In this file:
· In a 50-50 Senate, Kamala Harris can sign off on $2,000 stimulus checks and more
· Riggs Report: Kamala Harris becomes the tiebreaker
· Georgia runoff wins put Democrats in driver’s seat of nation
· Joe Biden could send a message to Black Americans with this reparations bill
· Effects of Senate 50-50 Split
In a 50-50 Senate, Kamala Harris can sign off on $2,000 stimulus checks and more
By David Lightman, The Sacramento Bee (CA)
January 07, 2021
Washington / Kamala Harris suddenly has been handed all kinds of power to get people $2,000 stimulus checks, provide money to fight climate change and win confirmation of President-elect Joe Biden’s nominees.
Because Georgia Democratic Senate candidates Ralph Warnock and Jon Ossoff won Tuesday, the Senate will have 50 members who caucus with Democrats and 50 Republicans. That means once she’s sworn in as vice president January 20, Harris also becomes Senate president.
That means she breaks 50-50 ties.
“Winning the two seats in Georgia is a big deal for the Democrats because of the VP’s power to break tie votes,” said Joel Goldstein, a vice presidential expert and professor of law emeritus at Saint Louis University School of Law.
As vice president under President Barack Obama, Biden never had to break a tie. But Vice President Al Gore broke ties that were consequential: In 1993 on President Bill Clinton’s economic relief package and in 1999 on a gun control initiative. Many of Vice President Mike Pence’s tiebreakers have involved President Donald Trump’s nominees.
Harris has been a U.S. senator from California since 2017, and sought the presidency herself in 2019. Now she finds herself in a position that will mean voting to transform Biden’s campaign promises into national policy...
Riggs Report: Kamala Harris becomes the tiebreaker
Shift in Senate control means an even higher profile
Kevin Riggs, KCRA-TV (CA)
Jan 7, 2021
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — This week’s unprecedented riot at the U.S. Capitol — mob rule temporarily replacing the rule of law — rightfully consumed headlines as the country awaited the outcome of a horrifying assault that brought death and destruction to Washington.
The chaos brought condemnation of Donald Trump’s final attempts to cling to power even from one of his strongest allies, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican, South Carolina.
"All I can say is, ‘Count me out, enough is enough,'" Graham said on the Senate floor Wednesday night. “Joe Biden, I’ve traveled the world with Joe. I hoped he lost, I prayed he would lose. He won. I above all others in this body need to say this. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are lawfully elected and will become the president and the vice president of the United States on January 20."
With that, Vice President Mike Pence formally announced congressional approval of the Electoral College vote, normally a ceremonial procedure that had pushed to the sidelines the other big political story of the week — the Democrats’ successful push to secure control of the Senate.
The Senate is now evenly divided 50-50, the first time that has happened in 20 years. And that means an even bigger role for California’s Kamala Harris. As vice president, she also holds the constitutional role as president of the Senate, which means she can cast tie-breaking votes when needed.
That power will put Harris in the spotlight primarily for contested appointments. That would include President-elect Biden’s Cabinet picks, as well as judicial appointments, including any potential Supreme Court openings.
It’ll be less likely that Harris would hold the deciding vote on contentious legislation, such as a move to universal health care. That’s because in the Senate, 60 votes are needed to pass most bills. There have been efforts in the past to change that threshold, but they’ve been met with strong resistance...
Georgia runoff wins put Democrats in driver’s seat of nation
John Lavenburg, Crux
Jan 8, 2021
NEW YORK — In the midst of pandemonium at the nation’s capital Wednesday, Democrats won both Georgia runoff elections to give the party control of Congress and the White House for the first time since 2011.
Catholic reaction to the news largely aligned with abortion stances. Pro-choice Catholics – or those with a broader definition of pro-life – see it as an opportunity for Democrats to advance legislation on issues like healthcare, climate change and immigration. Other Catholics believe the issue of life is preeminent and now fear it’s inevitable abortion rights will be expanded.
