Biden’s American Rescue Plan: Democrats’ first big win

The $1.9 trillion covid relief package that passed the Senate this weekend is a major legislative victory just 6 weeks into Biden’s term. The American Rescue Plan will give his Presidency and Democrats in the 117th session of Congress a huge boost — in enacting more of Biden’s agenda, in the economy, in replenishing strained state and local coffers, and in giving the Democrats 100% of the credit for the hope, the recovery, and the return to normalcy for hundreds of millions of Americans. Senator Sanders called it the “most significant piece of legislation to benefit working people in the modern history of this country” — and he’s a tough one to please!

Of course, the right wing is churning out its usual disinformation machine around the contents of the bill. Zero Republicans voted for it, which puts them on record indelibly forever as voting against relief checks, against pandemic assistance, against schools reopening, against… everything of most relevance to most people at this time, according to the majority of Americans polled who favor it (62%). Let’s take a look at all the urgent relief that’s actually in the bill.

What’s in the American Rescue Plan

  • $1400 direct checks
  • $300/week unemployment extension through September
  • Increased child tax credit to $3000-$3600 in 2021 and made it fully refundable
  • Extending COBRA benefits and health benefits
  • $170 billion for safely reopening schools
  • $20 billion for vaccination programs
  • $30 billion for PPE
  • $350 billion for state and local governments devastated and depleted from the pandemic
  • Funding for covid testing, contact tracing, and forecasting
  • Relief for restaurants, small businesses, and farmers
  • Child care and child nutrition funds
  • Tax credits for sick leave and family leave
  • Funding for community health, mental health, and the opioid crisis
  • Emergency rental assistance, rural housing, homelessness relief
  • FEMA funding
  • Funeral assistance
  • Relief to airlines, airports, and aviation manufacturing
  • Extend benefits to rail workers
  • VA funding

The Republican Party is a criminal organization

Only 7 out of 50 among them are patriots — the rest, cowards and knaves who continue to seek destruction of this republic out of self-interest and an authoritarian’s need to dominate others. Today’s impeachment vote of acquittal for Trump’s role in the January 6 insurrection was brutal but of course, not surprising. It highlighted once again something that’s been hiding in plain sight for some time — that the Republican Party is a criminal organization.

“Law and Order” is just another Big Lie

It’s used to cover up quite the opposite — criminality, entitlement, sadism, and a zeal for the domination of others. Including both the violent insurrectionist kind and the pasty jowly turtly slow walking kind on the right wing. The GOP is an insult to the rule of law.

There is no best time to impeach a president

Unfortunately the spineless toothless Republican Senators defanged the Constitution today, by casting into doubt its power to achieve healthy checks and balances between the branches of government. They gleefully gave up the role of Congress in moderating the chief executive — to the probable detriment of us all.

As usual, they performed a series of timeline hacks, rhetorical games, and parliamentary tricks that resulting in the “logical” impossibility of ever successfully impeaching a US president. They are masters at avoiding responsibility for their actions, and fiercely protect their own, even despite heinous crimes.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his merry band of “institutionalists” have managed to do more damage to our institutions than any other Republican administration, and that’s truly saying something.

In addition to sowing doubt about our elections, throwing SCOTUS and the courts under the bus despite having packed them with conservative judges and loyalists for years, damaging our sovereignty and our national security, and impugning our reputation with nations around the world, they’ve managed to turn the United States into a kleptocracy. It’s official: the Republican Party is a criminal organization.

Let the DOJ do its work

Even Trump’s own lawyer advocated for it, along with McConnell. Though he can’t be trusted and will surely have tricks up his sleeve, it would be cathartic to see Attorney General Merrick Garland and the much-maligned Department of Justice bring down the largest RICO case in the history of history. I hope that karma brings justice to all of them, regardless of the actual outcome here and now.

Capitol Riots: The President led a terrorist attack on Congress

January 6: A Day that will live in ignominy. The day Capitol riots broke out when an angry mob, following instructions from Donald Trump, stormed the halls of Congress and came within minutes of a potential hostage situation or worse: a massacre.

I’m still processing the events of Wednesday, as are many. Even though I fully anticipated something horrifying given the utter obviousness of the confrontation brewing, I did not have a particular picture in mind of what that thing was going to be.

Despite having steeled myself for the past 4+ years, I wept many times at some of the imagery and video footage. The defilement of the people’s halls by a violent armed mob who took selfies with Capitol Police was just not something I could have conceived of.

