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Democratic senator pushes to remove 2 'key agents' of Trump's agenda to destroy Social Security

February 19, 2021 in Blogs

By Common Dreams

Sen. Sherrod Brown on Friday demanded that President Joe Biden immediately remove and replace Andrew Saul and David Black, Trump administration holdovers whom the Ohio Democrat described as “key agents” of the former president’s sweeping assault on Social Security.

Saul and Black—Social Security Administration (SSA) commissioner and deputy commissioner, respectively—are “incapable of carrying out Democrats’ vision of protecting and expanding Social Security,” Brown said in his first statement as chairman of the Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy, a Senate Finance Committee panel.

“As agents of the Trump Social Security agenda, they cut the benefits that hardworking Americans have earned, attacked the Social Security Administration’s employees, denied beneficiaries due process, and needlessly increased disability reviews during the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Brown, pointing to the slew of regulations SSA pursued during Trump’s four years in office.

“No one has been safe from their path of destruction,” the Ohio senator added.

Led by Social Security Works, advocacy groups have been calling on Biden to clean house at SSA for weeks, arguing that the president cannot uphold his pledge to preserve and strengthen Social Security while leaving opponents of the program in key positions.

Last month, as Common Dreams reported, Biden included Saul on a list of acting officials who will lead federal agencies as the president’s nominees are confirmed—a move that raised questions over whether Biden intends to try to remove Saul, whose six-year term does not expire until 2025.

While current law states that the SSA commissioner can only be removed “pursuant to a finding by the president of neglect of duty or malfeasance in office,” Social Security Works argued in a November report (pdf) that Supreme Court precedent set by Seila Law LLC v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau gives Biden the power to oust Saul.

“President Biden should give Commissioner Andrew Saul the choice to resign or be fired and require all other SSA political Schedule C appointees, including Deputy Commissioner David Black, to vacate their offices that day,” the report reads.

Though Deputy Commissioner for Retirement and Disability Policy Mark Warshawsky—whom one critic called “the Stephen Miller of Social Security policy during the Trump years”—resigned last month, Saul and …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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A single defection throws a Biden nominee's appointment into peril

February 19, 2021 in Blogs

By The New Civil Rights Movement

Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia late Friday afternoon announced he will vote against President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the powerful and important Office of Management and Budget (OMB). His vote likely will end her nomination, according to Punchbowl News’ Jake Sherman.

By all accounts, even those of many Republicans, Tanden, the president of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, is eminently qualified.

Tanden’s time in front of the Senate has been spent apologizing for what is without question a large number of “mean tweets,” many of which she has since deleted. She has apologized extensively for them, and promised Senators on both sides of the aisle she would not engage in similar behavior as head of OMB.

Senator Manchin, among the most conservative of all Democrats in the Senate, issued a statement saying Tanden’s previous but “overtly partisan statements will have a toxic and detrimental impact on the important working relationship between members of Congress and the next Director of the Office of Management and Budget.”

Manchin has been known from his first day in the Senate for voting extremely conservative. In one of his first votes as a Senator, after decades of public service in West Virginia, including as governor, he voted against the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell.” He claimed later he was unsure how West Virginia residents wanted him to vote.

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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'The ugly depths of the GOP's ongoing radicalization': Columnist nails Steve Bannon's newest 'crackpottery'

February 19, 2021 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

Four years ago, Steve Bannon was the face of Trumpism when he was serving as then-President Donald Trump’s White House chief strategist — and although Trump is no longer president, the far-right Bannon is still declaring war on non-Trumpist conservatives. Liberal Washington Post opinion writer Greg Sargent analyzes some of Bannon’s recent activities in his column this week, stressing that Bannon hasn’t become any less extreme.

“Trump’s former adviser is now elevating his profile as spokesman for the pro-Trump wing in a way that usefully illuminates the ugly depths of the GOP’s ongoing radicalization,” Sargent observes. “But the contours of this radicalization also impose an obligation on Democrats — to ensure that nothing impairs a full accounting into Trump’s most recent crime against the country: the effort to incite the violent overthrow of U.S. democracy.”

According to Sargent, Bannon has “entered the fray on two fronts”: a “GOP civil war” in Pennsylvania and “a looney plot to impeach” President Joe Biden.

During Trump’s second impeachment trial, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania infuriated Trump loyalists when he voted that the former president was guilty of “incitement to insurrection.” Toomey doesn’t have to worry about facing a GOP primary challenge in Pennsylvania’s 2022 U.S. Senate race, as he has officially announced that he won’t be seeking reelection. But Sargent notes that even without Toomey, Bannon wants to make that primary a referendum on the senator’s impeachment vote.

