Category Archives: Democracy

From the US State Department: G7 Foreign Ministers’ Statement on Russia and Ukraine 

President Joe Biden, at his February 7 meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to express solidarity in deterring Russia from invading Ukraine. The G7 issued a statement, declaring “We reaffirm our solidarity with the people of Ukraine and our support to Ukraine’s efforts to strengthen its democracy and institutions, encouraging further progress on reform. We consider it of utmost importance to help preserve the economic and financial stability of Ukraine and the well-being of its people.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com via msnbc.

The text of the following statement was released by the G7 foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America, and the High Representative of the European Union.

We, the G7 Foreign Ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America and the High Representative of the European Union, remain gravely concerned about Russia’s threatening military build-up around Ukraine, in illegally annexed Crimea and in Belarus. Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified massing of military forces, the largest deployment on the European continent since the end of the Cold War is a challenge to global security and the international order.

We call on Russia to choose the path of diplomacy, to de-escalate tensions, to substantively withdraw military forces from the proximity of Ukraine’s borders and to fully abide by international commitments including on risk reduction and transparency of military activities. As a first step, we expect Russia to implement the announced reduction of its military activities along Ukraine’s borders. We have seen no evidence of this reduction. We will judge Russia by its deeds.

We took note of Russia’s latest announcements that it is willing to engage diplomatically. We underline our commitment vis-à-vis Russia to pursue dialogue on issues of mutual concern, such as European security, risk reduction, transparency, confidence building and arms control. We also reiterate our commitment to find a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the current crisis, and we urge Russia to take up the offer of dialogue through the US-Russia Strategic Stability Dialogue, the NATO-Russia Council, and the OSCE. We commend the Renewed OSCE European Security Dialogue launched by the Polish OSCE Chairmanship-in-Office and express our strong hope that Russia will engage in a constructive way.

Any threat or use of force against the territorial integrity and sovereignty of states goes against the fundamental principles that underpin the rules-based international order as well as the European peace and security order enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act, the Paris Charter and other subsequent OSCE declarations. While we are ready to explore diplomatic solutions to address legitimate security concerns, Russia should be in no doubt that any further military aggression against Ukraine will have massive consequences, including financial and economic sanctions on a wide array of sectoral and individual targets that would impose severe and unprecedented costs on the Russian economy. We will take coordinated restrictive measures in case of such an event.

We reaffirm our solidarity with the people of Ukraine and our support to Ukraine’s efforts to strengthen its democracy and institutions, encouraging further progress on reform. We consider it of utmost importance to help preserve the economic and financial stability of Ukraine and the well-being of its people. Building on our assistance since 2014, we are committed to contribute, in close coordination with Ukraine’s authorities to support the strengthening of Ukraine’s resilience.

We reiterate our unwavering commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders and territorial waters. We reaffirm the right of any sovereign state to determine its own future and security arrangements. We commend Ukraine’s posture of restraint in the face of continued provocations and efforts at destabilization.

We underline our strong appreciation and continued support for Germany’s and France’s efforts through the Normandy Process to secure the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements, which is the only way forward for a lasting political solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine. We acknowledge public statements by President Zelensky underlining Ukraine’s firm commitment to the Minsk Agreements and his readiness to contribute constructively to the process. Ukrainian overtures merit serious consideration by Russian negotiators and by the Government of the Russian Federation. We call on Russia to seize the opportunity which Ukraine’s proposals represent for the diplomatic path.

Russia must de-escalate and fulfil its commitments in implementing the Minsk Agreements. The increase in ceasefire violations along the line of contact in recent days is highly concerning. We condemn the use of heavy weaponry and indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas, which constitute a clear violation of the Minsk Agreements. We also condemn that the Russian Federation continues to hand out Russian passports to the inhabitants of the non-government controlled areas of Ukraine. This clearly runs counter to the spirit of the Minsk agreements.

We are particularly worried by measures taken by the self-proclaimed “People’s Republics” which must be seen as laying the ground for military escalation. We are concerned that staged incidents could be used as a pretext for possible military escalation. Russia must use its influence over the self-proclaimed republics to exercise restraint and de-escalate.

In this context, we firmly express our support for the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission, whose observers play a key role in de-escalation efforts. This mission must be allowed to carry out its full mandate without restrictions to its activities and freedom of movement to the benefit and security of the people in eastern Ukraine.

Biden Marks January 6th: ‘I will defend this nation. And I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of our democracy’

President Joe Biden marks the one-year anniversary of the January 6th insurrection in the Capitol Rotunda: “I will defend this nation.  And I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of our democracy.. Here in America, the people rule through the ballot, and their will prevails.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com via msnbc

President Joe Biden spoke to the nation on the day marking the one year anniversary of the January 6 insurrection, the attack on the Capitol and Congress aimed at impeding the Constitutional requirement for Congress to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election and interfere with the peaceful transition of power. In his address, Biden placed responsibility for the violent attack – the first since the War of 1812 and the first interruption of a peaceful transition of power after a free and fair election, promoted, incited and organized by the then-sitting but defeated president, in the nation’s nearly 250 years. He spoke to the need to continually protect democracy, especially in an era marked by the rise of authoritarians. Here is a highlighted transcript of President Biden’s remarks:

THE PRESIDENT:  Madam Vice President, my fellow Americans: To state the obvious, one year ago today, in this sacred place, democracy was attacked — simply attacked.  The will of the people was under assault.  The Constitution — our Constitution — faced the gravest of threats.
 
Outnumbered and in the face of a brutal attack, the Capitol Police, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, the National Guard, and other brave law enforcement officials saved the rule of law.
 
Our democracy held.  We the people endured.  And we the people prevailed.
 
For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol.
 
But they failed.  They failed.
 
And on this day of remembrance, we must make sure that such an attack never, never happens again.
 
I’m speaking to you today from Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol.  This is where the House of Representatives
met for 50 years in the decades leading up to the Civil War.  This is — on this floor is where a young congressman of Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, sat at desk 191. 
 
Above him — above us, over that door leading into the Rotunda — is a sculpture depicting Clio, the muse of history.  In her hands, an open book in which she records the events taking place in this chamber below.
 
Clio stood watch over this hall one year ago today, as she has for more than 200 years.  She recorded what took place.  The real history.  The real facts.  The real truth.  The facts
and the truth that Vice President Harris just shared and that you and I and the whole world saw with our own eyes.
 
The Bible tells us that we shall know the truth, and the truth shall make us free.  We shall know the truth.
 
Well, here is the God’s truth about January 6th, 2021:
 
Close your eyes.  Go back to that day.  What do you see? Rioters rampaging, waving for the first time inside this Capitol a Confederate flag that symbolized the cause to destroy America, to rip us apart.
 
Even during the Civil War, that never, ever happened.  But it happened here in 2021.
 
What else do you see?  A mob breaking windows, kicking in doors, breaching the Capitol.  American flags on poles being used as weapons, as spears.  Fire extinguishers being thrown at the heads of police officers. 
 
A crowd that professes their love for law enforcement assaulted those police officers, dragged them, sprayed them, stomped on them.
 
Over 140 police officers were injured.
 
We’ve all heard the police officers who were there that day testify to what happened.  One officer called it, quote, a med- — “medieval” battle, and that he was more afraid that day than he was fighting the war in Iraq.
 
They’ve repeatedly asked since that day: How dare anyone — anyone — diminish, belittle, or deny the hell they were put through?
 
We saw it with our own eyes.  Rioters menaced these halls, threatening the life of the Speaker of the House, literally erecting gallows to hang the Vice President of the United States of America.
 
But what did we not see?
 
We didn’t see a former president, who had just rallied the mob to attack — sitting in the private dining room off the Oval Office in the White House, watching it all on television and doing nothing for hours as police were assaulted, lives at risk, and the nation’s capital under siege.
 
This wasn’t a group of tourists.  This was an armed insurrection.
 
They weren’t looking to uphold the will of the people.  They were looking to deny the will of the people.
 
They were looking to uphold — they weren’t looking to uphold a free and fair election.  They were looking to overturn one.
 
They weren’t looking to save the cause of America.  They were looking to subvert the Constitution.
 
This isn’t about being bogged down in the past.  This is about making sure the past isn’t buried.
 
That’s the only way forward.  That’s what great nations do.  They don’t bury the truth, they face up to it.  Sounds like hyperbole, but that’s the truth: They face up to it.
 
We are a great nation.
 
My fellow Americans, in life, there’s truth and,tragically, there are lies — lies conceived and spread for profit and power.
 
We must be absolutely clear about what is true and what is a lie.
 
And here is the truth: The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election.  He’s done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interests as more important than his country’s interests and America’s interests, and because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution.
 
He can’t accept he lost, even though that’s what 93 United States senators, his own Attorney General, his own Vice President, governors and state officials in every battleground state have all said: He lost.
 
That’s what 81 million of you did as you voted for a new way forward.
 
He has done what no president in American history — the history of this country — has ever, ever done: He refused to accept the results of an election and the will of the American people.
 
While some courageous men and women in the Republican Party are standing against it, trying to uphold the principles of that party, too many others are transforming that party into something else.  They seem no longer to want to be the party — the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, Reagan, the Bushes.
 
But whatever my other disagreements are with Republicans who support the rule of law and not the rule of a single man, I will always seek to work together with them to find shared solutions where possible.  Because if we have a shared belief in democracy, then anything is possible — anything.
 
And so, at this moment, we must decide: What kind of nation are we going to be?
 
Are we going to be a nation that accepts political violence as a norm?
 
Are we going to be a nation where we allow partisan election officials to overturn the legally expressed will of the people?
 
Are we going to be a nation that lives not by the light of the truth but in the shadow of lies?
 
We cannot allow ourselves to be that kind of nation.  The way forward is to recognize the truth and to live by it.
 
The Big Lie being told by the former president and many Republicans who fear his wrath is that the insurrection in this country actually took place on Election Day — November 3rd, 2020.
 
Think about that.  Is that what you thought?  Is that what you thought when you voted that day?  Taking part in an insurrection?  Is that what you thought you were doing?  Or did you think you were carrying out your highest duty as a citizen and voting?
 
The former president and his supporters are trying to rewrite history.  They want you to see Election Day as the day of insurrection and the riot that took place here on January 6th as the true expression of the will of the people.
 
Can you think of a more twisted way to look at this country — to look at America?  I cannot.
 
Here’s the truth: The election of 2020 was the greatest demonstration of democracy in the history of this country.
 
More of you voted in that election than have ever voted in all of American history.  Over 150 million Americans went to the polls and voted that day in a pandemic — some at great risk to their lives.  They should be applauded, not attacked.
 
Right now, in state after state, new laws are being written — not to protect the vote, but to deny it; not only to suppress the vote, but to subvert it; not to strengthen or protect our democracy, but because the former president lost.
 
Instead of looking at the election results from 2020 and saying they need new ideas or better ideas to win more votes, the former president and his supporters have decided the only way for them to win is to suppress your vote and subvert our elections. 
 
It’s wrong.  It’s undemocratic.  And frankly, it’s un-American.
 
The second Big Lie being told by the former President and his supporters is that the results of the election of 2020 can’t be trusted.

The truth is that no election — no election in American history has been more closely scrutinized or more carefully counted.
 
Every legal challenge questioning the results in every court in this country that could have been made was made and was rejected — often rejected by Republican-appointed judges, including judges appointed by the former president himself, from state courts to the United States Supreme Court.
 
Recounts were undertaken in state after state.  Georgia — Georgia counted its results three times, with one recount by hand.
 
Phony partisan audits were undertaken long after the election in several states.  None changed the results.  And in some of them, the irony is the margin of victory actually grew slightly.
 
So, let’s speak plainly about what happened in 2020.  Even before the first ballot was cast, the former president was preemptively sowing doubt about the election results.  He built his lie over months.  It wasn’t based on any facts.  He was just looking for an excuse — a pretext — to cover for the truth.
 
He’s not just a former president.  He’s a defeated former president — defeated by a margin of over 7 million of your votes in a full and free and fair election.
 
There is simply zero proof the election results were inaccurate.  In fact, in every venue where evidence had to be produced and an oath to tell the truth had to be taken, the former president failed to make his case.
 
Just think about this: The former president and his supporters have never been able to explain how they accept as accurate the other election results that took place on November 3rd — the elections for governor, United States Senate, the House of Representatives — elections in which they closed the gap in the House.
 
They challenge none of that.  The President’s name was first, then we went down the line — governors, senators, House of Representatives.  Somehow, those results were accurate on the same ballot, but the presidential race was flawed?
 
And on the same ballot, the same day, cast by the same voters.
 
The only difference: The former President didn’t lose those races; he just lost the one that was his own.
 
Finally, the third Big Lie being told by a former President and his supporters is that the mob who sought to impose their will through violence are the nation’s true patriots.
 
Is that what you thought when you looked at the mob ransacking the Capitol, destroying property, literally defecating in the hallways, rifling through desks of senators and representatives, hunting down members of congress?  Patriots?  Not in my view.
 
To me, the true patriots were the more than 150 [million] Americans who peacefully expressed their vote at the ballot box, the election workers who protected the integrity of the vote, and the heroes who defended this Capitol.
 
