Pelosi Hints Infrastructure Delay As Congress Begins Huge Week

US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks alongside members of the House Democratic Women’s Caucus and other Democratic members of Congress, as they hold a press conference promoting the Build Back Better agenda on the steps of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, September 24, 2021. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)

 

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has expressed confidence that a massive infrastructure bill will pass this week but acknowledged it might not get a Monday vote as planned, with fellow Democrats warning critical work remains to meet the party’s deadlines.

Democrats have been scrambling to hammer out a landmark plan to upgrade the nation’s roads and bridges, but are also under immense pressure to finalize a $3.5 trillion public investment package and fund the government to avert a looming shutdown — all by September 30.

The week is among the most critical of President Joe Biden’s tenure, with opposition Republicans digging in against his Build Back Better program that would invest in climate change policy, lower childcare and education costs for working families, and create millions of jobs.

But Pelosi, despite her confidence that the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that has already cleared the Senate with bipartisan support will pass the House of Representatives “this week,” hinted at potential quicksand ahead.

“I’m never bringing a bill to the floor that doesn’t have the votes,” the top Democrat in Congress told ABC Sunday talk show “This Week,” asked about whether she will bring the infrastructure bill to the floor Monday as previously agreed.

“It may be tomorrow — if we have the votes,” she said.

“You cannot choose the date,” she added. “You have to go when you have the votes, in a reasonable time. And we will.”

Pelosi told her Democratic colleagues in a letter Saturday that they “must” pass both of Biden’s huge spending bills, along with legislation that keeps the federal government operating into the next fiscal year beginning October 1.

“The next few days will be a time of intensity,” she wrote.

Irresponsible beyond words’

Pelosi is running into not only a buzzsaw of opposition from Republicans; Democratic progressives and moderates have made clear they need to see quickly exactly what goes in the $3.5 trillion bill.

“The votes aren’t there, so I don’t think she’s going to bring it” to the floor Monday, congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who chairs the House progressives, told CNN’s “State of the Union,” regarding the infrastructure bill.

House progressives have repeatedly warned that they won’t green-light infrastructure without Build Back Better.

In order to get the historic spending bill to Biden’s desk, Democrats are using a process called “reconciliation”, which allows certain budget-related legislation to pass the Senate with a simple majority rather than 60 votes.

But moderate Senate Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have expressed deep reservations about the huge price tag.

With the Senate evenly split 50-50, their votes would be critical to passing the bill — something that Pelosi, herself a master vote-counter, is keenly aware of.

While all Democrats “overwhelmingly” support Biden’s grand vision, it was “self-evident” that the final price tag for Build Back Better will be lowered, Pelosi said.

She also stressed the importance of funding the government to avoid a looming shutdown, and suspending the debt ceiling to allow federal agencies to make loan repayments.

The House passed a bill Tuesday that would accomplish both goals.

But Senate Republicans have balked overextending the Treasury Department’s borrowing authority this time around, a position Pelosi described as “irresponsible beyond words.”

Democrats Unveil Immigration Reforms Offering Citizenship To 11 Million

File photo: House members, media and others are seen during a House Judiciary Committee markup of Articles of Impeachment against President Donald Trump at the Longworth House Office Building on Thursday, December 12, 2019, in Washington, DC. Matt McClain -Pool/Getty Images/AFP

Democrats unveiled legislation Thursday for President Joe Biden’s plan to create a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, saying there is no justification for denying them a permanent home in the United States.

Biden called the policy reforms “long overdue” and said they were aimed at reversing the “misguided policies” of his predecessor Donald Trump, who mounted a hardline effort to halt illegal immigration, slash legal immigration and drive out undocumented immigrants, even those in the country for decades.

The new proposal aims to give legal protections to millions of people, mostly from Mexico and central America, who have lived in the country for many years, with homes, businesses and US-born children and grandchildren.

READ ALSO: Blasphemy: Italian Football Federation Fines Juventus Goalkeeper Buffon $6,000

“Immigration is an irrefutable source of our strength and is essential to who we are as a nation,” Biden said in a statement.

“This is an important first step in pursuing immigration policies that unite families, grow and enhance our economy, and safeguard our security,” he said.

The main focus of the legislation is to offer an eight-year path to citizenship to most of the undocumented immigrants living and working in the United States.

Some, including farmworkers and people brought to the country as children — so-called Dreamers — will get an immediate path to permanent residency or a “green card,” allowing them to work legally.

Others addressed include thousands of people in the United States under temporary protected status (TPS) due to violent upheavals or natural disasters in their home countries.

And, underscoring the Biden administration’s reversal from Trump’s strident anti-immigration policies, the legislation also proposes the end of calling undocumented immigrants “aliens” in US law.

