Newswire: Afghanistan: after 20 Years, thousands dead and trillions spent, Rep. Barbara Lee proven right

Rep. Barbara Lee

By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

On September 15, 2001, only three days after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the twin towers the U.S., Congress voted to give the authority for military force to President Bush.
The vote in the U.S. Senate was unanimous: 98-0. In the U.S. House, the vote was 420 to 1. That one dissenting vote was Rep. Barbara Lee of California.
Rep. Lee was opposed to giving President Bush broad and open-ended authority.  She would be the lone member of Congress to vote against that authority and she would face death threats and be called a traitor for her vote.
Two decades and thousands of deaths later, Rep. Barbra Lee would be proved correct about what would become America’s longest war.
“I urged caution because I knew even then that there was no military solution in Afghanistan,” Rep. Lee, the one lawmaker who got Afghanistan right, told The Nation on August 30. Lee felt that the 60-word resolution on Afghanistan that she voted against was a “a blank check for any president to use force anywhere in the world.”
In an August 30 statement on the Afghanistan withdrawal, Congresswoman Lee said: “Twenty years ago, it was clear that rushing into war without a clearly defined mission and exit strategy would risk perpetual war. The Special Inspector General of Afghanistan Reconstruction clearly illustrated in recent reports that ‘U.S. officials rarely had even a mediocre understanding of the Afghan environment, much less how it was responding to U.S. interventions,’ and that this ignorance often came 2. from a ‘willful disregard for information that may have been available.’ In a world where the threat of terrorism cannot be ignored, hopefully we will learn the lessons from the past two decades and not repeat our mistakes.”
On August 31, President Joe Biden announced that the United States was exiting Afghanistan.
“Last night in Kabul, the United States ended 20 years of war in Afghanistan. The longest war in American history. We completed one of the biggest airlifts in history with more than 120,000 people evacuated to safety,” President Biden began.
“Leaving Aug. 31 is not due to an arbitrary deadline. It was designed to save American lives. My predecessor, the former president, signed an agreement with the Taliban to remove U.S. troops by May 1, just months after I was inaugurated,” Biden further explained.
According to an analysis by Forbes, it’s estimated that the U.S. spent over $2 trillion over 20 years on the war in Afghanistan. The math comes to $300 million dollars a day, every single day, for two decades.
Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist for NNPA and the host of the podcast BURKEFILE. She is also a political strategist as Principal of Win Digital Media LLC. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