There must be accountability

This was one of the darkest days of our nation. Even during the Civil War the Confederates never stormed the US Capitol, so to see the Confederate flag waving in Congress was a desecration. It twisted me up to have such a raw display of America’s deepest gash of white supremacist history taken symbolically and literally to the nation’s capital.

This event was broadcast around the world, to our allies and to our enemies. We received rebukes from Moscow, Beijing, and Tehran. We — the supposed bastion of democracy. The country that lectures other nations around the world on how to do democracy better. We have been humiliated for the entire planet to see.

We need answers about what happened here. The people deserve to know who planned this, who helped this along, who looked the other away, and perhaps most importantly: who still agrees with it (Hawley and Cruz, for one — they must go).

We must stop fascism in America

The rot of fascism has been allowed to spread to the point where a violent mob of white supremacists, QAnon conspiracy nuts, MAGA faithful and a demon’s host of all stripes came within minutes of taking hostages inside the chambers of Congress. Five people lost their lives and already are being made into martyrs.

This did not begin with Trump, but he certainly amplified the signal at a much more psychotic rate than under previous administrations, certainly of my lifetime. We are now at a dangerous precipice: in a time of staggering wealth inequality, a once in a century health crisis largely being ignored by the right wing, deeply bitter partisanship played out over decades, the creep of authoritarianism around the world — and now at home.

Wednesday’s Capitol Riots did essentially mark the “crossing of the Rubicon” that the Trump cult begged him to do — it was a coming-out day for fascism. It was the President of the United States instructing an armed mob to walk up to the Capitol where lawmakers were certifying the election for the guy who won it, and telling them to “take our country back” and give it to him — by force if necessary. Which, of course, was necessary.

That is the Rubicon — the Rubicon is the willingness to use political violence when you have exhausted all other legal, shady, illegal, and hideously criminal means. That is the fascist twist. If we do not react now; if we do not censure, remove, and allow justice to hold these individuals accountable — both inside and outside of the government — they will take it as permission to try again and again until we deal with this.

We must hold the insurrectionists accountable — if we are to keep this republic.

The New Deal –> Raw Deal

In the 1930s and 40s we had the New Deal. In 1938, Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act, setting legal limits on the maximum number of hours worked and the minimum wages allowed.

Republicans fought it then, claiming it would be essentially socialist, and an economic enemy to business and growth. However, it was the very opposite of that — the war and post-ware years were ones of productivity and prosperity, widely and broadly. A strong middle class was formed, changing the life and culture of America forever.

In the mid-1970s this growth engine finally began to falter, and since the 80s, we’ve instead had the Raw Deal. An ever-escalating version of a Libertarian’s wet dream: deregulation of numerous industries including finance (leading to the housing crash of 2007-8) and energy (leading to Enron), a steadily less progressive tax system (down from a whopping 94% in 1944 down to 28% under Reagan), and endless waves of cuts to social programs designed to level the opportunity playing field.

The thing is, when people feel hopeful, they work harder.

When there is hopelessness, there is less urgency to work hard to maintain the conditions and systems that make one feel so hopeless. If you know the game is rigged, how futile does it seem to keep playing?

Libertarians lament about the size of the pie, which is as good a modern version of “let them eat cake” while the plebes swill McD’s and pay through the nose for health care as any.

On the upsides of being underestimated, and a call to stand

There’s something those of us in marginalized groups know instinctively, having lived lives long in opposition to a dizzying continuum of Absurd Moral Authority: from outright violence, to secretive “technical” manipulations of statutes designed to erode or remove rights, to vague and carefully unstated “wink wink nudge nudge” moments from individuals of authority who had some power to constrain us — whether it’s a boss (or potential boss), a teacher, a community figure, and/or perhaps most guttingly a family member.

We know the sting of being scolded for even daring an attempt at upsetting the Tautological Supremacist Meritocracy: “If you weren’t worthless, you’d already be here by now!”

The British thought we would just roll over too

But we should remember one of the primary reasons that we as a nation even won our independence in the first place:

We were underestimated.

Lord North offered tax relief to the colonies that would help “defend the motherland” in February, 1775 — none took him up on it. And in fact, the Conciliatory Resolution only deepened the growing sense of unity emerging against what increasingly became perceived as a Common Enemy. The attempt to divide and conquer not only failed, but backfired.

The British Parliament thought the colonists full of hot air — that a few shows of military force would quickly crumble the upstart radicals in their quest for representation and rights. But battles at Lexington and Concord only fueled further the sentiment that the colonies were inhabited by an occupying force that must be resisted.

