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You Can Thank Progressives for Forcing a Vote on Paid Sick Leave for Rail Workers

At the eleventh hour, progressive House members forced a vote on paid sick leave for rail workers.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The House voted Wednesday to force the end of a rail workers’ strike and, thanks to progressive lawmakers, also to give workers needed paid sick leave.

Four out of 12 rail unions—representing the majority of rail workers—have been threatening to strike, after a labor deal brokered by President Joe Biden failed to meet their demands for paid sick leave. Workers currently get zero paid sick days. Biden, who has touted himself as a “pro-labor president,” called for Congress to impose the deal anyway and block the strike, saying it would cause too much economic damage.

But in the eleventh hour, progressive Representative Jamaal Bowman submitted an amendment to the bill that requires the addition of seven days of sick leave.

Other progressives, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Cori Bush, also pushed for the change.

Every single worker in America needs paid sick leave, including our invaluable rail workers. Anything other than that is unacceptable” Bowman said in a statement. “I could not in good conscience vote for a bill that doesn’t give rail workers the paid leave they deserve.”

He urged the Senate to follow suit and approve the amendment.

Bush said the last-minute amendment was possible when Democratic “leadership realized that they weren’t going to have the votes to pass a bill without this addition, and they came to the table and we negotiated an agreement.”

She added that House progressives were working with Senator Bernie Sanders to get the amended bill passed.

It is unclear if the paid sick leave amendment will pass the Senate, though there are some signs for hope. Sanders had said separately he intended to demand a roll-call vote on an amendment to include seven sick days. Republican Senator John Cornyn said he thought there might be enough GOP support for such an amendment for it to pass.

Joe Manchin, who represents West Virginia—a state with small but still strong union membership—said he would need to review a seven-day amendment. But the senator, who has become known for consistently throwing a wrench into Biden’s plans, said he’ll vote for “anything to prevent a strike that will enhance inflation and cause economic harm to our country.”

Rail unions and management have been negotiating for months, but with inflation still high and the holiday spending season looming, Biden finally stepped in earlier this week.

“Joe Biden blew it,” Rail Workers United Treasurer Hugh Sawyer said in a statement Tuesday. “He had the opportunity to prove his labor-friendly pedigree to millions of workers.… Sadly, he could not bring himself to advocate for a lousy handful of sick days.”

Let’s see if the progressives can pull through.

This article was updated with a statement from Representatives Bowman and Bush. It has also been edited to clarify the power of unions in West Virginia.

Led by Progressives, House Votes to Avert Rail Strike and Give Workers Sick Leave

Rail workers currently get zero sick days. The House voted to give them seven.

Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

The House voted Wednesday to advance a deal aimed at averting a national rail strike—and also give rail workers needed paid sick leave.

Members voted 290–137 in support of a tentative labor agreement brokered by President Joe Biden. Subsequently, the House voted 221–207 to add seven paid sick leave days to said agreement. Rail workers currently have no paid sick days.

The additional paid sick leave measure comes after progressive House members, including Representatives Jamaal Bowman and Cori Bush, pushed for its addition.

Unless an agreement is met by December 9, tens of thousands of rail workers will go on strike, disrupting a large portion of the country’s economy.

The urgency of the matter—both the fate of the economy and, crucially, workers’ welfare—prompted Speaker Nancy Pelosi to promptly bring the two measures to the House floor for a vote.

“After hearing from our Members, we are in agreement that a nationwide rail strike must be prevented—and that more must be done to secure the paid sick leave that hard-working railroaders deserve,” Pelosi wrote in a memo to colleagues on Tuesday.

The measure helps make clear where members of Congress actually stand on advocating for workers. The bill now goes to the Senate for a vote on Thursday, where the fate of paid leave remains unclear. Senators Cruz, Rubio, and Hawley have expressed noncommittal support for rail workers, rooted mainly in opposition to Biden’s initial deal. Senator Bernie Sanders has led the charge on the Senate side to add paid sick leave days to the rail agreement.

With the passage of both measures in the House, the Senate now has to take up both the tentative agreement and paid sick leave provision. As a result, senators’ true stance on the welfare of workers will become clear soon.

House Democrats Elect Hakeem Jeffries as Party’s First Black Leader

Jeffries, along with Katherine Clark and Peter Aguilar, is part of a new generation of House Democratic leadership.