Newswire: Biden defends Afghanistan policy amid mounting criticism

Taliban fighters enter Kabul, Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Monday defended his administration’s decision to continue with the U.S. military drawdown in Afghanistan, blaming the U.S.-backed Afghan government and military for allowing the Taliban to take over. “Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country; the Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight,” Biden said. “If anything, the developments of the past week reinforce that ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision.” Speaking to the American public from the White House, Biden said he stood firmly by his decision and argued that he was faced with a choice to either follow through with the drawdown or escalate the conflict into its third decade and ultimately sacrifice more American lives. “I stand squarely behind my decision,” Biden said. “After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces. That’s why we’re still there.” The Taliban seized control of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, on Sunday following President Ashraf Ghani’s departure from the country, bringing an abrupt end to the 20-year U.S. effort to restructure the Afghan government and its military. Within hours of the Taliban takeover, chaos erupted at Kabul’s international airport as desperate Afghans raced to flee the country. A harrowing video captured Monday showed Afghans storming the military side of the airport and clinging to a U.S. Air Force plane as it attempted to move down the tarmac. In the video, some people appear to fall to their death as the aircraft takes off. The White House appeared to be caught off guard by the Taliban’s rapid advance. Within the past few days, the U.S. was forced to send additional troops to Afghanistan to help with evacuations. The U.S. Embassy, which the State Department had insisted Thursday would remain open, was fully evacuated by Sunday evening. Over the weekend, Biden chose to stay at the president’s retreat at Camp David. “The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated,” Biden said Monday, insisting that his administration was prepared for all scenarios but that the Afghan government and military were unwilling to defend their own country. “American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves,” he said, arguing that if their military was unable to mount any real resistance to the Taliban now, a few more years of U.S. troops on the ground would not have made any difference. As the Taliban took hold of the country, Democrats on Capitol Hill and former Obama administration officials joined Republicans in publicly criticizing Biden’s handling of the situation. While most agreed with the decision to remove troops, they attacked Biden’s failure to help the thousands of Afghans who assisted U.S. forces over the 20-year war effort exit the country before the Taliban took over, and the scramble to evacuate Americans from the country. Responding to criticism from some that the administration should have started to evacuate Afghans and U.S. personnel sooner, Biden said that some Afghans did not want to leave earlier on in hope that it would not have to come to that. The Afghan government also discouraged the U.S. from organizing a mass exodus out of concern that it would trigger a “crisis of confidence,” Biden said. Biden said that the U.S. was taking over air traffic control in Afghanistan to ensure that civilian and military flights could continue. He committed to continuing to help evacuate Afghan allies and vulnerable Afghans and said the U.S. would engage in regional diplomacy and would speak out about human rights, especially for women and girls. Former President Donald Trump negotiated a deal while in office with the Taliban to withdraw U.S. military personnel by May 1 of this year. After he was inaugurated, Biden said the withdrawal would be completed by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks. “The events we are seeing now are sadly proof that no amount of military force would have ever delivered a stable, united, secure Afghanistan,” Biden said Monday. “I will not mislead the American people by claiming that just a little more time in Afghanistan will make all the difference.”

Newswire: Senate passes $1.2 Trillion infrastructure bill; Dems poised to push through $3.5 Trillion budget

U. S. Capitol

 

By Stacy M. Brown NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

The Senate on Tuesday, August 10, passed one of President Joe Biden’s most ambitious pieces of legislation, a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package. The bill, which now must pass the House, counts as the largest federal investment in America’s public works system in more than 10 years. According to the Brookings Institution, from 2007 to 2017, total public spending on infrastructure fell by $9.9 billion in real terms. “While federal, state, and local governments have spent nominally more on infrastructure in recent years, the rising cost of materials has reduced their real spending power. As a result, real infrastructure spending nationally has fallen over the past decade, from $450.4 billion in 2007 to $440.5 billion in 2017,” Brookings researchers wrote in a report. The Senate-passed infrastructure bill encompasses each part of the American economy and should strengthen the United States’ global warming response. The bill increases funding to modernize America’s power grid and it provides funds to better manage climate risks. Aging public works projects around the nation would receive hundreds of billions of dollars for repairs and replacements. “This infrastructure bill’s major investments in transit will connect many more Americans to opportunities,” stated Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. To gain bipartisan support, lawmakers reduced the original amount and scope of President Biden’s initial proposal for infrastructure. The President initially sought more than $2 trillion, but the White House said the paired down plan still addresses major problems including American roads and transit. Still, following a United Nation’s panel of scientist issuing a “Code Red” alert on climate, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), reminded her social media followers that $1 trillion isn’t enough. “This dire warning from the world’s scientists comes as the Senate is preparing to vote on an infrastructure bill that utterly fails to meet the scale of the climate crisis,” the always outspoken congresswoman argued. “Reconciliation is now our country’s best chance to help stop the worst effects of climate change,” she concluded. It’s the reconciliation process that Democrats are eyeing to push through a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint that includes more aid to protect the environment. The budget plan also would expand Medicare coverage to dental, vision and hearing benefits. It would lower Medicare’s eligibility age below its current 65, and expand the child tax credit beyond 2022, meaning the $300 monthly checks would continue. The budget also includes tax breaks for low-wage earners and for childcare. The package provides funding for health care, climate change, education, and it would increase taxes on corporations and those considered wealthy. It helps secure universal education for children three and four years old and makes community college free for two years. If passed, the budget plan would increase the Pell Grant award, and invest in Historically Black Colleges and Universities, other minority-serving institutions, and tribal colleges and universities. The bill also would accomplish a major goal of the Biden-Harris administration, installing the first federally paid family leave program. Funds also are earmarked for home health care, housing, job training, child nutrition, and to reduce the cost of health insurance and medication. Investments would go toward green and sustainable housing, production and housing affordability, and workforce development. Also, millions of immigrant workers and families would gain a path to citizenship and the government would make “the largest one-time investment in Native American infrastructure projects,” a White House official stated. The Internal Revenue would see more money, enabling the agency added resources to collect unpaid taxes. It’s expected that Democrats will employ the reconciliation process, avoiding a GOP-led filibuster of the legislation.

