Newswire : Sen. Schumer says Senate will vote on changes to filibuster by MLK Day

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

The U.S. Senate will vote by January 17 on whether the chamber will adopt new rules to circumvent the draconian filibuster to enable voting rights and social justice bills, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced on Monday, January 3.
“The Senate was designed to protect the political rights of the minority in the chamber, through the promise of debate and the opportunity to amend. But over the years, those rights have been warped and contorted to obstruct and embarrass the will of the majority – something our Founders explicitly opposed,”  Senator Schumer wrote in a letter to colleagues.
“The constitution specified what measures demanded a supermajority – including impeachment or the ratification of treaties. But they explicitly rejected supermajority requirements for legislation, having learned firsthand of such a requirement’s defects under the Articles of Confederation,” he continued.
Although the Senate is evenly split with 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, Sen. Schumer’s party controls the majority, with Vice President Kamala Harris positioned to cast any tie-breaking vote.
Still, a significant hurdle remains in the senator’s own party. West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has remained steadfast in opposition to any changes to the filibuster, a centuries-old rule rooted in racism.
Sen. Manchin has shot down a swath of his party’s agenda, making it difficult for President Joe Biden and others to fulfill campaign promises to faithful voters, particularly in the African American community.
Recent history showed that when Republicans controlled the Senate, they bent tradition and rules to push through the party’s agenda, including two controversial Supreme Court nominations.
With GOP-led voter suppression laws in states across the country and the continued police killings of unarmed African Americans, many have pushed for legislation like the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the George Floyd Justice and Policing bill.
Both measures would supersede laws already on the books and make it easier for people of color to vote, and hold law enforcement accountable for their actions.
“The weaponization of rules once meant to short-circuit obstruction have been hijacked to guarantee obstruction. We must ask ourselves: if the right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, then how can we in good conscience allow for a situation in which the Republican Party can debate and pass voter suppression laws at the State level with only a simple majority vote, but not allow the United States Senate to do the same? We must adapt,” Sen. Schumer demanded.
“The Senate must evolve like it has many times before. The Senate was designed to evolve and has evolved many times in our history.”
Sen. Schumer continued:
“The fight for the ballot is as old as the Republic. Over the coming weeks, the Senate will once again consider how to perfect this union and confront the historic challenges facing our democracy. We hope our Republican colleagues change course and work with us. But if they do not, the Senate will debate and consider changes to Senate rules on or before January 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to protect the foundation of our democracy: free and fair elections.”

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.”