Kyrsten Sinema was among the reasons why Joe Biden’s marquee spending package, Build Back Better, did not pass last year. The massive bill would have spent money on fighting climate change and poverty, creating more affordable housing and potentially even changing the immigration system. But with Republicans opposed, Democrats needed every single one of their 50 votes in the Senate to get it passed, and Sinema resisted increasing corporate taxes to pay for it. Negotiators couldn’t find a way to get her to agree with senator Joe Manchin, the other holdout vote, while a group of House Democrats demanding their own tax changes threatened to complicate its passage in that chamber. The whole effort collapsed in the final weeks of 2021.
The same cast of characters is back as Congress considers the Inflation Reduction Act, the surprise successor to last year’s effort that is dramatically slimmed down but, if passed, would nonetheless represent a major effort to reduce America’s emissions. This time, the dynamics are more favorable. Manchin has become a major booster for the bill, and Democrats in the House seem to be on board.
That leaves Sinema. The senator rarely talks to the press and has become a bit of an enigma in Washington – a vulnerable Democrat representing a swing state whose background as a Green Party member would make one think she’s a liberal, but who has instead turned out to be a fiscal hawk, resistant to raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy to pay for new spending. Those demands have reemerged when it comes to the Inflation Reduction Act, according to reports, with Sinema skeptical of its tax hikes on corporations and wealthy fund managers. We’ll see whether Democratic negotiators have better luck getting her to agree this time.
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After departing Taiwan following a visit that enraged China, House speaker Nancy Pelosi went to South Korea, where she visited the demilitarized zone separating it from North Korea.
We conveyed the gratitude of the Congress and the Country for the patriotic service of our servicemembers, who stand as sentinels of Democracy on the Korean Peninsula. pic.twitter.com/SIz284fSWh
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) August 4, 2022
Beijing has meanwhile started a series of live-fire drills in the waters around Taiwan, underscoring its fury over Pelosi’s trip to an island it considers a breakaway province. The Guardian has is keeping a live blog covering the ongoing spike in tensions:
The White House is weighing a public health emergency declaration as monkeypox spreads across the country, according to media reports:
The Biden administration plans to declare the US monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency as soon as Thursday, the Washington Post reported, citing unidentified sources.
The declaration would come from Xavier Becerra, the health secretary, who was expected to discuss the plan at an afternoon briefing, the Post said.
Citing two unnamed officials, the newspaper said Becerra planned to empower US officials to expedite countermeasures including vaccines and treatments, allowing for greater flexibility in the administering the supply of vaccines.
Access to vaccines has been a consistent problem as the number of US monkeypox cases has risen. States and cities including New York and San Francisco have issued declarations of emergency.
Updated at 18.55 BST
As the US continues to digest primary results in key states this week, here’s a taste of our regular Fight to Vote email, which you can subscribe to via the link below…
One of the most consequential results on Tuesday was in Arizona, where Mark Finchem, a state lawmaker, easily won the Republican nomination to run for secretary of state, a position from which he would oversee elections.Mark Finchem. Photograph: Ross D Franklin/AP
Few in Arizona have fought as aggressively to overturn the 2020 election as Finchem has – he first tried to block Congress from recognizing Joe Biden’s legitimate victory in the state, and has since sought to spread misinformation and decertify the election, which is not possible.
Finchem now joins Kristina Karamo in Michigan, Jim Marchant in Nevada, and Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania as Republican nominees on the verge of claiming offices where they would have enormous power over elections. (Karamo and Marchant are running for secretary of state, Mastriano is running for governor, where he would get to appoint the secretary of state).
So far, three of the four secretary of state candidates Trump has endorsed have won (the one exception came in Georgia).
“Having even one election denier in a statewide office would be a five-alarm fire for our elections,” Joanna Lydgate, CEO of States United Action, which is tracking election deniers running for office, said in a statement.
“Recent primaries – particularly in Arizona and Michigan – should worry all of us as Americans. But voters have the power here. They can slow this trend in the primaries to come, and they can stop it in its tracks in the general election.”
Biden still Covid positive, doctor says
We have an update on Joe Biden’s health, after he suffered a “rebound” case of Covid-19. Biden tested positive for Covid again today, the White House says.
In a letter released to the press, Biden’s physician, Dr Kevin O’Connor, says the president “feels very well today. He is still experiencing a very occasional cough, but the cough is improving … his lungs remain clear”.
Biden will continue in “strict isolation measures”, working from the executive residence, where his doctor says he “continues to be very specifically conscientious to protect” staff members in his vicinity.
Here’s another look at the New York Democrat Carolyn Maloney’s prediction that Joe Biden will not run for re-election in 2024 – a prediction given even while apologising for saying the same thing previously but also saying she would support the president if he did run again.Carolyn Maloney. Photograph: Mary Altaffer/AP
Speaking to CNN, the congresswoman said: “Mr President, I apologise.”
She was referring to her remark during a primary debate on Tuesday, when she said she did not “believe” Biden would seek a second term.
On CNN, she added: “I want you to run.”
