: It is from an October 6 speech Biden gave at a Democratic Party fundraiser in which he warned that Vladimir Putin's threatened use of nuclear weapons is a cause for global concern.

According to a White House transcript of his remarks, Biden said: "We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis. We've got a guy I know fairly well; his name is Vladimir Putin. I spent a fair amount of time with him. He is not joking when he talks about the potential use of tactical and nuclear weapons, or biological or chemical weapons, because his military is, you might say, significantly underperforming."

Citizens for Sanity has run other ads, including a series in which it condemned transgender youth and accused "Biden and his radical allies" of "destroying girls' sports" by advocating for transgender equality, part of a campaign nationwide by conservatives and Republicans against transgender rights with an eye to motivating conservative voters.

It has also been criticized for advertisements that accuse Democrats of supporting criminals. In another ad that aired during the World Series, Democrats are accused of "hurting our children" by supporting "illegal immigration" that is "threatening your family."

Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Will Bunch described the advertising as "deliberately dishonest," noting that it associates a crime committed by an undocumented immigrant with Democratic policies, even though it occurred when former President Donald Trump was in office in 2020.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, columnist Michael Hitzik described the ads that Citizens for Sanity ran earlier, during the baseball playoffs, as "unbelievably racist."

Citizens for Sanity has its roots in the Trump administration, and specifically with officials in that administration who were deeply involved in anti-immigrant policy.

Three of the group's board members — Gene Hamilton, John Zadrozny and Ian Prior — served in the Trump administration. All three men work with the America First Legal Foundation, a group formed by former senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller. Among other efforts, the group has brought multiple lawsuits against the Biden administration aimed at preventing changes to Trump's anti-immigrant policies and stopping federal aid to Black farmers.

In addition to his role as the architect of many of the Trump administration's anti-immigrant policies, Miller has long-standing ties to white nationalists. In one set of emails that was released in 2019, Miller argued in favor of limiting nonwhite immigration to the U.S.

Hamilton worked in the Department of Justice and authored a memo that ended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the policy put in place by President Barack Obama to delay action against undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. The Biden administration has taken steps to reinstate the policy.

Zadrozny worked at the State Department and U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services during the Trump administration and had previously worked for the anti-immigrant group FAIR. FAIR has been designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.

Prior also worked in the Trump Department of Justice; since Trump's presidency ended, he has been involved in conservative activism. Prior was a member of a conservative political action committee called Fight for Schools, which attacked school board members in Virginia for promoting racial inclusion.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Billion-Dollar Electric Vehicle Plant Slated For Ohio Thanks To Biden Bill

Billion-Dollar Electric Vehicle Plant Slated For Ohio Thanks To Biden Bill

Car manufacturer Honda and electronics conglomerate LG announced plans to build a $4.4 billion facility for electric vehicle battery production in Ohio on August 29. The announcement comes two weeks after the Inflation Reduction Act, which contains incentives for consumers to buy electric vehicles with American-made components such as batteries, was signed into law by President Joe Biden on Aug. 15.

The two multinational companies expect the facility's construction to begin in 2023, with the plant ready to commence production by 2025. It is the first investment announced by Honda toward producing their own batteries since the company said it would go all-electric by 2040.

Honda’s CEO Toshihiro Mibe noted in the company's statement that “Honda is committed to the local procurement of EV batteries which is a critical component of EVs. This initiative in the U.S. with LGES [LG Energy Solution Ltd.], the leading global battery manufacturer, will be part of such a Honda approach.”

The production of a majority of electric vehicle batteries currently in use occurs in China, but Biden has enacted multiple policies to encourage shifting production to the United States and create jobs for American workers. In a March 29 statement, the White House said its efforts “to build a clean energy economy are driving companies to make more in America rebuild our supply chains here at home, and ultimately bring down costs for the American people.”

The Inflation Reduction Act passed Congress with only Democratic votes in the face of uniform Republican opposition in the House and Senate. Vice President Kamala Harris advanced the law with a tiebreaking vote in the Senate, and it was later signed by President Joe Biden.

As part of the Inflation Reduction Act's $369 billion in funding focused on clean energy and reducing climate change, there is a subsidy for car buyers of $7,500 on electric vehicles. The law requires that qualifying vehicles are largely assembled in the U.S. with components made in America, and phasing out previous credits that didn't require U.S.-based production. Provisions for incentives were also included for companies like Honda so they can continue to compete in the U.S. market, and other carmakers such as Tesla, GM, and Ford have cars on the market that will already qualify for new credits.

