In This Episode
- The vote to open a debate about the For The People Act, which would make it easier to vote, strengthen campaign finance rules, and end partisan gerrymandering, was blocked in the Senate yesterday with all 50 Republicans united against it. With moderate Democrats like Manchin and Sinema refusing to budge on the filibuster, the future of voting rights is uncertain. We spoke with Crooked Media’s Political Director Shaniqua McClendon about what might happen next.
- And in headlines: Biden won’t hit his July 4th vaccine goal, Teamsters start nationwide project to unionize Amazon workers, and L.A. County wants its residents to stop feeding peacocks.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Wednesday, June 23rd. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day, the only news podcast that is produced via painstaking bipartisan compromise.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, no one ends up happy in the end, but everyone’s pointing fingers. So . . . that’s how you make a pod.
Gideon Resnick: Mm hmm. At least we’ve done something!
Akilah Hughes: At least there’s something you can point to. On today’s show, Crooked’s own Shaniqua McClendon breaks down yesterday’s failed attempt in the Senate to move forward on voting rights legislation. Then we’ll have some headlines. But first, the latest:
[Senator Schumer] Right now it is a fact that voting rights are under assault in America.
[Senator 2] This is a bill that was introduced to enhance partisan messaging.
[Senator 3] Apparently, they like targeting groups of individuals to prevent them from voting.
[Senator 4] I think the American people do not want this and they do not deserve to be the recipients of such harmful policy.
[Senator 5] So my Republican colleagues, this is not the end of the line for this bill. This is only the beginning.
Gideon Resnick: Those are some of the senators yesterday debating about the For the People Act. That is the sweeping voting rights bill that we’ve been talking about on the show. The vote to just open a debate about it, not even pass it, split 50/50 in the Senate, with Democrat Joe Manchin joining his colleagues after months of pressure. However, all 50 Republicans were united against it.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, so that means it fell short of the necessary 60 votes to break the filibuster. And it came at a crucial moment when this bill was going to be used to override an unending series of laws by GOP-led state legislatures that limit voting options across the country.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So what happens next is a big question. Now, some Democrats have dangled the threat of trying to end the filibuster, as they have for some time. But Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have only defended it in recent days even in the face of this continued opposition. It’s also possible that Attorney General Merrick Garland and the DOJ could actually be saddled with trying to combat voting rights restrictions that have popped up all over the country.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, and for more on what happened yesterday and what’s next, Crooked Media’s Political Director, Shaniqua McClendon, is with us. Thanks for joining us.
Shaniqua McClendon: Thank you for having me.
Akilah Hughes: All right. So thank goodness you’re here because this is coming at a crucial time. According to the nonpartisan Voting Rights Lab, 18 states have enacted more than 30 laws that restrict voting access. So what are some examples of the more egregious laws and attempts that you’ve seen so far?
Shaniqua McClendon: Yeah, you know, most of the states are kind of doing the same thing, all of these like, conservative states. It’s all bad, but not allowing people to drop off snacks and water just really feels like the worst thing you could possibly do because you’re literally saying: I want you to get hungry and thirsty and get out of line and not vote.
Akilah Hughes: Right.
Shaniqua McClendon: Which, I mean, there’s no, there’s no voter fraud. Like, there’s no even fake reason that you can give that might sound plausible to say that that’s OK. But then other things they’re doing, like reducing polling place availability, which we’ve seen the long lines, they’re just going to get longer. But that also discourages people, because if you live far away, you know, if you have a nearby polling place, they close it, you know, you’re a single mother, maybe you can afford daycare for extended hours so that you can go vote—now that, you know, making that decision as to whether or not I’m going to drive like 25 miles to go vote when I could have driven maybe two before? You know, that becomes a real decision and some people are going to decide, like, it’s just not worth it. Not that they don’t care about voting, but, you know, it’s literally not worth the extra money that they might not have to make that work for them.
Akilah Hughes: It’s just been made too inconvenient. That’s right.
Shaniqua McClendon: Pretty much. Yeah, that’s what all of these things are doing. Less drop boxes and just making it harder to vote by mail—all the things that made it easy to vote last time.
