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Today, the Federal Reserve released meeting minutes from its Jan. 31-Feb. 1 gathering, providing insight into likely plans to raise interest rates again in the coming months. The notes revealed near unanimous support for recent hikes, with only a few dissenting in favor of more aggressive measures. Earlier this month, the Fed announced that it would raise interest rates by 25 basis points—ignoring economic experts and cutting against new analysis from the Congressional Budget Office who have predicted that doing so could cost millions of jobs and abruptly stop economic growth.
The Fed's continued misguided strategy echoes previous claims that economic slowdown is a necessary evil for full recovery. Still, government watchdog Accountable.US argues that millions of Americans could lose their jobs and suffer undo financial strain as the Fed fails to address the true driver of inflation: unfettered corporate greed.
"It is difficult to understand why the Fed remains locked in a strategy that is failing too many Americans. For nearly a year, they have ignored concerns that excessive and aggressive interest rate hikes will harm the economy and bring a recession to our door," said Accountable.Us' Director Of Economic Security And Corporate Power, Liz Zelnick. "One look at recent corporate earnings reports from various sectors tells us everything we need to know: this inflationary crisis is being driven by greedy corporations taking advantage of working families. It’s time for the Fed to change course and put the needs of Americans over the demands of Wall Street."
Accountable.US is a nonpartisan watchdog that exposes corruption in public life and holds government officials and corporate special interests accountable by bringing their influence and misconduct to light. In doing so, we make way for policies that advance the interests of all Americans, not just the rich and powerful.
Numerous progressive lawmakers, legal scholars, and advocacy groups have implored the president to use his authority under the 14th Amendment to prevent a GOP-induced default.
A top U.S. Treasury Department official said Friday that President Joe Biden will not use his 14th Amendment authority to continue paying the nation's bills and avert a Republican-induced default if tenuousdebt ceiling talks with the GOP fall apart.
Asked by CNN's Poppy Harlow whether the Biden administration would attempt to invoke the 14th Amendment if a deal with Republicans appears out of reach, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo responded that "the 14th Amendment can't solve our challenges."
"Now, ultimately, the only thing that can do that is Congress doing what it's done 78 other times, raising the debt limit," said Adeyemo. "We don't have a Plan B that allows us to meet the commitments that we've made to our creditors, to our seniors, to our veterans, to the American people."
When asked if that was a "no," Adeyemo replied: "I think the president and the [Treasury] secretary have been very clear that that will not solve our problems now. So yes, that is a no."
\u201c\u201cNo.\u201d Deputy Treasury Secretary @wallyadeyemo tells me definitely the Biden administration will not invoke the 14th Amendment even if there is no deal to raise the debt ceiling by June 1st. @USTreasury\u201d— Poppy Harlow (@Poppy Harlow) 1685101109
A number of advocacy groups, constitutional scholars, and lawmakers have implored Biden to at least consider using his 14th Amendment authority to prevent a default as the June 1 " X-date" approaches. The amendment states that "the validity of the public debt of the United States... shall not be questioned."
Default, as UCLA School of Law professor Joseph Fishkin recently pointed out, would "violate the 14th Amendment, which is not an 'option,' but a bedrock of our constitutional order—it is there whether or not anybody invokes it."
"The Biden administration has a constitutional duty to 'take care that the laws be faithfully executed,'" Fishkin wrote last week. "That means all the laws Congress has enacted, not just the debt-ceiling law."
On Thursday night, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) toldCNN's Anderson Cooper that while he doesn't think the 14th Amendment is a "wonderful solution" to the debt ceiling crisis, he sees it as preferable to allowing Republicans to tank the global economy in pursuit of massive cuts to aid programs.
While Biden said earlier this month that he was considering making use of his 14th Amendment powers to stop an economic catastrophe, he has questioned whether such a move would survive legal challenges.
Sanders said Thursday that he believes it would.
"I think the courts do not want to see the world economy crumble," said Sanders, "and I think it would be sustained."
