The Senate overwhelmingly voted on Wednesday to advance a bill addressing the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Led by Democrats Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Rep. Grace Meng of New York, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act will require federal officers to “facilitate the expedited review” of hate crimes.
“It defines COVID-19 hate crime as a violent crime that is motivated by two things: (1) the actual or perceived characteristic (e.g., race) of any person, and (2) the actual or perceived relationship to the spread of COVID-19 of any person because of that characteristic,” according to the bill’s summary.
In a rare bipartisan effort, a vast majority of senators voted 92-6 to advance the bill – bringing it one step closer to passing.
But the legislation could still face a difficult path forward. Republicans only supported the procedure on the agreement they could add amendments to the bill after it advanced: They added 20.
Senate Democrats want to enact a new $1.9 trillion rescue package within weeks, but one major hurdle stands between them and the bill’s final passage: whether it will include a $15 minimum wage increase.
Once the House approves the legislation and sends it to the Senate, the wage provision is likely to spark some clashes among Democratic senators. The minimum-wage increase in the Biden rescue plan would be phased in over five years and eliminate tipped wages.
Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have both said they oppose the measure. The resistance of these two lawmakers imperils the measure even if it clears all the hurdles required of a reconciliation package (the strict budgetary procedure that Democrats are employing to bypass Republicans). A looming ruling from the Senate parliamentarian will likely pose obstacles.
“There might be a few other Democrats with pretty significant concerns about the minimum wage increase,” Jim Manley, a former senior Democratic aide, said in an interview. “No matter how the parliamentarian rules, I’m not sure the votes are there in the Senate to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.”
The Senate parliamentarian serves as a neutral arbiter of reconciliation, a process that will allow Democrats to approve a bill with a simple majority of 51 votes in the upper chamber instead of the usual 60. Reconciliation requires every provision of a bill to be related to the federal budget, or else the parliamentarian can toss it out.
If the minimum wage doesn’t survive this process, that could complicate Democrats’ swift timeline for approval, targeted for mid-March. But even if it does survive, in an evenly divided chamber where Vice President Kamala Harris can break ties, every Democrat must support the final package.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, chair of the Senate Budget Committee with jurisdiction over reconciliation, told reporters on Tuesday a ruling may come in the next day or two. Progressives like Sanders are championing the measure as a boon to low-paid workers.
$11 an hour versus $15 an hour
The federal minimum wage hasn’t been raised from $7.25 since 2009, and labor advocates say a bill should lift wages for essential workers and others putting themselves at risk in the pandemic.
“To say that we can support jobless workers, teachers, caregivers, and medical professionals without supporting workers earning $7.25 an hour isn’t just bad policy, it’s inhumane,” Elizabeth Pancotti, policy director of Employ America, said on Twitter. “Economic relief must include raising the minimum wage.”
But Republicans argue that raising wages during a pandemic would cause employers to shed jobs. Some Democrats share those concerns as well.
“I think small business has got to be kept in mind, and I think there are a number of different variations that are being proposed that help insulate the impact in terms of small business,” Sen. John Hickenlooper of Colorado told the Wall Street Journal.
A report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office indicated the $15 minimum wage plan would cause 1.4 million job losses, but lift 900,000 people out of poverty.
There is some GOP support to raise wages. On Tuesday, Sens. Mitt Romney and Tom Cotton introduced legislation to raise the minimum wage to $10 over four years once the pandemic is over. They would also tie it to mandatory use of the E-Verify program so employers can keep tabs on the immigration status of their workers.
“If we don’t have the $15 proposal as part of reconciliation, we’ll need to sit down and work on a bipartisan proposal,” Romney told reporters on Tuesday. “And we’re open to considering other people’s points of view.”
But many Democrats are eager to press ahead on their own without Republican votes. Sanders recently expressed confidence that the pay bump would clear the stringent reconciliation process and garner enough Democratic votes for passage.
“I think we’re going to pass it as it is,” he told reporters on Monday. “The Democrats are going to support the president of the United States and the overwhelming majority of the American people want to pass this Covid emergency bill.”
But that’s not holding back some Democrats from pitching ideas about a lower wage increase in the final legislation. Manchin told reporters on Monday evening he would try to offer an amendment to the legislation.
“I would amend it to $11,” he said. “We can do $11 in two years and be in a better position than they’re going to be with $15 in five years.”
The $15 minimum wage enjoys strong public support. Over 60% of respondents in a new Insider poll published Tuesday would definitely or probably support a $15 minimum wage.
To counter the Democrats’ proposal of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, two Republican senators introduced a bill on Tuesday that maintained the 2025 timeline, but would instead raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour by then.
The Raise the Wage Act of 2025, led by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, was included in the Democrats’ $1.9 trillion stimulus package that passed out of the House Budget Committee on Monday. Republicans oppose the stimulus package as too large in general, but a new bill by Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Mitt Romney of Utah signals bipartisan support for a minimum wage increase.
