The Struggle for the Soul of America: A Build Back Better Act to Save the Democratic Congress and Our Democracy

If Pres. Biden and Congressional Democrats act quickly, they can still pass the Build Back Better bill and protect voting rights in time to save our democracy before the November elections.

Last December I was part of a small contingent of New Mexicans that met with two of NM Sen. Ben Ray Lujan’s top staffers. We advocated for:

  • the elimination of all remaining sections of the Build Back Better (BBB) Act to which Sens. Manchin and/or Sinema still objected; and
  • the inclusion of the Freedom to Vote Act, which Manchin and Sinema support, in the BBB bill with a budget item for implementation so it meets (at least in part) the reconciliation process requirements.

While they considered our viewpoint, Lujan’s lieutenants rejected our proposal. For one, they did not believe voting rights belonged in the BBB bill and, rather, should stand alone. Last week that strategy failed when Senate Republicans along with Manchin and Sinema defeated a stand-alone voting rights act by rejecting a change in the filibuster which would have permitted the adoption of the bill.

How To Pass BBB and Voting Rights

Since the Democrats’ previous attempts to pass the BBB and the Freedom to Vote acts have failed, here’s how they should now proceed to have a better chance of success:

1. White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain has to make amends for his harsh remarks regarding Sen. Manchin’s rejection of the BBB legislation last year. Manchin is reported to be very upset about being publicly called out by Klain after the senator scrapped the bill.[1]

2. Pres. Biden needs to sit down with Manchin and Sinema and together agree on a BBB reconciliation bill in the range of $1.7 trillion. This would include the Freedom to Vote and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement acts which the senators already support. The stand-alone voting rights act couldn’t overcome the filibuster. Inserting voting provisions into the BBB reconciliation bill provides the only chance to enact them. That is because “reconciliation legislation limits Senate debate on the bill to 20 hours and therefore, is not subject to the filibuster,”[2] thus allowing a simple majority to pass the bill.

3. Senate Democrats must rename the bill. Labeling the legislation the Lewis-Manchin Build Back Better Act would recognize and reward Sen. Manchin for his central role in both drafting and enacting this historic legislation. It might also increase Manchin’s determination to have the bill enacted and his name enshrined in history. Additionally, the new name would acknowledge the late Rep. John Lewis’s valiant work in advancing voting rights. And, perhaps most importantly, the fresh title would help to unite the progressive and moderate wings of the Democratic Party in their efforts to win the mid-term elections and save our democracy.

Overcoming the Obstacles to Enacting Build Back Better

A major hurdle to enacting the BBB bill is the requirement that the Senate parliamentarian determine whether sections of the bill meet the requirements for including them in the reconciliation legislation.[3]

However, the parliamentarian’s ruling is only advisory. So, if she determines that voting rights provisions are “extraneous” to the BBB act under the Byrd Rule guiding reconciliation, and must be eliminated, the Democrats would have to override her decision in order to include those provisions in the final bill.[4] In fact, the “law gives the presiding officer – and only the presiding officer – the initial authority to determine if a disputed provision violates the Byrd Rule.”[5] In this case, Vice President Kamala Harris would be the presiding officer and would rule in all likelihood that the voting rights provisions are not extraneous.

Arguing that voting rights are not extraneous, Democrats could assert that inclusion of those provisions in the BBB act is essential to safeguarding major portions of the bill from being overturned by the next Congress. Without protecting the right to vote, millions of Americans’ voting rights are now being severely compromised by state legislatures. That could radically change the composition of the next Congress which then might very well vote to eliminate the budget changes implemented by the BBB legislation, or to refuse to appropriate funding for those changes.

Democrats Must Play Hardball

Sen. Mitch McConnell ignored Senate rules and procedures to deny President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court a hearing on his nomination in the spring of 2016, many months prior to the fall election.[6] Then, when President Trump’s Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch was stymied by the Democrats’ filibuster in 2017, McConnell changed Senate rules to confirm Gorsuch by a simple majority.[7] Subsequently, he ignored established procedures and rammed through the Senate the confirmation of Trump’s nominee by a simple majority right before the 2020 election.[8]

Now Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and the Democrats must play hardball as well. Bend Senate rules just as McConnell has done to secure what he wanted. Do whatever it takes to include voting rights protection in the BBB Act and get the bill to President Biden’s desk by the end of February. It may well save the Democrats’ control of Congress and Biden’s presidency as well as our democracy. Call Schumer’s office and your senators (202-224-3121) and demand they act now!

