Senate Democrats passed a $3.5 trillion budget resolution plan early this morning. The budget vastly expands the social safety net; improves healthcare, education and worker rights; includes measures to combat the climate catastrophe; and increases taxes on the rich and corporations. The budget passed 50-49 after a 14-hour “vote-a-rama,” in which any senator can propose amendments. This came less than 24 hours after a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill was approved 69-30 in the Senate. President Biden celebrated the passage of that bill, calling it “transformational.”
President Joe Biden: “A historic investment in the nation’s roads and highways, bridges and transit, in our drinking water systems, in broadband, clean energy, environmental cleanup, and making infrastructure more resilient and the climate crisis much more in our minds as how do we deal with it.”
Progressives have said they will not vote in favor of the bipartisan infrastructure bill before the House approves the $3.5 trillion budget. Once the larger budget package is hammered out, Democrats hope to pass it using reconciliation, allowing them to bypass Republican support.
Disgraced New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday he is resigning, after months of mounting scandals and one week after the release of Attorney General Letitia James’s damning report which found Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women. Cuomo refused to take responsibility for his criminal acts as he announced his resignation.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “In my mind, I’ve never crossed the line with anyone. But I didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn.”
One of Cuomo’s accusers, former aide Lindsey Boylan, vowed to sue and condemned Cuomo’s victim blaming. In a statement, she said, “It is a tragedy that so many stood by and watched these abuses happen,” adding, “My hope always has been that this will make it safer for other women to report their own harassment and abuse.” The resignation takes effect in two weeks, after which Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will replace him, becoming the first woman governor of New York. The New York state Judiciary Committee is still looking into whether impeachment is possible. Meanwhile, Cuomo could still face criminal and civil charges. He is also under investigation for covering up nursing home deaths early in the pandemic.
As COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to trend upward in the U.S., Hawaii is the latest state to impose new measures, including limiting the number of people permitted at social gatherings and events. Oregon is restoring a statewide indoor mask mandate for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people amid the Delta surge.
In neighboring Washington state, the immigrant justice group La Resistencia is warning of a full-blown COVID outbreak at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, where over 170 cases have been reported since June. The group is calling on Congress to end the Biden administration’s inhumane policy of transferring and locking up asylum seekers.
Meanwhile, in Texas, two judges ruled to temporarily allow local officials in two counties to require masks in schools and other public buildings, despite Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s attempts to ban mask mandates statewide.
In international news, six Mexican states have been placed on the highest pandemic alert level as cases surge and vaccinations lag. Bangladesh has begun vaccinating thousands of Rohingya Muslims in Cox’s Bazar, the world’s largest refugee settlement, amid mounting cases nationwide.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban has now seized control of nine provincial capitals since Friday. Hundreds of Afghan soldiers have reportedly surrendered at the Kunduz airport, sealing the Taliban’s control over the city after they captured it over the weekend. Meanwhile, Russian media is reporting Taliban fighters have also taken control of Afghanistan’s borders with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan’s acting finance minister quit and left the country. The U.N. says there have been more than 1,000 civilian casualties over the past month, including the death of at least 27 children. Nearly a quarter of a million people have been internally displaced since May. All this as uncertainty also looms at ongoing peace talks in Doha and with just weeks left before the U.S. completes its withdrawal.
In Ethiopia, as the months-long conflict in the Tigray region continues to escalate, UNICEF is sounding the alarm on the “disastrous” conditions faced by children. More than 100 children were reportedly killed in recent attacks. At least 160,000 others are facing famine-like conditions. Meanwhile, Amnesty International reports hundreds of women and girls in Tigray have been raped, subjected to sex slavery and mutilation by Ethiopian and Eritrean troops. This comes as Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is urging eligible residents to join the armed forces as the government continues to fight rebels in Tigray and surrounding regions. Last week, the Ethiopian government threatened to deploy its “entire defensive capability” against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which has now also entered the Afar and Amhara regions.
In Britain, U.S. lawyers are presenting their case in a preliminary hearing, challenging a court’s decision to halt the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. He faces up to 175 years in prison in the U.S. under the Espionage Act for publishing classified documents exposing U.S. war crimes.
In Algeria, at least 42 people have been killed as wildfires blaze through several rural areas, burning homes and forests to the ground. At least 25 soldiers who battled the inferno are among the dead. The Interior Ministry suggested arson was to blame for dozens of active fires in the country, as some survivors condemned the government for failing to respond to the unfolding disaster.
Hamid: “As you see, there are fires everywhere. We have not seen the government here. We do not have a state. The people are the government. Long live the members of the civil protection teams.”
Record-breaking wildfires continue to rage across the globe, from Greece to Siberia to the western United States. Meanwhile, Chile says its climate-fueled, record-breaking, decade-long drought is causing devastation to agriculture and water levels. Chile recently approved a measure to limit private control of water supplies and enshrine access to water as a human right.
The Biden administration is being sued over the unsafe conditions faced by unaccompanied migrant children at two holding facilities in Texas. Children and teens detained at the Fort Bliss Army base near El Paso and at an oil workers’ camp in the city of Pecos have reported abuse, medical neglect, prolonged detention and being subjected to mental distress. Their attorneys are demanding the Biden administration immediately release them, arguing the U.S. government is violating the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement, which established legal requirements regarding the treatment of migrant children in U.S. custody.
The Republican-ruled Texas House of Representatives voted to authorize the arrest of Democrats who fled the state last month to block the passage of sweeping voter suppression laws. The House speaker then signed civil arrest warrants for 52 Democratic legislators. Those who have already returned to Texas could be subject to arrest or forcibly returned to the state Capitol in order to establish a quorum.
The U.S. Postal Service has finalized its contested plan to slow down some first-class deliveries as part of its efforts to slash spending. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy — a Trump appointee — announced the 10-year plan in March. Opponents say the move will disproportionately impact small businesses, middle- and low-income people, as well as seniors, and that the risks aren’t justified by what’s expected to be a low financial return. Meanwhile, USPS is paying $120 million over the next five years to a major logistics contractor called XPO Logistics. DeJoy previously served as an executive at XPO and continues to have financial ties with the company.
The Australian government has agreed to pay some $280 million in reparations to Indigenous people who were forcibly separated from their families as children. From the early 1900s to 1970s, over 100,000 Indigenous children were ripped from their families and communities — known as the “stolen generation” — and sent to so-called boarding schools as the Australian government enforced a program aimed at eradicating Indigenous culture. While some Indigenous advocates welcomed reparations, they fear history is repeating itself as Indigenous children are still far more likely to be removed from their homes and placed under state custody than non-Indigenous children in Australia.