Washington: US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for a US diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, criticizing China for human rights abuses and saying global leaders who attend would lose their moral authority.
US lawmakers have been increasingly vocal about an Olympic boycott or venue change, and have lashed out at American corporations, arguing their silence about what the State Department has deemed genocide of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in China was abetting the Chinese government.
Pelosi, a Democrat, told a bipartisan congressional hearing on the issue that heads of state around the world should shun the games, scheduled for February.
“What I propose – and join those who are proposing – is a diplomatic boycott,” Pelosi said, in which “lead countries of the world withhold their attendance at the Olympics.”
“Let’s not honor the Chinese government by having heads of state go to China,” she added.
“For heads of state to go to China in light of a genocide that is ongoing – while you’re sitting there in your seat – really begs the question, what moral authority do you have to speak again about human rights any place in the world?” she said.
An independent United Nations panel said in 2018 it had received credible reports that at least 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslims had been held in camps in China’s Xinjiang region. Beijing describes them as vocational training centers to stamp out extremism, and strongly rejects accusations of abuse and genocide.
Chinese Embassy spokesman Liu Pengyu said that the US attempts to interfere in China’s domestic affairs over the Olympics were doomed to fail.
As India announced a grim record — the highest daily coronavirus infections in a day, several US lawmakers have voiced their concerns and have exerted pressure on the Joe Biden administration to extend assistance to India.
On Friday, Senator Bernie Sanders said it was also in the United States’ own interest to ensure as many people were vaccinated as quickly as possible, to limit the chance of virus mutations that could prompt further US lockdowns. But he also appealed to Biden’s desire to rebuild US credibility in the world.
“On this enormously important health issue, this moral issue, the United States has got to do the right thing,” he told a news conference.
A separate letter has already been sent to US President Joe Biden by a group of senators including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and nearly 100 members of the House on the issue to waive the intellectual property (IP) rights of pharmaceutical companies.
The United States and a handful of other big countries have blocked negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) involving a proposal spearheaded by India and South Africa, which now has the support of 100 WTO members. The proposal would temporarily waive the IP rights of pharmaceutical companies to allow developing countries to produce vaccines.
The proponents are pushing Washington to change course ahead of the next formal WTO meeting on the issue on May 5.
On Friday, as India hit a global single-day record of more than 300,000 new cases, reacting to a news report, Congresswoman Rashida Tlabib pressed that the US President must support India.
“The #COVID19 crisis in India is a harsh reminder that the pandemic is not over until the whole world is safe. @POTUS must support a patent waiver to ramp up global production now.”
Prominent democrat lawmaker Ed Markey, one of the first US lawmakers to extend his support to India noted that the US has enough vaccines for Americans and they should not deny countries like India that need support.
“India is reporting the world’s highest ever single-day COVID case rise. Earth Day is about the health of the planet and everyone and everything on it. The US has more than enough vaccine for every American, but we are denying countries like India desperately needed support,” said Markey.
Critics say as America rolls in vaccines, there are shortages being reported across India. Lawmaker Haley Stevens made an appeal to the federal government and the international community to step in and stop the virus outbreak.
“My thoughts are with the people of India during this devastating COVID-19 surge,” said Rep Haley Stevens’ tweet.
Congressman Greg Meeks, the new House foreign affairs committee chair, also took to Twitter and extended his support to the people of India.
“Sending my thoughts and support to our friends in India fighting this terrible second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Congressman Meeks tweeted.
On February 5, 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt announced his plan to expand the Supreme Court to 15 judges. He was saved the infamy of actually implementing the plan because some members of the Court switched their support to enable a slim majority opinion upholding the constitutionality of presidential authority and of the laws whose legality the court had questioned.
The Biden administration has sought to do the same with some House Representatives announcing the crafting of a bill which, if passed, will expand the Court to 13 justices from the conventional nine.
Coming 84 years later, Biden seems committed to live up to his worthy predecessor’s record. Their deliberate effort to expand the court in order to make it pliable and more amenable to the ruling party’s agenda makes both presidents’ actions highly suspect and demoralizing. The latter because it implies that both the Constitution, and the foundational principle of US democracy – i.e. separation of powers – are no longer sacrosanct. Worse, American democracy in its genetic and inherited form is discardable.
Roosevelt enjoyed such a massive public mandate that he felt the Court and its judges must either fall in line with his policies or have their judicial interpretation and overruling power diluted. His peeve arose from his experience. During the previous two years, the court had struck down several key pieces of his progressive New Deal legislation on grounds that the laws delegated an unconstitutional measure of authority to the executive branch and to the federal government.
