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Jayapal and Manchin meet for first time as negotiations over spending bill ramp up

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WASHINGTON — Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, met with Sen. Joe Manchin on Monday for the first time since broader negotiations over the Democrats’ multitrillion-dollar spending bill began, sources familiar with the meeting said.

Jayapal, D-Wash., and Manchin, D-W.Va., who have been on opposite sides of the debate for several months, had a two-hour discussion about President Joe Biden’s social spending package. Democrats plan to pass the package through a procedural measure known as reconciliation without Republican support.

The Democrats’ effort to pass the legislation has highlighted intraparty conflicts over the price tag and its proposals. Jayapal and Manchin laid out their priorities for the bill and did not get into a back-and-forth over how to resolve their differences, a source said.

Their offices declined to comment.

They notably met after it was reported that a sweeping climate measure, known as the Clean Energy Performance Program, is likely to be removed from the spending plan because of Manchin’s opposition.

No final decision has been made. The administration and progressive lawmakers have pushed for the $150 billion program to be in the social spending bill.

Manchin has also voiced concerns about the Democrats’ infrastructure package, which progressives would like to pass in tandem with the social spending plan. Late last month, for example, Jayapal marshaled about half of her 95-member caucus to oppose the infrastructure bill if it came to a vote, fearing that moderate Democrats would try to curtail the social spending bill once the infrastructure proposal passed.

The Democratic-controlled House and Senate have a self-imposed deadline of Oct. 31 to pass both bills, which have the support of Democrats and remain likely to pass in some form.

But the size of the social safety net bill is a sticking point among Democrats. Moderates are pushing for a pared-down version, while progressives insist that the bill’s price tag will boost an economy upended by the coronavirus pandemic.

Manchin, who has said he is proceeding with caution on any additional spending, told reporters Monday that he was skeptical that Congress could meet the Oct. 31 deadline.

“There’s an awful lot that’s going on. I don’t know how that would happen,” he said.

However, White House officials are urging lawmakers to get a deal to get done quickly.

Biden spoke with Manchin by phone Monday afternoon, said two people familiar with the conversation. It was among a number of meetings and calls Biden had Monday to try to break the stalemate in Congress over his infrastructure and social spending bills, one of the sources said.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, the Democrat from Arizona who is also at the center of the disagreement, plans to visit Biden at the White House on Tuesday to discuss the reconciliation infrastructure package, a spokesperson for Sinema said.

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Jayapal and Manchin meet for first time as negotiations over spending bill ramp up

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WASHINGTON — Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, met with Sen. Joe Manchin on Monday for the first time since broader negotiations over the Democrats’ multitrillion-dollar spending bill began, sources familiar with the meeting said.

Jayapal, D-Wash., and Manchin, D-W.Va., who have been on opposite sides of the debate for several months, had a two-hour discussion about President Joe Biden’s social spending package. Democrats plan to pass the package through a procedural measure known as reconciliation without Republican support.

The Democrats’ effort to pass the legislation has highlighted intraparty conflicts over the price tag and its proposals. Jayapal and Manchin laid out their priorities for the bill and did not get into a back-and-forth over how to resolve their differences, a source said.

Their offices declined to comment.

They notably met after it was reported that a sweeping climate measure, known as the Clean Energy Performance Program, is likely to be removed from the spending plan because of Manchin’s opposition.

No final decision has been made. The administration and progressive lawmakers have pushed for the $150 billion program to be in the social spending bill.

Manchin has also voiced concerns about the Democrats’ infrastructure package, which progressives would like to pass in tandem with the social spending plan. Late last month, for example, Jayapal marshaled about half of her 95-member caucus to oppose the infrastructure bill if it came to a vote, fearing that moderate Democrats would try to curtail the social spending bill once the infrastructure proposal passed.

The Democratic-controlled House and Senate have a self-imposed deadline of Oct. 31 to pass both bills, which have the support of Democrats and remain likely to pass in some form.

But the size of the social safety net bill is a sticking point among Democrats. Moderates are pushing for a pared-down version, while progressives insist that the bill’s price tag will boost an economy upended by the coronavirus pandemic.

Manchin, who has said he is proceeding with caution on any additional spending, told reporters Monday that he was skeptical that Congress could meet the Oct. 31 deadline.

