Розділ: Політика

Lone Democratic Senator Blocks Biden’s Climate Agenda as COP26 Nears

With the U.N. Climate Change Conference set to begin in less than two weeks, a vital piece of the Biden administration’s climate agenda is in danger of dying in the U.S. Senate, at the hands of a member of the president’s own party.

Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat who represents the state of West Virginia, has said he will not support the most important clean energy provisions in the administration’s “Build Back Better” package of infrastructure and social spending programs. Because the Democrats have only 50 seats in the 100-member Senate, and expect zero votes from Republicans, Manchin can kill the entire bill by withholding his vote.

Last week, he indicated he would do just that if the Clean Energy Performance Program, considered the centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s climate plan, were part of the bill. The CEPP would reward electricity producers that begin converting to renewable energy at a rate of 4% per year or greater, and penalize those that do not.

The economy of Manchin’s home state is disproportionately reliant on fossil fuel, so oil and gas firms, coal mining operations and natural gas pipeline companies all wield significant political muscle. The coal industry in West Virginia would be particularly hurt by the CEPP, because 90% of the electricity produced in the state comes from coal-fired power plants.

This week, Manchin also rejected a different effort to meet the administration’s emission reduction goals, this time by imposing a tax on carbon. To the frustration of many in his party, Manchin has not offered any alternatives that would come close to the kind of impact on emissions that the Biden administration is seeking.

Bold promises

On his first day as president, Biden announced that the U.S. would rejoin the Paris Agreement, a climate accord that his predecessor, Republican Donald Trump, had exited. In April, Biden announced that his goal was to reduce U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases that cause climate change to between 50% and 52% of 2005 levels.

Experts say the 4% annual increase in electricity generated by renewables required by the CEPP is essential to meeting the emissions reduction goal.

The bold promise was meant to demonstrate renewed U.S. leadership in the global effort to fight climate change, and was made with an eye on next month’s U.N. climate summit, also known as COP26. Recently, the administration announced it would be sending 13 members of Biden’s Cabinet to the summit, which will be held in Glasgow, Scotland, demonstrating a very high level of commitment spanning the breadth of the federal government.

Empty-handed at COP 26?

But Manchin’s unwillingness to budge on the climate issue leaves the president in danger of traveling to Glasgow with little, other than good intentions, to show for his first 10 months in office.

Other Democrats in Congress have warned of the danger of failing to take significant action. Former U.S. Senator John Kerry, Biden’s climate envoy, told The Associated Press it would compound the reputational damage the U.S. suffered when Trump pulled out of the Paris Agreement.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, told The Guardian newspaper it would make the U.S. delegation look “ridiculous,” adding, “It would be bad for U.S. leadership, bad for the talks and disastrous for the climate. Just disastrous.”

Manchin’s claims

Manchin has claimed the energy industry is making the change to renewables on its own, and that it makes little sense to spend taxpayer dollars on something that is already happening.

Chris Hamilton, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, said Manchin’s assessment of the industry’s progress is accurate.

“We can get there if we … allow for the various carbon capture technologies to be developed, commercialized and then utilized within the coal and natural gas sectors,” Hamilton said. “Our goal is to reduce the carbon footprint as well, you know. It’s not like anyone’s opposing that.”

But climate activists sharply dispute Manchin’s characterization of the industry’s progress on reducing emissions.

Manchin’s claims are “demonstrably false,” said Michael O’Boyle, director of electricity policy at Energy Innovation, an energy and climate policy think tank in San Francisco.

“Over the last five years, from 2016 to 2020, the U.S. added about 1.1% to its clean energy share annually,” he said. “In 2020, alone, we hit a record of 2.3%, so barely more than half of a 4% increase.”

Manchin’s personal interests

Critics of the West Virginia senator also point out that Manchin has a considerable personal financial interest in the coal industry. He owns between $1 million and $5 million in shares of Enersystems Inc., a coal brokerage that he founded and that is now run by his son. The company has paid him nearly $5 million over the past decade.

When asked about this apparent conflict of interest, Manchin has for years protested that his assets are held in a blind trust. However, his Senate financial disclosure forms expressly name Enersystems.

Manchin also receives major campaign donations from the fossil fuel industry at large, taking in well over $250,000 in the 2022 election cycle so far.

A dying industry

Adding to the frustration of Manchin’s fellow Democrats is that the coal mining industry that he is so intent on protecting has been shriveling for decades, as demand for coal across the United States decreases.

In 2020, the U.S. Energy Information Administration found that the coal industry in West Virginia, including “all employees engaged in production, preparation, processing, development, maintenance, repair shop or yard work at mining operations, including office workers,” employed 11,418 people, or about 1.4% of the state’s workforce.

The numbers were down slightly in 2020 because of the pandemic and will likely rise when 2021 figures are released, but the longer-term trend is quite clear. Since the early 1950s, when more than 125,000 men mined coal with pickaxes and shovels in West Virginia, improved technology began steadily reducing the number of people needed to run the state’s coal mines.

By the 1990s, there were fewer than 40,000 people employed by the industry in the state, and the numbers have kept falling.

Add to that the decline in demand, as power companies switched to cleaner fuels, including natural gas, and the picture of a dying industry becomes complete. After peaking at 158 million tons in 2008, West Virginia’s coal production has fallen sharply, to well under 100 million tons for the past several years.

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By Polityk | 21/10/2021 | Повідомлення, Політика

US House to Decide Whether to Hold Bannon in Contempt

The U.S. House of Representatives is due to vote Thursday on a contempt citation against Steve Bannon, one of former President Donald Trump’s longtime advisers, for refusing to cooperate with a congressional inquiry into the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

The Democrat-majority House is expected to approve the contempt measure, with most House Republicans expected to vote against it.

If approved, the citation would be sent to the federal prosecutor in Washington for presentation to a grand jury for possible indictment of Bannon. He could, if convicted, be sentenced to up to one year in prison, but such contempt of Congress charges are unusual and rarely result in prison time.

A committee investigating the insurrection voted Tuesday to initiate the contempt charges, saying he was the only witness who had completely denied their call for him to testify.  The committee says Bannon spoke to Trump before the rioting and promoted protests on January 6.

The Democratic-controlled panel is investigating how and why hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building as lawmakers were certifying that Democrat Joe Biden had defeated Trump in last year’s presidential election.

In the waning days of his presidency, Trump urged supporters at a rally near the White House to “fight like hell” to block certification of Biden’s victory. Soon afterward, more than 800 Trump supporters stormed into the Capitol, some of them vandalizing the building and fighting with police. More than 600 have been charged with an array of offenses. The incident left five people dead.

Trump has sought to stymie the committee’s investigation of what precipitated the rioting and his role in it. He has urged Bannon and other former aides subpoenaed by the committee to reject its requests, claiming executive privilege for White House documents, even though he left office January 20. Bannon was Trump’s chief strategist at the White House through the first seven months of 2017 and has remained as one of his most vocal supporters.

Trump filed a lawsuit Monday, alleging the committee made an illegal, unfounded and overly broad request for his White House records.

Biden’s White House has argued that Trump has no legitimate privilege claim.

“The former president’s actions represented a unique — and existential — threat to our democracy that can’t be swept under the rug,” spokesman Michael Gwin said. “The constitutional protections of executive privilege should not be used to shield information that reflects a clear and apparent effort to subvert the Constitution itself.”

Senate Republicans blocked the creation of an independent commission to probe the mayhem, a panel that would have been modeled on the one that investigated the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

In response, the Democratic-controlled House then created the nine-member investigative panel, which includes two Republican lawmakers who have been vocal Trump critics.

In July, the panel heard vivid, detailed accounts from four police officers who encountered the rioters inside the Capitol on January 6 but has not heard more public testimony since then.

Some information for this report came from the Associated Press.

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By Polityk | 21/10/2021 | Повідомлення, Політика

US Senate Republicans Block Democrats’ Voting Rights Bill

A bill aimed at thwarting restrictive new voting laws enacted in Republican-led states failed to advance in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, as Republican lawmakers blocked a Democratic effort to begin debating the measure.