Additionally, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which Biden signed into law in November 2021, has $3.1 billion in subsidies for companies who choose to build electric vehicle-related facilities domestically.

Multiple companies have announced plans to build production facilities in the U.S. since both laws passed and other policies championed by President Biden went into effect, planning billions in investments and thousands of new jobs in multiple states around the country.

GM announced in January that it would be investing $7 billion in Michigan across 4 facilities focused on electric vehicles and battery production. Biden released a statement praising the decision.

In May, Stellantis and Samsung SDI announced that together they would spend $2.5 billion to build a battery production plant in Kokomo, Indiana. The companies stated the facility is projected to create 1,400 new jobs in the area. That same month, Hyundai said that they would be building a $6.5 billion EV factory outside of Savannah, Georgia, which they project would create 8,100 jobs for the state.

In July, Panasonic said they will build a $4 billion electric vehicle battery plant in De Soto, Kansas after forging a partnership with Tesla to supply batteries for that company’s line of cars.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Consumer Outlook Improves Sharply As Gas Prices Fall

Consumer Outlook Improves Sharply As Gas Prices Fall And Job Numbers Rise

A survey of consumers released on Monday by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that expectations of inflation in the next few years has declined for the second month in a row.

The Survey of Consumer Expectations is conducted with a panel of 1,300 household heads every month to gauge how families expect inflation and prices for goods like housing, education, food, and gas to change.

The July 2022 survey found that consumers expect inflation of 6.2 percent over the next year, down from 6.8 percent in the June survey. The results also show that expectations for what it terms "three-year-ahead inflation" have also fallen, from 3.6 percent to 3.2 percent between June and July. The survey found that consumer expectations of price increases for gas and food had fallen "sharply."

In a statement issued with the results, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said the estimate of inflation increases had declined across income groups but were "largest among respondents with annual household incomes under $50k and respondents with no more than a high school education."

The improvements in consumer outlook come along with other positive indicators about the overall health of the U.S. economy.

On August 5, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that hiring in July was far better than expected. The economy added 528,000 jobs, more than doubling the Dow Jones estimate of 258,000 jobs. The unemployment rate fell to 3.6 percent in a return to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels.

Unemployment hit a high of 14.7 percent in May 2020 under former President Donald Trump, and when Joe Biden took office in January 2021 the rate was at 6.4 percent.

Gas prices have declined every day for at least 50 consecutive days from the record nationwide average high of $5.02 per gallon in June. As of Monday, according to AAA, the national average was $4.05 per gallon. In many states in the South, prices had fallen below $4.00; in Texas, for example, the average is $3.55 per gallon.

In an interview with CNN, Tom Kloza, an analyst with the Oil Price Information Service, attributed the price drop both to drivers' failure to buy gas at higher prices and to President Biden's decision to release a million barrels of emergency oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

In his March 31 speech announcing administration measures to counter high gas prices, Biden noted, "This is a wartime bridge to increase oil supply until production ramps up later this year. And it is by far the largest release from our national reserve in our history."

Concerns about inflation have contributed to lower approval ratings for Biden, and voters have frequently cited concerns about the economy as their top issue.

Biden has repeatedly described fighting inflation as his "top domestic priority" and has criticized Republican proposals that would raise taxes on the middle class while starving programs like Social Security and Medicare of funds.

The Inflation Reduction Act, a bill that would raise tax rates for large corporations and enhance the IRS' ability to pursue wealthy individuals for tax evasion, passed the Senate on August 7. According to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, if it is enacted, the legislation will help to reduce the deficit and support "the Federal Reserve's efforts to bring down inflation."

Biden has said he will sign the legislation after its expected passage on August 12 in the House of Representatives.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Biden White House Quietly Reunites Migrant Families Torn Apart By Trump

Biden White House Quietly Reunites Migrant Families Torn Apart By Trump

On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that 400 migrant families who were separated under the administration of former President Donald Trump have been reunited.

The administration has estimated that over 1,000 families remain separated out of the 5,000 families that were broken apart by former President Donald Trump's so-called "zero tolerance" immigration policy.