Instead, they will be referred to as “non-citizens.”

– ‘Moral imperative’ –
“It’s time to bring all 11 million undocumented out of the shadows,” said Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, a leading backer of the legislation.

“We have an economic and moral imperative to pass big, bold and inclusive immigration reform that leaves no one behind, not our dreamers and TPS holders, not our farmworkers and meatpackers, not our essential workers, not our parents, friends, and neighbors,” he said.

Menendez noted that many of the immigrants work in the farm, food, and healthcare industries that have been essential during the Covid-19 pandemic, while risking higher rates of coronavirus infection and death.

“They are essential workers, so essential that our economy would not function without them. Yet they live under constant fear,” he said.

Biden announced on January 20, his first day in office, that he would pursue comprehensive reforms to immigration laws to lay out a more “humane” and “just” system.

A major focus is the Dreamers, people brought to the United States illegally as children who grew up here.

Biden was vice president in the administration of President Barack Obama, who sought citizenship for Dreamers, only to be forced to compromise with Republicans for short-term measures.

Trump attempted to reverse the Dreamers program as part of more than 400 executive orders to curb immigration and punish the undocumented.

But it was only partially reinstated, leaving the status of millions uncertain.

Besides offering a pathway to citizenship for millions already living in the United States, Biden wants a more forgiving policy at the border, ending Trump’s “zero tolerance” approach and reuniting families separated by it.

Menendez called on Democrats to take advantage of their narrow control of both houses of Congress to push through the legislation.

Republicans condemned it, saying the changes would lead to a new border crisis as people from Central American countries flock north with hopes of entering the United States.

“This blatantly partisan proposal rewards those who broke the law, floods the labor market at a time when millions of Americans are out of work, fails to secure the border, and incentivizes further illegal immigration,” said Republican Representative Jim Jordan.

In another immigration-related move Thursday, the Biden administration ordered US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to limit its apprehension and expulsion of illegal immigrants mainly to those who constitute national security risks.

Under Trump, ICE conducted roundups and deportations against migrants with even minor infractions such as traffic violations.

AFP

US Democrats Begin Process To Impeach Trump

Republican and Democrats clap as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) commends Capitol Police and law enforcement for their work after Pro-Trump demonstrators stormed the Capitol in the House chamber on January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Pool/Getty Images/AFP
Republican and Democrats clap as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) commends Capitol Police and law enforcement for their work after Pro-Trump demonstrators stormed the Capitol in the House chamber on January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Pool/Getty Images/AFP

 

US Democrats began the process Monday of impeaching President Donald Trump for a historic second time, accusing him of “incitement of insurrection” over his supporters’ deadly storming of the US Capitol.

The move — which threatens to torpedo the single-term president’s future political ambitions — could make for a frenetic culmination of four years of controversy ahead of Joe Biden’s January 20 inauguration.

Democrats introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives calling for Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet to remove Trump — who has been absent from the public spotlight for days — as unfit for office under the Constitution’s 25th amendment.

But Republicans blocked an immediate adoption of the resolution, forcing a vote, and Democrats followed up by introducing an article of impeachment of Trump for “incitement of insurrection”.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi hit out at House Republicans, accusing them of enabling Trump’s “unhinged, unstable and deranged acts of sedition to continue.”

READ ALSO: Trump Twitter Ban Problematic, Says Merkel

“Their complicity endangers America, erodes our Democracy, and it must end,” she said in a statement.

Pelosi said the House would vote Tuesday on the demand for Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, and would give him 24 hours to respond.

After that, she said, Democrats would move forward with bringing impeachment legislation to the floor.

Trump has been largely silent in recent days — making few statements and holding no news conferences. Twitter, his favored public platform, has banned him for language that could incite violence.

He plans to travel to Texas on Tuesday in one of his final trips as president, reportedly to claim success in delivering on his pledge to build a border wall to keep immigrants from Mexico out of the US.

As Democrats began to act, the US Capitol building was open to lawmakers and staff but under tight security and ringed by a metal fence after Wednesday’s assault by Trump supporters that left five people dead.

– Historic second impeachment –

Inside, some windows and doors that were broken and breached by rioters remained boarded up with plywood, while reinforced glass on the outside doors near the Rotunda bore cracks from repeated battering.

The attack on Congress shook the core of American democracy and drew international condemnation. It has ignited a new effort to remove Trump, who is accused of whipping up the mob into storming the capitol where lawmakers were certifying Biden’s November 3 win.

Trump was already impeached once by the Democratic-controlled House in December 2019 for pressuring the Ukrainian president to dig up political dirt on Biden.

He was acquitted by the Republican-majority Senate.