It was the third time this year Senate Democrats tried to advance a voting rights bill in reaction to new state balloting restrictions that were fueled by Donald Trump’s false claims of a stolen election.

Enough of the chamber’s 50 Republicans had voted to block the measure from advancing, a move that could bring new pressure on Democrats to change the Senate’s filibuster rule that requires 60 votes to pass most legislation.

Senator Angus King, an independent who aligns with Democrats, told reporters that if Republicans again block the bill, “we would either have to figure out a rule change or we have to try to have discussions toward a compromise solution.”

Many Democrats have been calling for a scaling back or elimination of the filibuster to make it easier to pass President Joe Biden’s agenda over the objections of top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell.

Biden, himself a veteran of the Senate, has voiced objections to doing so, although he suggested he was open to considering it during the recent showdown over hiking the debt ceiling.

There are several reform ideas that could stop short of a full ban on legislative filibusters. Those could include carving out an exemption just for the voting rights bill or limiting the number of filibusters against a bill.

But with no sign of Republicans willing to compromise, King told reporters on Tuesday that Democrats’ deliberations on next steps “cannot go on for months and months … it’s got to happen in this calendar year” so that states have enough time to prepare for any election law changes before the November 2022 congressional elections.

Moderate Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have voiced objections to ending the filibuster. Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer enlisted Manchin to seek a deal with Republicans on the voting rights bill. It was unclear whether a failure would persuade Manchin to support a rules change.

At least 18 states have enacted 30 laws restricting voting access this year, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, following false claims by Trump, the Republican former president, that he lost the 2020 election to Biden because of widespread voting fraud.

Democrats and voting rights advocates denounce the measures as partisan power grabs that will make it harder for Black and Hispanic voters, important voting blocs for Democrats, to cast ballots.

“No honest observer can look at the way the states have changed election laws this year and pretend that there’s nothing malicious afoot,” Schumer said in a Tuesday floor speech.

McConnell predicted that none of the senators in his caucus would support opening a debate on the Democrats’ voting rights bill.

“What our Democratic friends have been wanting to do forever is to have the federal government take over how elections are conducted all over America. There’s no basis for that whatsoever,” McConnell told reporters on Tuesday.

Since leaving office, Trump has continued to repeat his baseless election fraud allegations. Multiple courts, state election officials and members of Trump’s own administration rejected his claims.

The vote on Wednesday concerned a bill scaled back from the prior version blocked by Republicans. It would set broad standards for how states conduct elections, including ensuring all qualified voters can request mail-in ballots.

It also aims to expand voter turnout by making Election Day a federal holiday and would outlaw partisan drawing of congressional districts, known as gerrymandering, that both parties have engaged in for decades.

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By Polityk | 21/10/2021 | Повідомлення, Політика

Poll: US Global Standing Rebounds Under Biden

Approval of U.S. leadership around the world rebounded during the first six months of President Joe Biden’s term, after a record low in the last year of President Donald Trump’s administration. This according to a new Gallup survey of people in nearly 50 countries. White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara has this report.

Produced by: Barry Unger

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By Polityk | 20/10/2021 | Повідомлення, Політика

Biden, Democrats Aim for Deal on Spending Package in Coming Days 

U.S. President Joe Biden and Democratic lawmakers are edging toward a deal on the scope of their cornerstone economic revival package and hope to reach a compromise as soon as this week, people briefed on the negotiations said Tuesday. 

Scrambling to broker an agreement, Biden met with 19 lawmakers on Tuesday in an unusually busy day of legislative negotiations. He aimed to secure what may be the signature effort of his administration, a multitrillion-dollar, two-bill legislative package that expands social safety net programs and infrastructure spending. 

One source said a deal could be announced midweek if things go well; two others said the White House was hoping for an announcement in coming days. 

“After a day of constructive meetings, the President is more confident this evening about the path forward to delivering for the American people on strong, sustained economic growth that benefits everyone,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a written statement issued Tuesday evening. 

The talks centered on a “shared commitment to the care economy, ensuring working families have more breathing room, addressing the climate crisis, and investing in industries of the future so that we can compete globally,” Psaki said. 

“There was broad agreement that there is urgency in moving forward over the next several days and that the window for finalizing a package is closing,” she said. 

A spending package that was originally estimated at $3.5 trillion over a decade could be reduced to $1.9 trillion to $2.2 trillion, said Representative Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives, after meeting with Biden. 

Biden told Democrats in a private meeting that he believed a deal could be reached between $1.75 trillion and $1.9 trillion, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday evening. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer also said Democrats aim to reach a framework deal this week. Speaking to reporters following a closed-door lunch with fellow Democrats, he said: “There was universal agreement in that room that we have to come to an agreement, and we want to get it done this week.” 

A deal is likely to be far less ambitious than Biden’s original plan. Initiatives in that proposal that may see cuts include $322 billion for affordable housing, money for paid family leave and some $400 billion earmarked to increase home-based care for the elderly and disabled, according to a person familiar with the matter. 

Biden has told lawmakers that a program providing free community college is on the chopping block and a child tax credit may be extended for fewer years than planned, according to people familiar with the discussions. 

All of the people who spoke to Reuters warned that negotiations were fragile, still under way and that a deal could still collapse. 

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has set October 31 as the deadline for the House to pass a $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal that the Senate has already approved and has broad bipartisan support. 

Biden met on Tuesday with House progressives, who have been unwilling to pass the infrastructure bill unless it is coupled with the larger budget bill that would fund Biden’s campaign pledges on climate, inequality and social programs. 

“We all feel still even more optimistic about getting to an agreement,” to get a large measure of what they wanted months ago, Jayapal said. 

She said there still weren’t “final” details on major portions of the initiative, including on climate change. Another progressive, Representative Ro Khanna, said Biden’s plan for universal preschool remained a priority. 

The president also met Tuesday with moderate Democratic senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who have voiced concern about the size of the bill and pushed Biden to reduce the original cost. They have a virtual veto over his agenda because both chambers of Congress are controlled only narrowly by Democrats. Republicans largely oppose the larger social-spending bill. 

Asked about the size of the spending bill, Manchin yelled, “I’m at $1.5” trillion to reporters in Congress on Tuesday evening. 

Democratic Senator Jon Tester, who attended a White House meeting with another group of moderates, said afterward, “I think we’re making really good progress, better progress than I ever thought we were making.” 

One of Biden’s major selling points in last year’s presidential campaign was his ability to find a middle ground at a time of deep political polarization, touting his 36 years as a moderate Democratic U.S. senator from Delaware. 

Weeks of negotiations nonetheless failed to bridge the gap on the spending bill. Biden said on October 1 that he would find an agreement “whether it’s in six minutes, six days or in six weeks,” but White House officials were increasingly concerned as the weeks ticked by. 

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By Polityk | 20/10/2021 | Повідомлення, Політика

Indictment Accuses US Congressman of Lying to FBI

A federal grand jury on Tuesday indicted U.S. Representative Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, accusing him of lying to the FBI and concealing information from federal agents who were investigating campaign contributions funneled to him from a Nigerian billionaire. 

The U.S. attorney’s office announced that the grand jury in Los Angeles had indicted the nine-term Republican on one charge of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators. Fortenberry is expected to appear for an arraignment Wednesday afternoon in federal court in Los Angeles. 

The indictment stems from an FBI investigation into $180,000 in illegal campaign contributions from Gilbert Chagoury, a Nigerian billionaire of Lebanese descent. 

The contributions were funneled through a group of Californians from 2012 through 2016 and went to four U.S. politicians, including $30,200 to Fortenberry in 2016. Using an analysis of federal election records, Politico has identified the other three Republican recipients as former U.S. Representative Lee Terry of Nebraska in 2014; Representative Darrell Issa of California in 2014; and Senator Mitt Romney during his 2012 presidential campaign. 

Federal authorities haven’t alleged that any of the other three campaigns or candidates were aware that the donations originated with Chagoury. 


