Democrats reach deal to pass major climate bill after Sinema says yes – as it happened

12 days ago

Democrats reach deal to pass major climate bill after Sinema says yes – as it happened

The Guardian

Closing summary

The pieces have been set in motion for the Senate to convene this weekend and begin voting on Democrats’ plan to fight climate change and lower inflation, which the party appears to have the support necessary to pass. At the White House, Joe Biden cheered yet another month of healthy job growth as he looks for ways to revitalize his dismal approval ratings.

Here’s a look back at what happened today:

  • Republicans plan to frustrate Democrats in the Senate during votes on amendments to the spending plan, known as the Inflation Reduction Act.
  • Donald Trump is reportedly negotiating with the justice department amid the ongoing criminal probe into the January 6 insurrection.
  • United Nations chief António Guterres warned that there is “no way to solve the most pressing problems of all the world without an effective dialogue and cooperation” between the United States and China - which are currently feuding over US House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit this week to Taiwan.
  • Scientists are warning that climate change is driving increased lightning strikes, after two were killed and two critically injured during storms near the White House yesterday.
  • Biden’s recent string of political victories has generated a meme: “Dark Brandon”.

China is furious over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan earlier this week, and today, Beijing cut off cooperating with the United States on fighting climate change, and some military communication.

But at a briefing, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said China and the United States’ military leaders still have some ways of communicating:

He did, however, condemn Beijing’s decision to stop collaborating on ways to lower emissions:

United Nations chief António Guterres had said much the same earlier in the day.

Biden administration plans $1 bn in weapons, vehicles for Ukraine: Reuters

Reuters reports that the White House will soon send $1 billion in aid to Ukraine, including armored medical transports and the types of long-range weapons that have allowed Ukraine to regain momentum recently against the Russian invaders.

Citing three sources familiar with the matter, Reuters says president Joe Biden hasn’t authorized the weapons yet, but could do so as soon as Monday. The package would be one of the biggest aid packages since the war began and is expected to include more munitions for the Himars rocket system Ukraine has deployed to great effect recently, as well as Nasams surface-to-air missiles.

The weapons could be used in Ukraine’s expected offensive to recapture Kherson, a southern city that’s one of the largest under the control of the Russians.

Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, is threatening to back out of testifying before the January 6 committee unless he can record the interaction, Politico reports.

Mastriano “has legitimate concerns that your committee may attempt to influence the outcome of the Pennsylvania state elections through the dissemination of disinformation,” his lawyer told the House panel investigating the insurrection, according to Politico.

His resistance could lead to a court fight between the lawmakers and Mastriano, a state senator and 2020 election denier whom Donald Trump backed in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial primary.

While some acolytes of the former president have spoken to the committee, others have resisted - to their peril. Top Trump adviser Steve Bannon was found guilty of contempt of Congress last month for defying subpoenas from the panel, and former trade adviser Peter Navarro is facing similar charges.

Threatening Washington’s top public health official has real consequences, as a West Virginia man found out today:

A federal judge sentenced a West Virginia man to three years in prison by for sending intimidating emails to public health chief Anthony Fauci, including threats to kill the US’s top infectious disease official over his handling of the Covid pandemic.

US district judge Paula Xinis in Greenbelt, Maryland, on Thursday sentenced Thomas Connally, 56, of Snowshoe, West Virginia, to 37 months in federal prison and another three years of supervised release after he pleaded guilty in May to a federal charge of making threats against a federal official.

In one email, Connally threatened that Fauci and his family would be “dragged into the street, beaten to death, and set on fire,” prosecutors said.

CNN has a bit more detail on the Inflation Reduction Act’s path to enactment in Congress: the House won’t be back in session until next Friday, giving the Senate plenty of time to approve the bill.

Senators will convene on Saturday to vote on the bill, which is a major priority for the Biden administration and allocates money to fighting climate change and lowering health care costs.

A day after ordering Alex Jones to pay $4.1 million in compensatory damages for spreading conspiracy theories about 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, CNN reports a Texas jury has begun deliberating over how much to make Jones pay in punitive damages - which could greatly enhance the financial pain resulting from his defamation trial:

The Guardian’s Ramon Antonio Vargas has the latest on the trial, which has been more dramatic than most:

A financial expert testifying for the parents of a child killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting has estimated that Alex Jones and his media company are worth between $135m and $240m as they seek punitive damages beyond the $4.1m they secured a day ago for the US conspiracy theorist’s falsehoods about the massacre.