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://news.yahoo.com/joe-manchin-reportedly-furious-ron-150015171.html

[2] https://www.ncsl.org/blog/2017/01/13/how-the-congressional-reconciliation-process-works.aspx

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://www.wusa9.com/article/news/verify/verify-can-the-senate-overrule-the-parliamentarians-recommendation-could-immigration-legislation-make-the-reconciliation-bill-budget-dreamers-biden/65-008d1307-74bc-42c3-abcf-76865b30c6d3

[5] https://www.legislativeprocedure.com/blog/2021/7/20/immigration-and-the-byrd-rule

[6] https://www.npr.org/2018/06/29/624467256/what-happened-with-merrick-garland-in-2016-and-why-it-matters-now

[7] https://www.npr.org/2017/04/06/522847700/senate-pulls-nuclear-trigger-to-ease-gorsuch-confirmation

[8] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/27/us/mcconnell-barrett-confirmation.html

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Focus on January 6th Committee to Save Our Democracy

The chances of the Democrats enacting voter protection bills to safeguard our elections now seem all but dead. Since Sens. Manchin and Sinema are unwilling to alter the filibuster in order to pass the Freedom to Vote and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement bills, the Democrats must find another path to winning next November’s elections and saving our democracy.

Clearly that path will be uphill. The first mid-term elections after a new president enters the White House most often are won by the opposing party. With Biden’s approval ratings polling around 40% or below and his party’s legislative agenda stalled, it’s more than likely that the Republicans will take back the House and very possibly the Senate as well.

But there is still one promising prospect which could turn the November elections in the Democrats’ favor. In the next three to six months, the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol will hold televised hearings to provide the nation with the full story regarding what happened and who was responsible for the insurrection.

From the evidence made public to date, it now appears that the attack on the Capitol was part of a larger, coordinated conspiracy, quite possibly criminal, to overthrow the 2020 presidential election and install Trump as president. In the latest development, Republican electors from seven states that went for Biden submitted fraudulent Electoral College certificates to Congress and the National Archives certifying that Trump won in their states. The fact that these seven certificates were all identical, including using the same typeface, indicates their submission was coordinated, perhaps by the Republican Party or the Trump White House.[1]

No doubt more about how this all transpired will be revealed by the House Select Committee during its televised hearings. The Committee may be able to connect the dots to demonstrate a conspiracy to put the outcome of the election in those seven states in question. Submitting the fraudulent Republican Electoral College certificates to Congress alongside the legitimate certificates would put the outcome of the election in those states in question. That, in turn, would give Vice President Pence a basis for throwing out the results in those states, all of which voted for Biden, when he conducted the Electoral College count in Congress on January 6th.  Without those states’ electoral votes for Biden, Trump could be declared the winner of the election. This scenario also bolsters Trump’s claim of massive election fraud.

The Select Committee hearings may very well give a great many Americans reason not to vote to put a bunch of corrupt Republicans who supported or participated in this scheme in charge of Congress. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), a member of the committee, recently claimed that the hearings “will blow the roof off the House.”[2] Stay tuned.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.inquirer.com/opinion/fake-electoral-college-certificates-january-6-investigation-20220113.html; https://www.cnn.com/2022/01/12/politics/trump-overturn-2020-election-fake-electoral-college/index.html

[2] https://news.yahoo.com/jan-6-hearings-are-going-to-blow-the-roof-off-the-house-rep-raskin-says-221500327.html

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Are Democrats Asleep at The Wheel?

While Senate Democrats continue to haggle over Biden’s Build Back Better package, Republicans across the country are plotting to make America a permanent one-party, authoritarian state. As Zack Beauchamp, senior correspondent at Vox, observed:

“We are suffering from the same rot that has brought down democracy in other countries: a party that has decided it no longer wants to play by the rules and that would instead prefer to rule as authoritarians rather than share power with its opponents…The escalation in authoritarian behavior since January 6, from both national and state Republicans, shows that things are worse than even some pessimistic observers have feared…It’s happened elsewhere. It can happen here, too.[1]

Though Democrats are well aware of Republican efforts at one-party domination, they don’t seem to have the will or the courage to do anything about it. In state after state Republican-controlled legislatures are enacting laws suppressing voters’ rights, particularly those of communities of color,[2] and highly gerrymandering legislative districts in their favor.[3]

Most recently, Georgia’s General Assembly approved a redistricting map giving the GOP dominance in nine of its fourteen congressional districts even though the state narrowly went for Pres. Biden last year and elected two Democrats to the U.S. Senate in January.[4] Other GOP state legislatures are gerrymandering congressional districts to their extreme advantage as well. They include Ohio, Texas, Utah, Indiana, Alabama, and North Carolina.[5]

