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First, there is a proper role for a minority caucus to play in preventing an out-of-control majority from abusing its power, but it has nothing to do with an archaic filibuster that lacks accountability. In the weeks prior to breaking quorum, Texas Democrats used every tool at their disposal to engage in the legislative process. They participated on committees, asked questions, encouraged testimony and proposed amendments. On some days and nights, this participation in the process forced them to be present in the chambers until 3:00 or 4:00am.

At times, they even demonstrated they understood the text of the proposed voter suppression bills better than the bills’ sponsors. This was evident when Democratic Rep. Rafael Anchia questioned Republican Rep. Briscoe Cain and informed Cain that the bill’s explicitly stated purpose, “to preserve the purity of the ballot,” was in fact Jim Crow-era language that was designed to prevent Blacks in Texas from voting.

In spite of these efforts, the Republican majority in Texas repeatedly used tactics designed to prevent the minority party from fully engaging. These tactics included releasing versions of bills and the conference committee report with little time for legislators to review what were often significant and lengthy modifications. The final version included a major provision that would have made it easier to overturn election results, even though this provision had not been included earlier in either the House or Senate versions of the bill.

In short, Texas Democrats in the legislature engaged in all the ways that Republicans in the U.S. Senate fail to do, and in ways which the current filibuster rules allow the minority party to avoid. Currently, U.S. senators are not required to debate their positions when they filibuster. They are not even required to be present, let alone cast a vote. Last week, as Republicans filibustered the creation of a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, nine Republicans missed the actual vote.

There should be no confusing the process used by Texas Democrats with that being abused by Senate Republicans. The former is an example of democracy at work; the latter is an example of democracy in decline.

Second, when dealing with an opposition which has proven that it is committed to maintaining its power at all costs, you cannot hold back because of potentially negative consequences in the future. Or to put it another way, senators should not fail to stop bad actors today out of concern that they may act even more badly tomorrow. The strategy of appeasement has never worked.

In the case of Texas, there was concern by some Democratic lawmakers as well as a few activists that a legislative walkout could open the door to a special legislative session, and that any resulting voter suppression bill could be even worse than the version that was ultimately defeated. Indeed, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has already announced his intention to call such a session. Nevertheless, in spite of this potential threat, Texas Democrats decided that it was far better to defeat the current attempt to restrict voting rights and then regroup, even if that is two or three months later.

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In so doing, and with millions of voters having been inspired by their actions, they may find themselves in a stronger position to avoid a special session, or to defeat future voter suppression attempts, than had they not taken a stand.

The same applies to the battle over federal voting rights legislation and the demand to end the filibuster. There are those who worry that ending the filibuster will open the door for Republicans to do bad things if and when they regain power. But this concern about future possibilities ignores that fact that Republicans across the country are doing really bad things, particularly on voting rights, right now

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. It does little good to be overly concerned with future attacks on democracy while we are watching democracy under attack right in front of our eyes.

In fact, the excessive concerns over what Republicans will do if they regain control of Congress runs the risk of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. These concerns will lead to a paralysis and failure to pass major legislation, and this failure will in turn create the environment for Republican victories. The only way to protect an even-handed voting system is by taking bold action here and now.

Third, there must be a strong relationship between the legislative process and grassroots organizing. While the decision by Democratic legislators to break quorum has received the bulk of the attention in recent days, it should not be forgotten that the stage had been set by months of grassroots organizing ahead of the walkout. Organizations such as the Texas Organizing Project, MOVE Texas and many others had been attending hearings, texting voters and facilitating phone calls to legislators. My organization, Black Voters Matter Fund, along with Fair Fight Action helped provide lessons from our corporate accountability campaign in Georgia, and groups like the Communication Workers of America and Next Generation Action Network led protests outside of AT&T offices.

This has always been the case when it comes to protecting and expanding voting rights in America. There would be no voting rights for women without the suffrage movement, and Lyndon B. Johnson would not have been able to wrangle votes for the 1965 Voting Rights Act if not for the voting rights movement, which in Alabama led to Bloody Sunday and ultimately the Selma to Montgomery March.

