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Today, President Joe Biden announced that he will send to Congress the U.S. Citizenship Act, which includes the NO BAN Act, a landmark Muslim civil rights bill that will prevent future presidents from enacting discriminatory bans like the Muslim Ban ever again. The NO BAN Act, introduced in the last congressional session by Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), was passed by the House last July. Muslim Advocates worked with both members on the bill and led the NO BAN Act coalition, a group of more than 100 civil rights and community groups supporting it. The following is a statement from Muslim Advocates Executive Director Farhana Khera:
"Today marks a double victory for Muslims and for civil rights: the end of the Muslim Ban and a commitment by the new president of the United States to support the first-ever Muslim civil rights bill. Rescinding the Muslim Ban by executive order will bring hope to countless impacted families and end an era in which anti-Muslim discrimination has been the law of the land. However, a future president could still harness the power of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant bigotry by enacting another discriminatory ban. That is why it is so important that the NO BAN Act was also included in the U.S. Citizenship Act, which will move our nation in a new direction where your race, ethnicity or faith won't dictate your worthiness of being an American.
The NO BAN Act's inclusion in the U.S. Citizenship Act is a true victory for the Muslim community. Muslims and our allies worked arm-in-arm with Sen. Coons and Rep Chu--going office-to-office and district-to-district to gain support for the bill. Now, President Biden has included it in his day one immigration bill. This is a historic validation for Muslims and a massive step forward towards ensuring that the next Donald Trump won't be able to wield anti-Muslim hate as a political tool by banning people because of their background or faith."
Muslim Advocates has served as a legal, political and community leader in the fight against the Muslim Ban. The group filed seven federal lawsuits, mobilized corporations and hundreds of groups, testified at the only congressional hearing on the Muslim Ban and led the coalition supporting the NO BAN Act. Additionally, Muslim Advocates sent incoming Domestic Policy Council Director Susan Rice a letter and memo underscoring the importance of this repeal and outlining additional steps necessary from the administration to reunite families as quickly as possible.
Muslim Advocates is a national civil rights organization working in the courts, in the halls of power and in communities to halt bigotry in its tracks. We ensure that American Muslims have a seat at the table with expert representation so that all Americans may live free from hate and discrimination.(202) 897-2622
"Instead of buying back their own stock, UP should be investing in their employees by offering paid sick leave, reasonable schedules, and a better quality of life for railroaders," said one union president.
Union Pacific, one of the largest rail corporations in the United States, said Tuesday that it brought in record revenue and profits last year as it successfully fought off workers' push for paid sick leave.
The company reported $7 billion in net income for 2022 as a whole and said it spent a whopping $6.3 billion repurchasing its own shares—significantly more than the $4.6 billion it spent on employee pay and benefits last year.
“Instead of buying back their own stock, UP should be investing in their employees by offering paid sick leave, reasonable schedules, and a better quality of life for railroaders," Ed Hall, the newly elected president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, told CNN on Tuesday. "This is the only way the railroad will be able to solve their recruitment and retention problems and keep the trains running."
Union Pacific was one of the major rail carriers involved in White House-brokered contract talks late last year that produced an agreement without any guaranteed paid sick days, rejecting a central demand of rail workers.
Labor unions representing a majority of U.S. rail workers rejected the proposed agreement and threatened to strike, but Congress intervened in the long-simmering contract dispute in December to impose the White House-backed deal on employees, sparking furious backlash from rank-and-file union members and progressive allies.
"President Biden campaigned on a week of paid sick leave for all working people, and then he had the opportunity right here but didn't take action. He favored the corporations," Matt Weaver, a rail worker and member of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED) in Ohio, told In These Times contributor Jeff Schuhrke, who detailed rail workers' ongoing fight for paid leave and safety measures in a piece last week.
Facing continued pressure from employees and some activist investors, Union Pacific and other rail giants are "weighing offering paid sick days—or are already doing so—along with schedule changes and other steps to improve employees' work-life balance," Bloombergreported Monday.
