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Sinema blows up Dems’ plans to tax high earners, corporations

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Democrats have a Kyrsten Sinema problem when it comes to raising taxes.

As they seek to finalize President Joe Biden’s social spending plan by the end of the week, Sinema (D-Ariz.) remains opposed to one of the party’s chief goals of raising tax rates on high-income earners and corporations, a long-sought objective since former President Donald Trump signed his 2017 tax cut law.

Now, party leaders are working behind the scenes to target the wealthy and corporate America without crossing what increasingly appears like a red line to Sinema, according to Democratic lawmakers and aides following the bill.

Though Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has advocated raising rates on high-income earners, corporations and capital gains, Sinema has landed to the right of Manchin on tax policy. And Democrats need to choose, quickly, to keep trying to convince Sinema or to craft workarounds that she can accept.

“That’s not worked out in our caucus,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). “There is strong support in our caucus to raise the corporate rate. And it depends how you do it for high earners … I don’t think she’s opposed to some of the issues for high-income [taxpayers].”

The decision on taxes represents a fork in the road on one of Democrats’ primary political goals. Many lawmakers who now make up the front lines of the party’s thin majorities campaigned on raising the rates from where Trump left them, at 37 percent for high-earners and 21 percent for corporations.

And many Democrats have grown frustrated with how much control Sinema is exerting, and the secretive way she wields it.

“This is a guessing game with Senator Sinema. Yeah, we’re all supposed to be on the same team. And that means transparency, communication and collaboration. Without it, it makes this significantly more challenging,” said Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas). “I don’t know what the red lines are for one U.S. senator who has an amazing amount of power.”

Sinema’s office declined to comment. Sinema has said she’s shared detailed proposals with the White House even as she stays mum publicly on her positions.

Democrats would raise nearly $600 billion in revenues for their social spending plan by lifting the corporate rate to 25 percent and the top income tax bracket to 39.6 percent, as Manchin has proposed. They could make up for that lost funding elsewhere if they booted those cash sources, but that would cause both a policy headache and a political one: Many liberals would view acceding to Sinema’s demands as a major climbdown from the party’s long-standing position.

Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), who is up for reelection next year, said in an interview he was relatively comfortable with raising those tax rates targeting corporations and high-income Americans. Sinema is up for reelection in 2024 in their home state.

“Some corporations have paid little to no income tax for a long time now, and I was not in favor of the 2017 tax cuts that gave a windfall to the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations,” Kelly said in an interview.

For Sinema, it’s not just tax rates that could change Democrats’ money-raising plans. She’s also, as of now, not directly on board with Democrats’ plan to reduce pharmaceutical prices through Medicare drug negotiation, which would bring in additional money for the party’s spending plans.

“On PhRMA and on revenue, I’m struggling to really grasp what her endgame is. But she insists: ‘I will get there, I’m not going to tank this. I will work out something,’” said one Democratic senator, addressing Sinema on condition of anonymity. “She has insisted repeatedly that she will come to an agreement that is going to work, that is within the rough scale currently under discussion with the president.”

Senators and aides said their goal is to at least have a workaround for Sinema’s tax position when they present a framework for the bigger bill as soon as this week. They are likely to leave the specifics of revenue-raising undecided until later this year, once they’ve mapped out the climate, education, child care and paid leave policies they want in the bill, according to an aide familiar with party strategy. But they need the broad contours of what Sinema will accept to move forward in the interim.

Among the options under discussion to satisfy Sinema include targeting hundreds of billionaires who don’t pay taxes on their unrealized gains — a move that’s known as “mark to market.” Party leaders are also discussing taxing stock buybacks, installing a minimum corporate tax and focusing more on international corporate tax reform. They also believe they can raise significant revenue through increased IRS enforcement and closing tax loopholes.

Many Democrats would rather not dance around their goals by enacting more complicated proposals than those Sinema has rejected. But they may have no other choice: Democrats said she’s the primary, and in some cases sole, impediment to raising the rates they’ve been campaigning against for years.