If the House again votes to impeach, Trump would be the first US leader to be formally charged for a second time with “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Even with time running short, Democrats likely have the votes in the House to impeach Trump again and Congressman David Cicilline, who introduced the resolution, told reporters afterward he expects it will find Republican backing.

“This was an attempted coup, to overthrow the government, and we have a responsibility as Congress to respond to that,” said Cicilline.

But although two Republican Senators — Pat Toomey and Lisa Murkowski — have urged Trump to resign, Democrats are unlikely to muster the two-thirds majority needed to convict Trump in the 100-member Senate and remove him from office.

– ‘Attempted coup’ –

The impeachment effort is nevertheless seen by Democrats as worthwhile.

Although any conviction would likely occur after Trump has already left office, it would lead to a secondary vote on banning Trump, who is thought to be considering a run in 2024, from holding federal public office again.

Authorities are still seeking to arrest more Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol following a rally by the president repeating false claims that he had lost the election to Biden due to fraud.

Capitol security has been stepped up and Trump supporters have threatened new action in coming days both in Washington and state capitol buildings.

Senate rules mean the upper chamber would likely be unable to open an impeachment trial before January 19.

Some Democrats, for their part, have expressed concern that a Senate trial would overshadow and hamper Biden’s efforts to quickly lay out his agenda, starting with the fight against the coronavirus and the need to support the economy.

AFP

Democrats Win Second Georgia Race, Ensuring Party’s Control Of US Senate

In this file photo Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff speaks during a campaign rally in Atlanta, Georgia on December 15, 2020. JIM WATSON / AFP

 

Democrat Jon Ossoff clinched victory in the second Georgia Senate runoff, US networks projected Wednesday, guaranteeing his party control of the body.

Ossoff defeated incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue with a nearly 25,000-vote margin, or 0.56 percent, with 98 percent of the expected vote counted, NBC and ABC projected.

READ ALSO: Mob Storms US Capitol As Trump Is Accused Of ‘Coup’

His win, after fellow Democrat Raphael Warnock defeated Republican Kelly Loeffler in a parallel runoff election Tuesday, gave both parties 50 seats in the Senate.

With the chamber evenly split, Democratic Vice-president elect Kamala Harris will play the role of the tie-breaker, giving Democrats control of the Senate as well as the House of Representatives.

AFP

Democrats Want Panel To Probe Trump’s Capacity To Govern

US President Donald Trump gives two thumbs up from the Truman Balcony upon his return to the White House from Walter Reed Medical Center, where he underwent treatment for Covid-19, in Washington, DC, on October 5, 2020. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP)

 

US Democrats said Thursday they will introduce a measure creating a commission to evaluate whether Donald Trump or other presidents have the capacity to discharge the duties of their office.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office said Friday’s bill would “help ensure effective and uninterrupted leadership in the highest office in the Executive Branch of government.”

AFP

Trump Rebuffed Over Comments He Might Not Honour Vote

WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 23: President Donald Trump announces that the Food and Drug Administration is issuing an emergency authorization for blood plasma as a coronavirus treatment during a press conference in James S. Brady Briefing Room at the White House on August 23, 2020 in Washington, DC. Pete Marovich/Getty Images/AFP

 

Top Republicans and Democrats pushed back hard Thursday against President Donald Trump’s suggestion he might not accept defeat in the November election, with some comparing him to corrupt dictators.

A day after the US leader refused to clearly guarantee a peaceful transfer of power, Republican Senate Speaker Mitch McConnell felt it necessary to assure American voters that the winner of the November 3 election would take office as planned in January.

The head of the FBI, meanwhile, implicitly rejected Trump’s suggestion that massive fraud was in the works with the surge in mailed-in ballots.

Trump sparked outrage on Wednesday with his comment that he might not honor the results of the election or treat mail-in ballots as legitimate.

Asked at a White House press conference whether if he is committed to the peaceful handover of power if he is defeated, Trump replied: “Well, we’re going to have to see what happens.”

“You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster,” he said.

– It’s not North Korea –

The remarks were seen as a stunning suggestion that Trump is not committed to the most basic tenet of democratic rule in the United States, respect for the ballot box.

McConnell, a crucial ally of Trump, felt it necessary to clarify the situation, without directly referencing Trump’s remarks.

“The winner of the November 3rd election will be inaugurated on January 20th,” McConnell tweeted Thursday.

“There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792.”

Other top politicians reacted more brusquely.

“Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus,” Republican Senator Mitt Romney tweeted.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House Speaker, said it was necessary to remind Trump, “You are not in North Korea, you are not in Turkey, you are not in Russia, Mr. President.”