Chagoury, who lives in Paris, admitted to the crime in 2019, agreed to pay a $1.8 million fine and is cooperating with federal authorities. Prosecutors have said Chagoury made some of the illegal contributions to politicians from smaller states because he thought the amounts would be more noticeable and give him better access. He also drew attention years ago for giving more than $1 million to the Clinton Foundation. 

The indictment alleges that a co-host of the 2016 fundraiser in Los Angeles told Fortenberry that the donations probably did come from Chagoury, but Fortenberry never filed an amended campaign report with the Federal Election Commission as required. It says he later “made false and misleading statements” to federal investigators during a March 23, 2019, interview at his home in Lincoln. 

According to the indictment, Fortenberry falsely told investigators he wasn’t aware of an associate of Chagoury being involved in illegal contributions. He also allegedly said that his donors were publicly disclosed, and he wasn’t aware of any contributions from a foreign national, which is illegal. 

In a second interview in Washington in July 2019, the indictment says Fortenberry denied that he was aware of any illicit donation made during the 2016 fundraiser. 

‘Shocked’ and ‘stunned’

In a YouTube video posted Monday night, Fortenberry said he was “shocked” and “stunned” by the allegations and asked his supporters to rally behind him. Knowingly making false statements to a federal agent is a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. 

“We will fight these charges,” he said in the video, filmed inside a 1963 pickup truck with his wife, Celeste, and their dog, against a backdrop of corn. “I did not lie to them. I told them what I knew. But we need your help.” 

Fortenberry’s campaign has insisted that he didn’t know the donations, which the campaign received during a fundraiser in Los Angeles, originated with Chagoury. 

Fortenberry said FBI agents from California came to his home after he had been out dealing with a major storm that had just hit Nebraska. He said they questioned him about the contributions then and in a follow-up interview. 

“I told them what I knew and what I understood,” he said. 

Fortenberry represents the state’s 1st Congressional District, a heavily Republican area that includes Lincoln and parts of several Omaha suburbs, as well as surrounding farmland and small towns in eastern Nebraska. 

According to the Nebraska secretary of state’s office, no other Nebraska congressman or U.S. senator has been indicted since at least 1901. 

Fortenberry was first elected to the seat in 2004. He won his last election in 2020 with 60% of the vote and has generally defeated Democratic challengers by lopsided margins. 

His statement that he expected to be indicted was first reported by the Omaha World-Herald. 

Celeste Fortenberry said her husband spoke with the agents voluntarily, without a lawyer, because he was under the impression that the agents needed his help to get to the bottom of the case. 

She said he later called his friend, attorney and former congressman Trey Gowdy, for legal representation. She said her husband sat for another interview with agents in Washington and was repeatedly assured that he was not a target of the investigation. 


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By Polityk | 20/10/2021 | Повідомлення, Політика

US House January 6 Probe Set to Advance Bannon Contempt Citation

The House of Representatives committee investigating the rioting at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 appears headed Tuesday to initiating contempt of Congress charges against Steve Bannon, one of former President Donald Trump’s longest-standing advisers, for refusing to cooperate with the probe.

The Democratic-controlled panel, investigating how and why hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building as lawmakers were certifying that Democrat Joe Biden had defeated Trump in last year’s presidential election, is expected to approve the contempt citation against the 67-year-old Bannon, sending it to the full House for a vote.

If the House also votes to hold Bannon in contempt, the citation would be sent to the federal prosecutor in Washington for presentation to a grand jury for possible indictment of Bannon. He could, if convicted, be sentenced to up to a year’s imprisonment, but such contempt of Congress charges are unusual and rarely result in prison time.  

Trump, in the waning days of his presidency, urged supporters at a rally near the White House to “fight like hell” to block certification of Biden’s victory. Soon afterward, more than 800 Trump supporters stormed into the Capitol, some of them vandalizing the building and fighting with police. More than 600 have been charged with an array of offenses. The incident left five people dead.

Trump has sought to stymie the committee’s investigation of what precipitated the rioting and his role in it. He has urged Bannon and other former aides subpoenaed by the committee to reject its requests, claiming executive privilege for White House documents, even though he left office January 20. Bannon was Trump’s chief strategist at the White House through the first seven months of 2017 and has remained as one of his most vocal supporters.

Trump filed a lawsuit Monday alleging the committee made an illegal, unfounded and overly broad request for his White House records.

Biden’s White House has argued that Trump has no legitimate privilege claim.

“The former president’s actions represented a unique — and existential — threat to our democracy that can’t be swept under the rug,” said spokesman Michael Gwin. “The constitutional protections of executive privilege should not be used to shield information that reflects a clear and apparent effort to subvert the Constitution itself.”

Senate Republicans blocked the creation of an independent commission to probe the mayhem that would have been modeled on the one that investigated the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

In response, the Democratic-controlled House then created the nine-member investigative panel, which includes two Republican lawmakers who have been vocal Trump critics.

In July, the panel heard vivid, detailed accounts from four police officers who encountered the rioters inside the Capitol on January 6 but has not heard more public testimony since then.

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By Polityk | 20/10/2021 | Повідомлення, Політика

Gallup Surveys Show Rebound in Approval of US Leadership

Approval for U.S. leadership rebounded during the first six months of President Joe Biden’s administration, according to a Gallup survey of people in nearly 50 countries. 

The increase came after median approval of U.S. leadership in 108 countries where Gallup conducted surveys hit a record low of 30% in 2020, the last year of President Donald Trump’s administration.

Gallup, a Washington, D.C.-based analytics company, said its 2021 data is not yet complete, but in 46 countries where data was available as of early August, approval for U.S. leadership was up to 49%. 

Approval numbers fell in three countries, declining from 18% to 13% in Russia, 20% to 16% in Serbia and 54% to 50% in Benin.

Approval for U.S. leadership was sharply higher in 2021 from 2020 in several European nations, increasing 52 percentage points in Portugal, 45 points in the Netherlands and 41 points in Sweden. U.S. leadership’s approval also jumped from 17% to 55% in U.S. neighbor Canada, with double-digit increases also seen in Germany, Italy, France and Japan. 

Gallup pointed to different U.S. approaches to engaging with the world under the Trump and Biden administrations. Trump promoted his preference for “America first” policies, while Biden has sought to work more closely with other countries. 

“These words and actions likely reassured many longtime U.S. allies and the international community at large and help explain the surge in approval ratings across most of the 46 countries and territories surveyed through the first half of 2021,” Gallup said. 

Even with the higher approval ratings, the United States was still a distant second in several regions when compared to some of its peers.

When Gallup asked whether people approved of the leadership of the U.S., Germany, China and Russia, it was Germany that ranked first among respondents in Europe, Asia and the Americas. The United States ranked first only in Africa, with its 53% approval just ahead of Germany’s 49%. 

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By Polityk | 19/10/2021 | Повідомлення, Політика

US House Committee Rejects Bannon ‘Privilege’ Argument in January 6 Inquiry

The U.S. congressional committee investigating the deadly January 6 attack on the Capitol said Monday that it rejected Steve Bannon’s arguments for failing to cooperate with the inquiry, as the panel pursues a contempt of Congress charge against the longtime adviser to former President Donald Trump. 

Trump has claimed that materials and testimony sought by the House of Representatives Select Committee are covered by executive privilege, a legal doctrine that protects the confidentially of some White House communications. 

Bannon, through his lawyer, has said he will not cooperate with the committee until Trump’s executive privilege claim is resolved by a court or through a settlement agreement. 

In its report released Monday making the case for criminal contempt charges against Bannon, the committee said Bannon “relied on no legal authority to support his refusal to comply in any fashion,” and said his testimony is critical because he appears to have “had some foreknowledge about extreme events that would occur” on January 6. 

According to the report, Bannon in a podcast on January 5 told his listeners, “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. … So many people said, ‘Man, if I was in a revolution, I would be in Washington.’ Well, this is your time in history.” 

The Select Committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday evening to vote on the report recommending that the House cite Bannon for criminal contempt of Congress and refer him to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia for prosecution. 

The U.S. Justice Department has not said whether it plans to prosecute Bannon for contempt of Congress, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. 

Bannon’s attorney, Robert Costello, did not respond to a request for comment on the committee’s argument. 