The expert, Bernard Pettingill, said from the witness stand in an Austin courtroom that Jones and his Free Speech Systems company earned more than $50m annually between 2016 to 2021 – even as popular social media companies banned him from promoting himself through them – due to his “rabid following” of millions.

Pettingill added that it was difficult to get an exact read of Jones’s financial outlook because he used a web of shell companies that own nothing and employ no one to move money belonging to him around.


Joe Biden’s been on something of a roll lately, and the internet appears to have noticed, gifting the 79-year-old president with a meme: “Dark Brandon”. While its origins are on the right, the moniker has been reclaimed by Biden’s supporters and spread on Twitter just as the Democratic president wracked up a number of wins in Congress and elsewhere.

For example:

Or perhaps:

Like many meme origin stories, that of “Dark Brandon” is lengthy and packed with references to other memes and internet trends. One of them is “Let’s Go Brandon”, the sanitized version of “Fuck Joe Biden” that became popular among his detractors last year.

On Twitter, Biden’s supporters are using it to refer to several recent success stories for the White House, including the killing of top al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri this past weekend, the breakthrough on Democrats’ climate change and health care bill days later and the passage of another measure to spur semiconductor production late last month.

Slate has published some thoughts on what Dark Brandon’s arrival heralds:

The term “Dark Brandon” first surfaced in early 2022 as part of the usual gamut of memes and burns deployed by America’s extremely online socialists—especially those who’ve found themselves feeling euphorically apocalyptic in the face of unchecked climate change, a theocratic Supreme Court, and Joe Manchin’s seemingly insurmountable veto power. For them, “Dark Brandon” was a way to lean into despair. The invaluable resource Know Your Meme delved into the paper trail and uncovered a trove of extremely dark viral tweets from the spring, where Dark Brandon could be found, say, pointing a gun into a woman’s mouth in a Photoshop or overseeing public executions in a Twitter user’s ironic fantasy. The idea here is that Joe Biden was not the fuddy-duddy centrist he appeared to be and instead represented some sort of satanic, Revelations-esque figure, way worse than anyone can imagine.

It’s an aesthetic that mirrors the related Dark MAGA trend, in which alt-right dead-enders and QAnon veterans have adopted an increasingly occultist tone to sheathe their reactionary beliefs. (Here, for instance, is an image of Jordan Peterson with the same facial tattoos as the rapper 6ix9ine.) The difference is that Dark MAGA posters fantasize about the return of an even-more-unhinged, gloves-off Trump, out for revenge. Dark Brandon, on the other hand, was the creation of people without much hope at all.

We can debate over whether it’s foolish to assign any intellectual significance to the tweets made by weirdos on the internet, but I do think that both Dark Brandon and DarkMAGA were interesting artifacts of America’s superheated political environment. The country does feel like it’s perched on the precipice of some sort of prophetic rebirth, and perhaps, as our institutions erode into the sea, Dark Brandon is the harbinger of that final judgment. Meanwhile, because Trump does feel like he might come back, more vengeful than before, DarkMAGA’s attempts to speak that into existence feel like a warning.


Biden celebrates latest job numbers, prospect of major bill passing

In a speech at the White House, Joe Biden praised the July jobs numbers, which came in much better than expected. He also hailed the Inflation Reduction Act that’s making progress in the US Senate and is on what Democrats hope is the final stretch before making it into law.

“We are on the cusp of the most important step we can take to help Congress lower inflation,” he said, speaking outside and sporting his trademark aviator sunglasses because he was still isolating due to his Covid-19 diagnosis.

He talked of the ongoing decrease in gas prices over the past month-and-a-half, noting fuel was available for “less than $3.99 a gallon at more than half the gas stations in North America”,

Biden also touted the speed of the labor market’s recovery, after more than 20 million people lost their job when Covid-19 broke out.

“That’s why the strength and the pace job of the recovery is so important. In the past, it’s taking years for Americans to recover from an economic crisis. When that’s happened, millions of people suffer from years and years just trying to get back to where they were before, just trying to get back on their feet. And that didn’t happen this time”, Biden said.

Interim summary

Joe Biden is about to sign a couple of bills at the White House and we’ll have an ear out for any relevant remarks. It’s a relatively lively Friday, given that the House and Senate are out, and we’ll have more, so stay tuned.

Here’s where things stand.

  • There is “no way to solve the most pressing problems of all the world without an effective dialogue and cooperation” between the United States and China, a spokesman for United Nations chief António Guterres said.
  • Scientists are warning that climate change is driving increased lightning strikes, after two were killed and two critically injured during storms near the White House yesterday.
  • Joe Biden cheered the better-than-expected employment data released by the Labor Department this morning, saying it shows the success of his administration’s plan to help Americans.
  • Kyrsten Sinema, conservative Democratic US Senator of Arizona, is on board with the Inflation Reduction Act legislation now pending at the door of the Senate, in another breakthrough for Democrats and Joe Biden’s domestic agenda.