You can’t love your country only when you win.
 
You can’t obey the law only when it’s convenient.
 
You can’t be patriotic when you embrace and enable lies.
 
Those who stormed this Capitol and those who instigated and incited and those who called on them to do so held a dagger at the throat of America — at American democracy.
 
They didn’t come here out of patriotism or principle.  They came here in rage — not in service of America, but rather in service of one man.
 
Those who incited the mob — the real plotters — who were desperate to deny the certification of the election and defy the will of the voters.
 
But their plot was foiled.  Congressmen — Democrats and Republicans — stayed.  Senators, representatives, staff — they finished their work the Constitution demanded.  They honored their oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
 
Look, folks, now it’s up to all of us — to “We the People” — to stand for the rule of law, to preserve the flame of democracy, to keep the promise of America alive.
 
That promise is at risk, targeted by the forces that value brute strength over the sanctity of democracy, fear over hope, personal gain over public good.
 
Make no mistake about it: We’re living at an inflection point in history.
 
Both at home and abroad, we’re engaged anew in a struggle between democracy and autocracy, between the aspirations of the many and the greed of the few, between the people’s right of self-determination and self- — the self-seeking autocrat. 
 
From China to Russia and beyond, they’re betting that democracy’s days are numbered.  They’ve actually told me democracy is too slow, too bogged down by division to succeed in today’s rapidly changing, complicated world.
 
And they’re betting — they’re betting America will become more like them and less like us.  They’re betting that America is a place for the autocrat, the dictator, the strongman.
 
I do not believe that.  That is not who we are.  That is not who we have ever been.  And that is not who we should ever, ever be.
 
Our Founding Fathers, as imperfect as they were, set in motion an experiment that changed the world — literally changed the world.
 
Here in America, the people would rule, power would be transferred peacefully — never at the tip of a spear or the barrel of a gun.
 
And they committed to paper an idea that couldn’t live up to — they couldn’t live up to but an idea that couldn’t be constrained: Yes, in America all people are created equal.
 

We reject the view that if you succeed, I fail; if you get ahead, I fall behind; if I hold you down, I somehow lift myself up.
 
The former President, who lies about this election, and the mob that attacked this Capitol could not be further away from the core American values.
 
They want to rule or they will ruin — ruin what our country fought for at Lexington and Concord; at Gettysburg; at Omaha Beach; Seneca Falls; Selma, Alabama.  What — and what we were fighting for: the right to vote, the right to govern ourselves, the right to determine our own destiny.
 
And with rights come responsibilities: the responsibility to see each other as neighbors — maybe we disagree with that neighbor, but they’re not an adversary; the responsibility to accept defeat then get back in the arena and try again the next time to make your case; the responsibility to see that America is an idea — an idea that requires vigilant stewardship.
 
As we stand here today — one year since January 6th, 2021 — the lies that drove the anger and madness we saw in this place, they have not abated.
 
So, we have to be firm, resolute, and unyielding in our defense of the right to vote and to have that vote counted.
 
Some have already made the ultimate sacrifice in this sacred effort.
 
Jill and I have mourned police officers in this Capitol Rotunda not once but twice in the wake of January 6th: once to honor Officer Brian Sicknick, who lost his life the day after the attack, and a second time to honor Officer Billy Evans, who lost his life defending this Capitol as well.
 
We think about the others who lost their lives and were injured and everyone living with the trauma of that day — from those defending this Capitol to members of Congress in both parties and their staffs, to reporters, cafeteria workers, custodial workers, and their families.
 
Don’t kid yourself: The pain and scars from that day run deep.
 
I said it many times and it’s no more true or real than when we think about the events of January 6th: We are in a battle for the soul of America.  A battle that, by the grace of God and the goodness and gracious — and greatness of this nation, we will win.
 
Believe me, I know how difficult democracy is.  And I’m crystal clear about the threats America faces.
  But I also know that our darkest days can lead to light and hope.
 
From the death and destruction, as the Vice President referenced, in Pearl Harbor came the triumph over the forces of fascism.
 
From the brutality of Bloody Sunday on the Edmund Pettus Bridge came historic voting rights legislation.
 
So, now let us step up, write the next chapter in American history where January 6th marks not the end of democracy, but the beginning of a renaissance of liberty and fair play.
 
I did not seek this fight brought to this Capitol one year ago today, but I will not shrink from it either.
 
I will stand in this breach.  I will defend this nation.  And I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of our democracy. 
 
We will make sure the will of the people is heard; that the ballot prevails, not violence; that authority in this nation will always be peacefully transferred.
 
I believe the power of the presidency and the purpose is to unite this nation, not divide it; to lift us up, not tear us apart; to be about us — about us, not about “me.”
 
Deep in the heart of America burns a flame lit almost 250 years ago — of liberty, freedom, and equality.
 
This is not a land of kings or dictators or autocrats.  We’re a nation of laws; of order, not chaos; of peace, not violence.
 
Here in America, the people rule through the ballot, and their will prevails.
 
So, let us remember: Together, we’re one nation, under God, indivisible; that today, tomorrow, and forever, at our best, we are the United States of America.
 
God bless you all.  May God protect our troops.  And may God bless those who stand watch over our democracy.

FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Takes Action to Restore, Strengthen American Democracy

Restoring Ethics, Transparency, and the Rule of Law.The Administration will continue working with Congress to restore democratic guardrails to prevent future abuses of presidential power and curtail corruption, with legislation that is consistent with our constitutional principles and that appropriately addresses the balance of powers between the three branches of our federal government. In doing so, the Administration will work to ensure that no branch is able to abuse its authority or undermine a co-equal branch’s constitutional prerogatives, no matter who is in power © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Just before President Joe Biden convenes world leaders for a Summit for Democracy, the Biden-Harris administration released a fact sheet on actions it is taking to restore and strengthen American Democracy:

From the first day in office and every day since, the Biden-Harris Administration has taken decisive action to restore and strengthen American democracy, from cracking down on corruption and promoting transparency to taking critical steps to ensure the federal government works for every American — no matter what they look like or where they live. This cause will be a guiding principle throughout the President’s time in office, and that includes prioritizing the fight to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to protect the sacred right to vote in free, fair, and secure elections.
 
Sustaining democracy is also a shared challenge and commitment for our allies and partners overseas. Against the backdrop of a rise in authoritarianism and increasing threats to democracy around the world, President Biden is convening world leaders for a Summit for Democracy to provide an opportunity to listen, learn, and share how governments and non-governmental actors can strengthen their commitment to democratic principles and practices, and their responsiveness to the people they serve.
 
As President Biden made clear in his first Address to the Joint Session of Congress on April 28, 2021, “We have to prove democracy still works — that our government still works and we can deliver for our people.” Demonstrating that democracy can deliver to improve people’s lives and address the greatest challenges of our time — and that we, the people, can work together to address the threats facing our democracy — is at the heart of the Biden-Harris Administration’s plan to Build Back Better.
 
Last month, after working across the aisle to negotiate with Members of Congress from both parties, President Biden signed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). This once-in-a-generation investment in America’s infrastructure and competitiveness will drive the creation of good-paying union jobs, grow the economy sustainably and equitably, and shows that democracy can deliver results for the American people. President Biden continues to work with Congress to enact the Build Back Better Act, historic legislation that will cut the cost of child care and elder care, invest in affordable housing, position the U.S. to tackle the climate crisis, make health care and prescription drugs more affordable, and much more — fully paid for by ensuring the wealthiest individuals and corporations pay their fair share. These transformational pieces of legislation also make critical investments in American democracy, including: 

  • Delivering Broadband Access and Digital Literacy Skills. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $65 billion to help ensure that every American has access to reliable high-speed internet, close the digital divide, and fund digital literacy initiatives to provide individuals with the skills needed to critically evaluate information online. These investments will democratize access to information, services, and opportunity while promoting information awareness and education.
     
  • Foster Civic Engagement and a Culture of National Service. The Build Back Better Act will create a new Civilian Climate Corps (CCC), bringing together a diverse generation of over 300,000 Americans to work together in common purpose to conserve our public lands and waters, bolster community resilience, and address the changing climate. It will provide AmeriCorps with a historic $15 billion investment to expand service opportunities and increase the living allowance and education award for all AmeriCorps members, making national service a more accessible pathway to good-paying union jobs for more Americans of all backgrounds.
     
  • Investing in Civic Infrastructure. The Build Back Better Act contains $3 billion to create a new Community Restoration and Revitalization Fund, which will fund community-led civic infrastructure projects to create shared amenities that spark local economic activity, provide services, and strengthen communities’ civic fabric.
     
  • Supporting Local Journalism. The Build Back Better Act will provide tax credits for local newsrooms to hire journalists, helping to stabilize newsroom budgets in the face of unprecedented challenges and sustaining Americans’ access to the independent journalism that informs citizens and holds the powerful accountable.

The Biden-Harris Administration firmly believes that renewing democracy around the globe begins by working diligently and transparently to strengthen its foundations at home. The Administration is taking bold action across the Summit’s three broad themes: strengthening democracy and defending against authoritarianism; fighting corruption; and promoting respect for human rights.

Strengthening Democracy and Defending Against Authoritarianism
In addition to pressing for essential legislation to protect voting rights and strengthen our democracy, the Biden-Harris Administration is using available authorities and resources to defend the right to vote. The Administration has also advanced a broad range of actions to repair the fabric of our democracy, from bolstering workers’ rights and unions, an essential bulwark of democratic societies, to combating domestic violent extremism. Building on the work of the past year, new announcements we will be highlighting this week include:

Ensuring Compliance with Voting Rights Laws. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has taken a variety of steps to help protect the right to vote, including doubling the number of voting rights attorneys, taking steps to ensure compliance with voting rights statutes, and issuing guidance on (1) the civil and criminal statutes that apply to post-election audits, (2) methods of voting, including early voting and voting by mail, and (3) the vote-dilution protections that apply to all jurisdictions under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act as they engage in redistricting.
 

Making it Easier for Americans to Register to Vote. Federal agencies continue to robustly implement President Biden’s Executive Order on Promoting Access to Voting, including among many other things:
 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will make it easier for consumers using HealthCare.gov to connect to voter registration services and receive assistance. CMS will also work with states on improving access to voter registration.
 

The Department of Veterans Affairs will provide materials and assistance in registering and voting for tens of thousands of inpatients and residents, including VA Medical Center inpatients and residents of VA nursing homes and treatment centers for homeless veterans.  The Department will also facilitate assistance in registering and voting for homebound veterans and their caregivers through VA’s home-based and telehealth teams. 
 

The U.S. Small Business Administration became the first federal agency to request designation as a voter registration agency pursuant to the National Voter Registration Act, committing to offer Americans seeking services at the agency’s District Field Offices the opportunity to register to vote.
 

Combating Misinformation and Disinformation. Today, the White House announced that an interagency Information Integrity Research and Development Working Group will develop and release a first-of-its-kind strategic plan concerning government-wide research and development to better understand the full information ecosystem; design strategies for preserving information integrity and mitigating the effects of information manipulation, including mis- and disinformation; support information awareness and education; and foster a multi-disciplinary and collaborative research environment.

 
Fighting Corruption
Since Day One, the administration has worked to earn and keep the trust of Americans by cracking down on corruption and promoting an accountable and transparent government that works for the people, from  requiring all appointees to take a stringent ethics pledge, to releasing the President’s and Vice-President’s taxes, to issuing policies to restore DOJ’s independence. In addition to the steps we’ve already taken, this week we will be highlighting actions including:
 

  • Developing a Strategy on Countering Corruption. The Biden-Harris Administration released the first-ever United States Strategy on Countering Corruption, outlining a whole-of-government approach to elevating the fight against corruption both at home and abroad. The Strategy includes the Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) publishing proposed regulations requiring companies to identify to FinCEN the real people who own or control them, making it harder for criminals to launder illicit proceeds through shell companies. The Strategy also commits FinCEN to launching a regulatory process for potential new reporting and recordkeeping requirements to increase transparency in real estate transactions, diminishing the ability of corrupt actors to launder ill-gotten proceeds through real estate purchases.
     
  • Restoring Ethics, Transparency, and the Rule of Law. The Administration will continue working with Congress to restore democratic guardrails to prevent future abuses of presidential power and curtail corruption, with legislation that is consistent with our constitutional principles and that appropriately addresses the balance of powers between the three branches of our federal government. In doing so, the Administration will work to ensure that no branch is able to abuse its authority or undermine a co-equal branch’s constitutional prerogatives, no matter who is in power.

 
Promoting Respect for Human Rights
The Biden-Harris Administration has centered equity and the advancement of fundamental rights as a priority to ensure that all Americans are able to fully participate in our democracy and have a fair shot at the American dream. The Administration has worked to embed equity across many fronts, including taking concrete steps to advance gender equality; accelerate LGBTQI+ equality; expand access and inclusion for Americans with disabilities; support and respect Native communities; combat hate crimes; and reform our criminal justice system. In addition to all of the work that has happened over the past year, this week we are proud to highlight new announcements including: 

  • Combating Human Trafficking. In a new National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, the Biden-Harris Administration is reaffirming its commitment to addressing this abhorrent crime, which disproportionately impacts some of the most vulnerable and underserved members of our society. The plan lays out foundational pillars of U.S. and global anti-trafficking efforts — prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnerships.
     