“There’s a lot of different policy ways to raise revenue on high-income people. And that’s what we’re discussing with her,” said a second Democratic senator who talked Sinema on condition of anonymity. For corporations, this senator added, “it’s similar.”

The Senate’s effort to work around Sinema’s opposition isn’t sitting well with House Democrats. Members of the panel’s tax-writing committee left a lunch meeting Wednesday fuming after being informed that many priorities they fought for would likely be cut from the final spending deal, including the push to raise tax rates on corporations and the wealthy.

“If we talk about people paying their fair share of taxes — which they’re whittling down in order to get two people’s vote — I don’t blame Manchin or Kyrsten. I blame Schumer,” Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) yelled in anger after the Ways and Means lunch.

Schumer did emphasize on Thursday morning that he aims to “cut taxes for working and middle-class Americans while asking the wealthy to pay their fair share.” Pascrell said Schumer has left many of the tough conversations to the last minute despite knowing for months about the red lines both Sinema and Manchin were communicating behind the scenes, on both spending and revenue.

“He’s the leader over there. Pelosi has carried the total burden and the other guy has picked up the pieces. That’s it,” Pascrell added.

Senior House Democrats said it’s unclear if a bill that doesn’t raise tax rates could even win the votes to clear the chamber, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi can only lose three members on any given bill. The issue makes a handful of the most vulnerable House Democrats queasy but is otherwise widely embraced by the caucus, especially influential progressives who say “taxing the rich” should be a no-brainer for the party.

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) said Wednesday afternoon he would continue to fight for the “reasonable policy” despite Sinema’s entrenched opposition.

“I know it falls on deaf ears in some instances [but] the process that we undertook here was to do a markup. We didn’t have a new tax plan every half hour — we laid out a plan that was fully paid for, and we set our priorities.”

Bernie Becker, Nicholas Wu and Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.



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I’m a Virus Expert and Here’s a Sure Sign You’ve Had COVID

The New York Times reports more than 775,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 and more than 48 million have had the virus. However, many others have likely had COVID but weren’t tested or were asymptomatic and didn’t realize they had it. While it’s impossible to know if you’ve been infected without seeing a physician or getting tested, there are signs you’ve had it. COVID affects everyone differently, but according to virus and medical experts Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with, here are the



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China says 85% of citizens will use Mandarin by 2025

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BEIJING (AP) — China is launching an aggressive campaign to promote Mandarin, saying 85% of its citizens will use the national language by 2025.

The move appears to put threatened Chinese regional dialects such as Cantonese and Hokkien under even greater pressure, along with minority languages such as Tibetan, Mongolian and Uyghur.

The order issued Tuesday by the State Council, China’s Cabinet, said use of Mandarin, known in Chinese as “putonghua” or the “common tongue,” remains “unbalanced and inadequate” and needs to be improved to meet the demands of the modern economy.

Critics have sporadically protested changes to the education system and employment requirements that have steadily eroded the role of minority languages, calling it a campaign to eradicate cultures that don’t conform with the dominant Han ethnic group.

Along with the 2025 goal, the policy aims to make Mandarin virtually universal by 2035, including in rural areas and among ethnic minorities.

The promotion of Mandarin over other languages has sparked occasional protests, including last year in the Inner Mongolia region when the Mongolian language was replaced by standard Mandarin as the language of instruction.

China’s ruling Communist Party has denounced all such movements as a form of separatism and repressed them ruthlessly. It says language conformity is necessary for the sake of the economy and national unity.

The policy is backed up by legal requirements and the document issued Wednesday demanded strengthened supervision to “ensure that the national common spoken and written language is used as the official language of government agencies and used as the basic language of schools, news and publications, radio, film and television, public services and other fields.”

It calls also on officials to “vigorously enhance the international status and influence of Chinese” in academia, international organizations and at global gatherings.

Government attempts to promote Mandarin through its worldwide network of Confucius Institutes have been controversial, with critics denouncing them as an attempt to promote the party’s agenda and quash discussion of topics such its human rights record.

