OUR CRUCIAL SPRING CAMPAIGN IS NOW UNDERWAY
Please donate now to keep the mission and independent journalism of Common Dreams strong.
To donate by check, phone, or other method, see our More Ways to Give page.
A leading rights group has released a series of blueprints laying out detailed, multi-phased strategies for how the Obama administration should act to repair America's international leadership in human rights and restore the rule of law at home.
The seven blueprints, released to date, are part of a series of strategy papers developed to guide the new administration's decision making on a number of critical foreign and domestic policy related issues.
"It is time to look forward and turn the page on the policies of the current administration which have driven the United States away from its fundamental principles and damaged its reputation as a world leader in human rights," said Elisa Massimino, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of Human Rights First. "The restoration of our nation's commitment to humane treatment and return to the rule of law must be a top priority for the Obama administration."
The blueprint series draws on the organization's extensive body of work on a range of issues to address the human rights implications of many of the international and domestic policy challenges the new administration will face:
Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence.
"MAGA Republicans don't give a damn about the deficit, and today's estimate of the cost of kickbacks for their friends and donors is further proof," said Senate Budget Committee Chair Sheldon Whitehouse.
While congressional Republicans hold the global economy hostage by refusing to raise the U.S. debt ceiling without major spending cuts that would hurt the working class, a federal analysis revealed Tuesday that GOP plans to extend 2017 tax breaks for the wealthy could add nearly $3.5 trillion to the nation's deficit.
The relevant section of the new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report focuses on the potential extensions of policies from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which Republican lawmakers passed and then-President Donald Trump signed in late 2017.
Just extending the TCJA's changes to individual income tax provisions would cost almost $2.5 trillion through 2033, according to the CBO and Joint Committee on Taxation. Debt service costs would tack on another $278 billion.
If three other policies—higher estate and gift tax exemptions, changes to the tax treatment of investment costs, and certain business tax provisions—are extended plus debt service costs are included, the total hits nearly $3.5 trillion.
"MAGA Republicans don't give a damn about the deficit, and today's estimate of the cost of kickbacks for their friends and donors is further proof," said Senate Budget Committee Chair Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). "Republicans racked up the national debt by giving tax breaks to their billionaire buddies, and now they want everyone else to pay for them. It is one of life's great enigmas that Republicans can keep a straight face while they simultaneously cite the deficit to extort massive spending cuts to critical programs and support a bill that would blow up deficits to extend trillions in tax cuts for the people who need them the least."
"Republicans who say they're worried about the deficit have brought our economy on the brink of default, and yet they want to run up the debt by locking in the Trump tax law that remains horribly skewed toward corporations and the wealthy."
Whitehouse and Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) requested the report. Wyden said Tuesday that "$3.5 trillion is an eye-popping long-term price tag for the Trump tax law that Republicans swore up and down would pay for itself."
"Republicans who say they're worried about the deficit have brought our economy on the brink of default, and yet they want to run up the debt by locking in the Trump tax law that remains horribly skewed toward corporations and the wealthy," he added. "The Republican game plan is clear. For every penny they give in tax handouts to the rich, down the road they're going to demand equivalent cuts that boot people off their health care, increase child hunger, and raise the cost of living for typical Americans."
After economist Marc Goldwein noted the $3.5 trillion figure and a relevant graph from the report on Twitter, the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means Democrats tweeted an apparent dig at their GOP colleagues: "This doesn't sound very fiscally responsible to us."
\u201cThis doesn't sound very fiscally responsible to us \ud83e\udd14\ud83e\udd14\ud83e\udd14\u201d— Ways and Means Democrats (@Ways and Means Democrats) 1684262841
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has said that the so-called Limit, Save, Grow Act (H.R. 2811), which the chamber's Republicans passed last month, "puts us on a fiscally responsible path." The bill would raise the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion or until March 31, 2024, whichever comes first, but also impose severe spending cuts.
McCarthy and other congressional leaders met with President Joe Biden at the White House Tuesday afternoon, and pressure for a resolution is mounting, with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and other experts projecting that the U.S. could face its first-ever default as early as June 1.