  • Closing the Racial Wealth Gap. The Biden-Harris Administration — the largest purchaser of goods and services in the world — recently announced new reforms to the federal procurement process that will increase equity, help close the racial wealth gap, and level the playing field for underserved small businesses. The President is delivering on his goal of increasing the share of federal procurement dollars to small disadvantaged businesses, which Black-owned, Latino-owned, and other minority-owned businesses are presumed to qualify, by 50 percent by 2025. This ambitious target will mean an additional $100 billion for underserved small businesses over the next five years.
     
  • Promoting Equality for Transgender and Gender Diverse Americans. Building on the State Department’s announcement that it will offer a third gender marker on U.S. passports, the White House is convening an interagency policy committee to advance a coordinated federal approach to expanding access to accurate and inclusive federal identity documents for transgender and gender diverse people.

Democracy is always a work-in-progress, a constant striving to build a more perfect union. Following the Summit, the Biden-Harris Administration and democracies across the globe will convene governmental, civil society, and private sector partners during a year of consultation, coordination, and action (“Year of Action”) to advance democracy, after which time President Biden intends to again gather world leaders to showcase our collective progress and forge a path forward. The Biden-Harris Administration will continue its steadfast work to strengthen democracy, with additional actions and commitments to be announced throughout the year to come.

For a more comprehensive accounting of the Biden-Harris Administration’s record of accomplishments and ongoing efforts to restore and reinvigorate American democracy, you can go to WH.Gov.

Thousands Join NYC March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice

Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features, news-photos-features.com

Thousands gathered in Foley Square, in front of the federal court house, to hear calls for justice, equal rights and full personhood for women in face of the assault on abortion rights from Texas and dozens of states and the right wing majority Supreme Court’s deference and then marched up to Washington Square Park, bringing their messages of “Save Roe” “Keep Your Rosaries Off My Ovaries”, “Hands off Our Privates” “We Won’t Go Back” and “Ruth Sent Us.” (See: NYC Joins Millions Across Country in Rallies, Marches for Women’s Reproductive Freedom)

Here are some highlights:

We Demand Abortion Justice”. Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“I Love Someone Who Has Had an Abortion.” Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Break All the Chains.” Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“No Going Back.” Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Protect Our Rights.” Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Pro Roe”. Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“We Are Not Your Incubators.” Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Safe Accessible Abortions for Everyone.” Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Baby.” Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“My Body. My Choice.” Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Resistance Revival Chorus sings for Reproductive Freedom. Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

NYC Joins Millions Across Country in Rallies, Marches for Women’s Reproductive Freedom

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features, news-photos-features.com

“Remember Roe v Wade.” Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Thousands gathered in Foley Square, in front of the federal court house, to protest for justice, equal rights and full personhood for women in face of the assault on abortion rights from Texas and dozens of states and the right wing majority Supreme Court’s deference. The timing was key, just days before the Supreme Court begins its session in which it will hear a Mississippi case banning abortions after 15 weeks. Texas SB8 bans abortions after six-weeks, the theoretical point when a fetus has a heartbeat, and deputizes vigilantes and bounty hunters to enforce it against anyone even suspected of aiding a woman who gets an abortion and collect $10,000.

“Ruth Sent Me.” Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rana Abdelhamid, Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Rana Abdelhamid: “This is not about religion, not about life. They called us ‘hysterical’ for warning about the effort to overturn Roe v. Wade. It’s time for congress to do what’s right and protect our constitutional right to abortion. End the filibuster. We know what it is to have our bodies policed. Abolition Justice!

Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU: We stand with women in Texas, Mississippi and all over the country. Abortion Justice. Reproductive Justice. Make New York a safe haven, close every loophole in state law, so anyone can come for reproductive health. We won’t turn back. We will be at every polling place in every election. Hold elected leaders accountable.

Heidi Sieck, Vote Pro Chooce, Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Heidi Sieck, Vote Pro Choice: Reproductive freedom and abortion justice are at stake. Small, massively overfunded group of white supremacist, Christian conservatives have invested in state legislatures, built an anti-choice infrastructure. They stole two Supreme Court seats. That changes now. Over 80 percent support reproductive freedom. Pass the Women’s Health Protection Act (that passed the House, but not the senate), end the filibuster, rebalance Supreme Court. In November, 2021, 40,000 seats are up for election. Every ingle elected has a role to protect reproductive rights. Not just congress but state and local. Run for office, donate to VoteProChoice.us.

Batala NY, Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney: They have been chipping away at abortion rights for years, but now they are bulldozing our rights into the ground.Last week, chaired House Oversight Committee on Texas SB8, when three Congresswomen told their abortion stories. Women are speaking out. In December, Mississippi comes before the Supreme Court. For my entire time in Congress we hadn’t had a pro-choice majority, until this year. We passed the Women’s Health Protection Act, codifying Roe. It has to pass in the Senate. We could pass it except for the filibuster. We have to carve out an exception. There is no democracy if women cannot control their own bodies, make their own reproduction choices. It is so outrageous, I can’t believe we are still fighting for this.

Brita Filter, Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Brita Filter: Abortion rights are LGBTQ rights.

“My Body, My Business.” Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Congressman Jerry Nadler, Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Congressman Jerry Nadler, who, over 50 years ago, lobbied the New York State Assembly to legalize abortion: It’s been 30 days since women were stripped of their constitutional rights, their freedom to make their own decisions of their lives, their bodies. That’s 30 days too many.

Amsi, Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Amsi: The battle for reproductive rights is not new. It’s been long, hard, frustrating.

Pascale Bernard, Planned Parenthood of New York City, Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Pascale Bernard, Planned Parenthood of New York City: History is repeating. We have been here before. Enough is enough. Women in Texas are having to drive to Oklahoma, having to choose between paying for an abortion or feeding their children. People are scared. Justice Ginsburg told us to dissent, she left a roadmap to protect reproductive rights. We are lucky in New York, but we nee dto close loopholes, we need an abortion fund so women can come to New York for care, for safety.

Cathy Rojas, Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Cathy Rojas, a teacher and candidate for NYC mayor running as a Socialist: We need to build a sustainable people-powered movement ion New York City, In Texas, where people were freezing and is one of worst states to live – hunger, poverty of children, maternal mortality – they are leading the attack on abortion rights. So when claim is about protecting life, is really about protecting profit over lives.The right wing don’t give a damn about lives. Instead of dealing with the real crises are attacking abortion rights. Congress is ineffective at passing laws for basic necessities, but quick to bail out banks and the ultra rich. They always find time to attack women, LGBTQ and the vulnerable. This is not just about a bad law, but the whole damn system – the bigots, the politicians for hire, the courts up to the Supreme Court, the corporate control of the media, the police and ICE. I am fed up with capitalism. We need systemic change.

“Legalize Abortion, Once and For All.” Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
The Band Betty, Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Band Betty: We are one-fourth through the 21st century. I don’t see flying cars or universal health care. I see women being told to be ashamed. Until women have equal rights in the Constitution, we will continue to see how the state commands our fate.

Rev. Nori Rost of New York Society of Ethical Culture, Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Rev. Nori Rost, New York Society of Ethical Culture: They are “protecting” a fetus with a heartbeat? How about fighting for people who already have a heart beat. Anti-choice, anti-woman is nothing new – it is about subjugation, oppression. We will not give up, shut up, slow down, sit down until all people have agency over their own body. We are among millions marching as one, we will not be stopped.

Jeannie Park, Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Jeannie Park (Warriors in the Garden): Abortion bans have no humanity, no exception for rape, incenst. 3 million have experienced rape, the next 3 million will be forced to carry to term. The penalty to abort is more severe than to rape. Women’s bodies are more regulated than guns. What does it mean to be pro life if you only value certain lives. Encouraging vigilantes, bounty hunters is too lcose to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. I will not go back.

Miriam Elhajli, Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Miriam Elhajli sings a song 100 years old, “Wagoner’s Lad,” and sounding so much like Joan Baez who sang it:  “Oh, hard is the fortune of all woman kind/She’s always controlled, she’s always confined/Controlled by her parents until she’s a wife/A slave to her husband the rest of her life”

Carol Jenkins, ERA Coalition, Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Carol Jenkins, Co-President and CEO of The ERA Coalition and the Fund for Women’s Equality: The Equal Rights Amendment has been around for 100 years; it has been 50 years since passed in Congress, now 38 states have ratified it, so could be published in the Constitution. The only hold up is a time limit, put into the introduction, not the amendment. The root of sexism, misogyny, and racism is in the Constitution, written by slaveholding white males. Everything we’ve been doing since has been to repair what was left out of the Constitution. We have to put the ERA on list of things, so we don’t have to keep repairing the Constitution. Congress has removed the timeline twice, it is now in the Senate. We are done having to beg for rights, gather in the streets and ask “please”. Go to ERACoalition.org.

Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC organizers Rose Baseil Massa and Juliet Aguerre, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Abortion is a Human Right!” Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“My Body, My Choice,” Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

See next: THOUSANDS JOIN NYC MARCH FOR REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM AND JUSTICE

____________________________

© 2021 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

President Biden Tells Nation ‘We have stared into the abyss of insurrection and autocracy, pandemic and pain, and “We the People” did not flinch’

President Biden, putting the Reagan canard to pasture, tells nation in his State of the Union Address: “It’s time to remember that ‘We the People’ are the government — you and I.  Not some force in a distant capital.  Not some powerful force that we have no control over.  It’s us.  It’s ‘We the People’… ‘We have stared into the abyss of insurrection and autocracy, pandemic and pain, and ‘We the People’ did not flinch.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com via msnbc

Here is a highlighted transcript of President Joe Biden’s speech to a joint session of Congress, April 28, 2021:

9:06 P.M. EDT
 
THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you.  Good to be back.  And Mitch and Chuck will understand it’s good to be almost home, down the hall.  Anyway, thank you all.
 
Madam Speaker, Madam Vice President — (applause) — no President has ever said those words from this podium.  No President has ever said those words, and it’s about time.  (Applause.)
 
First Lady — (applause) — I’m her husband; Second Gentleman; Chief Justice; members of the United States Congress and the Cabinet; distinguished guests; my fellow Americans: While the setting tonight is familiar, this gathering is just a little bit different — a reminder of the extraordinary times we’re in.
 
Throughout our history, Presidents have come to this chamber to speak to Congress, to the nation, and to the world to declare war, to celebrate peace, to announce new plans and possibilities.
 
Tonight, I come to talk about crisis and opportunity, about rebuilding the nation, revitalizing our democracy, and winning the future for America.
 
I stand here tonight, one day shy of the 100th day
of my administration — 100 days since I took the oath of office and lifted my hand off our family Bible and inherited a nation — we all did — that was in crisis.
 
The worst pandemic in a century.  The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.  The worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War.
 
Now, after just 100 days, I can report to the nation: America is on the move again — (applause) — turning peril into possibility, crisis to opportunity, setbacks into strength.
 
We all know life can knock us down.  But in America, we never, ever, ever stay down.  Americans always get up.  Today, that’s what we’re doing: America is rising anew, choosing hope over fear, truth over lies, and light over darkness.
 
After 100 days of rescue and renewal, America is ready for takeoff, in my view.  We’re working again, dreaming again, discovering again, and leading the world again.
 
We have shown each other and the world that there’s no quit in America — none.
 
One hundred days ago, America’s house was on fire.  We had to act.  And thanks to the extraordinary leadership of Speaker Pelosi; Majority Leader Schumer; and the overwhelming support of the American people — Democrats, independents, and Republicans — we did act.
 
Together we passed the American Rescue Plan — one of the most consequential rescue packages in American history.  We’re already seeing the results.  (Applause.)   We’re already seeing the results. 
 
After I promised we’d get 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots into people’s arms in 100 days, we will have provided over 220 million COVID shots in those 100 days.  (Applause.)
 
Thanks to all the help of all of you, we’re marshalling — with your help, everyone’s help — we’re marshalling every federal resource.  We’ve gotten vaccines to nearly 40,000 pharmacies and over 700 Community Health Centers where the poorest of the poor can be reached.  We’re setting up community vaccination sites, developing mobile units to get to hard-to-reach communities.
 
Today, 90 percent of Americans now live within five miles of a vaccination site.  Everyone over the age of 16 – everyone is now eligible to get vaccinated right now, right away.  (Applause.)  Go get vaccinated, America.  Go and get the vaccination.  They’re available.  You’re eligible now.
 
When I was sworn in on January 20th, less than 1 percent of the seniors in America were fully vaccinated against COVID-19.  One hundred days later, 70 percent of seniors in America over 65 are protected — fully protected.  
 
Senior deaths from COVID-19 are down 80 percent since January — down 80 percent because of all of you.  And more than half of all the adults in America have gotten at least one shot.
 
At a mass vaccination center in Glendale, Arizona, I asked a nurse — I said, “What’s it like?”  She looked at me and she said, “It’s like every shot is giving a dose of hope” — was the phrase.  “A dose of hope.”
 
A dose of hope for an educator in Florida who has a child suffering from an autoimmune disease — wrote to me, said she’s worried — that she was worrying about bringing the virus home.  She said she then got vaccinated at a — at a large site, in her car.  She said she sat in her car, when she got vaccinated, and just cried — cried out of joy and cried out of relief.
 