The attack on the Capitol by thousands of Trump supporters took place as Congress met to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory over Trump, delaying that process for several hours as then-Vice President Mike Pence, members of Congress, staff and journalists fled. More than 600 people face criminal charges stemming from the event. 

The committee also said that Bannon has “had multiple roles” relevant to its investigation, including helping to construct and participate in the “stop the steal” public relations effort that helped motivate the January 6 attack. 

“Stop the steal” refers to Trump’s false claims that Biden’s victory was the result of widespread fraud. Multiple courts, state election officials and members of Trump’s own administration rejected those claims as false. 


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By Polityk | 19/10/2021 | Повідомлення, Політика

Case for COVID Boosters and Vaccine Mandates in US

Recently, a U.S. advisory panel unanimously endorsed booster shots of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for adults over the age of 18. The move comes as vaccines and public health protocols in the United States remain politically charged issues. VOA’s Arash Arabasadi reports. 

Produced by:  Arash Arabasadi

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By Polityk | 19/10/2021 | Повідомлення, Політика

‘Democracy Survived’ Capitol Riot Because of Police, Biden Says

Framed by the Capitol, President Joe Biden paid tribute Saturday to fallen law enforcement officers and honored those who fought off the Jan. 6 insurrection at that very site by declaring “because of you, democracy survived.” 

Biden spoke at the 40th Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service to remember the 491 law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty in 2019 and 2020. 

Standing where the violent mob tried to block his own ascension to the presidency, Biden singled out the 150 officers who were injured and the five who died in the attack’s aftermath.

“Nine months ago, your brothers and sisters thwarted an unconstitutional and fundamentally un-American attack on our nation’s values and our votes. Because of you, democracy survived,” Biden said. “Because of these men and women, we avoided a catastrophe, but their heroism came at a cost to you and your families.” 

Hundreds of officers and their families sat on chairs assembled on the Capitol’s west front. Some in the audience dabbed their eyes as the president drew connections with their loss and his own history of grief, including the deaths of his first wife and two children, comparing it to “losing part of your soul.”

Vows ‘more resources, not fewer’

Biden also underscored the heavy burden placed on law enforcement officers, and rebuked the “defund the police” political movement, saying that those gathered before him would get “more resources, not fewer, so you can do your job.”

“We expect everything of you and it’s beyond the capacity of anyone to meet the total expectations,” Biden said. “Being a cop today is one hell of a lot harder than it’s ever been.” 

Biden played up his working-class roots, noting that he had many childhood friends who went on to become police officers, and said he had spoken at the event many times before. But while Biden has throughout his political career sought to identify with the uniformed services, the organization that ran Saturday’s event, the National Fraternal Order of Police, endorsed Donald Trump in the 2020 election and many rank-and-file police officers supported the former president. 

Biden’s efforts to pass a police overhaul bill to tighten practices after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis collapsed, with congressional negotiators announcing in September that talks had ended without an agreement. That was a setback for the Democratic president, who campaigned on the need for policing changes and had declared it an early priority. 

Additionally, his agenda on gun violence has largely stalled and his initial pick to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives stepped aside in the face of staunch opposition. More recently, Biden has expressed hope that he can still sign a comprehensive police overhaul bill into law, while exploring more executive actions to help hold police officers accountable for breaking the law. 

At the ceremony, Biden expressed concerns for all officers in the line of duty and mentioned the three constable deputies shot in an ambush early Saturday while working at a Houston bar. One deputy was killed.

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By Polityk | 17/10/2021 | Повідомлення, Політика

Biden Touts Child Care Proposal in Stalled Spending Bill

U.S. President Joe Biden touted his proposal for more government investment in child care during a visit to Connecticut on Friday, part of his push for a broader social spending bill that has been stalled in Congress.

“How can we compete in the world if millions of American parents, especially moms, can’t be part of the workforce because they can’t afford the cost of child care or elder care?” he asked at a child development center in the state capital of Hartford.

Biden said his plan would allow lower-income families to receive free child care and would limit child care expenses for many more Americans to less than 7% of their salaries. 

The president spoke about his own difficulties with child care when he was a young congressman after his wife and daughter were killed in a car accident. He said he “could not afford child care” for his two sons and commuted to Washington every day from his home state of Delaware so his relatives could help with child care. 

Biden’s child care proposals are part of a $3.5 trillion spending package that also addresses climate change; funds a host of social programs, including prekindergarten and paid leave; and raises taxes on corporations. The plan, called Build Back Better by the Biden administration, has been stalled in Congress over objections to the price tag by centrist Democrats and lockstep opposition by Republicans. 

The dispute over the legislation has also been holding up another bill, a $1 trillion infrastructure package. That legislation passed the Senate this summer with bipartisan support. However, House progressives say they won’t vote for the infrastructure bill unless there is progress on the social spending bill, while Democratic moderates do not want to vote on the larger spending bill until the infrastructure bill passes. 

During his trip to Connecticut, Biden is also attending the dedication of the Dodd Center for Human Rights at the University of Connecticut, which is being renamed to honor Biden’s longtime friend, former Senator Christopher Dodd, as well as Dodd’s father, former Senator Thomas Dodd. 

In additional to being a senator, the late Thomas Dodd was also a lead prosecutor for the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany, after World War II.

His son, Christopher Dodd, earned a reputation as a human rights advocate for his efforts to end abuses in Central America while serving in the Senate from 1981 to 2011.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters. 


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By Polityk | 16/10/2021 | Повідомлення, Політика

Biden Hosts Kenyan President at White House

Kenya is a major African player — as evidenced by U.S. President Joe Biden’s decision to meet with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday, Biden’s first in-person talks with an African leader since becoming president. 

“The U.S.-Kenya strategic partnership is essential,” Biden said, as the two leaders sat down in the Oval Office. “We both, I think, believe it is essential to addressing key regional and global challenges.”

The focus of their closed-door talks is likely to be Kenya’s next-door neighbor Ethiopia, where war has raged in the northern Tigray region for nearly a year. The conflict has killed untold numbers of people — the death toll itself is a subject of contention. But the United Nations estimates that the war has plunged 5.2 million people into humanitarian crisis and sent more than 63,000 fleeing into neighboring Sudan.

“Today, we’re going to discuss what more Kenya and the United States can do together on the Horn of Africa to advance peace and security,” Biden said. Neither leader mentioned Ethiopia by name. 

But White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the two leaders had discussed the landlocked nation and described the conflict in stark terms.

In September, Biden signed an executive order threatening to impose sanctions on “those responsible for, or complicit in, prolonging the conflict in Ethiopia, obstructing humanitarian access, or preventing a ceasefire.” The sanctions, which have not yet been imposed, would affect the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the federal governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea, the Amhara regional government, and other parties in the conflict.

“Obviously, what’s happening in Ethiopia, it’s an atrocity,” Psaki said, responding to a question about when the U.S. would initiate sanctions. “It’s horrific. It’s something that, frankly, I’m happy you’re asking about because there hasn’t been probably enough attention here in the United States to what’s happening.” 

African solutions to African problems?

The lack of international oversight over the conflict, both in Tigray and in Addis Ababa, is a concern. In September, Ethiopia expelled seven senior United Nations officials, indicating that the Horn of Africa power is not easily influenced by outside forces. As Ethiopian leaders and ordinary citizens are inclined to note, Ethiopia is the only African nation that has never been colonized. 

That historic mistrust, says Fergus Kell, makes a fellow African state like Kenya a smart choice to exert influence.

“Regionally, Kenya has been a long-standing partner of the U.S. in terms of counterterrorism, particularly with respect to Somalia,” said Kell, an analyst with British think tank Chatham House, speaking from Kano, Nigeria. “But increasingly, this is also about the situation in Ethiopia. As the Biden administration weighs up stronger punitive measures, Kenya has been one of the most vocal African countries on the crisis.” 

This week, Kenyatta told reporters at the United Nations that the warring sides in Ethiopia need to reach “a political resolution, because we do not believe that there is any military solution.”