Gideon Resnick: That brings us back into the Senate. There was a lot that was happening leading up to what we saw yesterday, including Senator Joe Manchin, I guess trying to bridge the divide or something, by proposing changes to what was in the For the People Act. But can you help put in perspective why, like over the course of these conversations, the White House, former President Obama, Stacey Abrams, all at least kind of tepidly endorsed those changes? And what does it prove, if anything, that Manchin actually voted to begin the debate on it?
Shaniqua McClendon: Yeah, well, first, I think it says a lot that he voted to begin debate on it because before we were unsure about that. And this wasn’t to pass the bill, this was literally just to have a conversation about it, discuss it, debate it. And so in the past, he’s done this even on bills that he hasn’t supported so it’s, it shows that even though I disagree with him on a lot of the things that he’s been saying, it does show some consistency and, you know, a commitment to having conversations about the legislation that’s going through the Senate. And not being like the Republicans who are like: we don’t even want to talk about it, like this isn’t going to work for us. And as far as others who have have been, you know, committed to—especially Stacey Abrams—committed to this fight for voting rights, I think they know that their voice carries a lot of weight in this conversation. And unfortunately, Joe Manchin was not going to support the original bill in the way that it was and so you either kind of take nothing or you get something. And the alternative was nothing.
Gideon Resnick: Right.
Shaniqua McClendon: So, um—what Manchin is putting forward, it’s not all bad. Like there’s good stuff in there. And one of those things is getting rid of partisan gerrymandering, which all the other things that S1, For the People Act is trying to do is very important, but if we don’t fix gerrymandering, I mean, there’s, Democrats might not be in power for like 10 years.
Akilah Hughes: For sure. And I mean, do you think that Democrats like Chuck Schumer would bring this bill up just to let it fail? I mean, I don’t know. Here he is speaking after that vote:
[clip of Senator Schumer] In the fight for voting rights, this vote was the starting gun, not the finish line.
Akilah Hughes: And so even after that, he talked about other strategies that Democrats will do to try to get it passed. But is that actually trying to end the filibuster? I mean, walk us through what these next steps could look like for Dems.
Shaniqua McClendon: Yeah, I mean, yes, this is a starting place. I mean, I think we all knew that this vote was not going to get the 60 votes it needed. Republicans have been pretty clear that they’re not supporting anything that would, you know . . .
Akilah Hughes: [laughs] They’re not supportive people, quite frankly.
Shaniqua McClendon: Pretty much. And so, like, we have to believe them. They told us who they were. We have to believe them. But when Joe Manchin let out that, put out that Op-Ed saying, you know, I will not support the For the People Act in its current form, you know, a lot of people thought things were over then. And so now we’ve gotten to a place where Joe Manchin and Senate Democrats are working on something that he is, I mean, it will be ultimately, you know, his version of this bill and something that he’s supportive of. And so, again, this is a starting point. We had to get all of the Democrats in one place before we could start pushing on Republicans and demonstrating that the filibuster is something we need to get rid of. Because if you only have 50 with—well, you know, Vice President Harris only comes in the event of a tie—so if you only have 49 or 48 Democrats who are on board with something, you can’t even talk about a filibuster. You don’t even have a majority of the Senators. So we’ve kind of overcome that hurdle. And now what it seems like Schumer is going to do is keep putting these different things on the floor, be it for voting rights or other legislation that cannot go through reconciliation, and just continue to make the point that we need to get rid of the filibuster. One other thing I want to point out. I don’t know—well, not I don’t know—I’m positive that Manchin and Sinema aren’t the only ones who don’t want to get rid of the filibuster. So, like, we got everyone on board with the bill and now we have to start, you know, making the case that the filibuster is the thing that’s standing in the way of all of the policy priorities we have. And, you know, ultimately, hopefully—I mean, I don’t know why it’s not clear yet—they will start to see that literally nothing is happening, and we’re going to have to at least reform the filibuster to get anything to happen and demonstrate that, like Republicans, again, they don’t want to do anything and they are willing to sacrifice our democracy if it means like sticking it to Democrats and showing Democrats as being ineffective. But they also know anything related to voting rights that gives people greater access to the ballot, is not good for them.
