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How Anti-Abortion Laws Could Affect Affordable U.S. Health Care

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ACROSS AMERICA — Only a handful of weeks into the 2021 legislative session, the ongoing policy wars against abortion and the facilities that provide them are already heating up in several states across the country.

It’s been nearly a half-century since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its landmark ruling in the case of Roe v. Wade, which granted women a constitutional right to obtain an abortion. Yet in the decades since that ruling, states have spent significant time battling its provisions.

From 2011 to 2017, 32 U.S. states enacted a total of 394 restrictions, most of which regulate or limit when, under what circumstances, and even if a woman may obtain an abortion.

This year is shaping up to be no different.

Since the start of the 2021 legislative season in January, more than 140 anti-abortion bills have been introduced in statehouses across the country, according to Rachel Sussman, vice president of state policy and advocacy for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

The end result: a tangled web of abortion policy that lawmakers continue to spin, and a significant reduction in women’s access to abortion services.

“Over the past decade, there has been a jolt towards harmful, politically motivated abortion restrictions from politicians across the country,” Sussman said.

Yet nearly a year into the coronavirus pandemic, many have lost more than just access to an abortion clinic.

They’ve lost a vital lifeline to a suite of medical services that prevent unwanted pregnancies, provide life-saving diagnoses and help stop the spread of communicable diseases.

Ultimately, much of the legislation has further pushed basic health care out of reach, especially for people with low incomes, and those living in rural or minority communities.
Lawmakers Battle A Declining Issue

The legislative push comes as the number of women receiving the procedure is declining.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows abortions declined 22 percent over a decade, to nearly 620,000 in 2018 — or 11.3 per every 1,000 women ages 15 to 44.

While it reflects slightly different data, a 2019 report by the Guttmacher Institute underscores the CDC’s findings. Report authors also took their research a step further, suggesting that legislation is not the key driver of the decline in abortions. Instead, they cited a broader decline in pregnancies, and said it was likely a result of increased access to birth control since the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2011.

“What’s true is that increasing people’s access to affordable and effective methods of birth control leads to fewer abortions,” Sussman said.

Despite the decrease, abortion foes continue to target health care facilities that provide these services.

Between 2011 and 2017, the number of clinics providing abortion in the United States declined by about 4 percent, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The decrease seems low, yet some areas of the country were hit harder than others.

During the same period, the South saw a net decline of 50 clinics, with 25 in Texas alone. The Midwest lost 33 clinics, including nine each in Iowa, Michigan and Ohio. Seven clinics shuttered in Western states.

By contrast, Northeast states added 59 clinics, mostly in New Jersey and New York.

The South and the Midwest also had the largest share of new abortion restrictions during that period — nearly 86 percent of total enacted restrictions were in those two regions.

Today, five states — Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia — have only one remaining abortion provider each.

Despite the election of Democratic President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, 29 states currently have legislatures where anti-abortion politicians hold the majority, according to Sussman. Of the legislation introduced this session, 40 percent involves a form of abortion ban.

Kansas is an extreme example. There, voters will decide in 2022 whether the state’s constitution protects abortion rights under a ballot measure approved by the state Senate.

And in South Carolina, a bill that would ban abortion before most people even know they’re pregnant was fast-tracked through the state’s Legislature only to be blocked by a federal judge a day after it went into effect.

“Politicians are wasting no time attacking access to sexual and reproductive health care,” Sussman said. “Some are still doing everything they can to take control of our bodies, lives and futures.”
Who Stands To Lose Most

Perhaps the most notable provider of sexual health and reproductive services, Planned Parenthood has more than 49 affiliates that operate 600 health care centers across the nation. Annually, the organization provides sexual and reproductive health services to more than 2.4 million people, 39 percent of whom are people of color.

Of those, more than 541,000 patients identify as Latino and 395,000 as Black. More than 297,000 male patients also receive services. Finally, Planned Parenthood also provides gender-affirming hormone therapy for transgender patients in 31 states.

In 2018, of Planned Parenthood patients who reported their income, nearly 75 percent were living at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level — the equivalent of $37,650 a year for a family of four.

“Patients don’t come to us to make a political statement,” Sussman of Planned Parenthood said. “They come to get compassionate, expert care and education.”

Still, Planned Parenthood has frequently been the target of both state and federal lawmakers.

In 2019, Planned Parenthood dropped out of a $260 million federal family planning program rather than comply with what it called a “gag rule” imposed by the Trump administration on abortion referrals.

The order would have prohibited health clinics from receiving federal funds under Title X if abortions were performed at the facility or if specialists referred patients to centers where they could get an abortion. The administration made the call despite the Hyde Amendment which, passed in 1976, prohibits federal funding from directly paying for abortions.

While some states stepped in to cover the lost funding, others did not.

In total, providers in 34 states were forced out of the program, according to Planned Parenthood, prompting more than 1.5 million people across the country to lose access to Title X-supported services such as affordable birth control and sexually transmitted infection testing.

According to the organization’s 2018-19 annual report, abortions comprised only 4 percent of Planned Parenthood’s provided services, while sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment comprised 50 percent, contraception made up 26 percent, and 13 percent was attributed to other women’s health services such as well-woman exams and prenatal care.

Many of those who lost access to these crucial services were likely women of color. According to a 2018 fact sheet by the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, women of color make up more than half, and Latinas more than a third, of all Title X patients.

“People don’t turn to politicians for advice about cancer screenings or STI treatment,” Sussman said. “The bottom line is that Planned Parenthood has been around for over 100 years, and we’re not going anywhere.”
Anti-Abortion Groups Keep Fighting

While Planned Parenthood is gearing up to challenge several pieces of 2021 legislation, anti-abortion groups are lauding the efforts already being made by lawmakers this session.

National Right to Life, a federation with 50 state affiliates and more than 3,000 local affiliates, was founded in 1968 with the goal of creating a national organization to deal with life issues on the federal level. The organization’s oldest affiliate, Virginia Society for Human Life, was founded in 1967.