Newswire: White House says $44 Billion still available to avoid evictions

By: Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Editor Note: At press time, the CDC extended the eviction moratorium until October 3, 2021.

House and Senate Democrats are looking to the White House to immediately act to stop evictions after the federal moratorium expired on July 31. But President Joe Biden said a recent Supreme Court ruling means the administration cannot unilaterally extend the moratorium.

For his part, the President has called on state and local governments to resolve the problem.

The White House said the American Rescue Plan provided $47 billion in rental assistance earlier this year, but states and localities have used just $3 billion.

“We as a country have never had a national infrastructure or national policy preventing avoidable evictions,” American Rescue Plan Coordinator Gene Sperling responded in a White House briefing on Monday, August 2.

“State and local governments must do more to help,” Sperling asserted. It’s not currently known just how many Americans face eviction, but leaders in the House and Senate have urged the White House to act.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said she believes about 11 million families are affected. “As they have called upon the American people to mask up, to be vaccinated and to take other public health precautions, it is critical, in recognition of this urgency, that they extend the eviction moratorium,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) stated in an August 2 letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Putting people on the streets contributes to the spread of the virus,” Pelosi wrote.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki stated that the administration had taken further action to prevent Americans from experiencing eviction. Psaki said nearly 33 percent of the country wouldn’t face eviction through August.

“Thanks to the bipartisan COVID relief act Congress passed in December 2020 and the American Rescue Plan the Biden administration enacted in March, state and local governments long ago received emergency rental assistance – a $46.5 billion plan to protect millions of Americans facing deep rental debt and potential eviction during the pandemic,” Psaki continued.

Some cities and states have “demonstrated their ability to release these funds efficiently to tenants and landlords in need,” Psaki further insisted. “But even though funds began to be distributed in February by the Biden administration, too many states and cities have been too slow to act,” she determined.

Psaki continued: “There is no excuse for any state or locality not to promptly deploy the resources that Congress appropriated to meet the critical need of so many Americans.

“This assistance provides the funding to pay landlords current and back rent so tenants can remain in their homes or apartments, not be evicted.

“No one in America should be evicted when federal funds are available, in the hands of state and local government, to pay back rent due.”

While Congresswoman Pelosi has asked President Biden to act, Psaki said he would have strongly supported a decision by the CDC to extend the eviction moratorium.

“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court declared on June 29 that the CDC could not grant such an extension without clear and specific congressional authorization via new legislation,” Psaki said.

Because of the spread of the Delta variant, President Biden asked the CDC to consider executive action. The White House said he raised the prospect of a new, 30-day eviction moratorium focused on counties with high or substantial case rates.

Psaki said the temporary measure would spur states and localities to ramp up emergency rental assistance programs to full spend – allowing every landlord to collect the rent they are owed and ensuring no eligible family gets evicted.

“To date, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky and her team have been unable to find legal authority for a new, targeted eviction moratorium,” Psaki stated.

