Activism on the Frontlines
- (03/04/21) When it comes to Myanmar’s protests, women have been in the frontlines. Security forces have killed at least thirty people nationwide in the single bloodiest day since the February 1 coup according to the United Nations, including 18-year-old Ma Kyal Sin. Kyal Sin, like many other women at the forefront of the Myanmar’s protest movement, gathered for marches in response to when the generals ousted Aung San Suu Kyi, a civilian leader, and reimposed a patriarchal order that has suppressed women for over half a century. By hundreds of thousands, women have gathered for marches while representing striking unions of teachers, garment workers, and medical workers – all sectors dominated by women. Kyal Sin, like two other women, was fatally shot in the head on Wednesday while another was shot near the heart. To read more about the cause that Kyal Sin and many other women have been peacefully protesting in Myanmar, read here.
- (03/01/21) More than 5,800 workers Amazon warehouse workers at the facility are voting this month whether to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. This mail-in ballot election runs through March 29 and would be a major victory for labor organizing in the South, a region that struggles with union success. This could also be the first Amazon warehouse union in the U.S. and the choice to organize a union is one that President Biden supports.
COVID-19 Relief Bill Updates
- (03/05/21) The Senate will begin debating on Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package on Friday morning. The 628-page bill is set to proceed up to 20 hours of debate, with both parties receiving up to 10 hours each to debate the bill. Though the turnaround seems quick, some senators have suggested slowing the process by several days by reading out each amendment included in its entirety. As previously mentioned, the Senate parliamentarian has ruled out provision to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour under budget reconciliation rules. Senator Bernie Sanders has announced that he will both introduce an amendment to do so during the Senate’s meeting and offer an amendment that would raise the tipped minimum wage from $2.12 to $14/75 over seven years. For more information about what else is at stake, read here.
- (03/03/21) Senate Democrats and President Biden settled a last-minute debate over the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill on Wednesday, choosing to keep the increased federal unemployment benefit payments at $400/week through August while decreasing the amount of people eligible for $1,400 stimulus checks. The bill’s $1,400 stimulus checks will now start phase-outs at $75,000 per year for individuals and $150,000 for joint filers. Despite the delay, this is one step toward bipartisan unity needed to pass the huge spending bill in the Senate.
- (02/27/21) The House of Representatives have passed its version of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 Relief Plan, dubbed the American Rescue Plan, and send it off to the Senate. The bill passed around 2am EST on February 27, 2021 with a 219-212 vote. The bill includes items that provide the necessary economic support for those hit hardest by the COVID-fueled economic downturn, including stimulus checks, $400 expanded unemployment insurance benefits, expansion of Child Tax Credit and earned income tax credit, and increasing Affordable Care Act subsidies for low- and middle-class Americans. Despite the abundance, the provision to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour is dead in the Senate. The Senate parliamentarian has ruled that the raise cannot be passed under the rules of budget reconciliation. These investments are the first of many steps for addressing the disproportionate effects of the economic crisis on women as we look toward policies that mitigate these inequities.
Senate Confirmation News
- (03/02/21) The Senate confirmed Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimundo on Tuesday as the next secretary of the U.S. Commerce Department. Raimundo was the first woman to lead Rhode Island and stops her second term short to join the Biden Administration. Her position as secretary includes interacting with agencies like the Minority Business Development Agency, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. During her confirmation process, Raimundo emphasized the need for the department to address how the COVID-19 pandemic devastated the economy and highlighted the structural inequities facing people of color and families with lower incomes.
- (03/02/21) The White House has pulled Neera Tanden’s nomination to lead the Office of Management and Budget among opposition from key senators. Tanden had requested that her name be withdrawn from consideration and will still serve on Biden’s administration, according to a statement made by Biden. Opposition for Tanden stems from past criticisms via social media directed at congressional Republicans. “I appreciate how hard you and your team at the White House has worked to win my confirmation. Unfortunately, it now seems clear that there is no path forward to gain confirmation, and I do not want continued consideration of my nomination to be a distraction from your other priorities,” Tanden wrote.
Senators Calling for Action
- (03/03/21) A group of senators penned a letter to the Biden Administration calling for a dedicated office for reproductive rights. The letter proposes an Office of Sexual and Reproductive Health that would operate within the White House’s Domestic Policy Council and outlines how such an office would function with arguments in favor of it. The framework for this office acknowledges the plethora of external issues regarding reproductive and sexual health, including economic inequity, race-based discrimination, gender identity, sexual orientation, and more. This office would work toward making sexual and reproductive health care more accessible, including all matters involving an individual’s decision to have or not have children. This letter is calling for increased accountability on issues of reproductive health, which has been in the headlines due to many states voting on the legality of abortions should Roe v Wade be overturned.
- (03/02/21) Eleven Senate members are pushing President Biden for recurring direct payments and enhanced jobless benefits in his economic recovery plan. In a letter announced to the President on Tuesday, the lawmakers remarked that Congress should not sever additional financial support to workers while the economy recovers from COVID-19. The Senators did not mention how large or often the payments would be but hope that the aid would phase out as the job market improves. It is unclear if the recurring payments will win enough support across the Senate, but many Senate Democrats have remarked that they do not Americans to see a sudden loss of support like they did last summer. “This crisis is far from over, and families deserve certainty that they can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads,” the senators wrote. “Families should not be at the mercy of constantly-shifting legislative timelines and ad hoc solutions.”
- (03/01/21) Senator Elizabeth Warren unveiled legislation to create a wealth tax for high-net worth households, called the Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act. This bill would create an annual tax of two percent on the net worth of households and trusts between $50 million and $1 billion and a tax of three percent on net worth above $1 billion. Warren claims that her new proposal could be a new way to help pay for proposals to help the economy recover from the COVID-fueled economic downturn. She suggests that this money should be invested in childcare and early education, K-12, infrastructure, all of which are priorities of Biden and featured in the American Rescue Plan.
State and National Legislation
- (03/04/21) The House has passed a bill on Wednesday night aimed at voter reform and campaign finance overhaul, with a 220-210 vote. This 2021 bill, the “For the People Act”, is a reboot of a 2019 bill of the same name. In 2019, the House had passed the bill along party lines but failed to move forward to the Senate. Now, this bill includes acts like mandatory automatic voter registration, restoring voting rights to people with completed felony sentences, and reversal of state voter ID laws that would allow citizens to make a sworn statement affirming identity if they are unable to produce an ID. In addition to revamping voter laws, the bill takes aim at requiring organizations to disclose large donors and creates a matching system for small donations.
- (03/04/21) Legislators in more than 20 states have introduced bills that would prevent transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports teams in public high schools. The Associated Press has reached out to two dozen lawmakers sponsoring these measures and in almost every case, sponsors cannot cite a single instance in their own state or region where such participation has caused a problem. “This is not about sports,” says Chris Strangio, a transgender-rights attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. “It’s a way to attack trans people.” For more information on how these measures have affected young athletes and what lawmakers have had to say, read here.