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  • Shelby sides against Trump in Alabama Senate race

    Republican Richard Shelby is backing his former chief of staff Katie Boyd Britt in the race to succeed him in the Senate, siding against former President Donald Trump's favored candidate, Rep. Mo Brooks.

    "She's like family. She'd make a good candidate. She's probably the best-qualified candidate to come along in a long time," Shelby said in an interview. "I'd support her, I'd vote for her."

    Shelby is retiring next year and has shown a keen sense of independence in his state's most recent Senate races. In 2017 he declined to back Roy Moore against former Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), helping Jones defeat the embattled GOP nominee in bright-red Alabama.

    And as he prepares to step down after six terms, Shelby is keeping some distance from Trump. Trump endorsed Brooks in April. The National Republican Senatorial Committee is expected to remain neutral in open-seat primaries, and the winner of the GOP primary will be heavily favored in the conservative state.

    Shelby declined to take a shot at Brooks, only observing: "Could be an interesting race. We'll have to see how it develops." In addition, he made clear he wouldn't take an active role in his former top aide's bid: "She's got to run her own campaign, I'm not running her campaign. She's got her own people."

    Britt, who was Shelby's chief of staff from 2016 until 2018, entered the Senate race this week. She also served as a press aide for him earlier in her career. Most recently she's led the Business Council of Alabama. She told The Associated Press that Shelby's six-term legacy is one that will be remembered for being "effective for the state of Alabama."

    "I have to stand on my own two feet," she said. "When we get to know the people of Alabama, they'll know that I am the best person to fight for them."

    Shelby sides against Trump in Alabama Senate race - POLITICO

  • Bipartisan Group of Senators Reaches Agreement on Infrastructure Proposal

    WASHINGTON—Members of a bipartisan group of senators said they had reached an agreement on an infrastructure proposal that would be fully paid for without tax increases, pitching the plan to other lawmakers and the White House as they try to craft compromise legislation on the issue.

    While the group of 10 senators didn’t reveal details of the plan in its statement, people familiar with the agreement said it called for $579 billion above expected future federal spending on infrastructure. The overall proposal would spend $974 billion over five years and $1.2 trillion if it continued over eight years, according to some of the people.

    The initial agreement comes days after President Biden called off a separate set of negotiations with Senate Republicans over an infrastructure plan, instead pivoting his focus to the talks among the group of five Republicans and five Democrats.

    To move forward in Congress, the plan would need the buy-in from a broader group of Republicans and Democrats, as well as the White House. In recent days, some Democrats have indicated they are skeptical that the bipartisan talks will result in a large enough package.

    “We are discussing our approach with our respective colleagues, and the White House, and remain optimistic that this can lay the groundwork to garner broad support from both parties and meet America’s infrastructure needs,” said the group, which includes Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.), Rob Portman (R., Ohio) and Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.).

    A White House spokesman said Mr. Biden appreciated the group’s plan.

    “Questions need to be addressed, particularly around the details of both policy and pay fors, among other matters. Senior White House staff and the Jobs Cabinet will work with the Senate group in the days ahead to get answers to those questions, as we also consult with other Members in both the House and the Senate on the path forward,” the spokesman said in a statement.

    Republicans said the infrastructure investments wouldn’t be paid for by tax increases, but lawmakers have been tight-lipped about how they would fund the package, expected to be the most contentious part of the negotiations. Sen. Mitt Romney (R., Utah), another member of the group, said earlier Thursday that the group was looking at indexing the gas tax to inflation. The federal gasoline tax hasn’t been increased since 1993.

    The White House told the negotiators that raising revenue through indexing the gas tax for inflation, or through an electric vehicle mileage tax, would violate Mr. Biden’s red line of not raising taxes on those earning less than $400,000 a year and couldn’t be part of any package, according to people familiar with the discussions.

    The new proposal is also expected to be paid for in part by repurposing funds from previous Covid-aid packages, said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R., W.Va.), who led the last round of negotiations with Mr. Biden and has spoken with members of the bipartisan group.

    Mr. Biden last week indicated he would be open to using about $75 billion of Covid aid passed during the Trump administration, but administration officials said he wouldn’t siphon any funds from the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package passed earlier this year.

    Mr. Biden ended talks with Mrs. Capito after she last offered about $307 billion in new spending.

    During the talks with Mrs. Capito, Mr. Biden sought at least $1 trillion in spending above the baseline, projected levels of federal spending if current infrastructure programs continued. The original White House plan came in at $2.3 trillion, showering money on roads and bridges along with workforce development and home care, among other programs. Many Democrats are eager to approve much of that proposal.

    The support of five Republicans for $579 billion in spending above the baseline brings the two parties closer together on the scope of the package. But in a Senate evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, at least 10 Republicans would need to join every Democrat to pass the bill through regular order, and it is unclear if the bipartisan agreement will attract that much support from both Republicans and Democrats.

    “Obviously to get Republican support for it you’d have to have a lot more of our members involved in the conversation, and to get enough Democrats,” said Sen. John Thune (R., S.D), the No. 2 Republican. “It is a tricky balance.”