Democrats coincidentally feel similarly peeved with the Republicans’ refusal to allow Senate’s consideration of Obama’s judicial nominee to the court towards the end of the Obama presidency. Republican Senators then wrongfully claimed the high moral ground asserting that the right to fill a court vacancy should accrue to the incoming rather than the out-going president. Republicans added insult to injury when they brazenly went ahead to do exactly that and connived to hustle Justice Amy Barrett’s nomination and addition to the court at the tail end of Trump’s presidency.
Heady with his landslide reelection in 1936, Roosevelt had smugly decided he could not brook any opposition from judiciary’s mandarins. He therefore proposed retirement at full pay for all members of the court over 70, further providing that if a justice refused to retire, an “assistant” with “full voting rights” was to be appointed – presumably one committed to rubberstamp Roosevelt’s initiatives. This brazen effort to ensure a liberal majority court partial to the Roosevelt agenda enraged politicians of opposing leanings including some Democrats, and left many sections of the public disenchanted, leading critics to condemn his ‘court packing’ plan.
Biden’s executive order announced on April 9, 2021 laid the ground for his similarly scheming venture. The order sets up a Presidential Commission composed of not more than 36 members drawn from constitutional scholars, retired members of the Federal judiciary or familiar with it, tasked to examine the court’s functioning and recommend reforms. Seemingly benign, the Commission is the trojan horse to provide a rationale for the intended coup against the high court’s authority. With barely any diehard conservatives and non-Biden donors serving on it, the Commission’s findings are unlikely to be eclectic.
Rather than await the findings of this suspect almost entirely Democrat and liberal leaning Commission, some progressive Democrats in the House decided to jump the gun. Seizing the day (April 15, 2021), standing on the footsteps of the Supreme Court building, they announced the intended introduction of their bill in the House asking for 13 justices. The choice of that location alone can be perceived as intimidation of the court.
Neutralizing the court is one thing and vicious enough. Far more lethal is to neuter it. And Biden’s and Democrat’s plan to tamper with the court, especially without popular mandate, makes it autocratic and egregious. Whereas Roosevelt came in to his second term with a landslide victory, Biden is thinly supported with a barely noticeable majority in the House and a 50:50 Senate entirely dependent on the Vice-President’s assured casting vote. That reflects an equally divided nation. Yet Biden seems to act as though he is not merely riding the crest of a wave but has the entire ocean behind him.
The Democrats’ court packing game is being sequentially played on three fronts. First, Biden’s order unveils his intention to get an outside expert commission’s verdict on court expansion, knowing fully well that the composition of the commission guarantees the desired outcome, i.e., the court’s expansion. The Executive order is followed shortly by four Democrat Representatives publicly announcing the initiation by them of the court expansion bill, and laying bare Democrat grievances that necessitate an “unpacking” of the “Republican-packed” court. Disgusted with Trump and fearing the outcome of the conservative leaning court, they made sweeping unfounded allegations against the court, brazenly indicting the conservative justices currently serving on the court. That theatric announcement was quickly followed by Pelosi publicly asserting that she had no intention of bringing the bill to the floor for a vote, and would await the commission’s findings.
One can bet Pelosi will retract soon enough and go with the flow. Biden or Pelosi unfortunately follow a similar approach of claiming to do one thing but doing the opposite. Hence the skepticism they rightly spawn equally among independent observers, opponents, and supporters.
It is worth pondering why are democrats in such a hurry to pack the court and broadly, to seal all doors to democracy? From crafting, tabling or egregiously passing generous immigration and electoral bills that make voting open to all and sundry and not exclusively to citizens, or throw open doors to hordes of illegal immigrants – luring them to immigrate in return for bounties of free accommodation, healthcare, subsistence assistance, and unemployment compensation – democrats at state and federal levels are ensuring a gullible, grateful and guaranteed voter base not only in the immediate but also in the distant futures.
With thousands of immigrant children and youth and millions of adults welcomed by Biden to live, work and access public services freely without verification or law-abiding requirements, which immigrant for the rest of this century will dare to not vote for Democrats? And why would their children and grandchildren ever choose to deviate and leave the democrat tent?
We would be fools not to expect that well before the next mid-term elections, Democrats will have ensured that both, the mass of voters as well as the Supreme Court are in their pocket.
Ms. Sohoni is a freelance writer and published author.
Washington: The House on Wednesday approved the final version of the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill, sending it to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.
