Sen. McConnell Weighs In on Secretary Yellen’s Appeal for GOP to Help Raise Debt Ceiling

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Secretary of Treasury Janet Yellen during a phone call that he will not change his decision to not raise the debt limit, saying he opposes the recklessness of the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill and Democrats can do it alone.

“The leader repeated to Secretary Yellen what he has said publicly since July: This is a unified Democrat government, engaging in a partisan reckless tax and spending spree,” a McConnell spokesman said Wednesday night. “They will have to raise the debt ceiling on their own and they have the tools to do it.”

In a letter to leaders of Congress last week, Yellen said she does not know the exact date the funding will run out but knows it will be before the end of the year and urged leaders to raise the limit. In the event the United States defaults on its loans, according to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, funding for Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, and Medicare will likely be halted.

“Given this uncertainty, the Treasury Department is not able to provide a specific estimate of how long the extraordinary measures will last,” the secretary wrote in the letter (pdf). “However, based on our best and most recent information, the most likely outcome is that cash and extraordinary measures will be exhausted during the month of October. We will continue to update Congress as more information becomes available.”

And Yellen warned that once cash on hand and other available measures are exhausted, the United States “would be unable to meet its obligations for the first time in our history.”

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen speaks during a virtual event in Washington, on Feb. 5, 2021. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

McConnell, even last week, said if Democrats want to keep adding to the national debt with reckless spending, then they can raise the debt limit on their own.

“Inflation has more than overtaken the average worker’s wage growth since last year. Employers are raising wages higher and higher, but their workers’ paychecks go less and less far. Families’ incomes and savings are eroding before their eyes,” McConnell said in a press statement. “Democrats have done this proudly on a party-line basis.”

McConnell wrote that the last $1.9 trillion relief package and the current one being considered by Democrats are unnecessary and are instead contributing to inflation and unfilled jobs.

“Back in 2020, during the teeth of the COVID emergency, Congress worked across party lines to pass massive rescue packages that Republicans and Democrats had written together. Virtually every serious expert agreed that after the last relief bill that we passed in December, the economy was primed and ready,” said McConnell. “But our Democratic colleagues wanted more.”

“Like they admitted from the start of the pandemic, they wanted to use the crisis to ‘restructure things to fit [their] vision.’ From a temporary emergency… to permanent socialism,” he added.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) responded to McConnell’s declaration, hinting that they would not use the reconciliation process to raise the debt limit.

“Leader McConnell keeps talking about the new spending, what Democrats have done that’s not this debt. This debt, $5.5 trillion, was all under Trump and when Leader McConnell was the majority leader. But some Republicans recklessly, irresponsibly, so overwhelmingly politically seem eager to push our economy to the brink of total catastrophe by suggesting that they will oppose any effort to raise the debt ceiling,” said Schumer during a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also fired back at McConnell, saying that the Republicans contributed to the national debt. She went on to say that they are bluffing and know they need to lift the ceiling to avoid terrible fiscal consequences.

“So, my view on this is the Republicans know this. They’re just playing politics, you know, they’re trolling us trying to see, they think they can get something out of it. And as Democrats, we’re just not going to take the bait,” said Warren told MSNBC on Thursday.

Jack Phillips contributed to this report.

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Justice Breyer weighs term limits amid calls for retirement

​Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer joked in an interview Sunday that term limits would “make life easier” for him amid calls from progressives to retire so President Biden and Democratic-controlled Senate can fill the lifetime post.

Breyer, 83, was asked by Chris Wallace, host of “Fox News Sunday,” about the possibility of setting 18-year terms instead of life terms on the bench.

“I think you could do that. It should be a very long term because you don’t want the judge who’s holding that term ​to start thinking about his next job. But it would make life easier for me,” the 27-year high court veteran said, smiling. 

​Asked about Democrats urging him to retire while the party holds a majority in the Senate so his successor could be confirmed, Breyer said “they’re entitled to their opinion.”

“I think they — and not only do they understand the political world much better than I ​​– or they understand it pretty well. And there we are. What else do you want me to say?​” the justice said.