The department's Family Reunification Task Force, which President Joe Biden created by executive order in February 2021, is working to reverse the Trump administration's harmful policy that separated parents and children at the U.S.-Mexico border. As a result of the policy, many migrant families have been separated for years with little to no contact.

"Our Task Force now has reunited 400 families separated by the last administration's cruel policies. We will continue this important work, together with nonprofit organizations and our foreign partners," Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas wrote on Twitter Tuesday morning.

Michelle Brané, executive director of the task force, told NBC News that parents will be able to come to the United States on paid travel and will be allowed to work in the country legally for three years as part of the process.

Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director for the pro-immigration American Immigration Council, sounded a positive note on the development.

"With little fanfare and an enormous amount of tireless on-the-ground work in multiple countries, advocates and the Biden admin's Family Reunification Task Force are helping to reunite families separated under Trump," Reichlin-Melnick wrote. "But even with all of that, many families remain separate."

The task force has said it will partner with non-governmental organizations and the private sector to provide support services to the families. The task force also said services like health care, legal services, and career help would be offered to those who have been affected.

Immigration advocates have continued to call for the Biden administration and other elected leaders to work to reunite more families as soon as possible. On Monday, a coalition of over 450 faith leaders and organizations signed a letter to Congress calling for more to be done to support families dealing with the fallout of the Trump policy.

The Trump administration's immigration policy mandated the separation of migrant families from their children. When it was implemented in 2018, advocacy groups like Refugee International described it as "fundamentally cruel." International allies including the United Nations, the United Kingdom, and Canada, as well as faith leaders including Pope Francis, have all condemned the Trump-era policy.

The policy was devised by senior Trump administration advisor Stephen Miller as part of a ruthless effort to limit immigration to the United States. Miller has a long history of advocating for policy goals affiliated with the white supremacist movement, including attacks on immigration. Miller is a descendant of Jewish refugess.

The U.S. Department of Justice rescinded Trump's border policy in the first week of Biden's administration.

During the final debate of the 2020 presidential election, Biden condemned Trump's family separation policy as "criminal."

At the same debate, Trump claimed the separated families were "so well taken care of."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Biden Takes Action To Increase Renewable Energy Production

Biden Takes Action To Increase Renewable Energy Production

President Joe Biden announced on Monday that he is authorizing initiatives under the Defense Production Act to increase the domestic manufacture of clean energy technologies, especially of components used for solar panel construction.

"While President Biden continues pushing Congress to pass clean energy investments and tax cuts, he is taking bold action to rapidly build on this progress and create a bridge to this American-made clean energy future,” the White House said in a statement.

The Defense Production Act was passed by Congress in 1950 and can be invoked by the president to order private businesses to prioritize the production of materials that have been deemed necessary for the national defense.

The White House statement said:

Specifically, the President is authorizing the Department of Energy to use the DPA to rapidly expand American manufacturing of five critical clean energy technologies:

Solar panel parts like photovoltaic modules and module components;

Building insulation;

Heat pumps, which heat and cool buildings super efficiently;

Equipment for making and using clean electricity-generated fuels, including electrolyzers, fuel cells, and related platinum group metals; andCritical power grid infrastructure like transformers.

Also on Monday, Reuters reported that Biden will declare 24-month exemptions from tariffs on solar panels imported to the U.S. from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. The Commerce Department had halted the importation of panels from those countries, which comprise more than half the panel supply in the United States, as it investigates whether the products brought in from those countries are evading tariffs on goods imported from China.

The Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group of over 1,000 companies and organizations advocating for the increased use of solar power, praised Biden's actions.

"Today's actions protect existing solar jobs, will lead to increased employment in the solar industry and foster a robust solar manufacturing base here at home," Abigail Ross Hopper, the president and CEO of the group, said in a statement on Monday.

Biden has invoked the Defense Production Act three times before, to increase the availability of baby formula, to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines, and to manufacture firehoses to combat wildfires. By comparison, former President Donald Trump was criticized for delaying the use of the act to boost production of medical equipment needed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The executive actions come after the Biden administration in May launched an initiative to connect more sources of clean energy to the national power grid. The Department of Energy said the Interconnection Innovation e-Xchange, or i2X, will bring together "grid operators, utilities, state and tribal governments, clean energy developers, energy justice organizations, and other stakeholders to connect more clean energy to America’s power grid."

The exchange is financed by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which Biden signed into law on Nov. 15, 2021.