Similarly, in order to survive the current attacks on voting rights, legislative and grass-roots activism needs to work together. The U.S. House has begun the legislative process, and hundreds of grassroots groups across the country are joining forces to advocate for federal legislation. From the John Lewis National Day of Action on May 8, to the upcoming Freedom Ride for Voting Rights culminating on June 26 and other actions planned for later this summer, voters and activists are doing our part. But we need help from the White House and from the Senate.

Finally, the Texas example shows that extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. Texas Democrats recognized that the current debate over voting rights is already far beyond any traditional disagreements over policy. The current battle is an existential one, as the Big Lie has been buttressed by a million little lies, including the recent Texas Republican claim that an attack on Sunday voting used largely by Black churches was the result of a “typo.”

In contrast, in both the U.S. Senate and, to a lesser extent, in the White House, there is still a sense among some that senators blocking voting rights protections simply need to listen to the better angels of their nature. Even President Joe Biden, who has clearly stated that the wave of voter suppression bills represents an “assault on democracy,” has not quite put the full force of his office behind thwarting that assault. The selection of Vice President Kamala Harris as the point person on passing voting rights is a step in the right direction, but is still a rather traditional approach to what is far from a traditional situation.

If Democrats in Washington, particularly those from West Virginia and Arizona, heed these four lessons, there is still time to pass the For the People Act (H.R.1/S.1), to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act (H.R.4), and cut off ongoing attempts to restrict voting rights at the state level. But if they ignore these lessons, there’s a good chance we will have allowed the U.S. experiment with democracy to be damaged, perhaps fatally.


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100 days to save the world

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🍦 Scoop!

🏰 Where the leaders are staying: Joe Biden at Tregenna Castle, the others at Carbis Bay Estate (Biden is using his lodge there only as a workspace).

🍿 No Biden-Putin joint press conference next Wednesday? What’s Vlad afraid of, we wonder?

Let’s get into it.

G-7 leaders want a vaccine ready within 100 days of the next pandemic — is their plan credible?

Sue Allan, Canada editor:

Not sure how the first day in the 100 Days Mission would be decided, but it got me thinking: The WHO was tipped to a puzzling virus at the end of December 2019. About 100 days more takes us to that Good Friday press briefing where Donald Trump projected deaths to Covid in the U.S. would be “substantially under” 100,000 people. (To date, 600,000 Americans have died.) Boris Johnson was fresh out of ICU. And here in Canada, the PM was encouraging Canadian families to enjoy Easter weekend on FaceTime. At the time 500 Canadians had died, a number now closing in on 26,000. This sounds like a word problem, but maybe serves as a reminder of all that can happen in 100 days.

Ryan Heath, Global Translations author:

Nearly anything’s credible if it has political will behind it. Moderna’s mRNA vaccine was basically ready to go on January 13, 2020 — a year before it was actually deployed, so there’s room for improvement in trial and approval processes. The leaders also want a Global Pandemic Radar to quickly detect new pandemic risks. These steps have as much, or more, promise than the global pandemic treaty the EU is proposing. While a treaty probably should happen, it would be unenforceable in real time when it matters, so it can only ever be a guardrail. A public expectation of a 100-day vaccine: that’s harder for leaders to ignore.

Anita Kumar, White House correspondent & Associate Editor:

Back in the U.S., Biden has showed Americans that he knows how to meet deadlines when it comes to Covid. There clearly does seem to be some lessons learned on Covid. But some public health officials (and some critics) have argued that Biden is meeting all his goals only because he’s setting the bar too low. This doesn’t seem like that.

How are we feeling about the Build Back Better World plan?

Esther Webber, senior U.K. correspondent:

Ever so slightly nauseous. It’s been Boris Johnson’s slogan for domestic recovery from the pandemic for the past year and I have “build back better” fatigue.