Justice Stephen Breyer says Democrats are urging him to retire while the party holds Senate majority so his successor can be confirmed.
Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images
The Supreme Court.
Justice Stephen Breyers said he favors long term limits, like the proposed 18-year limit, but cautioned against increasing the number of justices.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Breyer said there are “many factors” he’s considering when it comes to retiring.

“And the role of court and so forth is one of them,” he said. “And​ ​the situation, the institutional considerations are some. And I believe, I can’t say I take anything perfectly into account, but in my own mind, I think about those things.”

Later, he reiterated, “I don’t intend to die on the court. I don’t think I’ll be there forever.”

​In the interview, Breyer also cautioned about Democrats mulling increasing the number of justices on the court now that former President Donald Trump nominated three of them, tipping the court to a 6-3 conservative majority.

Supreme Court justices.
The Supreme Court currently has a 6-3 conservative majority.
Erin Schaff/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

“Well, if one party could do it, I guess another party could do it,” he said. “On the surface, it seems to me you start changing all these things around and people will lose trust in the court.”



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The Former Director of the British Museum Weighs in on U.K. Statues

A statue of English merchant and slave trader Sir John Cass in central London on June 10, 2020. TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

Since the George Floyd protests ripped across the world last summer, conversations have been ongoing regarding the monuments that many different countries retain that reinforce outdated ideas. Neil MacGregor, the founding director of the Humboldt Forum in Berlin and the former director of the British Museum, has just weighed in on the statuary debate in The Art Newspaper. Within the piece, MacGregor banters back and forth on the issue of the best course of action when it comes to problematic statuary. Should it be “retained and explained,” or destroyed?

In the United States, for example, different cities in Virginia have begun to take down their respective statues of Robert E. Lee, albeit at very different paces and with very different processes in regards to governmental bureaucracy. In Richmond, it was just determined that the Lee sculpture could be taken down despite two residents filing lawsuits to block the statue’s removal.

In the U.K. meanwhile, the Bank of England announced that it would be removing busts and 10 oil paintings depicting governors who were known to have had connections with the slave trade, flying in the face of U.K. governmental edicts that such objects should be generally “retained and explained.”

In MacGregor’s opinion, the U.K. should look to Germany for guidance. “Their starting point is always the need to remember what went wrong in order to avoid repeating the mistakes,” he writes. “A key way to encourage remembering is to keep the mistake visible—radically relabelling or repurposing monuments rather than destroying them.”

MacGregor argues that keeping around now-disturbing statues serves an important purpose: “Rather than simply condemning the past, they ask the most uncomfortable of all questions: how could so many people like us once have thought that this was the way to run a society? And where are our moral blind spots today?”

The Former Director of the British Museum Weighs in on Statues in the U.K.



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Joe Rogan weighs suing CNN, Jim Acosta over Ivermectin ‘horse dewormer’ claims: ‘They’re making s**t up!’

Joe Rogan slammed CNN on Tuesday over the network’s repeated claims that Ivermectin — a controversial anti-parasite drug that the popular podcaster used after being diagnosed with COVID-19 — is a “horse dewormer,” even floating the idea that he may sue the network for defamation.

“Well, well well, if it isn’t old ‘horse worm Rogan,'” guest host Tom Segura quipped Tuesday during an episode of Rogan’s show, referencing the negative coverage Rogan received over his decision to use the drug.

“Bro, do I have to sue CNN?” Rogan responded while laughing. “They’re making s**t up!”

“They keep saying I’m taking horse dewormer,” he continued. “I literally got it from a doctor. It’s an American company. They won the Nobel Prize in 2015 for use in human beings and CNN is saying I’m taking horse dewormer. They must know that’s a lie.”


Joe’s COVID Experience, CNN’s Ivermectin Claims

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Rogan was widely chastised last week after announcing he had elected to throw “the kitchen sink” at the virus, using “all kinds of meds, monoclonal antibodies, ivermectin, Z-Pak, prednisone, everything” after testing positive. Scores of social media commenters even wished death on the podcast host.

But despite the death wishes, Rogan announced only days later that he had recovered from the virus, even completing a negative test, proving the pathogen was no longer present in his body.