The House vote was 220-211 along party lines. The Senate passed the bill in a 50-49 vote last week after making changes to the original version passed by the House, Xinhua news agency reported.
The legislation, known as American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, includes a new round of up to $1,400 of direct payments for most Americans, $350 billion for state and local governments, as well as funding to directly combat the pandemic. It also extends an additional $300 weekly federal unemployment benefit through September.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that Biden plans to sign the relief package into law on Friday.
“We are moving full speed ahead on the implementation of the bill, because we know the American people need help, and need it as soon as possible,” Psaki said at a White House press briefing.
It marks the sixth coronavirus-related legislation enacted by the US Congress since the pandemic began more than a year ago. An inability to contain the virus has already caused more than 528,000 deaths in the country, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Democrats have touted the $1.9-trillion measure as one of the most popular bills in decades, calling it a bold Covid-19 relief for people across the country, which would significantly cut poverty and boost recovery.
However, Republicans argue that it is too costly, accusing Democrats of abandoning bipartisanship to jam through liberal policies unrelated to the pandemic, as Congress passed five pandemic rescue packages totaling $4 trillion in a bipartisan way last year.
Biden is expected to embark on a media blitz over the coming weeks to sell the bill to the public. The first stop on that blitz will be a prime time address to the American people on Thursday night.
Wall Street and public-sector economists have revised up forecasts for US economic growth due to the massive relief package and the vaccine roll-out.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on Tuesday predicted that the US economy would expand 6.5 per cent in 2021, up from 3.2 per cent estimated three months ago.
The US economy contracted 3.5 per cent in 2020 as the pandemic depressed consumer spending and business investment, the largest annual decline of US gross domestic product (GDP) since 1946.
Washington: Senate Democrats plan to give $1,400 checks to fewer people under a deal struck with President Joe Biden under which every American who filed individually and makes up to $75,000 will still get the full amount before it begins to reduce at incomes above that. But rather than zeroing out at $100,000 earnings, as the last Covid-19 relief bill does, the Senate bill will cut off payments at $80,000, the media reported.
For couples filing jointly, incomes up to $150,000 will still get the full amount. But rather than zeroing out at $200,000, the Senate bill will cut off payments at $160,000 in earnings.
For taxpayers filing as head of household, the new plan will make the full $1,400 available for those earning under $112,500, with the payment zeroing out at $120,000.
The Senate bill will maintain $400-per-week federal unemployment benefits through August.
The Democratic-controlled Senate is expected to take up the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill and a final vote is possible by the end of the week or next week.
As with the Covid relief bill, Democrats plan to push through the sweeping voting and ethics legislation also over unanimous Republican opposition. They passed the bill advancing it to the Senate. If passed, it would be the largest overhaul of the U.S. election law in at least a generation.
House Resolution 1, which touches on virtually every aspect of the electoral process, was approved Wednesday night on a near party-line 220-210 vote. It would restrict partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, strike down hurdles to voting and bring transparency to a murky campaign finance system that allows wealthy donors to anonymously bankroll political causes.
The bill is a powerful counterweight to voting rights restrictions advancing in Republican-controlled state houses across the country in the wake of Donald Trump’s repeated false claims of a stolen 2020 election. Yet it faces an uncertain fate in the Democratic-controlled Senate, where it has little chance of passing without changes to procedural rules that currently allow Republicans to block it.
The stakes in the outcome are monumental, cutting to the foundational idea that one person equals one vote, and carrying with it the potential to shape election outcomes for years to come. It also offers a test of how hard President Joe Biden and his party are willing to fight for their priorities, as well as those of their voters.
Republicans contend that it would give license to unwanted federal interference in states’ authority to conduct their own elections — ultimately benefiting Democrats through higher turnout, most notably among minorities.
“Democrats want to use their razor-thin majority not to pass bills to earn voters’ trust, but to ensure they don’t lose more seats in the next election,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said from the House floor Tuesday.
Washington:House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Monday lawmakers will establish an outside, independent commission to review the “facts and causes” related to the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.
Pelosi said in a letter to lawmakers that the commission would be modeled on a similar one convened after the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on New York and the Pentagon. Pelosi said the panel will also look at the “facts and causes relating to the preparedness and response of the United States Capitol Police and other federal, state, and local law enforcement.”
She has tasked retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Russel Honoré with assessing security needs of the Capitol in the aftermath of the attack. Based on his interim findings, she said Congress must allocate additional funds “to provide for the safety of members and the security of the Capitol.”
She added: “It is clear from his findings and from the impeachment trial that we must get to the truth of how this happened.”