"If he wants to protect his reputation and our country, he should refuse to budge an inch on the debt ceiling and use his constitutional authority under the 14th Amendment to bypass this entire manufactured crisis."
With June 1 just six days away, White House negotiators and Republican lawmakers are discussing an agreement that would lift the debt ceiling for two years in exchange for two-year spending caps that would cut federal spending, impacting nutrition assistance, housing aid, and other key domestic programs.
The deal that the White House and GOP are discussing would also slash $10 billion from recently approved funding for the Internal Revenue Service, a move that critics said would be a major gift to rich tax cheats.
"A debt ceiling agreement that cuts IRS funding would be an embarrassing disgrace for both the GOP and President Biden," Morris Pearl, chair of the Patriotic Millionaires, said in a statement Friday. "Agreeing to IRS funding cuts as a bargaining chip in debt ceiling negotiations would be an enormous stain on Biden's legacy."
"If he wants to protect his reputation and our country," Pearl added, "he should refuse to budge an inch on the debt ceiling and use his constitutional authority under the 14th Amendment to bypass this entire manufactured crisis."
Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen are the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed earlier this month by the National Association of Government Employees (NAGE), a union that argues the debt ceiling is unconstitutional.
The president has signaled he will oppose the lawsuit, and a hearing in the case has been set for May 31—one day before the "X-date."
Three reproductive rights groups are also calling on the state Supreme Court to declare the ban unconstitutional, as it did with an earlier six-week ban in January.
Three reproductive rights groups celebrated a victory in South Carolina just one day after filing a lawsuit against the state over its six-week abortion ban, which went into effect earlier this week immediately after Republican Gov. Henry McMaster signed it.
Judge Clifton Newman temporarily halted S. 474 at the request of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic (PPSA), and the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), which are representing abortion providers in the state in their lawsuit.
The groups are also calling for a judgment declaring the ban unconstitutional, as the South Carolina Supreme Court did in January regarding a previously-passed six-week abortion ban.
For the time being, said PPSA, "abortion is again legal in South Carolina."
\u201cBREAKING NEWS: A South Carolina state court just granted abortion providers\u2019 request to block the newly-enacted ban on abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy. \n\nAbortion is again legal in South Carolina.\u201d— PP South Atlantic SC (@PP South Atlantic SC) 1685116065
"The status quo should be maintained until the Supreme Court reviews its decision," Newman said in his decision. "It's going to end up there."
With the ban blocked, abortion care is currently legal in South Carolina up until about 20 weeks after fertilization.
"Today the court has granted our patients a welcome reprieve from this dangerous abortion ban," said Jenny Black, president and CEO of PPSA. "Our doors remain open, and we are here to provide compassionate and judgment-free health care to all South Carolinians. While we have a long fight ahead, we will not stop until our patients are again free to make their own decisions about their bodies and futures."
Advocacy groups warned this week that if S. 474 is allowed to stand, it will threaten the bodily autonomy of South Carolinians as well as people from across the South, where abortion is largely banned now following the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade.
S. 474 includes exceptions for fatal fetal abnormalities and the pregnant person's life and health—although numerous cases since Roe was overturned have demonstrated how such exceptions can put the physical and emotional health of a pregnant person at grave risk. The ban permits abortion until up to 12 weeks of pregnancy in cases of rape and incest, but only if the patient's medical provider reports the crime and the patient's name to authorities.
"For the past year, we have seen the dangerous consequences of these extreme laws across the country," said Caroline Sacerdote, staff attorney for CRR. "Even still, state legislators have continued to cruelly gamble with people's health and lives, betraying South Carolinians and their fundamental rights. We will keep fighting to ensure South Carolinians' reproductive freedom is protected."
Former state Supreme Court Justice Kaye Hearn wrote the opinion in the 3-2 ruling that was handed down in January, blocking the earlier six-week ban. She has since retired from the court.
