Yesterday, Bernie explained to his supporters why he voted against Biden’s turd sandwich Thursday night. (He was joined by 4 other progressives: Elizabeth Warren, Jeff Merkley, Ed Markie and John Fetterman.) He prefaced his explanation with an acknowledgment that “The original debt ceiling legislation that Republicans passed in the House would have, over a 10-year period, decimated the already inadequate social safety net of our country and made savage cuts to programs that working families, the children, the sick, the elderly and the poor desperately needed. The best thing to be said about the current deal on the debt ceiling is that it could have been much worse. Instead of making massive cuts to health care, housing, education, childcare, nutrition assistance and other vital programs over the next decade, this bill proposes to make modest cuts to these programs over a 2-year period. This bill will also prevent a global economic catastrophe by extending the debt ceiling until January 1, 2025– when we will have to go through with this absurd process once again.” So why did he and the other Senate progressives vote against it?
At a time when this country is rapidly moving toward Oligarchy, with more wealth and income inequality than we’ve ever experienced, I could not in good conscience vote for a bill that cuts programs for the most vulnerable while refusing to ask billionaires to pay a penny more in taxes. Wall Street and corporate interests may be enthusiastic about this bill, but I believe it moves us in exactly the wrong direction.
I could not, in good conscience, vote for a bill that makes it harder for working families to afford the outrageously high price of childcare, housing and health care while, by cutting IRS funding, actually make it easier for the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations in America to cheat on their taxes.
At a time when climate change is an existential threat to our country and the entire world I could not, in good conscience, vote for a bill that makes it easier for fossil fuel companies to pollute and destroy the planet by fast-tracking the disastrous Mountain Valley Pipeline. When the future of the world is literally at stake we must have the courage to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and tell them, and the politicians they sponsor, that the future of the planet is more important than their short-term profits.
At a time when we spend more on the military than the next 10 nations combined I could not, in good conscience, vote for a bill that increases funding for the bloated Pentagon and large defense contractors that continue to make huge profits by fleecing American taxpayers with impunity. Let us not forget that the Pentagon is the only federal agency that cannot pass an independent audit or account for trillions of dollars in spending.
At a time when the pharmaceutical industry is charging the American people, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs I could not, in good conscience, vote for a bill that does nothing to take on the greed of the big drug companies that are bankrupting Medicare and cancer patients while spending tens of billions of dollars on stock buybacks and dividends.
At a time when over 45 million Americans are drowning in student debt I could not, in good conscience, vote for a bill that eliminates the moratorium on student loan payments that has been a lifeline to millions of working-class families during the pandemic.
Deficit reduction cannot just be about cutting programs that working families, the children, the sick, the elderly and the poor depend upon. It must be about demanding that the billionaire class and profitable corporations pay their fair share of taxes, reining in out of control military spending, saving Medicare tens of billions on prescription drugs costs and ending billions of dollars in corporate welfare that goes to the fossil fuel industry and other corporate interests.
The fact of the matter is that this bill was totally unnecessary. The President has the authority and the ability to eliminate the debt ceiling today by invoking the 14th Amendment. I look forward to the day when he exercises this authority and puts an end, once and for all, to the outrageous actions of the extreme right-wing to hold our entire economy hostage in order to protect their corporate sponsors.
Paul Kane decided to explore how House Dems went from angry at to rallying around the Biden White House. 46 Democrats, including many of— though not all— of the most progressive members, were the only ones to vote against the turd sandwich. Hakeem Jeffries’ caucus embraced the final debt compromise and gave even more votes (165) than Republicans (149). Did the Democrats get played again… or is this just who they are? Keep in mind that in the Senate, only 17 Republicans voted for the turd sandwich… so it was, basically, as disgusting as this sounds, a Democratic bill!
It was, according to Kane, “a remarkable turnaround for a House caucus that is younger, more diverse and more liberal than the octogenarian president who previously served 36 years in the Senate. Despite those differences, House Democrats appreciate the president more than outsiders realize. ‘This is yet another time that Biden was underestimated and delivered, and it’s in a long line of them,” Rep. Darren Soto (sleazy New Dem-FL) said after the final vote. And the support signaled an embrace by rank-and-file Democrats of the new House leadership trio of Jeffries, Minority Whip Katherine Clark (D-MA), and Caucus Chairman Pete Aguilar (D-CA) who had less than three decades of combined experience when they took over in January.”