Their Higher Wages for American Workers Act proposes to gradually raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2025 with a mandatory E-Verify, which would ensure that all workers who would receive the higher wages are legal.
“American workers today compete against millions of illegal immigrants for too few jobs with wages that are too low – that’s unfair,” Cotton said in a statement. “Ending the black market for illegal labor will open up jobs for Americans. Raising the minimum wage will allow Americans filling those jobs to better support their families. Our bill does both.”
A summary of the bill said that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would “destroy 1.4 million jobs,” and said $10 an hour would be better for the labor market. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has previously said that raising the wage to $15 an hour would have minimal effects on the availability of jobs.
The government’s nonpartisan budgetkeeper, the Congressional Budget Office, has actually looked at both numbers and their potential effect on the labor market. A 2019 report found that raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour would cost 0.1 million jobs, while a recent report said $15 an hour could reduce employment by 1.4 million jobs.
Other elements of Romney and Cotton’s bill include:
After the raise to $10, indexing the minimum wage to inflation every two years;
Creating a slower phase-in for small businesses with fewer than 20 employees;
Raising civil and criminal penalties on employers that hire unauthorized workers;
Providing $100 million annually in automatic funding for the E-Verify system.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has said he would support an $11 an hour increase, while Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona has said a minimum-wage increase isn’t appropriate for reconciliation, the process Sanders wants to use for the raise to $15.
Although President Joe Biden has reportedly expressed his own doubts on whether the $15 increase would survive in the final version of his stimulus package, he and other Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly expressed their support for doing it to lift millions of Americans out of poverty.
“Raising the minimum wage is not just about economic justice – it is about racial justice,” Sanders said on Twitter last Wednesday. “Nearly half of Black and Latino workers in America make under $15 an hour. We must end starvation wages, and give 32 million Americans a raise by increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour.”
Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas shrugged off a news report suggesting he previously embellished his military achievements.
Cotton claimed the scrutiny was a politically-motivated attack.
“But if some people disagree, that’s fine,” Cotton said in a Fox News interview. “I respect their views, but what’s most important, I respect the service of all Rangers, and indeed, all soldiers who volunteer to serve our country.”
Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas shrugged off a news report suggesting he previously embellished his military achievements, and instead, said the recent scrutiny was a politically-motivated attack.
“I graduated from the Ranger School, I wore the Ranger tab in combat with the 101st Airborne in Iraq,” Cotton said during a Fox News interview on Monday. “This is not about my military record. This is about my politics.”
Cotton blamed a “liberal media” for accusing him of appropriating the title of a US Army Ranger because “a conservative veteran was using the term that way.”
“But if some people disagree, that’s fine,” Cotton said. “I respect their views, but what’s most important, I respect the service of all Rangers, and indeed, all soldiers who volunteer to serve our country.”
Cotton’s rebuttal follows a Salon report published Saturday, in which the news outlet claimed he had passed himself as an Army Ranger in statements and campaign advertisements. According to the report, Cotton and his campaign described him as having “volunteered to be an Army Ranger” and was an “Army Ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The term “Ranger” is reserved for soldiers who served with the US Special Operations Command’s 75th Ranger Regiment based out of Fort Benning, Georgia. The 75th Ranger Regiment requires its soldiers to complete a eight-week selection process.
Cotton, however, did not serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment. He attended the US Army’s Ranger School, a separate eight-week leadership course that teaches service members light-infantry tactics. The school is open to volunteers from all of the US military’s branches, including the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps.
Being a “Ranger” and attending Ranger School is often confused or used interchangeably. While the distinction is rarely brought up outside of military circles, it has been fiercely debated among veterans and encapsulates the nuances of military titles.
Speaking to a Ranger School graduation ceremony in 2015, US Army Maj. Gen. Scott Miller, the commander of the service’s infantry school, told service members, “You carry the title of Ranger. From here on out, your subordinates, your peers, your leaders, will always expect you to be able to handle the toughest tasks.”
Instructors at Ranger School often address their students as “Ranger” and also require service members to repetitively chant “Ranger” while performing exercises.
Serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment or completing the Army’s Ranger School are both significant accomplishments. The vast majority of service members have neither served in a special operations unit nor attended Ranger School, both of which are physically and mentally grueling tasks. Neither are required to be eligible for the other – the only exception being that 75th Ranger Regiment leaders, such as commissioned officers, are required to complete Ranger School.
Democratic Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado, a soldier who served in the 75th Ranger Regiment, accused Cotton of appropriating the title and uploaded a picture of himself wearing a tan beret:”Hey @SenTomCotton, unless you wore one of these berets you shouldn’t be calling yourself a Ranger. Truth matters.”
Republican Sen. Tom Cotton’s characterization of his military service is drawing scrutiny from critics, including lawmakers who previously served in the US Army.