"Costs will still be a key consideration for the railroads—and their investors," the business outlet added. "Voluntary paid sick leave and more flexible schedules would add to the expense of the labor agreement, which over five years raises salaries by 24%, pays bonuses totaling $5,000, and adds one day a year of personal leave. That could come at the expense of dividends and share buybacks, which have soared in recent years."
"Workers remain skeptical that they'll truly benefit from the tradeoff," Bloomberg continued. "Railroads historically have been quick to furlough staff during downturns, have required long hours with little flexibility, and have imposed strict attendance policies that allow the railroads to operate with fewer workers."
As Railroad Workers United put it in a Twitter post on Tuesday, "Never take the Union Pacific at face value."
"This is not the path to peace and marks a serious escalation," said the U.K.-based Stop the War Coalition. "Sending tanks is a step further away from negotiation."
The Biden administration is reportedly finalizing a plan to send dozens of Abrams tanks to Ukraine and Germany announced Wednesday that it has agreed to supply Kyiv's forces with 14 Leopard 2 battle tanks, moves that peace advocates said represent a dangerous escalation of the war.
Both the U.S. and Germany had previously hesitated to approve the delivery of tanks to Ukraine, which has been under assault from Russian forces for nearly a year. As CNNreported Wednesday, "German officials had openly stated that they would only send their Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine if the U.S. sent the M-1 Abrams tank, a system U.S. officials had repeatedly stated was overly complex and difficult to maintain."
"The U.S. decision to provide Abrams tanks to Ukraine is an abrupt about-face from its stated position, one that allows Germany to send its tanks and to clear the way for the approval of other European countries to send in more of the German-made Leopard 2 tanks as well," the outlet added.
The Biden administration is expected to announce its plan to send tanks to Ukraine later Wednesday. Citing a senior U.S. official with knowledge of the plan, The Washington Postreported that the U.S. tanks may not arrive in Ukraine "until at least the fall."
It will likely take months to train Ukrainian forces to use the tanks, analysts say.
Anti-war campaigners and commentators warned that the shipment of battle tanks into Ukraine will deepen the West's involvement in a devastating conflict that is at risk of becoming a direct—and potentially nuclear—confrontation between Russia and NATO.
"This is not the path to peace and marks a serious escalation," responded the U.K.-based Stop the War Coalition. "Arming Ukraine and sending tanks is a step further away from negotiation."
In a column for Responsible Statecraft on Monday, Branko Marcetic cautioned that "little by little, NATO and the United States are creeping closer to the catastrophic scenario President Joe Biden said 'we must strive to prevent'—direct conflict between the United States and Russia."
"When the United States involves itself militarily in a conflict, it often finds it hard to get itself out, let alone avoid deep entanglements that blow well past lines it had drawn at the start of the intervention," Marcetic wrote, citing Vietnam and Afghanistan as clear examples.
"Unless officials make a concerted effort to deescalate and pursue a diplomatic track—and prominent voices in media and politics create the political space for them to do it—Biden's vow to avoid World War Three will mean as much as President Johnson's 1964 promise not to 'send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves,'" Marcetic added.
"Little by little, NATO and the United States are creeping closer to the catastrophic scenario President Joe Biden said 'we must strive to prevent'—direct conflict between the United States and Russia."
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who faced significant pressure from Baltic nations to send tanks to Ukraine, said the agreement was reached after "intensive consultations that have taken place between Germany and its closest European and international partners."
Dietmar Bartsch, parliamentary leader of Germany's Left party, denounced Scholz's decision, warning that the "supply of Leopard battle tanks... potentially takes us closer to a third world war than in the direction of peace in Europe."
The U.S. and Germany's tanks will add to the supply already pledged by Poland, Spain, the U.K., the Netherlands, Finland, and Denmark.
"Together, we are accelerating our efforts to ensure Ukraine wins this war and secures a lasting peace," right-wing British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tweeted Wednesday.
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine's foreign minister, wrote on social media that "the tank coalition is formed."
"Everyone who doubted this could ever happen sees now: for Ukraine and partners impossible is nothing," Kuleba added. "I call on all new partners that have Leopard 2 tanks in service to join the coalition and provide as many of them as possible."