I’m 75 years old. This is the worst congressional leadership the Democrats have had in my lifetime. You didn’t like Pelosi or Hoyer? Your skin crawls when you think of even think about Schumer and Durbin? Just wait til you get to know Jeffries and Aguilar a little better.
“Not every Democrat,” reported Kane, “is happy. After the final vote, about a dozen members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus held a news conference on the House steps to blast what Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), the chairwoman of the caucus, called ‘hostage-taking’ by Republicans. And some Democrats who are usually reliable leadership allies suggested that even small concessions to this crop of Republicans only encourages future threats against the federal government in exchange for conservative policy wins. ‘You can celebrate all you want tonight because you dodged a bullet, but there are plenty of bullets headed your way now,’ Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA) said after voting against the bill. But over just a few days, the overall sentiment of the caucus shifted dramatically toward supporting the measure due to an effort led by Jeffries, Clark and Aguilar in coordination with advisers to Biden.”
After Ron Klain left was replaced by Jeffrey Zients, a millionaire who never worked on Capitol Hill, “many rank-and-file Democrats began to worry they were being taken for granted by the White House. That worry turned into anger in mid-May as Biden traveled through Japan and his top advisers adhered to the old school way of negotiations— staying quiet— while McCarthy and his deputies kept giving public portrayals of the talks going their way… Slowly but surely, Democrats realized something: The final deal avoided the disaster of defaulting on the debt, averted most of the conservative policy pain that Republicans initially demanded, and actually secured a few key wins for the Democratic agenda. ‘Both on their extreme cuts, plus the threat of defaulting in America, you see what we were able to prevent. And in this deal, then you realize that we didn’t fare so bad,’ Rep. Raul Ruiz (New Dem-CA) said.”
Since few people have ever heard of Raul Ruiz, let me just note that not only does ProgressivePunch rate him a very solid F (in a very blue district— D+12 partisan lean), he also has the 12th worst lifetime crucial vote score of any Democrat in the House, not the context you can ever expect from the Washington Post.
Far from McCarthy’s public characterization of “zero” wins for Democrats, liberals found a few things to like. Even the increased work requirements for some welfare recipients were offset by expanded eligibility to veterans and some other at-risk adults.
“That is a permanent benefit, whereas the increase in the age requirement is something that will sunset,” [Nevada Rep. Steven] Horsford said. “We need to do our job to win the majority back so that we can repeal that onerous requirement.”
Ruiz served as the lead sponsor of the Pact Act, legislation to help military members exposed to toxins from burn pits. He recalled his discussion last year with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (New Dem-FL), who oversees the panel funding veterans issues, in which they both had concerns about long-term funding for the program.
Republicans in the debt ceiling deal agreed to a total of $45 billion in funding over the next two years in the account for this program.
“We have permanently funded a guaranteed health-care fund for toxic-exposed veterans. It’s just, it’s historic,” Wasserman Schultz said Wednesday.
She credited the party’s messaging effort, soon after the late April passage of the GOP’s initial plan to cut $4.8 trillion in funding, as critical to highlighting how those cuts would have inevitably led to steep cuts to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Republicans in districts that Biden won in 2020 panicked at that line of attack, prompting GOP leaders to promise to protect VA funding in the final compromise.
“It happened because we shamed them into it,” Wasserman Schultz said.
By the time Democrats gathered with Biden’s team in its basement meeting room in the Capitol on Wednesday morning, the mood had shifted heavily toward supporting the compromise. Jeffries explained they needed to vote yes because it is “the right thing.”
“They may have won a handful of skirmishes,” Jeffries told Democrats, according to the notes of a Democrat in the room, who provided them on the condition of anonymity to detail internal conversations.
“We won this battle,” he added.
The only drama left was helping McCarthy clear the initial procedural vote, given he faced dozens of no votes on his far-right flank. If that vote failed, the entire legislation would stall.
Jeffries declined to address what concessions he received in exchange for helping pass the procedural step from McCarthy, who publicly denied any deal had been hatched.
Clark’s whip team pulled together a few dozen Democrats willing to join Republicans, and they gathered in the well of the House. The Democrats collected green cards (to vote yes) and red cards (no), awaiting the call from leadership how to vote.
Democrats only needed to give McCarthy 30 votes, but instead, once Jeffries waved a green card toward them, more than 50 rushed forward to vote yes, to advance the bill to its overwhelming passage later that night.