But then Maloney said: “I happen to think you won’t be running. But when you run, or if you run, I will be there 100%. You have deserved it. You are a great president, and thank you for everything you’ve done for my state, and all the states, and all the cities in America. Thank you, Mr President.”
The day so far
Whole lot of news today, but if you were looking for answers from the Senate, you won’t get any. It remains unclear whether Democrats have the votes to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, which has become the Biden administration’s top priority after more than a year of stop-and-start negotiations, though we may have a better sense of the balance of power later today.
Here’s a rundown of what has happened today:
- The justice department has filed charges against four current and former Louisville police officers over the death of Breonna Taylor.
- A court in Russia sentenced American women’s basketball star Brittney Griner to nine years in prison after finding her guilty of drug smuggling. President Joe Biden said Griner is “wrongfully detained”.
- Alex Jones’s defamation trial continues after yesterday’s shock revelation that his attorneys shared his phone data with lawyers for the people suing him.
- New York Democratic House representative Carolyn Maloney continues to do damage control after suggesting Biden won’t stand for a second term, although she apparently hasn’t completely backed down from the comment.
There are a lot of pieces moving right now in the Senate, as Democrats try to get lawmakers together to vote on the Inflation Reduction Act, which will require the votes of every member of their party in order to pass:
CNN has a good rundown of all the outstanding issues:
Lots of uncertainty in the Senate over the next few critical days. Unclear on timing of first procedural vote and when amendment votes will be. Unclear on if Sinema will get to YES. And unclear when parliamentarian will rule and what could be dropped from the bill as a result
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) August 4, 2022
There’s not much Republicans can do to block the bill, which Democrats intend to pass using the Senate’s reconciliation procedure to avoid a filibuster by GOP lawmakers. But the Senate parliamentarian might complicate its passage by ruling that some of its provisions can’t be approved via reconciliation – which could upend the Democrats’ consensus around the bill:
Sen. Mike Crapo, ranking R on Finance, told me Rs are challenging “every piece that we can” with parliamentarian, contending they don’t meet budget rules they are required to meet in order to pass by simple majority. “We are challenging as much as we can across the entire bill”
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) August 4, 2022
Enigmatic Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema still hasn’t said if she’ll support the bill, but there are signs she will demand tweaks to its tax provisions and more funding to fight drought:
It’s still unclear when the parliamentarian will rule, but she is hearing more arguments today and tomorrow. And Sinema has indicated she won’t take a position on the bill until after the ruling. So timing is in flux
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) August 4, 2022
Declaring, “Breonna Taylor should be alive today”, attorney general Merrick Garland has given a briefing outlining the charges against the four current and former Louisville police officers involved in her death.
He alleged that they conspired to tell a false story to investigators, and one officer opened fire through a window during the raid that killed Taylor, even though he couldn’t see through it because the blinds were drawn:
AG Merrick Garland announces bombshell charges against police officers involved in the search warrant that led to the killing of Breonna Taylor.
He says defendants “took steps to cover up their unlawful conduct” and “met in a garage where they agreed to tell … a false story.” pic.twitter.com/nEuvdkbJfl
— The Recount (@therecount) August 4, 2022
AG Merrick Garland announces a separate indictment against an officer involved in the police raid on Breonna Taylor’s apartment for “unconstitutionally excessive force.”
In closing, he declares “Breonna Taylor should be alive today.” pic.twitter.com/Bg20KM3xhH
— The Recount (@therecount) August 4, 2022
Four officers arrested, face civil rights charges over Breonna Taylor death
Reuters reports that the justice department has brought charges against four current and former Louisville police officers over the death of Breonna Taylor, revitalizing a case that became a flashpoint for the racial justice protests in 2020:
The FBI on Thursday arrested and brought civil rights charges against four current and former Louisville police officers for their roles in the 2020 fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was shot in her home in a case that rocked the US.
Taylor, 26, was killed in Louisville, Kentucky in March 2020, when police executed a no-knock warrant in a botched narcotics raid.
Police shot Taylor multiple times after her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired at them on the assumption that they were intruders.
Federal charges against former officers Joshua Jaynes, Brett Hankison and Kelly Goodlett, along with Sgt Kyle Meany were announced by Merrick Garland, the US attorney general, on Thursday.
The Guardian’s Andrew Roth in Moscow has the latest on the verdict in the Griner case and what it means for already fraught US-Russia relations:
A Moscow court has convicted US basketball star Brittney Griner on drug charges and sentenced her to nine years in prison and a 1m rouble fine in a politically charged verdict that could lead to a prisoner swap with the United States.
Griner, a basketball talent who played in Russia during off-seasons from the Phoenix Mercury, was arrested for cannabis possession in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport in February.
Her arrest came just days before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, launching frantic backdoor negotiations between the United States and Russian intelligence services as her trial played out in a small courthouse just outside the Moscow city limits.
Updated at 16.41 BST
Biden condemns Griner verdict
US president Joe Biden says Moscow “wrongfully detained” basketball star Brittney Griner, and vowed to do everything it can to win her release and that of Paul Whelan, another American detained in Russia.
“Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney,” Biden said in a statement. “It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”
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