For almost 10 years, America has gotten used to the business of Republican obstructionism. It took for granted that whatever bill is drafted – whether a meaningful bill to advance change, to fund regular government operations, or to pass badly-needed help to a nation in dire need in the midst of a global pandemic – Mitch McConnell will be there to make sure it never sees the light of day, leaving it to die on his Grim Reaper desk.
In 2019 and 2020, after the Blue Wave flipped more than 100 seats in Congress, the 116th House of Representatives passed over 400 meaningful bills that addressed everything from climate change, to pay equity, to voting rights, to expanding access to affordable healthcare. It passed the most Progressive bills that would have righted wrongs and sought to root out systemic racism, pushing the country forward into a position of leadership in matters of equality and equity. But all was done for naught as McConnell unabashedly, even at times gleefully, touted to the press his effectiveness in obstructing change, making the government a distrustful entity that does not work let alone care for the People it swore an oath to serve.
Today the nation is attempting to adjust getting over the shock that because of a slim Democratic majority, Senate Democrats are now using this fractional power to advance legislation and to push bills on the Senate floor for a vote. Of course that power is limited by the filibuster, but the point nonetheless is that for the first time in over a decade, the Senate is back at work debating on legislation, staying in chambers well into the night and into the early morning hours negotiating on amendments, and well, you know… doing its job! It is shocking to many who during the obstructionist years have lost basic understanding of government and its many levers and functions, including the intricate long, at times chaotic road a bill travels before being signed into law. And we all know that Outrage Merchants are here to muddy even more the waters as their objective is to purposely misinform in favor of pushing their biggest contributor’s agenda. Propagandists masquerading as journalists have been sadly allowed to gain legitimacy in the last decade, pushing click-bait headlines, and attempting to dumb-down a population already in the grasps of Fox News and other outrage fabulator channels while civics classes went extinct.
Yesterday was a busy day. The Senate voted 68-32 on the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act; 60 votes were needed to pass the bill, nonetheless, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pushed for a vote and a surprising 19 Republicans joined Democrats by voting Yes. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) joined 31 Republicans and voted No on the bill.
One of the promises the Biden-Harris ticket ran on was to remake America into a technological-powerhouse competitor. In order to achieve that goal, the now Biden-Harris Administration has defined positioning the industrial strategy by first investing in scientific research and innovation while making sure the consequences positively impact their other goals in foreign policy and national security, both very important after all the damages purposely caused during the Conman years. The desperately needed U.S. Innovation and Competition Act navigates the abuses and influence of China in a political environment where the majority of one party is stoking anti-Asian propaganda while the majority of the other party is counteracting it by writing and passing anti-hate legislation.
Here’s what the over $200-billion U.S. Innovation and Competition Act addresses particularly and most notably:
- $50 billion in funding for the National Science Foundation, the agency that finances a good portion of all federally-funded research by US colleges and universities;
- Funding for research and development in fields of artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and robotics;
- Funding in National Security on the specific matter of fighting money-laundering schemes and cyberattacks;
- Funding for the Commerce Department to create regional tech hub programs with the strict requirement that federally-funded infrastructure projects use certain U.S.-manufactured materials;
- Establish new tech directorate and extensive emergency funding for the Commerce Department to boost domestic semiconductor production, therefore addressing certain emergencies such as a global chip shortage.
The bill is now headed to the House of Representatives where not many expect it to pass without further debate as many members are hoping to push their own bill instead.
A few hours following the vote on the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act , Schumer put The Paycheck Fairness Act on the floor for a procedural vote to move forward with consideration of the legislation. It was filibustered by Republicans and failed to pass the Senate 49-50 (60 votes were needed). Senator Gillibrand did not vote. Joe Manchin voted Yes and put out a press release expressing his disappointment in his GOP colleagues.
Here’s what The Paycheck Fairness Act was meant to tackle:
- The gender wage gap;
- Pay disparities by shifting the onus away from the employee’s shoulders and laying it instead on the employer’s in proving a wage gap is legitimate and based on job-related reasons;
- Employer gender discrimination;
- Addressing specific failures in The Equal Pay Act that made it difficult for an employee to participate in class-action lawsuits;
- Specific funding to help businesses in improving their equal pay practices;
- Ban retaliation against employees openly discussing wages.
This is not the death by any means of The Paycheck Fairness Act as Schumer will be able to advance it for a vote again at later dates. Same goes for all legislation that did not survive the Senate floor, including the January 6 Commission.
Optics. This is all about optics.
Yesterday underscores further the debate around bipartisanship where it became clear that it can be accomplished when it pertains to economics and global competition matters, but not matters that specifically pertain to extending equity and equality.
Beyond the disturbing misogynistic double-standard where Gillibrand has been vilified in the last few hours and dragged for missing a vote on a bill that everyone knew had no chance of gaining a modicum of Republican support while Sanders’s reasons are sanctified for voting along Republicans, proving just how deeply misogynistic the political narrative remains, this exercise has further revealed Republicans’ strategy attempting to show that despite their casual and persistent obstructionism, and despite an important extremist faction within their ranks that would vote against anything and everything, they are still capable of bipartisanship as long as it has nothing to do with addressing the root causes of racism and misogyny in America.
How to navigate this in order to sway enough votes to at the very least handicap the filibuster in significant ways that would help pass legislation Voting Rights, Equity, and Equality? It is fortunate that at this particular point in time, very deft, patient, knowledgeable hands happen to be at the helm leading the charge for significant change. There is a limited window of potential and it must be used judiciously instead of being scattered stupidly; nothing can be rushed, needlessly bloviating on meaningless rhetoric or empty threats, and most importantly, when it comes to beating an opponent that has gamed the process to their advantage, always make a showing of grand gestures of goodwill towards your opponent, an openness for negotiating and listening to their counter-demands, allowing them the time and space to reveal more of their hand and the strategy underscoring their bottom line.
Until you’re ready to officially make your move.
Have a great Wednesday, Politicadoes!