Congress is moving quickly. Leadership sources said a bill to create an independent commission could come this week.
Multiple House and Senate committees, all controlled by Democrats, are also likely to analyze the McCarthy-Trump phone call, in which Trump reportedly blamed far-left anti-fascists for the attack, then suggested the pro-Trump rioters were more patriotic than the legislators like McCarthy under siege.
The call also could be part of any future criminal or civil complaints against Trump, including a suit filed Tuesday by the Democratic chairman of the Homeland Security Committee Bennie Thompson (Miss.) .
McCarthy was among the first leaders to endorse the 9/11-style commission, and he issued a statement on Tuesday both amplifying that call and warning against any partisan lean to the panel.
Republicans are hoping the commission will shed new light on whether the threat assessments — conducted by the FBI and the Capitol Police, among others — were shared with congressional leaders in the days before the attack.
“I want to look at what Pelosi knew, when she knew it, what President Trump did after the attack, and on the Senate side was Senate leadership informed of a threat,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said in an interview with “Fox News Sunday.”
Indian-origin lawmakers Pramila Jayapal and Raja Krishnamoorthi have been named to key congressional committees on budget and the COVID-19 pandemic by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
While Congresswoman Jayapal, 55, was named to the powerful budget committee, Congressman Krishnamoorthi, 47, was appointed to a key Congressional committee on the coronavirus crisis on Tuesday.
The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis was established to provide oversight of the federal COVID-19 pandemic response.
“I am honored to join Chairman Clyburn and our colleagues on this panel to provide vital oversight of the federal coronavirus response to protect the health and safety of the American people as we defeat the pandemic and rebuild our economy,” said Krishnamoorthi, serving as the US Representative for Illinois’s 8th congressional district since 2017.
“I look forward to working with members of both parties as we ensure that the trillions of dollars in taxpayer funds dedicated to our country’s response to this pandemic and its economic impacts are used as efficiently, transparently and effectively as possible,” he said.
Jayapal, the US Representative for Washington’s 7th congressional district since 2017, has been named as a member of the House Budget Committee that plays a key role in passage of the budget. Congressman John Yarmuth has been named to chair the House Budget Committee.
The impeachment, if it ends in conviction which will be a first in US history, is bound to affect the institution of the American presidency.
Even as I write this on Wednesday, there is an impeachment afoot. The House sent Vice President Mike Pence a strong request for the White House to evoke the 25th Amendment which allows a majority of Trump’s administrators to declare him unfit to govern, and remove him from the presidency in its last week. Apparently, Pence rebuffed calls from Speaker Nancy Pelosy and other Democrats to do so. “I do not believe such a course of action is in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with the Constitution,” Pence wrote in a letter to Pelosi. “Last week, I did not yield to pressure to exert beyond my constitutional authority to determine the outcome of the election, and I will not now yield to efforts in the House of Representatives to play political games at a time so serious in the life of our nation,” he added.
Superficially, Pence has a point. The U.S. has never removed a president. Three, including President Trump, have been impeached. The 25th Amendment has never been applied to end a president’s tenure. To do so now, when the outcome of the 2020 presidential election is finally settled, and Joe Biden’s swearing-in is next week, may set a dangerous precedent; and may, as Mike Pence fears, plunge us in an even bigger chaos, possibly accompanied by violence and mayhem.
Still, it’s got to be done.
No president has ever tried to openly and so passionately provokes such vast millions to rebel, after months of claiming that he has been unfairly and illegally cheated out of office. Thousands of Trump protesters stormed the Capitol building at his behest. What was expected to be a peaceful protest, showing support for an outgoing president, turned out to be a deliberate attack on one of our most sacred democratic processes. The joint Congress was in the act of certifying the Electoral College results and declare Joe Biden and Kamala Harris president and Vice President elect. Live, in front of our eyes, we saw Trumpers storm the Capitol. Slogans turned to sleuth; formality to fight. A fight to war. Horrified, we saw our Capital desecrated, its doors battered, windows shattered, and scores hurt. There were demands for the ouster of Nancy Pelosi, and ugly, loud cries for Mike Pence’s head. On the floor of the Capitol we saw a young woman dying, lying in her own pool of blood.
We saw all this. The whole world watched.