While National Right For Life is most known for its stance against abortion, the organization also provides education and lobbies on legislation pertaining to other life issues such as infanticide, assisted suicide and euthanasia.

While the organization works at a national level, its affiliates provide support, testimony and other help to states regarding anti-abortion legislation.

National Right To Life is also looking ahead to 2021, and leaders are anticipating “significant challenges” at the federal level, according to spokesperson Laura Echevarria.

Among them is the possible certification of the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In January 2020, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the amendment, which guarantees equal rights for women. The vote followed ratifications by Nevada in 2017 and Illinois in 2018 after four decades of inactivity.

Hurdles remain in the path of the amendment’s certification, however. The ratification deadlines that Congress set after it approved the amendment have lapsed, and five states have acted to rescind their prior approval.

The Equal Rights Amendment has come under fire by anti-abortion proponents, some of whom claim that it would require taxpayer-funded abortions. Since only women can have abortions, any restrictions on the procedure could be deemed unconstitutional under the amendment.

“Everyone knows this renewed effort isn’t about women’s rights,” the office of House Republican Whip Steve Scalise said in a February 2020 report by Politico, summarizing the message sent by the GOP caucus. “It’s about eliminating federal and state life protections and ushering in an era of taxpayer funding of abortion.”

While the certification of the amendment ultimately passed in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, it was dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Following the 2020 election, Democrats now hold a razor-thin majority in the Senate.

“We see the right to life as the leading human rights issue of our day,” Echevarria said. “Without abortion-neutralizing language, the Equal Rights Amendment would be used to expand abortion on demand. We’ve seen this happen in states that use the same language in state ERAs.”

When it comes to how anti-abortion legislation might affect access to free and low-cost health care, Echevarria said that National Right To Life typically doesn’t take a stance on health care issues unless it’s somehow related to taxpayer funding of abortion or health care plans that are forced to cover abortions.

If a woman is in need of such health care, Echevarria recommended she seek out one of more than 2,700 pregnancy centers across the United States that provide free services to women in need, most of which are manned primarily by volunteers and financially supported with private funds from individuals, religious organizations and businesses.

In recent years, states and the federal government have increasingly touted these as an alternative or safety net for women. Many have even shifted money toward them and away from other facilities such as Planned Parenthood, which typically provides a wider range of services.

According to Echevarria, these centers often work with local agencies to help women find housing, health care, jobs and even transportation. They also provide formula, maternity and baby clothes, diapers and other essentials free of charge.

The downside is that, in some cases, services at these “crisis pregnancy centers” can come with strings attached.

An investigation by Vox found that at some, prenatal and other free services were only for available if patients took parenting workshops or classes, some of which had a religious component.

Some women told Vox they found the required instruction troubling, with one saying of a parenting video, “it hurt me.”

A 2018 publication by the American Medical Association Journal of Ethics also called crisis pregnancy centers “legal, but unethical” that pass themselves off as legitimate clinics but are exempt from the regulatory oversight that applies to other health care facilities.

“They strive to give the impression that they are clinical centers, offering legitimate medical services and advice, yet they are exempt from regulatory, licensure, and credentialing oversight that apply to health care facilities. “Because the religious ideology of these centers’ owners and employees takes priority over the health and well-being of the women seeking care at these centers, women do not receive comprehensive, accurate, evidence-based clinical information about all available options,” the report says. “Although crisis pregnancy centers enjoy First Amendment rights protections, their propagation of misinformation should be regarded as an ethical violation that undermines women’s health.”

According to Echevarria, the services provided at most private centers are usually grounded in a right-to-life ideology and, as a result, are often condemned by abortion-rights activists.

“Many women who have had an abortion feel that if they had someone in their corner saying that they could raise a child and finish college or raise a child and pursue employment opportunities, then they would have given birth and kept their child,” Echevarria said. “Pregnancy centers can provide this real-world support.”

 

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“It sends direct aid to those who need it most, boosts vaccination efforts, provides lifelines for small businesses, helps kids get back to school safety, and much more.”

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A $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill, the first major legislation of President Joe Biden’s term, passed the U.S. House along party lines early Saturday morning.

The legislation includes stimulus checks of $1,400 for individuals making up to $75,000 and $2,800 for couples making up to $150,000, plus $1,400 for each dependent. Along with December’s $600 payments, that fulfilled the Democrats’ promise of providing $2,000 to most Americans still trying to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent economic downturn.

Those payments would phase out for individuals earning from $75,000 to $100,000 and for couples earning from $150,000 to $200,000.

The bill passed almost entirely along party lines, 219-212. All but one Democrat voted yes and every Republican voted no. All 10 New Jersey House Democrats voted yes, and the state’s two Republicans voted no.

It now goes to the U.S. Senate, where it needs only 50 senators plus Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote, under a parliamentary process known as reconciliation. Biden has promised to sign the bill.

“The American Rescue Plan would help millions of people who are struggling in every community in our nation as a result of the pandemic,” Rep. Albio Sires, D-8th Dist., a member of the House Budget Committee, said during debate on the bill.

“It sends direct aid to those who need it most, boosts vaccination efforts, provides lifelines for small businesses, helps kids get back to school safety, and much more.”

Rep. Chris Smith, R-4th Dist., objected to the legislation in a floor speech, saying it did not prevent taxpayer financing of abortions.

“Unborn babies,” Smith said, “need the president of the U.S. and members of Congress to be their friend and advocate, not their adversary.”

Lawmakers of both parties came together last year to enact the $2 trillion CARES Act in March with $1,200 payments, $484 billion in April for small businesses and health care providers, and $900 billion in December with $600 checks.

But every House GOP member but one opposed a $3 trillion stimulus bill in May and all voted no on a $2 trillion proposal in September, both of which passed the chamber but weren’t considered by the then-Senate Republican majority.

Richard Grenell, a top ally of former President Donald Trump, strongly hinted at a run for California governor in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday morning.