    Mr. Biden’s original plan also called for raising taxes on corporations, including raising the corporate rate to 28% from 21% and tightening the net on U.S. companies’ foreign earnings, to cover the cost of the infrastructure plan over 15 years. Republicans have rejected raising corporate taxes, instead favoring raising money from user fees.

    While Mr. Biden floated other tax ideas in negotiations with Republicans, including a minimum corporate tax rate, to raise revenue for the plan, he has adamantly opposed raising user fees such as the gas tax.

    Some Democrats are supportive of raising the gas tax, though. Sen Tom Carper (D., Del.), the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, tweeted on Thursday that Congress should index the gas tax to inflation.

    “Things worth having are worth paying for,” he wrote in a tweet. “As I’ve said for the last two Congresses, at a minimum we should index the gas tax to inflation to help fund investments in climate-resilient infrastructure.”

    Democrats have the power to approve an infrastructure package without meeting the typical 60-vote threshold in the Senate if they use a budgetary tool called reconciliation. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said this week that the party was preparing to move forward with reconciliation as it also explores the bipartisan talks. Mr. Schumer said lawmakers could ultimately approve two packages—one that is bipartisan and one that relies only on Democratic votes.

    Democrats are also seeking to advance Mr. Biden’s separate $1.8 trillion plan focused on child care and antipoverty efforts.

    Bipartisan Group of Senators Reaches Agreement on Infrastructure Proposal - WSJ

  • Alabama policymakers seek to keep critical race theory out of classrooms

    By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News
    Alabama GOP leaders are following a national trend to block in public schools the teaching of what they call divisive concepts related to race.

    The Alabama State Board of Education on Thursday discussed proposed resolutions against “critical race theory” instruction and at least one state lawmaker wants to see a prohibition made into law.

    One of the resolutions given to the board originated with the help of Gov. Kay Ivey’s office, State Superintendent Eric Mackey said.

    A spokeswoman for Ivey, who is the head of the state school board, told Alabama Daily News that critical race theory is not in Alabama’s current curriculum.

    “Gov. Ivey is working with Dr. Mackey to ensure that our state is focused on providing all Alabama students the best possible education foundation – not on punishing kids for their skin color,” Gina Maiola said.

    The Associated Press reported late last month that at least 16 states are considering or have signed into law bills that would limit the teaching of certain ideas linked to critical race theory, which seeks to reframe the narrative of American history. Its proponents argue that federal law has preserved the unequal treatment of people on the basis of race and that the country was founded on the theft of land and labor.

    Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, has pre-filed for an upcoming legislative sessions a bill to prevent public schools from teaching or training K-12 and college students in “divisive concepts.”

    According to a draft of the bill, those concepts include “that this state or the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist,” and “that an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”

    “(Critical Race Theory) won’t be taught in the state of Alabama. Period,” Pringle said.

    Pringle told ADN he expects changes to his bill in the legislative process.

    “This is a discussion we need to have,” he said.

    The draft also says public school students, including those in college, won’t face any penalty or discrimination “on account of his or her refusal to support, believe, endorse, embrace, confess, act upon, or otherwise assent to divisive concepts.”

    Pringle’s bill said the divisive concepts can be discussed “in an objective manner and without endorsement as part of a larger course of academic instruction.”

    Last month, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall joined a 19 other attorneys general in urging the President Joe Biden’s administration to reconsider educational proposals aimed at injecting into curriculum critical race theory and “other divisive, intellectually bankrupt political projects into America’s classrooms,” including the New York Times’ 1619 Project, which examined the consequences of slavery in the U.S. and the contributions of Black Americans.

    Mackey said a state board resolution shouldn’t be interpreted to “say we don’t want to teach full and accurate history.”

    State Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, is on the Senate’s Education Policy Committee and said Alabama’s history can’t be taught correctly without addressing slavery and the state-sanctioned oppression of Blacks.

    “Good, bad or indifferent, history is what it is,” Smitherman said. “It is time for us to face up to and have genuine, bipartisan conversations about our history.”

    He said the state is still shaped by previous policies and the harm done should be acknowledged.

    “You tried to deny people the ability to read for hundreds of years, and then say all of a sudden they ought to be reading at the same level as everyone else,” Smitherman.

    It’s not about placing blame, Smitherman said, but recognizing the realities of people harmed in history.

    Thursday’s race education discussion wasn’t on the board’s work session agenda and it was members’ first time seeing the resolutions. One was recently approved in Georgia and the other borrowed from it, Mackey said.

    Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp recently wrote in a letter to his state education board members that they should “take immediate steps to ensure that critical race theory and its dangerous ideology do not take root in our state standards or curriculum,” the AP reported.

    The Alabama board will discuss a proposed resolution more next month.

    “I think we need to debate rather than push through this quickly,” said member Tonya Chesnut, a Democrat from Selma.

    Mackey said the department has been getting calls from the public asking whether critical race theory is taught in Alabama classrooms for about two months.

    Alabama policymakers seek to keep critical race theory out of classrooms | Alabama Daily News (aldailynews.com)

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