Hold on to your hats, because this is going to be a long one. This week we are letting you know exactly what is going on with the debt ceiling, another potential government shutdown, Republican brinkmanship, and our perennial-headache senators Manchin and Sinema. And we’re asking you to call your senators and Speaker Pelosi and tell them to fight for us.
Once again the Republican Party is playing “chicken” with the economy.
On Monday they filibustered against raising the debt ceiling and preventing another government shutdown. If the debt ceiling is not raised by mid-October, the federal government will default on its debts with potentially catastrophic consequences for our (and the world’s) economy. And at midnight tomorrow (Thursday, September 30), federal authorization to continue spending money expires. If no extension is passed in time, large portions of the government will shut down on Friday morning.
When the same problems occurred early in the Trump regime, Democrats put partisanship aside and supported Republican bills to raise the ceiling and prevent shutdowns. Last week Democrats in the House passed and sent to the Senate a continuing resolution (CR) both to suspend the debt ceiling law until the end of 2022 and to extend spending authorization until the end of this year’s legislative session, giving Congress time to pass the necessary appropriation bills—just as was done in a bipartisan way during the Trump regime.
But now, as they have done so often in the past, Republicans are threatening to stab us all in the back to coerce us into obeying their dogmas. Their filibuster is designed to force a shutdown, and if we don’t bow to their will they will crash the economy by—for the first time ever—causing a federal debt default.
One possible way (perhaps the best way) for Democrats to prevent a government shutdown and protect the economy is for Senate Democrats to use the “Nuclear Option” to carve out a filibuster exception for the debt ceiling and budget continuing resolutions. Another alternative might be to raise the debt ceiling through the reconciliation process, but that is complex and very time-consuming, running the risk that the economy collapses before it is done.
Senate Democrats can use the Nuclear Option to undercut the GOP filibuster if all fifty of them stand together. In the past Democratic Senator Manchin has always refused. But his big donors—Wall Street, corporate America, Chamber of Commerce—do not want a shutdown or the economic consequences of a federal default, nor do his voters, who could lose their jobs and homes if that happens.
So we need to tell our senators to prevent a government shutdown and save the economy by whatever means they can, including the Nuclear Option if necessary.
Contact your senators and tell them: don’t let Republican partisanship destroy the economy.
In the meantime, we still need to fight not just for the economy, but for economic justice.
In August the Senate passed and sent to the House a Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill (BIB) that builds and repairs steel and concrete infrastructure like roads, bridges, transit, sewers, and so forth. The BIB has many good provisions (and maybe a few not so great ones). Corporate America loves it because it provides hugely profitable government contracts that major donors from big business and construction are eager to obtain and it does not raise taxes on corporations or the wealthy.
The House is now working on a much larger Reconciliation Bill that addresses all the crucial issues that are not in the BIB—including tackling the climate change emergency, providing desperately needed aid to women, children, families, and students, expanding access to healthcare, lowering drug costs by negotiating prices, building new housing, creating tuition-free higher-education options, and raising taxes on corporations and the super-rich. The proposals in the Reconciliation Bill are supported by a clear majority of voters (even in red states), but they are fiercely opposed by Wall Street, the rich, and, of course, the Republican Party.
A deal had been agreed to whereby the large Democratic Progressive Caucus would support the BIB in return for a much smaller number of conservative Democrats supporting the Reconciliation Bill. It was on the basis of that promise that Senate Democrats voted for the BIB. Now a handful of corporate Democrats in the House are refusing to honor their agreement: they want the House to pass the BIB without first having a Reconciliation Bill in hand, and they are doing everything they can to weaken the Reconciliation Bill and strip from it vital provisions such as authority to lower drug costs by negotiating prices with Big Pharma. The Progressive Caucus is refusing to go along. They support a Reconciliation Bill that is what President Biden originally proposed and the House Budget Committee adopted last week.