CNN, along with the large majority of other mainstream media outlets, have characterized the drug primarily as a “horse dewormer” that “has become popular among fringe and anti-vaccine communities.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration notes that “Ivermectin is approved for human use to treat infections caused by some parasitic worms and head lice and skin conditions like rosacea.” But the agency has adamantly advised that humans not take Ivermectin to treat COVID-19.

During the podcast episode Tuesday, Rogan touted the drug for helping in his recovery and noted that several doctors advised him to take the medication.

The podcaster also pushed back at CNN and one of the network’s anchors, Jim Acosta, for defaming him.

“CNN was saying I am a distributor of misinformation,” Rogan said. “I don’t know what’s going on, man.”

“You know, there is a lot of speculation,” he continued. “One of the speculations involves the emergency use authorization for the vaccines. That, in order for there to be an emergency use authorization, there has to be no treatment for a disease.”

(H/T: Mediaite)





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AFL-CIO weighs backing primaries against pro-filibuster moderate Senate Democrats

The AFL-CIO’s new president said Tuesday the union umbrella organization was open to cutting off funding or even supporting primary challenges for moderate Senate Democrats opposed to jettisoning the filibuster.

Liz Schuler, who took over the leadership of the labor group with the recent death of longtime President Richard Trumka, said workers were “fed up” with the status quo and with elected officials standing in the way of “progress.” The union chief, in particular, said the filibuster, a Senate rule requiring a supermajority of 60 votes to shut off debate on non-spending legislation, was “arcane” and in need of an overhaul.

“If they’re not listening, that’s when elections end up having consequences,” Ms. Schuler said at a breakfast with reporters hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

“Those are the decisions that are made at the local level, based on how elected officials perform and the way they vote.” 

Under current Senate rules, any legislation that falls short of 60 votes can be effectively blocked by a minority filibuster. Eliminating or weakening the filibuster, one of the defining characteristics of the Senate, has become a point of internal division among Democrats.

Ms. Schuler argued the “arcane” rule was standing in the way of pro-worker legislation like the PRO Act. The legislation proposes an overhaul of labor laws, giving unions greater power to organize and collectively bargain with employers.

For instance, the PRO Act would prohibit companies from permanently replacing striking workers. It would also reclassify independent contractors as regular employees, bound by conventional workplace protections.

The bill has garnered the backing of some moderate Democrats, including Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia. Despite the support, the bill faces long odds of passage as long as the filibuster remains intact. Mr. Manchin is among a handful of centrist Democrats who have resisted weakening or scrapping the rule, arguing it would destroy the deliberative nature of the Senate and could be used against Democrats when Republicans are in the majority.

“It has been said by much wiser people than me that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Well, what I’ve seen during my time in Washington is that every party in power will always want to exercise absolute power, absolutely,” Mr. Manchin wrote in an op-ed in June. “The Senate, its processes and rules, have evolved over time to make absolute power difficult while still delivering solutions to the issues facing our country and I believe that’s the Senate’s best quality.”

Ms. Schuler, however, said that if moderate Democrats like Mr. Manchin continue to stand in the way of the legislation by supporting the filibuster, they will face political consequences. Those consequences could range anywhere from cutting off funding for future campaigns to even supporting primary challenges.

“They’re arcane rules, they need to be changed because they’re preventing progress,” she said. “We’re going to keep pushing and holding those senators’ feet to the fire.”

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Fed’s Powell gives no signal on start of bond-buying taper, weighs Delta risks

FILE PHOTO: Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell adjusts his tie as he arrives to testify before a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on “The Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress” on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 15, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

August 27, 2021

By Howard Schneider and Ann Saphir

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. economy continues to make progress towards the Federal Reserve’s benchmarks for reducing its pandemic-era emergency programs, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said on Friday in remarks that defended the view current high inflation will likely pass and stopped short of signaling the timing for any reduction in the central bank’s asset purchases beyond “this year.”

In a speech to the annual Jackson Hole economic conference, Powell indicated the Fed will remain cautious in any eventual decision to raise interest rates as it tries to nurse the economy to full employment, saying he wants to avoid chasing “transitory” inflation and potentially discouraging job growth in the process – a defense in effect of the new approach to Fed policy he introduced a year ago.

