Thursday, October 28, 2021

Last Call For Operation Hawkeye

As with Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky here in the the Midwest, Iowa Democrats are about to get redistricted out of the state for the next decade.

They're ba-aaaack.

For the second time this month, the Iowa Legislature is convening for a special session to consider a set of proposed new boundaries for congressional and legislative districts.

Senate Republicans voted to reject the first redistricting proposal when lawmakers met Oct. 5. That sent the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency back to the drawing board for a second attempt.

The agency released the second set of maps last week. The maps' nonpartisan authors cannot take political factors such as voter registration or incumbents' addresses into account when drawing the maps, but the second proposal appears more favorable to Republicans — who hold majorities in the Iowa House and Senate — than the first.

One analyst, Dave Wasserman with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, called it "a dream Republican map."

Some Republican lawmakers also want to use the special session to pass legislation pushing back against proposed COVID-19 vaccine requirements from the federal government.

House and Senate Republicans each plan to meet privately Thursday morning to discuss how they plan to vote. Privately, Republicans have raised fewer alarms about the current proposed set of maps, compared to the first plan.

"Just as we did with map 1, we will do our due diligence to review this set of maps to ensure it's fair for the people of Iowa," House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said in a statement the day the second proposal was released.

Democrats in each chamber have already met and are expected to largely, if not unanimously, support the maps.

"As with the first map, I’m going to put politics aside and vote for this fair, nonpartisan map," said House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights. "Republican lawmakers need to stay focused on redistricting and approve this nonpartisan map." 
What would the new political maps do if approved?

At the congressional level, approving the new redistricting maps could set up a 2022 battle between Democratic U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne and Republican U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks. That's because the proposed 3rd District would include Miller-Meeks' home in Wapello County in addition to Axne's Polk County home.

Among the other geographic changes in the second map: Linn and Johnson counties would be split once again between Iowa's 1st and 2nd Districts, as they are in Iowa's current congressional map. The previous proposal would have grouped the two Democratic strongholds together in Iowa's 1st District. 
Voter registration in each of the four congressional districts would remain largely the same as under the current set of maps, enacted in 2011.

Former President Donald Trump, a Republican, would have won each of the state's districts in 2020 under the proposed lines with 50.4% of the vote in the 1st District, 51.1% in the 2nd, 49.1% in the 3rd and 62.1% in the 4th. Those are similar margins to what he received in Iowa's current set of maps. Under the first proposed set of maps released this year, Democratic President Joe Biden would have won two of the four districts.

Iowa Republicans say they will pass the maps next week, almost certainly resulting in four Republican seats in 2022. Republican gerrymandering could result in more than 20 GOP gains next year nationwide, and odds are it's going to be more than that.

Democrats will need to be ready and to have something powerful to show to voters next fall.

The Vax Of Life, Con't

The COVID-19 pandemic for the meatpacking industry was far, far worse than either the industry or the Trump regime let on, with figures presented to the House COVID Subcommittee this week showing that the pandemic was more than three times as worse as reported.

Workers at the leading U.S. meatpacking plants experienced cases and death from COVID-19 that were up to three times previous estimates, according to a report by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis seen by Reuters.

The U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee surveyed major meatpackers Tyson Foods (TSN.N), JBS USA (JBS.UL), Cargill (CARG.UL), National Beef (NBEEF.UL) and Smithfield Foods (SFII.UL), which together control over 80% of the beef market and 60% of the pork market in the United States.

At those companies’ plants, worker cases of COVID-19 totaled 59,147 and deaths totaled 269, based on counts through January of this year, according to the report which was released on Wednesday ahead of the subcommittee hearing on the pandemic's impact on meatpacking workers.

That is far higher than a previous estimate by the Food and Environment Reporting Network (FERN), which had been used by government agencies and media throughout the pandemic, according to the report. FERN had counted 22,694 cases and 88 deaths among workers at the five companies as of Sept. 8, primarily drawing on data from news reports and public health agencies.

"Until now, we have not had a full sense of how hard meatpacking workers were hit," U.S. Representative James Clyburn, chairman of the subcommittee, said in his opening statement at the hearing.

The meatpacking industry was especially hard hit by COVID-19 in part because its workers tend to be in close proximity for long hours in often messy conditions.

The new data comes from company calculations of worker cases primarily based on testing done within company facilities, meaning some infections identified through other health providers could have been excluded.

Cases were especially high at certain plants, including JBS’s Hyrum, Utah, beef plant and Tyson’s Amarillo, Texas, beef plant, where around 50% of workers contracted the virus, according to the report.

The subcommittee's findings also included new details of lax safety protocols at some of the plants.

In May 2020 at Tyson's Amarillo plant, for instance, workers wore masks “saturated” with fluids, were not socially distanced, and were separated by “plastic bags on frames” instead of CDC-compliant barriers, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) memo obtained by the subcommittee.

Both Tyson and JBS said in statements on Wednesday that they have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on COVID-19 health and safety efforts.

Cargill said in a statement that it was "saddened by the tragic impacts of this virus on our colleagues and the communities in which we operate."

Smithfield said in a statement that it implemented safety measures to protect employees and tested its workers frequently, uncovering asymptomatic cases.

