WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate’s filibuster rule likely imperils a bill intended to protect abortion rights that Democrats are readying following the Supreme Court’s decision not to block a strict new Texas ban, a leading Democratic senator said on Sunday.
Senator Amy Klobuchar told CNN’s “State of the Union” that some Senate Republicans support abortion rights but not enough to overcome the chamber’s rule requiring 60 of its 100 members to agree on most legislation.
The nation’s 6-3 conservative top court this week allowed Texas’ six-week abortion ban to go into effect, which observers said showed the justices may be ready to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a national right to abortion.
That decision led House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to declare that the Democratic-controlled chamber will soon debate and vote on legislation aimed at stopping similar state anti-abortion regulations. But Klobuchar said that bill faces little to no chance of passing the Senate.
“My solution to this … I believe we should abolish the filibuster,” Klobuchar, chair of the Senate Rules Committee, told CNN. “I do not believe an archaic rule should be used to allow us to put our heads in the sand … and not take action on these important issues … We just will get nowhere if we keep this filibuster in place.”
Progressive Democrats have repeatedly over the past year suggested doing away with the filibuster to allow other Democratic priorities to pass, including a voting rights bill intended to counteract a wave of new voting restrictions passed by Republican-governed states.
Senate moderates, including Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, have rejected that idea, however.
Klobuchar said one way to discourage the frequency of filibusters would be to make senators who object to ending debate actually stay on the floor debating. This “talking filibuster” was the tradition until the 1970s.
She said another approach would be a “carveout” that would only change the filibuster for legislation directly tied to one subject, such as abortion rights. (Reporting by Susan Cornwell Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)
Congressional Democrats’ growing appetite for sanctions targeting Chinese companies engaged in the use of forced labor could cripple President Joe Biden’s alternative energy aspirations.
Senate Democrats voted Tuesday to pass a $250 billion China competition bill sponsored by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Sen. Todd Young (R., Ind.). The legislation provides the Biden administration with “a broad range of tough authorities” to impose sanctions on Chinese entities “engaging in … the use of forced labor and other human rights abuses.” It also calls on the federal government to avoid reaching agreements “with any entity … that has any affiliation with a country that engages in forced labor.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Rep. Gregory Meeks (D., N.Y.) in May introduced his own legislation aimed at countering the communist nation. The bill calls for the outright ban of “all goods, wares, articles, or merchandise” produced “wholly or in part by forced labor from the People’s Republic of China.” Meeks is expected to incorporate the measure with Schumer and Young’s bill, which is now headed to the House.
The interparty push to crack down on Chinese forced labor could force Biden to choose between his oft-touted “clean energy economy” and pledge to hold China accountable for its “genocide” against Uyghur Muslims. While Democrats’ various China competition bills do not directly link the nation’s solar industry with its forced labor camps in Xinjiang, the region produces roughly half of the world’s polysilicon—a raw material crucial to solar panel production.
Biden administration climate envoy John Kerry conceded in May that “some panels” manufactured in Xinjiang “are being produced with forced labor by Uyghurs.” Kerry added that the administration is considering sanctions against Xinjiang-made solar panels, but the White House has yet to offer an update and did not return a request for comment.
Should Schumer and Young’s bill reach Biden’s desk, the president may be pressed to tackle the issue sooner rather than later. While Biden has repeatedly pledged to address China’s human rights atrocities, his administration is also working to cooperate with the communist nation on climate change. Kerry in April said that any “differences on human rights” should not “get in the way of something that is as critical as dealing with climate.”
Biden’s $1.7 trillion infrastructure proposal aims to achieve 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035—a goal that would require U.S. solar production to quadruple, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Such a large-scale expansion, however, is not feasible without Chinese manufacturers, Heartland Institute president James Taylor told the Washington Free Beacon.
“It’s impossible to ramp up wind and solar power as the Biden administration desires without making our energy sector entirely dependent on China,” Taylor said.
According to Bloomberg Green, at least three major Xinjiang-based polysilicon manufacturers have been linked to China’s forced labor camps, where up to two million Uyghurs are being detained. The owner of one factory, for example, reported accepting 121 “minority workers” from southern Xinjiang in 2019. Such ties to the Chinese Communist Party-run camps would undoubtedly place the manufacturers in lawmakers’ crosshairs under the Senate and House competition bills.
