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Merrick Garland Subtly Rebukes Josh Hawley After Question On Supporting Police

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Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) probably didn’t get the answer he was looking for when he asked Judge Merrick Garland, President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Justice, about his stance on defunding the police.

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The Missouri Republican, who led the effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Congress and pumped his fist at a group of Trump supporters outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, described crime surging in cities around the country and asked Garland if he supported defunding the police. 

“As you no doubt know, President Biden has said he doesn’t support defunding the police, and neither do I,” Garland said at his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Monday.

The U.S. District of Appeals Court judge then cited the horror Capitol Police officers experienced during the attack as a reason why he didn’t support defunding police departments. More than 140 police officers were injured during the assault on Congress on Jan. 6 and several died following the riot, which was fueled by lies about voter fraud.

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“We saw how difficult the lives of police officers were in the bodycam videos we saw when they were defending the Capitol,” Garland said. 

Riot police push back a crowd of supporters of then-President Donald Trump after they stormed the Capitol building on Jan. 6



Riot police push back a crowd of supporters of then-President Donald Trump after they stormed the Capitol building on Jan. 6 in Washington, D.C.

Since the riot, Hawley and other Republicans have made a point of lamenting violence against police during Black Lives Matter protests last year (even though the vast majority of demonstrations were peaceful). At his impeachment trial, former President Donald Trump’s defense team frequently drew a false equivalence between the Capitol attack, which sought to overthrow American democracy, and past attacks on police in response to their killings of unarmed civilians. 

Hawley also asked whether Garalnd considered “assaults on federal property in places other than Washington, D.C.” to be domestic terrorism, a label he recently suggested might not be appropriate for the attack on the Capitol, which he claimed Democrats are using to justify a power grab.  

“The use of violence or threats of violence in an attempt to disrupt democratic processes,” Garland said. “So an attack on a courthouse while in operation trying to prevent judges from deciding cases, that plainly is domestic extremism, domestic terrorism.” 

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The Trump supporters who ransacked the Capitol also sought to disrupt the democratic process, namely the certification of Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, which Hawley still says was tainted by irregularities. 

Left: Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland speaks during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee o



Left: Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland speaks during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 22. Right: Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) pauses while speaking during Garland’s confirmation hearing.

Garland is expected to be confirmed as the nation’s next attorney general with broad bipartisan support. Even Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) heaped praise on the judge, calling him a “very good pick” for the post.

The reception Garland received on Monday couldn’t have been more different than in 2016, after President Barack Obama nominated him to serve as a justice on the Supreme Court. Republicans outright denied him a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, citing the presidential election later that year. Of course, they dropped the objection to election-year confirmations to the Supreme Court in late 2020 after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“It was an election year with a divided Congress,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee at the time, said in his opening statement on Monday.

“Yes, it’s true I didn’t give Judge Garland a hearing,” he added, before going to reference Brett Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing two years later. “I also didn’t mischaracterize his record. I didn’t attack his character. I didn’t go through his high school yearbook.”

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Garland, of course, was nominated two years before Kavanaugh. He also hasn’t been accused of sexual assault.



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Here’s How Republicans Downplayed the Capitol Riot at CPAC

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Republican speakers at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Friday downplayed the deadly Jan. 6 storming of the United States Capitol by a pro-Trump mob that disrupted the peaceful transfer of power, sidestepping former President Donald Trump’s culpability in the violence.

On Friday, multiple speakers minimized the attack or cast blame outside their party. A marquee event in Republican politics, the CPAC conference is one of the first post-Trump gatherings of prominent conservative voices and will host the former President as a keynote speaker on Sunday.

The Capitol riot hung over the day’s speeches. Less than two months ago, a mob of extreme Trump supporters stormed the Capitol as Congress certified the Electoral College results, after months of Trump spreading conspiracy theories that the election had been stolen from him. He was then impeached and acquitted for his role in inciting the insurrection. As the GOP wrestles with how—or whether—to move on from Trump’s presidency, CPAC proves that some party leaders are still demonstrating total fealty to Trump, even if it means explaining away the insurrection.

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Two of Friday’s speakers—Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas—both objected to certifying the results of the presidential election, and there have been calls for congressional investigations into their roles in spreading Trump’s election lies before the storming of the Capitol. In their CPAC speeches, neither acknowledged the seriousness of the security breach and related security concerns in their attempts to inherit the former President’s supporters.