Officials from National Beef were not immediately available for comment.

The subcommittee report also suggested that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had not done enough to protect workers in the meat industry from the virus.

OSHA staff told the subcommittee that under former President Donald Trump, the agency’s leadership made a political decision not to issue an emergency temporary standard (ETS) that would have required meatpackers to take certain safety precautions, the report said.

“Without being held to any specific standard, meatpacking companies were left with largely unchecked discretion to determine how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, to the detriment of meatpacking workers,” the report said.


The industry looked the other way, the Trump regime let them, and infection rates at some plants topped 50% of workers.

Let me spell that out for you: half of workers got COVID in some of these plants. Half of them. And that's with these companies spending "millions" of dollars on health and safety.

Which of course they are lying about, hence the House subcommittee.

In the end, Republicans make everyone else suffer.

The Good Package, Con't

President Biden is expected to announce where Democrats are going on the Build Back Better plan, but there's no guarantee the package has enough votes at all.

President Biden plans to announce Thursday a revised framework for his social spending plan that he expects will gain the support of all Democrats, according to multiple people with knowledge of the situation, marking a potential breakthrough after months of lengthy negotiations and stalled talks.

The White House plans to detail specific policies it expects to pass Congress after weeks of whittling down Biden’s agenda, according to one of the people. Democrats on Capitol Hill were preparing written details of the revamped proposal for release on Thursday, according to the second person.

The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the plans on the record. The White House declined to comment.

Biden will address House Democrats Thursday morning before delivering remarks from the White House about the plan. The announcement comes ahead of his planned trip to Rome later in the day to begin a pair of international summits.

“The President will speak to the House Democratic Caucus this morning to provide an update about the Build Back Better agenda and the bipartisan infrastructure deal,” the White House said in a brief statement Thursday morning. “Before departing for his foreign trip, he will return to the White House and speak to the American people about the path forward for his economic agenda and the next steps to getting it done.”

Build Back Better is Biden’s name for his wide-ranging plan that covers an array of education, health care, climate and other priorities. A breakthrough in the talks could clear the way for passage of a companion infrastructure measure.

The specifics of what the president would announce Thursday were not immediately clear, nor was it clear whether he would be prepared to announce the support of key Democratic holdouts. But Biden recently told congressional Democrats that he thought he could secure a deal for a spending plan between $1.75 trillion and $1.9 trillion.

Biden and congressional leaders for weeks have said they are working on a revised package to bring the top-line spending total down from the initial $3.5 trillion package they proposed earlier this year. The point of the negotiations has been to win the votes of key Democratic centrists concerned about runaway spending, without alienating liberals whose support is also crucial.

The centrists have also voiced concerns about imposing new taxes that would be used to pay for the plan. Democrats were still trying Wednesday to hash out a tax structure that could be approved by their narrow majorities. Republicans have united against the Democratic plan, and no GOP lawmakers are expected to vote for it.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Wednesday that the House Rules Committee would hold a key procedural hearing on Thursday, a move that would allow lawmakers to eventually bring the measure to the chamber floor.

A breakthrough in the talks could clear the way for passage of a companion measure to invest in the nation’s roads, bridges and other public works. That bipartisan infrastructure bill has already passed the Senate and is awaiting a vote in the House.

But liberal House members have vowed not to sign off until they have a satisfactory agreement on the social spending plan. It was not immediately clear whether Biden’s forthcoming announcement would clinch enough liberal support to pave the way for quick passage of the infrastructure plan.

“We have to have the full legislative text and the vote,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said earlier this week, adding that “dozens” of her members would vote against infrastructure if the House tries to move the two proposals independently. “What I want is the two bills moving together at the same time.” 
If what I think is happening is truly the case, this is Joe Biden calling everyone to the table and saying "Time's up for games, children. We're moving forward with a deal, legislation, and a vote."

On a conference call with reporters Thursday morning, the White House announced the rough outlines of a framework on President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda.

However, there were still so many unknowns that it’s still not clear whether there’s an actual deal with holdouts such as Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on key details.

We do have new information. We learned that the White House has given up on keeping paid family and medical leave in the deal, and the billionaires’ tax appears to be gone. The White House acknowledged that the provision allowing the government to negotiate prescription drug prices doesn’t have enough support.

Those are tough losses. But there’s a lot of good in the emerging framework. First of all, the White House committed to a set of revenue raisers that could help combat inequality and reorient our political economy. And a lot of good climate provisions remain in the bill.
Now, how well that will work is anybody's guess. My gut instinct tells me the chance for this being a fatal miscalculation on Biden's part remains extremely high.

You see, there are a number of Democrats who have gone on record saying they will burn the entire Good Package™ down because their perfect is the enemy of Biden's good: Manchin, Sinema, on occasion Mark Warner and Bernie Sanders, and on the House side, Jayapal, the Squad, and the Blue Dog caucus. All it will take is one senator or four House members and we get nothing whatsoever.
There's no deal yet, but there's now a path to the deal, and President Biden is reminding Manchin and Sinema that he's the guy in the White House and not them.
It's about damn time.

Remember most of all this though: as angry as I am at the Dems, remember that the GOP will vote this down without hesitation, even the "moderate" ones like Adam Kinzinger.

There are no good Republicans.


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