While Biden—whose March budget blueprint called for major social investments along with tax hikes targeting rich individuals and corporations—has publicly insisted on a clean debt limit hike, fears are growing that he'll cave to GOP lawmakers' demands to prevent a default, which economists warn would be catastrophic for the global economy.
The Limit, Save, Grow Act does not include TCJA extensions, but it would repeal billions of dollars in Inflation Reduction Act funding for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to crack down on rich tax cheats, which the CBO warned last month could increase the deficit by $120 billion over the next decade.
In a Washington Post opinion piece on Tuesday, economists Natasha Sarin and Mark Mazur explained the true cost could be far higher:
In new work, we estimate how much additional revenue the IRS is likely to collect as a result of the extra funding and, conversely, how much revenue would be lost if House Republicans' proposal became law. We conclude, very conservatively, that the additional funding would shrink the tax gap (the difference between taxes owed and taxes collected) by nearly $500 billion over the next 10 years—and about $1.5 trillion over the course of the next two decades. Without this funding, federal budget deficits would increase by approximately this amount.
What drives the differences between our estimates and official government estimates? We were both engaged with these issues as Treasury Department officials during the period that the Biden administration was making the case for adequately funding the IRS (Mazur as acting assistant secretary for tax policy, Sarin as Treasury's counselor for tax policy and implementation). So, we saw firsthand the ways that the impact of additional investment in the IRS is underestimated or even ignored by government estimators.
In other words, the pair argued, "House Republicans' newfound fiscal responsibility isn't all it's cracked up to be: Theirdebt ceiling demands include a proposal that will balloon the debt—and by much more than previously understood."
Linking to their Post piece, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) similarly tweeted that Republicans "don't care about 'fiscal responsibility.' They want to force extreme cuts to veterans' benefits, nutrition assistance for seniors and kids, and affordable housing programs—all so they can continue to cut taxes for the wealthy and well-connected."
\u201cMAGA Republicans don't want you to know: Their plan wouldn\u2019t solve the default crisis\u2014it would WORSEN it.\nhttps://t.co/1XAFGrG1MT\u201d— CAP Action (@CAP Action) 1684274520
As Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy federal policy analyst Joe Hughes highlighted in a blog post earlier this month, rescinding the IRS funds isn't the only way Republicans in Congress plan to serve their superrich benefactors—the GOP is also working to extend 2017 tax cuts.
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) in February introduced the TCJA Permanency Act (H.R. 976), which "would dramatically increase deficits and would primarily benefit the richest Americans," Hughes wrote, noting that the bill's sponsor is "one of the wealthiest members of Congress."
As he detailed:
The top 5% would receive $112.6 billion in tax cuts in the first year, more than the entire bottom 80%. Under this plan, the richest 1% would save nearly $26,000 on their taxes on average.
When Republicans passed the 2017 tax law, many of its provisions were set to expire at the end of 2025. The lawmakers who wrote the bill didn't actually want those provisions to expire, but they needed to make their bill appear less costly than it actually was so they structured them as temporary measures that they could later extend. (Even as enacted without extension of the temporary provisions, the bill was enormously expensive, increasing deficits by $1.5 trillion.)
When the permanent and temporary provisions of the bill are taken together, its effects are massively tilted toward the rich. The top 1% will receive a benefit of more than $37,000 in 2026 while the bottom 20% will pay more on average. This is an entirely unreasonable proposal for so-called "budget hawks" to put forth in the middle of a conversation about lowering public debt.
"Astoundingly, this is not the only wasteful tax cut proposal floating around House GOP chambers," Hughes continued, citing Roll Call. "Republican tax writers are readying a separate package of tax breaks for big businesses. This package looks to be mostly a refurbishment of a plan that failed to pass at the end of last Congress, largely because Democrats would only get on board if it included support for low-income children."
Roll Callreported in late April that "the bill would revive three tax benefits for businesses that lapsed or began to phase down under the GOP's 2017 tax law, which Republicans have been eager to extend. Tax writers are still working on the package, but it could include a broader set of provisions."
The outlet added that "Republicans are aiming to unveil the legislation in May or June, according to a source familiar with the discussions, though it wasn't immediately clear how quickly it would reach the floor."