“It’s a huge shift. It’ll be a huge change in the Biden Administration agenda and what congress does,” Matthew Green, professor of politics at the Catholic University of America told Crux. “It creates more opportunities that Biden didn’t have before.”
Rev. Raphael Warnock – senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta – and John Ossoff defeated incumbent Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler by narrow margins in this week’s runoff elections.
The victories split the Senate 50-50, which will give Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris the role of tiebreaker.
Green expects election reform, climate change and coronavirus – primarily vaccine distribution and economic aid – to be the top priorities of Democrats. When it comes to abortion Green doesn’t see it as an issue at the top of the priority list for Democrats in the beginning.
“It depends what Biden wants to do,” Green said. “I think progressives and pro-choice activists will say, ‘now is the time to pass legislation on abortion,’ but I’m very skeptical because the majorities in the House and Senate are so narrow and I think Biden wants to set a different tone than the one set by Trump – one of more cooperation across party lines and avoiding polarizing battles when it’s possible.”
Speaking with Crux, Brian Browne, a political science professor at St. John’s University, said “time will really tell” what’s going to happen. He noted that Biden campaigned on the idea of codifying Roe v. Wade – the 1973 Supreme Court Decision that legalized abortion – making it the law of the land.
Browne also pointed out that “it’s no secret (Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi) has called for a dismantling of stuff like the Hyde Amendment.” The Hyde Amendment prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion. Biden has also expressed his opposition to the legislation.
He added one of the “basic tenants of Catholicism is common ground, and that’s what legislators and voters have to do, find that common ground.”
Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the Catholic social justice organization NETWORK, told Crux she hopes this will “help break a bit of the hyper partisanship that has gone on in the senate for so long.”
“Having by the slimmest margins a Democratic senate that can set the agenda, that’s the big difference. To bring bills to the floor is really important for American people because it’s such a slim majority,” she said. “I also think it might help both sides work in a bipartisan fashion.”
Campbell said she expects a bi-partisan effort to make healthcare more affordable. She lists voter protection, economic relief through COVID-19 and immigration reform as top priorities.
As for abortion, Campbell has a broader definition of pro-life and is “tired” of the conversation...
Joe Biden could send a message to Black Americans with this reparations bill
Experts say the H.R. 40 reparations bill could be an early test for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
By Char Adams, NBC News
Jan. 8, 2021
A bill reintroduced in the House this week to create a commission to examine reparations for the African American descendants of slavery is being seen by many as an early test of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ proclaimed commitment to tackling structural oppression.
The commission of 13 people would be tasked with examining the history of slavery in the United States and the systemic racism that resulted, including federal and state governments’ role in supporting it, and "recommend appropriate remedies" to Congress. The bill, known as HR 40, was reintroduced Monday by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat.
“Given the role that Black people played in the election, getting him nominated and saving his campaign — there’s no reason they shouldn’t support this bill,” Mary Frances Berry, a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania, said of Biden and Harris. “This is one of the best ways to make good on their promise to attack systemic racism and white supremacy and elevate the economic and social condition of Black people.”
Support for the bill has grown steadily since it was introduced in 1989 by then-Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., when 23 representatives co-sponsored it. Conyers reintroduced it every year until his death in 2019, when Lee first reintroduced it. It now has 173 co-sponsors. Despite such support, the bill has yet to be brought to a full vote.
Lee called the bill "a crucial piece of legislation because it goes beyond exploring the economic implications of slavery and segregation."
“The call for reparations represents a commitment to entering a constructive dialogue on the role of slavery and racism in shaping present-day conditions in our community and American society,” she said in a statement. “It is a holistic bill in the sense that it seeks to establish a commission to also examine the moral and social implications of slavery.”
Biden has not endorsed the bill by name, but he has supported a study of what form reparations could take. A statement on the Biden-Harris website states that the administration will "address the systemic racism that persists across our institutions today.”