In his CPAC address, the former U.S. ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence railed on California and said he has “never seen a better case for a recall” than the bid to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom.

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“And of course, if a public official is still failing to deliver on their promises, and if you can’t limit their term or recall them in time, there’s always one other option: you can run against them yourself,” Grenell said to close his speech.

POLITICO has previously reported that Grenell has been prepping for a run for governor in the deep blue state, which Trump lost by more than 29 percentage points in 2020. A GOP strategist who has discussed Grenell’s plans with him said he planned to announce a run after the recall effort reaches the signature threshold for the ballot.

Grenell told POLITICO that “it isn’t true” he had begun interviewing potential aides and was readying to announce a run if the effort to get the recall on the ballot succeeds, and was non-committal when asked about a potential run in a Newsmax interview.

“California used to be Reagan country. The shining example of business innovation and middle class success,” Grenell said. “But now when you think of California, you think of out of control wildfires, of rolling blackouts, of schools still closed, of shuttered businesses.”

Newsom has gone on the defensive as the bid to recall him has gained steam, holding campaign-esque events as critics lambast him for the state’s coronavirus restrictions. The Republican National Committee has put hundreds of thousands of dollars into the bid.

On Saturday, Grenell got the apparent backing of Mercedes Schlapp of the American Conservative Union Foundation, who was moderating the next panel discussion.

“How wonderful was Ric Grenell? I don’t know, I think he’d make a great governor of California,” said Schlapp, a former Trump aide and the wife of ACU chair Matt Schlapp.

This time, Republicans complained that the legislation would increase the federal deficit by $1.9 trillion just four years after they approved a tax law that grew the deficit by the same amount, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of both bills’ 10-year impact.

CORONAVIRUS RESOURCES: Live map tracker | Newsletter | Homepage

Congress plans to pass a final bill by March 14, the day the current extended federal unemployment insurance benefits end. The legislation extends the benefits to late August and provides an extra $400 a week to claimants, up from the current $300.

The House bill includes $350 billion in long-sought federal aid to states and localities to help cover added expenses and decreased revenues due to the pandemic. According to an updated estimate from the House Oversight Committee, New Jersey and its municipalities would receive an estimated $10 billion, with $6.5 billion going to the state and $3.5 billion to local governments.

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“I rise in strong support of the bill and of the 1.4 million first responders, teachers, transit workers, sanitation workers and other public servants already laid off from state and local governments across this nation,” said Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. “We must act before more people lose their jobs and more lifesaving programs are cut.”

Republican refusal to provide such aid, a top Democratic priority, prevented passage of a stimulus bill before the 2020 elections.

While Texas would be the second-biggest recipient of federal assistance, one of its Republican representatives, Jodey Arrington, insisted the funding was a “windfall to states who were mismanaged and broke before COVID.”

There also would be $130 billion to help schools reopen, $25 billion to help restaurants, $1.5 billion for Amtrak, and $28 billion for public transportation systems such as NJ Transit, where ridership and revenue are down.

The bill would provide money to distribute and administer the vaccines, to convince people to be vaccinated to test and trace Americans for the virus, and to increase health insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.

Donald Trump’s presidency is over and his Twitter feed silenced, but at the first major conservative gathering of the year, the message is clear: Mr. Trump is here to stay.

Elected officials and activists who spoke on the first day of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held in Florida this year, focused on COVID-19 restrictions, the so-called cancel culture, how the 2020 election was administered and the threats they see from Democratic policies. While there was barely any mention of the attack at the Capitol last month, speakers railed against the “liberal mob” and riots over the summer.

The conference doesn’t feature open critics of the former president, so praise for Mr. Trump, who still has the support of most GOP voters, was a theme of the opening day.

“There are a whole lot of voices in Washington that want to just erase the last four years,” Texas Senator Ted Cruz told the crowd. “Let me tell you right now: Donald J. Trump ain’t going anywhere.”

Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton told a story about an immigrant attributing his economic success to the former president, and celebrated Mr. Trump ability to attract Latino voters in the 2020 election.

And Missouri Senator Josh Hawley received a standing ovation when he told the crowd of his objection to the election results on January 6. He blasted Twitter for banning Trump, and ended his speech with: “America now, America first, America forever.”

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Many speakers urged the Republican Party against a return to its pre-Trump origins and criticized some of the policies past GOP leaders have pushed.

“We will not win the future by trying to go back to where the Republican Party used to be,” said Florida Senator Rick Scott, who also chairs the Senate Republicans’ campaign operation. “If we do, we will lose the working base that President Trump so animated. We’re going to lose elections across the country and ultimately we’re going to lose our nation.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is up for reelection in 2022, set his own mark for conservatives going forward, saying the party rejects open borders, “weakness” against China and “military adventurism.”

“We will not go back to the days of the failed Republican establishment of yesteryear,” he said. “Hold the line, stand your ground, and don’t ever, ever back down.”

Hawley told the people attending CPAC that they “represent what’s coming next.”

“To the people who say to us, ‘Oh, you’re the past. Your moment has passed, it’s over. It’s Joe Biden’s America now,'” he said. “I just want to say, ‘we’re not the past. We’re the future,'” he said.

At the event, Hawley wore the widespread criticism of his objection to the counting of Electoral College votes on January 6 as a badge of honor.

“I was called a traitor, I was called a seditionist,” he said of the reaction to his vote. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m standing right here. I’m going to stand up for you, because if we can’t have free and open debate in this country, we’re not going to have a country left.” His phrasing echoed a remark made by Mr. Trump to his supporters that day: “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

Nearly a dozen speakers at the event have been mentioned as possible 2024 presidential candidates. “For a second there, I thought we were in Des Moines,” Cruz quipped about the speaking lineup.

Cotton, among the likely White House hopefuls, suggested Republicans might not be running against Biden in four years. “They want to give amnesty to 15 to 20 million illegal aliens. With no strings attached, with voting rights —presumably in time for what they hope will be Kamala Harris’ reelection campaign,” he said.