Kumar: Esther, I have “build back better” fatigue too! That’s actually Biden’s campaign slogan and it’s now used on signs and by his aides every single day. And here I thought Biden and Johnson were so different…

Karl Mathiesen, senior climate correspondent:

Say hello to climate-friendly infrastructure: the West’s answer to Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, which has been criticized for its support of carbon-heavy developments and leaving countries stuck in debt. The key word here is “better.” The partners are betting the developing world will prefer to take money from them than Beijing because of something called “values.”

Anna Issac, trade and economics and correspondent:

But there was no announcement of new money to rival the hundreds of billions China has spent around the world. Apparently Prime Minister Boris Johnson didn’t ask for any from the U.K. Treasury, “because they knew the answer would be no,” a Treasury official said.

Heath: A bit like the vaccine donation plan, it’s an essential contribution for democracies to improve their competitive position vis-a-vis authoritarian regimes. If that sounds brutal and transactional, well, that’s what geopolitics is. Just as Biden says that democracies need to show they deliver for their own citizens, in a world where China invests massively in buying access and influence, democracies need to be able to say to countries around the world: “We’re the team to be on, life is better with us and here’s the proof.” Biden and Johnson led the charge on this, but the others are clearly on-board. It will take more than a declaration to catch-up to China though, so the money needs to flow: pronto!

Jakob Hanke, trade correspondent

: The G-7’s share of the world economy is shrinking — but they are still the world’s most advanced economies, and they have a lot to offer to the rest of the world. The best Covid vaccines were developed in G-7 countries — just look at reports on how China’s vaccine efficacy might be as low as 50 percent. Europe and America are also still the biggest investors in Africa. But Beijing has aggressively promoted its Belt and Road infrastructure plan. So part of the G-7’s goal is to come up with a similar offer to finance big infrastructure investments in developing countries.

Anyone getting whiplash today? The bilateral leader meetings see-sawed — some were love-ins, others were snark-fests.

Allan: Observers hoping for bromance or even a bilateral between Trudeau and Biden have so far been disappointed. Ralph Goodale, Canada’s high commissioner to London, advised reporters Friday that there were no plans for an official sit down because the PM and the president talk regularly. “They don’t have to come to Europe to do that.”

But in a pull-aside on Saturday morning, Trudeau and Biden discussed China and ongoing efforts to secure the release of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, Canadians who have been jailed in China since December 2018. A Trudeau spokesperson tells POLITICO they discussed plans to reopen the Canada-U.S. border, “cautiously and gradually.”

Andy Blatchford, Canada correspondent:

Speaking of Canada and China, a senior Canadian official tells us that Johnson invited Trudeau to lead the group’s discussion on its approach to Beijing given Ottawa’s experience dealing with the sensitive cases of Kovrig and Spavor.

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Heath: Who follows politics and doesn’t have whiplash these days? I think the leaders have pretty good shock absorbers — they are where they are because they know how to handle gamesmanship. I’m surprised the Brits let the Brexit fight get this out-of-control, however. You can’t be Global Britain if all you do is have backward-looking fights about Brexit Britain.

David Herszenhorn, chief Brussels correspondent:

Three was a crowd at the trilateral meeting between Boris Johnson and the two EU presidents. An EU official said that their tense meeting was focused “entirely” on the implementation of the Brexit Northern Ireland protocol. David Frost, the British minister in charge of relations with the EU, wore loud Union Jack socks to the meeting — and EU officials got the message. “That was a bit weird,” one senior EU official said. “As if we didn’t know he came from the UK. Thanks for reminding us.”

Kumar: No snarkfests with Biden (yet). Quite the opposite. The leaders are heaping praise on him, at least publicly, even Johnson. But maybe it’s just because he’s not Trump? Just look at what Macron said after the two men met earlier Saturday: “We have to deal with this pandemic, Covid-19 … climate change. For all these issues what we need is cooperation. And I think it’s great to have a U.S. president part of the club, and very willing to cooperate. And I think that what you demonstrate is that leadership is partnership.”

What aren’t the leaders talking about that they should be talking about?