In his victory speech, Biden promised to have Black Americans’ backs. That commitment, however, has long been tainted by his role in the 1994 Crime Bill, which disproportionately affected Black communities, when he was a senator from Delaware. He has called parts of the bill a “mistake” while defending the legislation more broadly. One critic highlighted Biden’s apparent “career-long commitments to austerity and policing as a solution to our social problems,” while he has also faced heat, even from Harris, on his record on school desegregation.
Experts like Berry say getting HR 40 passed presents an opportunity for Biden to repair his legacy on race and for Harris to change her own standing with those who have criticized her record while attorney general in California.
“If they were to do this, it would go a long way toward removing the bad taste some people have in their mouths over having to support them,” Berry said...
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Effects of Senate 50-50 Split
Democratic Control Shifts Nominations, Taxes, Climate Policy
By Chris Clayton , DTN/Progressive Farmer
OMAHA (DTN) -- While Congress recovers from the storming of the U.S. Capitol, policy options for the incoming Biden administration opened up Wednesday when Democrat Jon Ossoff defeated GOP Sen. David Perdue in the second Georgia Senate runoff.
The Georgia victories by Ossoff and Raphael Warnock pushed the U.S. Senate into a 50-50 party split with incoming Vice President Kamala Harris serving as tie breaker. Democrats will hold the majority in both chambers of Congress and the presidency.
The shift turns around committee chairs in the Senate. Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., will reclaim the gavel. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., is expected to become the highest-ranking Republican on the committee. Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Hoeven, R-N.D., would become ranking member and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., the subcommittee ranking member, would be positioned to become chairman.
In the Senate, most legislation will still require 60 votes to move to a floor debate and final vote. That rule doesn't hold when it comes to nominations so Harris would be able to break any ties for nominees who do not have any GOP support.
Chris Gibbs, a west-central Ohio farmer, chaired Rural America 2020, which criticized Trump's trade and farm policies. Gibbs said he is optimistic about the Biden administration and his ability now to get nominees through Congress after they've undergone proper vetting. "We won't be hamstrung as a government because of nominees being held up," he said.
The incoming Biden team has been reaching out to people in agriculture. Michael Regan, the North Carolina nominee for EPA administrator, met virtually with 16 members of the Ag CEO Council earlier this week. The Biden transition team put out a news release about the discussion, stating the new administration "will work closely with agricultural producers to find practical, common sense solutions" to environmental and economic issues.
John Newton, chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation, told DTN the group is focused on working on agricultural priorities in a bi-partisan fashion. Trade remains a priority, and Farm Bureau delegates will meet next week to debate policy resolutions.
"Trade is a priority, strengthening the farm bill is a priority, access to farm labor is a priority," he said. "I think preserving the benefits of the Tax Cuts and JOBS Act is likely going to be a priority."
Democratic control of the Senate increases the chances high-income farmers could see their taxes raised. The Wall Street Journal said Thursday that losing the GOP Senate opens up that possibility.
Biden's plan before the election called for raising taxes on people with $400,000 or more in taxable income. For high-end earners, Biden's proposal would roll back many of the 2017 tax cuts signed into law by President Donald Trump. That would move the top rate from 37% to 39.6%.
A DTN analysis of recent tax-return data showed roughly 80,000 tax filers with farm income or losses could be affected by a $400,000 or higher taxable income.
Another big tax proposal would raise payroll taxes for earned income above $400,000. Currently, payroll taxes phase out for earners above $137,700 in income. Self-employed individuals, such as farmers, would pay the full 12.4% on those payroll taxes, but then deduct half -- 6.2% -- on their tax returns.
Biden's plan also called for raising the capital-gains rate from 21% to 28%. For people with more than $1 million in income, the Biden plan calls for treating capital gains as ordinary income as well.
Another key aspect of the Biden plan would reduce the estate tax exemption back to the 2009 level of $3.5 million and increase the top rate to 45%.
Right now, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., would take over as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, replacing Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley.
CLIMATE CHANGE ...
REVERSING REGULATIONS ...