But as a roster of Republicans compete to boost their profiles, it is Mr. Trump who is the marquee speaker, set to make his first public remarks since leaving office at the conference on Sunday.

Mr. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., joked that the conference should be called “TPAC” because of the support the former president has among the audience. He offered a brief preview of his father’s speech, telling the crowd, “I imagine it will not be what we call a ‘low-energy’ speech. And I assure you that it will solidify Donald Trump and all of your feelings about the MAGA Movement as the future of the Republican Party.”

Polling shows Mr. Trump still holds a firm grip on the Republican Party’s base. A Suffolk University/USA Today poll published earlier this week found nearly 6 in 10 Trump supporters said they’d like to see him run for president again in 2024 and 76% said they’d vote for him if he sought the Republican nomination.

Saturday’s notable speakers include Florida Senator Marco Rubio, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, who have been floated as potential 2024 presidential candidates.

“President Biden has set forth a national plan to crush the virus,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone Jr., D-6th Dist., on the House floor. “With this bill, Congress is providing the president with the resources and the tools to implement a national plan that was sorely lacking under President Trump.”

The legislation also would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, matching New Jersey’s. But unlike the state, the federal provision would require tipped workers such as restaurant workers and bartenders to be paid $15 an hour, not including gratuities.

But Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled that the wage increase could not be included in the Senate version of the legislation under reconciliation, leaving Democrats to find an alternative that would pass muster.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that Biden still supported the $15 an hour minimum wage and wanted to see it enacted.

“I will tell you that we are committed to finding the best path forward to increasing the minimum wage, and that will require a number of conversations with leaders in Congress and members who are committed to this issue moving forward,” Psaki said at her daily press briefing.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said they would try to get the wage hike into the stimulus bill some other way, perhaps through tax incentives and penalties.

“We couldn’t get in the front door or the back door, so we’ll try to go in through the window,” Wyden said.

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Democrats said the still-faltering economy and the half-million American lives lost demanded quick, decisive action. GOP lawmakers, they said, were out of step

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The House approved a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill early Saturday in a win for President Joe Biden, even as top Democrats tried assuring agitated progressives that they’d revive their derailed drive to boost the minimum wage.

The new president’s vision for flushing cash to individuals, businesses, states and cities battered by COVID-19 passed on a near party-line 219-212 vote. That ships the massive measure to the Senate, where Democrats seem bent on resuscitating their minimum wage push and fights could erupt over state aid and other issues.

Democrats said the still-faltering economy and the half-million American lives lost demanded quick, decisive action. GOP lawmakers, they said, were out of step with a public that polling shows largely views the bill favorably.

“I am a happy camper tonight,” Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said Friday. “This is what America needs. Republicans, you ought to be a part of this. But if you’re not, we’re going without you.”

Republicans said the bill was too expensive and said too few education dollars would be spent quickly to immediately reopen schools. They said it was laden with gifts to Democratic constituencies like labor unions and funneled money to Democratic-run states they suggested didn’t need it because their budgets had bounced back.

“To my colleagues who say this bill is bold, I say it’s bloated,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. “To those who say it’s urgent, I say it’s unfocused. To those who say it’s popular, I say it is entirely partisan.”

Moderate Democratic Reps. Jared Golden of Maine and Kurt Schrader of Oregon were the only two lawmakers to cross party lines. That sharp partisan divide is making the fight a showdown over who voters will reward for heaping more federal spending to combat the coronavirus and revive the economy atop the $4 trillion approved last year.

The battle is also emerging as an early test of Biden’s ability to hold together his party’s fragile congressional majorities — just 10 votes in the House and an evenly divided 50-50 Senate.

At the same time, Democrats were trying to figure out how to assuage progressives who lost their top priority in a jarring Senate setback Thursday.

That chamber’s nonpartisan parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, said Senate rules require that a federal minimum wage increase would have to be dropped from the COVID-19 bill, leaving the proposal on life support. The measure would gradually lift that minimum to $15 hourly by 2025, doubling the current $7.25 floor in effect since 2009.

Hoping to revive the effort in some form, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is considering adding a provision to the Senate version of the COVID-19 relief bill that would penalize large companies that don’t pay workers at least $15 an hour, said a senior Democratic aide who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations.

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That was in line with ideas floated Thursday night by Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a chief sponsor of the $15 plan, and Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., to boost taxes on corporations that don’t hit certain minimum wage targets.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., offered encouragement, too, calling a minimum wage increase “a financial necessity for our families, a great stimulus for our economy and a moral imperative for our country.” She said the House would “absolutely” approve a final version of the relief bill because of its widespread benefits, even if it lacked progressives’ treasured goal.

While Democratic leaders were eager to signal to rank-and-file progressives and liberal voters that they would not yield on the minimum wage fight, their pathway was unclear because of GOP opposition and questions over whether they had enough Democratic support.

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal, D-Mass., sidestepped a question on taxing companies that don’t boost pay, saying of Senate Democrats, “I hesitate to say anything until they decide on a strategy.”

Progressives were demanding that the Senate press ahead anyway on the minimum wage increase, even if it meant changing that chamber’s rules and eliminating the filibuster, a tactic that requires 60 votes for a bill to move forward.

“We’re going to have to reform the filibuster because we have to be able to deliver,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., a progressive leader.

Republicans have continued to embrace the myth of a stolen election the annual rightwing conclave of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), underscoring how the party continues to sustain the baseless idea months after Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 race and the deadly assault on the Capitol.

This year’s gathering of some of the party’s most fervent supporters has a staggering seven sessions focused on voter fraud and election-related issues. Several have inflammatory titles. “Other culprits, why judges and media refuse to look at the evidence,” was the name of one panel discussion on Friday. “The left pulled the strings, covered it up, and even admits it,” was another. “Failed states (GA, PA, NV, oh my!)” is the title of another scheduled for this weekend.

