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Thursday, December 16, 2021
BY SARAH LAZARUS & CROOKED MEDIA

 -Fox News host Pete Hegseth, leaving us no choice

With Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) blocking passage of the Build Back Better Act, Senate Democrats have gamely pivoted to the voting-rights legislation also blocked by Manchin and Sinema. Get in, loser, we’re going nowhere in a different direction!
 

  • Final negotiations on the reconciliation package appear to have ground to a halt, as Manchin’s objections to temporary programs (including the temporary child-tax-credit extension) and overall price tag thwart Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s plan to get it passed by Christmas. The final monthly payment authorized under the current expanded child tax credit went out on Wednesday; Congress would need to extend the program by December 28 to keep the payments on track in January.
     
  • Anxious to get something done, some Senate Democrats have announced a new push to pass their elections bill, despite still needing unanimous agreement on changing filibuster rules to do so. Schumer said on Thursday that he hopes to get voting legislation passed “in time for the 2022 elections,” tacitly acknowledging that there’s no way a bill makes it to President Biden’s desk before the end of the year.
     
  • On the one hand, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) made a terrific point on the Senate floor this week, after lawmakers approved a filibuster carveout to raise the debt ceiling: “I believe that it is misplaced to change the Senate rules only for the benefit of the economy when the warning lights on our democracy are flashing at the same time. I happen to believe that our democracy is at least as important as the economy.” Hard to fault that logic!

On the other hand, there’s no indication that Manchin and Sinema have come around to the rule changes necessary to pass the bills they say they support.
 

  • Manchin indicated on Tuesday that he’s still not open to reforming the filibuster to pass voting-rights legislation unless there are Republican votes to do so, to the gleeful cackles of Republicans everywhere. A Sinema spokesperson ruined everyone’s holidays by announcing Wednesday that she “continues to support the Senate's 60-vote threshold,” though Democrats are discussing narrow filibuster reforms and not outright abolition, so it’s worth noting that Sinema’s office also called for “the Senate to publicly debate its rules, including the filibuster, so senators and all Americans can hear and fully consider such ideas, concerns, and consequences.” It’s not, like, a lot of hope, but at this point we’ll settle for vaguely hope-scented.
     
  • Schumer may not have an obvious plan to get voting bills passed before the midterms, but he’s right to want to. Democrats may have owned themselves out of their House majority by refusing to gerrymander as aggressively as Republicans in the handful of states where they had the chance, in the absence of redistricting reforms. The decision of just five blue states—California, Colorado, New Jersey, Virginia, and Washington—to switch over to nonpartisan redistricting commissions will cost House Democrats 10-15 seats, according to trusted redistricting nerd Dave Wasserman. It’s entirely possible that Republicans will gain control with a smaller margin than that.
 

To quote Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) this morning, “a 50-50 Senate sucks and we can't get things done.” Rather than unconvincingly pretending otherwise until it’s time for another vacation, Senate Democrats might as well be clear about the fact that two of their members are abetting the GOP assault on democracy, and at some point make them go on the record about it.

Defend Abortion Rights with the ACLU

On December 1st, Mississippi asked the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.
If the Court goes that route, it would mean that there is no federal constitutional right to an abortion. Full stop. If that were to happen, about half the states in the country would quickly ban abortion. And if there is a Congress and President hostile to reproductive rights in 2024, we could well see a ban on abortion that applies nationwide.  

But even if the Court stops short of expressly overturning Roe v. Wade, if it upholds Mississippi’s law, it will allow states to dramatically roll back our rights. It would give a green light to states (and Congress) to continue to push more bans, setting off an explosion of anti-abortion legislation across the country.

Even now, we know the right to abortion is not a true reality for many people in our country and that reality disproportionately harms specific communities. Restricting abortion is rooted in systemic racism, misogyny, and other structural inequities. And that means people struggling financially, Indigenous people, Black people, people of color, people who are undocumented, and young people suffer the most. 

This impact will only be magnified if the right to abortion is further restricted or eliminated nationwide. We must fight back – add your name to get involved today.

So while the Court's ruling will likely not come for months, all of us dedicated to defending abortion rights will remain relentless:
We at the ACLU are positioned to fight back with a national and affiliate presence in all 50 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico. We've blocked over 20 abortion restrictions across the states in 2021 alone – and our work in the months ahead will amplify that reach as we continue to both block state attacks and simultaneously work to expand protections for abortion at the state and federal level. Sign up to make sure you get all the updates on the fight to protect abortion – add your name.  

Republican candidates have been descending on Mar-a-Lago to raise money for their campaign and angle for Donald Trump’s endorsement, in Trump’s latest pay-to-play scheme. The Washington Post found that GOP candidates or conservative groups have held at least 30 events at Trump properties in 2021, more than in any previous year. Trump’s properties have raked in $463,000 from just nine of those events in the first half of the year. Before Mar-a-Lago quotes a price to a candidate hoping to hold a fundraiser, they must fill out a form that asks if Trump’s presence is requested, how many photos the candidate needs with him, and whether his name will be on the invitation. Of the 20 candidates known to have held events at Trump properties in 2021, 11 had won Trump’s endorsement by the date of their event. 

Retail theft in California isn’t nearly as big a problem as industry groups and breathless media coverage would have you believe. In response to highly publicized organized retail thefts and retail lobbyists sounding the alarm about them, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) has announced a budget increase for the California Highway Patrol, and San Francisco Mayor London Breed has called for more aggressive law enforcement, calling criminal-justice reform efforts “bullshit.” The outsized attention is based on some wild exaggerations: The California Retailers Associations claims that in San Francisco and Oakland alone, organized retail crime costs businesses $3.6 billion each year—which would mean retail gangs steal almost 25 percent of total sales in those cities combined. According to the country’s largest retail-industry group, losses from organized retail theft average closer to 0.07 percent. Not only that, national crime statistics from the FBI show shoplifting decreasing steadily over the last several years, not spiking. It’s one more narrative funneling money towards police departments, based on numbers that don’t withstand scrutiny.

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The FDA has permanently lifted restrictions on abortion pills, allowing patients to access them by mail.

The Biden administration has unveiled its plan to replace every lead pipe in the country within the next decade.

President Biden signed an executive order aimed at improving the “customer experience” when dealing with the federal government and making it easier to access services.

Two weeks after opening, New York City’s overdose prevention centers have saved 25 lives.

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