The junior senator from Arkansas’ service record resurfaced on Saturday after Salon published a story about his past congressional campaign advertisements and statements. According to the report, Cotton and his campaign described Cotton as having “Volunteered to be an Army Ranger,” a term traditionally reserved for soldiers who served with the 75th Ranger Regiment based out of Fort Benning, Georgia.
The 75th Ranger Regiment requires its soldiers to complete its own eight-week selection process. Upon completing the course, soldiers are allowed to wear a distinctive tan beret with their uniform.
Cotton, however, did not serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment. He attended the US Army’s Ranger School, a roughly eight-week leadership course that teaches service members light-infantry tactics. The school is open to volunteers from all of the US military’s branches, including the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. Ranger School graduates are allowed to affix a “Ranger tab” – a symbol denoting the completion of the course – on their uniforms.
Being a “Ranger” and having earned a Ranger “tab” is often confused due to the similarity of their names. While the distinction is rarely brought up outside of military circles, it has been fiercely debated among veterans and encapsulates the nuances of military titles.
To be clear, serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment or completing the Army’s Ranger School are both significant accomplishments. The vast majority of service members have neither served in a special operations unit nor attended Ranger School, both of which are physically and mentally grueling tasks. Neither are required to be eligible for the other.
Cotton’s time in service is also distinct from many service members. He deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq, and has served in combat units like the 506th Infantry Regiment.
Democratic Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado, a US Army veteran, took note of the debate and remarked on Twitter, “Hey @SenTomCotton, unless you wore one of these berets you shouldn’t be calling yourself a Ranger. Truth matters.”
Crow, who served in the 75th Ranger Regiment, also uploaded a picture of himself wearing the Army’s tan beret.
Cotton’s spokesperson told Insider in an email on Saturday that the congressman had characterized his service appropriately.
“To be clear, as he’s stated many times, Senator Cotton graduated from Ranger School, earned the Ranger Tab, and served a combat tour with the 101st Airborne, not the 75th Ranger Regiment,” communications director Caroline Tabler said.
On Saturday morning, a tweet posted by the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC was removed by Twitter for violating the platform’s rules against dehumanization.
The tweet, posted on Thursday, drew widespread condemnation for claiming that Uighur women have had their minds “emancipated” and are no longer “baby-making machines.”
“We prohibit the dehumanization of a group of people based on their religion, race, or ethnicity, among other categories,” a Twitter spokesperson told Ars Technica.
The post read: “Study shows that in the process of eradicating extremism, the minds of Uygur women in Xinjiang were emancipated and gender equality and reproductive health were promoted, making them no longer baby-making machines. They are more confident and independent.”
The tweet linked to an article published by China Daily – the Chinese Communist Party’s English-language newspaper.
The article claims that a decrease in birthrates in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in 2018 resulted from “the eradication of religious extremism.” It also refers to “family planning policies” being implemented in the region.
The Uighurs are a mostly-Muslim minority group in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of northwestern China. Estimates suggest that at least one million of them could be interned in so-called ‘re-education camps,’ according to Foreign Policy.
Azis Isa Elkun, a Uighur Muslim academic, explained to Business Insider: “The Chinese Embassy’s tweet was, of course, trying to deceive the Western world.”
Isa Elkun continued: “The Chinese state is committing genocide on Uighurs. The Western world must act now and keep the promises of ‘never again.’ It must hold China accountable for the Uighur genocide before it’s too late.”
Despite the widespread condemnation, Twitter had originally told Ars Technica that it did not violate its policies against hateful conduct.
Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas said in a statement on Sunday that he will not join his colleagues who are planning to challenge President-elect Joe Biden’s win by opposing the certification of the Electoral College vote on Wednesday.
Cotton, a supporter of President Donald Trump, said attempts to overturn the Electoral College would exceed Congress’s power under the Constitution, which gives states the power to run elections and courts the power to settle election disputes.
He also said it would “establish unwise precedents.”
“First, Congress would take away the power to choose the president from the people, which would essentially end presidential elections and place that power in the hands of whichever party controls Congress,” Cotton said.
He also said it would threaten the entire Electoral College system and “take another big step toward federalizing election law.”
President-elect Joe Biden won the election by receiving 306 electoral votes compared to President Donald Trump’s 232. The results have been certified in every state, and presidential electors cast their votes last month.
The electors’ votes are set to be certified Wednesday during a joint session of Congress that is usually procedural, confirming the winner that voters and the Electoral College have already chosen.
The objections could delay the certification of the election, but would not alter the vote results of any US state.
Cotton, a potential presidential candidate in 2024, said he is disappointed in the election results and has concerns about “irregularities,” especially concerning changes to election law related to mail-in voting.
“I therefore support a commission to study the last election and propose reforms to protect the integrity of our elections,” he said.
Cotton joins other Republican senators that have broken from their colleagues and said they will not challenge Biden’s Electoral College win, including Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and Lisa Murkowski of Maine.