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Senator Bernie Sanders told "Axios on HBO" he opposes the efforts by Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to bring back SALT, the State and Local Tax deduction that benefits wealthier residents of blue states.

Why it matters: There's a dispute among Democrats over whether to use President Biden's infrastructure negotiations to reinstate a popular tax break capped by former President Trump.

  • Republicans could exploit the issue as they try to move their own party's reputation away from corporatism to appeal to the working class.

Driving the news: "It sends a terrible, terrible message when you have Republicans telling us that this is a tax break for the rich," Sanders, of Vermont, said in an interview from Louisville, Kentucky, where he participated in a May 2 rally.

  • "In fairness to Schumer and Pelosi, it is hard when you have tiny margins, but you have got to make it clear which side you are on — and you can't be on the side of the wealthy and powerful if you're going to really fight for working families."
  • Biden did not include a SALT reinstatement in his infrastructure announcement. But some blue state Democrats are eager to force it into the bill. Sanders sees it as a bad move for a party that is supposed to represent the working class.

The big picture: Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont who caucuses with Democrats and ran twice for president as a Democrat, agonizes over the failures of Democrats in poorer red states like Kentucky.

  • In Kentucky, Amy McGrath spent more than $90 million in her failed bid to defeat Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell. Her campaign outspent the GOP leader's by some $30 million but he beat her by nearly 20 percentage points in November.
  • Sanders says it's unsustainable for the Democratic Party to keep losing non-college educated voters. He believes the party can do better by selling simple economic programs that directly benefit the working poor.
  • "The Democrats over the years have become more and more of a corporate party and have turned their backs on the working class of this country," he said. "You're an average white worker in America, for example, what have you seen the Democrats do to stand with you?
  • "It is imperative that we educate the American people about what government can, in fact, do for them."

Between the lines: Sanders is appealing for simplicity and tangible actions voters can easily understand: sending checks, extending unemployment insurance, providing affordable child care and free college. He's encouraged by Biden's early steps.

  • Mimicking how a reluctant voter might feel, Sanders said, "Oh you hate Democrats? They're terrible. They're awful. Oh, yeah. I just got $5600 for a husband and wife and two kids....
  • "Oh, I hate those Democrats. Oh, by the way, they extended my unemployment to September with a $300 supplement. Oh, by the way, make it easier for me to raise my kids. And now my kids are going to be able to go to good free summer programs and after-school programs..."
  • Sanders feels President Obama should have gotten more electoral reward for the health coverage protections in the Affordable Care Act in 2010 that helped millions of voters but that it was complicated to understand and easy for political opponents to confuse voters about. In the 2012 presidential election, Obama not only lost in Kentucky; he did worse there than he did in 2008.

Go deeper

Charted: Dem advantage

Expand chart
Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Bigger population jumps than expected in major cities. More diversity. Booming suburbs. Dwindling rural areas. All may make it harder — but not impossible — for Republicans to manipulate district lines to strengthen their power in states including Texas and Georgia, experts say.

Why it matters: The first results of the 2020 census are a balm for Democrats anxious about Republican gerrymandering efforts.

Between the lines: Some of the fastest-growing counties in the last decade are near blue cities in red states — like Hays and Comal counties in Texas and Bryan County, Georgia.

  • Meanwhile, almost all of the shrinking counties are moving toward Republicans, Claire Low, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee's targeting and analytics director, told Axios.
  • "If the maps are fair, Democrats will gain seats," NDRC president Kelly Burton told Axios.
  • The trends in Texas, where Republicans control redistricting, “basically makes the gerrymanders uglier and more complex," Texas Civil Rights Project staff attorney Joaquin Gonzalez told Axios.

What we're watching: Of note is just how much growth there's been in major cities like New York City and Chicago — both situated in states where Democrats control redistricting.

  • "It's better for Democrats that there are more seats going to the cities and that they can dilute the power of rural Republican areas in those states more easily," Cook Political Report's David Wasserman told Axios.
  • New York state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D), who represents western Queens, said the results make it likelier that redder, upstate areas — not blue New York City — lose a seat. He credited high population counts to city campaigns to get people to fill out the census — also protecting the state against losing more House seats.

So far, fears of a significant undercount of the Hispanic population due to the Trump administration's efforts to not count undocumented immigrants haven't played out in the data, Wasserman said.

  • That's another good sign for Democrats, who tend to be favored by Latino voters.

What's next: The Austin area has grown substantially over the decade — and Wasserman and Low say Texas Republicans may try to concentrate that population into already blue districts to keep surrounding GOP seats as red as possible.

Aug 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

McCarthy’s silent treatment

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy has been maintaining a deliberate silence about how his caucus should approach the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Why it matters: It passed the Senate last week with the support of 19 Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). But it faces an uncertain future in the House, with even Democrats divided over what they want.

University of Michigan reaches $490M settlement in sex abuse case

Jon Vaughn, a former University of Michigan and NFL football player, speaks at a press conference in Ann Arbor, Mich., in June 2021. Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

The University of Michigan on Wednesday reached a $490 million settlement with over a thousand survivors who allege that they were sexually assaulted by a former physician in the school's athletic department.

Driving the news: "It's been a long and challenging journey and these survivors have refused to remain silent," attorney Parker Stinar said Wednesday.