Senate Republicans have consistently filibustered Democrats’ efforts to protect voting rights and eliminate political gerrymandering.[6] Since Democratic Sens. Manchin and Sinema strongly oppose changing the filibuster rule to allow a simple majority to pass voting rights bills, Senate Democrats have only one path to passing voting rights legislation. That is, inserting the Freedom to Vote Act[7] and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act[8] into the Build Back Better reconciliation bill, which the Democrats can pass with a simple majority. A budget item to provide funding for the states to implement the provisions of these acts would also be needed to meet budget reconciliation bill requirements.[9]

Some senators might object to this approach arguing that the Senate parliamentarian could rule that these voting rights bills do not qualify for inclusion in a reconciliation bill. However, the parliamentarian’s ruling is only advisory and can be overruled by the presiding senator, which in this case would be Democratic Vice-president Kamala Harris.[10]

Our democracy is at stake. Time is running out to get voting rights protection implemented in all states before next year’s election. Democrats must include voting rights in the BBB and pass the Act before the end of the year. Urge your representative (https://clerk.house. gov/Members#MemberProfiles, 202-225-3121) and senators (https://www.senate.gov/ /senators/senators-contact.htm, 202-224-3121) to adopt the above course of action. The fairness of our elections as well as the future of our democracy hangs in the balance.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2021/6/15/22522504/republicans-authoritarianism-trump-competitive

[2] https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2021/10/republicans-are-passing-rigged-maps-and-democrats-are-running-out-of-time-to-stop-it/

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/25/us/politics/republican-redistricting-swing-states.html

[4] https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/11/22/total-asymmetric-warfare-georgia-gop-redraws-political-map-us-senate-dems-do-nothing; https://www.cnn.com/election/2020/results/state/georgia/president

[5] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/15/us/politics/republicans-2022-redistricting-maps.html

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/nov/03/senate-republicans-voting-rights-bill-john-lewis

[7] https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/breaking-down-freedom-vote-act

[8]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Lewis_Voting_Rights_Act#:~:text=The%20John%20Lewis%20Voting%20Rights,Holder%20and%20Brnovich%20v.

[9] https://budget.house.gov/publications/fact-sheet/budget-reconciliation-basics

[10] https://www.wusa9.com/article/news/verify/verify-can-the-senate-overrule-the-parliamentarians-recommendation-could-immigration-legislation-make-the-reconciliation-bill-budget-dreamers-biden/65-008d1307-74bc-42c3-abcf-76865b30c6d3

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Is Passing the Build Back Better Act The Ticket to Democrats Winning in 2022?

Democrats appear to be banking on passing Pres. Biden’s Build Back Better (BBB) package as their ticket to winning next year’s midterm elections. The House’s approval of the BBB Act on Friday does give the Democrats momentum toward that goal. Still, getting the bill through the Senate will be challenging. And, while I believe it will finally pass, the shrunken BBB Act by itself will most likely not give Democrats the huge boost they will need to maintain control of Congress in next year’s elections.

The good news for the Democrats is they have a great deal more to run on than the BBB Act. Last March they passed a $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, the American Rescue Plan. That legislation provided needed help to tens of millions of people, reducing high levels of hardship, helping school districts address student learning loss, and bolstering the economy. Among other pluses, it expanded unemployment benefits, health coverage, child tax credits, food support and housing assistance.[1] Despite all the hardship Americans were undergoing, not one Republican voted for this urgently needed relief act.[2]

On top of that, the Democrats recently enacted a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. This legislation was critical to repairing and upgrading our nation’s deteriorating infrastructure. While some Republicans did support this bill, the vast majority of them turned their backs on our economy’s dire need for a solid, revamped infrastructure.

Assuming the BBB Act does become law, Biden and the Democrats will have pumped in close to $5 trillion dollars into the economy in one year. On top of that close to six million new jobs have been created and the unemployment rate is down to 4.6 percent.[3]

Even with all these positives, the outlook for the Democrats is not good. Record inflation is hurting most people in their pocketbooks. The battle to control COVID is still raging. Americans are angry, fearful and have not been as divided since the Civil War. And Biden and the Democrats are receiving most of the blame. Less than 40 percent of the population approve of their performance.[4] Haggling over the BBB package clearly has not helped them either.

For example, Sens. Sanders and Bennet take issue with the bill’s increase in the SALT (State and Local Taxes) cap deduction. They argue it’s another tax break for the wealthy and will cost the government billions of dollars.[5] Sen. Sanders put it this way:

“You can’t be a political party that talks about demanding the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes and then end up with a bill that gives large tax breaks to many millionaires. You can’t do that. The hypocrisy is too strong. It’s bad policy, it’s bad politics.”[6]

The Democrats’ struggle over raising the SALT cap exposes how vulnerable they will be in 2022 election and why they cannot rely on the BBB Act alone to get them over the finish line. As Sen. Sanders explained, it sends the wrong message to average Americans and gives the Republicans a great message to run on: “Democrats are the party of the rich.” Fortunately, the Democrats are working on a SALT cap compromise that will blunt this characterization.[7] But whether it will be sufficient remains to be seen.

