How U.S. House Democrats would expand Medicare and Medicaid and lower prescription drug costs

New national poll: Americans in red and blue states support mask and vaccine mandates

Pollsters at Monmouth University released new national survey results yesterday on American attitudes toward mask and vaccine mandates in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The central finding: support for public mandates continues to grow.

This is from the release that accompanied the poll results:

A majority of Americans support the vaccine mandates announced by President Joe Biden last week amid rising concerns about the chance of catching COVID. According to the Monmouth University Poll, the public also supports instituting guidelines for masking and social distancing in their state as well as requiring people to show proof of vaccination for certain activities, such as boarding an airplane or going to the office. The poll finds majority support for nearly all these measures in both blue states and red states, although a significant number of people – mostly Republicans – remain opposed to getting the COVID vaccine.

Support for instituting, or reinstituting, state-based face mask and social distancing guidelines has increased in the past few months. Currently, 63% support these measures in their state, which is up from 52% in July. This shift has come mostly in blue states, which were experiencing a lull in COVID transmission early in the summer. In Monmouth’s July poll, residents of states that voted for President Joe Biden (49%) were slightly less likely than those in states that voted for former President Donald Trump (54%) to support instituting these guidelines. Now, 66% (+17 points) of blue state residents and 59% (+5 points) of red state residents support these measures. Majority support in both types of states comes even though only 32% of Republicans individually support these measures.

The poll also finds that 66% of Americans support requiring that face masks be worn by students, teachers, and staff in schools. This includes majorities of blue state (68%) and red state (63%) residents….

…Most Americans support vaccine mandates for key groups mentioned in Biden’s announcement last week. This includes requiring COVID vaccines for health care workers (63%), federal employees (58%), and private contractors working for the federal government (55%). The poll also finds majority support (60%) for requiring teachers and school staff to be vaccinated. Half (51%) of the American public supports a vaccine mandate for school students aged 12 and older. The blue state/red state difference in support for any of these mandates is no larger than 5 points (e.g. 65% blue state and 60% red state for health care workers). Both types of states show majority support for all of these mandates except in the case of school children (53% in blue states, but just 48% in red states).

Click here to explore the poll results in more detail.

U.S. House Democrats add more mass transit, high-speed rail in second shot at infrastructure bill

Image: Federal Transit Administration

The U.S. House transportation panel early Wednesday passed along party lines the panel’s $60 billion slice of Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget plan, adding nearly $20 billion for a new transit program and high-speed rail development in the states.

Chairman Peter A. DeFazio of Oregon had considered these and other items underfunded in the Senate-led bipartisan infrastructure bill, passed there last month.

DeFazio opened the marathon Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meeting Tuesday morning by blasting the two-track plan to pass a $1.2 trillion bill to improve physical infrastructure alongside the broader $3.5 trillion package.

President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress have said the larger plan is meant to address “human infrastructure” like health care and education.

That approach did not adequately address crucial priorities, especially related to climate change, DeFazio said, as the $1.2 trillion bill that was written without House input.

The larger bill, which Democrats are trying to pass without any Republican support through a legislative process known as budget reconciliation, affords the opportunity to address issues not covered in the Senate bill.

The panel’s allotment is just under $60 billion, though it could end up with less if the Senate reduces the $3.5 trillion topline.

“Unfortunately, we have been told that the bipartisan infrastructure plan is sacrosanct, and it just has to be voted on as-is in the House of Representatives,” DeFazio said.

“And we are going to be marking up a bill to try and fix some of the issues with the so-called bipartisan infrastructure plan, which we will not be allowed otherwise to deal with. This was a torturous negotiation, to put it mildly.”

Among those fixes in the bill the panel approved early Wednesday morning 37-29 was an additional $9.9 billion for transit grants, which would increase access for residents of low-income housing.

To avoid duplication with the Senate bill—a condition with which the White House agreed to win Republican support—the transit funding would not go toward existing Federal Transit Administration formula or grant programs. It would be jointly administered by the FTA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

DeFazio framed the transit program as a climate issue because mass transit provides a greener alternative to single-occupancy vehicles.

The bill would also provide $10 billion for grants to develop high-speed rail routes, which could provide a lower-emission alternative to plane travel.

Another climate item would create a $4 billion incentive program to give extra federal funding to states that achieve greenhouse gas reductions. That is a weaker version of a proposed mandate that was part of a DeFazio-written surface transportation authorization bill the House passed earlier this year.

The provision was not included in the bipartisan Senate infrastructure bill, DeFazio said, because the Senate-passed bill “was written by climate-denying Republicans and a couple of Democratic collaborators.”

Five Republicans and five Democrats led months-long negotiations on the Senate bill, and all 50 Senate Democrats voted for it last month.

The bill also includes $350 million for a new U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker in the Great Lakes. The ship, meant to keep shipping lanes clear in winter, was sought by U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, (D-Ohio).

Republican opposition

Committee Republicans still accused Democrats of violating the agreement to reopen pieces of the bipartisan infrastructure bill by including the greenhouse gas incentives program, and transit and high-speed rail funding. Read more

Putting on pandemic pounds: State obesity rates hit all-time highs

The longest-serving Democrat in the NC House says this is her last term

Rep. Verla Insko, the longest serving Democrat in the NC House, announced Wednesday that she will not seek a 14th term.

Rep. Verla Insko, a leader in health and mental health issues, addressed her colleagues on the NC House floor Wednesday.

“It’s been an enormously gratifying career,” Insko said from the House floor.

She intends to serve out the remainder of her term, which ends in December 2022.

The Chapel Hill Democrat was a leader in health and mental health issues and was one of the architects of the mental health system that replaced local offices with regional managed care organizations.

On Twitter, she called former Speaker Joe Hackney a mentor.

In an interview, Insko said she decided this would be her final term because it is time for her to spend more time with family. “I have three grandchildren I don’t know as well as I want to,” she said. She also wants to travel more.

While she had significant influence shaping health laws when Democrats controlled the chamber,  Insko said constituent service was a focus of her tenure.

“What has really kept my attention are these 80,000 people I represent – their specific needs in being Americans and North Carolinians, their rights and my responsibility to make sure government really works for all of them and government is doing everything possible to make their lives better and healthier,” she said.

Insko’s announcement is early. Filing for the 2022 primaries doesn’t start until December.

Insko said she wanted to give potential candidates time to prepare to run and hold office.

At times, incumbents will wait as long as they can to announce they won’t seek reelection so their preferred successors have a head start.

Insko said she has spoken to people about their interest in the seat, and news was circulating about her decision to not run again.  But she wasn’t interested in giving anyone an inside track.

“I have not picked my replacement,” she said. “I think the voters can do that.”