‘I want to talk to you about that’ 

The White House also said the leaders discussed democracy and human rights issues as well security, economic growth, climate change and “the need to bring transparency and accountability to domestic and international financial systems.” 

The last subject is likely to touch on revelations about Kenyatta and his family’s offshore holdings. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists said in its recent Pandora Papers reports that Kenyatta’s family had stowed away about $30 million in offshore wealth. There is no evidence that the Kenyatta family stole any state assets.

When asked by VOA Wednesday about the push for transparency and the Pandora Papers revelations, press secretary Psaki said Biden “has been quite vocal, as you all know, about the inequalities in the international financial system.”

“That doesn’t mean we don’t meet with people you have disagreements on,” she said. “We have a range of interests in working with Kenya and working with them on issues in Africa, in the region, and that will be the primary focus.”

Biden said Thursday that he planned to discuss the issue with his Kenyan counterpart in private. 

“We’re also going to talk about strengthening the financial transparency and accelerating economic growth,” Biden said, as the two smiled and reclined in armchairs near artwork depicting American civil rights champions Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. “You’ve spoken to that, Mr. President; I want to talk to you about that,” Biden added.

VOA’s Chris Hannas contributed to this report.


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By Polityk | 15/10/2021 | Повідомлення, Політика

January 6 Panel Sets Vote on Contempt Charges Against Bannon

A congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection has set a vote to recommend criminal contempt charges against former White House aide Steve Bannon after he defied the panel’s subpoena on Thursday.  

The chairman of the panel, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said the committee will vote next week to recommend the charges. That would send the recommendation to the full House for a vote.  

If the House votes to recommend the contempt charges against Bannon, the Justice Department will ultimately decide whether to prosecute. The committee had demanded documents and testimony from Bannon, who was in touch with President Donald Trump ahead of the violent attack.  

“The Select Committee will not tolerate defiance of our subpoenas, so we must move forward with proceedings to refer Mr. Bannon for criminal contempt,” Thompson said in a statement.  

The committee had scheduled a Thursday deposition with Bannon, but his lawyer said that at Trump’s direction he wouldn’t appear. Bannon also failed to provide documents to the panel by a deadline last week.  

A second witness called for a deposition Thursday, former Defense Department official Kashyap Patel, also would not appear, according to two people familiar with the confidential negotiations who were granted anonymity to discuss them. But Patel is still engaging with the committee, the people said, and the committee is not pursuing contempt charges against him.  

Two other aides who worked for Trump — former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and longtime Trump social media director Dan Scavino — are scheduled for depositions Friday. It is unclear whether they will appear. Like Patel, Meadows is speaking with the committee.

Bannon’s testimony is just one facet of an escalating congressional inquiry, with 19 subpoenas issued so far and thousands of pages of documents flowing in. But his defiance is a crucial development for the committee, whose members are vowing to restore the binding force of congressional subpoenas after they were routinely flouted during Trump’s time in office.  

“Mr. Bannon has declined to cooperate with the Select Committee and is instead hiding behind the former President’s insufficient, blanket and vague statements regarding privileges he has purported to invoke,” Rep. Thompson said in his statement. “We reject his position entirely.”  

Other witnesses are cooperating, including some who organized or staffed the Trump rally on the Ellipse behind the White House that preceded the violent riot. The committee subpoenaed 11 rally organizers and gave them a Wednesday deadline to turn over documents and records. They have also been asked to appear at scheduled depositions.

Among those responding was Lyndon Brentnall, whose firm was hired to provide Ellipse event security that day. “All the documents and communications requested by the subpoena were handed in,” he told The Associated Press.

Brentnall had previously said, “As far as we’re concerned, we ran security at a legally permitted event run in conjunction with the U.S. Secret Service and the Park Police.”

Two longtime Trump campaign and White House staffers, Megan Powers and Hannah Salem, who were listed on the Jan 6. rally permit as “operations manager for scheduling and guidance” and “operations manager for logistics and communications,” have also provided documents or are planning to do so.

It remains unclear whether the others who were subpoenaed intend to cooperate. A committee spokesperson declined to comment Wednesday on the responses it had received and how many of the 11 were complying.  

Two additional rally organizers, Ali Alexander and Nathan Martin, as well as their “Stop the Steal” organization, were also subpoenaed for documents, which are due Oct. 21.

Many of the rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 marched up the National Mall after attending at least part of Trump’s rally, where he repeated his meritless claims of election fraud and implored the crowd to “fight like hell.” Dozens of police officers were injured as the Trump supporters then broke through windows and doors and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.  

The rioters repeated Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud as they marched through the Capitol, even though the results of the election were confirmed by state officials and upheld by the courts. Trump’s own attorney general, William Barr, had said the Justice Department found no evidence of widespread fraud that could have overturned the results.

Also Wednesday, the panel issued a subpoena to a former Justice Department lawyer who positioned himself as Trump’s ally and aided the Republican president’s efforts to challenge the results of the 2020 election.

The demands for documents and testimony from Jeffrey Clark reflect the committee’s efforts to probe not only the insurrection but also the tumult that roiled the Justice Department in the weeks leading up to it as Trump and his allies leaned on government lawyers to advance his election claims.  

Clark, an assistant attorney general in the Trump administration, has emerged as a pivotal character. A Senate committee report issued last week showed that he championed Trump’s efforts to undo the election results and clashed as a result with Justice Department superiors who resisted the pressure, culminating in a dramatic White House meeting at which Trump ruminated about elevating Clark to attorney general.

The committee’s demands of Trump aides and associates are potentially complicated by Trump’s vow to fight their cooperation on grounds of executive privilege.  

Biden has formally rejected Trump’s claim of executive privilege surrounding a tranche of documents requested from the former president’s time in the White House, and has set up the documents’ potential release to Congress in mid-November. White House Counsel Dana Remus wrote to the National Archives in a letter released Wednesday that Biden believes that “an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States.”

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By Polityk | 15/10/2021 | Повідомлення, Політика

Lawyer Who Aided Trump Subpoenaed by January 6 Committee

The House committee investigating the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol has issued a subpoena to a former Justice Department lawyer who positioned himself as an ally of Donald Trump and aided the Republican president’s efforts to challenge the results of the 2020 election.

The subpoena to Jeffrey Clark, revealed Wednesday, came amid signs of an escalating congressional inquiry. At least three of the officials who were involved in organizing the rally that preceded the riot have handed over documents in response to subpoenas from the committee.  

The demands for documents and testimony from Clark reflect the committee’s efforts to probe not only the deadly insurrection but also events at the Justice Department in the weeks leading up to it as Trump and his allies leaned on government lawyers to advance his baseless claims that the election results were fraudulent. Trump loyalists stormed the Capitol in an effort to disrupt the congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory

Clark, an assistant attorney general in the Trump administration, has emerged as a pivotal character. A Senate committee report issued last week shows how he championed Trump’s efforts to undo the election results inside the Justice Department and clashed as a result with superiors who resisted the pressure, culminating in a White House meeting at which Trump floated the idea of elevating Clark to attorney general.

“The Select Committee’s investigation has revealed credible evidence that you attempted to involve the Department of Justice in efforts to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power,” the chairman of the committee, Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, wrote in a letter to Clark announcing the subpoena.

While Trump ultimately did not appoint Clark acting attorney general, Clark’s “efforts risked involving the Department of Justice in actions that lacked evidentiary foundation and threatened to subvert the rule of law,” Thompson added.

The committee has scheduled a deposition for October 29 and demanded documents by the same date. A lawyer for Clark declined to comment.

The January 6 panel has sought testimony from a number of witnesses, but its demands of Trump aides and associates are potentially complicated by Trump’s vow to fight their cooperation on grounds of executive privilege.  

One witness, Steve Bannon, has told the committee that he will not cooperate based on Trump’s directive, though the committee has said it was “engaging” with two other Trump officials — former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former Defense Department official Kashyap Patel. It is unclear whether Dan Scavino, Trump’s longtime social media director and one of his most loyal aides, will cooperate.

Others are cooperating, including some of the 11 who organized or staffed the Trump rally that preceded the riot. They were given a Wednesday deadline to turn over documents and records and have been asked to appear at separate depositions the committee has scheduled beginning this month.

