Can The AFL-CIO Make The Conservative Democrats Act Like Real Democrats?

Heath and Liz Shuler

All my DC friends have always had great things to say about Liz Shuler, the new president of the AFL-CIO. I have to admit that I've always had a twinge of distrust-- unfairly-- when I hear her name and for just one reason: her brother, Heath Shuler was, in his day, the most right-wing Blue Dog Democrat in the House, a repugnant version of Josh Gottheimer, Henry Cuellar, Kyrsten Sinema, Kurt Schrader... any of them. But, in all fairness, I know she's never been anything like him.

And today, at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast event, she warned the current iterations of her brother-- basically Sinema and Manchin in the Senate and No Label's Unbreakable 9 in the House-- that the AFL-CIO might back primary opponents if the fail to support labor's legislative priorities. "Workers," she said, "want to hold elected officials accountable on an agenda that they voted for. Right now that agenda is being blocked by arcane rules in the Senate. We believe that voters will take that into consideration for the next election. Elected officials, if they’re not listening, that’s when elections end up having consequences."

The House passed the PRO-Act, making it easier for unions to organize, in March, 225-206, 5 pro-labor Republicans joining all Democrats but one right-wing Blue Dog, Henry Cuellar (TX). But because Manchin and Sinema are working with the Republicans to maintain the filibuster, giving McConnell absolute veto power over all legislation, the PRO-Act is sitting in limbo, essentially dead. Manchin supports the PRO-Act, though not reforming the filibuster. Sinema backs neither and is more the labor movement's target.

My faith in the AFL-CIO doing anything about bad Democrats is non-existent, having watched them refuse to oppose the two most anti-working class Democrats in the House, Cuellar and Kurt Schrader, who voted against raising the minimum wage. Another AFL-CIO priority, Biden's Jobs and Family bill is being cut to ribbons because of the power of a tiny handful of conservative Democrats in Congress. Yesterday, Jonathan Chait's column in New York Magazine, Wealthy Lobbyists Have Already Slashed Biden’s Tax Reform by Three-Quarters. Lobbyists can't actually do that. Only the corrupt members of Congress they pay off can. Tha they did.

Chait wrote that "Biden campaigned on a proposal to increase taxes on the wealthy by roughly $3.5 trillion over a decade. Nobody in Washington currently believes he will sign a tax hike anywhere close to that magnitude. The current predictions floating around-- Politico’s tax newsletter is one publication that has used this estimate-- peg the total at around a trillion, give or take."

Chait noted that instead of any legitimate rationale, the most right-wing Democrats in Congress "have instead put forward a transparently disingenuous pretext that their goal is to sign the infrastructure bill as fast as possible. The ten House Democrats, led by Josh Gottheimer [a model of the grossest kind of corruption], have insisted their goal in opposing the House budget is to get shovels into the ground as quickly as possible." No Labels, the corrupt conservative group run by Mark Penn and Nancy Jacobson and "funded by wealthy financiers, is running ads pretending Gottheimer’s clique is supporting Biden’s agenda, emphasizing the infrastructure bill and making absolutely no mention of the tax dispute. Many reporters have repeated Gottheimer’s account of his motives at face value. Both directly and through Republican cut-outs like No Labels and the Chamber of Commerce, business interests are paying off Sinema, Manchin, Gottheimer, Cuellar and the rest of the crooks willing to sell their asses and sabotage Biden's-- and labor's-- agenda. "Since budget rules require any permanent costs be paid for, and Biden doesn’t want to increase taxes on households earning less than $400,000 a year," concluded Chait, "the size of his domestic policy legacy will be determined by how much new taxes on the rich he can get through Congress. His proposal is perfectly ample to finance a historic legacy. A handful of [corrupt, right-wing] Democrats are starving that legacy very, very quietly. If they had good reasons for their position, you would probably know what they were."

Now, let's see if Heath Shuler's sister fixes it.