“You are in the United States of America. It is a democracy. Why don’t you just try for a moment to honor your oath of office to the constitution of the United States.”

Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state who Trump defeated in the 2016 presidential race, called his comments “pathetic.”

“But because he is the president, we should take his threat seriously,’ she said.

– Vote-by-mail concerns –

Trump’s comments echoed unfounded allegations he has made repeatedly that the vote count could be rigged by Democrats taking advantage of a surge in voting by mail due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“What’s going to happen on November 3rd?” he asked last week, saying “millions” of ballots will not have been counted the day after the election.

“It’s a disaster. Everyone knows it,” he said, adding: “Where are these ballots going? Who’s sending them? Who’s signing them?”

On Wednesday, he asserted that the mailed-in votes will all be suspiciously for his democratic rival Joe Biden, and should not be counted.

“The ballots are out of control,” he said.

“Get rid of the ballots and you will have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation,” he said.

His comments highlight real concerns that there will not be a clear winner on the day after the election, as millions of mailed-in ballots continue to arrive at local election offices and will take time to tabulate.

The FBI and US intelligence have warned that instigators, domestic and foreign, could take advantage of that period to spread fake news about fraud and political manipulation, stirring up public anger and doubts about the electoral process.

However, on Thursday FBI Director Chris Wray told a Senate hearing that they had not seen any coordinated effort to manipulate the election results.

“We have not seen, historically, any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election, whether it’s by mail or otherwise,” Wray said.

AFP

Biden Wins Mississippi Democratic Primary

Democratic Presidential Candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to a full crowd during the Joe Biden Campaign Rally at the National World War I Museum and Memorial on March 7, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri. Kyle Rivas/Getty Images/AFP

 

Former vice president Joe Biden was projected to win the Democratic primary in Mississippi, US television networks projected Tuesday after polls closed.

Biden topped rival Bernie Sanders in the southern state, the first of six to report in Tuesday’s presidential primaries, according to CNN and Fox News.

AFP

Buttigieg, Klobuchar, O’Rourke And Reid Endorse Biden

Pete Buttigieg                                    Joe Biden                                               Amy Klobuchar/AFP

 

Americans vote on Tuesday in primaries that play a major role in who will challenge Donald Trump for the presidency, a day after key endorsements dramatically boosted Joe Biden’s hopes against surging leftist Bernie Sanders.

The backing of Biden by three of his ex-rivals marked an unprecedented turn in a fractured, often bitter campaign.

The Democratic establishment is desperate to unite around a moderate candidate who can triumph over frontrunner Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, and face President Trump in November.

Voting begins as early as 6:00 am (1100 GMT) in some areas.

As the five remaining Democratic candidates made their final pitch to voters in 14 states, Biden was capitalizing on momentum he seized at the weekend with a blowout victory in South Carolina.

The 77-year-old former vice president is consolidating support among moderates eager to blunt the advance of Sanders, who could take a potentially insurmountable lead in the all-important delegate count after Super Tuesday.

Biden has been riding high with key endorsements that built into a political crescendo on Monday.

He took the stage at a rally in Dallas, Texas joined by Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, who told the crowd she was ending her campaign and endorsing Biden for president.

Biden later introduced Beto O’Rourke, who made a big splash early in the Democratic race but then fizzled out. O’Rourke remains popular in Texas, the state with the largest delegate haul on Tuesday after California.

“We need somebody who can beat Donald Trump (and) in Joe Biden we have that man,” O’Rourke said, peppering his short speech with Spanish.

Hours earlier Pete Buttigieg, the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, threw his support behind Biden a day after quitting the race himself.

“I’m looking for a president who will draw out what is best in each of us,” Buttigieg said in Dallas, with the former vice president at his side.

Biden appeared reinvigorated by the support, and he repeatedly flashed his million-watt smile.

But he delivered a tough message intended to warn voters away from the seductions of Sanders, who has called for nothing less than a “political revolution” in America.

“Most Americans don’t want the promise of a revolution,” Biden told supporters. “They want results. They want a revival of decency, honor and character.”

 Main challenger 

The trio of endorsements could be political gold for a resurgent Biden.

His campaign was on life support after disappointing showings in the first three state contests, but he is suddenly the main challenger to Sanders on the biggest day of the primary campaign.

Buttigieg had strong showings in predominantly white early states but was unable to mobilize black and Hispanic support.

Klobuchar’s campaign never gained traction. By endorsing Biden, she could deprive Sanders of a large delegate claim in her home state of Minnesota on Tuesday.

New York billionaire Mike Bloomberg, who on Tuesday competes in his first primaries, has also spread his message to voters in a lavish multi-state ad blitz.

