What do you do when the facts change? If policy makers stick to their priors, they risk inflation.
The Brewing Voting Rights Clash
Republicans are reuniting — and re-energized — as they pursue a longstanding political goal.
The 2020 election was a wild one. And under the strange circumstances, Republicans wound up turning against one another on an issue that tends to unite them: voting access and elections.
Some Republican officials fought to restrict access to the ballot amid the pandemic, while others endorsed mail-in voting and other methods to make voting easier. After the election, some Republicans backed President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims of election fraud, while a number of state-level officials — such as Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia and his secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger — defended the integrity of their own election systems.
But now that the election is behind us, Republicans are reuniting on this issue, leading efforts around the country to restrict access to the vote. And in many cases they’re weaponizing Trump’s fabrications from 2020 to justify doing it. In Georgia this week, the Republican-led state legislature is moving forward with a bill to restrict absentee voting and limit early voting on weekends.
The G.O.P. has one big advantage here: a newly cemented 6-to-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court, which is broadly seen as receptive to restrictions on voting, even if it didn’t support Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. The justices heard oral arguments today in a challenge to the Voting Rights Act stemming from policies in Arizona during the 2020 election, and the court appeared sympathetic to the Republican plaintiffs’ arguments.
Democrats, meanwhile, are equally unified in their efforts to preserve widespread voting access, particularly in Black and brown communities that are most heavily targeted by restrictive voting laws. The House today held a debate on the For the People Act, known as H.R. 1, which among other things would create a basic bill of rights for voting access. The legislation is expected to pass the chamber tomorrow along party lines.
To put this all in perspective, I called Wendy Weiser, who studies these issues as the director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at N.Y.U.’s law school. She took time out of a whirlwind news day on the voting front to answer a few questions for On Politics. The interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Hi, Wendy. Let’s begin with the news from Georgia. What is the significance of the legislation making its way through the state legislature there, and is it part of a trend?
The bill in Georgia is one of the most significant and restrictive voter suppression bills in the country, but it is not unique right now. We’ve been tracking the legislation to restrict and also to expand voting access across the country for over a decade, and right now we have well over 250 bills pending in 43 states across the county that would restrict access to voting. That is seven times the number of restrictive voting bills we saw at the same time last year. So it is a dramatic spike in the push to restrict access to voting.
So we’ve seen this is a growing movement. It’s not brand-new this year, it wasn’t invented by Donald Trump, but it was certainly supercharged by his regressive attack on our voting systems. We’re seeing its impact in Georgia, but also across the country.
Republicans have been talking about voter fraud, and attempting to limit access to the ballot, for many years. How much is the current surge in restrictive voting legislation related to Donald Trump and the conspiracy theories he pushed last year, during and after the campaign?
Many of these bills are fueled by the same rhetoric and grievances that were driving the challenges to the 2020 election. In addition to expressly referencing the big lie about widespread voter fraud and that Trump actually won the election, they’re targeting the methods of voting that the Trump campaign was complaining about. So, for example, the single biggest subject of regressive voter legislation in this session — roughly half the bills — is mail voting.
That is new this year. We’ve been tracking efforts to restrict access to voting for a very long time, and absentee voting has not been the subject of legislative attack before. It was the politicization of that issue in the 2020 election, principally by the Trump campaign and allies, that I think helped elevate that issue to a grievance level that would cause it to be the subject of legislative attack.
The Supreme Court today heard oral arguments in a challenge to the Voting Rights Act, brought by the attorney general of Arizona. What is at stake in that case?
On a narrow level, the case is challenging two provisions of an Arizona law that made it harder for voters of color in Arizona to participate in the election process, but the case’s significance is much broader. The plaintiffs and the Republican National Committee are actually arguing to dramatically scale back the strength of the nationwide protections against voting discrimination in the federal Voting Rights Act.
About eight years ago, the Supreme Court gutted the most powerful provision of the Voting Rights Act, the preclearance provision, which applied to states with a history of discrimination. That led to disastrous outcomes across the country, but it did not invalidate the nationwide protections against discrimination in voting, Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. So this is the next shoe, which I hope will not drop.