Among those responding to the Wednesday deadline was Lyndon Brentnall, whose firm was hired to provide event security that day.

“All the documents and communications requested by the subpoena were handed in,” he told The Associated Press.

Two longtime Trump campaign and White House staffers, Megan Powers and Hannah Salem, who were listed on the January 6 rally permit as “operations manager for scheduling and guidance” and “operations manager for logistics and communications,” have also provided documents or are planning to do so.

Powers, who served as the Trump reelection campaign’s director of operations, intends to provide the requested documentation and to meet with the committee — though it remains unclear what form such meetings will take, according to a person familiar with her response who spoke on condition of anonymity.  

Members of the committee, including Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the panel’s Republican vice chairwoman, have threatened to pursue criminal contempt charges against subpoenaed witnesses who refuse to comply. A House vote would send those charges to the Department of Justice, which would then decide whether to prosecute.  

The subpoena to Clark follows the release of a Senate Judiciary Committee report that documented extraordinary tensions within the senior ranks of the Justice Department in December and January as Trump and his allies prodded the law enforcement agency to help him in undoing the election.

The report from the committee’s Democratic majority depicts Clark as a relentless advocate for Trump’s efforts, even presenting colleagues with a draft letter pushing Georgia officials to convene a special legislative session on the election results. Clark wanted the letter sent, but superiors at the Justice Department refused.

“We need to understand Mr. Clark’s role in these efforts at the Justice Department and learn who was involved across the administration,” Thompson wrote.

Two additional organizers, Ali Alexander and Nathan Martin, as well as their “Stop the Steal” organization, were also subpoenaed for documents, which are due October 21.

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By Polityk | 14/10/2021 | Повідомлення, Політика

As Biden’s Approval Rating Slumps, Disenchantment Grows

George Barisich isn’t surprised by recent reports that President Joe Biden’s approval rating among Americans has continued to drop. A commercial fisherman outside New Orleans, Barisich has never been a Biden fan. 

“I didn’t like him from the start, and it looks like the rest of the country is figuring out what I knew all along,” he told VOA.

An aggregate of national polling compiled by the website FiveThirtyEight showed the president’s approval rating reached almost 55% in May. Since then, his popularity has dropped significantly. A Quinnipiac University poll from last week showed only 38% of its respondents approved of President Biden’s performance, with 53% disapproving. 

Robert Collins, professor of Urban Studies and Public Policy at Dillard University in New Orleans said a combination of issues is driving those declining numbers, from America’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan to his administration’s handling of near-record high migration to the United States.

“Only 23% of respondents approved of his performance regarding the border crisis,” Collins said. “That’s a disaster.”

Barisich said he’s noticed a drop in enthusiasm for Biden even among his backers. 

“I was gifted these ‘President Trump’ socks I like to wear sometimes,” he said, laughing. “Up until recently, the Biden supporters I know would give me crap about them and tell me all the great things they thought the president was doing. Lately, though, they’ve been a lot more quiet.”


Policy issues

“The primary drop in Biden’s approval ratings [is] due to the Mexican border crisis, the servicemen lost in Afghanistan and the slow pace of the economic recovery,” Collins explained. “In the past, the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been his ace in the hole, but even his approval rating there has dropped below 50%.” 

Biden’s approval rating regarding his handling of pandemic topped out at 65% earlier this year, according to a May Quinnipiac poll. Their most recent poll has that number at 48%.“

It’s a massive drop,” Collins said.

The numbers get even worse on other topics. An August NBC News poll found 64% of independent voters polled felt Biden had accomplished “only some or very little in office.”

“I think he set unrealistic goals, and he definitely didn’t appreciate how bad things were at the border,” said New Orleanian Mary Chaput. A moderate voter, Chaput said she voted for Biden last year, but doesn’t imagine she’ll vote for him again. 

“In the past, he was someone who seemed to work well with Republicans as well as Democrats. But I think this is a different time, and he didn’t appreciate how difficult it would be to do that now,” she said.

Voters may want to see more from Biden, but his declining popularity has further complicated Democrats’ efforts to enact sweeping legislation, including a $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill that would massively expand America’s safety net.


Sticking with Biden

Disenchantment with Biden is far from universal. College professor Alex Hamman voted for Biden last year and said he’s likely to vote for him again.

“I’ve voted for Republicans in the past, but I just can’t imagine casting a ballot for anyone in today’s Republican Party,” he told VOA.

Hamman believes many of Biden’s struggles are a spillover from the actions and policies of his predecessor, Donald Trump.

“He basically ran against the Trump agenda, which means he has to fix all the past garbage instead of working on his own priorities. We have short memories, though, and we need to see new things accomplished,” he said.

A silver lining for the president is that much of his agenda remains popular, especially among independent voters, who helped him win the presidency last year. Fifty-seven percent of independents favor a bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal supported by the president. Meanwhile, 48% of independents support Biden’s $3.5 trillion package for social programs, while 37% oppose it.

Currently neither bill has cleared Congress.

“He needs to cut a deal with the politicians in his own party and get a win,” Collins said. “And these particular wins would be two-fold. They’ll help the president build momentum, but also, they’ll create jobs. During peacetime, nothing is more important for approval ratings than the economy.”

Biden’s economic performance numbers have also sagged to 39% in the recent Quinnipiac poll.


A matter of trust

“I voted for Biden because I wanted to get Trump out of the White House,” Hamman said, “but I also voted for Biden because I think he’s a decent guy and about as honest as I expect any politician to be.”

Unfortunately for the president, in addition to matters of policy, the approval of important character traits — once a Biden strength in the eyes of voters — has also declined. A month before the 2020 election, a Gallup poll found that 52% of Americans saw then-candidate Biden as honest and trustworthy, while only 40% found Trump to be. 

By contrast, 44% of respondents in last week’s Quinnipiac poll found Biden to be honest; half of respondents said he was not. 

“Polling numbers on trust are normally a sign of people believing the president is hiding something from them,” Collins said, adding that the falling numbers could stem from Biden’s insistence that no one counseled him to delay the pullout from Afghanistan, an assertion contradicted by top U.S. military commanders. 

“But trust isn’t only a function of honesty. It’s a function of communication and transparency, too. More press conferences and direct communication with the American people so they understand what’s happening on a day-to-day basis could help,” the professor said.

Barisich agreed. “You never see him or hear from him,” he said. “How can you trust a guy that always seems to be in hiding?”


Looking to rebound

According to FiveThirtyEight.com, Biden has a lower approval rating at this point in his presidency than all but two presidents since 1945, one of whom was Trump. Collins said it should be a reason for concern for the president but not a cause for panic. 

“Any experienced politician knows that during the term of a president, poll numbers will be all over the place,” he said. “The only poll that really matters is the poll taken on Election Day, and we’re still a long way from that.”

The midterm elections will take place next year, but Collins cautioned that midterm elections tend to favor the political party not in control of the White House, regardless of the popularity of the sitting president. 

Whether Biden will seek reelection in 2024 remains to be seen. Rebounding from his current polling numbers will be vital for a second term in office. He could also get a boost from a familiar rival.

In the 2020 campaign, Trump’s negative ratings foreshadowed large numbers of independents voting for Biden. Even though many Americans are dissatisfied with Biden’s record, the idea of Trump or one of his allies running in 2024 could keep moderate voters open to reelecting Biden.

“If Trump or a ‘Trump person’ ran, I’d have to hold my nose and vote for Biden again,” explained Chaput, “but I really hope the Democrats will nominate someone else instead.”

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By Polityk | 13/10/2021 | Повідомлення, Політика

Biden Approval Ratings in Decline

Americans are voicing their disapproval of President Joe Biden, nearly nine months after he took office. 

In a string of national polls in the last week, an aggregate of 49.2% of voters surveyed disapproved of Biden’s handling of the presidency, while 44.5% approved, according to the FiveThirtyEight polling site. Five of the recent polls registered disapproval of the country’s 46th president at the RealClearPolitics site, with three favorable. 