Gideon Resnick: So, yeah, let’s move to like the activist side of this. So you’re really tapped into advocacy groups, nationally, locally, who have been working extremely hard on this issue nonstop. So what does that activism actually look like and sound like after today, especially when it comes to pressuring all these members of Congress who, as you said, should basically know better at this point?
Shaniqua McClendon: Yeah, one thing that like politicians hate is negative attention, it makes them like squirmish and they’re just like, what can I do to get rid of this? And so that’s what a lot of groups are actually shifting toward now. Like, we knew how this vote was going to go, but there’s a coalition with groups like Indivisible, Stand Up America, and Citizens United, and they are, the kind of the next phase of this is something they’re calling the “Deadline for Democracy” and they want people around the country to organize events, very visible events, press-worthy events to bring attention to the For the People Act and voting rights in general, and what we need to do—not only to pass it, but just that these politicians need to care about it. And the other thing is—I say this all the time—the people who call into congressional offices are like super vocal, but they’re watching Fox all day and they’re just pushing Republican talking points. So this is kind of a counter action to that as well, so that these members of Congress are not just hearing that, but they’re actually seeing that people are willing to do more than call. They’re willing to show up and make their voices heard on this.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah.
Akilah Hughes: Absolutely. Well, our listeners, as you know, are very interested in helping. So do you have any advice for how our listeners can get involved?
Shaniqua McClendon: Yes. So if you go to—I feel like it’s always the same link, but we change the things on the page—if you go to votesaveamerica.com/forthepeople you can learn more about the Deadline for Democracy and how you can get involved, and just continue to stay updated on what’s happening with the For the People Act or voting rights in general.
Akilah Hughes: Awesome. Well, we will make sure to have that in our show notes. Shaniqua McClendon, Crooked’s Political Director, thank you so much for being here.
Shaniqua McClendon: Thanks for having me.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So like we said, we will link to that so you can find out more, and we are going to keep following it, but that is the latest for now.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Wednesday, WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we’re talking about the latest developments in the world of fine dining: fast food restaurants are reportedly cutting down on their $5-and-under “value” offerings in favor of more expensive meals like a $7 spicy pretzel bacon pub sandwich at Wendy’s, or an over $10 BTS meal at McDonald’s consisting of chicken nuggets, fries and a Coke. The move makes sense amid rising meat and poultry costs in 2021. According to analysts, value menu items don’t bring in much profit, so nudging customers towards fancier sandwiches can help franchises stay in the black. Sales at fast food restaurants are up 11.5% this May compared to May 2019. So the approach seems to be working, I guess. But Giddy, my question for you: are you a dollar menu fast food guy, or are you ordering these five star meals?
Gideon Resnick: I am more typically dollar menu because you know, you can get plenty items and it adds up to the same price as one five-star meal. But I will say also my fast food of choice most often, Taco Bell, I don’t think has really been doing this that much. Everything there is like a dollar, a dollar fifty and weighs the weight of a small child. So I think you do get quite a bang for your buck, if that is what you’re feeling. But same question for you, Akilah: how do you approach these menu options in front of us?
Akilah Hughes: You know, I mean, there was definitely a time where I was just on the dollar menu mixing and matching, you know, spending five bucks and eating for a whole family. And now that that’s not really possibility, I mean, and also just because I think I’m older and I can’t, I can’t really handle fast food as much, I don’t really eat that much fast food. But I would typically just go for the pre-concocted, more expensive meal like if I was a McDonald’s, I guess a Big Mac with like a drink and fries and—.
Gideon Resnick: Good order.
Akilah Hughes: And an apple pie that will burn my mouth. And, you know, any other additional things you can get, I guess, like a McFlurry—I’m starting to name things off the menu. But anyway, I think that I am, I’m far more aligned with the concept of something that someone has, like, put together for you. Otherwise, you know, I might just be ordering a bunch of double cheeseburgers off the dollar menu. And that’s not you know, that’s not well rounded. If you’re going to be at a fast food place.
Gideon Resnick: Right. You need to get all of the items in the food pyramid in your order. And you cannot accomplish that if you don’t get a combo meal, which, you know, has the requisite fries, sandwich, drink, that you need for your daily servings.