At a time when voting rights in America are under significant attack, more than they have been in decades — an attack through racially targeted efforts to restrict access to voting — we need the protections of the Voting Rights Act more than ever. So this is absolutely the wrong direction to go in.
With the Voting Rights Act in peril, Democrats in Congress are moving forward with legislation to ensure people’s access to the ballot. What are their proposals?
There are two major pieces of voting rights legislation that are moving through Congress. The one that was not voted on today is called the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and it would restore the preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act, which requires a federal review of changes in certain states to see if they’re discriminatory. It would also make other improvements to the Voting Rights Act to make it more effective.
The other bill, which was voted on today, is called the For the People Act, H.R. 1. It would create a baseline level of voter access rules that every American could rely on for federal elections. This one would address almost comprehensively the attacks on voting rights that we’re seeing in state legislatures across the country. So, for example, in many states we’re seeing attempts to eliminate no-excuse absentee voting. H.R. 1 would require all states to offer no-excuse absentee voting. Every state would then offer that best practice of voting access, and it would no longer be manipulated, election by election, by state legislators to target voters they don’t like.
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Big Oil 'Friends' the Carbon Tax
Rishi Sunak says scale of borrowing cannot be ignored
Speaking to colleagues before delivering budget, chancellor says borrowing has reached levels usually seen only in wartime
Last modified on Wed 3 Mar 2021 07.10 EST
Rishi Sunak has kicked off budget day with a dire warning to his cabinet colleagues that it would not be “right or responsible” for a Conservative government to ignore the scale of government borrowing caused by the Covid crisis.
Giving the cabinet a preview of his budget plans on Wednesday morning, the chancellor stressed that the cost of supporting the economy and the NHS through the pandemic had taken borrowing to levels usually only seen in wartime.
According to a readout issued by No 10, the chancellor said “we must be honest with ourselves and the country about what that has meant. We are borrowing on an extraordinary scale – equivalent only to wartime levels.”
“He said that, as a Conservative government, we know that we cannot ignore this problem and it wouldn’t be right or responsible to do so.”
With Keir Starmer – along with many economists – warning against immediate tax increases because of the risks of choking off the recovery, Sunak is keen to draw a political dividing line with Labour, portraying the opposition as irresponsible.
Starmer’s caution has alarmed some in his own party, who would like Labour to back some tax increases – on businesses that have performed well during the crisis, for example.
The chancellor is widely expected to set out a package of tax increases in Wednesday’s statement, alongside confirming that key economic support measures, including the furlough scheme, will be extended.
Some Conservative backbenchers have joined Labour in warning against tax increases, fearing they will hit businesses and consumers already struggling to emerge from the crisis.
Sunak told the cabinet that despite the deep downturn caused by shuttering many sectors of the economy for months on end, he was “optimistic” about the future, and would set out investment plans aimed at making the UK a “science superpower”.
And he claimed the government’s costly rescue measures were possible only because of “the prudence of the Conservative government over a long period of time, which meant the country had gone into the crisis with strong public finances”.
Sunak told his colleagues the budget would “begin the work of building our future economy”, by investing in skills and infrastructure, and contribute to the government’s aim of “levelling up” the UK.
Biden Gains Two Key Economic Advisers
The Senate confirmed Gina Raimondo as President Biden’s commerce secretary and Cecilia Rouse as the head of the Council of Economic Advisers.
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WASHINGTON — The Senate confirmed two key members of President Biden’s economic team on Tuesday, ushering in Gina Raimondo, a former governor of Rhode Island and a former venture capitalist, as the next secretary of commerce, and Cecilia Rouse, a Princeton University economist, as chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
Dr. Rouse will become the first Black chair of the economic council in its 75-year history. She was approved by a vote of 95 to 4.
Ms. Raimondo was confirmed 84 to 15. Hours later, she resigned as the governor of Rhode Island. A moderate Democrat with a background in the financial industry, Ms. Raimondo is expected to leverage her private- and public-sector experience to oversee a sprawling bureaucracy that is charged with both promoting and regulating American business.
Under Ms. Raimondo, the Commerce Department is likely to play a crucial role in several of Mr. Biden’s policy efforts, including spurring the American economy, building out rural broadband and other infrastructure, and leading America’s technology competition with China. The department also carries out the census and oversees American fisheries, weather monitoring, telecommunications standards and economic data gathering, among other activities.
Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington, said that she thought Ms. Raimondo’s private-sector experience would help her facilitate new investments and create jobs in the United States, and that she was “counting on Governor Raimondo to help us with our export economy.”
Ms. Cantwell also said she believed Ms. Raimondo would be a departure from President Donald J. Trump’s commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross. “I think he and the president spent a lot more time shaking their fists at the world community than engaging them on policies that were really going to help markets and help us move forward with getting our products in the door,” she said.
A graduate of Yale and Oxford, Ms. Raimondo was a founding employee at Village Ventures, an investment firm backed by Bain Capital. She also co-founded her own venture capital firm, Point Judith Capital, before being elected treasurer and then governor of Rhode Island.
The first female governor of the state, she was known for introducing a centrist agenda that included training programs, fewer regulations and reduced taxes for businesses. She also led a restructuring of the state’s pension programs, clashing with unions in the process.
Ms. Raimondo drew criticism from some Republicans in her nomination hearing in January, when she declined to commit to keeping certain restrictions in place on the exports that could be sent to the Chinese telecom firm Huawei, which many American lawmakers see as a threat to national security.
Speaking on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, denounced those remarks and urged his colleagues to vote against Ms. Raimondo. “There has been a rush to embrace the worst elements of the Chinese Communist Party in the Biden administration. And that includes Governor Raimondo,” he said.
Under Mr. Trump, the Commerce Department played an outsize role in trade policy, levying tariffs on imported aluminum and steel for national security reasons, investigating additional tariffs on cars and placing a variety of curbs on technology exports to China.
Ms. Raimondo and other Biden administration officials have not clarified whether they will keep those restrictions, saying they will first carry out a comprehensive review of their effects.
Dr. Rouse is the dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, and a former member of the council under President Barack Obama. Her academic research has focused on education, discrimination and the forces that hold some people back in the American economy. She won widespread praise from Republicans and Democrats alike in her confirmation hearing, with senators voting unanimously to send her nomination from the Banking Committee to the full Senate.
She will assume her post amid an economic and public health crisis from the coronavirus pandemic, and in the waning days of congressional debate on a $1.9 trillion economic aid package that Mr. Biden has made his first major legislative priority.
But in interviews and her hearing testimony, Dr. Rouse has made clear that she sees a larger set of priorities as council chair: overhauling the inner workings of the federal government to promote racial and gender equity in the economy.
“As deeply distressing as this pandemic and economic fallout have been,” she said in her hearing, “it is also an opportunity to rebuild the economy better than it was before — making it work for everyone by increasing the availability of fulfilling jobs and leaving no one vulnerable to falling through the cracks.”
One of her initiatives will be to audit the ways in which the government collects and reports economic data, in order to break it down by race, gender and other demographic variables to improve the government’s ability to target economic policies to help historically disadvantaged groups.
“We want to design policies that will be economically effective,” Dr. Rouse said in an interview this year. Asked how she would judge effectiveness, she replied, “It’s by keeping our eye on this ball, and asking ourselves, every time we look at a policy: What are the racial and ethnic impacts?”
Tory London mayor hopeful says basic income would be used for 'lots of drugs'
Shaun Bailey tells London Assembly the universally-paid sum would be misused by citizens
Last modified on Tue 2 Mar 2021 19.17 EST
The Conservative candidate for London mayor, Shaun Bailey, has been criticised for arguing people paid a universal basic income (UBI) would blow the money on “lots of drugs”.
Liberal Democrats and Green party on the London Assembly have been pushing for a trial of the UBI scheme, in which the state would grant all citizens a set sum of money on a regular basis, regardless of economic status.
However, speaking to the Assembly’s economy committee on Tuesday, Bailey said the idea needed to take “human condition” into account.
He said: “I’ve been a youth worker for over 20 years. I know some people would absolutely fly if you gave them a lump sum to deal with every week. I know some people who would buy lots of drugs. So where is the care in this, where is the care for the person? How do you get past just universally giving people money?”
Bailey also questioned whether it could “drive prices up for basic goods when we know people could just buy them because the money’s there”. He added he was “concerned about work incentive” and a UBI was not clearly defined.