Mathiesen: Climate will be big tomorrow. EU leaders want their G-7 allies to join them in imposing trade barriers on climate laggards — but Japan and the U.S. aren’t so sure. All know they need to address the risk of industries fleeing to countries with weaker regulation, and the EU will push the issue — Brussels is expected to roll out in July a carbon border tariff — even though U.S. climate envoy John Kerry has asked them to back off. Japanese government spokesman Tomoyuki Yoshida said the EU’s plans to tax carbon imports were “one of the quite controversial, heated discussions among the concerned parties.”

Isaac: One of the global economic system’s key umpires, the World Trade Organization, could fail if G-7 leaders don’t start turning words into action at this week’s summit, top businesses fear. This B-7 group of leaders think the WTO is drinking at the “last chance saloon,” Karan Bilimoria, president of the Confederation of British Industry, told me. WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is pressing the case for reform via video from Geneva.

Hanke: Don’t mention patent protections on vaccines! Biden and Macron are in favor of waiving intellectual property protections to allow countries such as India and South Africa to copy coronavirus vaccines, but Johnson and Merkel are still strictly opposed — which means the G-7 is unlikely to back the idea of an IP waiver.

Webber: Aid. Boris Johnson is under huge domestic pressure to reverse a recent cut in the overseas development budget, and his critics had hoped that would be replicated on the international stage. But the PM’s spokesman told reporters this morning it had not been raised in any bilateral talks, and Downing Street must be breathing a small sigh of relief. Perhaps Biden and EU leaders decided sausage wars (as the current row over post-Brexit trade arrangements is now called) was enough beef for one weekend.

Mathiesen: One more climate thought. The U.K. hosts are desperate for this G-7 and their COP26 U.N. conference this November to kill coal power for good. But after days of talks, an agreement on how fast they should phase out coal is eluding the leaders of the most advanced and wealthy nations on Earth. If they can’t do this, how do they expect the rest of the world to?

Special guest correspondents share their thoughts…

😂 Queen of Lols: “Are you supposed to be looking as though you’ve been enjoying yourselves?” Elizabeth II asked grim-faced leaders as they assembled for a family photo.

✨ FLOTUS: “So, I’m Jill, nice to meet you.”

🧯🔥 Boris Johnson: “I’ve talked to some of our friends here today who do seem to misunderstand that the U.K. is a single country and a single territory. I think they just need to get that into their heads,” the British P.M. unsubtly told fellow leaders to do their homework before offering Brexit opinions.

🆘 Cyril Ramaphosa: “We need vaccines now” the South African president said — failing to mention he refused to use most of the AstraZeneca vaccine doses South Africa received earlier in 2021.

💯 Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: “It’s clear that going forward as part of preparing for the next pandemic, we must decentralize production,” of vaccines and other medical supplies, the WTO chief urged.

💘 Emmanuel Macron: “What you demonstrate is that leadership is partnership,” to President Biden.

We’ll be back tomorrow morning, with a report on the sea-shanty singing at tonight’s BBQ dinner, a preview of the final session of the G-7, and the inside word on President Biden’s audience with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle, set for Sunday afternoon.




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Nevada meltdown gives Iowa hope of saving first-in-the-nation fame

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The chair of the Nevada Democratic Party, Judith Whitmer, blasted the move as an “insurgency within our own party.”

Watching the Nevada fireworks explode from halfway across the country, Iowa Democrats glimpsed a flicker of hope. As the national party considers the 2024 calendar, Iowa — in comparison to Nevada — might not look so bad anymore. And that might assist their efforts to save their cherished place in the early state pecking order.

“Putting on one of these is a mammoth undertaking,” said Dave Nagle, a former congressman and former Iowa state Democratic Party chair. “And you can’t have the organizers in open warfare with each other.”

He said, “That’s never happened in our state.”

Or as Scott Brennan, an Iowa DNC member and a former state party chair, put it, “Their internal issues certainly create challenges that make it hard to see them moving forward successfully.”

