Put some respect on the progressives’ names
Democrats are facing a quagmire because a few corporate politicians are content to break a months-long strategic agreement. Plus: The hand soap that’s sure to elevate my kitchen countertop.
This week has been shaping up to be a meaningful one for months now. Democrats are tasked with keeping the government opened after Republicans last night voted against legislation to avoid a shutdown and ensure the United States could pay its bills, most which were incurred during the previous administration, past the middle of October. As I wrote in last week’s newsletter:
Both issues are usually viewed as a shared responsibility between both parties and resolved with little fanfare. But since Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell in the Senate, are unafraid of their voters holding them accountable for anything other than criminalizing abortion, lowering taxes for rich and powerful, blocking any meaningful gun-ownership reforms and suppressing the votes of Black and brown communities, they’ve decided to sit this one out.
There’s also the dwindling opportunity to transform two linchpins of President Joe Biden’s economic agenda — the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan — into legislation he can sign into law while Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress. The first, formally know as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, is a bipartisan deal that passed the Senate last month and would repair the nation’s roads, bridges and transit systems while extending internet access to low-income and rural communities. Then there's the Build Back Better Act, which includes several progressive priorities that are too “liberal” to attract 10 votes from Senate Republicans but appealing enough in theory to pass through a Senate budgetary procedure that requires a simple majority for certain bills related spending, revenue and the federal debt limit.
The House is scheduled to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure framework, referred to in political circles as “BIF,” this Thursday. The date was set by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after a handful of corporate Democrats threatened to withhold their support for the Build Back Better Act unless the infrastructure deal passed the House first. Pelosi said on Sunday she’ll have the votes to pass the bill by Thursday and she and her leadership team have projected a sense of calm and unity to reporters who are horny for the slightest whiff of turmoil within the party. But the reality is that she only has a three-vote margin and will need both progressives and conservatives within her caucus to vote for both bills for either to pass.
Progressives repeated today their intention to vote against BIF unless a vote is also scheduled for the Build Back Better Act or conservative House and Senate Democrats agree to an “ironclad” framework on what will be included in the Build Back Better Act and limit on the amount of money lawmakers can spend to fund their priorities. Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Krysten Sinema of Arizona, two of the key negotiators for BIF and fiercest critics of the Build Back Better Act, met with President Biden this afternoon to discuss where they stand but have yet to indicate the topline figure they’d support. It’s also worth remembering, negotiations would be paused until 2022 at the earliest if Manchin has his way. So to recap: $3.5 trillion is too much to invest for conservative Democrats, but they haven’t told leadership how much they’d be willing spend on Build Back Better. And they expect progressives to vote on infrastructure on Thursday even though there’s no guarantee they’ll ultimately vote on the other piece of legislation. Got it? Good.
This wasn’t always the predicament it’s become. From the outset, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer laid out a “two-track strategy” that linked the two bills as the straightest and quickest path to victory. Meanwhile, Pelosi never missed a moment to remind us that the bipartisan deal didn’t go far enough for women and children — early estimates indicate nearly 90 percent of all of the “hard” infrastructure jobs created would go to men — whenever she was asked why she cosigned Schumer’s strategy. But conservative Democrats were tired of waiting to vote on infrastructure and viewed it as the kind of win they could campaign on during next year’s midterms and an opportunity to flex on their progressive counterparts whom they view as the center of attention within both the party and mainstream media.
But if these bills fail to reach President Biden’s desk, it won’t be because of the progressives. These lawmakers, who are often viewed as socialists who spend big and figure out how to pay for it later, started negotiations on the Build Back Better Act at $3.5 trillion, nearly half of the $6 trillion they originally wanted to invest. And even though they despise much of the fine print in the infrastructure bill, they were willing to give the conservatives in their party what they want to get what they want. Plus, as Pramila Jayapal, the Seattle representative and chair of the progressive caucus, said in a statement earlier today, these bills are what Democrats, including Biden, campaigned on last year:
This agenda is not some fringe wish list: it is the President’s agenda, the Democratic agenda, and what we all promised voters when they delivered us the House, Senate, and White House. It is supported by nearly every Democrat in Congress and is overwhelmingly backed by the American people. It was committed to in a deal among Senators when they passed the infrastructure bill in that chamber — a commitment reiterated just last week. We articulated this position more than three months ago, and today it is still unchanged: progressives will vote for both bills, but a majority of our members will only vote for the infrastructure bill after the President’s visionary Build Back Better Act passes.
What’s been lost in this story, at least on the national level, is that progressives have promised to keep their end of the bargain from day one, despite their misgivings about BIF. It’s conservative House Democrats and senators like Manchin and Sinema who seem content to let party leaders renege on the agreement. All of this has somehow been framed as fiscal responsibility on the part of the conservatives instead of a broken promise to any of you who voted for Democrats to represent you in Congress or the White House.
And that’s a shame — not just because it would be mean a missed opportunity to federalize paid family leave, free college, lower costs for child care and prescription drugs and a fairer tax code for creators whose valuable work has been flattened by rich tech executives and capitalist shareholders. But also because it would all but guarantee that Republicans will reclaim control of Congress next year, meaning two years of worse political gridlock than what we’re seeing now.
