Democrats continue to illustrate the difference between them and the Republicans in the lead-up to the 2022 midterms. Today, Americans continued to spit fury over the Republican senators' destruction of the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) bill, which would provide medical benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxins during their military service, after previously passing the measure.
That destruction has added to the growing list of unpopular positions Republicans are taking as Democrats are forcing votes on them. Republicans have voted against protecting the right to abortion, the right to use birth control, the right to cross state lines to obtain reproductive health care, and gay marriage, all of which are very popular.
Today, the House of Representatives passed a measure to ban assault weapons. The vote was 217 to 213, mostly along party lines: two Republicans voted yes, and five Democrats voted no.. Since the horrific massacre of 19 schoolchildren and 2 of their teachers, along with the wounding of 17 others, at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May, support for a ban on assault-style weapons has climbed to 67%.
Also today, oil giants ExxonMobil and Chevron reported historic profits from the last three months. Exxon made $17.9 billion (not a typo) last quarter, up 273% from the same time last year, while Chevron made $11.6 billion. Exxon's rate of income was $2,245.62 every second of every day for the past 92 days; Chevron made $1,462.11 per second. Together, BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, and TotalEnergies are expected to announce $60 billion in profits for the past three months. They plan to spend much of the profit not on reinvesting in their businesses, but on stock buybacks, which drives up the price of the stock.
These record profits came at the same time that American consumers were staggering under high gas prices, which made up almost half of the increase in inflation of the past few months.
The record profits of oil companies made a perfect backdrop to early discussions of the Inflation Reduction Act advanced by Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). If passed, that measure will be a sea change in the nation's economic policy. Its $385 billion devoted to addressing climate change will be the nation's largest ever investment in clean energy, and it will incentivize cutting carbon emissions, delivering 40% cuts by 2030, which is close to Biden's stated goal.
The Inflation Reduction Act will also expand healthcare subsidies, lowering healthcare premiums, and will enable Medicare to negotiate the prices of certain drugs with pharmaceutical producers.
It calls for a 15% corporate minimum tax, the closure of the carried interest loophole, and increased spending on the IRS so it can enforce tax laws. It leaves Trump's 2017 tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest individuals because Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) insisted they stay in place. But the measure would raise about $470 billion, about $300 billion of which would go toward reducing the federal deficit over the next decade. After decades of tax cuts that have helped wealth to concentrate among the very wealthy, this measure would set out to begin the process of restoring fairness in our revenue system.
Another gulf between Republicans and Democrats is their approach to the events of January 6, 2021. Tonight Maria Sacchetti and Carol D. Leonnig of the Washington Post reported that the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, Joseph V. Cuffari, who was appointed by Trump, knew last December that the texts between Secret Service agents had been deleted. Not only did he neglect to tell Congress that those messages were missing, but also when his investigative team set out to recover the messages, he told them not to. Moreover, he neglected to tell Congress that the text messages from the acting homeland security secretary, Chad Wolf, and acting deputy secretary, Ken Cuccinelli, from that same period were also missing.
Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, today said in a statement: "The destruction of evidence that could be relevant to the investigation of the deadly attack on our Capitol is an extremely serious matter. Inspector General Cuffari's failure to take immediate action upon learning that these text messages had been deleted makes clear that he should no longer be entrusted with this investigation." Durbin says he has asked Attorney General Merrick Garland to get to the bottom of what happened to the missing messages and hold those responsible accountable.
Finally, today, the Department of Justice unsealed an indictment against Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov of Moscow, who, along with at least three other Russian officials, it says "engaged in a years-long foreign malign influence campaign targeting the United States." Allegedly, Ionov recruited political groups in the U.S. and, with the supervision of the Russian government, illegally used their members to "sow division and spread misinformation inside the United States." The targeted groups were located in Florida, Georgia, and California, and Ionov allegedly worked closely with them, directing and controlling their leaders, who appear to have been aware of his connection to the Russian government, since at least December 2014.
FBI special agent in charge David Walker today told reporters that Ionov's actions were "some of the most egregious and blatant violations that we've seen by the Russian government in order to destabilize and undermine trust in American democracy.... The Russian intelligence threat is continuing and unrelenting."
"This indictment is just the first of our responses, but it will not be the last," Walker said, and before the day was over, the U.S. State Department had placed sanctions on two people and four entities that work with the Russian government to influence other countries and interfere in their elections. These sanctions are separate from those related to the sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
"The Russian Federation has demonstrated determination in its attempts to undermine the democratic processes and institutions essential to the functioning of our democracy and that of other countries. It is crucial for our democracy, and democracies around the globe, to hold free and fair elections without malign outside interference," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
The new sanctions come a day after the State Department offered a reward of up to $10 million for information on the Internet Research Agency, a troll farm linked to Yevgeniy Prigozhin, an ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin, and other Russian entities and individuals "for their engagement in U.S. election interference." The Internet Research Agency, the State Department spokesperson said, "is a Russian entity engaged in political and electoral interference operations. Beginning as early as 2014, IRA began operations to interfere with the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election, with a strategic goal to sow discord." The reward offer "is part of [the] United States Government's wider efforts to ensure the security and integrity of our elections and protect against foreign interference in our elections."
"The United States will continue to act to deter and disrupt these efforts [in order] to safeguard our democracy, as well as help protect the democracies of our allies and partners," Blinken said.