On the potentially imminent decision by the U.S. central bank to begin reducing its $120 billion in monthly purchases of U.S. Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities, Powell said he agreed with the majority of his colleagues that a bond “taper” could be appropriate “this year.”

The weeks since the Fed’s policy meeting in July “brought more progress” towards repairing the jobs market, with nearly a million positions added, and that progress should continue.

But it also coincided with “the further spread of the Delta variant” of the coronavirus and its attendant risks, Powell noted.

In the days before Powell’s speech, several Fed regional bank presidents said they were eager to get a taper underway, and to run down the asset purchases fast.

Powell was non-committal.

“We will be carefully assessing incoming data and the evolving risks,” he said, signaling that Fed discussions about exactly when to reduce the bond-buying program not only remain unresolved, but must be squared against the health and economic risks posed by the highly contagious Delta variant.

Stocks gained ground after the release of the text of Powell’s speech, with the benchmark S&P 500 index hitting a record high, as investors took the view that Powell was signaling no rush to tighten policy. Treasury bond yields edged lower and the dollar weakened against a basket of trading-partner currencies.”Powell understands that tapering will happen, but it’s not going to happen sooner than later,” said Kim Forrest, chief investment officer at Bokeh Capital Partners in Pittsburgh.

‘PREPARED TO ADJUST’

Fed officials have largely said they expect the resurgent health crisis will not throw the recovery off track. But concerns about COVID-19 risks forced the central bank itself to move its Jackson Hole symposium from a mountain resort in Wyoming to a virtual event for the second year in a row.

Expectations for continued job growth are in part based on reopened schools, eased childcare constraints, and a steady return to consumer spending on close-contact activities – developments that may be influenced by the worsening outbreak.

Fed officials “expect to see continued strong job creation. And we will be learning more about the Delta variant’s effects,” Powell said in his remarks. “For now, I believe that policy is well positioned; as always, we are prepared to adjust.”

Much of Powell’s speech was devoted to an exposition of why he feels current high inflation is likely to pass, reciting a list of factors, from supply chain bottlenecks that are likely to ease to globalization acting as an anchor on prices.

While the current fast pace of price increases is “a cause for concern,” it would also be damaging, he said, if the Fed jumps the gun with any policy shift and particularly with a premature decision to raise the central bank’s benchmark overnight interest rate from the current near-zero level.

“We have much ground to cover to reach maximum employment, and time will tell whether we have reached 2 percent inflation on a sustainable basis,” Powell said.

“If a central bank tightens policy in response to factors that turn out to be temporary … the ill-timed policy move unnecessarily slows hiring and other economic activity and pushes inflation lower than desired. Today, with substantial slack remaining in the labor market and the pandemic continuing, such a mistake could be particularly harmful.”

(Reporting by Howard SchneiderEditing by Paul Simao)





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‘I’ll Make A Decision’: Justice Stephen Breyer Weighs In On His Potential Retirement

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer remains undecided about his retirement plans, saying in an interview published Friday that there are “many considerations” playing a part in his eventual decision.

Breyer, 83, is the oldest member of the court, and he has yet to decide when to retire, despite increasing pressure from liberals for him to do so.

“There are a lot of blurred things here, and there are many considerations,” Breyer told The New York Times. “They form a whole. I’ll make a decision.”

Despite Breyer’s statements, he acknowledged the involvement of politics in his retirement decision. Invoking the late-Justice Antonin Scalia’s words, Breyer stated that achieving his preferred political outcomes “will inevitably be in the psychology” of his final decision.

“[Scalia] said, ‘I don’t want somebody appointed who will just reverse everything I’ve done for the last 25 years,’” Breyer recalled. (RELATED: Breyer Weighs In On His Potential Retirement)

The Supreme Court’s nine justices in April. Chief Justice John Roberts sits front-and-center, with Breyer sitting one seat to the right. (Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images)

Breyer, nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1994, added that he wanted to retire before death, unlike Scalia and the late-Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

“I don’t think I’m going to stay there till I die – I hope not,” Breyer said.