There’s yet another issue regarding how effective BBB will be as a Democratic campaign energizer next year. That is, the voting public may not significantly benefit from the Act prior to the November election since many of the popular health benefits will not kick in until 2023 or later.[8]

Finally, BBB fails to address voting rights. Without protecting our right to vote, the Democrats have practically no chance of winning the House and little hope in the Senate next year. As I’ve noted in previous blogs, GOP legislatures around the country are enacting laws to suppress the vote, gerrymander congressional districts in their favor and control the administration of the elections giving them the ability to overturn the elections in their states.

The Democrats have no time to lose. They must settle their differences now and begin promoting their case that they are the party that truly supports the American people in these difficult times.

Urge your representative (https://www.house.gov/representatives, 202-225-3121) and senators (https://www.senate.gov//senators/senators-contact.htm, 202-224-3121) to protect our right to vote and resolve these other issues immediately. The fairness of our elections as well as the future of our democracy hangs in the balance.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.cbpp.org/research/poverty-and-inequality/american-rescue-plan-act-will-help-millions-and-bolster-the-economy#unemployment

[2] https://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory/republicans-promote-pandemic-relief-voted-77527236

[3] https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/11/05/remarks-by-president-biden-on-the-october-jobs-report/

[4] https://nypost.com/2021/11/18/biden-approval-rating-hits-36-percent-in-quinnipiac-poll/

[5] https://www.wsj.com/articles/pelosi-says-house-democrats-will-add-paid-leave-back-to-bill-11635951745

[6] https://www.politico.com/news/2021/11/18/democrats-agonize-tax-cuts-rich-522859

[7] Ibid.

[8] https://finance.yahoo.com/news/dems-stuffed-bill-popular-health-093014592.html

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Democrats Must Pass the Freedom to Vote Act Now to Level Elections Playing Field

While the recent passing of the trillion-dollar infrastructure bill is a step in the right direction, it won’t help the Democrats in next year’s election if they fail to protect our voting rights this year.

The Republicans’ number one priority is to win back the House and Senate next year. And they are doing whatever they can in the states they control to do just that. As Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, urged back in August:

Time is running out. The Senate must pass legislation establishing voting rules for federal elections in order for the rules to be implemented in time to prevent voter suppression in the 2022 congressional elections. Similarly, redistricting standards in the legislation must be enacted quickly to be implemented in time to prevent partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts that likely will take place around the country.[1]

Since Sens. Manchin and Sinema still oppose changing the filibuster rule to allow a simple majority to pass voting rights bills, here is the Democrats best approach to getting the quick action Wertheimer is calling for on the Freedom to Vote Act:

  1. Eliminate all remaining pieces of the social Build Back Better (BBB) Act to which Manchin and/or Sinema still object.
  2. Include the Freedom to Vote Act, which Manchin and Sinema support, in the BBB bill with a budget item for implementation so it meets the reconciliation process requirements.
  3. Quickly pass the BBB act through reconciliation with the support of all 50 Democratic senators and then send it to the House for its approval.

Wertheimer is right. After the 2010 elections, Republicans made big gains in the last redistricting cycle. They used their “power to draw map lines that for a decade have entrenched their legislative majorities and delivered congressional seats to them in states such as Wisconsin, Michigan and North Carolina, even when they havetallied fewer votes overall than Democrats.”[2]

Now, again, GOP state legislatures are moving rapidly to gerrymander as many congressional districts as they can to their unfair advantage. In Utah, for example, the GOP-controlled legislature is disregarding the redistricting maps submitted by the state’s voter-approved, Independent Redistricting Committee. Instead, Republicans are supporting their own maps which “overwhelmingly favor Republicans” in all four of its congressional districts,[3] even though over 37% of Utah voters supported Biden in 2020.[4]

In Ohio, the Republican-controlled legislature has proposed congressional redistricting maps which “would squeeze Democrats into a tiny minority” giving the GOP the advantage in 12 or 13 of Ohio’s 15 congressional districts.[5] This despite the fact President Biden received over 45% of the 2020 vote in Ohio.[6] By that measure, the Ohio redistricting map should favor Democrats in at least 6 districts.

