This piece was originally published in the March 1, 2021 edition of CAP Action’s daily newsletter, the Progress Report. Subscribe to the Progress Report here.
“The month of March hasn’t ended yet, and it’s about to start again.”
— A person quoted in this BuzzFeed article, and also all of us
The Senate has a clear mandate: Get the American people the long-overdue relief they need.
Tell your senators to pass Biden’s American Rescue Plan, then share this graphic to get the facts out:
IN THE NEWS
- The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine was approved by the FDA under their emergency use authorization this weekend, joining Pfizer and Moderna as the third U.S.-authorized coronavirus vaccine. The company says their doses will be shipping out any minute to vaccine providers across the country, and NBC is reporting that the first shots could be administered as early as Tuesday.
- Wondering what sets this vaccine apart from the others? Well, first and foremost, it’s only a single shot rather than two spaced-out shots, making it more convenient and efficient for providers and patients alike. Another upside of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is that it doesn’t require special refrigeration, something that has posed challenges when shipping and storing the other two vaccines.
- The House passed the American Rescue Plan bill in the early hours of Saturday morning, sending the Senate a robust first step toward economic recovery that includes funding to speed up vaccination efforts and aid to help struggling people stay afloat as we work to get out of this pandemic. The House bill received a whopping zero Republican votes, despite its 60% popularity among Republicans who aren’t in the House of Representatives. The Senate is expected to take up the House-passed bill as soon as Wednesday, and a vote could take place soon after.
- The passage of the House bill came just hours after the Senate parliamentarian decided that raising the minimum wage wasn’t something that can be done via the reconciliation process (in other words, she ruled that the Senate can’t raise the minimum wage with a simple majority of 51 votes). That means Biden’s desired legislative package — and the bill that just passed the House — will likely end up without its critical $15 minimum wage provision once the Senate’s edits are in.
- The parliamentarian’s ruling was a major disappointment to Democratic leadership in Congress and a loss for millions of working people who finally got a glimmer of hope that our shamefully low federal minimum wage of $7.25 might finally get a boost. It led many people to question why a single administrative official should be the determining factor in the fates of millions of workers. This also revived discussions around ending the legislative filibuster, the rule that makes it nearly impossible for the newly elected Democratic Senate majority to pass legislation without getting several of their Republican colleagues on board.
- Two other important pieces of legislation are expected to come up for a vote in the House this week. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed the House last year, would enact several key accountability and reform measures including banning no-knock warrants and neck restraints and ending the practice of qualified immunity. The White House officially threw their support behind the legislation today.
- The other bill widely expected to pass the House this week is H.R. 1, also known as the ‘For the People Act.’ It would enact systemic, structural changes to strengthen our democracy including establishing independent redistricting commissions to counter gerrymandering, codifying voting rights, mandating the availability of early and mail voting, protecting our elections from foreign interference, and limiting the influence money has on our elections. As is the case with most of the changes being made in these still-early days of the Biden administration, these reforms are long overdue.
- Experts say there’s a lot riding on H.R. 1. Right now may be America’s last opportunity to patch up the broken institutions of our government for decades, if not longer. With the Supreme Court set to hear arguments in a consequential case on the already-gutted Voting Rights Act tomorrow, and with states like Georgia quietly passing voter suppression laws, protecting voting rights has never been more urgent.
- The sweeping democracy reform package has been a top priority for the House since Speaker Pelosi reclaimed the gavel in 2019. But it’s likely to face rocky waters in the Senate given that McConnell and his caucus are already running a smear campaign against it. Oh, and the bill is really popular with Americans across the political spectrum, according to this Crooked/Data for Progress poll.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
- In a video released Sunday night, President Biden expressed solidarity with Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama who are currently organizing through steep hurdles to form what would be the online sales giant’s first unionized workplace. Employees at the company’s Bessemer fulfillment center are in the process of voting as to whether or not they should unionize, an effort sparked by concerns over insufficient COVID safety protocols, poor workplace conditions, and abusive managerial tactics.
- Amazon has made no secret of their opposition to the unionization effort, reportedly texting employees anti-union messages multiple times a day and posting flyers full of pro-Amazon talking points in company bathroom stalls. They’ve even been accused (and credibly so) of working with local officials to alter traffic light patterns, limiting how much time employees arriving at work are stopped at a certain intersection frequented by union organizers.
Apropos of nothing, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is worth $193.2 billion. During the pandemic alone, his fortune has increased by roughly $80 billion. According to Inequality.org, if Bezos’s pandemic wealth growth alone were to be split up amongst all U.S. Amazon employees, they’d each get a $94,000 check.
- While he didn’t explicitly endorse the unionization effort, Biden forcefully condemned Amazon’s reported manipulation of employees during the ongoing union referendum and told workers to “make your voice heard.” Directly addressing the intimidating managerial tactics employees say they’ve experienced, Biden said “there should be no intimidation, no coercion, no threats, no anti-union propaganda” and that “no supervisor should confront employees about their union preferences.” He also pointed out the reality that unions lift up everyone, including non-members, and “especially Black and Brown workers.”
WHAT WE’RE READING