The good news is that two days is an eternity in Congress. And Pelosi is as shrewd a legislator as we’ve seen in modern history. So I won’t count her out until she gives me reason to. Not to mention, in the political cycle, major legislation often comes together right as it looks like it’s about to fall apart. We’ll see in less than 48 hours if I’m right.
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Leta Shy at Self on Issa Rae:
Rae shares little about her personal life, especially details about her relationship with Diame. Her ability to create boundaries and separate life from work as she’s ascended in fame is another way she practices self-care. “I think the little time I’ve been in the industry, I’ve witnessed how so many people who are front-facing don’t have a peace and aren’t at peace, and that’s always been troubling to me,” she says. “In this age of social media, where I was an avid user, I would share so much of myself, of my friend group, and it was fun because it felt like [it was] just among my friends. The more I started to seep out, the more I felt like people took ownership of me and my decisions and things that I did. That's just not something that sat right with me, and I found that I don’t like to be the subject of conversations that I don’t initiate. There’s just something uncomfortable about that.”
Sabrina Imbler at The New York Times on barriers to health care for transgender youth:
Transgender patients also face broader barriers to health care, the JAMA review found. Insurance proved a common and thorny issue; some families struggled to get puberty blockers covered, and others had difficulty finding a trans-friendly provider in network. And those without insurance faced high costs.
There are also wait-lists, often several months long, to make an appointment. Dr. Cassie Brady, a pediatric endocrinologist at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee who was not involved with the research, said that her clinic often has a wait-list of around 50 people. “We’re doing everything we can to get these children in,” she said.
For a young transgender person, merely the prospect of walking into a clinic can be distressing. One 14-year-old in the review said they felt “petrified” to enter places out of fear that their gender identity would be mocked or dismissed. Another adolescent said that clinicians glossed over their identity, calling it “just a phase.”
Kiera Butler at Mother Jones on the private Facebook groups where anti-vaxxers plot to get religious exemptions:
As more employers adopt vaccine mandates, a growing number of vaccine-hesitant workers are trying to figure out how to use religious exemptions to keep their jobs without getting the jab. Many are taking to online Facebook groups to strategize around how best to persuade their bosses. Their conversations, which I have observed over the last few weeks, reveal a grassroots online movement gaining traction. Every day, I watched the groups grow, from hundreds to thousands of members, as exemption seekers all over the country organized, collaborated, and shared resources. The groups have an overall Christian flavor—members often quote scripture and urge each other to consult with pastors. But not all the conversation revolves around religion—there is also a strong anti-government strain. Members talk about their “medical freedom” and they rail against “tyranny.” While some of the members seem earnest in their religious objections to the vaccines, others skirt the line of opportunism.
Adam Serwer at The Atlantic on the lie about the Supreme Court everyone pretends to believe:
The current makeup of the Roberts Court is itself the outcome of a partisan battle that has spanned decades, one in which the conservative legal movement has won a tremendous victory that is certain to shape American life for generations to come. Anticipating their future triumphs, though, the very justices championed by this movement have taken to denying both this victory and its implications, insisting that this casino is resolutely opposed to gambling—in fact, it’s not a casino; it’s a church, and its critics are engaging in acts of civil blasphemy. With absolute control of the Court, the conservative legal movement’s main obstacle is the fact that its extreme views are unpopular. When those views are imposed on the public in the future, the justices want to be able to claim that their decisions are the result of impartial legal reasoning, rather than motivated reasoning by committed right-wing ideologues. But that doesn’t make the proposition that the justices are free of partisanship any less ridiculous.
Phoebe Robinson at Vanity Fair on self-care:
Our focus is shifting away from the actual self—our bodies, minds, and spirits—and toward data about the self. With iEverythings around us at all times, we expect our steps to be enumerated, our REM cycles to be recorded, and our breathing patterns to be measured. It’s not enough to just feel better—we need our devices to affirm that we are doing the work. This raises the question: Are we genuinely interested in feeling healthier and happier? It seems likely that the values driving us to be workaholics in the first place are also encouraging us to “optimize” ourselves by using metric-driven “hacks.”
Sierra Lyons at Teen Vogue on the Black deaf creators who are pushing for inclusivity through TikTok videos:
Whether it be sewing enthusiasts, single parents, or neurodivergent individuals, TikTok offers a niche corner for everyone to revel in their shared experience. Deaf, hard of hearing, and sign language advocates are no exception to the platform, with #deaftiktok garnering more than 840 million views on the app.
September is Deaf Awareness Month, a time to celebrate the strides of those in the community and to educate both Deaf and hearing people on sign language, Deaf people’s experiences, and the ingenuity of creators that have improved technology for the Deaf community. On TikTok, Black Deaf creators are showing their own creativity and educating their followers, pushing for inclusivity and awareness from all — but especially from hearing users.
Eddi Hand Soap Starter Set in Midnight ($65): I’m eager to find out if these hand soaps are hydrating as they promise or if I’m just paying for the lustrous packaging they come in.