North Carolina is yet another example of the GOP’s extreme gerrymandering. The Republican-controlled legislature has approved a redistricting map that gives their party a 10 to 3-seat advantage with one highly competitive district. Biden lost North Carolina by only one percentage point last year.[7]

New York, on the other hand, is one of the few states controlled by Democrats where the legislature will have the final say on redistricting maps. Just like Utah and Ohio, the New York legislature can overrule the state’s redistricting commission maps. While Biden received 60% of the New York vote last year, the state’s redistricting map could end up favoring Democrats in as many as 23 of its 26 congressional districts.[8]

None of this, of course, is right for American voters who want to be fairly represented in Congress. The Freedom to Vote Act now languishing in Congress would remedy this gross injustice by banning partisan gerrymandering and making it easier for voters to get bad maps quickly struck down in court.[9] 

While the Democrats have spent the last several months bickering over the infrastructure (BIF) and social services (BBB) bills, all their haggling has left them in a deep electoral hole which must be remedied quickly if they are to have any real chance of winning next year’s elections.

Urge your representative (https://clerk.house. gov/Members#MemberProfiles, 202-225-3121) and senators (https://www.senate.gov/ /senators/senators-contact.htm, 202-224-3121) to adopt the above course of action. The fairness of our elections as well as the future of our democracy hangs in the balance.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://thehill.com/opinion/campaign/566408-the-senate-should-postpone-vacation-until-it-acts-on-voting-rights?rl=1

[2] https://www.latimes.com/politics/newsletter/2021-10-01/redistricting-wars-have-started-essential-politics

[3] https://www.sltrib.com/news/politics/2021/11/09/gerrymander-or-no/

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_United_States_presidential_election_in_Utah

[5] https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/580134-ohio-republicans-swing-for-fences-in-redistricting-proposals

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_United_States_presidential_election_in_Ohio

[7] https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/north-carolina-republicans-passed-a-heavily-skewed-congressional-map-how-will-the-courts-respond/

[8] https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/redistricting-2022-maps/new-york/

[9] https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/freedom-vote-act-big-deal-redistricting

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Can Democrats Make Lemonade Out of Election Lemons?

The Democrats got a crate load of lemons in Tuesday’s election results. They lost all three statewide races in Virginia.[1] And, while Pres. Biden won New Jersey by nearly 16 points a year ago, incumbent Democrat Phil Murphy barely eked out a victory in the governor’s race.[2]

Conventional wisdom is these results do not bode well for the Democrats’ chances in the 2022 mid-terms a year from now. But there may be a silver lining for the Dems if they can get their act together.

Since winning both houses of Congress and the presidency a year ago, Democrats have accomplished little for the American people. Their one major piece of legislation, the COVID relief bill passed last March,[3] has long been forgotten by most voters. What has been front and center for months, however, is the Democrats’ haggling over Biden’s social spending and climate package, the Build Back Better Act (BBB), while their infrastructure bill (BIF) languishes in the House after passing the Senate with bipartisan support. Progressives in the House have refused to support the BIF bill until they are assured that Senate Democrats will pass the BBB reconciliation bill. But, until moderate Sens. Manchin and Sinema get onboard, that assurance remains in doubt.[4]

If the Democrats are to have any chance of winning next November, they must heed the warning from the 2021 elections: Give Americans a positive reason to get out and vote for their candidates by passing these bills or suffer the dire consequences. In this year’s election, the Democrats fell way behind the Republicans in firing up their supporters.[5]

And the Democrats have no time to lose. They must pass these bills now so that the American people have sufficient time before the 2022 elections to enjoy and appreciate the many fruits contained in them. Here are a number of those benefits in the infrastructure bill:

  • Roads, bridges, airports, ports, public transit, broadband infrastructure, and power grid maintenance and expansion
  • Clean drinking water and removal of pollution from soil and groundwater
  • Energy job creation
  • Clean energy tax credits

The BBB reconciliation act includes these very popular provisions:

  • Universal pre-kindergarten
  • Paid family leave
  • Lower prescription drug prices
  • Clean energy tax incentives and fees
  • 15% minimum tax rate for large corporations
  • Childcare funding
  • Extension of the child tax credit
  • A middle and working-class families tax cut
  • A Medicare hearing aid benefit

Polls indicate a large majority of Americans approve of the BBB social services/climate act.[6] Since Republicans are united in opposing the bill, the Democrats should receive a significant election boost next year for providing these benefits to millions of Americans. A recent poll found that members of Congress who back the BBB agenda would receive a 17-point increase in support.[7]

So, the Democrats can make lemonade out of their 2021 election lemons by moving expeditiously to pass these two bills. But there is one additional piece of legislation that must accompany them. As I explained in last week’s blog, the Democrats must pass the Freedom to Vote Act to protect our voting rights against red state legislatures that are now passing laws to make it harder for Americans to vote and gerrymandering more Congressional districts to their unfair advantage.[8]

Without this additional bill, Democratic voters could be thwarted at the polls next year. We must contact our senators and representatives and urge them to pass all three of these measures. (https://clerk.house. gov/Members#MemberProfiles, 202-225-3121) and senators (https://www.senate.gov/ /senators/senators-contact.htm, 202-224-3121).