Analysts say the drop in Biden’s standing has been particularly precipitous among independent voters who helped him win the White House last year over then-President Donald Trump. 

In July, at the six-month mark of his presidency, Biden enjoyed a nine-percentage point favorability edge, but by the end of August, polls showed U.S. voters were evenly divided in their views about him.

His standing has dropped more since then, with political analysts offering several explanations. 

It was a time coinciding with the chaotic U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years of warfare, the analysts say. They also cite political rancor in Washington between Republicans and Democrats about increasing the government’s debt ceiling and between progressive and moderate Democratic lawmakers about the size and scope of a plan Biden has proposed for the biggest expansion of the country’s social safety net in more thaen five decades. 

The number of new coronavirus cases in the country also rose during recent months before receding more recently, even as nearly 70 million Americans remain unvaccinated. Biden has mandated vaccinations or frequent COVID-19 testing for workers at companies with 100 or more employees, but the mandates are controversial in some parts of the country and at some businesses and have yet to take effect. 

Senate Democrats and Republicans agreed late last week to an emergency $480 billion increase in the government’s borrowing authority through early December, at which time the issue will have to be revisited again. Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers, at Biden’s behest, have been trying to pare down his $3.5 trillion social safety net spending proposal and pass it along with bipartisan infrastructure legislation by the end of October. 

Passage of the legislation and a weakening of the coronavirus threat could help Biden’s standing, but the FiveThirtyEight site noted that Biden has a lower approval rating at this point in his presidency than all but two presidents since 1945, although one of them was Trump.

Asked about Biden’s declining poll numbers, White House press secretary Jen Psaki recently told reporters, “This is a really tough time in our country. We’re still battling COVID, and a lot of people thought we’d be through it, including us.” 

“There’s no question it’s affecting a lot of issues,” she said, such as the supply chain of consumer goods coming from foreign manufacturers that are stalled at undermanned U.S. ports. She also said people are worried about their safety and well-being at work. 

Psaki added, “Our focus is getting the pandemic under control, returning to life, a version of normal.” 


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By Polityk | 12/10/2021 | Повідомлення, Політика

Infrastructure Successes Have Transformed America, Can Biden’s Plan do the Same?

Congress appears poised to pass a bipartisan, $1 trillion plan that would be the largest federal investment in infrastructure in more than a decade. History shows that investing in infrastructure can transform the United States, changing how Americans move, bolstering economic prosperity, and significantly improving the health and quality of life for many. 


“When the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, we changed the way we moved forever, opening up the entire country and from the way humans had moved previously for thousands of years by animal to machine,” Greg DiLoreto, past president of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), told VOA via email. “[And] I think we all would agree that construction of the interstate highway system changed America in ways that greatly contributed to our economic prosperity.” 

In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act, which authorized the building of 65,000 kilometers (41,000 miles) of interstate highways — the largest American public works program in history at the time. Another earlier transformation occurred in 1936, when Congress passed the Rural Electrification Act, extending electricity into rural areas for the first time.

And the wave of projects that created modern sewage and water systems in urban areas in the late 19th and early 20th centuries left a lasting mark, providing reliable, clean water in cities and extracting pollution from sewage.

“American cities in the late 19th, early 20th century were incredibly unhealthy places,” says Richard White, professor emeritus of American history at Stanford University in California. “High child death rates, repeated epidemics, and much of that was waterborne disease that came from both ineffective sewage and impure water. And infrastructure projects changed that dramatically. Probably it’s been the most effective public health effort ever in the history of the United States.”

Dark consequences 

DiLoreto also names the construction of dams across the western United States, which increased America’s ability to farm and feed the world, as infrastructure successes. But he points out that the projects created problems for migrating fish. In fact, many of the so-called successful infrastructure projects, like interstate highways, had dark consequences. 

“They increased racial stratification in the cities. They were built in such a way that they went through poorer neighborhoods, very often minority neighborhoods, walling them off from the city as a whole,” White says. “They set them apart and set in motion a set of social changes which we suffer from still. So, they hurt poorer areas, minority areas, even if they helped middle-class areas.” 

White, who wrote the book “Railroaded,” about the building of the transcontinental railroads, contends the federal government funded too many railroads into areas without the traffic to sustain them. 

“The railroads took government money and then went bankrupt,” White says. “They were very often utterly corrupt. The money was taken off into the private pockets behind some of the great fortunes in American history, and they never really delivered the economic and social benefits that they promised.” 

And Native Americans ended up paying the price, White adds. 

“Many of these railroads ended up costing Indian peoples huge amounts of land for no particular benefit,” he says. “It’s not like white settlement was particularly successful in the land the Indians lost. So, even though it was intended to raise the standard of living for everybody in the West, it didn’t necessarily do so, and the great cost was paid very often by Indian people.” 

Bold enough?

The stripped-down bipartisan version of President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan (AJP) pours money into transportation, utilities — including high-speed internet for rural communities — and pollution cleanup. What the bill does not appear to contain is a single transformative project. 

“From the information I have, funds will be used to help us repair, replace and make our infrastructure more robust to withstand climate change and seismic risks,” DiLoreto says. “One might consider that transformative in the sense that our quality of life and economic prosperity depend on a functioning infrastructure.” 

White views the bill as backward-looking rather than forward-thinking at a time when the United States needs to transform itself to adjust to a changing world, doing things differently in the future than it has in the past. 

“We have our first great infrastructure bill, which is mostly intended to protect things we built in the past, which, I think, in the long run, that’s going to be seen as a failing,” White says. “And again, I’m not saying that you should allow bridges to fall into rivers, or that the roads don’t need repair. But it’s not transformative.” 

There is one potentially sweeping project that could help revolutionize life in the United States. 

“Broadband has had a tremendous impact on our lives,” DiLoreto says. “Without a broadband system, our ability to economically survive COVID would have been difficult.” 

The current bipartisan plan provides $65 billion for broadband infrastructure. 

“If broadband in this bill works as they intend it … and they bring it into poor areas which now lack broadband, that would be a good thing, that could be transformative,” White says. “That could have the same kind of consequences that rural electrification had in terms of education and lightening people’s workload and allowing them to do the kinds of work they otherwise couldn’t do. … But if they simply make it more effective for those who have it already, it’s not going to be transformative.”

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By Polityk | 10/10/2021 | Повідомлення, Політика

Biden Won’t Block Release of Trump January 6 Documents

President Joe Biden will not block the release of a tranche of documents sought by a House committee for its investigation into the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, setting up a showdown with former President Donald Trump, who has pledged to try to keep records from his time in the White House from being turned over to investigators.

In a letter to the Archivist of the United States, White House counsel Dana Remus writes that Biden has determined that invoking executive privilege “is not in the best interests of the United States.” This came days after Trump lawyers sought to block the testimony of former Trump officials to the House committee, citing executive privilege.

On Friday, a lawyer for Steve Bannon said the former White House aide wouldn’t comply with the House committee’s investigation because of Trump’s claim.

In August, the House committee investigating the insurrection asked for a trove of records, including communication within the White House under Trump and information about planning and funding for rallies held in Washington. Among those events was a rally near the White House featuring remarks by Trump, who egged on a crowd of thousands before loyalists stormed the Capitol.

Importance of documents

In the letter, Remus writes that the documents reviewed “shed light on events within the White House on and about January 6 and bear on the Select Committee’s need to understand the facts underlying the most serious attack on the operations of the Federal Government since the Civil War.”

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter Friday, which was first reported by NBC News.

Copies of the documents responsive to the request were turned over to the Biden White House and Trump’s lawyers for review for potential executive privilege concerns in accordance with federal law and the executive order governing presidential records.

The committee’s 10-page request to the Archives seeks “all documents and communications within the White House on January 6, 2021” related to Trump’s close advisers and family members, the rally at the nearby Ellipse and Trump’s Twitter feed. It asks for his specific movements on that day and communications, if any, from the White House Situation Room. Also sought are all documents related to claims of election fraud, as well as Supreme Court decisions on the topic.

Biden’s decision affects only the initial batch of documents reviewed by the White House. Press secretary Jen Psaki said subsequent determinations would be made on a case-by-case basis.