Democrats control not only the White House but also the Senate, though tax cuts passed under former Republican President George W. Bush were made permanent with bipartisan support. As Bobby Kogan, senior director of federal budget policy at the Center for American Progress, recently pointed out, "If not for the Bush tax cuts and their extensions—as well as the Trump tax cuts—revenues would be on track to keep pace with spending indefinitely, and the debt ratio (debt as a percentage of the economy) would be declining."
"Instead, these tax cuts have added $10 trillion to the debt since their enactment and are responsible for 57% of the increase in the debt ratio since 2001, and more than 90% of the increase in the debt ratio if the one-time costs of bills responding to Covid-19 and the Great Recession are excluded," Kogan wrote. "Eventually, the tax cuts are projected to grow to more than 100% of the increase."
Blasting attempts to jam through "harmful cuts" to food aid as "reckless," Sen. John Fetterman said that "it's time to stop playing games and guarantee the full faith and credit of the United States."
With a possible first-ever U.S. debt default looming closer by the day, progressive lawmakers and groups on Tuesday implored President Joe Biden to stand firm in the face of what some called "Republican budget sabotage" while stepping up warnings about the harmful impacts that potential spending cuts could have on the most vulnerable Americans.
Biden has unnerved progressives in recent days by signaling an openness to "cutting spending" and including more stringent work requirements for recipients of federal safety net programs in order to reach a debt ceiling compromise with Republicans.
"We have made clear publicly and privately that not just work requirements but spending cuts, broad spending cuts, these are off the table," Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) toldHuffPost on Tuesday as the president prepared to meet with congressional leaders.
Echoing Jayapal, Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) said in a statement that "I cannot in good conscience support a debt ceiling proposal that pushes people into poverty."
\u201cI sure didn\u2019t come to Washington to take vital assistance away from working people at the same time big bank CEOs nearly crash the economy and get to jet off to Hawaii scot-free.\n\nI cannot in good conscience support a debt ceiling proposal that pushes people into poverty.\u201d— Senator John Fetterman (@Senator John Fetterman) 1684271014
"We're already addressing SNAP in a bipartisan way in the Farm Bill," Fetterman added, referring to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. "But with default looming, jamming through harmful cuts to that program is reckless. It's time to stop playing games and guarantee the full faith and credit of the United States."
A Congressional Budget Office analysis published Tuesday estimated that Republican plans to extend 2017 tax breaks for the wealthy could add nearly $3.5 trillion to the national deficit.
Claire Guzdar, a spokesperson for the progressive ProsperUS coalition, said in a statement Tuesday that "we urge President Biden to oppose any deal that would hurt the most vulnerable people in our economy."
"If House Republicans were serious about reducing deficits and raising revenue, they would stop shielding the wealthy and big corporations from paying their fair share in taxes," Guzdar added.
\u201cThe debt ceiling must be raised to safeguard the lifelines of Medicaid and SNAP. Cutting these programs would leave millions without essential services. Raising the debt ceiling is crucial to protect the most vulnerable members of our society.\nTake action: https://t.co/tzUl1RGfWl\u201d— COPAL (@COPAL) 1684275481
With the U.S. potentially just two weeks away from a catastrophic default, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) "is busy elevating the economic threat level by drawing a red line at one of the more unreasonable and harmful MAGA demands," warned Liz Zelnick, director of the economic and corporate power division at the watchdog Accountable.US.
"McCarthy is busy elevating the economic threat level by drawing a red line at one of the more unreasonable and harmful MAGA demands," she continued.
"Apparently the best the MAGA majority can do on any default deal is to make the lives of low-income seniors, single moms, and veterans more difficult while they protect every penny of the costly Trump tax breaks for billionaires and big corporations that never trickled down to anyone else," Zelnick added.
\u201cNEW BLOG: Instead of easing the squeeze on working families\u2019 budgets, the @HouseGOP is using the debt default crisis to make raising a family even more unaffordable.\n\nhttps://t.co/jNboSz1NRF\u201d— Accountable.US (@Accountable.US) 1684268520
McCarthy (R-Calif.) said that Tuesday's White House meeting was "a little more productive" than previous talks last week, but that the two sides were still "a long way apart."