‘The base is solidly behind him’: Trumpism expected to thrive at CPAC
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Several speakers on Friday repeated debunked falsehoods about the election. Deroy Murdock, a Fox News contributor, repeated the lie that there were “mysterious late-night ballot dumps” that swung the election for Joe Biden and that there were vehicles with out-of-state license plates unloading ballots in the early hours of the election. Both of those claims have been debunked.

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Stoking fears about fraud and advocating for stricter voting rules has become commonplace among Republicans in recent years, but in the wake of Trump’s presidency – and his loss to Biden – it has become a common rallying cry in the party. Even so, some observers said the focus on fanning the flames of the conspiracy theory at CPAC was still alarming.

“One program on lessons learned from voting in 2020 is appropriate to restore trust for half of America, but not seven!” said Eric Johnson, a former Republican lawmaker in Georgia who advised Kelly Loeffler’s US Senate campaign.

“Donald Trump convinced his base – a majority of Republicans, if polls are to be believed – that the election was stolen. Though the CPAC organizers likely know it’s false, they’re using this as a wedge issue to excite the base and sell more tickets,” said Nick Pasternak, who recently left the Republican party after working on several GOP campaigns.

He added: “CPAC’s willingness to make the election lie such a big issue this year is a concerning symbol of what many in the party think – and what they’ll do.”

Even though dozens of judges across the country, including several appointed by Donald Trump, rejected claims of fraud after the election, Murdock and other speakers at CPAC accused judges of being unwilling to examine evidence of fraud.

Progressives are willing to accept defeat on the minimum wage for now and vote for President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief package. But they’re channeling their energy into a renewed push to kill the filibuster.

One day after the Senate parliamentarian effectively forced a $15 minimum wage hike out of Democrats’ coronavirus relief package, leading liberal activists are racing to turn their bitter setback into opportunity. The need to sacrifice a key Biden priority in order to ensure the Covid aid bill can pass the Senate with a simple majority has handed progressive lawmakers and their allied groups a new talking point in their long-running quest to eliminate the legislative filibuster.

“We promised a $15 minimum wage,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “So if that $15 minimum wage isn’t in this package, we are going to have to figure out a way to get it through. And if that means reforming the filibuster, then we should reform the filibuster.”

Democrats pushed hard to raise the minimum wage as part of the pandemic relief measure, which the Senate can pass with just 51 votes thanks to the protections of the arcane budget reconciliation process. But now that the chamber’s parliamentarian has ruled out adding the wage hike to the coronavirus bill, progressives see nuking the filibuster outright as their best — and perhaps only — chance of getting to $15 an hour.

Minimum wage
CONGRESS

Democrats short of a backup plan after minimum wage ruling
BY BURGESS EVERETT AND MARIANNE LEVINE

Very few Senate Democrats believe that the left’s demands to toss the chamber’s 60-vote threshold will have any effect on the dynamic in their 50-member caucus, where there’s currently not enough support for eliminating the filibuster. Still, pressure from progressives on and off the Hill — who turned the filibuster into a wedge issue during the Democratic presidential primary — is rapidly intensifying in only the second month of Biden’s tenure.

With Democrats preparing to take up other high-priority legislation, including a landmark voting rights bill and police reform, liberals’ clamor to end the filibuster is bound to cause new political headaches for party leaders.

Thursday night’s setback on the minimum wage is the first of many potential stressors to come as Democrats rethink the future of the legislative filibuster. Few of the party’s major policy priorities stand a real chance of passing the Senate without eliminating the tool that requires a 60-vote margin of approval for most measures.

“It’s going to take a few more issues that get momentarily frustrated for it to fully come to a head but we’re getting closer by the day,” said Brian Fallon, executive director of the liberal group Demand Justice.

Exactly which agenda item might constitute the Democratic breaking point is unclear, as the party pushes for a voting rights expansion, immigration reform and more.

Former Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada ended the filibuster for executive-branch and some judicial nominees in 2013, a move known as the “nuclear option,” and current GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky continued down the path in 2017 by ending the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.

“It may be that you have to demonstrate for the American people how grave a challenge it is to get major change done that affects their lives when you’ve got the blockade that the filibuster allows,” said Sen Bob Casey (D-Pa.), noting that he and other Senate Democrats who wouldn’t have supported ending the filibuster “are much more open to it” now.

Biden has consistently resisted calls to go nuclear and his press secretary reiterated that position after he took office. But he’s now confronting an aligned array of progressives in the House, Senate and outside advocacy groups newly emboldened to agitate against what they consider an arcane rule that’s a relic of the Jim Crow-era.

“The filibuster was never in the constitution, originated mostly by accident, and has historically been used to block civil rights,” tweeted Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) shortly after the Senate parliamentarian’s ruling. “It’s time to trash the Jim Crow filibuster.”

Schatz acknowledged in an interview Friday that Democrats currently “don’t have the votes to get rid of the filibuster,” but said the party can’t just throw up its hands and accept gridlock. “This is a monumental change, this is a necessary change,” he said.

Failing to fulfill the party’s promise of passing a $15 minimum wage could have dire consequences for Democrats at the ballot box, progressive lawmakers argue. Biden campaigned on increasing the hourly wage for the first time in a decade. The issue is also a longtime priority for key Democratic constituencies, including labor unions.

The pressure is particularly intense in the House, where leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have long expected that the minimum wage battle would turn into a broader debate on the filibuster. Some have privately been girding to have this exact fight with Senate institutionalists at this exact time.

Some on the left still believe their party could take up a fight with the parliamentarian, the Senate’s chief rules referee, to force the minimum wage provision into the bill. But most believe it’s a longshot, and are are eyeing the legislative filibuster as the bigger problem.

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“Our immediate options on this specific issue [are] to do something about this parliamentary obstacle or abolish the filibuster,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

“We hope that the senators, the administration, fight as hard as we’ve been fighting,” added Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). “I think it is time that we stop coming up with excuses to do the right thing.”