A Stanford University study published in December 2021 found that electricity blackouts such as the one that hit Texas in 2020, which killed over 200 people and caused $24 billion in damage, could be prevented with more widespread usage of clean energy. The study showed that shifting to renewable energy would decrease energy demand by 57 percent and household energy costs by 63 percewnt.

The Biden administration has promoted the use of clean energy in multiple ways. In February, the administration set revenue records with the auction of offshore wind lease rights in the region known as the New York Bight. In May, the Department of Interior announced that wind lease rights off the coast of California would be auctioned for the first time.

In his first State of the Union speech, in May, Biden called for clean energy tax credits that would spur clean energy production and lower the price of electric vehicles.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Environmentalists Praise Biden For Reversing Trump's 'Handout To Polluters'

Environmentalists Praise Biden For Reversing Trump's 'Handout To Polluters'

Environmental groups praised the Biden administration's announcement on Tuesday that it had finalized a federal rule that will restore key portions of the National Environmental Policy Act that were removed by the Trump administration.

NEPA will once again require that the climate impact of major construction projects be considered and that communities affected by those projects have input before federal agencies approve them.

A White House statement quoted the chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Brenda Mallory, who said: "Restoring these basic community safeguards will provide regulatory certainty, reduce conflict, and help ensure that projects get built right the first time. Patching these holes in the environmental review process will help projects get built faster, be more resilient, and provide greater benefits to people who live nearby."

"We are encouraged to see the Biden administration take action to restore this bedrock environmental protection," Leslie Fields, the Sierra Club's national director of policy, advocacy, and legal, said in a statement. "NEPA plays a critical role in keeping our communities and our environment healthy and safe, and Donald Trump's attempts to weaken NEPA were clearly nothing more than a handout to corporate polluters."

Earthjustice also praised the Biden administration, noting in a statement, "The Biden administration is taking key steps to reverse the damage of the Trump administration and restore essential environmental protections under NEPA."

The Natural Resources Defense Council notes:

NEPA has empowered citizens and demanded government accountability for more than 40 years. In many cases, NEPA gives citizens their only opportunity to voice concerns about a project's impact on their community. When the government undertakes a major project such as constructing a dam, highway, or power plant, it must ensure that the project's impacts -- environmental and otherwise -- are considered and disclosed to the public.
Thanks to this law, hundreds of millions of Americans have participated in important federal decisions. We are able to know the risk a government project or practice could pose to our community or health because of NEPA -- and we are guaranteed a voice.

The website Protect NEPA provides examples of the successful application of NEPA protections: For instance, during the planning of a project to widen Route 93 in Montana, NEPA allowed for the involvement of citizen groups and the government of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation in the design process. They were able to force the Montana Department of Transportation to conduct environmental reviews of the project's potential impacts, leading to a final design that addressed concerns about wetlands in the area as well as about the safety of the roads for the tribal communities nearby.

The act has been championed by activists advocating on behalf of Black and Latino communities that have historically been disproportionately affected by the effects of pollutants.

"Without NEPA's critical protections for clean air and water, communities, particularly Black and brown communities, will be increasingly vulnerable to serious health complications from pollution and more susceptible to illnesses," the Rev. Ezra Tillman of First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church in Flint, Michigan, wrote in a November 2020 opinion column.

Trump publicly announced his intention to gut NEPA at a White House event in January 2020: "We will not stop until our nation's gleaming new infrastructure has made America the envy of the world again. It used to be the envy of the world, and now we're like a third-world country. It's really sad."

The announcement followed secret meetings in 2017, Trump's first year in office, between officials he had appointed at the Department of the Interior and state, county, and local government officials on the best way to weaken environmental rules in order to speed the process of approval for such projects as the construction of mines, pipelines, and highways.

Throughout his presidency, Trump frequently promised that he would get an infrastructure bill through Congress and enacted, but it never happened.

Meanwhile, belying Trump's claims that environmental rules were an obstacle to infrastructure development, Congress under Joe Biden passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, which Biden signed into law in November. Simultaneously, Biden has advocated for a return to policies focused on reducing climate emissions, including rejoining the Paris Agreement and using the Environmental Protection Agency to take action focused on reducing pollution in minority communities.

On signing the infrastructure bill, Biden said, "Finally, infrastructure week," a jab at Trump, who had often promised one but never delivered.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.