"This law shows that states are a key part of ensuring that communities are safe from PFAS," one advocate said.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday signed into law the broadest ban on dangerous "forever chemicals" in the nation.
The ban forms part of H.F. 2310—an omnibus environment bill—and is one of the many new policies to come out of what progressives say is a "transformational" legislative session for the state. Minnesota is now the first of any U.S. state to prohibit per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS) in menstrual products, dental floss, cleaning supplies, and cooking equipment.
"Minnesota is at the forefront of addressing the PFAS and toxic chemical crisis," Safer States national director Sarah Doll said in a statement. "This law shows that states are a key part of ensuring that communities are safe from PFAS."
"PFAS was developed in Minnesota, and it's powerful that it ends here, too."
PFAS are a class of chemicals that have been used by industry since the 1940s. They are common in firefighting foam and stick-, stain-, grease-, and water-resistant products. However, they have spread extensively throughout the environment and human bodies where they do not break down—hence the moniker "forever chemicals." This is a problem because they have also been linked to an expanding list of health concerns including cancer, immune suppression, reproductive and developmental issues, and thyroid and liver ailments.
"Documentation proves that manufacturers knew as early as 1950 that PFAS was toxic and yet products that contained it were promoted and sold to make a profit," Clean Water Watch Minnesota state director Avonna Starck said in a statement. "PFAS was developed in Minnesota, and it's powerful that it ends here, too."
The new law closes a loophole in a 2019 law banning PFAS in firefighting foam, bans PFAS in certain products beginning in 2025, mandates that manufacturers disclose the use of PFAS by 2026, and bans the chemicals in all products not essential for public health by 2032. The legislation, which passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support on May 19, targets 13 different product categories—the most of any state in the nation. In addition to firefighting foam, menstrual products, dental floss, cookware, and cleaning supplies, no one can sell PFAS-containing food packaging, cosmetics, textiles, carpets, fabric treatments, upholstered furniture, children's products, and ski wax.
"This is the first step of the major changes needed to protect families and our environmental legacy," state Rep. Jeff Brand (D-18A), who contributed language to the new law, said in a statement.
\u201cNon-essential uses of #PFAS in Minnesota will be eliminated thanks to the passage of HF 1000. \n\nThis is the dawn of a new era for human health and environment protection in Minnesota, and across the nation.\n\nA classic tale of corporate greed vs. government intervention.\u201d— Jeff Brand (@Jeff Brand) 1684508640
Minnesota's law builds and expands on PFAS regulations in other states, Safer States pointed out, including specific use bans passed by California, Colorado, and Washington, and a disclosure law passed in Maine in 2021. But it also has a state-specific origin.
The bill was championed by Amarah Strande, a young woman who grew up near a 3M PFAS disposal facility and was diagnosed with a rare cancer when she was 15, an experience she shared with other classmates at Tartan Senior High School.
"I've spent the last five years fighting cancer with every ounce of my being," she said in January. "And I will for the rest of my life. Corporations must stop the production of these toxins and be held accountable and pay for the damage they've done. Through no fault of my own, I was exposed to these toxic chemicals. And as a result, I will die with this cancer."
Strande's prediction came true four months later—she died in April two days before her 21st birthday. The PFAS regulations have been named "Amara's Law" in her honor.
\u201cWe are grateful for the bipartisan support to pass the PFAS Prevention Package, now known as "Amara's Law."\n\nWe will keep working to create a comprehensive legislative agenda to continue protecting MN's waters.#mnleg \nhttps://t.co/mSfORWDVQP\u201d— Clean Water Action MN (@Clean Water Action MN) 1684854140
"Amara testified not because of her own situation but because she believed she could be a voice for her community," her father Michael Strande said in a statement. "Amara was an advocate for those who were sick and suffering with a disease or illness brought about from these dangerous chemicals. Dana, Nora, and I are grateful for the legislators who made the bold choice to pass Amara's Law. This law will protect the people of Minnesota for generations to come."