Akilah Hughes: I get my fruit from the apple pie. Again, I don’t know if it’s fruit so you can’t be mad at me either way. But yeah, I try to get all of my, all of my calories and all of my food pyramid in one meal at McDonald’s. But just like that, we’ve checked our temps and we’ll be back after some ads.
Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, one of the US and Canada’s most powerful unions, announced on Prime Day that improving the livelihoods of Amazon workers is their top priority. Teamster delegates from 500 local unions will be voting tomorrow to pursue ambitious campaigns, including work strikes and petitions to push for recognition and bargain over working conditions. This is obviously huge because, as we’ve seen, Amazon has notoriously fought against allowing its over 800,000 U.S. employees to organize, even going so far as to have managers identify union activity—we all know the Bessemer story. Amazon is projected to become the country’s largest employer within the next year, so it’s important to make sure its employees can negotiate for basic workers’ rights.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, I think so. Prepare to be bummed on the Fourth of July: the White House admitted yesterday that it would miss its goal of having 70% of adults in the US vaccinated with at least one shot, and 160 million Americans fully vaccinated by Independence Day. Unsurprisingly, many of the people skipping shots are the same people who think that they’re going to live forever and can sleep on hot dirt for four days at a music festival and not experience back pain—we’re talking about young people, who, according to White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients, feel that COVID is not something that impacts them that much. Zients said the 70% goal will be met by July 4th for adults ages 27 and older, but it will take a few more weeks to hit 70% overall because of the lagging 18-26 bracket. The pressure is on because of the prevalence of the highly-transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19. So if you’re eligible, get vaxxed.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, if you have heard of 100 gecs, it’s time to get your vaccination.
Akilah Hughes: Be on time.
Gideon Resnick: You might be in that bracket. Yeah, guess who doesn’t want her dad to run her court-appointed conservatorship and hasn’t for almost a decade.
[voice clip] It’s Britney, bitch.
Gideon Resnick: That’s right. Thank you to our engineer and general wunderkind genius Charlotte for helping us solve that mystery. So yesterday, the New York Times revealed confidential legal records showing that Britney Spears expressed major opposition to her dad’s role as her conservator as early as 2014 because of his drinking, as well as other grievances. Now, this was long before Spears began to oppose the conservatorship in public. Spears’s father, Jamie Spears, was first appointed as a joint conservator of his daughter’s estate in 2008 after a series of Britney’s public struggles, and has been in control of her estate and essentially her life ever since. Today, Spears will speak virtually about her situation in front of an L.A. court, a move which her fans hope will lead to her release from her conservatorship.
Gideon Resnick: Free Britney. Los Angeles is a place where even the birds have main-character syndrome, as proven by its large population of peacocks. However, the county is now moving to ban residents from feeding the famously vane birds in an attempt to stop them from being so annoying. As the county’s peacock population has grown over the past few years, more Angelenos have complained about them causing property damage and making noises at night which sound like piercing screams. Feeding peacocks and peahens make them less scared of humans and more likely to return, which can mean more property damage and more birds screaming. The L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously this month to make feeding peafowl punishable with fines up to a $1,000 or up to six months in prison. But if you’re worried about telling your cellmate you’re doing time for running a backyard peacock restaurant, don’t worry, because a similar ban has been on the books for nearly 40 years in nearby Arcadia, and almost no one has been charged under it.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, keep, keep feeding those peahens and peacocks, and let the dice fall where they may, you know.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, honestly, you can’t stop people from feeding birds. That’s like just a natural human thing.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah.
Akilah Hughes: And those are the headlines.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, close your bird restaurant, and tell your friends to listen.
Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading, and not just fast food value menus like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Akilah Hughes
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And get vaxxed, gecs!
Akilah Hughes: This one’s for you, Gideon. I don’t know what that means.
Gideon Resnick: I honestly don’t either, but I approve of it 100%.
Akilah Hughes: Yep, please.
Gideon Resnick: I 100 gecs approve of it.
Akilah Hughes: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media.
Gideon Resnick: It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes.
Akilah Hughes: Sonia Htoon and Jazzi Marine are our associate producers.
Gideon Resnick: Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran, Akilah Hughes and me.
Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.