When Democrats Go High, Republicans Go Low
As Republicans proposed amendments that they knew would fail the themes were predictable: culture wars, China, taxes, and "drill, baby, drill."
That thundering noise you heard late yesterday afternoon was bitter Republicans stampeding to their estates in Virginia, and to Ronald Reagan airport, following the successful passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, a bill that funds the first comprehensive attack on climate change in American history. If you have friends who want to know what happened in the vote-a-rama, please:
Republicans are always sneering: “Cry, libs.” Yesterday, we did. Shortly before 3:00 p.m. yesterday, as Vice President Harris cast her “yea” vote for the $749 billion Inflation Reduction Act, which contains $400 billion in climate change funding, we libs cried tears of joy. You can read a full account of the bill here.
The final roll call came after a 16-hour vote-a-rama, in which Democrats serially voted down Republican amendments designed only for press releases and Twitter. When Harris’s gavel hit the desk, as Emily Cochrane, a political reporter for the New York Times, wrote, miffed Republican senators headed swiftly for the exits. But exhausted “Democratic senators took a moment to applaud the staff members who lined the back of the room, some of whom were wiping away tears as the senators cast their votes.” An elated Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, then thanked everyone involved in passing the bill from his own staff, which he declared “the best in the Senate” to the janitorial workers, Capitol Hill police, and the food workers who kept the cafeteria open.
Yesterday wasn’t just a victory for Joe Biden. It was a triumph for climate change, for progressive tax reform, and for consumers, building more momentum for the Democrats going into the fall campaign season. Highlights include a 15% basic minimum tax for corporations: it’s not everything the Democrats wanted from the 1%, but it’s far more than we have been getting for decades. Importantly, the bill now allows the government to negotiate prescription drug prices on behalf of Medicare, which is expected to save comsumers and taxpayers several hundred billion dollars over the next decade. It also injects resources into the sadly understaffed Internal Revenue Service which numerous Republicans darkly warned would allow the Treasury to unleash a war on Mr. and Mrs. America. As Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina put it, the money would be used to hire “thousands of new agents to shake down hardworking Americans.” In fact, 21 million familes who are still waiting for their 2022 tax refunds may now actually get a check.
Of course, the Republicans, doomed to lose this vote, took the opportunity to—you guessed it!—lie to their constituents, fight culture wars, hate on China, and toady to their corporate overlords. Here’s a selection of what Republican Senators proposed to add to the Inflation Reduction Act.
Florida’s Marco Rubio, who is in what is becoming a tough re-election campaign against Democrat Val Demings, decided to use his moment in the sun to troll trans people. Rubio claimed to have “looked back on 5,500 years of human history,” in which every pregnancy had occurred in a “biological female” (I would love to see the research he did, wouldn’t you?) The Rubio amendment would have ensured that federal programs for pregnancy and maternal care were limited to “biological females.” After he yielded back, Washington Democrat Patty Murray told him to stuff it.
The vivacious Marcia Blackburn of Tennessee introduced ten amendments, which included protecting American institutions of higher education from the Chinese Communist Party, prohibiting audits on taxpayers making less than $400,000, and striking provisions that raised taxes for the oil and gas industry. This last included a tax that funds the cleanup of Superfund sites.
Ted Cruz of Texas falsely accused Joe Biden of selling United States oil from the federal reserve to “Chinese Communists,” a conspiracy theory that has been floating around Twitter for several weeks. Cruz proposed an amendment to block such sales to China in the future—when, in fact, as Cruz knows, oil—even oil released from the federal reserves—is auctioned on a global market, not a national market. The American government cannot control where oil purchased at auction is sent, unless the destination has been formally sanctioned, and China has not been sanctioned. Cruz also proposed an amendment to void the Washington D.C. school system’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate. His theory is that the mandate will prevent Black children from going to school, when in fact, it may do a lot to correct the 25% disparity between Black and white vaccination rates in the D.C. schools be getting those kids vaccinated.