If anything, Hawley wore his involvement in the insurrection as a badge of honor. “I was called a traitor, I was called a seditionist, the radical left said I should [resign], and if I wouldn’t resign, I should be expelled from the United States Senate,” Hawley, who was the first Republican Senator to announce he would object to the results, said. “I’m not going anywhere.” He received applause from the CPAC crowd. He did not mention the attack on the Capitol that followed his announcement that he would challenge the election results.

Nearly eight weeks after the attack, the Capitol remains under tight security, including an outer perimeter and heavy National Guard presence. But Cruz dismissed the security concerns stemming from the violence in January. “Let’s be clear, this is not about security at this point, this is about political theater,” he said. “Half the country, the ‘deplorables,’ are dangerous, and [Democrats are] going to turn the Capitol into a military outpost in Baghdad just to have the compliant media echo that message.”

In fact, acting Chief of U.S. Capitol Police Yogananda Pittman told lawmakers on Thursday that there are threats by extremists in militia groups to blow up the Capitol and kill lawmakers when Biden addresses Congress. Given the threats, Pittman said, the Capitol Police determined it was prudent to keep the security measures in place.

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Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee also called for the security to come down, in an extension of an argument about the right to petition the government and peaceably assemble. “Nancy Pelosi, let’s get the fencing and the wire down and away from the U.S. Capitol,” Blackburn said to cheers. Democrats have also expressed concern about keeping the Capitol inaccessible to the general public.

The party’s unwillingness to accept responsibility for Trump’s false statements about election fraud that members of the mob said inspired them to carry out the insurrection is not surprising. House Republicans overwhelmingly voted against impeaching Trump, and 43 senators voted to acquit Trump in the impeachment trial. (Though with ten House Republicans who voted to impeach him and seven Senate Republicans who voted to convict him, it was the most bipartisan impeachment vote and trial in U.S. history.) Even in a hearing on Tuesday about the attack, Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin baselessly suggested it was “provocateurs” that stirred up the Trump supporters on Jan. 6.

At CPAC, it wasn’t just senators who made mention of Jan. 6— other speakers also brought it to the stage. In a session on “Protecting Elections,” Deroy Murdock, a Fox News contributor, suggested that judges who rejected Trump campaign lawsuits in his baseless efforts to overturn the results of the presidential election were to blame. “Largely I think [they] bear a lot of responsibility for the chaos that ensued,” Murdock said to applause. The Trump campaign pursued dozens of lawsuits following the election, but nearly all of them were thrown out.

T.W. Shannon, a bank CEO and former Oklahoma Speaker of the House, falsely equated the riot to the racial justice protests that occurred over the summer, and echoed Trump’s spurious claim that the election was “rigged.” “The reason that people stormed the Capitol was because they felt hopeless because of a rigged election,” Shannon said.

Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas sidestepped the violence at the Capitol entirely, never once bringing it up—even as he called for arresting rioters on the streets and condemned people tearing down statues. But he was talking about racial justice protesters and the replacement of Confederate statues, not those who stormed the U.S. Capitol (including at least one person who carried a Confederate flag). Said Cotton: “We will never bend the knee to a politically correct mob ever.”

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That’s not to say that there aren’t Republican lawmakers who haven’t sought to distance themselves from Trump. On Wednesday, after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he believed that Trump should speak at CPAC, a reporter directed the question to third-ranking House Republican Liz Cheney. Cheney, who voted to impeach Trump, said it was up to the conference. “I don’t believe he should be playing a role in the future of the party or the country,” she said.

Even Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has said Trump was “practically and morally responsible” for the Capitol attack. But on Thursday, one day before the CPAC conference began, McConnell told Fox News he would “absolutely” support Trump again in 2024 if he’s the party’s nominee.



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FDA Panel Recommends Johnson & Johnson Vaccine For COVID-19

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If approved as expected by the Food and Drug Administration, this would be the third coronavirus vaccine available in the U.S. and the only one to require just one dose.



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Democrats Urge Biden Administration To Track Race, Ethnicity In Vaccinations

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Democratic lawmakers are urging the Biden administration to release data on the race and ethnicity of people who have received a COVID-19 vaccine to ensure equitable distribution. 

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In a letter to the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday, 10 senators wrote that it is “critical” that federal databases track “robust demographic information to ensure at-risk communities are being vaccinated appropriately.”

