Headlines: March 5, 2021
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Seven Senate Democrats and one independent, joined Republicans on Friday to defeat the inclusion of Bernie Sanders’ $15 an hour minimum wage amendment in the $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill. The Democrats were Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Jon Tester of Montana, Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, and Chris Coons and Tom Carper of Delaware. Independent Senator Angus King also voted against including the wage increase in the Covid relief bill. According to The Hill, “the overwhelming vote [of 58 to 42] raises doubts whether Biden will be able to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 at any point in his first term.” To add insult to injury, the defeat of the wage raise came just after conservative Democrats won a 25% reduction in unemployment benefits from $400 a week to only $300 a week. The U.S. Senate is expected to debate the bill Friday and earlier Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed there would be a vote this week. But Republican Senators used every procedural trick in the book to delay debate including Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson who demanded that the 628-page bill be read into the record – a feat that took the better part of a day. Senator Sanders slammed Johnson’s theatrics saying sarcastically, “Good thing we have time during a national emergency to do this.” As the clerk began reading the bill at Johnson’s demand, he and most other Senators left the room. A vote is now expected over the weekend. Senator Sanders on Friday reminded his colleagues of the importance of the bill.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly report on the state of the U.S. economy shows that the nation added 379,000 new jobs in February, a rosier-than-expected number. But digging into the details showed that while overall hiring rose, Black unemployment also rose. The New York Times explained that, “Unemployment among Black workers climbed to 9.9 percent from 9.2 percent in January. In contrast, joblessness for white workers ticked down to 5.6 percent from 5.7 percent in January, and those for workers who identify as either Hispanic or Asian also fell.” The Economic Policy Institute analyzed the report and found that more than 25 million workers have been harmed by the dire state of the economy during the pandemic. The EPI concluded that, “Congress must pass the full $1.9 trillion relief package immediately.”
In other news, the FBI has arrested a man named Federico Klein in connection to the January 6th Capitol riot. Klein is the first person who was directly appointed to a government position by Donald Trump to be arrested for his role in the riot. Klein had worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign and was a State Department aide through January 6th until Trump’s White House departure. According to Politico, “Klein is charged with several felonies, including assault on police officers, interfering with police during civil disorder and obstruction of an official proceeding, as well as lesser offenses.” The Washington Post gave more detail saying Klein is accused of beating police with a riot shield. Federal prosecutors investigating the riot are looking at any links between Republican lawmakers and rioters. Democratic Representative Eric Swalwell, who is a former House impeachment manager, has filed a lawsuit against Trump for “incitement to riot,” and other charges including those related to terrorism. The suit also names Donald Trump Jr., Rudy Giuliani and Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama.
Meanwhile emergency medical workers who treated the rioters’ victims on January 6th detailed horrific injuries including police officers, “being pulled into the crowd and trampled, assaulted with scaffolding materials, and/or bear maced by protesters.” Richard Barnett, the Trump supporter famously photographed sitting in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office with his feet on her desk remains jailed and on Thursday threw a major tantrum during his court hearing. Claiming that it was “not fair” that he remained incarcerated, Barnett argued, “The government keeps dragging this out and letting everybody else out.” Another rioter, Jacob Chansley, pictured during the riot wearing a theatrical fur costume said in an interview, “it wounded me so deeply and … it disappointed me so greatly that I and others did not get a pardon,” from Trump. Meanwhile, March 4th was the day that some QAnon conspiracists expected Trump to return to Washington DC and finally be inaugurated into his second term. The day came and went without incident.
In news from the pandemic, a new AP-NORC Center poll found that a majority of Americans—60% —back President Joe Biden’s response to the virus. The figure includes 44% of all Republicans. A Gallup poll released on the same day finds that 60% of Americans are also hopeful that the pandemic is under control and that things will improve. The U.S. vaccination rate is improving with an average of 2 million doses being given out per day. Still, many states, particularly Republican-led ones, are reopening their economies completely even though only a minority has been vaccinated—a dangerous trend that Dr. Anthony Fauci called “inexplicable.” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo—a Democrat—is facing yet more incriminating scrutiny over his pandemic response last year. A new report by the New York Times detailed the earliest instance of Cuomo’s office found to be adjusting nursing home death rates linked to the virus.
The White House on Friday signaled that it was ready to support an end to decades-old authorizations for use of military force in the Middle East. Press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden wanted to work with lawmakers to “ensure that the authorizations for the use of military force currently on the books are replaced with a narrow and specific framework that will ensure we can protect Americans from terrorist threats while ending the forever wars.” There were two bi-partisan bills introduced earlier this week to repeal the 1991 and 2001 Congressional approvals for use of military force against Iraq and other nations. Senator Tim Kaine, who co-sponsored the bills said the authorizations, “serve no operational purpose, keep us on permanent war footing, and undermine the sovereignty of Iraq.” Lawmakers from both parties denounced Biden’s decision to bomb Iranian-backed Iraqi militias in Syria. Kaine said, “Last week’s airstrikes in Syria show that the Executive Branch, regardless of party, will continue to stretch its war powers.”
White House officials plan to travel to the U.S. border with Mexico in the next few days to assess a new surge of unaccompanied minors. Meanwhile, after ending the “Remain in Mexico” program that Trump enacted, the Biden administration has begun letting in asylum seekers into the U.S. from appalling refugee camps in Mexico, in order to be able to adjudicate their cases on American soil. The Guardian newspaper described how, “Hundreds have been hovering, somewhere between living and existing, since 2019 under Donald Trump’s program known as ‘Remain in Mexico’ while their immigration cases are processed in the US.” There were nearly 25,000 people who were sent back to Mexico to wait endlessly while their cases were being processed in the U.S. They remained in dangerous and squalid conditions, falling prey to traffickers and other criminals.