In this week's News You Can Use, There’s no doubt that national-level news stands out this week – the stunning upholding of reproductive health protections in Kansas’s constitution and the passage of a cascade of bills in the US Senate – bills that boost US productivity in the critical chips sector, support veterans who suffered chemical injuries on active duty, and most of all passed the stripped-down but still high-potency Inflation Reduction Act in a marathon weekend of votes and countervotes.
But in Maryland, though less exciting, Larry Hogan's cherished toll roads on our friendly neighborhood Interstate get a setback, Anne Arundel County will vote on Fair Elections, and more.
There’s no doubt that national-level news stands out this week – the stunning upholding of reproductive health protections in Kansas’s constitution and the passage of a cascade of bills in the US Senate – bills that boost US productivity in the critical chips sector, support veterans who suffered chemical injuries on active duty, and most of all passed the stripped-down but still high-potency Inflation Reduction Act in a marathon weekend of votes and countervotes.
As Saturday’s all-nighter tapered off into Sunday afternoon’s final action, we get a vote-a-rama witness statement from MD Senator Chris Van Hollen – here’s his take on the renamed Inflation Reduction Act, nee Build Back Better “This afternoon, the United States Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act. It took all night and much of today to break through Republican obstruction, disruption, and distraction, but my colleagues and I in the Democratic Senate majority stayed united and got this bold, transformative legislation done for the American people. Our bill is now off to the House of Representatives for a final vote – and I am confident that we will soon get it to the President’s desk for signature.”
This is a historic win for the American people. With today’s passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, we’re taking action to address some of the biggest challenges our nation faces: the worsening climate crisis, sky-high prescription drug costs, a tax code that unfairly puts corporations and the wealthy before working Americans, and inflation. This bill will address each of these challenges head-on, while reducing our national debt and creating thousands of good-paying jobs. Here’s the rest of his statement.
And here is a close-up, textured view of how senators – and their long-suffering staff – get through the two-day all-nighter they call the vote-a-rama that comes with the so-called reconciliation dodge around the filibuster.
Of course progressives didn’t get all we wanted, not only because of the GOP knuckle-draggers but via the wiggle room needed to get votes from Sens. Manchin and Sinema. Here are some observations from our fed-watcher Megan Essaheb at People’s Action:
The Senate parliamentarian stripped out two provisions from the Inflation Reduction Act regulating the costs of prescription drugs for people with private insurance. Democrats tried to overrule the parliamentarian on the provision that would have set an insulin cap at $35 a month but failed to get the 10 Republicans needed to do that. The provisions allowing Medicare to negotiate insulin prices did make it through along with the other provisions allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices. PhRMA threatened Democrats as final votes on Rx provisions in the budget deal grew near. and has waged a multimillion-dollar advocacy campaign against the drug pricing measures.
Upcoming: August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day. Folks can visit our action portal driving emails to Senators asking them to cosponsor the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act.
Housing costs -- The Senate Banking Committee held a sobering hearing on skyrocketing rent last week: “Rental prices have exceeded income gains by 325% since 1985, with costs growing at their fastest-ever pace last year. Meanwhile, Democrats on the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis released a report examining coronavirus evictions. Four large landlord companies had nearly three times as many eviction cases than previously known, plus evidence of “potentially unlawful practices” in trying to prevent tenants from utilizing protection from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eviction moratorium.” The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau published a blog on rent inflation after the Homes Guarantee team met with them.
Yes, BTW inflation is inching back down but not fast enough, and some economists doubt that the new Senate bill, despites its title, will do much to help. Meanwhile the NYT reports “In an Unequal Economy, the Poor Face Inflation Now and Job Loss Later -- Americans with low incomes are pulling back from buying even as their richer counterparts keep spending — with potentially big consequences.
Federal transportation officials indicate more time is needed to review concerns about the project’s environmental impact WaPo… Previously, Mo Co Seeks Delay In Toll Lane Decision: With the U.S. Department of Transportation poised to issue its decision on an ambitious Capital Beltway and I-270 toll lanes plan, Montgomery County’s top planner accused state highway officials of running roughshod over Maryland law. Maryland Matters.
Last Big Unknown -- Finally counted, on to recount: Once final votes were counted from the July 19 primary in Montgomery County this weekend, businessman David Blair said he will request a recount after results in the county executive race showed him down 42 votes to incumbent Marc Elrich. Md Matters.
SNAP Enrollment in MD Drops -- Nearly one in five Marylanders who were enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, were dropped from the rolls between March and May, according to state data. SNAP is the federal program that gives money to needy families so they can purchase nutritious food. State officials said the dip was expected. At the same time, SNAP outreach workers say they witnessed administrative obstacles that created challenges for recipients trying to retain the benefits. Balt Banner (full article paywalled)
At Last: State Launches Offshore Wind Jobs Training Program: A group of employers, unions and other partners are coming together with the Maryland Department of Labor to create a multimillion-dollar statewide workforce training initiative centered on supporting the state’s growing offshore wind industry. 4COffshore
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