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On Wednesday morning, House Democrats voted unanimously to elevate New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries to lead the party. Jeffries becomes the first Black person to lead a major party in either the House or Senate. He will serve as minority leader in the upcoming Congress.

Jeffries, 52, ran unopposed, with Massachusetts’s Katherine Clark, 59, succeeding Jim Clyburn as whip and California’s Peter Aguilar, 43, succeeding Steny Hoyer as leader of the House Democratic caucus. The trio’s ascendance marks a stark generational change from their predecessors. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Clyburn are both 82; Hoyer is 83.

The elder leaders will continue serving as rank-and-file members of Congress—while still maintaining a touch of influence. On Tuesday, House Democrats voted unanimously in a committee to designate Pelosi as a “speaker emerita.” Clyburn will become an assistant leader.

Jeffries was born and raised in Brooklyn, near the district he now serves. Jeffries first began his career as a corporate lawyer. He then worked for Viacom and CBS before getting elected to the New York State Assembly, serving from 2007 to 2012.

In 2015, Jeffries introduced a bill to make the use of a chokehold illegal under federal law, after the NYPD’s killing of Eric Garner. In 2018, Jeffries’s co-authored First Step Act passed, prompting the development of education, vocational, and mental health counseling programming for formerly incarcerated individuals.

Jeffries has garnered some skepticism from the left. In 2016, he criticized a unanimous U.N. resolution denouncing Israel’s settlement activity as a “flagrant violation” of international law. Jeffries argued that President Obama should have gone against the 14 nations who voted in favor of it and vetoed the resolution instead of abstaining.

Jeffries has also collected hundreds of thousands from industry donors embedded in investment, real estate, and lobbying. He has received the support of pro-Israel groups, including AIPAC, which has deliberately worked to tank Democratic candidates and support election denialists.

Nevertheless, Jeffries takes the mantle as party leader with little internal opposition. Now he is tasked to honor that support and push forward a strong progressive agenda that respects those who elected not to challenge him.

Netanyahu Explicitly (Tepidly) Condemns Trump for Dinner With Antisemite Nick Fuentes

The Israeli prime minister–designate said Donald Trump’s dinner with Kanye West and Nicholas Fuentes was a “mistake.”

Israeli Prime Minister–designate Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu said Wednesday Donald Trump’s meeting with a white supremacist was a “mistake,” his harshest criticism of the former U.S. president to date.

It has been one week since Trump met with Nick Fuentes, a Holocaust denier and white supremacist, and rapper Kanye West, another outspoken antisemite. Bibi explicitly, and tepidly, condemned Trump for the meeting.

President Trump’s decision to dine with this person I think is wrong and misplaced. I think it’s a mistake. He shouldn’t do that,” Netanyahu said in a fawning interview with Bari Weiss.

“He has been a tremendous supporter of Israel, and I’m unabashedly appreciative of what he did for Israel,” he said, adding he thought Trump is “irreverent.”

The rest of the interview consisted mostly of Weiss giving Netanyahu a pass to say whatever he wanted. She did not press him on the atrocities committed in Gaza or elsewhere in Palestine, and she allowed him to distance himself from authoritarianism. She also felt it was important to ask him what his favorite book is and who his biblical hero is.

Trump boasted in October that “no President has done more for Israel than I have.” That post on Truth Social also contained a veiled threat: “U.S. Jews have to get their act together and appreciate what they have in Israel—Before it is too late!” he added.

While in office, Trump was the only modern president to visit Israel. He recognized Jerusalem as the capital and the Golan Heights as sovereign Israeli territory, the first U.S. president to do so and in violation of international law. His administration also helped orchestrate the Abraham Accords, which normalized ties between Israel and multiple nations in the Middle East and North Africa.

Likely because of this, Netanyahu has until now largely excused Trump’s support for domestic white supremacists, antisemites, and neo-Nazis.

In the week since his meeting with Fuentes, Republicans have been loath to criticize Trump. GOP leaders Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy offered weak rebukes, while those who have spoken out explicitly were already vocal Trump critics and not in leadership positions.

Full List of Republicans Who Voted Against Protecting Marriage Equality

Thirty-six Republicans voted against the Respect for Marriage Act. Here are their names.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Here are the senators who voted Tuesday against enshrining marriage equality. All 36 are Republicans.