Meeks’s proposal also calls on the United States to “encourage the international community” to cut down on “the import of any goods” made with Chinese forced labor. If America’s top allies obliged, the limited supply of solar energy products would make it even more difficult for the Biden administration to fulfill its pledge.
Congressional Democrats are not the only Biden associates pressing the administration to ban Xinjiang products. In a March letter, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka—whose union endorsed Biden in 2020—urged the White House to block solar imports from the region because of “convincing evidence of systematic forced labor.”
Senate Republicans echoed the call just weeks later, when eight members introduced the Keep China Out of Solar Energy Act. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.), who cosponsored the legislation, portrayed the decision to bar the import of Xinjiang-based goods as one of common sense.
“What we need to do is just say, ‘You can’t purchase things that are made with forced labor,'” she told the Free Beacon. “A little bit of due diligence goes a very long way there.”
HR 1, the deceptively titled “For the People Act,” has arrived in the U.S. Senate after a party-line vote in the House of Representatives. It is without doubt the most dangerous and irresponsible election bill I have ever seen.
If it becomes law, it will interfere with the ability of states and their residents to determine the qualifications and eligibility of voters, to ensure the accuracy and validity of voter registration rolls, to secure the integrity of elections, and to participate and speak freely in the political arena.
Here are the eight worst provisions of this ill-considered bill:
1) It would eviscerate state voter ID laws that require a voter to authenticate his or her identity. Indeed, it would force states to allow anyone to vote who simply signs a form saying that they are who they claim they are.
When combined with the mandate that states implement same-day voter registration, it means I could walk into any polling place on Election Day, register under the name John Smith, sign a form claiming I really am John Smith, cast a ballot, and walk out.
2) It would make absentee ballots even more insecure than they already are. Not only could states not apply any ID requirement to absentee ballots, they could not enforce any witness signature or notarization requirement.
States that wisely ban candidates, campaign staffers, party activists, and political operatives from handling or delivering absentee ballots would see that ban voided. HR 1 would require states to give access to absentee ballots to third-party strangers who may have a stake in the outcome of the election.
All states also have to create permanent absentee ballot lists for anyone who wants to vote entirely by mail in all elections and mail absentee ballot request forms to all registered voters, a real problem given how inaccurate state voter registration rolls are.
3) It would worsen the problem of inaccurate registration rolls, which are full of people who have died, moved away, are ineligible felons or noncitizens, or are registered more than once. HR 1 severely restricts the ability of states to take the basic steps necessary to maintain the accuracy of their voter rolls, such as comparing their lists with those of other states or using the U.S. Postal Service’s National Change of Address System to find individuals who have moved.
4) It would take away your ability to decide whether you want to register to vote. Instead, it requires states to automatically register individuals who interact with state agencies such as the Department of Motor Vehicles and welfare offices, as well as numerous federal agencies.
This will not only lead to multiple registrations of individuals in the same and multiple states, but the registration of aliens and other ineligible individuals.
5) It would force states to allow online registration, opening up the voter registration system to massive fraud by hackers and cybercriminals. Worse, it severely restricts the ability of state officials to reject a voter registration application, even when it is rejected because the official thinks the individual is ineligible to vote.
6) It imposes onerous new regulatory restrictions on political speech and activity, including online and policy-related speech, by candidates, citizens, civic groups, unions, corporations, and nonprofit organizations. The disclosure provisions that apply to membership organizations like the National Rifle Association, Citizens for Life, and other organizations that Americans of all political stripes join to multiply their voices on important issues will subject donors to intimidation and harassment.
It is the modern equivalent of the donor disclosure requirements that state governments tried to impose on civil rights organizations in the 1950s—requirements the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional.
7) It would authorize the IRS to investigate and consider the political and policy positions of nonprofit organizations when they apply for tax-exempt status. This would enable the political party in control of the White House (and thus the IRS) to use the IRS to go after anyone criticizing it or its policies.
8) It would set up a public funding program for candidates running for Congress. This would force taxpayers to subsidize the political campaigns of individuals they may vehemently disagree with and wouldn’t vote for in a million years.
Senators who supports HR 1 should realize that they are essentially in favor of throwing the validity and credibility of future elections in doubt and taking away the authority of the voters of their states to make their own decisions on how their elections should be run.