Meanwhile, if you want some up-to-the-minute international developments, follow either of our global live blogs, on the geopolitical fall-out from Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, and on the war in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in February.


Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz is busy entertaining the peanut gallery at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) event in his home state.

Cruz was revving himself and the crowd up now by roundly mocking everything Democrat, also masks against the spread of coronavirus, presidential health adviser Anthony Fauci, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, “communist, woke professors”, etc, etc.

He just promised that in November, south Texas “will turn red” and elect Republican members of congress in Rio Grande Valley on the US-Mexico border.

And, nationally, Cruz is forecasting “not just a red wave but a tsunami” of GOP victories at the midterm elections.

On the subject of the polite modern habit of specifying one’s preferred pronouns, Cruz shrieked to whoops: “My pronouns are ‘kiss my ass’.”

“We are on the cusp of something amazing in this country,” Cruz tells the crowd. Alarming might be more accurate.

The right-winger is exiting the stage now, to soaring rock music.


UN warns 'no way' to tackle climate change without US, China

There is “no way to solve the most pressing problems of all the world without an effective dialogue and cooperation” between the United States and China, a spokesman for United Nations chief António Guterres said today, Reuters writes.

This followed the Chinese government in Beijing halting climate talks with Washington, Reuters writes.

Tackling climate change has been a key area of cooperation between the two superpowers.

But China has suspended talks as part of its escalating retaliation over House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan earlier this week.

If you want to read our global live blog on all the developments in geopolitics as a result of Pelosi’s visit to the Taiwanese capital, Taipei, you can do so here.

Guterres last month warned that wildfires and heatwaves wreaking havoc across swathes of the globe show humanity facing is “collective suicide”, as governments around the world scramble to protect people from the impacts of extreme heat.

Pelosi is currently on the Japan leg of her Asia tour, which would not have been especially controversial if it had not been for her insistence on visiting Taiwan, the independent island nation over which the People’s Republic of China has claimed sovereignty since nationalists fled there to escape the communist mainland takeover in 1949.

People walk past a billboard welcoming U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in Taipei, Taiwan, Tuesday, Aug 2, 2022.
People walk past a billboard welcoming U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in Taipei, Taiwan, Tuesday, Aug 2, 2022. Photograph: Chiang Ying-ying/AP

President Joe Biden remains positive for Covid-19, but is otherwise doing almost fine, the White House announced.

According to a letter from his doctor Kevin O’Connor, Biden’s “cough has almost completely resolved”, though his continued positive test means he will have to “continue his strict isolation measures”.

You can read the full update here.

The REPEAT Project, a Princeton University and Dartmouth College initiative to evaluate federal policies’ impact on emissions and climate change, has done a quick analysis of the climate change provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act.

It’s a dense read, but it confirms the potency of the proposal, which would get the United States close, but not all the way, to meeting its targets for lowering emissions. Here’s a summary of its findings:

The Senate Inflation Reduction Act would:

• cut annual emissions in 2030 by an additional ~1 billion metric tons below current policy (including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law)

• close two-thirds of the remaining emissions gap between current policy and the nation’s 2030 climate target (50% below 2005)

• get the U.S. to within ~0.5 billion tons of the 2030 climate target

• reduce cumulative GHG emissions by about 6.3 billion tons over the next decade (through 2032).

Republican state treasurers are coordinating efforts to retaliate against financial institutions that have taken steps to mitigate climate change, according to an investigation published today by The New York Times.

While they still do plenty of business with oil companies, major asset managers like BlackRock and banks like Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase have signaled a desire to support the transition from fossil fuels. But Republican officials are trying to use their states’ financial heft to get the financial institutions to change course.

Here’s more from the Times’ report:

Last week, Riley Moore, the treasurer of West Virginia, announced that several major banks — including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo — would be barred from government contracts with his state because they are reducing their investments in coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel.

Mr. Moore and the treasurers of Louisiana and Arkansas have pulled more than $700 million out of BlackRock, the world’s largest investment manager, over objections that the firm is too focused on environmental issues. At the same time, the treasurers of Utah and Idaho are pressuring the private sector to drop climate action and other causes they label as “woke.”

And treasurers from Pennsylvania, Arizona and Oklahoma joined a larger campaign to thwart the nominations of federal regulators who wanted to require that banks, funds and companies disclose the financial risks posed by a warming planet.

