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Did “Union Joe” Just Doom Democrats’ Push to Give Rail Workers Paid Sick Leave?

After House Democrats passed an amendment on paid sick leave, Biden failed to meet the moment.

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President Joe Biden, also known as “Union Joe” and “Amtrak Joe,” is failing rail workers.

On Wednesday, the House voted 290–137 to support a labor agreement brokered by Biden in order to avert an impending rail strike. The House then voted 221–207 to add seven paid sick leave days to said agreement. Every Democrat in the House endorsed this amendment. Rail workers currently have no paid sick days.

Biden remained mum on the paid sick leave measure, only recognizing the success of the labor deal he arranged.

“This overwhelming bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives makes clear that Democrats and Republicans agree that a rail shutdown would be devastating to our economy and families across the country,” Biden said in a statement, failing to note the still significant Republican opposition to his labor agreement.

In a press conference Wednesday, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre carried the rest of the message: Of course Biden supports paid sick leave for workers, he is just not interested in working to make it a reality.

The White House is dressing up this inaction as concern for the impacts a nationwide rail strike would have on the economy. But given that a majority of rail workers have rejected Biden’s tentative agreement, there’s no guarantee his deal would stop a strike anyway.

Meanwhile, the White House has self-imposed a deadline of December 6 for Biden to sign any legislation, three days earlier than the deadline unions threatened before striking. The administration appears to be fomenting heightened urgency in order to avoid engaging with the basic fact that it is not going to bat for workers.

The paid sick leave bill, given to Biden on a platter by progressives, offered the president a second chance at getting it right for rail workers.

After every single present Democrat—218 of them—voted in support of the measure, Biden could have expressed excitement at the prospect of giving rail workers paid sick leave, blasted the 207 Republicans who voted against it, and even pressured the Senate to follow the House’s suit. After all, numerous Republican senators, including Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Josh Hawley, have expressed noncommittal support for rail workers. Biden could have turned the tables and forced them and other Republicans to put up or shut up. It would have been good politics, and morals too.

Instead, Biden is completely dropping the ball on advocating for workers. Once again.

Democrats Now Have Six Years of Trump’s Tax Returns

After a very, very long legal battle, a Democratic-led House committee got a hold of Donald Trump’s tax returns.

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The House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday finally obtained six years’ worth of Donald Trump’s tax returns, despite repeated efforts by the former president to prevent it.

The Democratic-led committee—and Democrats in general—have been trying to get Trump’s tax returns for three years, after he refused to release them during the 2016 presidential election, which is not required but is precedent. And now, CNN first reported, the Treasury Department has finally given them the receipts.

The Supreme Court last week denied Trump’s request to withhold his tax returns from the committee and ordered the Treasury to hand the documents over. This came about a month after a federal appeals court also ruled against him, declining to reconsider an August decision approving the committee’s request for the papers.

The House committee requested the tax returns for six years, primarily from his time in office. The documents include his personal tax information and that of several of his businesses.

Trump has fought long and hard to prevent the release of his tax returns, raising questions about why he would do so.

He seems to be fighting a multifront war, and it is not going super well. Senator Lindsey Graham was forced to testify last week before a Georgia grand jury over efforts to overturn the 2020 election, and former chief of staff Mark Meadows has been ordered to do the same.

The Supreme Court in January declined to stop the National Archives from turning over documents to the House January 6 committee, which is circling closer to Trump and his involvement in the riot.

Trump is under investigation by the FBI for taking classified documents to Mar-a-Lago, and the New York attorney general has filed suit against him, his family, and his business for fraud.

And the Republican Party in general just seems to be over him.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).