Parents see the smiles on their kids’ faces, for those who are able to go back to school because the teachers and school bus drivers and cafeteria workers have been vaccinated.
 
Grandparents hugging their children and grandchildren instead of pressing hands against a window to say goodbye.
 
It means everything.  Those things mean everything.
 
You know, there’s still — you all know it; you know it better than any group of Americans — there’s still more work to do to beat this virus.  We can’t let our guard down.
 
But tonight I can say it: Because of you, the American people, our progress these past 100 days against one of the worst pandemics in history has been one of the greatest logistical achievements — logistical achievements this country has ever seen.
 
What else have we done in those first 100 days?
 
We kept our commitment — Democrats and Republicans — of sending $1,400 rescue checks to 85 percent of American households.  We’ve already sent more than one — 160 million checks out the door.  It’s making the difference.  You all know it when you go home.  For many people, it’s making all the difference in the world.
 
A single mom in Texas who wrote to me, she said she couldn’t work, but she said the relief check put food on the table and saved her and her son from eviction from their apartment.
 
A grandmother in Virginia who told me she immediately took her granddaughter to the eye doctor — something she said she put off for months because she didn’t have the money. 
 
One of the defining images, at least from my perspective, of this crisis has been cars lined up — cars lined up for miles.  And not — not people who just barely ever start those cars — nice cars lined up for miles, waiting for a box of food to be put in their trunk.
 
I don’t know about you, but I didn’t ever think I’d see that in America.  And all of this is through no fault of their own.  No fault of their own these people are in this position.
 
That’s why the Rescue Plan is delivering food and nutrition assistance to millions of Americans facing hunger, and hunger is down sharply already. 
 
We’re also providing rental assistance — you all know this, but the American people, I want to make sure they understand — keeping people from being evicted from their homes, providing loans to small businesses to reopen and keep their employees on the job.
 
During these 100 days, an additional 800,000 Americans enrolled in the Affordable Care Act when I established the special sign-up period to do that — 800,000 in that period.
 
We’re making one of the largest one-time ever investments — ever — in improving healthcare for veterans.  Critical investments to address the opioid crisis.  And, maybe most importantly, thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we’re on track to cut child poverty in America in half this year.  (Applause.)
 
      [Notably, the Republicans kept their seats and silence.]

And in the process, while this was all going on, the economy created more than 1,300,000 new jobs in 100 days — more jobs in the first — (applause) — more jobs in the first 100 days than any President on record.
 
The International Monetary Fund — (applause) — the International Monetary Fund is now estimating our economy will grow at a rate of more than 6 percent this year.  That will be the fastest pace of economic growth in this country in nearly four decades.
 
America is moving — moving forward — but we can’t stop now.  We’re in competition with China and other countries to win the 21st Century.  We’re at a great inflection point in history.
 
We have to do more than just build back better — I mean “build back.”  We have to build back better.  We have to compete more strenuously than we have.
 
Throughout our history, if you think about it, public investment and infrastructure has literally transformed America — our attitudes, as well as our opportunities.
 
The transcontinental railroad, the interstate highways united two oceans and brought a totally new age of progress to the United States of America.
 
Universal public schools and college aid
opened wide the doors of opportunity.
 
Scientific breakthroughs took us to the Moon — now we’re on Mars; discovering vaccines; gave us the Internet and so much more.
 
These are the investments we made together as one country, and investments that only the government was in a position to make.  Time and again, they propel us into the future.
 
That’s why I proposed the American Jobs Plan — a once-in-a-generation investment in America itself.  This is the largest jobs plan since World War Two.
 
It creates jobs to upgrade our transportation infrastructure; jobs modernizing our roads, bridges, highways; jobs building ports and airports, rail corridors, transit lines. 
 
It’s clean water.  And, today, up to 10 million homes in America and more than 400,000 schools and childcare centers have pipes with lead in them, including in drinking water — a clear and present danger to our children’s health.
 
The American Jobs Plan creates jobs replacing 100 percent of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines so every American can drink clean water.  (Applause.)
 
And in the process, it will create thousands and thousands of good-paying jobs.  It creates jobs connecting every American with high-speed Internet, including 35 percent of the rural America that still doesn’t have it.
 
This is going to help our kids and our businesses succeed in the 21st-century economy.
 
And I am asking the Vice President to lead this effort, if she would —
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Of course.
 
THE PRESIDENT:  — because I know it will get done.  (Applause.)
 
It creates jobs, building a modern power grid.  Our grids are vulnerable to storms, hacks, catastrophic failures — with tragic results, as we saw in Texas and elsewhere during the winter storms.
 
The American Jobs Plan will create jobs that will lay thousands of miles of transmission lines needed to build a resilient and fully clean grid.  We can do that.  (Applause.)
 
Look, the American Jobs Plan will help millions of people get back to their jobs and back to their careers.
 
Two million women have dropped out of the workforce during this pandemic — two million.  And too often because they couldn’t get the care they needed to care for their child or care for an elderly parent who needs help.
 
Eight hundred thousand families are on a Medicare waiting list right now to get homecare for their aging parent or loved one with a disability.  If you think it’s not important, check out in your own district.
 
Democrat or Republican — Democrat or Republican voters, their great concern — almost as much as their children — is taking care of an elderly loved one who can’t be left alone.  Medicaid contemplated it, but this plan is going to help those families and create jobs for our caregivers with better wages and better benefits, continuing a cycle of growth.
 
For too long, we’ve failed to use the most important word when it comes to meeting the climate crisis: “jobs.”  Jobs.  Jobs.  (Applause.) 
 
For me, when I think “climate change,” I think “jobs.”
 
The American Jobs Plan will put engineers and construction workers to work building more energy-efficient buildings and homes.  Electrical workers — IBEW members — installing 500,000 charging stations along our highways so we can own — (applause) — so we can own the electric car market.  (Applause.)
 
Farmers — farmers planting cover crops so they can reduce the carbon dioxide in the air and get paid for doing it.  (Applause.)
 
Look, but think about it: There is simply no reason why the blades for wind turbines can’t be built in Pittsburgh instead of Beijing.  No reason.  None.  No reason.  (Applause.)
 
So, folks, there’s no reason why American — American workers can’t lead the world in the production of electric vehicles and batteries.  I mean, there is no reason.  We have this capacity.  (Applause.)  We have the brightest, best-trained people in the world.
 
The American Jobs Plan is going to create millions of good-paying jobs — jobs Americans can raise a family on — as my dad would then say, “with a little breathing room.”
 
And all the investments in the American Jobs Plan will be guided by one principle: Buy American.  (Applause.)  Buy American.
 
And I might note, parenthetically — (applause) — that does not — that does not violate any trade agreement.  It’s been the law since the ’30s: Buy American. 
 
American tax dollars are going to be used to buy American products made in America to create American jobs.  That’s the way it’s supposed to be and it will be in this administration.  (Applause.)
 
And I made it clear to all my Cabinet people.  Their ability to give exemptions has been strenuously limited.  It will be American products.
 
Now I know some of you at home are wondering whether these jobs are for you.  So many of you — so many of the folks I grew up with feel left behind, forgotten in an economy that’s so rapidly changing.  It’s frightening. 
 
I want to speak directly to you.  Because if you think about it, that’s what people are most worried about: “Can I fit in?”
 
Independent experts estimate the American Jobs Plan will add millions of jobs and trillions of dollars to economic growth in the years to come.  It is an eight-year program.  These are good-paying jobs that can’t be outsourced.
 
Nearly 90 percent of the infrastructure jobs created in the American Jobs Plan do not require a college degree; 75 percent don’t require an associate’s degree.
 
The American Jobs Plan is a blue-collar blueprint to build America.  That’s what it is.  (Applause.)
 
And it recognizes something I’ve always said in this chamber and the other.  Good guys and women on Wall Street, but Wall Street didn’t build this country.  The middle class built the country, and unions built the middle class.  (Applause.)
 
So that’s why I’m calling on Congress to pass the Protect the Right to Organize Act — the PRO Act — and send it to my desk so we can support the right to unionize.  (Applause.)
 
And, by the way, while you’re thinking about sending things to my desk — (laughs) — let’s raise the minimum wage to $15.  (Applause.)
 
No one — no one working 40 hours a week — no one working 40 hours a week should live below the poverty line.
 
We need to ensure greater equity and opportunity for women.  And while we’re doing this, let’s get the Paycheck Fairness Act to my desk as well — equal pay.  It’s been much too long.  And if you’re wondering whether it’s too long, look behind me.  (Applause.)
 
And finally, the American Jobs Plan will be the biggest increase in nondefense research and development on record.  We will see more technological change — and some of you know more about this than I do — we’ll see more technological change in the next 10 years than we saw in the last 50.  That’s how rapidly artificial intelligence and so much more is changing.
 
And we’re falling behind the competition with the rest of the world.
 
Decades ago, we used to invest 2 percent of our gross domestic product in America — 2 percent of our gross domestic product — in research and development. 
 
Today, Mr. Secretary, that’s less than 1 percent. 
China and other countries are closing in fast.  We have to develop and dominate the products and technologies of the future:advanced batteries, biotechnology, computer chips, clean energy.
 
The Secretary of Defense can tell you — and those of you on — who work on national security issues know — the Defense Department has an agency called DARPA — the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency.  The people who set up before I came here — and that’s been a long time ago — to develop breakthroughs that enhance our national security -– that’s their only job.  And it’s a semi-separate agency; it’s under the Defense Department.  It’s led to everything from the discovery of the Internet to GPS and so much more that has enhanced our security.
 
The National Institute of Health — the NIH –- I believe, should create a similar Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health.  (Applause.)
 
And that would — here’s what it would do.  It would have a singular purpose: to develop breakthroughs to prevent, detect, and treat diseases like Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cancer.
 
I’ll still never forget when we passed the cancer proposal the last year I was Vice President — almost $9 million going to NIH.  And if you excuse the point of personal privilege, I’ll never forget you standing and mentioning — saying you’d name it after my deceased son.  It meant a lot.
 
But so many of us have deceased sons, daughters, and relatives who died of cancer.  I can think of no more worthy investment.  I know of nothing that is more bipartisan.  So, let’s end cancer as we know it.  (Applause.)  It’s within our power.  (Applause.)  It’s within our power to do it.  (Applause.)
 
Investments in jobs and infrastructure, like the ones we’re talking about, have often had bipartisan support in the past.  Vice President Harris and I met regularly in the Oval Office with Democrats and Republicans to discuss the Jobs Plan.  And I applaud a group of Republican senators who just put forward their own proposal.
 
So, let’s get to work.  I wanted to lay out, before the Congress, my plan before we got into the deep discussions.  I’d like to meet with those who have ideas that are different — they think are better.  I welcome those ideas. 
 
But the rest of the world is not waiting for us.  I just want to be clear: From my perspective, doing nothing is not an option.  (Applause.)
 
Look, we can’t be so busy competing with one another that we forget the competition that we have with the rest of the world to win the 21st century.
 
Secretary Blinken can tell you, I spent a lot of time with President Xi — traveled over 17,000 miles with him; spent, they tell me, over 24 hours in private discussions with him.  When he called to congratulate me, we had a two-hour discussion.  He’s deadly earnest about becoming the most significant, consequential nation in the world.  He and others — autocrats — think that democracy can’t compete in the 21st century with autocracies because it takes too long to get consensus. 
 
To win that competition for the future, in my view, we also need to make a once-in-a-generation investment in our families and our children.  That’s why I’ve introduced the American Families Plan tonight, which addresses four of the biggest challenges facing American families and, in turn, America.
 
First is access to a good education.  When this nation made 12 years of public education universal in the last century, it made us the best-educated, best-prepared nation in the world.  It’s, I believe, the overwhelming reason that propelled us to where we got in the 21st — in the 20th century. 
 
But the world has caught up, or catching up.  They are not waiting.  I would say, parenthetically: If we were sitting down, put a bipartisan committee together and said, “Okay, we’re going to decide what we do in terms of government providing for free education,” I wonder whether we’d think, as we did in the 20th century, that 12 years is enough in the 21st century.  I doubt it.  Twelve years is no longer enough today to compete with the rest of the world in the 21st Century.
 
That’s why my American Families Plan guarantees four additional years of public education for every person in America, starting as early as we can.
 
The great universities of this country have conducted studies over the last 10 years.  It shows that adding two years of universal high-quality preschool for every three-year-old and four-year-old, no matter what background they come from, it puts them in the position to be able to compete all the way through 12 years.  It increases exponentially their prospect of graduating and going on beyond graduation.
 
The research shows when a young child goes to school — not daycare — they are far more likely to graduate from high school and go to college or something after high school.
 
When you add two years of free community college on top of that, you begin to change the dynamic.  (Applause.)  We can do that.  (Applause.) 
 
And we’ll increase Pell Grants and invest in Historical Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges, Minority-Serving Institutions.  The reason is: They don’t have the endowments, but their students are just as capable of learning about cybersecurity, just as capable of learning about metallurgy — all the things that are going on that provide those jobs of the future.
 