“Black, Hispanic, and Native American communities have been disproportionately harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and yet, they are being vaccinated at significantly lower rates,” wrote the senators, including Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.). 

The lawmakers noted that data on vaccination by race and ethnicity would help health officials ensure that vaccines are being distributed equitably and to work to overcome barriers to access. 

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The CDC reports that so far, over 47 million people in the U.S. have gotten at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

While the agency released a report in early February on race and ethnicity in the first month of vaccinations, it is not publicly reporting such demographics on an ongoing basis, even as the rate of vaccination has sped up and eligibility has expanded in recent weeks. 

In the CDC’s February report, looking at the first 12 million people vaccinated — mainly health workers and long-term care residents — only half reported their race or ethnicity, and disparities were evident: Only 11.5% of those vaccinated were Latinx (the U.S. is 19% Latinx) and 5.4% were Black (the U.S. is 13% Black). 

Meanwhile, Black and Latinx people across the nation have been disproportionately impacted by the virus. They are three times as likely to be hospitalized as whites, and twice as likely to die

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The White House and CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Lorraine Harvey, an in-home care worker, receives her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from registered nurse Rudolfo Garcia



Lorraine Harvey, an in-home care worker, receives her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from registered nurse Rudolfo Garcia in South Los Angeles on Feb. 25, 2021 in Los Angeles. 

Some states have been tracking their vaccinations by race and ethnicity, and initial data has been alarming. California, for instance, which recently began publicly reporting these demographics, says that only 3% of people who have received vaccines in the state are Black (Black people make up 7% of the state population) and only 17% are Latinx (Latinx people make up 39% of California residents). 

Earlier this week, President Joe Biden acknowledged in a roundtable with Black essential workers that due to systemic racism in health care, some communities have been more hesitant to get the vaccine.

In their letter on Friday, the lawmakers noted that vaccine data by race and ethnicity would help public officials not only with equitable distribution but also with identifying barriers to access and determining where there might be vaccine hesitancy, in order to work to address that. 

Early last year, as the coronavirus was spreading, the CDC only began releasing data on the race and ethnicity of people the virus had infected or killed after a similar push by Democratic lawmakers.

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How the Texas Winter Storm Disaster Will Shape Joe Biden’s Climate Agenda

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President Joe Biden arrived in Texas Friday on a trip designed to highlight the region’s recovery after a deadly winter storm knocked out power in most of the state. But while the winter storm crisis may be fading into the rearview mirror, the battle to define its political meaning is just beginning.

The Biden Administration has signaled that once its COVID relief legislation passes Congress, it plans to push for a massive stimulus package that would put people to work rebuilding American infrastructure designed to combat climate change. The Texas disaster has quickly become a focal point of the debate over that plan. For the past 10 days, dueling interests have duked it out over the significance of the Texas blackouts, with Democrats saying they underscored the need to adapt our infrastructure to climate change and many Republicans claiming—falsely—that the disaster shows the pitfalls of renewable energy.

It’s a familiar exchange that has been repeated for years on Capitol Hill and across the country. In a few weeks, it may come to a head as Congress considers what could become the country’s most consequential piece of climate change legislation ever enacted. And the events in Texas have changed the political stakes of that debate. The disastrous effects of the winter storm have made false talking points around climate change increasingly difficult to maintain, pushing some Republicans to reckon with the need for improved energy infrastructure along the lines Biden may propose.

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“The challenge for Republicans is that when you are sitting in your home in suburban Houston or in Austin, and you’re without electricity and heat for many days, I don’t think that you really care whether or not it’s the fault of one power generation source or another,” says Jeff Navin, a former chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Energy who is now a partner at government affairs firm Boundary Stone Partners. “I think you want your elected officials and your politicians to fix the problem.”

In any discussion of the politics of energy and climate, it’s helpful to start with the truth. The reality of the Texas power outage—which brought rolling blackouts to millions of Texans last week—is that all fuel types failed to some degree because the state’s energy infrastructure had not been properly adapted for winter. Wind turbines froze and instruments at nuclear and coal-fired power plants iced over, shutting them down. Most significantly, the state’s natural gas infrastructure couldn’t stand the extreme cold: wells froze and pumps that relied on electricity shut down. All of these problems could have been avoided if the infrastructure had been properly prepared for winter weather.

