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Who's A Worse Threat To America-- Sinema Or Ricchetti?



Trump is against the conservative infrastructure bill and flipping out about the 17 Republican senators who ignored his threats and voted to proceed with the debate. But, let's keep in mind that despite Trump's opposition, the bill is a pile of crap and a trap for progressives. Trump is wrong in everything he says about the bill... and the bill is an example of conservatives out-maneuvering progressives under the guidance of Biden's most conservative, most corrupt and most corporate aide, Steve Ricchetti.


Let me come back to infrastructure in a moment and first make sure everyone knows who-- and what-- Ricchetti is. A couple years ago, writing about Medicare-for-All, the danger of giving Ricchetti any kind of power was clear as a bell. Biden was ready to fight over healthcare for all fight too-- to stop it. His former chief of staff, then campaign chair, Steve Ricchetti, is a greasy, crooked lobbyist for the Sickness Industry. It doesn't matter if you look among Republicans or Democrats, you're not going to find anyone more likely to oppose Medicare-for-All than Steve Ricchetti, the advisor Biden depends on most. Writing for the American Prospect, David Dayen reported that "Ricchetti founded and ran his own lobbying firm with his brother. He personally represented drugmakers Novartis, Eli Lilly and Sanofi (the latter two are among the three major insulin manufacturers), as well as health IT company NaviMedix (now NaviNet) and the American Hospital Association. The hospital lobby, as well as pharmaceutical companies, have been primary opponents of Medicare for All. The Ricchetti firm continues to operate, with Ricchetti’s brother actively lobbying for clients, including in the health-care space."


Lobbyist Steve Ricchetti may be a crooked but he's Biden's crook... and maybe not as bad as Kushner-in-law

Ricchetti, a Cleveland native, is a quintessential figure in the turn-of-the-century Democratic Party. His private-sector career led to him running the political department for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association from 1987 to 1989. He rotated onto the other side of politics as the executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee from 1990 to 1992, and then joined the Clinton administration.
He was the chief liaison between the White House and the Senate in Clinton’s first term, helping to pass the Clinton budget and the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which facilitated numerous corporate takeovers of Big Media.
In 1996, the revolving door spun again and Ricchetti served as a corporate lobbyist at Public Strategies Washington. In 1998, Steven and his brother Jeff (who followed in Steve’s footsteps as the top lobbyist for Blue Cross and Blue Shield), opened a lobbying firm that they later sold to the high-powered Podesta Group, then known as podesta.com. At the time, John Podesta was White House chief of staff, and his brother Tony Podesta was a top lobbyist for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association, or PhRMA. Jeff Ricchetti went to work for Tony Podesta; Steve went back to the White House to work for John.
...After the Clintons left the White House, Ricchetti fully cashed out, building Ricchetti Inc. with his brother. Armed with a long rolodex, the brothers grabbed a large slice of corporate America as clients, including AT&T, General Motors, defense contractor United Technologies, the American Council of Life Insurers, and the American Bankers Association. But health care was always a large part of the business, with multiple drug companies, insurance associations, and hospital trade groups signing on.
The Podesta ties also continued; until 2012, Ricchetti was on the board of the Center for American Progress, which John Podesta founded in 2003.
Ricchetti Inc. is still going strong. Jeff Ricchetti has lobbied the Senate this year for clients like pharmaceutical company Eisai, patent-buying firm Intellectual Ventures Inc., and the Association for Advanced Life Underwriting.
Steve Ricchetti worked for Hillary Clinton on the 2008 campaign, bundling donations as a “Hillraiser.” The Obama campaign attacked him for obtaining a special earmark from Clinton when she served the Senate on behalf of General Motors. But Ricchetti reportedly got crosswise with Clintonworld when he brought up the issue of Bill’s extra-marital affairs during an internal meeting. When Clinton lost, Ricchetti tried to find a way in with Obama. He tried to get a job in the White House and then with then-CIA director Leon Panetta before landing with Biden as a counselor to the vice president. In 2013, Ricchetti replaced Bruce Reed as Biden’s chief of staff.
The Obama administration had put in place ethics laws barring lobbyists from joining until they had spent at least two years off K Street. Ricchetti de-registered as a lobbyist at the end of 2008 to get around those rules. But he still “advised clients on public policy, communications strategy and grass-roots efforts,” as Biden’s office acknowledged at the time. This is an old trick, to de-register as a lobbyist while still performing all of the functions of lobbying as an unregistered “adviser.” In 2011, Richetti earned $1.8 million from his lobbying firm, despite not technically being a lobbyist. He listed on a disclosure form working for twenty different corporate clients that year.
Ricchetti was the driving force behind Biden’s potential presidential run in 2016. He ran meetings and hit up donors in advance of that eventually curtailed campaign. When Biden left office, Ricchetti signed on as managing director for the Penn Biden Center, where several expats from Bidenworld landed.
As the 2020 talk ramped up, Ricchetti was at the center of it. He was referenced by the Associated Press in an early deliberation in February about a presidential run. In March, the New York Times reported that Ricchetti, labeled a “strategist,” was calling around to “would-be candidates and their aides to signal that the former vice president is likely to enter the race.” In April, The Intercept noted that Ricchetti was coordinating the presidential campaign.