“There’s an awful lot that’s going on. I don’t know how that would happen,” he said.

However, White House officials are urging lawmakers to get a deal to get done quickly.

Biden spoke with Manchin by phone Monday afternoon, said two people familiar with the conversation. It was among a number of meetings and calls Biden had Monday to try to break the stalemate in Congress over his infrastructure and social spending bills, one of the sources said.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, the Democrat from Arizona who is also at the center of the disagreement, plans to visit Biden at the White House on Tuesday to discuss the reconciliation infrastructure package, a spokesperson for Sinema said.

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Latino groups sue over Texas redistricting

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Several Latino people and groups filed a lawsuit Monday challenging redistricting maps drawn by the Texas Legislature, saying they dilute the voting rights of Latinos.

The lawsuit was filed Monday afternoon as the Texas Legislature was nearing completion of U.S. House maps that shore up Republicans and do not add additional Latino majority districts, even though Latinos account for more than half of the state’s growth. 

The congressional maps still were in negotiations Monday as the Texas House and Senate ironed out differences.

The Voting Rights Act protects minority voters’ right to choose who represents them, whether or not that is a person of color.

Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF, a Latino legal civil rights group, said the maps are typical of previous attempts by Texas’ GOP-controlled Legislature to dilute Latinos’ voting rights.

MALDEF is representing the plaintiffs.

“Texas has a unique record of disregarding the growth of the Latino community that goes back decades and leads to successful lawsuits by MALDEF and others,” Saenz said. “The maps are typical of that long-standing and unique record of disregard for Latino civil rights.”

The lawsuit says the maps drawn for congressional, legislative and State Board of Education districts violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and should be thrown out. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for Western Texas.

In its 2013 Shelby v Holder decision, the Supreme Court essentially gutted the Voting Rights Act by nullifying Section 5 protections from discrimination.

The lawsuit names Gov. Greg Abbott and Jose Esparza, the state deputy secretary of state, as defendants.

Republicans have defended the maps, saying that they were drawn without regard to race and that they pass legal tests.   

The 2020 census showed that Texas’ population grew by nearly 4 million people, making it the only state to add two congressional seats because of population growth. 

The Latino population in Texas grew by 1.98 million, while the white population grew by just 187,252. Latinos are on track to outnumber whites by the end of the year or early next year, and they are at near-parity with the white population in Texas.

The increase in other minority populations, including people who identify as more than one race, was responsible for 95 percent of the population increase, the lawsuit said. 

The lawsuit also argues that the 2020 census shows that court-ordered maps that were used in the 2020 general election “do not reflect the population shifts that occurred within the last decade and are unconstitutionally malapportioned.”

Nina Perales, MALDEF’s vice president of litigation, said in a news release: “Texas once again adopted plans that dilute Latino voting strength. The new redistricting plans are an unlawful attempt to thwart the changing Texas electorate and should be struck down.” 

Challenges to the last Texas redistricting maps dragged out for almost a decade.

In 2018, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, overruled lower courts rulings that Texas watered down the voting power of the state’s Latinos and that the state failed to prove that its map did not discriminate. The high court ruled it was wrong to make Texas prove it did not discriminate and did not make it draw its 2010 maps.

MALDEF filed the lawsuit Monday even as it is resolving payment of attorneys’ fees form a decade-old suit it filed against Texas over its last round of redistricting.

“At the same time that the court is determining how many millions of dollars they will have to pay for violating the law 10 years ago, here they are doing the same thing again, putting more and more taxpayer money at risk, because they will lose again,” Saenz said.

The plaintiffs are: the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, Mi Familia Vota, the American GI Forum, La Union del Pueblo Entero, the Mexican American Bar Association, Texas Hispanics Organized for Political Education, the William C. Velasquez Institute, FIEL Houston Inc., the Texas Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents and Emelda Menendez, Gilberto Menendez, Jose Olivares, Florida Chavez and Joey Cardenas.

Separately, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus petitioned to depose a Republican redistricting operative who was hired by the state to determine the role he played in Texas’ redistricting.

The caucus members said they want the deposition for an investigation of possible violations of the state’s open government laws.

The Texas Tribune reported Foltz helped draw Wisconsin legislative maps that were thrown out by a judge and criticized Foltz secrecy in the map drawing.

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