At the nexus of these efforts is the State Financial Officers Foundation, a little-known nonprofit organization based in Shawnee, Kan., that once focused on cybersecurity, borrowing costs and managing debt loads, among other routine issues.

Then President Biden took office, promising to speed the country’s transition away from oil, gas and coal, the burning of which is dangerously heating the planet.

The foundation began pushing Republican state treasurers, who are mostly elected officials and who are responsible for managing their state’s finances, to use their power to promote oil and gas interests and to stymie Mr. Biden’s climate agenda, records show.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will travel to Kentucky on Monday, August 8, to survey damage caused by catastrophic flooding in the eastern part of the state, the White House announced.

The death toll from the floods has hit 37, while hundreds remains missing. Scientists have linked the severity of the storm to climate change.

Republicans are on the defensive in Congress after Democrats coalesced around the Inflation Reduction Act and announced plans to begin voting on the marquee spending measure over the weekend.

That doesn’t mean they don’t have a plan to try to stop it. Senators will get to offer amendments to the bill and CNN reports Republicans Lindsey Graham and John Thune have signaled they want to make that process, known as “vote-a-rama” as painful for Democrats as possible:

Amy Weirich, a Memphis prosecutor with a checkered record who is best known for cracking down on a woman just for trying to register to vote, has lost her re-election bid. As Sam Levine reports:

Amy Weirich, the Memphis prosecutor who stirred national outrage for bringing criminal charges against a Black woman for trying to register to vote, has lost her re-election bid.

Weirich, a Republican who has been the district attorney general in Shelby county since 2011, lost to Democrat Steve Mulroy, a law professor at the University of Memphis and a former county commissioner.

Weirich’s defeat marks a major victory for criminal justice reform advocates, who had pressured her office over its use of cash bail, diversity and decisions to try juveniles as adults.

Donald Trump’s preferred Republican has won the party’s governorship nomination in Arizona, giving 2020 election deniers a shot at all three major positions overseeing polls in the state. Chris Michael reports:

Kari Lake, a former news anchor who has embraced Donald Trump’s false claims that voter fraud cost him the 2020 election, has been projected to win the Republican nomination for governor of Arizona.

Lake campaigned on enacting many new election measures, including getting rid of vote-counting machines and banning voting by mail.

Edison Research and NBC News both projected Lake’s victory late on Thursday over Karrin Taylor Robson, who was endorsed by Trump’s former vice-president, Mike Pence.

Along with primary wins for Mark Finchem as Republican nominee for secretary of state and Abraham Hamadeh for state attorney general, Arizona, a key swing state, is now facing three election-denier candidates for its top positions overseeing the conduct of elections – including certifying the results.

The justice department and Donald Trump’s lawyers have started talking amid an ongoing criminal probe into the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol, CNN reports.

The negotiations deal with issues of executive privilege and whether Trump’s conversations while president can be kept from federal investigators, according to the broadcaster.

Here’s more from CNN:

At this stage, the conversations are focused mostly on whether any communications that witnesses from the Trump West Wing had with the former President can be kept from a federal criminal grand jury under Trump’s claims of executive privilege, the people said.

The Justice Department has been anticipating a court fight with Trump over executive privilege. The issue has arisen as grand jury subpoenas have been issued to two former White House counsel’s office officials and to former Vice President Mike Pence’s chief counsel and chief of staff.

Trump’s legal defense team has warned him that indictments are possible, sources tell CNN.

Some members of Trump’s legal team have discussed his potential defense strategies on at least two occasions in recent months, according to two sources familiar with the matter, as they brace for new developments in the Justice Department probe and a separate investigation by Georgia officials into his potentially criminal meddling in the state’s 2020 election results. Rolling Stonepreviously reported that Trump had been briefed.

Trump has grilled his attorneys on whether they actually believe he will face formal charges, sources said. Yet the former President has expressed a heavy dose of skepticism that he will be indicted, one of the sources familiar with the matter said.

Another source close to the former President told CNN that Trump also has posed questions about a potential indictment to members of his inner circle, some of whom believe the President is concerned about the possibility of federal charges.

The January 6 attack is the subject of public congressional hearings that have shown a spotlight on the events before, during and after the insurrection. But the justice department has quietly been conducting its own criminal investigation into what happened that day, creating speculation that Trump himself could face charges:

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has put out a statement of condolence for the two people killed by lightning near the White House:

We are saddened by the tragic loss of life after the lightning strike in Lafayette Park. Our hearts are with the families who lost loved ones, and we are praying for those still fighting for their lives.