Jill was  a community college professor who teaches today as First Lady.  She has long said — (applause).  She has long — (applause).  If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: “Joe, any country that out-educates us is going to outcompete us.”  She’ll be deeply involved in leading this effort.  Thank you, Jill.
 
Second thing we need: American Families Plan will provide access to quality, affordable childcare.  We guarantee — (applause).  And I’m proposing a legislation to guarantee that low- and middle-income families will pay no more than 7 percent of their income for high-quality care for children up to the age of 5.  The most hard-pressed working families won’t have to spend a dime.
 
Third, the American Families Plan will finally provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave  and medical leave — family and medical leave.  We’re one of the few industrial countries in the world — (applause). 
 
No one should have to choose between a job and paycheck or taking care of themselves and their loved ones –- a parent, a spouse, or child.
 
And fourth, the American Family Plan puts directly into the pockets of millions of Americans.  In March, we expanded a tax credit for every child in a family.  Up to a $3,000 per child, if they’re under six years of age — I mean, excuse me — under six years of age, and $3,600 for children over six years of age.
 
With two parents, two kids, that’s $7,200 in the pockets that’s going to help to take care of your family.  And that will help more than 65 million children and help cut [child] poverty in half.  (Applause.)  And we can afford it. 
 
So we did that in the last piece of legislation we passed. But let’s extend that Child Care Tax Credit at least through the end of 2025.  (Applause.)  
 
The American Rescue Plan lowered healthcare premiums for 9 million Americans who buy their coverage under the Affordable Care Act.  I know that’s really popular on this side of the aisle.  (Laughter.)  But let’s make that provision permanent so their premiums don’t go back up.  (Applause.)  
 
In addition to my Families Plan, I’m going to work with Congress to address, this year, other critical priorities for American families. 
 
The Affordable Care Act has been a lifeline for millions of Americans, protecting people with preexisting conditions, protecting women’s health.  And the pandemic has demonstrated how badly — how badly it’s needed.  Let’s lower deductibles for working families on the Affordable Care — in the Affordable Care Act.  (Applause.)  And let’s lower prescription drug costs.  (Applause.) 
 
We know how to do this.  The last President had that as an objective.  We all know how outrageously expensive drugs are in America. 
 
In fact, we pay the highest prescription drug prices of anywhere in the world right here in America — nearly three times — for the same drug, nearly three times what other countries pay.  We have to change that, and we can. 
 
Let’s do what we’ve always talked about for all the years I was down here in this — in this body — in Congress.  Let’s give Medicare the power to save hundreds of billions of dollars by negotiating lower drug prescription prices.  (Applause.)
 
And, by the way, that won’t just — that won’t just help people on Medicare; it will lower prescription drug costs for everyone. 
 
And the money we save, which is billions of dollars, can go to strengthen the Affordable Care Act and expand Medicare coverage benefits without costing taxpayers an additional penny.  It’s within our power to do it; let’s do it now.  (Applause.)
 
We’ve talked about it long enough.  Democrats and Republicans, let’s get it done this year.  This is all about a simple premise: Healthcare should be a right, not a privilege in America.  (Applause.) 
 
So, how do we pay for my Jobs and Family Plan?  I made it clear, we can do it without increasing the deficits.  Let’s start with what I will not do: I will not impose any tax increase on people making less than $400,000.  It’s — but it’s time for corporate America and the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans to just begin to pay their fair share.  (Applause.)  Just their fair share. 
 
Sometimes I have arguments with my friends in the Democratic Party.  I think you should be able to become a billionaire and a millionaire, but pay your fair share.
 
A recent study shows that 55 of the nation’s biggest corporations paid zero federal tax last year.  Those 55 corporations made in excess of $40 billion in profit.  A lot of companies also evade taxes through tax havens in Switzerland and Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.  And they benefit from tax loopholes and deductions for offshoring jobs and shifting profits overseas.  It’s not right. 
 
We’re going to reform corporate taxes so they pay their fair share and help pay for the public investments their businesses will benefit from as well.  (Applause.)
 
We’re going to reward work, not just wealth.  We take the top tax bracket for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans — those making over $400,000 or more — back up to where it was when George W. Bush was President when he started: 39.6 percent.  That’s where it was when George W. was President. 
 
We’re going to get rid of the loopholes that allow Americans who make more than a million dollars a year and pay a lower tax rate on their capital gains than Americans who receive a paycheck.   We’re only going to affect three tenths of 1 percent of all Americans by that action.  Three tenths of 1 percent. 
 
And the IRS is going to crack down on millionaires and billionaires who cheat on their taxes.  It’s estimated to be billions of dollars by think tanks that are left, right, and center. 
 
I’m not looking to punish anybody.  But I will not add a tax burden — an additional tax burden to the middle class in this country.  They’re already paying enough.  I believe what I propose is fair — (applause) — fiscally responsible, and it raises revenue to pay for the plans I have proposed, and will create millions of jobs that will grow the economy and enhance our financial standing in the country.
 
When you hear someone say that they don’t want to raise taxes on the wealthiest 1 percent or corporate America, ask them: “Whose taxes you want to raise instead?  Whose are you going to cut?” 
 
Look, the big tax cut of 2017 — remember, it was supposed to pay for itself — that was how it was sold — and generate vast economic growth.  Instead, it added $2 trillion to the deficit.  It was a huge windfall for corporate America and those at the very top.  
 
Instead of using the tax saving to raise wages and invest in research and development, it poured billions of dollars into the pockets of CEOs.  In fact, the pay gap between CEOs and their workers is now among the largest in history. 
 
According to one study, CEOs make 320 times what the average worker in their corporation makes.  It used to be in the — below a hundred. 
 
The pandemic has only made things worse.  Twenty million Americans lost their job in the pandemic — working- and middle-class Americans.  At the same time, roughly 650 billionaires in America saw their net worth increase by more than $1 trillion — in the same exact period.  Let me say it again: 650 people increased their wealth by more than $1 trillion during this pandemic.  And they’re now worth more than $4 trillion. 
 
My fellow Americans, trickle-down — trickle-down economics has never worked and it’s time to grow the economy from the bottom and the middle out. (Applause.) 
 
You know, there’s a broad consensus of economists — left, right, center — and they agree what I’m proposing will help create millions of jobs and generate historic economic growth.  These are among the highest-value investments we can make as a nation. 
 
I’ve often said: Our greatest strength is the power of our example, not just the example of our power.  
 
In my conversations with world leaders — and I’ve spoken to over 38, 40 of them now — I’ve made it known — I’ve made it known that America is back.  And you know what they say?  The comment that I hear most of all from them is they say, “We see America is back but for how long?  But for how long?”
 
My fellow Americans, we have to show not just that we’re back, but that we’re back to stay and that we aren’t going to go it alone.  (Applause.)  We’re going to do it by leading with our allies.  (Applause.)   
 
No one nation can deal with all the crises of our timefrom terrorism, to nuclear proliferation, mass migration, cybersecurity, climate change, as well as experi- — what we’re experiencing now with pandemics. 
 
There’s no wall high enough to keep any virus out.  And our own vaccine supply — as it grows to meet our needs; and we’re meeting them — will become an arsenal of vaccines for other countries, just as America was the arsenal of democracy for the world — (applause) — and in consequence, influenced the world.  (Applause.)  
 
But every American will have access before that occur- — every American will have access to be fully covered by COVID-19 — from the vaccines we have.
 
Look, the climate crisis is not our fight alone; it’s a global fight.  The United States accounts, as all of you know, less than 15 percent of carbon emissions.  The rest of the world accounts for 85 percent.  That’s why I kept my commitment to rejoin the Paris Accord — because if we do everything perfectly, it’s not going to ultimately matter.
 
I kept my commitment to convene a climate summit right here in America with all of the major economies of the world — China, Russia, India, the European Union — and I said I’d do it in my first 100 days.
 
I want to be very blunt about it: I had — my attempt was to make sure that the world could see there was a consensus, that we are at an inflection point in history.  And consensus — the consensus is: If we act to save the planet, we can create millions of jobs and economic growth and opportunity to raise the standard of living to almost everyone around the world.
 
If you’ve watched any of it — and you were all busy; I’m sure you didn’t have much time — that’s what virtually every nation said, even the ones that aren’t doing their fair share.
 
The investments I’ve proposed tonight also advance the foreign policy, in my view, that benefits the middle class.  That means making sure every nation plays by the same rules in the global economy, including China.
 
In my discussions — in my discussions with President Xi, I told him, “We welcome the competition.  We’re not looking for conflict.”  But I made absolutely clear that we will defend America’s interests across the board.  America will stand up to unfair trade practices that undercut American workers and American industries, like subsidies from state — to state-owned operations and enterprises and the theft of American technology and intellectual property.
 
I also told President Xi that we’ll maintain a strong military presence in the Indo-Pacific, just as we do with NATO in Europe — not to start a conflict, but to prevent one.  (Applause.) 
 
I told him what I’ve said to many world leaders: that America will not back away from our commitments — our commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms and to our alliances.
 
And I pointed out to him: No responsible American President could remain silent when basic human rights are being so blatantly violated.  An American President — President has to represent the essence of what our country stands for.  America is an idea — the most unique idea in history: We are created, all of us, equal.  It’s who we are, and we cannot walk away from that principle and, in fact, say we’re dealing with the American idea.
 
With regard to Russia, I know it concerns some of you, but I made very clear to Putin that we’re not going to seek escalation, but their actions will have consequence if they turn out to be true.  And they turned out to be true, so I responded directly and proportionally to Russia’s interference in our elections and the cyberattacks on our government and our business.  They did both of these things, and I told them we would respond, and we have.
 
But we can also cooperate when it’s in our mutual interest.  We did it when we extended the New START Treaty on nuclear arms, and we’re working to do it on climate change.  But he understands we will respond.
 
On Iran and North Korea — nuclear programs that present serious threats to American security and the security of the world — we’re going to be working closely with our allies to address the threats posed by both of these countries through diplomacy, as well as stern deterrence.
 
And American leadership means ending the forever war in Afghanistan.  (Applause.)  We have — (applause) — we have, without hyperbole, the greatest fighting force in the history of the world.  I’m the first President in 40 years who knows what it means to have a son serving in a warzone. 
 
Today we have servicemembers serving in the same warzone as their parents did.  We have servicemembers in Afghanistan who were not yet born on 9/11.
 
The War in Afghanistan, as we remember the debates here, were never meant to be multi-generational undertakings of nation-building.  We went to Afghanistan to get terrorists — the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 — and we said we would follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell to do it.  If you’ve been to the upper Kunar Valley, you’ve kind of seen the gates of hell.  And we delivered justice to bin Laden.  We degraded the terrorist threat of al Qaeda in Afghanistan.  And after 20 years of value — valor and sacrifice, it’s time to bring those troops home.  (Applause.) 
 
Look, even as we do, we will maintain an over-the-horizon capacity to suppress future threats to the homeland.  And make no mistake: In 20 years, terrorists has — terrorism has metastasized.  The threat has evolved way beyond Afghanistan.  And those of you in the intelligence committees, the foreign relations committee, the defense committees, you know well: We have to remain vigilant against the threats to the United States wherever they come from.  Al Qaeda and ISIS are in Yemen, Syria, Somalia, other places in Africa, the Middle East, and beyond. 
 
And we won’t ignore what our intelligence agencies have determined to be the most lethal terrorist threat to the homeland today: White supremacy is terrorism.  We’re not going to ignore that either.
 
My fellow Americans, look, we have to come together to heal the soul of this nation.  It was nearly a year ago, before her father’s funeral, when I spoke with Gianna Floyd, George Floyd’s young daughter.  She’s a little tyke, so I was kneeling down to talk to her so I could look her in the eye.  And she looked at me and she said, “My daddy changed the world.”  Well, after the conviction of George Floyd’s murderer, we can see how right she was if — if we have the courage to act as a Congress. 
 
We’ve all seen the knee of injustice on the neck of Black Americans.  Now is our opportunity to make some real progress.  The vast majority of men and women wearing the uniform and a badge serve our communities, and they serve them honorably.  I know them.  I know they want — (applause) — I know they want to help meet this moment as well.
 
My fellow Americans, we have to come together to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the people they serve, to root out systemic racism in our criminal justice system, and to enact police reform in George Floyd’s name that passed the House already. 
 
I know Republicans have their own ideas and are engaged in the very productive discussions with Democrats in the Senate.  We need to work together to find a consensus.  But let’s get it done next month, by the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death.  (Applause.) 
 
The country supports this reform, and Congress should act — should act.  We have a giant opportunity to bend to the arc of the moral universe towards justice — real justice.  And with the plans outlined tonight, we have a real chance to root out systemic racism that plagues America and American lives in other ways; a chance to deliver real equity — good jobs, good schools, affordable housing, clean air, clean water, being able to generate wealth and pass it down two generations because you have an access to purchase a house.  Real opportunities in the lives of more Americans — Black, white, Latino, Asian Americans, Native Americans.
 
Look, I also want to thank the United States Senate for voting 94 to 1 to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act to protect Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.  (Applause.)  You acted decisively.  (Applause.)  And you can see on television the viciousness of the hate crimes we’ve seen over the past year — this past year and for too long.  I urge the House to do the same and send that legislation to my desk, which I will gladly, anxiously sign.
 