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, for his part, called the U.S. and German plans "disastrous" because of "technological aspects," an apparent reference to the complexities involved in training Ukrainian forces to use and maintain the tanks.
"I am convinced that many specialists understand the absurdity of this idea," said Peskov. "These tanks will burn down just like all the other ones... Except they cost a lot, and this will fall on the shoulders of European taxpayers."
"It's disappointing but not surprising that Kevin McCarthy has capitulated to the right wing of his caucus," the three Democratic lawmakers said in a statement.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday formally blocked Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from serving on the House Intelligence Committee and is expected to hold a floor vote to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar from the chamber's foreign affairs panel, moves that the Democratic lawmakers slammed as "political vengeance."
"It's disappointing but not surprising that Kevin McCarthy has capitulated to the right wing of his caucus, undermining the integrity of the Congress, and harming our national security in the process," the Democrats said in a joint statement, calling the push to keep them off committees the product of a "corrupt bargain" that the Republican leader struck "in his desperate, and nearly failed, attempt to win the speakership."
"Despite these efforts, McCarthy won't be successful," the lawmakers added. "We will continue to speak out against extremism and doggedly defend our democracy."
The House speaker has final authority over who sits on the Intelligence Committee, allowing McCarthy (R-Calif.) to unilaterally block Schiff (D-Calif.) and Swalwell (D-Calif.) from the panel even after Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) requested that they be reappointed.
But a floor vote will be required to remove Omar from her spot on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which she has used to grill officials on the sordid history of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America, speak out against military intervention, and advocate for global human rights.
Omar has argued that the GOP push to strip her committee assignments is rooted in bigotry.
"I do not actually think that he has a reason outside of me being Muslim and thinking I should not be," Omar said of McCarthy earlier this month.
Sumayyah Waheed, senior policy counsel at Muslim Advocates, a national civil rights group, said in a recent interview with HuffPost that "by stripping Rep. Omar of her committees, McCarthy kills two birds with one stone: He attempts to silence an effective, principled voice on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and he stokes the ugly culture of anti-Muslim hate for cheap political points."
McCarthy and other Republicans have also falsely accused Omar of antisemitism, an allegation that has drawn backlash from progressive Jewish organizations.
"We categorically reject the suggestion that any of her policy positions or statements merit disqualification from her role on the committee," Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, Habonim Dror North America, J Street, New Israel Fund, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and T'ruah said in a statement last month.
"McCarthy's pledge seems especially exploitative in light of the rampant promotion of antisemitic tropes and conspiracy theories by him and his top deputies amid a surge in dangerous right-wing antisemitism," the groups added. "He posted (and later deleted) a tweet charging that George Soros and two other billionaires of Jewish descent were seeking to 'buy' an election. His newly elected Whip Tom Emmer said the same people 'essentially bought control of Congress.' Meanwhile, Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik has promoted the deadly antisemitic 'Great Replacement' conspiracy theory."
McCarthy has even faced some pushback from members of his caucus who oppose removing Omar and other Democrats from their committee seats.
"Two wrongs do not make a right," Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) said in a statement Tuesday, pointing to House Democrats' decision in 2021 to remove Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) from committees for promoting odious conspiracy theories and violence.
Both far-right Republicans have been reinstated to committees under the new House GOP majority.
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) has also signaled she would vote against removing Omar from committees.
As for Schiff and Swalwell, McCarthy claimed in a letter to Jeffries on Tuesday that the two Democrats participated in the "misuse" of the House Intelligence Committee during the 116th and 117th sessions of Congress.
The Washington Postreported that "McCarthy has argued that both Schiff and Swalwell are unfit to serve on the committee, using Schiff's work conducting the first impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump and Swalwell's alleged ties to a Chinese intelligence operative. There has been no evidence of wrongdoing in relation to the allegation against Swalwell."
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Schiff accused McCarthy of "carrying the dirty water" for the twice-impeached former president.
"This is petty, political payback for investigating Donald Trump," Schiff added on Twitter.