Even if the filibuster were eliminated, however, it’s unclear if the $15 minimum wage would actually pass the Senate. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) have said they do not support increasing the minimum wage to $15 as part of the coronavirus relief package. Manchin has said he supports an $11 minimum wage, which Ocasio-Cortez and others on the left have declared a nonstarter.

And when a group of Senate Republicans introduced a proposal this week to increase the minimum wage to $10, progressives blared their objections. Asked if she’d accept a compromise below $15, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) responded: “We need $15 an hour. That’s where I am.”

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Senate Republicans, meanwhile, are vocally opposing calls to eliminate the legislative filibuster. During negotiations on a power sharing agreement for the 50-50 Senate, McConnell insisted that Democrats commit to keeping the 60-vote threshold, a proposal that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer rejected. And Republicans are quick to remind Democrats that they resisted pressure from then-President Donald Trump to do away with it when they controlled Washington in 2017.

Liberal activists have continually pressured skeptical Democrats on abolishing the legislative filibuster, mounting ad campaigns targeting Schumer — who is up for reelection next year — and others. Since Thursday’s ruling on the minimum wage hike, social justice groups such as Ultraviolet, Women’s March and the Sunrise Movement have called on Biden and Senate Democrats to get rid of the 60-vote margin.

“Everything the voters voted for that helped place Joe Biden in the White House requires the Senate to be able to fully function,” Rahna Epting, executive director of MoveOn, said in an interview.

Nina Turner, an ally of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) who is running for an open House seat in Ohio, said progressives have no plans to let up on their opposition to the filibuster.

“The people who were hired to do the people’s bidding are going to have to get the courage to do away with it,” said Turner. “A breaking point is coming. I just don’t know the what or the when.”

Hans von Spakovsky, a well-known conservative who has agitated for more restrictive voting policies for years, claimed that judges were reluctant to look at evidence because they feared they would be attacked. “When it becomes an extraordinary election contest, one with national implications and one in which they risk being attacked by one of the political parties, the news media, their reluctance gets even greater,” he said.

Pressed whether judges were afraid to look at the evidence, Von Spakovsky added: “I think in some cases that is true, in other cases they might have had valid procedural grounds, but it sure didn’t look like it to me.”

Asked how much evidence of fraud there was now, Murdock falsely said: “It may be shredded by now.”

Jesse Binnall, an attorney who represented the Trump campaign in Nevada, complained about the short deadline lawyers had to put together a case after the election and claimed judges were pressured by media reporting that noted voter fraud was not a widespread problem. “Right or wrong, they never tried to dig into the facts about voter fraud,” he said. “Our legs were cut off before we even walked into the courthouse.”

Litigants in American courts have to meet procedural thresholds to advance their case, something that prevents courts from having to hear frivolous claims. Again and again, Trump and his allies failed to convince courts that they cleared those bars.

“One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome, a plaintiff would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption,” Matthew Braun, a federal judge in Pennsylvania, wrote in December as he tossed out an effort from Trump and his allies to block certification of the election results there. “Instead, this court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations … unsupported by the evidence.”

The comments at CPAC underscore how Republicans continue to stoke uncertainty about the election – even after judges and Republican and Democratic elected officials alike repeatedly examined allegations of wrongdoing and did not find fraud, they continue to insist that there is unexamined evidence. In state legislatures across the country, are pushing new restrictions on voting. There are at least 253 pending bills to restrict voting across the United States, according to a tally by the Brennan Center for Justice.

In his remarks on Friday, Von Spakovsky expressed support for efforts to restrict voting by mail and said HR1, the bill pending in Congress that would require automatic and same-day registration, among other reforms, “the most anti-democratic bill I’ve ever seen during my 20 years in Washington”.

Jay Williams, a Republican strategist in Georgia, said the focus on elections was a way to gin up support among the party’s faithful base, which remains largely loyal to Trump and his allies.

“I would not equate ‘the party’ with CPAC so I wouldn’t put much stock in it from that perspective,” he said. “CPAC exists to make money and so it’s no surprise to me the organizers have jumped on to this issue as a way to drive engagement of their target market.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., another high-profile progressive, also said Senate rules must be changed, telling reporters that when Democrats meet with their constituents, “We can’t tell them that this didn’t get done because of an unelected parliamentarian.”

Traditionalists of both parties — including Biden, who served as a senator for 36 years — have opposed eliminating filibusters because they protect parties’ interests when they are in the Senate minority. Biden said weeks ago that he didn’t expect the minimum wage increase to survive the Senate’s rules.

Pelosi, too, seemed to shy away from dismantling Senate procedures, saying, “We will seek a solution consistent with Senate rules, and we will do so soon.”

The House COVID-19 bill includes the minimum wage increase, so the real battle over its fate will occur when the Senate debates its version over the next two weeks.

The overall relief bill would provide $1,400 payments to individuals, extend emergency unemployment benefits through August and increase tax credits for children and federal subsidies for health insurance.

It also provides billions for schools and colleges, state and local governments, COVID-19 vaccines and testing, renters, food producers and struggling industries like airlines, restaurants, bars and concert venues.

Democrats are pushing the relief measure through Congress under special rules that will let them avoid a Senate GOP filibuster, meaning that if they are united they won’t need any Republican votes.

It also lets the bill move faster, a top priority for Democrats who want the bill on Biden’s desk before the most recent emergency jobless benefits end on March 14.

But those same Senate rules prohibit provisions with only an “incidental” impact on the federal budget because they are chiefly driven by other policy purposes. MacDonough decided that the minimum wage provision failed that test.

Republicans oppose the $15 minimum wage target as an expense that would hurt businesses and cost jobs.

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House progressives were more enthusiastic about the tax proposal, but cautioned that it was no substitution for a true minimum wage increase

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WASHINGTON — In a bid to align his unity pitch with his pursuit of a bold agenda, President Joe Biden has been selling his $1.9 trillion Covid-19 package as bipartisan.

But that message crashed into a hard reality early Saturday morning when the House passed the bill — without a single Republican vote.