‘Massive effort’ to stop Sanders 

Flush with money for ads, an extensive organization, and momentum in the polls, Sanders has focused on multiple states including delegate-rich California, Tuesday’s biggest prize.

In Utah, he said there was “a massive effort” trying to stop his campaign.

“The corporate establishment is coming together, the political establishment is coming together,” he added. “They are really getting nervous.”

Sanders leads Biden nationally in polling.

Among his backers is Jessica Chadwell, 24, who works for Planned Parenthood in Burlington, Vermont, where Sanders served as mayor decades ago.

“He is fighting for all these things the younger generation needs: fair pay, affordable housing, equal rights,” she said.

Comeback 

Biden hopes his newfound momentum can carry him through Super Tuesday with a delegate count close to Sanders, if not the outright lead.

The former vice president to Barack Obama says his strength with blacks, Hispanics, women and suburbanites will show in the coming contests.

Though Klobuchar joined Biden’s camp, Sanders has launched an appeal to to her voters.

“I hope her supporters will join us in our fight to defeat Donald Trump in November and win real change,” Sanders tweeted, before holding a rally on Klobuchar’s home turf.

Third-placed Bloomberg is competing against Biden for moderate voters and campaigned in Virginia on the eve of Super Tuesday.

“I’ve won three elections so far. I don’t plan to start losing now,” the former New York mayor said.

Bloomberg has spent an unprecedented $500 million of his own fortune saturating the airwaves with TV spots.

AFP

Democrats Worry As Sanders Wins In Nevada

FILES) In this file photo taken on February 22, 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders gestures as he speaks during a rally at the Abraham Chavez Theater on February 22, 2020 in El Paso, Texas.  Paul Ratje / AFP

 

Bernie Sanders’ landslide victory in Nevada’s Democratic nominating contest has scattered his moderate challengers and injected his White House campaign with a fresh burst of momentum as he drives into the next crucial battlegrounds.

With his strong result Saturday, the Vermont senator demonstrated an ability to broaden a coalition beyond the narrow limits of leftist voters, undercutting the argument from several moderates that he would not be able to bridge the divide between progressives and centrists.

“He showed last night that he can energize our core base,” Howard Dean, a former presidential aspirant himself and former head of the Democratic National Committee, told CNN.

By early Sunday, Sanders was comfortably ahead in Nevada with 60 percent of precincts reporting.

The 78-year-old senator was leading the Democratic pack with 46 percent of the vote, followed far behind by former vice president Joe Biden at 19.6 percent and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, at 15.3 percent.

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar trailed at, respectively, 10.1 percent and 4.8 percent.

 ‘Incredibly impressive’ 

Sanders was quick to claim victory, saying his “multi-generational, multi-racial coalition” was “going to sweep this country.”

Dean said the senator’s result in a state far more typical of America’s demographic variety than the two earlier-voting states was “incredibly impressive.”

But he quickly added that a more definitive result will come only after voters in 14 states cast ballots on March 3, or “Super Tuesday.”

Before that comes South Carolina, which votes on February 29.

Biden’s once-strong prospects had faded sharply for weeks, but he said Saturday that he felt “really good” about his second-place showing in Nevada and shouldn’t be counted out.

His team is banking on a strong showing in South Carolina, where Biden has enjoyed support among a majority-black Democratic electorate.

But after Sanders came in virtually tied for first in Iowa and then won last week in New Hampshire, his undeniable victory in Nevada places him squarely in the driver’s seat, at least for now.

He leads national polls by an 11 point margin over Biden and by 13 points over Mike Bloomberg, the former New York mayor who skipped the early voting states to focus on Super Tuesday.

Some Democrats worry 

Sanders’s progressive policies, including universal health care, higher taxes on the wealthy and an increase in the minimum wage, have struck a chord with millions of Americans.

But they have raised alarm among some Democrats that he will make an easy target for President Donald Trump as a radical leftist, and that if he heads the Democratic ticket in November the party could face sweeping losses.

Trump on Saturday issued a sarcastic-sounding congratulations on Twitter to the man he calls “Crazy Bernie.”

Asked if the Democrats’ majority in the House of Representatives might be threatened if Sanders turned out to be Trump’s rival in November, one powerful South Carolina Democrat said that it might.

It “would be a real burden for us in these states or congressional districts that we have to do well in,” said James Clyburn, the House Democratic whip.

“In those districts, it’s going to be tough to hold onto these jobs if you have to make the case for accepting a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist.”

Buttigieg, while congratulating Sanders on his Nevada victory, offered a stern warning against picking someone who he said sees “capitalism as the root of all evil” to go up against the populist president.

Pressure seems certain to grow on some of the lower-polling Democratic moderates to withdraw to allow others to coalesce around a centrist who might fare better against Trump.