Newswire : Monthly child tax credit payments start July 15. Here’s what parents need to know

Black family eligible for Child Tax Credit Good news for parents: Monthly payments through the new federal enhanced child tax credit will begin July 15. The credit will go to roughly 39 million households with about 65 million children, or 88% of children in the U.S., according to the IRS. The expanded credit was established in the American Rescue Plan signed into law in March. In 2021, the maximum enhanced child tax credit is $3,600 for children younger than age 6 and $3,000 for those between 6 and 17. Those payments will be sent out as an advance on 2021 taxes in monthly installments that could be as much as $300 per month for younger children and $250 per month for older ones. The credit is per child in each household, meaning a family with three children ages 4, 8 and 12, for example, could receive up to $800 on a monthly basis (A $300 credit for the 4-year-old, and $250 each for the older kids.) “For working families with children, this tax cut sends a clear message: Help is here,” said President Joe Biden in a Monday statement. Here’s what families need to know ahead of the July 15 start. Who qualifies for the maximum credit? Most American families qualify for some amount of money through the child tax credit. The full credit is available to married couples with children filing jointly with adjusted gross income less than $150,000, or $75,000 for individuals. The enhanced tax credit will phase out for taxpayers who make more money and cease for individuals earning $95,000 and married couples earning $170,000 filing jointly. Taxpayers who make more than that will still be eligible for the regular child tax credit, which is $2,000 per child under age 17 for families making less than $200,000 annually, or $400,000 for married couples. Most families eligible to receive the payments don’t have to do anything right now, according to the IRS. The agency will use the information filed on 2020 tax returns first to determine eligibility and will notify taxpayers, Ken Corbin, commissioner of the IRS’ Wage and Investment Division, during a Friday tax conference. For those who haven’t filed 2020 taxes, the IRS will use 2019 returns. The IRS is also working to make a portal available for non-filers to submit their information and receive the credit. The agency also plans on making an additional portal for taxpayers to submit other changes going forward, such as updating family information if there’s a change in custody, which parent is claiming the child and credit or if you have a child during the year. How will payments be sent? As with the stimulus checks sent out by the IRS earlier this year and last, most of the monthly child tax credit payments will be sent by direct deposit — some 80% of those eligible will get the money this way, according to the agency. If the IRS has direct deposit information on your tax return, it’s likely this is how you’ll receive the monthly credit. If you don’t have direct deposit, the IRS will also be sending out paper checks and debit cards to some families. When will future payments be sent? The IRS said that future payments will be made on the 15th of each month, unless the 15th falls on a weekend or holiday, at which point the money will be sent on the closest business day. Families can plan their budgets around receiving the payment mid-month, the IRS said. So far, the monthly payments are only scheduled to continue through the end of 2021. Families will receive the second half of the credit when they file their 2021 taxes in 2022. But that could change — President Biden has suggested making the enhanced credit available through 2025, and other Democrats want to make it a permanent benefit. Can I opt out? What happens if I do? Families can opt out of receiving the monthly payments for the credit through an IRS portal. Those who do this won’t get the monthly amounts but will still receive the full credit they are eligible for when they file their 2021 taxes in 2022. Some families may choose this route because they don’t need the monthly payments immediately or prefer to get a large lump sum of money back from the IRS as a tax refund, said Elaine Maag, a principal research associate at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center “There’s evidence that shows that some people really like getting that large tax refund, and can use it as an opportunity to purchase a large household item like a refrigerator or put together first and last month’s rent so they can move,” she said. To see how much you could expect to receive, personal finance website Grow created a calculator that factors in your filing status, annual income and the number of dependents you have.