Two dead after lightning strike near White House

Two people have died after a lightning strike near the White House during stormy weather on Thursday evening, The Washington Post reported this morning.

The strike caused “critical life threatening injuries” to four people nearby, according to emergency services in Washington, DC:

The lightning hit Lafayette Square, a popular park just in front of the White House that offers views of its north side. Video circulating on social media appeared to capture the strike:


Jobs report shows 'significant progress' for American workers: Biden

President Joe Biden has cheered the better-than-expected employment data released by the Labor Department this morning, saying it shows the success of his administration’s plan to help Americans.

Here’s his full statement:

Today, the unemployment rate matches the lowest it’s been in more than 50 years: 3.5%. More people are working than at any point in American history. That’s millions of families with the dignity and peace of mind that a paycheck provides. And, it’s the result of my economic plan to build the economy from the bottom up and middle out. I ran for president to rebuild the middle class – there’s more work to do, but today’s jobs report shows we are making significant progress for working families.

There are a few different lessons to be taken from the July jobs report, which showed the US economy adding a robust 528,000 positions last month and the unemployment rate edging to 3.5 percent, where it was before Covid-19.

The first is that the economy is most likely not in a recession, despite negative growth in the past two quarters. In the words of University of Michigan economist Justin Wolfers, employment doesn’t increase like this when the economy is contracting:

But that doesn’t mean the report was unabashed good news. In fact, it contained a worrying sign that inflation, already at record levels, is continuing to rise. The data showed workers’ average hourly earning increasing, a sign that employees are demanding higher salaries to cope with the rising costs they bear, creating the kind of dynamic that can keep the price increases going for longer.

What that means is that the Federal Reserve will likely opt for more aggressive interest rate hikes to make lending more expensive and quell consumer demand - but that risks causing a recession. Here’s how Jason Furman, a former top economist to Democratic president Barack Obama, puts it:

But as Wolfers acknowledges, there’s still reason to celebrate this report:

It’s official: the US job market has returned to where it was before the Covid-19 pandemic, according to new data released by the government this morning that showed employment increased far more than expected in July. Dominic Rushe has the full report:

The US added 528,000 jobs in July as the jobs market returned to pre-pandemic levels.

The US has now added 22m jobs since reaching a low in April 2020. The unemployment rate dipped to 3.5% in July, equal to its rate in February 2020 before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the US.

The far stronger than expected report comes a month after the labor department announced the economy added 398,000 jobs in June, 26,000 more than its first estimate.

Economists had been expecting jobs growth to slow in July and the latest figures from the labor department were far stronger than the average 388,000 jobs gained over the last four months.

For the past week, just about everybody in Washington politics has been asking the same question: will Democratic senator Kyrsten Sinema vote for her party’s plan to fight climate change and lower health care costs?

The Arizona lawmaker is known for her opposition to changing the tax code, as the bill - known was the Inflation Reduction Act - does to fund its programs. In the end, she did demand changes to how the legislation is paid for, but they weren’t especially big.

With her support, Democrats have all 50 votes they need to get the bill through the evenly divided Senate. There’s not much Republicans themselves can do to stop them, so, instead, they’re hoping that Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough intervenes. The Democrats hope to pass the legislation via the reconciliation procedure, which requires only a simple majority of votes, but there are only certain types of changes to the law they can make that way. MacDonough is to decide whether they followed proper procedure, and as Politico reports, Republicans hope she’ll strike certain provisions from the bill - which could upend the delicate compromise Democrats have forged among themselves, and jeopardize the bill entirely.

Democrats reach deal to pass major plan to fight climate change

Good morning, US politics blog readers. It took more than a year of negotiations, but Democrats appear to finally have the votes to pass a major plan to fight climate change and lower healthcare costs, after a holdout senator announced yesterday evening she would support the measure. It’s Congress, so anything can happen, but if Democrats manage to get it done when they convene on Saturday, it would mark a major victory for the beleaguered presidency of Joe Biden, and cut America’s greenhouse gas emissions. We’ll certainly be hearing more about this today.

Here’s what else is on the agenda:

  • The Conservative Political Action Conference continues in Texas, with senator Ted Cruz, representative Marjorie Taylor Green and other rightwing politicians among today’s speakers.
  • Donald Trump is holding a “Save America Rally” in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
  • China has sanctioned US House speaker Nancy Pelosi after she visited Taiwan, which it responded to by launching military exercises near the island it views as a breakaway province. The Guardian has a live blog covering the ongoing tensions.