The future of our democracy hangs in the balance.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/579765-republicans-poised-to-sweep-virginia-stunning-democrats

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/11/02/us/elections/results-new-jersey.html

[3] https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/11/biden-1point9-trillion-covid-relief-package-thursday-afternoon.html

[4] https://www.wsj.com/articles/progressives-warn-democratic-leaders-on-possible-infrastructure-vote-11635413402

[5] https://www.alternet.org/2021/11/a-wake-up-call-for-democrats/?utm_source=&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=8175

[6] https://democrats.org/news/new-polls-same-results-president-bidens-build-back-better-framework-is-extremely-popular/

[7] https://buildingbacktogether.org/news/icymi-new-building-back-together-poll-build-back-better-agenda-remains-deeply-popular-across-key-states-members-of-congress-who-back-agenda-see-17-point-boost-in-support/

[8] https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Why Aren’t Voting Rights Being Inserted in the Reconciliation Bill?

In last week’s blog, “Democrats’ Reconciliation Bill Must Include Voting Rights,” I asserted that the one thing that must be included in the Reconciliation Bill now being drafted in Congress is the 2021 Freedom to Vote Act.[1]I wrote that by inserting it in their first BBB (Build Back Better) reconciliation package, Democrats would prevent a Republican filibuster since the reconciliation process only requires a simple majority.”[2]

Furthermore, I explained that “(f)or the Act to qualify for reconciliation, Democrats must also include a specific funding amount, e.g., $2 billion, to assist the states in their implementation of the voting rights provisions.[3] Adding this relatively small amount to the reconciliation bill would be much easier than changing the filibuster rule since all 50 Senate Democrats support the Freedom to Vote Act,[4] which is not the case with the latter approach.”

Meanwhile, red state legislatures are passing laws to make it harder for Americans to vote and gerrymandering more Congressional districts to their advantage.[5] The only way for the Democrats to protect our right to vote in 2022 is by passing the Freedom to Vote Act now. And the best way to ensure that it is enacted this year is by inserting it in the Reconciliation Bill. But, so far, the Democrats in Washington have not gotten the message.

Why? It may be that they are too busy negotiating the Reconciliation Bill with Sens. Manchin and Sinema to consider anything else. Or the Democrats may be thinking that their only option is to cut out a voting rights exception to the Senate filibuster.[6]

Regardless the reason, we must demand that Congress act to protect our voting rights and save our democracy. Time is running out. Write or call your Congressional representative at https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative, 202-225-3121, and your senator at https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm, 202-224-3121.

Tell them that they must protect our right to vote by including the Freedom to Vote Act with funding for its implementation in the budget reconciliation bill this year. If that fails for some reason, then they must reform the filibuster rules to allow voting rights legislation to pass by a simple majority. One way or another, Congress must get this Act passed this year.

Make your voices heard. Save our democracy from autocratic rule by the radical right. We owe it to ourselves, our children and future generations.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/breaking-down-freedom-vote-act

[2] https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog/

[3] https://budget.house.gov/publications/fact-sheet/budget-reconciliation-basics; https://www.wusa9.com/article/news/verify/verify-what-is-budget-reconciliation-could-democrats-use-this-process-to-pass-voting-rights-or-immigration-reform-filibuster-congress-senate-schumer/65-4fdf7dcf-81ed-449e-95eb-1993f354c432

[4] https://www.democracydocket.com/alerts/senate-republicans-block-freedom-to-vote-act-from-floor-debate/

[5] https://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2021-08-10/ap-republicans-reaped-biggest-redistricting-edge-in-decades

[6] https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/democracy/news/2021/10/25/506533/senate-must-reform-filibuster-pass-voting-rights-bills-senate-republicans-block-legislation/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Democrats’ Reconciliation Bill Must Include Voting Rights

Time is running out for the Democrats to pass President Biden’s chief legislative program, Build Back Better (BBB). While they have been working on it for months, progressive and moderate Dems can’t seem to reach a compromise that both sides can live with. Yet, they all know that if they fail to pass legislation that provides some significant benefits to the American people, their prospects in next year’s election are dismal.

Here’s a possible solution. Instead of trying to pass the whole enchilada all at once, divide the $3.5 trillion social services and tax reform bill in two:

  1. One bill would contain all the provisions from the original proposal that both sides can agree to support.
  2. The second bill would include those areas on which they cannot currently find common ground and would not be considered until after the 2022 election.