Newswire: Senate confirms Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson to powerful DC Appellate Court

Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson

By Stacy M. Brown NNPA Newswire National Correspondent

The U.S. Senate on Monday, June 14, confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. President Joe Biden nominated Judge Jackson to fill one of the vacancies on the District appellate court, considered one of the most powerful courts in the nation. Most view the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia as a kind of farm system for Supreme Court justices. President Biden stated his desire to fill any Supreme Court vacancy with a woman of color throughout his campaign. Judge Jackson’s nomination cleared the Senate with a 53-44 vote. Three Republicans – Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – voted with Democrats to confirm. “I think she’s qualified for the job,” Graham conceded, noting that “she has a different philosophy than I do.” Since 2013, Judge Jackson has served on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, where she has written more than 550 opinions. A 2013 nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Judge Jackson previously served as an assistant federal public defender, and vice chair for the U.S. Sentencing Commission. “We applaud the Senate’s confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit,” stated Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Her extensive litigation experience, service as a federal public defender, and distinguished career as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia make her preeminently qualified for this position.” Hewitt continued:“Judge Jackson, who has clerked at every level of the federal judiciary and is a champion for justice, will be an excellent addition to what is considered the nation’s second-highest court. “For too long, the Senate has gone without confirming Black women to the federal appellate bench. The Biden administration’s commitment to appointing fair-minded jurists committed to equal justice and the rule of law, and who represent the rich racial and ethnic diversity of America, is a welcome departure from the past four years and signals a brighter future for our nation.” Judge Jackson fills the seat of Merrick Garland, who now serves as U.S. Attorney General. With Republicans controlling the Senate at the time and Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) serving as Majority Leader, the chamber declined to consider Garland’s nomination by President Obama to the Supreme Court. Under President Trump, McConnell and Republicans confirmed two Supreme Court nominees, including one pick just weeks before Trump lost to Biden in the November election. This week, McConnell now the Sen. Minority Leader, said he won’t consider any Supreme Court nominations from President Biden. “I’m methodically and intentionally setting aside personal views, any other inappropriate considerations, and I would think that race would be the kind of thing that would be inappropriate to inject into my evaluation of a case,” Judge Jackson told senators during her confirmation hearing. “I’ve experienced life in perhaps a different way than some of my colleagues because of who I am, and that might be valuable – I hope it would be valuable – if I was confirmed to the court.”

Newswire: Republican opposition to Biden’s Infrastructure Plan puts truck drivers at risk

HOMESTEAD AIR RESERVE BASE, Fla. (AFPN) — Trucks began arriving here to pre-position water, military rations, ice and tarps for the post-hurricane relief effort. The trucks, which began arriving Oct. 20, have delivered supplies from Key West to northern Miami-Dade County since the storm passed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lisa M. Macias).