  • John Barrasso
  • Marsha Blackburn
  • John Boozman
  • Mike Braun
  • Bill Cassidy
  • John Cornyn
  • Tom Cotton
  • Kevin Cramer
  • Mike Crapo
  • Ted Cruz
  • Steve Daines
  • Deb Fischer
  • Lindsey Graham
  • Chuck Grassley
  • Bill Hagerty
  • Josh Hawley
  • John Hoeven
  • Cindy Hyde-Smith
  • Jim Inhofe
  • Ron Johnson
  • John Neely Kennedy
  • James Lankford
  • Mike Lee
  • Roger Marshall
  • Mitch McConnell
  • Jerry Moran
  • Rand Paul
  • Jim Risch
  • Mike Rounds
  • Marco Rubio
  • Rick Scott
  • Tim Scott
  • Richard Shelby
  • John Thune
  • Tommy Tuberville
  • Roger Wicker

Senate Passes Respect for Marriage Act Protecting Marriage Equality

The vote on the bill, which will protect same-sex marriage and interracial marriage, was 61–36.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Senate voted 61–36 Tuesday to approve a bill enshrining marriage equality.

The Respect for Marriage Act, which applies to both same-sex and interracial marriage, would require that two people be considered married so long as their marriage was legal in the state in which it was performed. The act also repeals a 1996 law defining marriage as between a man and a woman, which has remained on the books despite being declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2015.

Thirty-six Republican senators voted against the bill, including Mitch McConnell, who is in an interracial marriage.

Many civil rights activists have warned that after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, same-sex marriage may be next on the chopping block.

The Senate voted 62-37 on November 16 to advance the bill to a final vote. The chamber had added an amendment to the bill clarifying certain protections for religious organizations.

It will now return to the House of Representatives before President Joe Biden can sign it into law.

The act already passed the House over the summer, although 156 voted against it—including a shockingly hypocritical nay vote from Representative Glenn Thompson, who attended his son’s same-sex wedding just a week later.

Critics of the bill say, though, that it does not go far enough with LGBTQ protections. Part of the amendment says that religious organizations do not have to marry same-sex couples, which would allow groups to continue to be homophobic, and the bill does not require all states to actually issue same-sex marriage license.

Oath Keepers Founder Convicted of Seditious Conspiracy in January 6 Case

The charges show the Justice Department’s ability hold the January 6 insurrectionists accountable.

Aaron C. Davis/The Washington Post/Getty Images

A federal jury on Tuesday convicted Oath Keepers leader Steward Rhodes of seditious conspiracy for his role in creating and inciting the violent plot to overturn the 2020 election results.

Rhodes and four other members of the Oath Keepers, a far-right anti-government militia, were found guilty of various crimes related to the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol. The members were convicted by a jury in Washington, D.C., on numerous charges.

Swarms of Oath Keepers were among the mob that invaded the Capitol and forced Congress into hiding.

Rhodes and subordinate Kelly Meggs were both found guilty of seditious conspiracy. Three other members—Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Harrelson, and Thomas Caldwell—alongside Rhodes and Meggs, were found guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting for their actions on January 6, 2021. Meggs and Watkins were also charged with conspiracy to obstruct.

Seditious conspiracy charges have been brought against far-right militia members in the past, but to little avail. Today’s convictions alter that pattern and open the door to holding other nefarious actors actually accountable for anti-democratic violence.

Rhodes’s conviction in particular is among the most significant developments to come from the web of investigations into the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Elected officials, rioters, and former Trump allies all are under various investigations. Such a conviction shows that there indeed is capacity to hold actors to account—and that those under investigation now are no exception to that standard.

Mark Meadows Ordered to Testify on Georgia 2020 Election Interference

The former White House chief of staff was on the line when Trump called Georgia’s secretary of state, pressuring him to “find” votes.

Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

South Carolina’s Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously ordered former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to testify about efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia.

“We have reviewed the arguments raised by [Meadows] and find them to be manifestly without merit,” the justices wrote.

The ruling affirmed a lower court that required Meadows to testify to the grand jury investigation. Meadows had appealed the decision but was rejected by the state supreme court.

Meadows was initially scheduled to testify on November 30. It is yet to be determined if that appearance will remain on time.