The one thing that must be included in the first bill is the 2021 Freedom to Vote Act.[1] Standing alone, voting rights bills have been blocked by Republican filibusters three times this year, most recently this week.[2] However, by inserting it in their first BBB reconciliation package, Democrats would prevent a Republicans filibuster since the reconciliation process only requires a simple majority.

For the Act to qualify for reconciliation, Democrats must also include a specific funding amount, e.g., $2 billion, to assist the states in their implementation of the voting rights provisions.[3] Adding this relatively small amount to the reconciliation bill would be much easier than changing the filibuster rule since all 50 Senate Democrats support the Freedom to Vote Act,[4] which is not the case with the latter approach.

Securing Americans’ voting rights would be a major achievement for Biden and his party. It would also give the Democrats a much greater chance of maintaining control of Congress in the 2022 election. They will have demonstrated that their party can deliver for the American people having passed the first half of Biden’s BBB program, voting rights and the $1.2 trillion, bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Plus, the Democrats would have the promise of the second half of Biden’s BBB agenda – including combating climate change and lowering drug prices — which they would introduce in 2023 after next year’s election. This should energize the Democratic base to get out the vote and increase the Dems majority in Congress. With larger majorities in each house, the Democrats would then most likely be able to pass the disputed portions of the BBB program.

Clearly, progressives would be taking a chance with this compromise strategy. But the reality is that the BBB plan that finally does pass this year will be significantly reduced in size anyway and will not include some of the progressive provisions that were in the original proposal. Given the strong opposition of Sens. Manchin and Sinema to these provisions, there is really nothing they can do about that. Splitting the bill into two and including the Right to Vote Act in this year’s portion is the best that the Democrats can hope for.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/breaking-down-freedom-vote-act

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/20/us/senate-voting-rights-filibuster.html

[3] https://budget.house.gov/publications/fact-sheet/budget-reconciliation-basics

[4] https://www.democracydocket.com/alerts/senate-republicans-block-freedom-to-vote-act-from-floor-debate/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Urgency of Boycotting Corporate America

In last week’s blog, “It’s Time We Take on Corporate America,”[1] I called for a massive boycott against the corporations and business associations lobbying to derail President Biden’s tax reform and spending package, Build Back Better (BBB).

The $3.5 trillion program these corporations oppose includes many provisions[2] that are very popular[3] with Americans:

  • lowering the cost of childcare and providing two years of universal pre-K for 3 and 4-year-olds
  • expanding Medicare to include coverage of dental, hearing and vision services
  • extending the child tax credit through 2025
  • cutting prescription drug prices
  • providing 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave
  • combating climate change
  • raising taxes on corporations and the very wealth

My blog stressed that corporate America is at the root of our country’s problem, Big Money’s control of government policy. A few years ago, I even wrote a book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America,[4] focused on this very issue.

Last week I pointed out how moderate Democrats like Sen. Manchin and Sinema are unwilling to support the $3.5 trillion BBB plan, in large part, because their very big contributors, for example, the pharmaceutical industry and the national realtors’ association, oppose it. While progressives and the Democratic leadership have strongly urged these moderates to unite with the rest of the party and pass the Biden agenda, they have stood firm in their opposition.

Unfortunately, the only ones who have the muscle to convince these Democrats to change their position on the BBB program are their major corporate donors. (A recent report, Behind the Curtain,[5] exposed the connections between Congress and their corporate sponsors.) And the only ones who have the power to stop the corporate lobbying against the BBB agenda and voting rights are American consumers. By refusing to patronize these companies, we can conduct a nationwide boycott forcing them to change the lobbying practices that protect their bottom line while jeopardizing our democracy.

But there’s yet another critical reason to boycott these companies. Following the January 6th insurrection, many corporate PACs suspended their political donations and promised to re-evaluate them in light of the attack on the Capitol and our democracy. However, just six months later these PACs (including American Airlines, GM and UPS) were back providing funding to members of Congress who opposed certification of the electoral college results and hindered the peaceful transition of power.[6] In effect, some of America’s largest corporations have given a “pass” to supporters of the insurrection as long as they continue to provide legislation beneficial to their companies.

Ultimately, an effective boycott must make it in a corporation’s interest to support what is in the public interest. That is, American consumers must make it perfectly clear that we will only use our purchasing power to patronize companies that promote our country’s core values and the common good.

For too long corporate America has been calling the shots in Congress as well as in state legislatures. If we want to hold onto our democracy and build a better future for all Americans, we must take control of government policies away from corporate America.

While there are valid objections to a nationwide boycott, here is how to address them:

  1. I’m in, but we’ll never get enough people to participate for it to be effective.

Well, if we don’t try, we’ll never know. The boycott will certainly need some well-known national sponsors like the AFL-CIO and other unions, Black Lives Matter, Common Cause, the Democracy Initiative, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Indivisible, the League of Women Voters, MoveOn and many others. With the right message and numerous large organizations behind it, millions of people could join a national boycott.