By Stacy M. Brown NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

President Joe Biden proposed a $2 trillion infrastructure plan beyond improving dilapidated roads and bridges across the country. Commonly called the American Jobs Plan, the President’s proposal earmarks $115 billion on repairing bridges and 20,000 miles of highways and roads. Approximately $85 billion would go toward public transportation improvements while $20 billion would improve road safety to reduce crashes, something the National Transportation Safety Board has on its latest Most Wanted List. The safety board noted that truck crash fatalities are rising on America’s highways, and implementing a comprehensive strategy to eliminate speeding-related crashes must occur. Protecting vulnerable road users through a safe system approach and preventing alcohol- and other drug-impaired driving also top the Most Wanted List. The board also wants lawmakers to craft legislation requiring collision-avoidance and connected-vehicle technologies on all vehicles and eliminate distracted driving. While most Democrats back the President’s plan, it doesn’t appear that there are enough Republican votes for passage. “We’re going to have discussions in our committee about safety and infrastructure regarding trucking, probably a variety of things on safety,” U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, chair of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, told NJ.com. “We’ve got a lot of congestion and growth and issues,” said Cantwell (D-Washington). “We have some things that are infrastructure investments, and there’s some that are just very specific safety.” Reportedly, bipartisan talks are on the brink of collapse. “We continue to think there needs to be major progress by Memorial Day,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CNN. “All that is not going to happen by Memorial Day. But we really need to get this done this summer, which is why we continue to want to see, even just in the few days between now and the holiday, some real progress if we’re going to pursue this path.” The NTSB’s push for legislation comes as truck driver deaths sit at their highest level in more than three decades. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s most recent report showed that 885 large truck occupants died in 2018 – an increase of about 1 percent compared to the prior year. It is the highest since 1988 when 911 occupants of large trucks died. Trucking industry groups have offered both their support and skepticism about President Biden’s infrastructure plan. “We commend President Biden for leading on infrastructure and putting forward his Administration’s vision to modernize and revitalize our nation’s aging transportation networks,” said Chris Spear, the president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations. “The health of our economy, the strength of our supply chain, and safety of the motoring public require us to make big, bold investments in our nation’s roads and bridges, and this plan would steer much-needed critical projects along our National Highway,” Spear stated. However, Spear added that the associations did not believe the administration’s funding proposal is politically tenable nor a reliable long-term solution to the shortfall facing the Highway Trust Fund, which is responsible for ensuring that America’s roads and highways continue to be among the safest and most technologically sound in the world. NATSO, the trade association representing the nation’s truckstops and travel plazas, offered its approval for the President’s plan. “We are pleased to see that the Administration’s plan did not incorporate tolling existing interstates and commercializing rest areas, which would harm off-highway businesses and highway users,” stated NATSO president and CEO Lisa Mullings. “NATSO is encouraged by the Biden Administration’s commitment to the nation’s immediate and long-term infrastructure needs as outlined in today’s proposal. “NATSO and its member locations are eager to work with the Administration to advance its infrastructure objectives, including building a reliable and safe nationwide network of electric vehicle charging stations.”

Newswire: Biden: States should open vaccinations to all adults by May 1

President Joe Biden

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

 Just hours after signing into law his massive $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, President Joe Biden addressed the nation and announced the implementation of his next phase of a national strategy to put the pandemic in the country’s rear-view mirror. The President declared that he would direct states, tribes, and territories to make all adults eligible for the coronavirus vaccine by May 1. In his first prime-time address since taking over the Oval Office, President Biden proclaimed a goal of getting the nation closer to normal by the July 4 holiday. “If we do our part, if we do this together, by July 4, there’s a good chance you, your families, and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout and a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day,” he noted as he stared firmly into the television camera. Speaking from the East Room of the White House, President Biden said returning to normal requires everyone to continue wearing face coverings, social distancing, and getting vaccinated. More than 529,000 Americans have died since the pandemic began, and nearly 30 million have contracted the virus. “We all lost something,” the President declared. “A collective suffering, a collective sacrifice, a year filled with the loss of life. In the loss, we saw how much there was to gain. An appreciation, respect and gratitude,” he uttered. Within his first hours in office, President Biden launched a comprehensive strategy to defeat the pandemic. He noted that in the seven weeks since, the Administration has delivered more than 81 million vaccinations and more people can visit their loved ones again. “There is more work to do,” the President reminded viewers. He promised that the White House COVID-19 Response Team has concluded that the accelerated vaccination efforts will enable prioritized vaccinations that will prove far enough along by the end of April that officials could lift all eligibility restrictions at that time. The President outlined a “ramped-up effort” to create more places for people to get vaccinated, enabling officials to reach those hardest hit and most challenging to reach. Over the next six weeks, the Administration will deliver vaccines directly to up to an additional 700 community health centers that reach underserved communities, increasing the total number of participating community health centers across the country to 950, White House officials said. The Administration also will double the number of pharmacies participating in the federal pharmacy program, making the vaccine available at more than 20,000 pharmacies in locations convenient to all Americans. Pharmacies are also directed to expand mobile operations into the hardest-hit communities to reach more people. The Administration promises to more than double the number of federally run mass vaccination centers, run by FEMA, the U.S. military, and other federal agencies in partnership with states, to ensure that we reach the hardest-hit communities in this historic effort. “Finding light in the darkness is a very American thing to do,” President Biden said. He also used the national platform to denounce racism and hate crimes against Asian Americans, whom the previous Administration targeted as the cause of the pandemic. “There have been vicious hate crimes against Asian Americans who’ve been attacked, harassed, blamed, and scapegoated,” President Biden remarked. “At this very moment, so many of them, our fellow Americans, are on the front lines of this pandemic trying to save lives and still are forced to live in fear for their lives just walking down streets in America. “It’s wrong, it’s un-American, and it must stop.”