As part of their debt limit bill, which the House approved on a party-line vote last month, Republicans proposed a new limit on Medicaid benefits for unemployed adults without dependents, as well as expanding existing "work requirements" for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The bill would limit SNAP benefits to unemployed childless adults up to age 55 instead of limiting them only to those younger than 50, as under current law.
Most households that receive SNAP benefits include minors, people with disabilities, and seniors. The Republican proposal only targets able-bodied adults without dependents.
The White House—which on Tuesday tapped Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young and presidential adviser Steve Ricchetti to lead debt ceiling negotiations going forward—called the meeting "productive and direct."
"The president emphasized that while more work remains on a range of difficult issues, he's optimistic that there is a path to a responsible, bipartisan budget agreement if both sides negotiate in good faith and recognize that neither side will get everything it wants," the White House said in a statement.
\u201cPresident Biden on Tuesday debt limit negotiations with congressional leaders:\n\n\u201cIt\u2019s disappointing that in our discussions congressional Republicans have not been willing to discuss raising revenues, but the policy differences \u2026 should not stop Congress from avoiding default.\u201d\u201d— The Recount (@The Recount) 1684272662
According toGovernment Executive:
Biden and congressional Democrats previously refused to negotiate and demanded a "clean" debt limit increase without conditions. The Senate is not expected to take up the House's bill, and the White House has said Biden would veto it. The Biden administration has warned the Republican plan would force furloughs across federal agencies and, in at least some cases, layoffs of federal workers.
The White House said Tuesday that Biden will still travel to Japan on Wednesday to attend the Group of Seven (G7) summit in Hiroshima. However, the president will curtail what was meant to be a multi-nation trip to Asia and Australia and return to Washington, D.C. on Sunday "to be back for the final negotiations with congressional leaders."
Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) told HuffPost that he believed Biden shouldn't be negotiating with Republicans at all.
"I'm frustrated that we even have to engage in these conversations because it gives credibility to what Republicans are trying to do, which is pretty much hold the global economy hostage to fake as if they are fiscally responsible when they're not," he said.
\u201cNEW: Progressives warn of "huge backlash" if Biden concedes too much in debt ceiling talks.\n\nAOC says WH can "expect pushback on nearly any significant concession."\n\n"It makes us look weak and like we don't know what we're doing," says Bowman.\n\n@Axios https://t.co/hloFhSueSG\u201d— Andrew Solender (@Andrew Solender) 1684199170
Referring to McCarthy, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said that she understands that Biden is "in a difficult position with such a man who is willing to inflict so much damage on the nation."
"But we cannot accept cuts that will do real damage to millions of people in this country at the same moment that every billionaire, every billionaire corporation, and every loophole to protect those billionaires and billionaire corporations is carefully protected," she added.
A day after she said that the U.S. government would only be able to pay its bills through the end of the month without a debt limit increase, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned Tuesday that a default would have severe consequences, including a likely recession.
"It is very conceivable that we'd see a number of financial markets break—with worldwide panic triggering margin calls, runs, and fire sales," Yellen said. "Our economy would suddenly find itself in an unprecedented economic and financial storm, and the resulting income shock could lead to a recession that destroys many American jobs and businesses."
"Our freedom to make decisions about our lives, bodies, and futures is at stake," said the head of Planned Parenthood, which supports the legislation. "Everything is on the line: abortion rights, voting rights, LGBTQ+ rights, our democratic institutions, and our bodily autonomy."
Citing a "crisis of legitimacy" they say is plaguing the U.S. Supreme Court, a group of congressional Democrats on Tuesday reintroduced legislation aimed at thwarting Republican attacks on democracy by expanding the nation's top court from nine to 13 justices.
Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) reintroduced the Judiciary Act outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., where they held a press conference.
"The nation's highest court today faces a crisis of legitimacy that began when Senate Republicans first abandoned norms and precedent to block the confirmation of then-President [Barack] Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, only to later ram through the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett a mere 10 days before Election Day 2020, and while millions of Americans were already casting ballots," the lawmakers said in a statement.