So this is not “political games.” It is our nation’s elected officials’ sole responsibility to take appropriate action so that something like this NEVER happens again, to ensure that no one is above the law, not even the president of the United States. What Mike Pence is dismissing as merely “political games,” is much, much more serious. In 2019, Donald Trump rocked the Constitution by attempting to connive with the government of Ukraine to implicate his main political rival, Joe Biden, in corruption. The Constitution forbids anyone from colluding with a foreign power to influence the politics of one’s own country. Trump was guilty of that. He was impeached, but the Senate in its partisan wisdom, acquitted him. This time, for reasons purely personal, he has incited his millions of supporters to rise violently against their own country. This is treason, if ever there was one. How can Mike Pence, or for that matter the Senate let Donald Trump get away with it this time?
They cannot. And this time around, folks in Washington appear to be in no mood to forgive. Take Kevin McCarthy, the House Minority leader for example. Hitherto, he had been steadfastly leading the House Minority in support of the president. In the last impeachment process, not a single Republican had voted for Trump’s impeachment. But this time, the offence is so much more serious that more and more Republicans are moving away from the president. The relationship between McCarthy and Trump is deteriorating rapidly because of what the latter’s supporters did last Wednesday. Kevin McCarthy, who has come under broad criticism for how he handled last week’s events, reportedly sparred with the president on Monday when Trump floated the conspiracy that it was antifa (a fascist group allegedly favoring Joe Biden), and not right-wing extremists and his own supporters, who stormed the Capitol last week. McCarthy told Trump that that was not the case, according to Axios. The House Minority leader then wrote a letter to the House Republicans not to spread the “disinformation” regarding Antifa.
Comprehend the change in the Capitol, if you will, from last week at this time when the joint session of Congress was in the process of certifying Joe Biden to be president, and today. More and more Republicans are joining the pro-impeachment movement. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, has also cast her lot to impeach him.
Multiple Republicans are expected to side with Democrats to impeach Trump for “willfully inciting violence against the Government of the United States.” House GOP leadership is not lobbying members to vote against the impeachment article in another clear sign of the growing differences.
Donald Trump has surrounded himself with loyalists who are willing to tell him what he wants to hear, according to two people familiar with the matter. “They told him lies and gave him false hope about the election and clearly we saw what that went to on Wednesday and the consequences of that,” said one former White House official.
He has shown no regret for his remarks in the months, weeks, days, hours and minutes leading up to the attack, which are widely seen as having encouraged a riot. Trump told supporters at an event near the White House hours before the Capitol was attacked that they were going to walk down to the Capitol and that “you’ll never take back our country with weakness.” On Tuesday, he said his remarks were “totally appropriate.”
Yes, Donald Trump needs to be impeached. He needs to be convicted and removed from Office. Most importantly, since just a week remains of his tenure, he needs to be banned for life from running or ever holding public office again. There is no trusting a man who exists solely for his own selfish interests, and who can do anything, cause anything, just to achieve his own ends. With Mitch McConnel’s saying that Trump’s offences are, indeed, impeachable, there is a distinct possibility that Trump will be impeached a second time in the House, and convicted in the Senate.
The impeachment, if it ends in conviction, might also affect the institution of the American presidency. A first in history of such import is bound to influence history itself. Remember, what happened to the English monarchy after Oliver Cromwell used the government to execute Charles I in 1649. Monarchy was permanently weakened, and parliamentary democracy began to take firmer and firmer roots until Britain is what it is today. Will the second impeachment of Trump unwittingly strengthen Congress too much, affecting the system of checks and balances the Constitution provides for us?
We have to be ready, but Trump needs to be convicted.
Shivaji Sengupta is a retired Professor of English at Boricua College,
New York City. He has a Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature from
Columbia University. He has been a regular contributor to
“I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000, or $4,000 for a couple,” Trump said in a video posted to Twitter.
Trump argued that the relief bill in its current form, which is included with $1.4 trillion in omnibus spending, has “almost nothing to do with COVID.”
“Congress found plenty of money for foreign countries, lobbyists and special interests while sending the bare minimum to the American people who need it,” Trump said.
He noted that small businesses, particularly restaurants, have not been given enough money after their owners have “suffered so grievously.”
The package includes increased jobless benefits, another round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program for small business loans, a direct payment of $600 to individuals, and funds to help distribute COVID-19 vaccines.
The president warned that if the “wasteful and unnecessary items” are not removed from the legislation, the next administration will have to deliver a COVID-19 relief package.
“Republicans repeatedly refused to say what amount the President wanted for direct checks,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted in response to Trump’s request. “At last the President has agreed to $2,000.”
Pelosi said Democrats would be ready to bring an amendment to a vote this week by “unanimous consent,” adding: “Let’s do it!”