Republicans have made a concerted effort to give attention-monger Kyrsten Sinema the "credit" for the conservative infrastructure bill 17 of them voted for yesterday. But it was Ricchetti who made it happen, not the pathetic, puffed up dope from Arizona. As Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Pramila Jayapal told her Seattle constituents, "A small and narrow bipartisan infrastructure bill does not have a path forward in the House of Representatives unless it has a reconciliation package with our progressive priorities alongside it. Our votes are not guaranteed on any bipartisan package until the reconciliation bill is agreed to and passed with our priorities sufficiently funded. Our Caucus will continue to demand that Congress fulfill the mandate we were elected on: to deliver necessary, urgent, and transformational change for working families."

Now... back to Trump's whining about the bill. Here's the whiny statement he put out this morning:


"Communist Democrats?" Maybe he's thinking about Sinema before she managed to get herself elected to the Arizona state state legislature when she actually was pretending to be a communist... or at least a socialist of some kind. Over time-- first in the Arizona state Senate, then in the US House and more lately, thanks entirely to Schumer, in the US Senate-- Sinema has transmogrified herself into Congress' most right-wing <https://justdemocracy.us/sinema-ad-az/>fake-Democrat-soon-to-be-a-Republican<>. The ad up top, this one just below and the one at the bottom of the page, were created and are being run across Arizona media by Just Democracy. Republicans may be falling in love with her psychosis, but Democrats back in Arizona know what a designer handbagful of turds she is.



Ricchetti, Biden, Sinema and the Republicans accomplished a lot by derailing the Democrats' agenda and replacing it with their own. In its report yesterday (updated today), the NY Times had this to say:


“Neither side got everything they wanted in this deal,” Biden said. “But that’s what it means to compromise and forge consensus-- the heart of democracy. As the deal goes to the entire Senate, there is still plenty of work ahead to bring this home. There will be disagreements to resolve and more compromise to forge along the way.”
That was evident on Wednesday even as the president and senators in both parties cheered their agreement. In negotiating it, Biden and Democratic leaders were forced to agree to concessions, accepting less new federal money for public transit and clean energy projects than they had wanted, including for some electric vehicle charging stations, and abandoning their push for additional funding for tax enforcement at the I.R.S. (A senior Democratic aide noted that Democrats secured an expansion of existing transit and highway programs compared with 2015, the last time such legislation was passed.)
The changes-- and the omission of some of their highest priorities-- rankled progressives in both chambers, with some threatening to oppose the bill unless it was modified.
“From what we have heard, having seen no text, this bill is going to be status quo, 1950s policy with a little tiny add-on,” said Representative Peter A. DeFazio of Oregon, a Democrat and the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
“If it’s what I think it is,” he added, “I will be opposed.”
Still, the bipartisan compromise was a crucial component of Mr. Biden’s $4 trillion economic agenda, which Democrats plan to pair with a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint that would provide additional spending for climate, health care and education, to be muscled through Congress over Republican objections.

