For two holdout Dems, fighting to keep the filibuster has its reward$ – National & International News – MON 31May2021

New push to end filibuster. Chip shortage to last years. Rivals move to oust Netanyahu. China raises child limit to three.


Schumer renews push to end filibuster after GOP votes down Jan. 6 commission

Last Friday, just six Republican senators joined the Democrats in voting for a bipartisan commission to investigate the Capitol riot. With 2 Democrats absent for the vote, the total was 54 to 35 in favor, not enough to break the 60-vote filibuster threshold. This is the first vote the new Congress has lost because of the filibuster.

Congress is currently in a weeklong recess for Memorial Day. But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says he plans to fight to end the filibuster when back in session. As Schumer put it, the commission vote shows that “We have seen the limits of bipartisanship”. The stakes are high for Democrats as several key pieces of legislation will likely come up for a vote in June. This will probably include a bill on voting rights to override restrictions being passed in state after state. Congressional debate on Biden’s infrastructure plan is also likely to start next month. Without the ability to pass legislation with a simple majority, much of Biden’s agenda will be dead on arrival.

Manchin, Sinema fighting for the filibuster all the way to the bank

The Senate only needs a simple majority to end the filibuster. But there are two Democratic holdouts – Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ). Both Manchin and Sinema have already received campaign contributions from business interests specifically for supporting the filibuster and blocking Biden’s agenda. And more windfalls are sure to follow.

Sinema was mysteriously missing in action during Friday’s vote on the Jan 6. commission, after urging her Republican colleagues to vote for it. Sinema is also under pressure from fellow Arizona Democrats to ditch the filibuster. But that is unlikely to overcome Sinema’s longstanding dependence on big money donors.

Manchin was present and voted in favor of the commission. He also expressed outrage at the GOP’s refusal to back the commission, calling it “unconscionable”. But it’s unclear if outrage alone is enough to move Manchin on the filibuster issue. After all, for Manchin, there’s a lot of money at stake.  In addition to his personal mining interests, Manchin has also received big campaign contributions over the years from legal lobbies who don’t want to see their taxes rise as part of Biden’s infrastructure plan.

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Chip shortage plaguing US automakers could last years

The rise in demand for laptops, smartphones and tablets during the pandemic has created a global shortage of semiconductor chips. While this has impacted many industries, one of the worst affected in the US has been the auto industry. Several major US manufacturers, including GM, have had to pause production due to a lack of chips to control key on board systems.

Part of the reason for the shortage is that only a few companies worldwide are capable of manufacturing sufficiently sophisticated semiconductors. The two biggest global players are South Korea’s Samsung and Taiwan’s Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC). In fact, more than two-thirds of the world’s semiconductors are produced in Asia.

Intel CEO Paul Gelsinger is urging the US and Europe to step up production to ease such supply bottlenecks in future. Intel has long been a leader in creating processors for personal and business computing. Now, the company is building two new factories in Arizona, and will be opening production to custom orders for outside clients like automakers. Still, Gelsinger cautions that ramping up production will take a couple of years. Little can be done at present to alleviate the current shortage, but Gelsinger says it’s important that the US prepare to head off the next one.

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Israel: rivals move to oust Netanyahu

Before the recent Israel-Gaza hostilities, longtime PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s tenure appeared to be coming to an end. Several inconclusive elections in the last two years have seen Netanyahu’s Likud party steadily lose seats in the Knesset. After the most recent polls, Netanyahu failed to stitch together a ruling coalition from the patchwork of parties from all over the political spectrum.

The mandate to form a government then passed to centrist Yair Lapid. When the fighting broke out, Lapid had been on the cusp of securing a key ally in Naftali Bennett, leader of the ultra-nationalist Yamina party. But at that point, Bennett withdrew his support for Lapid’s coalition. This would have allowed Netanyahu to keep his seat until Israel’s inevitable 5th round of elections in just over two years.

The turnaround

Over the weekend, with just two days remaining for Lapid’s mandate, Bennett announced he was once again ready to join Lapid’s coalition. To form a government, the coalition will have to include centrist, center-right, far-right, leftist and Arab parties. Their only shared political goal is to to oust Netanyahu.

Given the complex interests in play, Lapid still has his work cut out. We should find out as early as Wednesday whether he can pull it off.

Bennett’s turnaround seemed to take Netanyahu by surprise and he has predictably lashed out. Netanyahu unironically stated that such a coalition would be “a danger to Israel’s security and future”. This despite rising ethnic strife and numerous wars leaving thousands dead, tensions with neighbors reaching new heights, and Israeli’s international standing falling to an all-time low, all during Netanyahu’s 12-year tenure.

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China institutes new three-child rule

China has now raised the number of children a couple can have from two to three. Between 1979 and 2016, China enforced a strict one-child policy to curb explosive population growth. Any couple with more than one child was subject to fines, loss of employment and even forced abortion.

In the 1990s, the potential future fallout of this policy was becoming increasingly apparent. A preference for boy children means that men now outnumber women in China by over 30 million. On top of this, China’s growing economy has seen many women born during the one-child era chose careers over family life. These women have either chosen to delay marriage and childbirth, or forego them altogether.

Facing the problems of an aging population and a declining birthrate, China raised the fertility limit from one to two children in 2016. This resulted in a two-year baby bump, followed by a steep decline. Experts say many Chinese couples have chosen not to grow their families because of the lack of state support and additional educational resources.

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