The bigger problem, experts say, is the system-level failure of the electric grid. Operators of the grid work constantly to anticipate challenges and ensure that electricity generation matches demand, and a wide array of fixes could have prevented the catastrophe—from the obvious moves like preparing infrastructure for winter, to more local generation and storage capacity. “We need to to recognize this as a as an energy systems challenge that goes beyond any one component,” says Daniel Cohan, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University in Houston.

Before the Texas disaster abated, politicians had already drawn battle lines in the messaging war over Biden’s coming infrastructure package. The details of the proposal are still in the works—and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has rejected calls to talk about the specifics until the COVID relief bill has passed Congress—but the connection to the Texas disaster is clear. Observers expect Biden’s infrastructure legislation to include many of the same measures as he recommended on the campaign trail when he proposed a $2 trillion infrastructure package that focused in large part on infrastructure designed to address climate change, including investments in upgrading the electric grid with new transmissions lines and energy storage.

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Lawmakers will inevitably debate about the specifics of which technologies and improvements the legislation should support, but once the Texas storm hit, it didn’t take long for the conversation to move from fact-based discussion to political posturing. Texas Governor Greg Abbott blamed the outage on wind power and told conservative political commentator Sean Hannity that the event “shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America,” referring to the framework for climate policy focused on a rapid move away from fossil fuels coupled with spending on social measures advocated by many progressives. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who also served as President Donald Trump’s energy secretary, suggested that if Biden succeeded in passing a massive climate-focused infrastructure bill, “we’ll have more events like we’ve had in Texas all across the country.” Steve Daines, a Republican Senator from Montana, tweeted that “this is a perfect example of the need for reliable energy sources like natural gas & coal.”

But for many others, Democrats and Republicans alike, the Green New Deal talking points aren’t likely to move the needle given the facts—and the widespread rejection of falsehoods by experts and the media. Democrats have used the crisis to underscore the need to adapt to the effects of climate change. And many Republicans—including influential Republican Senators like Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ted Cruz—have rejected criticism of wind energy in recent weeks. “There are some who have quickly fallen into political talking points, blaming the Green New Deal, and saying the fault is entirely that of wind and solar, and there are others blaming natural gas and coal and asserting wind and solar bore none of the responsibility,” Cruz told the Washington Examiner. “The truth is somewhere in the middle.”

A number of hurdles remain to pass a comprehensive climate-focused infrastructure package. Democrats likely cannot afford to lose votes in the evenly-divided Senate. And even the many Republicans who have historically supported renewable energy may balk at a steep multi-trillion dollar price tag. But, backers say, the disaster in Texas, which will cost tens of billions of dollars, makes it clear that there are costs to not investing, too.

“If there is a silver lining to the tragic events in Texas,” says Heather Zichal, CEO of the American Clean Power Association, “it’s that it helps underscore and build political momentum on both sides of the aisle to advance the kind of grid improvements that we believe we need.”



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Democrats Switch To Plan B For Minimum Wage Increase

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Democrats are strategizing a Plan B to get millions of workers across the country a raise in the COVID-19 relief package after being told their initial idea to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour with a simple majority would violate Senate rules.

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The new plan, spearheaded by Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) would not require corporations to increase their wages to $15 an hour, but it would punish them if they don’t. It also would use the federal tax code to encourage smaller businesses to raise wages for their workers.

The proposal, according to Wyden, would impose a 5% tax on big corporation payrolls if any workers received less than $15 an hour — a penalty that would rise over time. It also would provide up to $10,000 in income tax credits for small businesses that agree to pay their employees higher wages.

“It would also include safeguards to prevent companies from trying to outsource labor to avoid paying living wages,” Wyden said. “For example, if a profitable mega corporation like Walmart fires a store’s security guard and replaces him with a contractor who makes far less, my proposal would still require that Walmart pays a penalty.”

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Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Feb. 25.



Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Feb. 25.

This does not impact the actual federal minimum wage, which has not been raised in more than a decade and remains $7.25 an hour. President Joe Biden and Democratic lawmakers campaigned on raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

There are still a lot of unknowns with this proposal ― namely whether the penalties and incentives would be permanent or just temporary, and what safeguards Democrats are considering to prevent businesses from gaming the tax credits.