Martin and Coretta King Unity Breakfast and Slow-ride only in-person event of the virtual Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma

Sunday March 7th was the 56th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama. The Martin and Coretta King Unity Breakfast held in the Wallace Community College parking lot and a Slow-ride of over 200 cars across the bridge were the only in-person activities of the four-day Bridge Crossing Jubilee. The Unity Breakfast, which was held in a socially distanced way with people in their cars viewing the speakers on two large television screens, featured a host of speakers including President Joe Biden, Congresswoman Terri Sewell, Mayor James Perkins, Martin Luther King III, Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Charles Steele, SCLC President, Jonathan Jackson representing his father Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton and many others. Several persons received awards including Congressman James Clyburn, Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff of Georgia and LaTosha Brown and Attorney Cliff Albright, co-founders of Black Voters Matter also made presentations. In his video comments, President Biden announced his plans to sign an Executive Order later in the day, making it easier to register and vote and mobilizing all Federal agencies to support voter registration and participation. Biden who had attended the Unity Breakfast in 2014, when he was Vice-President, said, “We must be vigilant or people will take our basic rights away. The Republicans have been chipping away at voting rights for many years. Now 256 measures have been introduced in 43 state legislatures to cut back and suppress the right to vote and make it difficult for people to vote.” Biden and other speakers promoted support for and passage of HR-1 “For the People Act” which will strengthen voting rights, make voter registration automatic and contains ethics provisions to reduce the influence of money in campaigns; and HR-4 “the John Lewis Voting Rights Act” which would restore Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act, stripped out by the U. S. Supreme Court in Shelby vs. Holder, and again allow for Justice Department pre-clearance of state and local voting regulations. Congresswoman Terri Sewell said she was proud to stand on the shoulders of the many foot-soldiers that made the Civil Rights Movement and Voting Rights Movement a success. She said that she had just voted to approve the American Rescue Plan which will provide financial and healthcare benefits to the American people and mitigate the negative impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. “ I regret that this is our first celebration of Bloody Sunday without my friend and mentor, Congressman John Lewis, who passed in 2020. We must redouble our efforts to pass HR1 and HR 4 to honor his memory,” said Sewell. Sherrilyn Ifill with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said it was important to support HR-1, HR-4 and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, for criminal justice reforms. She suggested calling your Senators at 202-224-3121 (the U. S. Capitol switchboard) and urge them to vote for these important reforms. Cliff Albright in his remarks said, “The movement is not over. As we did in 1965, we must continue to do today.” He urged the crowd to “Push their U. S. Senators to end the filibuster, an undemocratic relic of slavery. We will not be able to pass HR-1, HR-4 and other critical legislation, as long as the 60 vote requirements of the filibuster remain in place.” LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, said. “ I am a child of Selma. This community trained me and taught me to believe in the power of people and when people rise up they can make meaningful change.” Rev. Bernard Lafayette spoke to honor the contributions of civil rights leaders who had died in the past year: Dr. Joseph Lowery, C.T. Vivian, Congressman John Lewis, Attorney Bruce Boynton and Vernon Jordan. At the conclusion of the Unity Breakfast, about 200 cars, with their flashers on participated in a slow-ride across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to the spot where marchers were beaten on Bloody Sunday in 1965. A group of family members led by Rev. Lafayette said prayers and then placed wreaths at the Voting Rights Memorial Park on the eastern side of the bridge.