Nevada’s bid for an earlier nominating contest was never grounded in the cohesiveness of the state party. Rather, it was a response to widespread complaints within the Democratic Party about the lack of diversity in Iowa and New Hampshire, two heavily white states. The technological issues that marred the Iowa caucuses last year — so severe the Associated Press was never able to call a winner — only added to Democrats’ complaints about the state.

But Democrats in Nevada are making a run on Iowa in terms of dysfunction.

This week, leaders of the Democratic Party in Washoe County, which includes Reno, moved to undercut the state party ahead of the midterm elections, voting to run the state’s 2022 coordinated campaign out of the county instead. The extraordinary move — which included statements of support from Sisolak, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, Democratic state lawmakers, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Governors Association — came after a slate of Bernie Sanders allies endorsed by the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America won control of the state party, a blow to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s vaunted organizing machine in the swing state.

Whitmer called the uprising “ill-advised and undemocratic.”

Even in the fractious world of state party politics, that’s an uncommon level of animosity to put on display — especially with Democratic National Committee members who will decide the nominating calendar as early as next year all watching.

And that’s just the Democrats.

Nevada Republicans may be in even worse shape, with state and local party officials in Las Vegas feuding over a faction of pro-Trump activists, including some with ties to the Proud Boys, trying to take over the local party in Las Vegas’ Clark County. And Republicans don’t even want to change the traditional nominating calendar at all.

Earlier this week, the state Republican Party chairs in all four early nominating states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — issued a statement calling for the existing calendar to be preserved.

“I think if Nevada can’t get its s–t together, that disqualifies them,” said Michael Ceraso, a Democratic strategist who organized fundraisers for Jaime Harrison, now the DNC chair, during his unsuccessful South Carolina Senate campaign last year. “If a state can’t work together, how are they going to operate a primary?”

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At an event in Las Vegas on Friday, Sisolak signed legislation changing Nevada’s caucus system to a presidential primary and moving the contest to the first Tuesday in February, ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire. A cheer went up when Sisolak said Nevada was claiming “the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.”

Nevada — or some other state — may still unseat Iowa. The effort in Nevada has been championed by Reid, who remains influential in national party politics. Regardless of the contretemps within the state party, one prominent Democratic Party official said, “Harry Reid is still Harry Reid.”

Reid said Friday in an interview that infighting in the state party is “exaggerated,” and “the mere fact that somebody took over the state party, it happens all the time.”

“Nevada’s that kind of a state,” he said. “I’ve been to state party meetings where fist fights broke out, so we’re used to a little intrigue.”

Reid said he doubted the DNC would penalize Nevada for any of its internal machinations as it considers the 2024 calendar. In addition, the state — not political parties — will run the primary, relying less on the organizational strength of any party apparatus. Molly Forgey, a former state party staffer who now serves as spokesperson for the coordinated campaign run through Washoe County, said “the reasons we’ve expressed why we deserve to be first still remain,” including the state’s diversity and geographic foothold in the West.

Even Ray Buckley, chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said Friday that “whatever internally is happening in any state party, I don’t think has a significant influence” on how the calendar is set. He said he’s confident New Hampshire will “retain our historic spot.”

His confidence is based on years of successfully defending the state’s privileged position. New Hampshire and Iowa have long fought off efforts by other states to leapfrog them. New Hampshire’s secretary of state, Bill Gardner, has said he will follow a state law that requires New Hampshire to hold its primary at least seven days before any “similar election” in another state. And Nagle said that, if necessary, Iowa will hold its caucuses ahead of the 2024 election “in July of 2023 if we have to.”

For Iowans hoping to stave off another challenge to their first-in-the-nation status, the meltdown in Nevada is not a panacea. But even if it raises just a small level of doubt about Nevada in national Democrats’ minds, it could prove helpful to Iowa’s cause.

Asked if the infighting might affect Nevada’s bid to move forward in the process, Jeff Link, an Iowa-based Democratic consultant, said, “Sure. Everything must align to make a big change.”


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Opinion | The Republican Case for Federal LGBT Rights

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For the national Republican Party, this issue gives us the chance to do some good, win back millions of voters we’ve alienated, and move on to other important areas where we still have the moral high ground.