Also in the hearing was Simon Duffy, the founder of the Centre for Welfare Reform thinktank, who told Bailey it was an “extraordinary claim”. He said: “I’m sure the people spending most of the money are not the poor – they’re the well-off. It’s your City traders and their cocaine habits. Where’s the love for them?”
The Labour MP Wes Streeting said Bailey’s comments had “shown his utter contempt for hard-pressed families”. He said: “He has proven once again that he does not share London’s values.”
The comments are the latest in a series of controversial remarks by the Tory candidate that have made headlines during the campaign. Last week, he was criticised for an interview with the Sun in which he said teenage mothers pushed people who “do the right thing” down the housing ladder. He has also suggested that homeless Londoners could save up a £5,000 deposit for a mortgage.
Labour has called for the Crown Prosecution Service to investigate his publication of leaflets headed with fake City Hall insignia, accusing them of employing a “fraudulent device” to gain undue influence, as described by the 1983 Representation of the People Act.
Bailey, trailing in the polls, is preparing to face the incumbent London mayor, Sadiq Khan, in leadership elections on 6 May. Khan has previously expressed that the UK should explore ideas like UBI, saying last year that it “is gaining support around the world and would ensure everybody can at least survive.”
A spokesperson for Bailey’s campaign said: “Shaun Bailey has over twenty years of experience as a youth worker. He’s been homeless and he’s been out of work. So Shaun won’t take any lectures from career politicians on what life is like for those struggling to get on.
“Instead of scoring political points, Shaun Bailey is focused on building a city where every resident in every community can thrive – and he’s using his two decades of experience as a youth worker to deliver a fresh start for London.”
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Alleged leakers of Labour antisemitism report should not be named, rules judge
Identification would risk harm to potentially innocent individuals, rules high court
First published on Mon 1 Mar 2021 06.13 EST
The alleged leakers of a controversial Labour party report into its handling of antisemitism should not be named because it would risk harm to potentially innocent individuals, the high court has ruled.
The case was brought by the former senior Labour staffer Emilie Oldknow, who had taken the party to court in an attempt to force it to disclose the identity of the leaker of the report, which contained hundreds of private WhatsApp messages. Oldknow has been ordered to pay the Labour party’s costs and has been refused permission to appeal.
Five anonymous individuals, represented by the trade union Unite, who deny any responsibility for the leak, were also represented at the hearing.
The report included details of staffers’ private conversations expressing hostility towards the former leader Jeremy Corbyn or his close allies and bemoaning Labour’s better-than-expected performance at the 2017 general election.
The report, which was originally prepared for the equalities watchdog but never submitted, concluded that factional hostility towards Corbyn hampered the party’s efforts to tackle antisemitism.
Mrs Justice Tipples said that Oldknow’s claim “smacks of a fishing expedition, so that the claimant can cast around to identify potential defendants” to sue.
Noting the public interest in the case, the judge said there was “a real risk that the order sought by the claimant … will release the names of innocent persons”.
Oldknow’s barrister said the party had kept her “unjustly in the dark” about its conclusions from its investigation into the leak of the report. It is now possible that up to 27 former members of staff named in the report could take action against the party, rather than the individual who leaked the report, who remains anonymous.
However, the judge said it was clear that despite the Labour party’s internal investigation, which had identified probable suspects, there were two other ongoing investigations – including the information commissioner’s and the independent review ordered by Keir Starmer by Martin Forde QC. The Forde inquiry has been delayed until the ICO’s investigations are concluded.
Tipples said there was a risk the outcome of other investigations could unearth new information about the order and that Labour’s own investigation did not conclude categorically who was responsible.
“In my view, if the Labour party is required to identify individuals … It will be doing no more than identifying a list of who it reasonably believes are to be the culprits,” the judge said.
“There is therefore no certainty that the information sought will lead to the identification of the wrongdoer or wrongdoers.”
She said there would be “a very real potential to cause harm to any innocent persons as they will then find themselves threatened with legal proceedings, which they will then have to defend”.
This article was amended on 2 March 2021. Mrs Justice Tipples’ formal title uses the honorific “Mrs” rather than “Ms”.
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