2. I really depend on Amazon, FedEx, etc. I need them and can’t give them up.

Practically all goods and services that these corporations provide can be obtained from other sources. While it may take some effort on our part, the stakes are too high to fail to act. The future of our democracy is at risk. If we want to save our country from authoritarian rule, we must be willing to sacrifice.

3. What about the workers who will lose their jobs when their companies are boycotted and can’t keep employing them?

As the boycott builds, a fund to supplement unemployment benefits for those laid off workers must be created by the participating organizations and individuals. They cannot become casualties of a national boycott.

I urge you to spread the idea of a national boycott to your friends and colleagues. If you are a member or contributor to a national organization, please send this blog to them and implore them to get involved. Together we can take back our government and save our democracy.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog/

[2] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/budget-reconciliation-bill-build-back-better-act/

[3] https://www.speaker.gov/newsroom/92121

[4] See https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/

[5] https://peoplesaction.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Behind-the-Curtain-final.pdf

[6] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/07/15/american-airlines-overturn-election-january-6/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: It’s Time We Take On Corporate America

The Democrats are in a bind. If Congressional Democrats don’t come together and pass President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, they will almost assuredly lose both houses of Congress in the 2022 mid-term elections. Every Democratic member of Congress must understand that not only is their congressional majority at stake, but also the success of the Biden presidency, his ability to win re-election in 2024 and democracy itself. It’s that simple.

And yet, the Democrats are finding it difficult to reach an agreement. A major stumbling block is the $3.5 trillion cost of Biden’s social and economic reconciliation bill. Progressives argue they have already reduced the legislation from its original $6 trillion and, after all, the expenditure is over a ten-year period. Nevertheless, Sens. Manchin and Sinema plus some moderate House Democrats strongly object that the price is still way too high. But are they truly concerned with the price tag, or are they just doing the bidding of their corporate sponsors?

One of Sinema’s main objections to the legislation is its Medicare prescription drug proposal to lower the cost of medications.[1] It’s no surprise that Sinema has taken this position. She has received approximately $750,000 in campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry. During her 2018 Senate campaign she repeatedly promised to work on lowering the cost of prescription drugs. But after Sinema received the industry’s generous donations, she reversed her position and opposed the plan to allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices.[2]

Manchin and several House Democrats who oppose the bill’s Medicare drug proposal also garnered very large contributions from the pharmaceutical industry.[3] The fact that 88% of all Americans support the Democratic plan to allow the federal government to negotiate lower prices on medications tells you whose interests these moderate congresspeople really represent.[4]

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. According to a new report, Behind the Curtain: The Corporate Plot to Upend Democracy, 20 corporations or industry groups have spent more than $201 million in lobbying so far this year that is mostly aimed at derailing progressive provisions in Bidens’ popular tax reform and spending package. They include Amazon, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Comcast, Facebook, FedEx and Pfizer, companies many of us patronize.[5]

The report issued by People’s Action, a nationwide network of groups organizing for social justice, and Dēmos, a progressive think tank, exposes Big Money’s crippling grip on our government:

“Rich corporations are fighting tooth and nail to prevent the American people from getting what they want: a government that works for everyone, not just a wealthy few. Their massive use of corporate power to frustrate the will of the people on an issue-by-issue basis is part of a larger anti-democracy effort backed by corporate America.

“As corporations seek to undermine the Biden plan’s much-needed tax provisions, historic investments in drug pricing reform, healthcare, housing, climate, and immigration reform, they are also attacking our freedom to vote. Many of the same companies combating elements of the Build Back Better proposal are also bankrolling voter suppression legislation.”[6]

We, the people need to fight back by attacking the root of the problem, corporate America. A massive boycott of a couple of these corporations just might get them off our representatives’ backs. These congresspeople must represent us, their constituents, not their corporate donors. Can we organize a large enough boycott of Amazon or FedEx to force them to stop lobbying against the public good?

Let’s give it our best shot. Spread the word. Send this blog to your email lists and your friends on social media. Encourage everyone you know to stop buying from Amazon or using FedEx. Working together, we can make a difference. It’s time to stand up for what’s right and in our best interests before it’s too late!

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.politico.com/news/2021/09/19/kyrsten-sinema-biden-drug-pricing-prescription-plan-512907

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.thenation.com/article/politics/pharma-democrats-bribery/; https://www.opensecrets.org/members-of-congress/joe-manchin/summary?cid=N00032838&cycle=2022&type=C

[4] Ibid.

[5] https://peoplesaction.org/behind-the-curtain/

[6] https://peoplesaction.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Behind-the-Curtain-final.pdf