In recent weeks, Biden’s chief of staff Ron Klain has marshaled the White House messaging apparatus to make the case that the president’s aid package is bipartisan, not because any GOP lawmakers have signed on, but because polls show it has support from a large majority of the public, and because some Republican mayors and officials outside Washington have backed it.

The bill now heads to the Senate, where it also lacks GOP support.

Klain has repeatedly cited polls in the face of criticism for pursuing a party-line approach.

White House digital director Rob Flaherty said Wednesday that the Covid plan is “extremely bipartisan,” citing a Morning Consult poll that showed 76 percent public support, including 60 percent of self-identified Republicans.

While Democrats can pass it without Republicans if they stick together, the dynamic points to a bigger struggle for Biden: The GOP “epiphany” he predicted shows no sign of materializing. and his agenda is likely to face the kind of full-fledged partisan opposition that bedeviled Barack Obama as president.

Asked at a recent CNN town hall how he will heal a divided nation, Biden cited polls that find significant support among Republican voters for his Covid-19 plan. He said they show the U.S. is “not nearly as divided as we make it out to be.”

But those pleas haven’t moved Republican lawmakers. His task is complicated by the fact that large numbers of Republican voters falsely say he lost the 2020 election and, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll, want their leaders to stand up to him rather than cut deals.

“That’s kind of an interesting approach to it,” former Senate Republican budget staffer Bill Hoagland said. “What they’re saying is the Republicans that are here do not represent their constituents back home and therefore we should listen to the constituents.”

Hoagland, now at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said bipartisanship in Washington has historically meant winning votes from the other party. He said he has never seen it defined by polls during his 25 years working on Capitol Hill, calling Biden’s version “an interesting twist on the legislative and democratic process.”

House Republicans were furious over the summer when the House made unpresented changes allowing lawmakers to designate a proxy and vote on their behalf amid traveling concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

They held news conferences. They lobbied their members against using the proxy function. House Republican leadership even led a lawsuit over the change, calling it unconstitutional.

But now it appears quite a few members of the GOP have changed their tune. And a host of Republicans designated proxies, each citing the “ongoing public health emergency,” to travel to Florida for the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Since Thursday, when CPAC began its annual conference, nearly two dozen House Republicans have written letters to the House clerk to notify they would be absent due to the COVID-19 pandemic and designated a proxy to vote on their behalf. Others, including several CPAC speakers, designated proxies to cast their vote before Thursday.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.,, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, in Orlando.
Democrats railed about the move, criticizing what they call hypocrisy by Republicans.

“Apparently hypocrisy has become a tenant of the Republican Party,” Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., wrote on Twitter, noting the months the GOP has complained about proxy voting. “Let me get this straight: these Members can’t vote in person because of the pandemic, but they manage to attend CPAC?…They were even maskless at this super spreader event! It’s outrageous.”

Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., agreed, writing on Twitter that these Republicans were skipping a vote on a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package to be at the annual conservative conference.

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“My Republican colleagues here called us ‘cowards’ for voting by proxy during the pandemic, filed a lawsuit to stop it, and even introduced a bill to strip pay from Members who vote by proxy,” Beyer wrote. “Now they are in Orlando proxy voting from CPAC while we debate and vote on Covid relief.”

Members of both parties have taken advantage of the proxy rules, which the House established last summer as the pandemic ravaged the country – including spreading in the halls of Congress. Republicans for months had criticized Democrats for using proxies as a way to take a day off work, including attending a space launch in Florida over the summer.

“This isn’t Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It’s the United States Congress,” Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., said in May as he railed against several Democrats who attended a launch after signing a letter saying their absence was due to the public-health crisis.

The list of Republicans who wrote letters appointing a proxy include speakers at CPAC on Friday, such as Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.; Greg Steube, R-Fla.; Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C.; and Ted Budd, R-N.C. Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., who is speaking Saturday at the conference, signed onto a lawsuit against proxy voting.

Several others speaking Saturday at CPAC also signaled they would vote by proxy, including Reps. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.; Devin Nunes, R-Calif.; Mike Kelly, R-Penn.; Lauren Boebert, R-Colo.; and Jim Banks, R-Ind.

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Many of these lawmakers were among the Republicans who railed against the proxy rules when they were established and criticized Democrats for using them.

“Leaders show up no matter how uncertain the times are. The Democrats are cowards for hiding and not showing up to work,” Cawthorn wrote on Twitter in July. “I guess we can label them as ‘Nonessential personnel’?”

Banks also voiced opposition on the policy, writing on Twitter last year that he wouldn’t be using proxy rules to cast his vote. “I won’t be passing off my constitutional duty and voting by proxy – especially when we expect millions of workers to get up each day and go to work to keep our nation moving,” he wrote on Twitter in May.

Senate Democrats are racing to finalize a new tax provision that would penalize large companies that pay low wages. The move comes after Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled Thursday night that a $15 minimum wage hike cannot be included in the Senate COVID relief package, which is currently being pushed through the chamber through a process known as budget reconciliation.

The plan being drafted by aides to Senate Finance Committee chair Ron Wyden of Oregon — in close consultation with Senate Budget Chair Bernie Sanders of Vermont — would impose a 5% payroll tax penalty on “very large” companies that do not pay workers a certain amount. That amount is still unclear: Wyden favors $15 an hour, but is currently seeking feedback from fellow Democrats on that figure and on exactly which companies would face the penalties.

“Everyone in the caucus is envisioning ‘very large’ companies – think Walmart, Amazon,” a Senate Democratic aide told CBS News.

Under the proposal, which Senate Democrats hope to finish crafting by early next week, smaller businesses that raise their workers’ wages would be eligible for income tax credits equal to 25% of wages — up to $10,00 per employer to year — tax incentives to increase wages.

“Basically we’re having the stick approach for the very big companies at the top, and the carrot approach for the smallest of small businesses to try to encourage them to raise wages on their own,” the aide said.