I also hope Congress can get to my desk the Equality Act to protect LGBTQ Americans.  (Applause.)  To all transgender Americans watching at home, especially young people who are so brave, I want you to know your President has your back.
 
Another thing: Let’s authorize the Violence Against Women Act, which has been law for 27 years.  (Applause.)  Twenty-seven years ago, I wrote it.  It’ll close the — the act that has to be authorized now will close the “boyfriend” loophole to keep guns out of the hands of abusers.  The court order said, “This is an abuser.  You can’t own a gun.”  It’s to close that loophole that existed. 
 
You know, it’s estimated that 50 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner every month in America — 50 a month.  Let’s pass it and save some lives.  (Applause.)
    
And I need not — I need not tell anyone this, but gun violence is becoming an epidemic in America.
 
The flag at the White House was still flying at half-mast for the 8 victims in the mass shooting in Georgia when 10 more lives were taken in a mass shooting in Colorado.
 
And in the week in between those two events, 250 other Americans were shot dead in the streets of America — 250 shot dead.
 
I know how hard it is to make progress on this issue.  In the ’90s, we passed universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that hold 100 rounds that can be fired off in seconds.  We beat the NRA.  Mass shootings and gun violence declined.  Check out the report in over 10 years.  But in the early twe- — 2000s, the law expired, and we’ve seen daily bloodshed since.  I’m not saying if the law continued, we wouldn’t see bloodshed.  
 
More than two weeks ago in the Rose Garden, surrounded by some of the bravest people I know — the survivors and families who lost loved ones to gun violence — I laid out several of the Department of Justice a- — actions that are being taken to — impact on this epidemic. 
 
One of them is banning so-called “ghost guns.”  These are homemade guns built from a kit that includes directions on how to finish the firearm.  The parts have no serial numbers, so they show up at crime scenes and they can’t be traced.  The buyers of these ghost gun kits aren’t required to pass any background check.  Anyone, from a criminal or terrorist, could buy this kit and within 30 minutes have a weapon that’s lethal.  But no more.
 
And I will do everything in my power to protect the American people from this epidemic of gun violence, but it’s time for Congress to act as well.  (Applause.)
 
Look, I don’t want to become confrontational but we need more Senate Republicans to join the overwhelming majority of Democrat colleagues and close the loopholes requiring a background check on purchases of guns.  We need a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.  And don’t tell me it can’t be done.  We did it before, and it worked.
 
Talk to most responsible gun owners and hunters. They’ll tell you there’s no possible justification for having 100 rounds in a weapon.  What do you think — deer are wearing Kevlar vests?  (Laughter.)  They’ll tell you that there are too many people today who are able to buy a gun but shouldn’t be able to buy a gun.
 
These kinds of reasonable reforms have overwhelming support from the American people, including many gun owners.  The country supports reform and is — and Congress should act.
 
This shouldn’t be a red or blue issue.  And no amendment to the Constitution is absolute.  You can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater.  From the very beginning, there were certain guns, weapons, that could not be owned by Americans.  Certain people could not own those weapons ever. 
 
We’re not changing the Constitution; we’re being reasonable.  I think this is not a Democrat or Republican issue; I think it’s an American issue.
 
And here’s what else we can do: Immigration has always been essential to America.  Let’s end our exhausting war over immigration.  For more than 30 years, politicians have talked about immigration reform, and we’ve done nothing about it.  It’s time to fix it.
 
On day one of my presidency, I kept my commitment and sent a comprehensive immigration bill to the United States Congress.  If you believe we need to secure the border, pass it, because it has a lot of money for high-tech border security.  If you believe in a pathway to citizenship, pass it so over 11 million undocumented folks — the vast majority are here overstaying visas.  Pass it.  We can actually — if you actually want to solve a problem, I’ve sent a bill to take a close look at it. 
 
We have to — also have to get at the root problem of why people are fleeing, particularly to — to our southern border from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador: the violence, the corruption, the gangs, and the political instability, hunger, hurricanes, earthquakes, natural disasters.
 
 
When I was President, my President — when I was Vice President, the President asked me to focus on providing the help needed to address the root causes of migration.  And it helped keep people in their own countries instead of being forced to leave.  The plan was working, but the last administration decided it was not worth it.
 
I’m restoring the program and asked Vice President Harris to lead our diplomatic effort to take care of this.  I have absolute confidence she’ll get the job done.  (Applause.)
 
Now, look, if you don’t like my plan, let’s at least pass what we all agree on.  Congress needs to pass legislation this year to finally secure protection for DREAMers — the young people who have only known America as their home.  (Applause.) 
 
And permanent protection for immigrants who are here on temporary protected status who came from countries beset by manmade and natural-made violence and disaster.  (Applause.)
 
As well as a pathway to citizenship for farmworkers who put food on our tables.  (Applause.) 
 
Look, immigrants have done so much for America during this pandemic and throughout our history.  The country supports immigration reform.  We should act.  Let’s argue over it, let’s debate it, but let’s act.  (Applause.)
 
And if we truly want to restore the soul of America, we need to protect the sacred right to vote.  Most people — (applause).  
 
More people voted in the last presidential election than any time in American history, in the middle of the worst pandemic ever.  It should be celebrated.  Instead, it’s being attacked.
 
Congress should pass H.R. 1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and send it to my desk right away.
  (Applause.)  The country supports it.  The Congress should act now.  (Applause.)
 
Look, in closing, as we gather here tonight, the images of a violent mob assaulting this Capitol, desecrating our democracy, remain vivid in all our minds.
 
Lives were put at risk — many of your lives.  Lives were lost.  Extraordinary courage was summoned.  The insurrection was an existential crisis –- a test of whether our democracy could survive.  And it did.
 
But the struggle is far from over.  The question of whether our democracy will long endure is both ancient and urgent, as old as our Republic — still vital today. 
 
Can our democracy deliver on its promise that all of us, created equal in the image of God, have a chance to lead lives of dignity, respect, and possibility?
 
Can our democracy deliver the most — to the most pressing needs of our people? 
 
Can our democracy overcome the lies, anger, hate, and fears that have pulled us apart?
 
America’s adversaries –- the autocrats of the world –- are betting we can’t.  And I promise you, they’re betting we can’t.  They believe we’re too full of anger and division and rage.
 
They look at the images of the mob that assaulted the Capitol as proof that the sun is setting on American democracy.  But they are wrong.  You know it; I know it.  But we have to prove them wrong.
 
We have to prove democracy still works — that our government still works and we can deliver for our people.
 
In our first 100 days together, we have acted to restore the people’s faith in democracy to deliver.  We’re vaccinating the nation.  We’re creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs.  We’re delivering real results to people; they can see it and feel it in their own lives.
 
Opening doors of opportunity, guaranteeing some more fairness and justice — that’s the essence of America.  That’s democracy in action.
 
Our Constitution opens with the words — as trite as it sounds — “We the People”.  Well, it’s time to remember that “We the People” are the government — you and I.  Not some force in a distant capital.  Not some powerful force that we have no control over.  It’s us.  It’s “We the People.”
 
In another era when our democracy was tested, Franklin Roosevelt reminded us, “In America, we do our part.”  We all do our part.  That’s all I’m asking: that we do our part, all of us.
 
If we do that, we will meet the center challenge of the age by proving that democracy is durable and strong.  Autocrats will not win the future.  We will.  America will.  And the future belongs to America.
 
As I stand here tonight before you, in a new and vital hour of life and democracy of our nation, and I can say with absolute confidence: I have never been more confident or optimistic about America — not because I’m President, because what’s happening with the American people.
 
We have stared into the abyss of insurrection and autocracy, pandemic and pain, and “We the People” did not flinch.
 
At the very moment our adversaries were certain we would pull apart and fail, we came together.  We united.
 
With light and hope, we summoned a new strength, new resolve to position us to win the competition of the 21st century, on our way to a union more perfect, more prosperous, and more just, as one people, one nation, and one America.
 
Folks, as I told every world leader I’ve ever met with over the years, it’s never ever, ever been a good bet to bet against America, and it still isn’t.  (Applause.)
 
We are the United States of America.  (Applause.)  There is not a single thing — nothing — nothing beyond our capacity.  We can do whatever we set our mind to do if we do it together.  (Applause.)  So let’s begin to get together.  (Applause.)
 
God bless you all, and may God protect our troops.  Thank you for your patience.  (Applause.)
 
10:12 P.M. EDT
 

Biden on Bloody Sunday Signs Executive Order to East Voter Registration, Access to Voting

President-Elect Joe Biden and Jill Biden pay respects to civil rights icon, Congressman John Lewis, lying in state in the Capitol rotunda, July 27, 2020. Just before he died, Biden related at the Bloody Sunday commemoration, “he asked us to stay focused on the work left undone to heal and to unite this nation around what it means to be an American.” Biden took steps to fulfill that pledge by signing an Executive Order easing voter registration and access to voting. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

On a day marking the anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, an event that so outraged Americans it led ultimately to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, President Joe Biden addressed the unity breakfast named after Dr. and Mrs. King and announced that he had signed an Executive Order “to make it easier for eligible voters to register to vote and improve access to voting.”

President Biden declared, “Every eligible voter should be able to vote and have that vote counted. If you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let the people vote.” Here is the text of his remarks and the details of his Executive Order:


I know this is the first commemoration of Bloody Sunday without Reverend C.T. Vivian, Reverend Joseph Lowery, and Congressman John Lewis. Preachers of the social gospel. Architects of the ‘Beloved Community,’ they built not only with words but with action. And reminders that in our lifetime, for Black Americans, the fundamental right to vote has been denied by white supremacy hiding both behind white hoods and in plain sight in state houses and courtrooms.
 
Yet those torches and burning crosses, the batons, tear gas, fire hoses, attack dogs, and unfair laws and trials could not stop progress. The blood of John Lewis and hundreds of other brave and righteous souls that was spilled in Selma, on this Sunday in 1965 sanctified a noble struggle.
 
And when the country saw those images that night, America was forced to confront the denial of democracy — the fierce urgency of justice.
 
Congress passed the Voting Rights Act a few months later, and President Johnson signed it into law.
 
The legacy of the march in Selma is that while nothing can stop a free people from exercising their most sacred power as a citizen, there are those who will do everything they can to take that power away.
 
The Voting Rights Act began to dismantle barriers to voting and to make our elections more fair, free, and representative.
 
I was always proud to lead the efforts to reauthorize it over the years as a U.S. Senator in the Judiciary Committee. But at the same time, Republicans at every level have chipped away at it.
 
Then in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, holding that times have changed and blatant voter discrimination was rare, contrary to the assault that was taking place on the ground. The late Justice Ginsburg wrote that the decision was like “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm.” Today, we have a hail storm, not a rain storm.
 
And in 2020, our very democracy on the line, even in the midst of a pandemic, more Americans voted than ever before. Multiple recounts in states and decisions in more than 60 courts  from judges appointed by my predecessor, including at the Supreme Court – upheld the integrity of this historic election.
 
Yet instead of celebrating this powerful demonstration of voting – we have seen an unprecedented insurrection in our Capitol and a brutal attack on our democracy on January 6th. A never before seen effort to ignore, undermine, and undo the will of the people.
 
And to think that it’s been followed by an all-out assault on the right to vote in state legislatures all across the country happening right now. During the current legislative session, elected officials in 43 states have already introduced more than 250 bills to make it harder for Americans to vote. We cannot let them succeed.
 
Last week, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1, the For the People Act of 2021. This is a landmark piece of legislation that is urgently needed to protect the right to vote, the integrity of our elections, and to repair and strengthen our democracy. I hope the Senate does its work so that I can sign it into law.
 
I also urge Congress to fully restore the Voting Rights Act, named in John Lewis’ honor.
 
Today, on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, I am signing an executive order to make it easier for eligible voters to register to vote and improve access to voting. Every eligible voter should be able to vote and have that vote counted. If you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let the people vote.
 
I’ll close with this – a few days before he passed, Jill and I spoke with John, Congressman Lewis.
 
But instead of answering our concerns about him, “how are you doing, John,” he asked us to stay focused on the work left undone to heal and to unite this nation around what it means to be an American.
 
That’s the God’s truth. John wouldn’t talk about his pending death or his concerns. He said we just got to get this done.
 
That we are all created equal. That we all deserve to be treated equally.
 
On this day of reflection, please, let’s stay focused on the work ahead.
 
Let’s remember all those who came before us as a bridge to our history so we do not forget its pain, and as a bridge to our future so we never lose our hope.
 
May God bless their memory. May God bless you all.


FACT SHEET:
President Biden to Sign Executive Order to Promote Voting Access


On this day in 1965, state troopers beat and tear-gassed hundreds of peaceful protestors crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. The protestors were seeking justice and to ensure their right to vote would not be denied. At the head of the march were former Congressman John Lewis and Rev. Hosea Williams. As the troopers advanced with clubs raised, the group knelt in prayer. The images of protestors, bloody and bruised, flashing on television screens across the nation spurred Congress to pass, and President Johnson to sign into law, the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Congressman Lewis’ fight to protect and expand the vote did not end that day in Selma. He carried the mission to our nation’s Capital and remained a vigilant protector of our right to vote, knowing all too well the burdens borne to guarantee it.