Louisiana Senator John Kennedy proposed an amendment to require the federal government to sell oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental Shelf, where the Biden administration has reduced leases by 80%. After the vote, like all Republicans, Kennedy declared that the bill would devastate the average American.“Look, I’m not saying that Senator Manchin intentionally wants to hurt people. I’m not saying that he intentionally wants to have even more people living in a tent behind Whataburger, but that’s going to be the result of this bill,” Kennedy said. “I hope I’m wrong, but I think I’m right. This bill is tier 1 moronic.”
It’s worth saying that Democrats didn’t get everything they wanted: drug price controls were weakened because the Senate parliamentarian determined that some measures were not subject to reconciliation. The tax reforms are significant, but the enigmatic Kyrsten Sinema managed to make the world safe for hedge fund managers by scotching a reform of the carried interest loophole, a tax provision that allows their income to be taxed at the lower capital gains rate.
Progressives aren’t overjoyed, but they seem to have put themselves on mute for now. Despite what the GOP is saying, the Inflation Reduciton Act is a pro-corporate bill, with lots of goodies stuffed in there for Senator Joe Manchin and his buddies in the energy industry. Furthermore, important social welfare policies from Build Back Better are still on the cutting room floor, universal pre-K, parental leave, and dental care for Medicare recipients among them. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders tried to put some of these things back in as amendments, but to no avail. One of the few amendments that came close to passing came, shockingly, from Kennedy: the 35$ monthly cap for insulin, a drug that is eight times more expensive in the United States than anywhere else in the industrialized world. Seven Republican Senators actually voted for this amendment, leaving it 3 votes short of passing (when you are in reconciliation, you need a simple majority to pass the bill, but a supermajority to amend it with items unrelated to the budget.)
Here are the names of 43 Republican Senators who don’t care that their own constituents are dying of, and becoming disabled from, a treatable disease.
The message for the midterm elections is clear: if you want lies and conspiracy, and if you trust corporations to put your well-being before their own profits, keep voting Republican. But if you want more of what the Biden administration has already delivered, vote a straight Democratic ticket in November.
The question is: can the Democrats sell this bill to the people in clear, optimistic language? I’ll be following up on that in the coming weeks.
When it announced a family separation policy that had been underway for months, the Trump administration “declared that separating families was not the goal of the policy, but an unfortunate result of prosecuting parents who crossed the border illegally with their children,” writes Caitlin Dickerson at The Atlantic, who has been reporting this story for years. “Yet a mountain of evidence shows that this is explicitly false: Separating children was not just a side effect, but the intent.” Instead of reunifying families, “officials worked to keep them apart for longer.” The policy, which has not only harmed thousands of children but also caused some to disappear permanently, was explicitly devised by the Trump administration to deter parents with children from crossing the border. (August 7, 2022)
Does Brian Kemp, the GOP candidate, support racial segregation in schools? Hard to know, but a new attack ad points to the almost $1 million his campaign has received from private schools born as white “segregation academies” after Brown v. Board of Education (1954) mandated the desegregation of public schools. According to Keith Reid at The Root, “Midway through the ad, an old black-and-white photo shows a group of white men waving Confederate battle flags, with one holding a picket sign reading, `We want a white school.’ It ends with a picture of Kemp imposed over a man holding another Confederate flag.” (August 5, 2022)
Anti-abortion activists have long articulated their campaign against Roe as a civil rights movement and the rights of embryos and fetuses as a logical extension. of the Black freedom struggle. This position is, of course, nonsense. But historian Jennifer Morgan has a different angle: taking reproductive choice away from women requires the same constitutional interpretation that tightened the grip of slavery over Black children fathered by whites from the 17th through the mid-19th centuries. As Morgan writes at Black Perspectives, “women’s struggles over bodily autonomy are at the foundation of our modern political and economic institutions. Racial slavery pitted women’s reproductive capacities against the interest of the state, introducing a conflict between a woman’s identity as a parent and the child’s identity as a commodity—enacting, most brutally and decisively, the notion that the fetus’s worth was paramount, and that the mother’s corporeal integrity was immaterial.” (August 2, 2022)
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