“Seal the deal!”
This was the message to Senator Angus King and other members of the state delegation at a rally in Braunschweig on Thursday where Mainers urged federal lawmakers to support the draft budget going through Congress, arguing that the legislation was a historic opportunity represent urgently needed investments in climate, care and immigration reform.
“I’m here today to say to Senator King and our other representatives in Congress that we, the voters, want you to stay on course and seal the progressive gains agreement in the federal reconciliation package,” said Topsham’s Rafael Macias, who introduced the speakers at the rally organized by the Maine People’s Alliance (of which Beacon is a project).
Macias was referring to the draft budget presented by the Senate Democrats, which is supposed to use the reconciliation process to avoid a Republican filibuster. A $ 3.5 trillion reconciliation proposal passed recently a first vote in the Senate. King, an independent working with the Democrats, voted for this framework, while Republican Senator Susan Collins opposed it. This bill would enable large-scale expansion of the social safety net, cope with the climate crisis and reform the immigration system, proponents argue.
Specific programs Macias said Progressives hope to get into final version of the legislation include expanding Medicaid in states that haven’t already; heavy investments to cope with the growing climate crisis; and a path to citizenship for undocumented key workers, DREAMers, and those forced to flee their countries due to violence or natural disasters.
With the details of the legislation still being worked out, the more than 50 people who had gathered for the rally urged King – who announced later that day that he would tested positive for COVID-19 – to ensure that the legislation remains far-reaching and contains provisions to take significant action against the myriad of problems the country is facing.
Participants in the rally also called on District Second Representative Jared Golden to support the package. Golden recently stepped out as part of a group of nine centrist House Democrats who said they would not vote for the reconciliation law unless a bipartisan infrastructure law is enacted first, an attitude that threatens To prevent progress on the budget package.
“Blocking the budget decision means preventing the rich and corporations from paying their fair share and jeopardizing historic investments in care, education, housing and clean energy that will cut costs for working families,” Macias said, calling for the To contact participants of the event on Golden and ask them to support the reconciliation agreement.
‘Code Rot’ on the topic of climate
One focus of the rally was the need to take substantial action to combat climate change. During her speech, Anna Siegel, a high school student who organizes with Maine Youth for Climate Justice, quoted United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, who said the IPCC’s latest report was “a red code for humanity”.
Despite the dire prediction in that report, Siegal said it was important that lawyers not give up.
“As an artist, I can confidently say that there are many shades of red, from the bright, safer pink of a new day to the deep, dangerous scarlet of a scorching summer,” said Siegel. “We can have hope for the future as we redouble our activism to make sure we don’t end up with a red paintbrush.”
Siegel said this means pushing for the $ 3.5 trillion bill to be passed in order to begin making the necessary investments in climate solutions.
“For this to happen, we need an all-hands-on-deck movement with everyone involved, from a voter calling Senator King about the Reconciliation Act to Senator King himself who supports the bill,” she said.
Ladislas Nzeyimana, a sophomore at Bowdoin College, also spoke about the climate crisis. He said the effects of climate change are already being felt around the world and at home, citing the Gulf of Maine, which is warming faster than almost all of the world’s oceans. Nzeyimana argued that the $ 3.5 trillion budget package would begin to address the problem with lots of young people working on climate solutions, investing $ 400 billion in clean energy, and raising funds to build green, affordable housing.
“Now is the time to take action,” he said.
Another topic of the rally was the possibility of making urgently needed investments in the US healthcare system in the budget package.
Patty Kidder, a longtime health care activist and member of the Maine People’s Alliance, spoke at the event about losing her health insurance nine years ago because her youngest child graduated from high school and turned 18 in his struggle to expand Medicaid in Maine, which was ultimately successful despite opposition from former Governor Paul LePage.
Even so, there are 12 states across the country have refused Expand Medicaid, Kidder said. Congress Democrats are strive for Close the coverage gap that affects you 2.2 million People under the reconciliation legislation, which Kidder said would be a massive step forward that would help many people across the country get access to the health care they need.
“We need our lawmakers to be health heroes for the American people,” she said. “We need Congress and our president to pass the $ 3.5 trillion transformative reconciliation law now.”
Brandy Staples, a resident of Phippsburg, added during her speech that far too many people have had to make difficult health care decisions to obtain treatment because of the broken system in the United States. If the Reconciliation Act is passed, far fewer people will face terrorism if they are denied coverage, Staples said.
“We all know that health care is not a luxury – it’s a human right,” she said.
When it comes to investing in health care and other large-scale welfare programs, how do you pay for it? Maine House Speaker Ryan Fecteau (D-Biddeford) investigated this issue during his speech at the rally. Fecteau, who argued that the budget package represented “the most transformative economic and social agenda” since the Great Society programs of the 1960s, said a key was tax equity.
Fecteau noted that last year 55 of the largest companies in the US, nothing was paid in federal taxes. That was unacceptable, he said.
“We need a tax regime that is not balanced on the backs of low- and middle-income workers – the affluent and large corporations have to pay their fair share,” he said.
Fecteau praised King for recently enacting laws preventing large corporations from paying federal taxes, adding that he hopes the Senator will support raising taxes to the top 1%.
“Broad road to citizenship” required
Nzeyimana also spoke at the rally about the need for immigration reform. The budget reconciliation invoice contains a variety of changes to the system, including permanent residence for some immigrants.
Nzeyimana said the immigrants worked hard to keep the land afloat and provide basic services during the pandemic. But too often, he said, they were repaid through persecution and deportation. That has to change, he argued.
“A road to citizenship would recognize these people who risked their lives but are still being denied the right to be where they call home,” said Nzeyimana.
Rita Welch, a Colombian immigrant who now lives in Portland, added that as the richest country in the world, the US has a duty to help those escaping violence and oppression. She said the Conservatives in Congress are likely to try to water down immigration reform efforts and urged King and other members of the state delegation to oppose such efforts.
“Senator King must continue to campaign heavily to establish a path to citizenship for undocumented key workers. [temporary protected status] Receiver and dreamer, ”said Welch. “And Senator King, we know you will – because it is the right thing.”
Photo above: Ladislas Nzeyimana speaks at the rally | Maine People’s Alliance