Newswire: Senate passes $1.9 Trillion American Rescue Plan

U.S. Capitol with flag

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

President Joe Biden promised help was on the way to an America still battered by COVID-19, and after a marathon session of debate known as vote-a-rama and some dissension in the Democratic ranks – particularly Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia—the U.S. Senate finally passed the president’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan on Saturday, March 6.
“Today, the Senate passed the American Rescue Plan bringing us one step closer to delivering much-needed relief,” President Biden said from the White House shortly after the measured passed along party lines.
“When I took office, I promised help was on the way. Thanks to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and Senate Democrats, we’ve taken one more giant step forward in delivering on that promise. I hope the American Rescue Plan receives quick passage in the House so it can be sent to my desk to be signed,” the president continued.
Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared just prior to the vote that “we’re not going to make the same mistake we made after the last economic downtown, when Congress did too little to help the nation rebound, locking us into a long, slow, painful recovery. We are not going to be timid in the face of big challenges.”
The vote was the first significant test of the Biden Presidency. It served as a litmus test of how united Democrats would be after four years of having debilitating Donald Trump-led legislation rammed through a favorable Senate.
During the four years of Republican control, a host of Democrat-proposed bills stalled in the upper chamber in what became known as former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s graveyard.
Sen. Manchin, who has discovered new and swing-vote power, has wielded it mightily, forcing changes to the bill that was passed by the House a week earlier.
The West Virginia moderate objected to the president’s and other Democrats who fought to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. That portion of the bill was removed to facilitate the legislation getting through the reconciliation process. Sen. Manchin held up the vote for hours wanting – and receiving – a change from $400 to $300 to the federal unemployment insurance addition to the bill.
Ultimately, the bill passed along party lines 50-49 – one Republican Senator was absent, and therefore, Democrats didn’t need Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote.
The bill still must be returned to the House for final approval before it heads to President Biden’s desk for signature.
Once the bill becomes law, it’s believed that the IRS would quickly begin sending out a new round of stimulus payments. Single tax filers making $75,000 or less would receive $1,400, while married couples who file jointly and make less than $150,000 would receive $2,800.
Families will also receive $1,400 per child, and adult children claimed as dependents would also receive $1,400.
Unlike previous stimulus payments, single tax filers making at least $80,000, or couples earning more than $160,000, will not receive a check. It’s also important to know that the IRS will determine eligibility based on either a 2019 or 2020 tax return.
If you have not filed your 2020 taxes, the government will use 2019 income. Individuals who may have lost their jobs or whose incomes decreased in 2020 should file as soon as possible. Otherwise, the IRS will use your 2019 income.
Like the previous stimulus, you are not required to pay taxes on the payments, and those owing child support or student debt to the federal government will be protected from garnishment.
The bill allows for the first $10,200 of unemployment payments tax-free, and those who receive food stamps will see a 15 percent increase in those benefits through September. Families whose children’s schools have remained closed are also in line to receive EBT benefits through the summer.
The legislation sends about $20 billion to state and local governments to help low-income households cover back rent and utility bills.
It also contains a provision that allows families with minor children to claim a larger tax credit this year. Those who qualify would receive a child tax credit of $3,600 for each child under six. Families will also receive $3,000 for each child under age 18, up from the current credit of up to $2,000 per child under age 17.
The American Rescue Plan also provides $15 billion to the Emergency Injury Disaster Loan Program, which provides long-term, low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration. Severely impacted small businesses with fewer than 10 workers will be given priority for some of the money.
Additionally, more people will qualify for higher premium subsidies through the Affordable Care Act.
“Today’s passage of bold relief legislation is exactly what Georgians had in mind when they sent me to the Senate to help our state recover from the devastation of this once-in-a-century pandemic and corresponding economic downturn,” stated Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.).
“For months, families and communities across the nation have been waiting for the substantive federal assistance they need to pay their rent, buy food and medicine, safely reopen all of our schools and keep essential workers on the job – and because of Georgia, that help is finally just around the corner.”
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