Umm... the problem isn't "Republican objections." They're irrelevant. The problem is objections from Manchin, Sinema, Maggie Hassan, Tom Carper, Mark Warner and other ultra-conservative Democraps who honestly object to anything that will address the legitimate aspirations of working families. This looks pretty crappy:


Many of the bill’s spending provisions remain unchanged from the original agreement. But it appeared that it pared spending in a few areas, including reducing money for public transit to $39 billion from $49 billion, and eliminating a $20 billion “infrastructure bank” that was meant to catalyze private investment in large projects. Negotiators were unable to agree on the structure of the bank and terms of its financing authority, so they removed it altogether.
The loss of the infrastructure bank appeared to cut in half the funding for electric vehicle charging stations that administration officials had said was included in the original agreement, jeopardizing Mr. Biden’s promise to create a network of 500,000 charging stations nationwide.
The new agreement also included significant changes to how the infrastructure spending will be paid for, after Republicans resisted supporting a pillar of the original framework: increased revenues from an I.R.S. crackdown on tax cheats, which was to have supplied nearly one-fifth of the funding for the plan.
In place of those lost revenues, negotiators agreed to repurpose more than $250 billion from previous pandemic aid legislation, including $50 billion from expanded unemployment benefits that have been canceled prematurely this summer by two dozen Republican governors, according to a fact sheet reviewed by the New York Times. That is more than double the repurposed money in the original deal.
The new agreement would save $50 billion by delaying a Medicare rebate rule passed under President Donald J. Trump and raise nearly $30 billion by applying tax information reporting requirements to cryptocurrency. It also proposes to recoup $50 billion in fraudulently paid unemployment benefits during the pandemic.
...Pelosi has repeatedly said she will not take up the bipartisan infrastructure bill in the House until the far more ambitious $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill passes the Senate.
Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, the lead Democratic negotiator of the infrastructure deal and a key moderate vote, issued a statement on Wednesday saying that she did not support a plan that costly, though she would not seek to block it. Those comments prompted multiple liberals in the House to threaten to reject the bipartisan agreement she helped negotiate, underscoring the fragility of the compromise.
“Good luck tanking your own party’s investment on childcare, climate action, and infrastructure while presuming you’ll survive a 3 vote House margin,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, wrote in a tweet. “Especially after choosing to exclude members of color from negotiations and calling that a ‘bipartisan accomplishment.’”

There's only one progressive running for the open Senate seat in North Carolina: Erica Smith. The others include Trump-endorsed reactionary Ted Budd, ex-Congressman Mark Walker, failed ex-governor Pat McCory, all three far right reactionaries, and a couple of status quo Sinema-like Democrats, Cheri Beasley and Jeff Jackson. None of them have anything substantive to say about the infrastructure bill. Erica sure does. This morning, she told me that "If the bipartisan infrastructure agreement is not accompanied by a reconciliation package that meets this moment, it is insufficient." She explained:


Over the course of the past year, we’ve seen food lines that have stretched farther than the eye can see. We have seen the poor, the working poor, and the barely middle class crushed as an economy that was built on their backs collapsed.
While our roads and bridges are crumbling, this pandemic has laid bare what so many of us in BIPOC communities and working families already knew, our human infrastructure is utterly insufficient too. A larger reconciliation package that sufficiently addresses the climate crisis and the human infrastructure (childcare, healthcare, workers' rights) that we need in order to truly build back better is essential.
When the bipartisan agreement was first reached, President Biden made it clear that he viewed this agreement and the larger reconciliation package as tied together. We cannot allow Senator Sinema to single-handedly derail what could be one of the most consequential pieces of legislation for working families to pass through Congress in a generation. We cannot turn our backs on the bold mandate for change that the American people gave when giving Democrats full control of the Whitehouse and Congress. We need Democrats who vote like Democrats and actually stand up and fight for bold policies.
Bipartisanship is fine, but the goal should never be solely to pass legislation that's sponsored by Democrats and Republicans, it should be to pass legislation that can transform the lives of millions of people across North Carolina and across the country.