Billions of dollars for Medicaid expansion offered to NC, other holdout states

Buttigieg puts greenhouse gas reduction at center of Biden transportation policy

Pete Buttigieg answers questions during his confirmation hearing as secretary of transportation on Jan. 21, 2021. Source: Screenshot/CSPAN

Former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg offered an unapologetic defense of President Joe Biden’s vision for improved transportation and greenhouse gas reductions during a Senate hearing to consider Buttigieg’s nomination for U.S. transportation secretary last Thursday.

“We need to build our economy back, better than ever, and the Department of Transportation can play a central role in this,” Buttigieg said.

The former Democratic presidential nominee largely enjoyed broad support from the members of both parties on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

But Republicans from Florida and Texas challenged him on the new administration’s “Green New Deal” proposals, and several senators peppered Buttigieg with questions about local initiatives or problems in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Tennessee, ranging from self-driving vehicles to bridge maintenance.

He said there was “bipartisan appetite for a generational opportunity to transform and improve America’s infrastructure.”

Cost of climate plans

Buttigieg’s nomination comes at a time when the incoming administration is looking to find areas of bipartisan cooperation. Such efforts could reinforce Biden’s calls to unite as a country.

But they also could help Biden’s agenda move through Congress, where Democrats have a narrow majority in the U.S. House and the Senate is split 50-50 between the two parties.

An infrastructure package could fit that bill, especially because Congress has less than a year before it must pass a new spending plan for some of the most prominent transportation concerns, including funding for transit and highways.

Still, Buttigieg, who frequently appeared on Fox News to promote Biden’s candidacy, sparred with Republican senators at the hearing over the cost of Biden’s climate plans and their potential impact on the economy.

Biden wants to spend $32 billion in the short term to help financially beleaguered transit agencies, install half a million charging stations for electric vehicles across the country, and increase fuel economy standards for new vehicles.

The transportation nominee told skeptical GOP lawmakers that the country could reduce carbon dioxide pollution while still sustaining a healthy economy.

“Ultimately, we cannot afford not to act on climate,” Buttigieg told U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, a Florida Republican who questioned Buttigieg about his support for the “Green New Deal.” “The question becomes: How can we do that in a way that creates economic benefit in the near term, as well as preventing catastrophe in the long term?” Read more

Buttigieg to inherit a crumbling network of roads, subways and rails at DOT

US House Republicans demand Democrats stop voting with proxies, even though it’s constitutional

Interior of the US Capitol rotunda (Photo: Architect of the Capitol)

WASHINGTON — U.S. House Republicans have a new line of attack against some Democrats, alleging they are failing to show up for work.

The criticism refers to the practice of proxy voting in the House, which enables lawmakers of either party to cast votes even when they are not at the Capitol. The emergency measure came in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and has been used in more than 70 votes the House has taken in recent months.

Democrats say proxy voting is entirely constitutional and needed to conduct business safely. The courts so far have sided with them, rejecting a legal challenge from the GOP.

Here’s a quick look at how the procedure works, why the House started using it and how it’s become a flashpoint in the run-up to the November elections.

How does voting by proxy work in the U.S. House?

New House rules allow individual members to designate another House member to vote in their place. To do so, the House member has to take two steps. First, they must file a letter with the House clerk’s office specifying who will vote on their behalf. Second, they have to provide instructions to their designee about how to vote on a specific piece of legislation or other question that comes before the chamber.

When did the House start allowing proxy voting?

The House adopted a rule change on May 15 that first permitted proxy voting. Proxies count for all House votes, including questions about legislation and procedure. They are also counted toward quorum calls that are used to determine whether the required number of lawmakers are present to conduct House business.

How long will the House use proxy voting?

Under the new House rules, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) can extend the use of proxy voting by 45 days at a time, as long as the national emergency for the coronavirus is still in effect. She has extended the authorization several times. The current authorization expires on Oct. 2. But the rule that authorizes proxy voting expires at the end of the current session of Congress.

Lawmakers who are elected this November will have to convene in person at the Capitol in January. If they want to allow proxy voting after that, they would have to reauthorize it with another vote.

Has Congress used proxy voting before?

Both the House and Senate have used proxy voting for committee business, but Congress has never used proxy votes for floor votes before.

Why do Democrats say proxy voting is needed?

U.S. Rep. James McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat who heads the Rules Committee that drafted the proxy voting regulations, said Congress had to adapt to the new realities presented by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Legislating nearly always involves physically gathering together in one place, but if nothing else the world has learned over these past few difficult months that people need to be able to do their work in novel ways in times of emergency. Congress is no exception,” he said when introducing the proposal in May.

“We have to use the tools at our disposal to adapt —if only on a temporary basis. Legislatures around the country and the world have come to that conclusion, and it is time for us to do the same,” he added.

Does the Senate use proxy votes? Read more

Congresswoman calls on postmaster general to resign

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy

Even after the postmaster general announced Tuesday that he would suspend much-criticized changes that he made to the country’s mail service in the last few weeks, U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne said it is time for him to resign.

Axne, a freshman Democrat from Iowa, said Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who took the top position at the post office in June, has not explained why he made big changes during his first few weeks on the job. Critics say these changes have slowed mail delivery in many parts of the country and thrown into doubt the agency’s ability to handle millions of mail-in ballots during the November election.

“The first step toward repairing the Postal Service is the resignation of Louis DeJoy,” Axne told reporters. “While additional funding and operational changes are still necessary to solve this crisis, I have no faith that the current postal service leadership can be trusted to undo the damage.”

She said the changes DeJoy has overseen have had far-reaching consequences for Iowans. People who rely on the mail to deliver their medicines have had to wait longer, and those who have tried to pay their bills now risk late fees and damage to their credit histories because of the slowdown, Axne said.

“Obstructing the right to vote is already illegal, but disenfranchising Iowans in a way that puts the health and security of my constituents at risk is abhorrent and unacceptable. I won’t stand for it,” she said.

“[DeJoy] needs to resign. He isn’t doing our district, this state or this country any favors, and he’s not doing the job that he was put in place to do,” Axne added.

She said the post office’s decision to suspend until after the election many of its recent operational changes would not change her mind, because she doesn’t trust DeJoy’s judgment that led him to try to make those changes in the first place. In fact, she said she hoped more of her colleagues in Congress would call for DeJoy’s resignation.

Before becoming postmaster, DeJoy, who has long resided in Greensboro and whose wife, Aldona Wos, served as NC Secretary of Health and Human Services under former Gov. Pat McCrory, was a major Republican fundraiser and donor. He once ran New Breed Logistics, a logistics company that the post office hired for 25 years to help get packages from third-party fulfillment centers to post office facilities.

New Breed merged with XPO Logistics in 2014, and DeJoy stayed on with the new company for several years.

But when DeJoy took over the post office in June, he ordered several changes that critics say have made mail delivery slower and less reliable.

Under his leadership, the post office has cut back on overtime, phased out mail sorting machines and removed neighborhood drop boxes in many cities.

The U.S. House, which is controlled by Democrats, will reconvene in Washington this weekend to consider legislation to roll back many of the changes DeJoy has overseen. The package is expected to include $25 billion in aid for the agency,