He also expressed wariness of proposals to expand the court “to overcome what is now a 6-to-3 conservative majority,” warning those in favor to “think twice, at least.” Breyer warned that expanding the court risks undercutting “public faith in the court” and imperiling “the rule of law.” (RELATED: Breyer: Packing The Court Could Erode Confidence In It)

“If A can do it, B can do it. And what are you going to have when you have A and B doing it?” Breyer asked. “Nobody really knows, but there’s a risk, and how big a risk do you want to take?”

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Ford delays a return to offices, weighs vaccine mandate

FILE PHOTO: Ford Motor World Headquarters is seen in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S., May 8, 2018. Picture taken May 8,2018. REUTERS/Joe White

August 25, 2021

By Joseph White

DETROIT (Reuters) – Ford Motor Co will delay bringing most workers back to offices until January, and is still considering whether to require employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, the company’s chief people officer told Reuters.

Ford is joining a growing number of large employers that are delaying plans to reopen offices as the Delta variant of the coronavirus sweeps through many countries where the automaker does business. Ford said most office workers in North America, Latin America and International Markets groups will not come back to offices before January. The company is reassessing return to work plans every three to four months.

Kiersten Robinson, Ford’s chief people and employee experience officer, said the company has not yet decided whether to join employers and government agencies requiring workers to get coronavirus vaccinations.

Ford has required vaccinations for employees who travel internationally for work. Robinson said the company is still assessing whether a broader mandate is appropriate, how employees would respond and how a vaccine requirement would be adapted to different countries.

“We want to understand the sentiment of employees. What’s standing the way of them getting vaccinated voluntarily,” Robinson said. Employee views – and the access Ford workers have to vaccines – vary around the world, she said. “It’s simplistic to have a one-sized fits all mandate.”

Ford has instituted mask requirements and other policies to limit the spread of coronavirus infections in factories and workplaces where employees cannot do jobs remotely. So far, Robinson said, there have not been major outbreaks at any Ford facilities.

Once Ford employees who are able to work remotely return to offices many will do so only part time, and Ford said it plans to reconfigure many offices for hybrid work arrangements.

Workers who can do their jobs via videoconference and internet connections could get a new perk once offices reopen. The automaker said it will allow employees to work remotely for up to 30 days a year from within their home country, without being required to report to a Ford site.

Under the guidelines, a Ford office worker in Michigan could choose to work for a month from a resort or a relative’s home in Florida, Los Angeles or any other U.S. location.

(Reporting By Joe White; Editing by David Gregorio)





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Japan expands virus emergency, weighs legal penalties

TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga officially expanded and extended the nation’s coronavirus state of emergency on Tuesday, as government advisers recommended legal changes that would allow penalties for violations.

The measures, approved by a government task force, add seven prefectures to the six areas already under a state of emergency and extend it to Sept. 12.

Ten other prefectures were put under a “quasi-emergency,” which had previously encompassed six prefectures, bringing about two-thirds of the nation under some form of emergency as COVID-19 infections “explode” across the nation, in Suga’s words.

Hospitals have been stretched thin and some seriously sick people have been turned away. More than 15,000 people are confirmed to have died from the coronavirus.

The government has taken pride in avoiding compulsory measures or a lockdown, but some experts and critics are wondering if voluntary measures are enough.

Shigeru Omi, the nation’s top medical adviser, said the task force is considering legal changes which are needed to institute penalties or declare a lockdown.

“We have so far relied on asking people to restrict their activities and maybe that isn’t enough to overcome this situation,” Omi told reporters.

The emergency measures center around asking restaurants and bars to close at 8 p.m. and not serve alcohol. Under the latest measures, department stores and shopping malls will be asked to restrict the number of customers to reduce crowding.

Requests remain in place for people to work from home, but some bosses require staff to work in the office. Commuter trains and Tokyo streets remain crowded, although almost everyone wears masks.

Tokyo has been the worst hit, with 4,377 new cases recorded on Tuesday.

The emergency was in effect throughout the recently concluded Tokyo Olympics and will remain in force during the Paralympics, which open Aug. 24.

Critics have said that holding the Games sent a festive message which caused people to take the virus less seriously.

Only about a third of the Japanese population has been fully vaccinated as the more infectious delta variant spreads. Taro Kono, the minister in charge of the vaccine rollout, said Tuesday that Japan has secured enough vaccine doses to provide booster shots.



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