Some Republican operatives think they’re better off continuing to fight on this front of the culture war, and plenty of Democratic operatives think the same. The partisan vote in the House reflects an unwillingness—on both sides—to negotiate. But gay and trans rights are no longer the wedge issue they were in the early aughts. Times have changed, and Republicans’ best bet now is to reach a negotiated peace with the other side.

Democrats know the current version of the Equality Act could never pass in the Senate in its current form. And it might seem that in the current environment, common ground is out of reach. But senators of both parties have no chance of portraying themselves as reasonable unless they make a good-faith effort to reach a deal. Democrats cannot clear this hurdle unless they deal fairly with Republicans like Susan Collins or Lisa Murkowski, as well as conservative Democrat Joe Manchin. As for Republicans, they need to be willing to back an alternative rather than just saying “no.”

For religious conservatives, and by extension the Republicans who represent many of them, the problem with the current bill is that it appears to threaten their religious freedom and fails to adequately grapple with First Amendment concerns. They cannot support legislation that would imperil their operations, including the vital social services they provide in underserved communities around the country.

Several states have enacted laws similar to the Equality Act in recent years, but always with religious liberty protections. For instance, Rhode Island has a robust anti-discrimination law with reasonable protections for religious groups. These protections ensure that Catholic Social Services—and any other religious groups—can continue to provide valuable services in the state.

Similarly, Utah’s success in passing anti-discrimination legislation offers a path forward. Although its state government is controlled by Republicans at every level, Utah has some of the strongest protections for gay and trans people in the nation. In 2015, with the support of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and state LGBTQ leaders, Utah’s Republican legislature passed a comprehensive non-discrimination bill with reasonable protections for religious organizations.

I worked on the campaign to pass it, and found that Republicans were far more open to gay rights if a bill simply respected these protections, and Democrats were able to get behind it as well. It was a fair outcome that both sides liked. As a result, the law has enjoyed widespread support among the public. The people of Utah are tied with Vermont for the second-highest rates of support for LGBTQ non-discrimination protections.

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In Congress, instead of working toward such a deal, many Democrats grandstand and posture, insisting—wrongly—that they can pass the Equality Act as currently written. Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, for instance, has never complained about the religious exemptions in his own state’s anti-discrimination laws, yet for some reason he draws a line in the sand at the federal level, denouncing any effort to provide similar exemptions in the Equality Act. Meanwhile, most Republicans complain about these missing provisions without offering their support for a bill that included such guarantees.

Utah should serve as a blueprint for both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. The Fairness for All Act, an alternative version of the Equality Act, draws from the popular Utah law. Senate Republicans should introduce this bill and use its language to amend the Equality Act.

Support by Republican lawmakers for these types of changes would deliver a broader win to religious conservatives as well: Perhaps surprisingly, the best and possibly only way to achieve robust religious-freedom protections nationwide is by agreeing to LGBTQ non-discrimination protections, codifying an expansion of civil rights for religion alongside protections for sex, sexual orientation and gender identity.

This move would also help Republicans gain back some of the ground they lost with voters over the past several years. Public opinion polling shows that support for LGBTQ civil rights continues to climb, particularly in more educated, suburban districts.

With public support at sky-high levels, a version of the Equality Act will pass eventually. The question is: Which version? And will Republicans take the opportunity to shape it?

Religious conservatives should seize this chance now to influence the process before the culture shifts even more decidedly against them on LGBTQ issues. By making peace on this issue, religious conservatives could get the legal protections they want while also showing themselves to be decent and reasonable people—winning them political goodwill for any future disagreements that might emerge, and allowing lawmakers to move on to pressing issues like the crushing federal debt, defeating coronavirus, unaccompanied minors at the border, human rights abuses by the Chinese Communist Party, crumbling infrastructure and energy independence.

Responsible legislation is within reach, but you can’t win if you don’t play. Reaching a settlement on these issues is better for people of faith, better for LGBTQ people, and better for the country. Republicans should sit down with Democrats and insist on a deal that works for both sides. Common ground is possible.


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