Today, to mark the 56th anniversary of Selma with actions and not just words, President Biden will sign an Executive Order to promote voting access and allow all eligible Americans to participate in our democracy. This Executive Order will leverage the resources of the federal government to increase access to voter registration services and information about voting. 
 
As the President has said, democracy doesn’t happen by accident. We have to defend, strengthen, and renew it. Free and fair elections that reflect the will of the American people must be protected and defended.  Too many Americans face significant obstacles to exercising their fundamental right to vote. For generations, Black voters and other voters of color have faced discriminatory policies that suppress their vote. Voters of color are more likely to face long lines at the polls and are disproportionately burdened by voter identification laws and limited opportunities to vote by mail. Native Americans likewise face limited opportunities to vote by mail and frequently lack sufficient polling places and voter registration opportunities near their homes. Limited access to language assistance is an obstacle for many voters.  People with disabilities face longstanding barriers in exercising their right to vote, especially when it comes to legally required accommodations to vote privately and independently. Members of our military serving overseas, as well as other American citizens living abroad, also face unnecessary challenges to exercising their right to vote.

Today’s Executive Order is an initial step in this Administration’s efforts to protect the right to vote and ensure all eligible citizens can freely participate in the electoral process. The President is committed to working with Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act and pass H.R. 1, the For the People Act, which includes bold reforms to make it more equitable and accessible for all Americans to exercise their fundamental right to vote.

Today’s Executive Order will:

Direct federal agencies to expand access to voter registration and election information. The executive order will direct the head of each federal agency to submit to the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy a strategic plan outlining ways their agency can promote voter registration and participation within 200 days. These strategic plans could include actions such as:

  • Leveraging agencies’ existing websites and social media to provide information about how to register to vote
  • Distributing voter registration and vote-by-mail ballot applications in the course of regular services
  • Considering whether any identity documents issued by the agency can be issued in a form that satisfies state voter identification laws

And, the Federal Chief Information Officer of the United States will coordinate across federal agencies to improve or modernize federal websites and digital services that provide election and voting information to the American people, including ensuring that federal websites are accessible to individuals with disabilities and people with limited English proficiency.
 
Direct federal agencies to assist states under the National Voter Registration Act. Today’s Executive Order reaffirms the intent of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993 to have federal agencies assist with voter registration efforts. Since the NVRA was enacted, state government agencies, like a department of motor vehicles, have helped register hundreds of millions of voters. Unlike state agencies, however, federal agencies can only become voter registration agencies under the NVRA at a state’s request. Federal agencies providing direct services to underserved communities represent a unique opportunity to provide access to voter registration services. Under today’s action, the head of each federal agency will evaluate where and how the federal agency provides services that directly engage with the public, and to the greatest extent possible, formally notify states in which it provides services that it would agree to designation as a voter registration agency. If requested by a state to be designated as a voter registration agency, the federal agency shall to the greatest extent possible agree to such designation.
 
Improve and modernize Vote.gov. The Executive Order will direct the General Services Administration (GSA) to submit to the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy a strategic plan outlining steps to modernize and improve the user experience of the federal government’s premier source of voting-related information, Vote.gov, including the accessibility of the website within 200 days. The order requires GSA to seek the input of affected stakeholders, including election administrators, civil rights and disability rights activists, Tribal Nations, and nonprofit groups that study best practices for using technology to promote civic engagement.
 
Increase federal employees’ access to voting. The Executive Order will direct the Director of the Office of Personnel Management to work with the head of federal agencies to provide recommendations to the President regarding leave for federal employees to vote or to volunteer as nonpartisan poll workers, ensuring that the federal government serves as a model to other employers.
 
Analyze barriers to voting for people with disabilities.  The Executive Order will direct the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) within the Department of Commerce to evaluate and publish recommendations on the steps needed to ensure that the online Federal Voter Registration Form is accessible to people with disabilities within 200 days.  The order directs NIST—in consultation with the Department of Justice, the Election Assistance Commission, and other agencies—to analyze barriers to private and independent voting for people with disabilities, including access to voter registration, voting technology, voting by mail, polling locations, and poll worker training.
 
Increase voting access for active duty military and other overseas voters.  The executive order will direct the Secretary of Defense within 200 days to establish procedures to annually offer each member of the Armed Forces on active duty the opportunity to register to vote in federal elections, update voter registration, or request an absentee ballot. Additionally, the Secretary of Defense—in coordination with the Department of State, the Military Postal Service Agency and United States Postal Service—is required to submit a strategic plan for an end-to-end ballot tracking system for overseas ballots. And, the head of each federal agency with overseas employees is directed to designate a point of contact to coordinate with the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) and promote voter registration and voting services available to these employees.
 
Provide voting access and education to citizens in federal custody. The order will direct the Attorney General to establish procedures to provide educational materials related to voter registration and voting, and to the extent practicable, to facilitate voter registration, for all eligible individuals in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  It also directs the Attorney General to coordinate with the Probation and Pretrial Services Office to develop similar procedures for eligible individuals under its supervision. The Executive Order also directs the Attorney General to establish procedures to ensure the U.S. Marshals Service includes language in jail contracts to provide eligible individuals educational materials related to voter registration and voting, and to facilitate voting by mail, to the extent practicable and appropriate. And, it directs the Attorney General to take steps to support formerly incarcerated individuals in obtaining a means of identification that satisfies state voter identification laws.
 
Establish a Native American voting rights steering group. The order will establish an interagency steering group on Native American voting rights to be coordinated by the Domestic Policy Council. The steering group will include, at a minimum, the Attorney General, the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs or their designees. The steering group will study best practices, in consultation with Tribal Nations, for protecting voting rights of Native Americans and will produce a report within one year of the date of the order outlining recommendations for increasing voter outreach, education, registration, and turnout in Native American communities.

President-Elect Biden, After Electoral College Vote: ‘In America, Politicians Don’t Take Power — the People Grant Power to Them’

Joe Biden officially became President-Elect with the conclusion of the Electoral College vote. “In America, politicians don’t take power — the people grant power to them,” Biden said in remarks to the nation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Joe Biden officially became President-Elect with the conclusion of the Electoral College vote cementing Joe Biden’s victory with 306 votes to Donald Trump’s 232.  After weeks of keeping silent as the Trump campaign brought 60 lawsuits in the hopes of the Supreme Court ultimately declaring Trump the winner, Biden delivered a rebuke of the efforts by Trump and the Republicans to overturn the election, as notable for the most votes cast in history and the most votes won by a candidate in history,  by disenfranchising millions of voters, mostly Black, but declared democracy “resilient, true and strong.”

In America, politicians don’t take power — the people grant power to them,” Biden declared.

He attacked the unprecedented, relentless but baseless court challenges, culminating in Texas seeking to overturn the results in four swing states, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia to “wipe out the votes of more than 20 million Americans in other states and to hand the presidency to a candidate who lost the Electoral College, lost the popular vote, and lost each and every one of the states whose votes they were trying to reverse.

It’s a position so extreme we’ve never seen it before. A position that refused to respect the will of the people, refused to respect the rule of law, and refused to honor our Constitution. Thankfully, a unanimous Supreme Court immediately and completely rejected this effort…

“In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed. We the People voted. Faith in our institutions held. The integrity of our elections remains intact. Now it is time to turn the page as we’ve done throughout our history.”

Here is a highlighted transcript of his remarks, as prepared for delivery:

Good evening, my fellow Americans. 

Over the past few weeks, officials in each state, commonwealth, and district, without regard to party or political preference have certified their winning candidate.  

Today, the members of the Electoral College representing the certified winner, cast their votes for President and Vice President of the United States in an act just as old as our nation itself. 

And once again in America, the rule of law, our Constitution, and the will of the people have prevailed.

Our democracy — pushed, tested, threatened — proved to be resilient, true, and strong.

The Electoral College votes which occurred today reflect the fact that even in the face of a public health crisis unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetimes, the people voted. 

They voted in record numbers. More Americans voted this year than have ever voted in the history of the United States of America. Over 155 million Americans were determined to have their voices heard and their votes counted.

At the start of the pandemic crisis, many were wondering how many Americans would vote at all. But those fears proved to be unfounded. 

We saw something very few predicted or even thought possible — the biggest voter turnout ever in the history of the United States of America. 

Numbers so big that this election now ranks as the clearest demonstration of the true will of the American people — one of the most amazing demonstrations of civic duty we’ve ever seen in our country. 

It should be celebrated, not attacked.

More than 81 million of those votes were cast for me and Vice President-elect Harris. 

This too is a record number. More votes than any ticket has received in the history of America. 

It represented a winning margin of more than 7 million votes over the number of votes cast for President Trump and Vice President Pence.

Altogether, Vice President-elect Harris and I earned 306 electoral votes — well exceeding the 270 electoral votes needed to secure victory.  

306 electoral votes is the same number of electoral votes Donald Trump and Mike Pence received in 2016. 

At that time, President Trump called his Electoral College tally a landslide. 

By his own standards, these numbers represented a clear victory then. 

And I respectfully suggest they do so now.

If anyone didn’t know it before, they know it now.  

What beats deep in the hearts of the American people is this: Democracy. 

The right to be heard. 

To have your vote counted. 

To choose the leaders of this nation.

To govern ourselves. 

In America, politicians don’t take power — the people grant power to them. 

The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago. And we now know that nothing, not even a pandemic or an abuse of power, can extinguish that flame.

And as the people kept it aflame, so, too did courageous state and local officials and election workers. 

American democracy works because Americans make it work at the local level. 

One of the extraordinary things we saw this year was these everyday Americans — our friends and neighbors, often volunteers, Democrats and Republicans and Independents — demonstrating absolute courage. They showed a deep and unwavering faith in and a commitment to the law. 

They did their duty in the face of a pandemic.

And then they could not and would not give credence to what they knew was not true. 

They knew the elections they oversaw were honest and free and fair. 

They saw it with their own eyes. 

And they wouldn’t be bullied into saying anything different. 

It was truly remarkable because so many of these patriotic Americans were subjected to so much: enormous political pressure, verbal abuse, and even threats of physical violence. 

While we all wish that our fellow Americans in these positions will always show such courage and commitment to free and fair elections, I hope we never again see anyone subjected to the kind of threats and abuse we saw in this election. 

It is unconscionable. 

We owe these public servants a debt of gratitude. They didn’t seek the spotlight, and our democracy survived because of them. 

Which is proof once more that it’s the everyday American — infused with honor and character and decency — that is the heart of this nation.

And in this election, their integrity was matched by the strength, independence, and the integrity of our judicial system. 

In America, when questions are raised about the legitimacy of any election, those questions are resolved through a legal process. 

And that is precisely what happened here. 

The Trump campaign brought dozens and dozens and dozens of legal challenges to test the results. 

They were heard.  And they were found to be without merit. 

Time and again, President Trump’s lawyers presented their arguments to state officials, state legislatures, state and federal courts, and ultimately to the United States Supreme Court, twice.

They were heard by more than 80 judges across the country. 

And in every case, no cause or evidence was found to reverse or question or dispute the results.  

A few states went to recounts. All of the counts were confirmed.

The results in Georgia were counted three times. It did not change the outcome. 

The recount conducted in Wisconsin actually saw our margin grow. 

The margin we had in Michigan was fourteen times the margin President Trump won the state by four years ago. 

Our margin in Pennsylvania was nearly twice the size of President Trump’s margin four years ago.

And yet none of this has stopped baseless claims about the legitimacy of the results. 

Even more stunning, 17 Republican Attorneys General and 126 Republican Members of Congress actually signed on to a lawsuit filed by the State of Texas. It asked the United States Supreme Court to reject the certified vote counts in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. 

This legal maneuver was an effort by elected officials in one group of states to try to get the Supreme Court to wipe out the votes of more than twenty million Americans in other states and to hand the presidency to a candidate who lost the Electoral College, lost the popular vote, and lost each and every one of the states whose votes they were trying to reverse. 

It’s a position so extreme we’ve never seen it before. A position that refused to respect the will of the people, refused to respect the rule of law, and refused to honor our Constitution.

Thankfully, a unanimous Supreme Court immediately and completely rejected this effort. 

The Court sent a clear signal to President Trump and his allies that they would be no part of this unprecedented assault on our democracy. 

Every avenue was made available to President Trump to contest the results. 

He took full advantage of each and every one of these avenues. 

President Trump was denied no course of action he wanted to take. 

He took his case to Republican Governors and Republican Secretaries of State. To Republican state legislatures. To Republican-appointed judges at every level. 

And in a case decided after the Supreme Court’s latest rejection, a judge appointed by President Trump wrote: “This court has allowed the plaintiff the chance to make his case, and he has lost on the merits.”

Even President Trump’s own cybersecurity chief overseeing our elections said it was the most secure in American history.

Let me say it again, his own cybersecurity chief overseeing this election said it was the most secure in American history.

Respecting the will of the people is at the heart of our democracy — even when we find those results hard to accept. 

But that is the obligation of those who have taken a sworn duty to uphold our Constitution.

Four years ago, as the sitting Vice President of the United States, it was my responsibility to announce the tally of the Electoral College votes that elected Donald Trump.