“As Politico reports, Toomey’s vote against Trump is now the central issue in that primary, which is becoming a proxy battle between Republicans still loyal to Trump and those who think continued devotion to him will damage the party’s statewide chances,” Sargent notes. “Bannon has moved to put his stamp on the contest.”

Bannon told Politico, “Any candidate who wants to win in Pennsylvania in 2022 must be full Trump MAGA.” And Sargent explains what “full Trump MAGA” means in Pennsylvania, writing, “It means absolute devotion to the mythology that Trump should not have been held accountable for his effort to incite the violent disruption of the election that was stolen from him.”

“The rage of the MAGA forces are pouring down on former (Pennsylvania) Congressman Ryan Costello, who is mulling a run for Senate and who suggested it’s a bad idea for county parties to censure Toomey for his vote to convict Trump, as some have already …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer hit back at George Will's attack on student loans plan

February 19, 2021 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

In a column published on Feb. 10, conservative Washington Post opinion writer George Will was highly critical of Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s proposal for canceling $50,000 per person of student loan debt — arguing that the more affluent graduates would be the ones benefitting the most. And in a letter to the Post, Warren and Schumer lay out some reasons why they vehemently disagree with him.

Will, a Never Trump conservative who left the GOP after many years because of his total disdain for former President Donald Trump, was happy to see Joe Biden win the 2020 presidential election. But he also made it clear that he was still a conservative and would likely have some strong policy differences with Democrats in 2021. And in his Feb. 11 column, Will argued that the students seeing the greatest benefits from a cancelation of their debt would be high wage earners.

Will wrote, “Activist government usually serves those who know how to activate it: relatively affluent and articulate complainers…. The five degrees responsible for most debt are: medical and law, bachelor’s and master’s in business, and bachelor of science for nursing. The typical college graduate with debt, $28,500, can retire it in 20 years with $181 monthly payments.”

The Never Trump journalist went on to say, “43 million people have, cumulatively, more than $1.5 trillion in federal student loan debt. But only one-third of adults over age 25 have four-year college degrees. They have substantially higher average incomes than the non-college-graduate majority: $1 million more than a high school graduate in lifetime earnings. So, the Warren-Schumer loan forgiveness would be an upward redistribution of wealth; 65% of the Warren-Schumer benefits would go to households in the top two income quintiles, and only 14% to the bottom two quintiles.”

In their letter to the Post, Warren and Schumer respond that Will “misrepresented the facts about our proposal to cancel up to $50,000 in student debt.”

“Mr. Will might be surprised to learn that student loan debt isn’t just a problem for college graduates,” the Democratic senators explain. “About 40% of the people with student loan debt do not have a college degree. Borrowers who did not finish their degree have a much harder time paying off their debt — they are three times as likely to default. Our proposal would forgive 90% …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The trials of Ted Cruz: Why he thought he'd get away with it

February 19, 2021 in Blogs

By John Stoehr

The trials of Ted Cruz continue. The junior United States senator from Texas was caught flying to Cancun, Mexico, the same week the Lone Star State experienced the worst natural disaster since Hurricane Harvey four years ago. Cruz has blamed his daughters for the decision. (They wanted to get away from the cold, you see, and he wanted to be a good dad.) He tried suggesting he was merely accompanying his wife and daughters for the plane ride, but that was quickly revealed as a howler.

For the last 24 hours or so, Cruz has been making the rounds, doing damage control on local and statewide media. He’s been casting himself as a dutiful father taking care of his family during a crisis. None of that holds water when you bear in mind one thing: United States senators are not normal people. A normal person has no higher obligation than family. A senator does have higher obligations. (Or should.) There are as many claims on Cruz’s time and attention as there are people in Texas. That’s the burden of high office. That’s the price Cruz’s family pays for power. In saying he was just being a good dad, Cruz is in effect confessing to being an irresponsible senator.

There’s another reason Cruz’s excuse is leaky. It’s related to the first. Senators are not normal, furthermore, because they are exquisitely sensitive to their public images. (This might go double for Cruz given his ambition to be president.) Put another way, senators live in a state of interminable fear of their reputations being out of their control. This is a good thing. Democracy benefits when voters frighten politicians. Yet Cruz flew commercial. Airports are public. He’s high-profile. Everyone knows him. A senator exquisitely sensitive to his public image as a man of presidential ambitions seemed to think it’d be fine to jet off to Cancun while voters suffered in the cold. That doesn’t tell me Cruz is dumb. He’s not. That tells me he felt he had nothing to fear.

Why would he? Cruz is among nearly a dozen Republican senators who voted against the certification of Electoral College votes on January 6 that determined that Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump. Cruz stood against the republic after the former president had sent his white-power goon squads to sack and loot the United States Capitol. He stood against the republic even though he knew …read more

Source: ALTERNET