The former White House chief of staff was involved in numerous efforts to meddle with the 2020 election results. In December 2020, Meadows attended a White House meeting with Trump and others, where the topic of discussion was voter fraud and state electoral vote certifications. The very next day, Meadows traveled to Georgia, seeking to observe an audit of absentee ballot signatures.

Meadows also sent emails to Justice Department officials, demanding investigations into baseless claims of voter fraud. And in January 2021, Meadows was on the line as Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, pressuring him to “find 11,780 votes,” the amount needed to win Georgia.

The rejection of Meadows’s appeal follows an earlier attempt by him to avoid complying with the investigation. In October, a South Carolina county judge entertained Meadows’s challenges but promptly deemed him “material and necessary” to the Georgia investigation, compelling him to testify.

The investigation first began in February 2021, spurred in part by Trump’s plea to Raffensperger—again, a call that Meadows participated in. Since then, the probe has investigated and subpoenaed dozens of witnesses including Boris Epshteyn, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, Michael Flynn, and Lindsey Graham (who similarly unsuccessfully tried appealing out of the investigation).

Mitch McConnell Is Really Good At Not Condemning Trump’s White Supremacy

Free-thinking Republican unable to just say Trump might not be great.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

For a political party that claims to be the home of free thinkers, the GOP is pathetically subservient to a fragile, self-absorbed loser.

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters that “there is no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy, and anyone meeting with people advocating that point of view, in my judgement, are highly unlikely to ever be elected president.”

McConnell’s comments come after twice-impeached, twice-popular-vote-losing former President Donald Trump met with Kanye West and Nick Fuentes, a Holocaust denier, white nationalist, and racist who has threatened murder against Jews and expressed approval for the Taliban.

But despite McConnell’s supposed disapproval of antisemitism and white supremacy, he refused to say he wouldn’t support Trump if he wins the 2024 Republican nomination.

That McConnell won’t explicitly disavow Trump reveals how comically docile the GOP is. Recall the 2016 Republican primaries, when Trump made fun of Ted Cruz’s wife’s appearance and spread conspiracies about his father being involved in the assassination of JFK. Cruz initially expressed disapproval of Trump.

“I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father,” Cruz said. “That pledge was not a blanket commitment that if you go and slander my wife that I am going to come like a servile puppy dog for maligning my wife and maligning my father.”

Fast forward to late October 2022: Cruz said with a straight face on national television that his wife and father just had a nice laugh at Trump’s attacks. Cruz was among those seeking to challenge the 2020 election results and keep Trump in power.

As Trump’s first bid showed, it only takes a few primary wins to gain steam—especially if there’s a wide field of candidates splitting votes. If Republicans actually care about stopping Trump, their submission is just not going to cut it.

Kevin McCarthy Lies And Says Trump Condemned Fuentes (He Never Did)

The potential House speaker said Donald Trump condemned white supremacist Nick Fuentes four times. In reality, he hasn't condemned Fuentes even once.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy finally spoke out Tuesday on Donald Trump meeting with a white supremacist…sort of.

It has been one week since Trump met with Nick Fuentes, a Holocaust denier and white supremacist, and rapper Kanye West, another outspoken antisemite. Republicans have been largely silent on the matter, or they have avoided explicitly criticizing Trump. The few exceptions, such as Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, and Mitt Romney, were already vocal Trump critics and are not in party leadership positions.

McCarthy, the GOP nominee to be the new speaker of the House, condemned Fuentes Tuesday, telling reporters: “I don’t think anybody should be spending any time with Nick Fuentes. He has no place in this Republican Party.”

But he then repeatedly insisted that Trump “came out four times” against Fuentes and didn’t know who he was to begin with. Both statements are straight-up lies.

Trump has not condemned Fuentes, and although he claimed not to know who Fuentes is, the former president has previously retweeted a clip from his internet show. 

McCarthy is likely refraining from calling Trump out because condemning him risks alienating the former leader’s supporters still in Congress. McCarthy will need every vote he can get if he is to become speaker, a goal he has not been shy about publicizing.

Earlier Tuesday, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough slammed McCarthy’s (lack of) actions as “sad and pathetic.”

McCarthy “thinks his support depends on having white nationalists and supporters of neo-Nazis voting for him for speaker of the House,” Scarborough said.”

Despite a poor showing by MAGA candidates during the midterms, Trump still holds considerable sway in Congress. The GOP establishment seems to be souring on him, but they still need his support to present a unified front.