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Democratic Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin have rejected a plan by their party’s leaders to change Senate rules to allow passage of two major voting rights bills. Speaking from the Senate floor Thursday, Senator Sinema said she would not vote to change the filibuster, even as she claimed to support the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema: “There’s no need for me to restate my long-standing support for the 60-vote threshold to pass legislation. And there’s no need for me to restate its role protecting our country from wild reversals in federal policy.”
Sinema was joined later on Thursday by West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, who said he, too, would oppose a change to the filibuster. Their opposition all but dooms the prospect the 117th Congress will pass voting rights legislation. President Biden reacted to the news.
President Joe Biden: “I hope we can get this done. The honest-to-God answer is I don’t know whether we can get this done.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate will delay a scheduled January recess to take up voting rights legislation on Tuesday — one day after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
The Supreme Court has struck down the Biden administration’s requirement that workers at large private companies get vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested weekly. The court’s conservative majority ruled the Occupational Safety and Health Administration overstepped its authority when it ordered the mandate, affecting some 84 million private sector employees.
In a dissenting opinion, Justices Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor wrote, “Today, we are not wise. In the face of a still-raging pandemic, this Court tells the agency charged with protecting worker safety that it may not do so in all the workplaces needed.”
In a separate 5-4 decision, justices upheld a vaccination requirement for Medicare and Medicaid providers, covering about 10 million healthcare workers.
Here in New York City, Mayor Eric Adams said Thursday he’s discussing plans for a “temporary” remote learning option with the United Federation of Teachers. Adams had vowed to keep classrooms open when he was sworn in just two weeks ago. Up to a third of students in the nation’s largest school district have been absent from classrooms this week.
The FBI arrested the leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia Thursday, charging him and 10 others with seditious conspiracy over the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Prosecutors say 56-year-old Stewart Rhodes organized a plot to oppose the lawful transfer of presidential power by force. They charge Oath Keepers under Rhodes’s command spread out in a military formation inside the Capitol looking for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, while a heavily armed “quick reaction force” stood by at a hotel just outside of Washington ready to take action. Encrypted messages sent by Rhodes to other militia members read, in part, “We aren’t getting through this without a civil war. … Prepare your mind, body, spirit. … It will be a bloody and desperate fight.” Rhodes is a former U.S. Army paratrooper.
Meanwhile, the House committee investigating the January 6 riot has subpoenaed officials at four social media companies — YouTube, Facebook, Reddit and Twitter — saying they contributed to the spread of misinformation that led to the insurrection.
The Republican National Committee is threatening to prevent future candidates from participating in presidential debates, accusing the commission which oversees the process of bias. Jaime Harrison, chair of the Democratic National Committee, tweeted in response, “Republicans can’t win a fair fight and they know it.”
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has made an impassioned plea for the U.S. and the World Bank to release billions of dollars of Afghan assets that were frozen after the Taliban takeover in August. Guterres warned Thursday that Afghanistan faces economic and social collapse, with some 8.7 million Afghans now teetering on the brink of starvation. He also called on the international community to step up and fund the U.N.’s $5 billion humanitarian appeal.
Secretary-General António Guterres: “Freezing temperatures and frozen assets are a lethal combination for the people of Afghanistan. Rules and conditions that prevent money from being used to save lives and the economy must be suspended in this emergency situation. International funding should be allowed to pay the salaries of public sector workers and to help Afghan institutions deliver healthcare, education and other vital services.”
Tensions over Russia’s military buildup on the Ukraine border remain high after a week of diplomatic talks failed to achieve any concrete resolution to the crisis and to Russia’s demands that NATO curb its eastward expansion. Russia said Friday it is giving the U.S. and NATO until next week to respond to its demands. On Thursday, Russia’s deputy foreign minister suggested its military could deploy to Venezuela and Cuba in response to escalating tensions with the U.S. Meanwhile, Russian-led troops have started withdrawing from Kazakhstan. A violent crackdown on protests this month killed at least 160 people and saw some 10,000 others arrested.
Queen Elizabeth has stripped British royal Prince Andrew of his military titles and royal patronages amid the ongoing sexual assault case against him. Earlier this week, a U.S. judge ruled a sex abuse lawsuit against Andrew can proceed, after his lawyers tried to get it dismissed citing a deal between the plaintiff Virginia Giuffre and Jeffrey Epstein. Giuffre has accused Prince Andrew of raping her when she was just 17.
Australian immigration authorities have for a second time revoked a visa for Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic, who has refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19. This comes just three days before the start of the Australian Open tennis tournament. An investigation found Djokovic provided false information on the documents he gave to border officials during his entry to Australia last week. Click here to see our coverage of the plight of refugees in the same immigration detention center in Australia where Novak Djokovic was initially held.
New climate data show 2021 was the sixth hottest year on record, with global temperatures rising about 1.5 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial average. This is National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist Russell Vose.
Russell Vose: “The last seven years have been warmer than anything we’ve seen before. They really sort of stand out. Each of the past four decades has been warmer than the decade that preceded it. It’s been a steady increase in temperature since at least the 1960s, and really since the late 19th century.”
At least 25 countries set new annual temperature records last year.
Here in New York City, several protesters were arrested Thursday for blocking traffic during a climate rally demanding Governor Kathy Hochul and state lawmakers take action to avert climate catastrophe. Protesters are demanding passage of the New York Build Public Renewables Act. The legislation would combat environmental racism, require the New York Power Authority to provide only renewable energy and power to customers, and would create tens of thousands of green union jobs. It’s been over three years since New York lawmakers last approved a major climate bill.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has postponed a key vote on a contract to build a $180 million gas-fired power plant in Newark. Murphy called for “a more thorough environmental justice review and robust public engagement process.” The governor’s decision is being celebrated by community organizers in Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood who warn the power plant would worsen the already poor local air quality and exacerbate the climate crisis. Organizer Maria Lopez-Nuñez spoke on Democracy Now! earlier this week.
Maria Lopez-Nuñez: “And our community is majority Black and Latinx, working-class, immigrant community, that’s deeply affected by the issues. And despite all of our socioeconomic issues, immigration issues, housing issues, we still fight to make sure that we’re bettering our neighborhood. You know, we helped build a park along that river. We have a vision for our community. And that’s all we’re asking for, is not anything extra. We’re just asking for a chance to fight for clean air and clean water.”