Democratic aides, anticipating an adverse ruling from the Senate parliamentarian, began quietly working on the “Plan B” proposal several weeks ago. The tax penalties would apply not only to large companies that pay their own employees low wages, but also to those that hire contractors – such as security guards – who earn low wages for work they do on premises.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday stressed the importance of the minimum wage hike, saying at a press conference that “we will not rest until we pass the $15 minimum wage.”

The new push comes one day after Sanders announced that he would introduce an amendment to the COVID relief package to “take tax deductions away from large, profitable corporations that don’t pay workers at least $15 an hour and to provide small businesses with the incentives they need to raise wages.”

The White House acknowledged the new effort Friday without endorsing or rejecting it. “We haven’t reviewed the measure. We are certainly aware… But we have not reviewed and we don’t have a final conclusion on that proposal,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One.

House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, whose House COVID relief bill does contain a $15 federal minimum wage hike, was also reluctant to weigh in. “I hesitate to, you know, to say anything until they decide on a strategy. I don’t want to be perceived as second guessing what they’re doing,” Neal said Friday.

Jason Furman, who served as chair of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, sounded a note of caution, tweeting “this is a really big, complicated, brand new proposal. It is *possible* that it works. It is also *possible* that another tax version works. But I would be extremely nervous about trying out a brand new idea like this with virtually no vetting.”

House progressives were more enthusiastic about the tax proposal, but cautioned that it was no substitution for a true minimum wage increase. “I’m very supportive of doing whatever we can, but at the end of the day we promised a $15 minimum wage, so if that $15 min wage isn’t in this package, we are going to have to figure out a way to get it through and if that means reforming the filibuster, then we should reform the filibuster,” Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) told reporters.

This tax measure, which would be included in the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, would have to win the support of two moderate Democrats – West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema – who opposed including an across-the-board $15 minimum wage in the COVID relief bill.

Republicans are likely to balk at any proposal that involves imposing new taxes, even if those penalties would only apply to the nation’s largest companies. On Friday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the proposal “stupid,” and Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania slammed it as “wealth redistribution and social engineering. It is a bad idea.”

Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told reporters on Friday that the inclusion of a minimum wage hike had “smoothed over the negotiation on this process” for progressives in the House.

“I think that Senator Sanders is doing the right thing by trying to include something, last minute, because the fact of the matter is that these negotiations, the entire negotiations of this package, for a lot of people, were predicated on the $15 minimum wage,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

Ocasio-Cortez also challenged Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has expressed opposition to raising the minimum wage to $15 and has instead suggested that it be raised to $11 per hour.

“His own constituents, West Virginians, want a $15 minimum wage. So I don’t even see what kind of leg he’s standing on here where the majority of his own state doesn’t agree with him,” Ocasio-Cortez said. A February poll by the One Fair Wage Coalition, a group which supports a minimum wage hike, found that 63% of West Virginians support raising the minimum wage by 2025.

Raising the minimum wage is widely popular across the country, with a 2019 poll by the Pew Research Center showing that 67% of Americans support raising the minimum wage to $15. It even has support in some red states, as demonstrated by a ballot initiative in Florida to increase the minimum wage increase to $15 by 2026, which passed with support from more than 60% of voters in the last election.

Some Republicans have taken note of the public support for a minimum wage hike. On Friday, Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri announced a proposal to require companies with revenues of $1 billion or more to pay their employees $15 per hour.

Under Hawley’s plan, small business employees who earn less than $15 per hour would qualify for a “Blue Collar Bonus” in the form of an automatic tax credit. “Mega-corporations can afford to pay their workers $15 an hour, and it’s long past time they do so,” Hawley said, “but this should not come at the expense of small businesses already struggling to make it.

But many progressives like the new approach, including those who were critical of Biden’s talk of unity.

“I think it’s super smart,” said Adam Jentleson, a former aide to Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid. “If you let Mitch McConnell define what is bipartisan, nothing ever will be. Defining it based on public opinion is accurate and opens the door to doing big things,”

‘You Can’t Have It Both Ways’
The frustration has extended to Republicans on Capitol Hill who hoped that Biden would cut down his $1.9 trillion package to win their support, but those talks dissolved after Biden decided their $618 billion plan was too small to address the crisis.

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“No matter how many times they tweet about it, unelected White House staffers can’t singlehandedly change the definition of ‘unity.’ At some point, just have the courage to admit what you’re doing: pushing a partisan bill through a partisan process,” said a Republican aide familiar with the bipartisan Covid-19 relief talks. “You can’t have it both ways.”

Matt Gorman, a GOP consultant and campaign operative, called Biden’s approach “too clever by half.”

As a candidate, Biden often waxed nostalgic about cross-party cooperation during his time in the Senate and said he’d be a president who works to revive that spirit. His tenure dates to the 1970s and 1980s, an era when the two parties each had a broad mix of liberals and conservatives in their ranks, which paved the way for bipartisan coalitions. That isn’t the case today.

“President Biden promised unity, but Democrats are delivering one-party rule,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said before his entire caucus was joined by two Democrats in voting against the bill.

In his inaugural address last month, Biden used the word “unity” eight times and said, “We have never, ever, ever failed in America when we have acted together.”

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On Feb. 2, Klain cited a Yahoo News/YouGov poll showing that more than two-thirds of Americans support the policies in his American Rescue Plan. “This IS a bipartisan agenda,” he tweeted.

On Monday, Klain wrote that the plan “has bipartisan support among voters; state/local leaders; business & labor,” and that it “should get the same in Congress.”

At a recent meeting with labor leaders in the Oval Office, Biden said that “based on the polling data,” Americans “want everything that’s in the plan — not a joke.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki has been peppered with questions from reporters in her daily briefings about whether Biden’s pledge to pursue a Covid-19 bill on a party-line vote breaks his promise of finding common ground.

“He didn’t run on a promise to unite the Democratic and Republican Party into one party in Washington,” Psaki said on Feb. 5. “This package has the vast majority of support from the American public.”

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