Saturday Snippets is a regular weekend feature of Daily Kos.
• House Democrats introduce resolutions opposing latest arms sale to Saudis: The United States, regardless of which party is in power, has been selling advanced weapons to the Saudis for decades. Most recently, the Trump regime okayed a $290 million sale of 3,000 Boeing-made GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb munitions and associated equipment. This is on top of a previous go-ahead for Raytheon to directly sell the Saudis 7,500 Paveway air-to-ground precision-guided bombs for $478 million. Democrats have until Jan. 29 to block the sale if they want to, and some of them do, including Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He introduced measures Friday expressing congressional opposition to the sale because of Saudi Arabia’s behavior in Yemen’s vicious civil war in which U.S. munitions have killed at least hundreds of civilians, although a reliable count is hard to come by.
The U.N. has called the Yemen situation the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, said Meeks, adding, “There is no justification for the Trump administration’s decision to rush through the sale of thousands of bombs to Saudi Arabia—especially after last year’s sham ‘emergency’ sale of 60,000 munitions,” a reference to the 2019 “emergency” arms sale to the Saudis that Democrats allege circumvented congressional oversight. The resolutions of disapproval are co-sponsored by Reps. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and James McGovern (D-Mass.).
• Biden’s emergency relief plan includes measure to help impoverished, childless adults: Chuck Marr, senior director of federal tax policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out that one of the pieces of the Biden-Harris administration’s emergency relief plan will expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for more than 17 million adults who are not raising children and working at low-paid jobs. The current credit excludes most adults who aren’t raising children and completely excludes young childless adults. “The President-elect’s plan recognizes that now’s the time to fix this glaring flaw,” he writes. The proposed EITC expansion, similar to a provision of last June’s House-passed HEROES Act, would help many of these people. Writes Marr, “Adults not raising children are the lone group that the federal tax code actually taxes into, or deeper into, poverty, partly because their EITC is so meager. Some 5.8 childless adults aged 19-65—including 1.5 million Latinos and more than 1 million Black childless adults—are taxed into or deeper into poverty.”
• Voters support massive deficit-financed investment in the economy: Taking up what many labor and environmental activists have sought for decades, President-elect Joe Biden earlier this month remarked, “We should be investing in deficit spending in order to generate economic growth,” adding that “we’re going to have to invest in infrastructure and health care and a whole range of things that are going to generate good-paying jobs.” That isn’t a message that should require a great deal of persuasion, given a survey conducted by Data for Progress showing bipartisan—that is not a typo—support for debt-financed investment if material benefits are the goal. And not just for hard infrastructure like new bridges and community solar, but the soft stuff as well, such as universal preschool.
• Martin Heinrich, 23 other Senators, push Biden to restore methane rules: On the campaign trail, candidate Joe Biden vowed to make “aggressive methane pollution limits for new and existing oil and gas operations” part of his day one executive orders. As Nick Sobczyk reports, in a letter Friday to President-elect Joe Biden, half the Senate’s Democratic caucus decided to give a little follow-up nudge, urging him to “swiftly act to restore and strengthen regulations of methane emissions from oil and natural gas production.” They further wrote, “To counter the harmful effects of these rollbacks and address the climate crisis, strengthened new source standards, and the extension of regulations to include existing sources, must be implemented as soon as possible.” Methane, they reminded him, is 84 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide in the short run and makes up about 25% of emissions that have contributed to global warming so far. The Trump regime blocked Obama-era protections against emissions of methane and volatile organic compounds, replacing them with weaker rules that environmentalists were highly critical of. Some big oil companies that had already taken steps to comply with the Obama regulations also criticized the Trump rollback. Wrote the senators, “The Trump methane regulatory regime amounts to a new subsidy for the oil and gas industry at the expense of the climate and public health. […] With the climate crisis accelerating, it is the wrong time to let oil and gas producers off the hook for methane emissions.”
• Healthcare workers of color hit hard by coronavirus: A recent study found these workers were more than twice as likely as white healthcare workers to test positive for the virus. They were also more likely to treat patients diagnosed with COVID-19, more likely to work in nursing homes—where the pandemic has taken huge toll of staffs and residents—and more likely to work in a facility without enough personal protective equipment. “Black health care workers are more likely to want to go into public-sector care, where they know that they will disproportionately treat communities of color,” said Adia Wingfield, a sociologist at Washington University in St. Louis who has studied racial inequality in the health care industry. “But they also are more likely to be attuned to the particular needs and challenges that communities of color may have,” she said, adding that Black health care staffers tend to be employed in less well-resourced facilities and are more likely to be afflicted with some of the same co-morbidities found in the general Black population, where the pandemic toll has been disproportionately high.
• Ninth Circuit hears arguments on the constitutionality of a total ban on worship services: At issue is an appeal of a lower court decision to determine whether California’s COVID-19 restrictions on indoor religious services are constitutional or if the three-judge panel should revise them to allow for reduced capacity attendance, such as what grocery stores are doing to stay open. Charles LiMandri, an attorney for the South Bay United Pentecostal Church that began its fight with state officials in May but lost in district court, told U.S. Circuit Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw during the virtual hearing, “If Costco is open, your honor, churches need to be open.” He further said, “It’s our position that churches, regardless of what color-coded category the state chooses to place them in, are essential services under the First Amendment of the Constitution, so they should be compared to other essential services, including large retail stores […] It’s not appropriate to say churches need to be placed with sports arenas or music halls.” The South Bay church is fighting officials in San Diego County over their implementation of the state ban on indoor services there. Deputy Attorney General Todd Grabarsky told the panel that California has put together criteria measuring transmission risk industry-by-industry, and “congregate activities,” includes among other things concerts, spectator events ,and worship services, all come under the same restrictions.
- GOP freshman lawmakers splinter over Trump
- Transition spokesman says Biden White House will make its visitor logs public unlike the Trump regime, which adopted a policy of secrecy.
- U.S. forces in Afghanistan cut to 2,500, lowest level since 2001
- US Capitol riot: Police have long history of aiding neo-Nazis and extremists