Dems move to pass $1.9T COVID aid without GOP – National & International News – TUE 2Feb2021

Democrats pass COVID aid without GOP NEMiss.News
Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer table budget resolution to pass $1.9T COVID aid without GOP support.


Dems move to pass COVID aid without GOP. Biden task force to reunite children with migrant parents. Russia’s Navalny faces 3.5 years in prison. Myanmar coup shocks, puzzles many. 


Dems draft budget resolution to pass COVID aid without GOP

Yesterday, Biden met with 10 GOP Senators who had tabled a low-ball counter-proposal to his $1.9 trillion COVID aid bill. Biden was apparently hoping to enlist some GOP converts to pass his larger bill with more than barebones support from Senate Democrats. The meeting was apparently cordial but didn’t make much headway.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have now introduced a joint budget resolution for the 2021 Fiscal Year.  This is a preliminary step towards a “budget reconciliation”, which is immune to any filibuster threat from Republicans. It can therefore pass without the 60-vote majority needed to overrule a filibuster. This gives Democrats a window to pass a larger COVID relief bill with a simple 51 vote majority (counting 1 vote from VP Kamala Harris).

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You can view a side-by-side comparison of the Republican and Democrat aid proposals here.


Biden orders immigration review, task force to reunite families

In an attempt role back the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policies, President Biden is ordering a review of several key Trump provisions.

One of these is the Orwellian-named “Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). Under MPP, 65,000 immigrants with pending asylum cases were forced back to Mexico to await hearings. Most returned to their home countries, but many have remained in makeshift camps on the Mexican side of the border. This leave migrants and their families vulnerable to crime and extortion by the cartels. Many have fallen victims to robberies, extortion and violent crime, including rape. Biden has already stopped adding new asylum-seekers to MPP. But it is not yet clear how or when those already enrolled will be processed.

A second Trump policy Biden is targeting is the so-called “public charge” rule. This made it more difficult for poor asylum seekers and migrants to stay in the country.

It is as yet unclear whether Biden will seek to reverse Trump’s ban on some work visas. Trump instituted the ban, billing it as a way to protect Americans’ jobs during the pandemic. This ban raised a huge outcry from businesses across the US. A judge in California blocked the order after hundreds of thousands of employers petitioned against it.

Reuniting families 

Biden’s orders will also introduce a task force to reunite children with their families. During the Trump era, the zero tolerance policy separated these children from their parents at the border. Many of these parents have since returned to their home countries, leaving their children with relatives or, more frequently, in US foster care. Some of these families have already been reunited, but the parents of 628 have not yet been traced.

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Russian prosecutors seek 3.5-year jail term for opposition leader Navalny

Since the arrest of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his subsequent arrest, Russia has been rocked by massive protests in nearly every major city. Russian authorities have detained thousands (at least 5,300 so far) including Navalny’s wife. While the protests are organized by Navalny’s supporters, many participants are simply fed up with the corruption endemic in Russia’s ruling class.

Following Navalny’s detention, the international community has been calling for his release. Russian president Vladimir Putin has dismissed this foreign “meddling” and called the protests “counterproductive”.

Officers arrested Navalny upon his return to Russia from Germany over a parole violation. Navalny had failed to turn up in court in December to answer what he calls “politically-motivated” fraud charges. Navalny, of course, did not appear because he was recovering in Germany from an August poisoning attack. Regardless, prosecutors are demanding a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence for Navalny for the violation.

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US threatens Myanmar sanctions after military coup

Yesterday morning, member’s of Myanmar’s military seized the country’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, at gunpoint. The military detained Suu Kyi and is now in the process of detaining the country’s lawmakers. The country’s new parliament was set to be seated on Monday, ratifying the results of a November 8 election. The coup has caught many by surprise, and many are still struggling to make sense of it.

In 2008, the country’s military leadership drafted a new constitution in 2008, ending a brutal 50-year military junta and establishing democratic rule. The constitution was a concession bowing to political pressure at home and abroad. Nevertheless, the new constitution ensured the military retained significant power in the country. Under its auspices, the military’s proxy party retained an automatic 25% share of parliament. The military also permanently secured key cabinet posts for itself. Even when the military engaged in a genocide against a Muslim minority, their hold on power put Suu Kyi (a Nobel Peace prize winner) in the position of providing them cover. Her defense of the genocide at the international court of justice (ICJ) in The Hague earned Suu Kyi international condemnation.

Why now?

With their power secured in the constitution, many observers are puzzled by the military’s actions. Best guess is that it comes down to embarrassment. The military’s proxy-party won only a tiny percentage of the vote in November’s election. This meant that even families with military ties had likely voted against them. The military has since raised charges of election fraud. One expert familiar with the military’s allegations has described them as “Trumpian”. The military alleges widespread fraud with no real evidence.

However, while this loss was no doubt humiliating, the military had nothing to lose by allowing the vote to stand.

International response

The US has called for the release of Suu Kyi and the parliamentarians. Newly-confirmed Secretary of State Tony Blinken says the US stands “with the people of Myanmar in their aspirations for freedom, democracy and development”. Many other nations have joined the US in the defense of Myanmar’s fledgling democracy.

By contrast, the response from China, Myanmar’s neighbor and chief trading partner, has been muted. Beijing says it has “noted” the events in Myanmar and is keeping its eye on further developments. China has significant oil and gas holdings in Myanmar.

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You can find more on Aung San Suu Kyi’s rise and fall from grace here.

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