“It’s basically a bad way to do that policy,” Marc Goldwein, policy director for the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said. “I don’t think anyone thinks this is a good way to raise the minimum wage. That’s why it’s the ‘Plan B’ and not the ‘Plan A.’”

Democrats resorted to this new tax-based wage proposal after their push to raise the federal minimum to $15 an hour hit a major procedural snag Thursday night. The Senate parliamentarian, who oversees procedure, said Democrats could not increase the minimum wage through the budget reconciliation process, a legislative maneuver they’re pursuing to pass their COVID-19 relief package without any Republican support.

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With only 50 seats in the Senate, and Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote, Democrats have no room for error with their legislation. They are relying on budget reconciliation to pass their relief priorities in order to bypass the Senate’s typical 60-vote filibuster threshold. Republicans have balked at Democrats’ COVID-19 relief package, calling it unnecessarily too expensive. 

It’s not entirely clear that this new tax-based proposal would comply with the budgetary rules that snagged the minimum-wage increase. Budget reconciliation requires legislation to have an impact on federal spending or revenue, and to have a budgetary effect that’s not just “incidental” to the policy. If Wyden and Sanders’ proposal works as intended to get companies to actually raise their wages, then big businesses wouldn’t actually be paying the penalty, and there wouldn’t be any revenue. 

The two Democratic senators who have voiced opposition to the $15 minimum wage, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, have not weighed in on this Plan B.

Democrats have other options as well. Harris, the presiding chair of the Senate, could simply overrule the parliamentarian’s decision on the rules violation. But the White House has already ruled that out.

Democrats could also fire the parliamentarian. That’s what Senate Republicans did in 2001 after the parliamentarian ruled unfavorably on provisions in their tax cut legislation that year. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) called for Democrats to find a new rules referee after the ruling against the minimum wage. 

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Another option for raising the minimum wage would be to craft a bill that could win Republican support. Theoretically, it’s possible ― Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah), for instance, recently proposed pairing a minimum wage increase with a mandate that employers use E-verify to bar jobs for undocumented immigrants. But their proposal would have increased the federal minimum to only $10 per hour, and other Republicans are generally hostile to the idea. 

Democrats have previously threatened higher taxes on corporations underpaying their workers. In 2018, Sanders introduced the Stop BEZOS Act that would tax any company in order to recoup whatever low-wage employees received in federal benefits, such as Medicaid and nutrition assistance. The legislation was more of a public relations campaign than an attempt to set policy, and it worked. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced that Amazon, the second-largest private employer in the country, would boost minimum pay to $15 per hour

This saga highlights how limited Democrats are by the current rules of the Senate. Republicans are rejecting their agenda at every turn, and the minimum wage is only one example of policy hamstrung by budgetary rules. For progressive lawmakers who want to see some of Biden’s biggest policies passed, the fight over minimum wage exemplifies the need to get rid of the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster threshold. 

In this July 29, 2020, file photo, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) speaks during a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Cap



In this July 29, 2020, file photo, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) speaks during a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.

“For me the issue here is that we made a promise to raise the minimum wage and we now have to deliver on that promise to 27 million Americans who are not going to be much convinced when we go back in two years and say, ‘Sorry, the unelected parliamentarian told us we couldn’t raise the minimum wage,’” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who chairs the House Progressive Caucus, told Capitol Hill reporters Friday. 

“We think it should be included in this bill, and if it really isn’t going to be then I think Democrats, the White House, the Senate and the House have to recognize that we are going to have to reform the filibuster because we have to be able to deliver,” Jayapal added.

Twenty-nine states have set their own higher minimum wages, while the others, concentrated in the South, use the federal minimum. Twenty states added new increases this year, and 18 states automatically adjust their minimum wages annually with inflation.

If Congress had pegged the wage to inflation in 1972, when it was $1.60, it would be worth $10.18 today.





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Golden Donald Trump Statue At CPAC Has Twitter Warning Idol Worshippers

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Video of the statue being admired as it’s wheeled into place prompted people on social media to compare it to a much older example of idol worship. 

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Trump is scheduled to speak at the gathering on Sunday, but it looks like his presence is already being felt.

Bloomberg’s William Turton posted the clip: 

And social media erupted in jokes about the golden calf ― you know, the idol that the Old Testament says got Moses so furious that he shattered the Ten Commandments tablets when he saw people worshipping it.

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