It was widely thought to be insane to stand against the world-renowned military force of the British Empire — but the Continental Army under George Washington doggedly turned the fact of underestimation to their advantage via innovative battlefield strategy. The motherland, finding it difficult to raise sufficient troops to fight against their own former countrymen, hired German mercenaries to fight against the colonists — further deepening the resolve of the Americans to throw off an oppressor willing to bring foreign assassins to bear in a dispute formerly perceived as a conciliatory process of achieving the basic rights of citizenship that colonists’ forbears once enjoyed in England. The British overestimation of Loyalist support — combined with the general mistreatment of those who did cross the “revolutionary picket line” — only added to the troubles faced by a predominantly naval power slogging through a lengthy land war over vast territory.

Diversity does not preclude uniting to face a Common Enemy

In so many ways we’ve become more fragmented; more balkanized; more atomized in modern society. We’ve self-selected into our communities of shared values and our social media bubbles. In many ways this is the paradox of prosperity, and the Catch-22 of progress.

We may feel stronger in our own foxholes, but there comes a time when the whole choir must sing together. Now is that time.

And perhaps it is dangerous to use the language of war, and of conflict — or perhaps it may help us to better identify where our Common Enemy lies. Our Common Enemy is not the down at heel rural Trump supporter who lashes out at us in fear, and in retaliation — though their words are often hateful, these people have been misled.

It’s a very old story — older than Trump; older than George W. Bush; older than Reagan or Nixon or Coolidge or Jackson or Johnson. The wealthy white elite has a centuries’ old playbook of dangling so-called Christian morality in front of those whites left most destitute by the former’s economic policies — and winning.

We are watching reruns.

This time, fascism and foreign influence have been added to up the ante — keeping even the most blasé among us glued to our seats.

Stand up

The framers of our Constitution deliberated, debated, and agonized over the most ideal structure to support a broad pluralist power, in concerted opposition to the monarchies and aristocracies of the past. Many were shocked by — and fought bitterly against — the unprecedented act of beginning such a governing document with the words, “We the people.”
But 85 Federalist Papers later, our sovereign power was enshrined in the document that still governs our ambitions today — and acts as a backstop against those who would wield tyrannical power in our name. 

Our Common Enemy is tyranny, and we must learn to recognize where it lives, and how it acts. Even — perhaps especially — when that domicile is the White House, and that act an act of Congress.

Our Common Enemy is those who would deny the power of the people to govern themselves: through the silencing of debate in a once great forum; through casual disregard of the judiciary branch; through an endless parade of troglodyte efforts at voter suppression.

Our Common Enemy is the long litany of elected officials who act in their own best interests at the expense of We the People. It is the slew of slick sycophants currying political favor with the powerful, who continually rewrite the rules of the game the Winners have already Won many times over, to accelerate the gaping gulf of inequality that threatens democracy, liberty, justice, and most certainly peace.

Without Justice there can be no Peace.

And those who wield injustice have vastly underestimated the swaths of citizenry who can see through the ruse; who have heard the old story and seen its outcomes; who are tired of having to wage the same struggles for rights and respect over, and over, and over again.

But the tired gain strength through camaraderie in adversity; through simple acts of kindness; through humor, and through love.

These are tools the tyrannical cannot access.
Stand, and wield them, in the name of We the People.

Women in Congress: Factoids

Republicans do not like to elect women.

Stats of note:

  • GOP women make up only 4% of the current Congress.
  • 12% are female Congressional Democrats — for a total of 16.5% vs. 83.5% male legislators.
  • As a percentage of the historical collection of Congress members over all time, women have comprised only 1.7% of the total. 

Women need more representation across the board! Let’s do this, America.
P.S. If you have any need for a Slack bot that returns data on sitting Congresspeople, look no further! You can install this bot in Slack easily; you’ll just need to set up a Fieldbook account.

