“Moderate” Democrats tank pro-worker nominee and threaten to block lifting of Title 42


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Corporate Democrats

A strong advocate for workers’ rights was voted down on the Senate floor last week due to united Republican opposition and the help of three “moderate” Democrats.

David Weil, nominated to lead the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, previously held the position under President Obama. His sharp criticism of Uber, gig-work, and mistreatment of workers garnered him hostility from business groups and corporations, who lobbied hard against his nomination. If confirmed, Weil would have worked to revive the government’s enforcement of labor laws, a topic he mastered as the dean of Brandeis University’s Heller School.

During his time in the Obama administration, Weil infuriated the restaurant industry with legal guidance that corporate entities such as McDonald’s could be held accountable for labor violations at restaurants that are technically owned and operated by smaller companies known as franchisees…

In academia, Weil is known for his work on the “fissured workplace” ― a term he popularized with a book of the same name ― in which the traditional lines of employment have become blurred, through temporary staffing arrangements, franchise agreements and “gig” platforms. Weil’s research has shown that these systems have a way of degrading working conditions as corporations become less accountable to the people at the bottom of the chain doing the work.

On Wednesday, three Democrats joined with Republicans to doom Weil’s nomination: Sens. Joe Manchin (WV), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), and Mark Kelly (AZ). According to Politico, Sinema played a key role in convincing the other two to vote no:

Manchin was undecided and still reviewing the matter as late as Wednesday, a person familiar with his thinking said. Sinema played a key role in swaying him and Kelly to vote no, two other people familiar with the conversations said.

Asked about their votes, Sinema said “she has concerns with his ability to faithfully execute and uphold the law,” and Kelly said he “heard from a lot of business owners.” Manchin simply stated, “It was too much of a risk to take.”

Billionaire tax

Not one to let go of his past obstruction, Manchin declared his opposition to Biden’s billionaire tax within 24 hours of the administration’s announcement.

The plan, which would set a minimum 20% tax for households worth over $100 million, could generate about $360 billion over the next decade—the majority from the top 10 billionaires in America. Crucially, the richest Americans would have to pay tax on the value of a stock or a commodity yet to be sold, thereby closing a loophole many billionaires use to pay less in taxes than the average citizen. In 2021, according to the White House, billionaires paid just 8% of their total income on federal tax. By contrast, the average tax rate for all taxpayers was 13.8%.

…the ultra-rich often can take out loans secured by the value of their assets to finance their lavish lifestyles.

“Here’s what they do. They go to their accountant. They tell their accountant, ‘Make sure I don’t make any income, any salary.’ And then they say, ‘Make sure I can buy, borrow and die.’ And nobody knew anything about that years ago, and now people are pretty up on it,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who has announced his own proposal to tax the unrealized gains of billionaires.

Time to even out the disparity? Not so fast, Joe Manchin said. Just as he prevented a billionaire’s tax from paying for Biden’s Build Back Better Act last year, Manchin objects to taxing the ultra-wealthy’s unrealized gains in order to reduce the budget deficit.

“You can’t tax something that’s not earned. Earned income is what we’re based on,” Manchin told The Hill. “Everybody has to pay their fair share, that’s for sure. But unrealized gains is not the way to do it, as far as I’m concerned.”

Title 42

The Biden administration announced last week that it will end the pandemic border restriction known as Title 42 on May 23, after over two years in effect.

Title 42 allows the immediate expulsion of migrants without a chance to apply for asylum. According to the ACLU, “the government has misused the health order to kick out people seeking asylum more than 1.7 million times” since March 2020. Immigration advocateshealth experts, and many Democratic lawmakers have called for Biden to end the Trump-era program.

In a report outlining the agency’s justification for lifting the order, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, “determine[d] that the danger of further introduction, transmission, or spread of COVID-19 into the United States from covered noncitizens, as defined in the August Order, has ceased to be a serious danger to the public health.”

Given the tools available to curb the virus — including effective vaccines and therapeutics — and in the context of the current public health environment, the agency determined that the order “suspending the right to introduce migrants into the United States is no longer necessary,” a CDC press release noted.

As expected, the outcry from Republican lawmakers was quick and loud. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said “Biden has abdicated his responsibilities” and “is actively working to make the border crisis worse.” Sens. Mike Crapo (ID) and Jim Risch (ID) introduced the Stop Fentanyl Border Crossings Act to expand Title 42 authorities, saying that getting rid of the rule will “[fuel] the increased smuggling of deadly drugs such as fentanyl into our country.” The Republican Attorneys General of three states—Missouri, Arizona, and Louisiana—filed suit (pdf) against the administration seeking a court order to keep Title 42 in place:

This suit challenges an imminent, man-made, self-inflicted calamity: the abrupt elimination of the only safety valve preventing this administration’s disastrous border policies from devolving into an unmitigated chaos and catastrophe…The CDC’s Termination Order will result in the entry of tens or hundreds of thousands of aliens unlawfully entering the United States, who would not be able to gain entry into the United States. This, in turn, will cause Plaintiff States to spend money on healthcare, detention, education, and other services for aliens that would otherwise not have to be spent

However, perhaps not as expected, has been the equally loud opposition to lifting Title 42 from Democrats. The usual suspect, Sen. Manchin, was one of the first to publish a takedown of Biden’s decision:

Today’s announcement by the CDC and the Biden Administration is a frightening decision,” said Senator Manchin. “Title 42 has been an essential tool in combatting the spread of COVID-19 and controlling the influx of migrants at our southern border. We are already facing an unprecedented increase in migrants this year, and that will only get worse if the Administration ends the Title 42 policy.

Both Arizona senators—Sinema and Kelly—joined him, writing (pdf) to President Biden that “it is premature to consider changes to Title 42 authorities.”

“Prematurely ending Title 42 without a comprehensive, workable plan would put at risk the health and safety of Arizona communities and migrants. Today’s decision to announce an end to Title 42 despite not yet having a comprehensive plan ready shows a lack of understanding about the crisis at our border. I’ll continue pushing for transparency and accountability from the Administration to help secure the border, keep Arizona communities safe, and ensure migrants are treated fairly and humanely,” said Sinema, Chair of the Border Management Subcommittee.

Other Democrats far from the southern border have likewise criticized ending Title 42. Sen. Maggie Hassan, of New Hampshire, wrote on Twitter that “[e]nding Title 42 prematurely will likely lead to a migrant surge that the administration does not appear to be ready for. I’ll keep pushing the administration to strengthen border security & look forward to hearing directly from border agents during my upcoming trip to the border.”

Sen. Jon Tester, of Montana, said “[e]nding Title 42 is expected to cause a significant increase of migration to the United States and put more pressure on an already broken system.” He also claimed that it would “put more strain on those working to secure the northern border.”

Texas Reps. Henry Cuellar and Vicente Gonzalez, both Democrats, issued statements slamming the administration’s “refusal to acknowledge the real-life impact [of lifting Title 42] on South Texans.”

These Democrats, particularly in the Senate, could vote in favor of an amendment to the $10 billion Covid-19 relief bill that would prohibit the lifting of Title 42.

In a private lunch on Tuesday, one Senate Democrat told CNN that the consensus among Democrats was to try and avoid holding a vote on the measure at all. Such an amendment would divide Democrats — and could potentially pass the Senate — and threaten the White House’s immigration policies while embarrassing the President.

Democrats in competitive reelection battles are now racing to distance themselves from President Joe Biden’s decision-making and bracing for the possibility of a surge of migrants at the border, even as many acknowledge that the pandemic-era rule can’t remain in perpetuity as a way to control the surge at the Southern border.