\u201cWe're live in front of the Supreme Court to reintroduce the Judiciary Act, our court expansion bill. It's past time to restore the American people\u2019s faith in our nation\u2019s highest court. https://t.co/rcse2pRgi2\u201d— Ed Markey (@Ed Markey) 1684253054
"The stolen, far-right Supreme Court majority has since ruled to destroy 50 years of settled precedent by rolling back the fundamental right to abortion care in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization and has become the subject of scandal, including new and resurfaced reports of Justice Clarence Thomas' failure to disclose gifts provided to him by billionaire Republican donor Harlan Crow and his spouse's more than $680,000 in unreported income from the conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation," the statement noted.
Markey contended that "Republicans have hijacked the confirmation process and stolen the Supreme Court majority—all to appeal to far-right judicial activists who for years have wanted to wield the gavel to roll back fundamental rights."
"Each scandal uncovered, each norm broken, each precedent-shattering ruling delivered is a reminder that we must restore justice and balance to the rogue, radical Supreme Court," he argued. "It is time we expand the court."
Johnson said that "it's easy to take for granted that the number of justices on the Supreme Court must be nine. But it is not written in the Constitution and has changed seven times over the course of our nation's history."
\u201cWe can no longer rely on the Supreme Court to protect our constitutional rights. The Judiciary Act's provision to expand the number of seats on the Court is necessary to ensure an independent and impartial judiciary.\u201d— FFRF (@FFRF) 1684263917
"Thirteen justices would mean one justice per circuit court of appeals, consistent with how the number of justices was originally determined, so each justice can oversee one circuit," Johnson added.
Bush asserted that "the Supreme Court is a cesspool of corruption devastating our communities. Because of the decisions made by an unethical and illegitimate majority, my constituents are unable to access abortion care, have weaker labor protections, are more vulnerable to voter suppression, and are subjected to a racist legal system."
"As lawmakers, we have a mandate to ensure our rights are not stripped away by bought-and-paid-for judges trying to implement a fascist agenda," she added. "I'm proud to lead on the reintroduction of the Judiciary Act, which would expand the court and help us reclaim our democracy once and for all."
\u201cWe can\u2019t protect reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ equality, take action on climate, or end the pay-to-play that has broken DC with a rigged Supreme Court.\n\nWe must protect Democracy by passing the Judiciary Act to #ExpandTheCourt\u201d— Melanie D'Arrigo (@Melanie D'Arrigo) 1684254503
The bill's sponsors were joined at Tuesday's press conference by leaders of advocacy groups backing the bill, including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, NARAL Pro-Choice America, League of Conservation Voters, Demand Justice, and Stand Up America.
"The Supreme Court is facing a legitimacy crisis. In recent years, right-wing justices on the court have disregarded long-standing precedent and undermined Americans' fundamental freedoms," Sean Eldridge, founder and president of the advocacy group Stand Up America, said in a statement. "Now, reported ethics violations by conservative justices have raised serious questions about the Supreme Court's ability to impartially administer justice. It's no wonder 6 in 10 Americans say they don't have confidence in the Supreme Court."
"The American people need bold action to protect our freedoms and the legitimacy of the Supreme Court," he continued. "Sen. Markey and Rep. Johnson have heeded the call by reintroducing the Judiciary Act. This urgently needed legislation would rebalance the court to protect our fundamental freedoms and uphold long-standing precedents."
\u201cEnough is enough.\n\nIt\u2019s time for leaders in Congress to restore balance to SCOTUS and its 6-3 partisan supermajority. We urge all Congressional Dems to cosponsor this legislation to show that they're fighting back and working towards restoring our faith in the judiciary\u201d— Indivisible Guide (@Indivisible Guide) 1684255881
Planned Parenthood Federation of America president and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson warned that "our freedom to make decisions about our lives, bodies, and futures is at stake. Everything is on the line: abortion rights, voting rights, LGBTQ+ rights, our democratic institutions, and our bodily autonomy."
"Our courts should function as the backstop to protecting and advancing our rights, but have, instead, been misused by people pushing deeply unpopular agendas to implement their dangerous endgame," McGill Johnson said. "Planned Parenthood Federation of America is proud to endorse this legislation and we are committed to standing shoulder to shoulder with our partners to achieve bold changes to our courts, and fight for real justice for all people."