Women in the 114th Congress

(As of 1/6/2015) 

SeniorityMemberParty & StateStart of Service
 (in desc order)Marcy Kaptur (D), OH01-03-1983
 Louise Slaughter(D), NY01-03-1987
 Nancy Pelosi(D), CA06-02-1987
 Nita Lowey(D), NY01-03-1989
 Ileana Ros-Lehtinen(R), FL08-29-1989
 Rosa DeLauro(D), CT01-03-1991
 Eleanor Holmes-Norton (delegate)(D), DC01-03-1991
 Maxine Waters(D), CA01-03-1991
 Corrine Brown(D), FL01-03-1993
 Anna Eshoo(D), CA01-03-1993
 Eddie Bernice-Johnson(D), TX01-03-1993
 Carolyn Maloney(D), NY01-03-1993
 Lucille Roybal-Allard(D), CA01-03-1993
 Nydia Velazquez(D), NY01-03-1993
 Sheila Jackson Lee(D), TX01-03-1995
 Zoe Lofgren(D), CA01-03-1995
 Diana DeGette(D), CO01-03-1997
 Kay Granger(R), TX01-03-1997
 Loretta Sanchez(D), CA01-03-1997
 Lois Capps(D), CA03-10-1998
 Barbara Lee(D), CA04-07-1998
 Grace Napolitano(D), CA01-03-1999
 Jan Schakowsky(D), IL01-03-1999
 Susan Davis(D), CA01-03-2001
 Betty McCollum(D), MN01-03-2001
 Marsha Blackburn(R), TN01-03-2003
 Madeleine Bordallo (delegate)(D), GU01-03-2003
 Candice Miller(R), MI01-03-2003
 Linda Sanchez(D), CA01-03-2003
 Virginia Foxx(R), NC01-03-2005
 Cathy McMorris-Rodgers(R), WA01-03-2005
 Gwen Moore(D), WI01-03-2005
 Debbie Wasserman-Schultz(D), FL01-03-2005
 Doris Matsui(D), CA03-08-2005
 Kathy Castor(D), FL01-04-2007
 Yvette Clarke(D), NY01-04-2007
 Niki Tsongas(D), MA10-18-2007
 Jackie Speier(D), CA04-10-2008
 Donna Edwards(D), MD06-19-2008
 Marcia Fudge(D), OH11-19-2008
 Lynn Jenkins(R), KS01-06-2009
 Cynthia Lummis(R), WY01-06-2009
 Chellie Pingree(D), ME01-06-2009
 Judy Chu(D), CA07-16-2009
 Karen Bass(D), CA01-05-2011
 Diane Black(R), TN01-05-2011
 Renee Ellmers(R), NC01-05-2011
 Vicky Hartzler(R), MO01-05-2011
 Jaime Herrera-Beutler(R), WA01-05-2011
 Kristi Noem(R), SD01-05-2011
 Martha Roby(R), AL01-05-2011
 Terri Sewell(D), AL01-05-2011
 Frederica Wilson(D), FL01-05-2011
 Janice Hahn(D), CA07-19-2011
 Suzanne Bonamici(D), OR02-07-2012
 Suzan DelBene(D), WA11-13-2012
 Joyce Beatty(D), OH01-03-2013
 Susan Brooks(R), IN01-03-2013
 Julia Brownley(D), CA01-03-2013
 Cheri Bustos(D), IL01-03-2013
 Tammy Duckworth(D), IL01-03-2013
 Elizabeth Esty(D), CT01-03-2013
 Lois Frankel(D), FL01-03-2013
 Tulsi Gabbard(D), HI01-03-2013
 Michelle Lujan Grisham(D), NM01-03-2013
 Ann Kirkpatrick(D), AZ01-03-2013
 Ann McLane Kuster(D), NH01-03-2013
 Grace Meng(D), NY01-03-2013
 Kyrsten Sinema(D), AZ01-03-2013
 Dina Titus(D), NV01-03-2013
 Ann Wagner(R), MO01-03-2013
 Jackie Walorski(R), IN01-03-2013
 Robin Kelly(D), IL04-11-2013
 Katherine Clark(D), MA12-12-2013
 Alma Adams(D), NC11-12-2014
 Bonnie Watson Coleman(D), NJ01-06-2015
 Barbara Comstock(R), VA01-06-2015
 Debbie Dingell(D), MI01-06-2015
 Gwen Graham(D), FL01-06-2015
 Brenda Lawrence(D), MI01-06-2015
 Mia Love(R), UT01-06-2015
 Martha McSally(R), AZ01-06-2015
 Stacey Plaskett (delegate)(D), VI01-06-2015
 Aumua Amata Radewagen (delegate)(R), AS01-06-2015
 Kathleen Rice(D), NY01-06-2015
 Elise Stefanik(R), NY01-06-2015
 Norma Torres(D), CA01-06-2015
 Mimi Walters(R), CA01-06-2015
Total Women: 88 Democrats: 65
Republicans: 23

https://www.govtrack.us/data/congress-legislators/