___

This story corrects the day the State Council issued the order on language.



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Walmart said she shoplifted; jury awards her $2.1 million

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MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama woman who says she was falsely arrested for shoplifting at a Walmart and then threatened by the company after her case was dismissed has been awarded $2.1 million in damages.

A Mobile County jury on Monday ruled in favor of Lesleigh Nurse of Semmes, news outlets reported.

Nurse said in a lawsuit that she was stopped in November 2016 when trying to leave a Walmart with groceries she said she already paid for, according to AL.com. She said she used self-checkout but the scanning device froze. Workers didn’t accept her explanation and she was arrested for shoplifting.

Her case was dismissed a year later, but then she received letters from a Florida law firm threatening a civil suit if she didn’t pay $200 as a settlement, according to her lawsuit. That was more than the cost of the groceries she was accused of stealing.

Nurse said Walmart instructed the law firm to send the letters — and that she wasn’t the only one receiving them.

“The defendants have engaged in a pattern and practice of falsely accusing innocent Alabama citizens of shoplifting and thereafter attempting to collect money from the innocently accused,” the suit contended.

WKRG reported that the trial featured testimony that Walmart and other major retailers routinely use such settlements in states where laws allow it, and that Walmart made hundreds of millions of dollars this way in a two-year period.

Defense attorneys for Walmart said the practice is legal in Alabama. A spokesperson told AL.com that the company will be filing motions in this case because it doesn’t “believe the verdict is supported by the evidence and the damages awarded exceed what is allowed by law.”



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Republican Colleague Tom Reed Calls Lauren Boebert’s Vile Attacks A ‘Pox On All Our Houses’

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This “has to stop,” an outraged Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) said Monday of the racist and Islamophobic attacks by Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), calling her behavior a “pox on all our houses.”

He was referring to Boebert’s appalling joke in a speech to constituents last week in which she suggested that Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), a Muslim, could be a suicide bomber.

“I … condemn the kind of comments that were made by my colleague in Congress towards a fellow colleague on the other side of the aisle,” Reed said on CNN’s “OutFront.” “This is a pox on all our houses.”

He added: “We have degraded to a point in the institution of Congress [to a] level of hate I’ve never felt before.”

This “rhetoric, this type of commentary, has to stop. We need to focus on the American people and solving their problems. That’s got to be the mission,” said Reed, the former leader of the House Problem Solvers Caucus.

This is the “institution of Congress, this is the People’s House, and we have to respect each other,” Reed added. American citizens “should be working together as opposed to engaging in what could be called antics of a high-school-level nature.”

Boebert claimed in her talk to constituents in Colorado that she had just stepped into an elevator with Omar at the U.S. Capitol recently when a concerned police officer rushed over before the doors closed.

“I look to my left and there she is, Ilhan Omar,” Boebert said with a laugh in a video clip of her tale. “I say, well, she doesn’t have a backpack, we should be fine.”

She also claimed she glanced at the Democratic lawmaker and said: “Oh, look, the jihad squad decided to show up for work today.”

Omar said none of that happened.

Boebert claimed she called Omar on Monday to apologize — but attacked her instead — and suggested Omar “sympathizes with terrorists.”

“I never want anything I say to offend someone’s religion, so I told her that,” Boebert recounted Monday in an Instagram video recapping the conservation.

But then Boebert said she told Omar that “she should make a public apology to the American people for her anti-American, anti-Semitic, anti-police rhetoric.”

That’s when Omar ended the call.

Omar is calling for Boebert to face some sort of sanction from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), which is unlikely.

“To date, the Republican Party leadership has done nothing to condemn and hold their own members accountable for repeated instances of anti-Muslim hate and harassment,” Omar said in a statement Monday.

“This is not about one hateful statement or one politician; it is about a party that has mainstreamed bigotry and hatred. It is time for Republican Leader McCarthy to actually hold his party accountable.”

Also on HuffPost

This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.





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