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Izaak Gilchrist

This week in US Politics - 2nd April 2021

Georgia’s new voting laws...

Republicans in Georgia have introduced sweeping new voting restrictions in the state. This comes in the wake of Georgia voting for President Biden in the November Presidential election, and subsequently voting for two Democrat Senators in January’s run-off elections.

The Governor of Georgia is Brian Kemp, who, along with the secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, won bipartisan acclaim after the Presidential election by refusing to buy into former President Trump’s big lie that the election was stolen.

This week, however, he was met with ire from both state and national Democrats, when he claimed that the new voting laws ensure that elections in Georgia are 'secure, accessible, and fair'.

The new law has been called 'The Election Integrity Act of 2021'. The new law restricts voting with additional ID requirements for mail-in ballots, bans the giving of food and water to voters in line, limits the number of drop boxes (where absentees can vote) and shortens the period of ‘early-voting’.

Image: Element5 Digital from Unsplash

The fallout from these new voting restrictions has been huge.

On the political side, President Joe Biden has condemned these new restrictions. He said that the law was 'un-American', and added that it disproportionately targeted black people.

African Americans in the state of Georgia overwhelmingly turned out to vote for President Biden in November, with the help of voter registration campaigns run by 2018 Democratic Georgia Governor candidate, Stacey Abrams.

In his most emotive attack, Biden called the laws, 'Jim Crow in the 21st Century'. The Jim Crow era in the South of America resulted in Segregation, so any comparison to this era is highly controversial.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), along with other civil rights groups, have filed a lawsuit against the state of Georgia. Their lawyers argue that Georgia Republicans are 'using racial discrimination as a means of achieving a partisan end'.

Additional pressure on Georgia comes from the commercial side. A number of large companies have expressed their opinions on the matter. These include Coca-Cola, Microsoft and Facebook. These companies hope that the pressure exerted on Georgia will lead to a reversal and repeal of the law. Governor Brian Kemp has remained strong however, and has continued to defend the law, despite the growing list of firms making statements condemning the Election Integrity Act.

Democrats are hoping that other battleground states, such as Arizona and Florida, will not follow in Georgia’s footsteps and will be dissuaded by the backlash the Georgia’s state GOP has received.

Is Biden the New FDR?

President Biden has revealed his plan to spend $2 trillion on infrastructure in order to rebuild the economy, which has been damaged immensely by the coronavirus pandemic.

Whilst falling short of the Green New Deal, advocated for by some of the more liberal members of the Democratic Caucus, such as AOC, this deal does remind a lot of commentators of FDR’s famous New Deal. Biden will be hoping that his plan delivers some of the same successes.

So - how will the plan be funded? Biden stated that higher corporate taxes will meet the $2 trillion bill for the new infrastructure. This will please many of Biden’s voters as they will not see any tax rises or other costs, such as an oil duty.

The $2 trillion investment will be split over several overarching sectors. Biden announced that $621 billion will be spent in transportation infrastructure and electric vehicles and $561 billion would be spent making existing infrastructure more eco-friendly.

The plan has not received a good reception from high-profile Republicans in Washington. Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell has vowed to fight the plan’s passage through Congress.

Image:Gage Skidmore from Wikimedia Commons

He also recognised, however, that he does not have the power to set the agenda in the Senate, since the Democrats are in power. Instead, it is expected that the plan will be filibustered by the Republicans. McConnell expects all 50 Republicans to vote against the bill, thus the Democrats will fall 10 votes short of the 60-vote majority they need in order to avoid the filibuster.

From environmental groups, the plan has received a warmer reaction, although some groups think that the plan hasn’t quite stood up and met the gravity of the climate emergency. However, most groups see the plan as a positive start, as America starts to wake up again to climate change, after 4 years of slumber under the Trump administration.