I did my job. 

And I am pleased — but not surprised — that a number of my former Republican colleagues in the Senate have acknowledged the results of the Electoral College.

I thank them. I am convinced we can work together for the good of the nation.

That is the duty owed to the people, to our Constitution, and to history.

In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed.

We the People voted. 

Faith in our institutions held. 

The integrity of our elections remains intact.


Now it is time to turn the page as we’ve done throughout our history.

To unite. To heal.

As I said through this campaign, I will be a president for all Americans.

I will work just as hard for those of you who didn’t vote for me, as I will for those who did.

There is urgent work in front of us all.

Getting the pandemic under control and getting the nation vaccinated against this virus.

Delivering immediate economic help so badly needed by so many Americans who are hurting today — and then building our economy back better than ever.

In doing so, we need to work together, give each other a chance, and lower the temperature.

And most of all, we need to stand in solidarity as fellow Americans. To see each other, our pains, our struggles, our hopes, our dreams. 

We are a great nation. 

We are a good people.

We may come from different places and hold different beliefs, but we share a love for this country. A belief in its limitless possibilities.

For we, the United States of America, have always set the example for the world for the peaceful transition of power.

We will do so again.

I know the task before us will not be easy. 

It’s tempered by the pain so many of us are feeling.

Today, our nation passed a grim milestone, 300,000 deaths due to this virus.

My heart goes out to all of you in this dark winter of the pandemic about to spend the holidays and the new year with a black hole in your hearts and without the ones you love by your side.

My heart goes out to all of you who have fallen on hard times through no fault of your own, unable to sleep at night, weighed down with the worry of what tomorrow will bring for you and for your family.

But we have faced difficult times before in our history.

And I know we will get through this one, together.

And so, as we start the hard work to be done, may this moment give us the strength to rebuild this house of ours upon a rock that can never be washed away. 

And as in the Prayer of St. Francis, for where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith, where there is darkness, light.

This is who we are as a nation. 

This is the America we love. 

And that is the America we will be.

May God bless you all.

May God protect our troops and all those who stand watch over our democracy. 

March for Truth Rallies Demand Witnesses, Evidence in Trump Impeachment Trial

Stop the GOP Cover-Up. March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidence in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

With chants of “No More Cover-Ups. We Want Witnesses” and “What do we want? Witnesses. If we don’t get it, Shut It Down,” protesters took to the streets in New York City as well as Washington DC and 30 other cities to demand Senators uphold their oath for an impartial examination of the truth before a vote to convict or acquit Donald Trump of his office as President of the United States.

In New York, a couple of hundred protesters organized by the NYC Coalition to Impeach and Remove gathered in Times Square, and then marched down to Herald Square. Here are highlights:

“Trump is Guilty.” March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidence in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Demand Truth.” March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidences in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidences in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidences in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidences in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidences in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidences in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidences in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Imminent Threat.” March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidence in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidences in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Trump is Guilty.” March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidence in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidences in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidences in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Marching down Broadway. March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidences in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Grow a Spine. March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidences in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidences in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidence in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Stop the GOP Cover-Up” March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidence in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Rallies were also held in:

Dallas, Texas

Phoenix, Arizona

Raleigh, North Carolina

Allentown, Pennsylvania

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Maryville, Illinois

Lexington, Kentucky

Portland, Oregon

Hillsborough, Oregon

Brea, California

St. Petersburg, Florida

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Gulfport, Mississippi

Danville, Kentucky

Louisville, Kentucky

Hudson, Wisconsin

Bangor, Maine

Tucson, Arizona

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Clarksville, Tennessee

Salt Lake City, Utah

Denver, Colorado

Phoenix, Arizona

Chico, California

Anchorage, Alaska

Charlotte, North Carolina

__________

© 2020 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Senator Warren Would Tax Excessive Lobbying As Part of Her Anti-Corruption Proposal

Senator Elizabeth Warren, seeking the Democratic nomination for President, takes on the issue of corruption at a rally in Washington Square Park, New York City, that drew 20,000 people © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Elizabeth Warren details her plan to tax excessive lobbying as part of her anti-corruption proposal. This is from the Warren campaign:

Charlestown, MA – Senator Elizabeth Warren recently unveiled her plan for a new tax on excessive lobbying. It applies to every corporation and trade organization that spends over $500,000 per year lobbying our government. The revenue from this tax will be used to help our government fight back against the influence of lobbyists. 

Based on our analysis of lobbying data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, if this tax had been in effect over the last 10 years, over 1,600 corporations and trade groups would have had to pay up – leading to an estimated $10 billion in total revenue. 

Senator Warren has already laid out how she will end lobbying as we know it and strengthen Congressional independence from lobbyists. (Read more about her plan here.)

Here is more about her plan to tax excessive lobbying:

When Americans think about corporate lobbyists, they usually think about the people in fancy suits who line the halls of Congress armed with donations, talking points, and whatever else they need to win favorable treatment for their big corporate clients. 

They’re right. In fact, corporate interests spend more on lobbying than we spend to fund both houses of Congress — spending more than $2.8 billion on lobbying last year alone. That’s why I have a plan to strengthen congressional independence from lobbyists and give Congress the resources it needs to defend against these influence campaigns. 

But corporate lobbyists don’t just swarm Congress. They also target our federal departments like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. These agencies exist to oversee giant corporations and implement the laws coming out of Congress – but lobbyists often do their best to grind public interest work at these agencies to a halt. 

When the Department of Labor tried to protect workers from predatory financial advisors who got rich by siphoning off large and unnecessary fees from workers’ life savings, Wall Street lobbyists descended on Washington to try to kill the effort – twice. When they failed the second time, they sued to stop it in the courts. 

When the Environmental Protection Agency decided to act on greenhouse gas emissions by passing regulations on methane, fossil fuel companies called in their lobbyists. The rule was dramatically weakened – and then Trump’s EPA went even further than some in the industry wanted by proposing to scrap the rule altogether

When the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau tried to crack down on payday lenders exploiting vulnerable communities, lobbyists convinced the Trump administration to cripple the rule – while the payday lenders who hired them spent about $1 million at a Trump resort. 

Regulatory agencies are only empowered to implement public interest rules under authority granted by legislation already passed by Congress. So how is it that lobbyists are able to kill, weaken, or delay so many important efforts to implement the law? 

Often they accomplish this goal by launching an all out assault on the process of writing new rules – informally meeting with federal agencies to push for favorable treatment, burying those agencies in detailed industry comments during the notice-and-comment rulemaking process, and pressuring members of Congress to join their efforts to lobby against the rule. If the rule moves forward anyway, they’ll argue to an obscure federal agency tasked with weighing the costs and benefits of agency rules that the rules are too costly, and if the regulation somehow survives this onslaught, they’ll hire fancy lawyers to challenge it in court. 

I have released the most sweeping set of anti-corruption reforms since Watergate. Under my plan, we will end lobbying as we know it. We will make sure everyone who is paid to influence government is required to register as a lobbyist, and we’ll impose strict disclosure requirements so that lobbyists have to publicly report which agency rules they are seeking to influence and what information they provide to those agencies. We’ll also shut the revolving door between government and K Street to prevent another Trump administration where ex-lobbyists lead the Department of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, the Department of Interior, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. 

My plan also calls for something unique – a new tax on excessive lobbying that applies to every corporation and trade organization that spends over $500,000 per year lobbying our government. This tax will reduce the incentive for excessive lobbying, and raise money that we can use to fight back against this kind of onslaught when it occurs. 

Under my lobbying tax proposal, companies that spend between $500,000 and $1 million per year on lobbying, calculated on a quarterly basis, will pay a 35% tax on those expenditures. For every dollar above $1 million spent on lobbying, the rate will increase to 60% – and for every dollar above $5 million, it will increase to 75%. 

Based on our analysis of lobbying data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, if this tax had been in effect over the last 10 years, over 1,600 corporations and trade groups would have had to pay up – leading to an estimated $10 billion in total revenue. And 51 of them – including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Koch Industries, Pfizer, Boeing, Microsoft, Walmart, and Exxon – would have been subject to the 75% rate for lobbying spending above $5 million in every one of those years. 

Nobody will be surprised that the top five industries that would have paid the highest lobbying taxes are the same industries that have spent the last decade fighting tooth and nail against popular policies: Big Pharma, health insurance companies, oil and gas companies, Wall Street firms, and electric utilities. 

Among individual companies, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce would have owed the most of any company or trade group in lobbying taxes: an estimated $770 million on $1 billion in lobbying spending – over $400 million more than the next-highest-paying organization, the National Association of Realtors, which would have paid $307 million on $425 million in lobbying spending. Blue Cross Blue Shield, PhRMA, and the American Hospital Association would have all paid between $149 and $163 million in taxes on between $213 and $233 million in lobbying spending. And General Electric, Boeing, AT&T, Business Roundtable, and Comcast round out the top ten, paying between $105 million and $129 million in taxes. 

Every dollar raised by the lobbying tax will be placed into a new Lobbying Defense Trust Fund dedicated to directing a surge of resources to Congress and federal agencies to fight back against the effort to bury public interest actions by the government. 

Corporate lobbyists are experts at killing widely popular policies behind closed doors. 

Take just one example from the Obama administration. In October 2010, the Department of Labor (DOL) proposed a “fiduciary rule” to protect employee retirement accounts from brokers who charge exorbitant fees and put their own commissions above earning returns for their clients. The idea was simple: if you’re looking after someone’s money, you should look out for their best interests. 

It’s an obvious rule – but it would cut into financial industry profits. So the industry dispatched an army of lobbyists to fight against the rule, including by burying the agency in public comments. In the first four months, the DOL received hundreds of comments on the proposed rule, including comments from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, BlackRock, and other powerful financial interests. After a public hearing with testimony from groups like Fidelity and J.P Morgan, the agency received over 100 more comments — including dozens from members of Congress, many of which were heavily slanted toward industry talking points. Because the law requires agencies to respond to each concern laid out in the public comments, when corporate interests flood agencies with comments, the process often becomes so time-consuming and resource-intensive that it can kill or delay final rules altogether – and that’s exactly what happened. On September 19, 2011, the DOL withdrew the proposed rule, but said that it planned to try again in the future. 

Undeterred, Wall Street pushed forward their lobbying campaign to ensure that the Department of Labor wouldn’t try again to re-issue the fiduciary rule. In June 2013, Robert Lewis, a lobbyist for an investment industry trade group, personally drafted a letter opposing this common-sense reform – and got 32 members of Congress to sign it. The letter ominously urged the Department to “learn from its earlier experience” when the financial industry had killed the first proposal. Soon, members of Congress from both parties were joining in, telling the Obama administration to delay re-issuing the rule. 

To its great credit, the Obama Department of Labor didn’t give up. On February 23, 2015, the agency finally re-proposed the rule. Wall Street ramped up their lobbying once more to try to kill it a second time. This time, with firm resolve and committed allies, DOL and those of us fighting alongside them beat back thousands of comments, and retirees won – but it took so long that Donald Trump became President before the rule fully went into effect. 

Trump came through for Wall Street: the new Administration delayed implementing the rule, and after financial firms spent another $3 million on lobbying at least in part on the rule, the Department of Justice refused to defend it in court. Today, the Department of Labor is led by Eugene Scalia, the very corporate lawyer and ex-lobbyist who brought the lawsuit to kill off the proposal. 

Lobbyists have followed this same playbook to block, narrow, or delay countless other common- sense industry regulations. Swarm regulators and Congress, bury everyone in an avalanche of money, and strangle government action in the public interest before it even gets off the ground. 

That’s why I’m using the revenue from my tax on excessive lobbying to establish a new Lobbying Defense Trust Fund, which will help our government fight back against the influence of lobbyists. 

First, we’ll use the Lobbying Defense Trust Fund to strengthen congressional support agencies. In my plan to strengthen congressional independence from lobbyists, I explained how lobbying tax revenue would help to reinstate the Office of Technology Assessment and increase the budget for other congressional support agencies, like the Congressional Budget Office. 

Second, we’ll give more money to federal agencies that are facing significant lobbying activity. Every time a company above the $500,000 threshold spends money lobbying against a rule from a federal agency, the taxes on that spending will go directly to the agency to help it fight back. In 2010, DOL could have used that money to hire more staffers to complete the rule more quickly and intake the flood of industry comments opposing it. 

Third, revenue from the lobbying tax will help to establish a new Office of the Public Advocate. This office will help the American people engage with federal agencies and fight for the public interest in the rule-making process. If this office had existed in 2010, the Public Advocate would have made sure that DOL heard from workers and retirees – even while both parties in Congress were spouting industry talking points.


My new lobbying tax will make hiring armies of lobbyists significantly more expensive for the largest corporate influencers like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Boeing, and Comcast. Sure, this may mean that some corporations and industry groups will choose to reduce their lobbying expenditures, raising less tax revenue down the road – but in that case, all the better.

And if instead corporations continue to engage in excessive lobbying, my lobbying tax will raise even more revenue for Congress, agencies, and federal watchdogs to fight back.

It’s just one more example of the kind of big, structural change we need to put power back in the hands of the people – and break the grip that lobbyists have on our government for good.