Conservative Democrats such as Senators Manchin and Sinema and House member Scott Peters (D-San Diego) claim that the $3.5 trillion cost of the Reconciliation Bill is “too high.” Yet in the House, those same conservatives just voted for, and in the Senate they soon will vote for, a $7.8 trillion defense bill that is 2.25 times larger. And since they so far haven’t been willing to say how large a Reconciliation Bill they are willing to support, we wonder if their real problem is not so much the total cost but rather certain provisions that their big donors hate, such as a shift away from fossil fuels and towards clean energy, drug-price negotiation, higher corporate taxes, and family tax-credits.
Until yesterday Pelosi stood strong for the original deal, both the full Reconciliation Bill and the BIB together, but now she may be wavering. We need to encourage her to hold the line: no BIB vote without the full Reconciliation Bill. If the full package proves impossible to achieve, then our fallback demand is to retain ALL of Biden’s proposals and provisions in the Reconciliation Bill and to simply lower the total budget authorization for the bill as a whole by whatever percentage is necessary to get the needed votes in both House and Senate. While that kind of compromise leaves a bitter taste in our mouths, we recognize the reality that it is much easier to later raise the appropriation amounts for existing programs that have proven their worth and built up a constituency than it is to recreate from scratch programs that were killed before they could draw breath.
Contact Speaker Pelosi and tell her: fight for the human investment we need!
Coming up this weekend: Women’s March for Our Rights!
Access to abortions and reproductive care have been under threat in America for years. Now a super-partisan Supreme Court has allowed the brutal abortion restrictions in Texas to stand, and the end of Roe v. Wade is an increasing possibility.
Activists across the nation have long fought to protect our reproductive rights, and it’s time for everyone to show Washington that we’re serious about these protections.
As part of a national day of action by Women’s March, join us in a solidarity march starting from Civic Center Plaza this Saturday, October 2, at 11 AM. Check out their website for more information.
WIN: Crucial voting rights laws pass in California!
On Monday our Governor signed into law a raft of election bills passed by the Legislature in the recently ended session. These bills provide for the following:
- Permanently retaining universal vote-by-mail
- Prohibiting foreign interference in our elections and enhancing the Political Reform Act to prevent candidates from using campaign funds for personal benefit
- Reforming the Governor’s authority to appoint US senators
- And so much more!
Enacting these bills into law is a victory for our friends at CA State Strong and countless other state-level activists. And our Assembly members Chiu and Ting, as well as Senator Wiener, voted for all of them. Read our deep dive on these bills.
Voter Outreach Opportunities with Field Team 6
Believe it or not, we’re already about one year out from the 2022 midterms, and it’s time to reach out to voters to protect and expand our blue majorities. No matter your preference—text banking, postcarding, phone banking, or knocking on doors—you can get involved in countless ways with Field Team 6.
Whether it’s flipping or keeping key California districts blue or helping our fellow progressives in AZ, FL, GA, NC, PA, or WI to do the same, there’s something for everyone. And with the GOP doing everything it can to stack the deck against democracy and the freedom to vote across the country, our friends at Field Team 6 will need all hands on deck. So please get involved and spread the word among your family and friends.
Women’s March for Our Rights—Reproductive Justice: Saturday, October 2, 11–12:30 PM at Civic Center. As part of a Women’s March Day of Action, our friends at Women’s March San Francisco are co-organizing a march in the city. Join them to march for our reproductive rights. Find out more on their webpage.
ISF Federal Working Group meeting: Thursday, October 14, 7:30–9 PM.Register here for a Zoom meeting to help us develop strategies to influence our members of Congress and the Biden administration to enact a progressive agenda. All are welcome to join our events!
About this week’s photo
If you’ve seen our newsletter posts on Twitter and Facebook, you might have noticed that we include a photo or graphic with each issue. This week’s graphic is a photo by Sarah Silbiger for Reuters of the exterior of the US Capitol in its news story about the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill.
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