Republican campaign advisor Mark McKinnon, speaking on CNN, predicted that the lower polling candidates will be flushed out of the race after Super Tuesday.

But the centrist alternatives face steep challenges, he added: Bloomberg performed notably poorly in Wednesday’s Democratic debate, and “Biden does not have the resources.”

Progressive candidate Elizabeth Warren, speaking late Saturday in Washington state, which votes March 10, vowed to stay in the race despite a third straight mediocre showing.

She renewed her attacks on Bloomberg, accusing him of trying to “buy this election.”

Bloomberg, co-founder of the Bloomberg LP media company, has plowed a record $438 million of personal funds into his campaign.

McKinnon said, meantime, that if Sanders compiled a large enough lead after Super Tuesday it would make it hard for other Democrats to oppose his nomination at the national convention in July, even if he has not won a clear majority of delegates.

“There’s something going on here that defies the conventional wisdom,” he said: a 78-year-old man attracting highly energized young voters.

Sanders, he said, “is creating a passion among voters.”

Pete Buttigieg, The Kid From South Bend Aiming For The White House

Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg leaves a polling station after greeting supporters outside Hopkinton High School February 11, 2020 in Hopkinton, New Hampshire.   Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP

 

Pete Buttigieg likes to remind people that a year ago, all he had when he launched his presidential campaign were four staff, a big idea and an unknown — and unpronounceable — last name.

“There were skeptics, an awful lot of skeptics,” he said after the first round of caucuses in Iowa, where he beat Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders by a hair.

“Iowa, you have proved those skeptics wrong!” said the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

At 38-years-old, just three years older than the minimum age to be president, “Mayor Pete” is driven by a self-confidence that would seem excessive — arrogant, even — if he wasn’t sitting in second in polls leading up to New Hampshire’s primary on Tuesday, where he faces off against candidates who entered politics before he was born.

This faith in his destiny is not new: Buttigieg recalls raising his hand in high school when a teacher asked who would like to be president.

“I don’t know what it is we expect, that somebody kind of gets struck by lightning and then they turn into somebody who might become president,” he said in a recent New York Times interview.

He fully believes he can seize his moment: the representative of a new generation and the “total opposite” of President Donald Trump, he wants nothing less than to throw “Trumpism itself into the dustbin of history where it belongs” and begin a new American era.

He has no other political experience other than his eight years as mayor of the town where he was born — a town of 100,000 inhabitants — but he argues that he is the only major Democratic candidate to have served in the military. His Twitter profile begins with the phrase “Afghan veteran.”

 A soldier 

Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg was born on January 19, 1982, in South Bend, to parents who were both English professors at Notre Dame University.

His father, a specialist in the Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci, was a Maltese immigrant who came to the US for his PhD, where he met Pete’s mother.

An only child, Pete grew up excelling in school. His path was typical of top students: he was accepted to Harvard, was awarded a prestigious Rhodes scholarship and spent three years at Oxford before being recruited by the elite McKinsey management consultancy in 2007.

“Nothing particularly sizzling,” Buttigieg said of his time at the consulting firm.

At 25-years-old, politics brought him home to South Bend. He ran for treasurer of Indiana but was handily defeated. But in 2011, the mayor’s office opened up, and he was elected. This would become his springboard into national politics.

A Navy reservist for several years, Mayor Pete put his mayoral duties on hold in 2014 and spent seven months in Afghanistan, where he worked as an intelligence analyst.

When asked if he joined the military to boost his political career, he admitted to the podcast The Daily that he has asked himself the same question.

“If the answer is yes, does that mean the service wasn’t pure in some way?” he asked rhetorically.

 Former Republicans 

But all those years, Buttigieg lived with a deep secret: he is gay. “If you had offered me a pill to make me straight, I would have swallowed it before you had time to give me a sip of water,” he admitted last year.

He didn’t come out until 2015 before he was re-elected, mayor. Through Hinge, a dating application, he soon met Chasten Glezman, who would take his last name after they married in 2018. The couple has said they want children.

“My marriage to Chasten has made me a better man,” Buttigieg said. “It has moved me closer to God.”

Buttigieg has cultivated an image of a Midwestern man: traditional, devout (he was baptized Catholic but attends an Episcopalian church). The comedy show Saturday Night Live has parodied him as shy and boring.

His rivals are irked by his grand, sweeping phrases such as “we’ve got to fix the engine of our democracy,” and by his plans to reform the Constitution and the Supreme Court.

Critics point out that he has virtually no support among black voters, a large and important Democratic demographic.