The current president has the final say unless a court orders the Archives to take a different action. Trump has not formally sought to invoke executive privilege over the documents, though that action is expected soon.

Trump is expected to take legal action to block the release of the documents, which, if a block was granted, would mark a dramatic expansion of the unwritten executive power. Trump will have an uphill battle, as courts have traditionally left questions of executive privilege up to the current White House occupant — though the former president’s challenges could delay the committee’s investigation.

Two witnesses ‘engaging’

Two other witnesses subpoenaed by the panel, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former Pentagon aide Kash Patel, are “engaging” with the committee, according to its Democratic chairman, Mississippi Representative Bennie Thompson, and Republican vice chairwoman, Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming. Thompson and Cheney issued a statement Friday after a deadline for document production had passed.

“Though the Select Committee welcomes good faith engagement with witnesses seeking to cooperate with our investigation, we will not allow any witness to defy a lawful subpoena or attempt to run out the clock, and we will swiftly consider advancing a criminal contempt of Congress referral,” the two lawmakers said.

A spokesman for the panel declined to comment on the status of a fourth witness, former Trump communications aide Dan Scavino.

Bannon’s move sets the stage for a likely clash with House Democrats who are investigating the roles of Trump and his allies in the run-up to the riot, when a large mob of Trump supporters broke into the Capitol as Congress was certifying the results of the presidential election won by Biden, a Democrat. The committee is rapidly issuing subpoenas to individuals who are either connected to Trump or who helped plan the massive rally on the morning of January 6 at which he told his supporters to “fight like hell.”

Bannon’s refusal to comply, and Trump’s vow to litigate the testimony, will mean certain delays in the panel’s probe. But members of the committee, several of whom worked as prosecutors on Trump’s two impeachments, were prepared for the possibility and have repeatedly threatened charging witnesses with contempt. Trump often successfully fought witness testimony during his presidency but may find his legal standing shakier now that he is out of office.

A committee effort to charge witnesses with contempt would likely involve a vote of the full House and a referral to the Justice Department. It would then be up to Justice how to proceed with charges.

‘Unable to respond’

Bannon’s lawyer, Robert Costello, said in letter to the panel dated Thursday that until the issues over privilege are resolved, “we are unable to respond to your requests for documents and testimony.”

Costello wrote that Bannon, a former aide to Trump who had contact with him the week of the Capitol attack, is prepared to “comply with the directions of the courts” when and if they rule on the issue.

The letter includes excerpts from a separate letter sent to Bannon by Justin Clark, a lawyer for Trump. Clark says documents and testimony provided to the January 6 panel could include information that is “potentially protected from disclosure by executive and other privileges, including among others the presidential communications, deliberative process and attorney client privileges.”

Clark wrote to Bannon that “President Trump is prepared to defend these fundamental privileges in court.”

Spokespeople for Trump have not returned messages seeking comment. Trump said in a statement last month that he would “fight the Subpoenas on Executive Privilege and other grounds, for the good of our Country.”

As a former president, Trump cannot directly assert privilege to keep witnesses quiet or documents out of the hands of Congress. As the current president, Biden will have some say in the matter.

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By Polityk | 09/10/2021 | Повідомлення, Політика

US Debt Ceiling: What’s Behind the Latest Crisis in Washington?

Senators in Washington passed a deal Thursday to temporarily raise the country’s debt limit, giving the U.S. Treasury Department the ability to borrow enough money for the country to keep paying its bills through the beginning of December.

The lack of agreement on the debt ceiling had been making both the Washington establishment and the financial markets nervous, as the country moved toward a crisis on Oct. 18, the day that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had warned the country might begin to struggle to pay its bills.

Debt ceiling crises have become a fairly regular feature of politics in Washington, but one that must seem strange — and even irrational — to people outside the U.S. Why does a rich and powerful country like the United States so frequently find itself on the brink of a fiscal disaster?

What follows is a brief explainer on the debt ceiling.

What, exactly, is the debt ceiling?

The United States government regularly spends more money than it takes in from taxes, fees, and other sources of revenue. That means that the country must regularly borrow money to make up the difference. The current accumulated federal debt stands at $28.4 trillion, according to the Treasury Department.

The responsibility for borrowing money falls on the Treasury, which does it by issuing different forms of debt instruments. These range from Treasury bills, that can mature in as little as a few days, to bonds that mature over 30 years.

However, the government places a cap on the total amount of debt that the Treasury can issue. The U.S. is unique among major economies in putting this restriction on the Treasury.

The existence of a debt ceiling means that Congress can pass spending laws that effectively require the Treasury to borrow money but can simultaneously withhold the authority to issue that debt by refusing to raise the statutory cap on borrowing.

Why does the U.S. have a debt ceiling in the first place?

Ironically, the debt ceiling was originally created as a mechanism that made it easier, not harder, for the Treasury to borrow money.

For the first 140 years of U.S. history, the Treasury was obliged to seek the permission of Congress every time it wanted to issue new debt. However, in 1917, when the U.S. government needed to borrow money to fund its participation in the first World War, this process became cumbersome.

Rather than demand that the Treasury seek permission for every war bond issuance, Congress gave the department blanket permission to borrow money up to a certain amount. Lawmakers would only need to get involved when and if that limit needed to be breached. After several changes to the rules over the next 20 years, a general limit was placed on all federal debt in 1939.

Raising the debt limit was treated as a routine matter for decades, but beginning in the first years of the 21st century, the issue became more politicized. Since then, the party opposed to the sitting president has often used it as convenient leverage for achieving policy concessions from the incumbent administration.

Why is raising the debt ceiling such a big deal?

The reason why potential U.S. debt defaults get so much attention is because of the disastrous effects such an interruption in payments would have, both domestically and around the world.

Domestically, default would impair the government’s ability to deliver basic services and to make payments to individual citizens and to the many contractors that do business with government entities.

In financial markets, U.S. Treasury securities are considered the closest thing there is to a risk-free asset. Any number of financial instruments and transactions are indexed to the interest rate the federal government pays on its borrowings.

If the ability of the U.S. to continue servicing its debts were compromised, it could cause a chain reaction that would drive up borrowing costs for everyone. The stock market would likely dive, impacting the retirement savings of millions of Americans. Additionally, the value of the dollar would erode, reducing the purchasing power not just of Americans, but of many people outside the U.S. who hold dollars as a reliable store of value.

Where is the disagreement?

Leaders of both political parties in the U.S. have said from the beginning of the current debt ceiling crisis that the borrowing limit must be raised, and that there can be no possibility of allowing a debt default.

However, Republicans in Congress have said that they will not provide any votes to raise the limit — not even for a preliminary vote that would allow Democrats to pass a debt ceiling increase all by themselves. They are insisting that the Democrats use an arcane legislative procedure known as “budget reconciliation” that can be brought to a vote with no Republican support.

Democrats are objecting to Republican demands, arguing that the need to raise the debt limit stems from spending commitments made in the past by both political parties, and that both parties should therefore share the responsibility of raising the limit.

Part of Republicans’ reason for demanding that Democrats use the reconciliation process is that it will require Democrats to set a fixed limit on the debt, thereby giving Republican politicians a massive number that they can use to hammer Democrats during the 2022 election season. Democrats would prefer to simply “suspend” enforcement of the debt ceiling, which would allow the amount of the country’s borrowing to increase with no fixed limit.

What happens next?

The deal that lawmakers announced Thursday would raise the debt limit by $480 billion, which is expected to cover the Treasury’s needs through about Dec. 3. It is unclear, however, when the country would again come close to defaulting. The Treasury has a number of tools it can deploy to postpone default, so the next deadline may be later than Dec. 3.

The deal does nothing to bridge the divide between the two parties on the broader issue, though, and makes it likely that in roughly six weeks, the country will again be counting the days until a catastrophic default.

Only this time, the stakes will be even higher. Dec. 3 is the same day that the federal government will be forced into a partial shutdown unless Congress can agree on a budget deal that will authorize the government to continue spending money. 

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By Polityk | 08/10/2021 | Повідомлення, Політика