But the former mayor’s strategy is not to win only Democrats. In November, he intends to seek votes from the centre, among disillusioned Trump supporters, what he likes to call “future former Republicans.”

When he officially announced his candidacy in April 2019, Buttigieg said he recognized the “audacity” of his White House bid — a clear reference to Barack Obama’s signature phrase “the audacity of hope.”

“If you are looking at the lessons of history over the last half-century, and every time we have won or my party has won the White House, it has been with a candidate who is new in national politics,” he said, evoking Obama as well as Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

It’s an advantageous comparison: Carter and Clinton were governors, Obama a senator. But it’s true that the Obama camp soon took notice of the young mayor with sharp, clean sentences and a baritone voice.

Not long after Trump’s victory, Obama was asked by The New Yorker about the Democratic succession.

Obama mentioned senators Tim Kaine and Kamala Harris, but then added: “And then there’s that guy in South Bend, Indiana. The mayor.”

AFP

US Election: Sanders, Buttigieg Face Attack In Democratic Debate

 

Democratic presidential candidates former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) participate in the Democratic presidential primary debate in the Sullivan Arena at St. Anselm College on February 07, 2020 in Manchester, New Hampshire. AFP

 

White House hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg — riding neck-and-neck in the polls ahead of the next Democratic primary contest — come under sustained attack on the debate stage from rivals seeking to challenge Donald Trump in November.

Buttigieg, a former mayor of South Bend, Indiana who at 38 is a fresh face on the national stage, defended himself against charges of inexperience and, in a dig at Sanders, urged Americans to elevate a nominee who will “leave the politics of the past in the past.”

The 78-year-old leftist Sanders, eyeing the moderate Buttigieg as his possible chief adversary, aimed his own shots at his far younger rival in the Manchester, New Hampshire debate — casting him as the candidate of Wall Street.

“I don’t have 40 billionaires, Pete, contributing to my campaign,” Sanders said.

Buttigieg and Sanders finished atop the pack earlier this week in Iowa’s chaotic caucuses, and both hope to renew the performance Tuesday in New Hampshire, as the Democratic Party seeks to pick a challenger to Trump in November.

But Sanders, a veteran senator calling for “political revolution,” was in the firing line from several rivals, including former vice president and fellow septuagenarian Joe Biden who branded his policies too radical to unite Americans.

The 77-year-old Biden, fighting to keep his White House hopes alive after finishing an unnerving fourth in Iowa, insisted liberal policies like Sanders’s flagship universal health care plan would be too divisive, expensive and difficult to get through Congress.

“How much is it going to cost?” Biden asked about Sanders’s Medicare for All bill which estimates the project would cost tens of trillions of dollars.

“Who do you think is going get that passed” in Congress?

Biden performed more aggressively than in previous showings, seizing a chance to argue that today’s global tensions required an experienced statesman to guide the nation out of a dark period.

Despite the Iowa setback he also made plain he still views himself as best placed to mount a centrist challenge to the Republican Trump, who this week survived an impeachment trial that did little to dent his electoral support.

A national unknown one year ago, Buttigieg has run an ambitious campaign that resonated with voters who appreciate his articulate explanations of policy.

But rivals including Senator Amy Klobuchar argued Buttigieg is an untested novice on the world stage.

“We have a newcomer in the White House, and look where it got us,” she said in a gibe at both Buttigieg and Trump.

Buttigieg draws on his experience as a military veteran to cast himself as a credible commander-in-chief.

And he advanced his central argument for generational change as the best way to take on the nation’s tests.

“The biggest risk we could take at a time like this would be to go up against the fundamentally new challenge by trying to fall back on the familiar,” Buttigieg said.

 ‘Trump’s worst nightmare’ 

Also on stage in New Hampshire were Senator Elizabeth Warren, entrepreneur Andrew Yang and billionaire activist Tom Steyer.

Klobuchar, a pragmatist from Minnesota, put in a forceful performance as she voiced her opposition to Sanders and Warren, arguing their liberal plans would only divide voters.

“Truthfully, Donald Trump’s worst nightmare is a candidate that will bring people in from the middle,” she said.

While Biden held his own, he acknowledged he was fighting an uphill battle in the first two voting states.

“I took the hit in Iowa and I’ll probably take it here,” he said, in apparent recognition that Sanders is likely to win New Hampshire, which borders his home state of Vermont.

Democratic tensions have simmered as the party struggles to decide whether to take incremental progressive steps or a more radical turn as proposed by self-declared democratic socialist Sanders.

At one point candidates were asked whether they would be concerned should a democratic socialist win the nomination. Klobuchar and others raised their hands.

As the seven debaters clashed, another candidate loomed in the background.

Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg chose to ignore the early nominating contests and has spent heavily on advertising, hoping to make a splash on “Super Tuesday” on March 3, when 14 states vote.

Warren, who calls for an end to the “corruption” of Washington, lashed out against Bloomberg — but also Buttigieg — who has raised large sums from wealthy donors.

“I don’t think anyone ought to be able to buy their way into a nomination or being president,” she said.

“I don’t think any billionaire ought to be able to do it and I don’t think people who suck up to billionaires in order to fund their campaigns ought to be able to do it.”

After New Hampshire, the candidates turn to Nevada on February 22, South Carolina on February 29 and then Super Tuesday.

AFP

‘No One Above The Law,’ Democrats Say As Trump Trial Nears End

 

Democratic prosecutors, declaring that “no one is above the law,” made a last-ditch appeal to senators at US President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on Monday to vote to remove him from office for abuse of power.

“Your duty demands that you convict President Trump,” Colorado lawmaker Jason Crow said as prosecutors began presenting their closing arguments at just the third impeachment trial in US history.

“How many falsehoods can we take?” Crow asked the 100 members of the Senate who are serving as jurors and will decide the president’s fate. “When will it be one too many?”

The Senate is to vote at 4:00 pm (2100 GMT) on Wednesday on the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress and the Republican president is all but certain of being acquitted.

Republicans hold 53 seats in the Senate to 47 for the Democrats, but a two-thirds majority, or 67 senators, is needed to remove a president from office.

Crow, one of the seven members of the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives who have argued the case against the president in the Senate, said impeachment was an “extraordinary remedy” to be used in only “rare instances of grave misconduct.”

“It is in the Constitution for a reason,” he said. “In America, nobody is above the law, even those elected president of the United States.”

The House of Representatives impeached Trump on December 18 for withholding $391 million in military aid to Ukraine to demand that Kiev open an investigation into his potential November election rival, Democrat Joe Biden.

“Donald Trump has betrayed his oath to protect and defend the Constitution,” said Adam Schiff, the California lawmaker who has served as the chief House prosecutor.

“But it’s not too late for us to honour ours.

“Today we urge you, in the face of overwhelming evidence of the president’s guilt, and knowing that if left in office he will continue to seek foreign interference in the next election, vote to convict on both articles of impeachment and remove from office Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States,” Schiff said.

 ‘Lasting implications’ 

Crow told the Senate their decision would echo through history.

“What you decide on these articles will have lasting implications for the future of the presidency, not only for this president but for all future presidents,” he said.

Democratic prosecutors presented about an hour of final arguments before the Senate broke for lunch. They will be followed by White House lawyers, who will have up to two hours to present Trump’s defence.

Following the closing arguments, the Senate will adjourn as a court of impeachment and open a legislative session during which senators will have the floor for 10 minutes each to make remarks.

Final arguments in Trump’s trial were being held as voters held caucuses in Iowa to begin the process of choosing a Democratic candidate to face Trump at the polls in November.

Former vice president Biden is among the front-runners in Iowa along with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, whose campaigning in the midwestern state has been hamstrung by the requirement that they remain in Washington for the impeachment trial.

As the Democratic prosecutors addressed the sombre Senate chamber, Trump lashed out on Twitter.

“I hope Republicans & the American people realize that the totally partisan Impeachment Hoax is exactly that, a Hoax,” he said. “Nothing will ever satisfy the Do Nothing, Radical Left Dems!”

Trump was also asked about his impeachment during an interview with the Fox network ahead of Sunday’s Super Bowl.

“It’s been a very, very unfair process,” he said. “It should never happen to another president.”

He expressed confidence that the strong economy would help power him to re-election in November. “I don’t know how anybody could possibly beat me,” he said.

Trump was also asked whether he had given any thought to delaying Tuesday’s nationally televised “State of the Union” speech to a joint session of Congress.

“No, I’m gonna have it,” he said. “We’re gonna talk about the achievements that we’ve made.”

Americans divided 

A narrow majority of Americans believe Trump abused his power and obstructed Congress by withholding documents and testimony during the impeachment inquiry, according to a new NBC/WSJ poll.

But they remain divided on whether he should be kicked from office, with 46 per cent hoping to see him removed and 49 per cent saying he should keep his job.

The Senate trial moved into the final arguments phase after Democrats failed last week in a bid to introduce witnesses and documents.

Only two Republicans — Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine — joined Democrats as the motion to introduce witnesses was defeated 51-49.

Democrats had been eager to hear from Trump’s former national security advisor John Bolton, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and other key administration figures caught up in the scandal.

Bolton reportedly says in a forthcoming book that Trump told him military aid to Ukraine was tied to Kiev’s investigating Biden — corroborating the central claim against the president.

AFP