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Republicans want 'woke' corporations to shut up

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday, April

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday, April 5, in Lexington, Ky. Credit: AP / Timothy D. Easley

The company they won't keep

A decade ago, on his way to the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, Mitt Romney drew derision by declaring that "corporations are people." He was defending business-friendly tax policies, as Republicans still do. Republicans also benefited from the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down limits on corporate political spending, ruling that companies had the same free-speech rights as people.

In 2021, amid culture wars and escalating battles over voting rights, Republican opinion on corporate speech is changing. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell all but accused some of America's top corporate leaders of behaving like a finer-tailored antifa and demanded that they shut up.

Companies have assumed the role of a "woke parallel government," McConnell complained Monday in a statement. He warned that "corporations will invite serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country from outside the constitutional order." McConnell didn't spell out the "consequences," but Republicans in some states have started targeting such companies' tax breaks.

More from McConnell: "Our private sector must stop taking cues from the Outrage-Industrial Complex. Americans do not need or want big business to amplify disinformation or react to every manufactured controversy with frantic left-wing signaling."

The firestorm erupted after Major League Baseball — encouraged both by President Joe Biden and stakeholders including players — pulled this summer's All-Star Game out of Atlanta in reaction to Georgia's adoption of voting laws that critics say are designed to suppress Black turnout. Republican-led state legislatures in Georgia and elsewhere pushed for the changes largely in reaction to a drumbeat of false 2020 fraud claims from former President Donald Trump and his MAGA allies. But even Republicans who accepted the election results — like McConnell and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp — reacted furiously to corporate reprisals.

Trump over this past weekend called for boycotts of MLB and eight major corporations that denounced Georgia's law, including Atlanta-based The Coca-Cola Company and Delta Air Lines. Trumpworld was already aggrieved over companies that, after the deadly U.S. Capitol insurrection, publicly condemned and cut donations from congressional collaborators of the attempt to overturn the election results.

The New York Times reports that high-ranking Black executives have been at the forefront of the effort to marshal corporate influence against voter laws they see as restrictive latter-day Jim Crow schemes. "There is no middle ground here," said Ken Chenault, the former chief executive of American Express. "You either are for more people voting, or you want to suppress the vote."

Janison: Corporations getting the business

The role corporations play in public affairs suddenly has become a salient topic in national politics, largely shaped by the change in White House administrations, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.

The question is where the rights and responsibilities of profit-making entities begin and end. To the Biden administration, that includes forking over more in taxes.

On Monday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen pushed the idea of a global minimum-corporate tax. Competitiveness, she said, "is about making sure that governments have stable tax systems that raise sufficient revenue to invest in essential public goods and respond to crises ..."

Turning away from Trump's corporate tax cuts enacted in 2017, Biden seeks to boost the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% and increase minimum taxes on U.S. companies' foreign income. That would in part fund Biden's infrastructure and jobs plan.

Meanwhile, corporations who waded into the voting rights battle, triggering GOP backlash, face more politically perilous territory ahead. The question of whether employers should compel their workforces to be vaccinated against COVID-19 is roiling the health care industry and beyond, The Washington Post reports.

Trump's fake boycott?

While Trump called on his supporters to boycott Coca-Cola and other brands, he never actually said he would join them.

Former White House aide Stephen Miller tweeted a photo on Monday of himself standing beside a seated Trump at the former president's Florida office. Obscured partially behind Trump's desk phone — noticed by the New York Post and other news outlets that zoomed in on the image — is what resembles an open bottle of a Coca-Cola brand beverage, based on its distinctive colors.

Other reveals from the photo of Trump's Mar-a-Lago workspace: His desk somewhat resembles the Resolute Desk from the Oval Office. Trump has a pair of reading glasses on the desk — he rarely wore glasses in public. On a wall behind him is a photo of Mount Rushmore.

Also on the desk sits a slice of border-wall metal that was made into a trophy. On an end table is a small statue of Trump himself.

Biden: Big isn't too big

Biden on Monday defended his $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs package against Republican criticism that the plan is too broad and costly, vowing to "push as hard as I can" to pass the proposal, reports Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

Biden took aim at concerns raised by congressional Republican leaders who have argued that the package is too massive, and that it should primarily focus on traditional infrastructure needs such as repairing roads, bridges and transportation hubs.

"When I’m talking about making sure that you take that asbestos out of schools, that’s infrastructure," Biden told reporters. "When I’m talking about building high-speed rail, that’s infrastructure. When I'm talking about making sure you're in a situation where we can redo some of the federal buildings that are just absolutely leaking energy every single day, that's infrastructure."

The option of trying to get a Democrats-only bill through the Senate got a boost Monday when the Senate parliamentarian told Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that the infrastructure bill can be done through the budget reconciliation process, which would require 50 senators, instead of 60, in favor it.

But Biden's call for a 28% corporate tax rate faces resistance within the party. Centrist Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said he could support a 25% rate. "It’s more than just me. ... There are six or seven other Democrats that feel strongly about this," Manchin told West Virginia MetroNews radio’s "Talkline" Monday.

ICE cooldown

Since Biden took office, federal immigration authorities have made sharply fewer arrests and deportations of immigrants already in the country illegally — and have shifted enforcement priorities inside the U.S. to focus on those with a serious criminal record, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement's population of immigrants in detention — which peaked above 56,000 in 2019 — fell to 14,000 in March. At the same time, migrant arrests at the U.S. southern border have reached a 15-year high.

Another poll shows more Americans disapprove than approve of how Biden is handling the sharply increasing number of unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. Overall, 40% of Americans disapprove, compared with just 24% who approve, according to The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey.

Meanwhile Monday, the White House released a new video message Biden recorded for newly naturalized citizens. "First and foremost, I want to thank you for choosing us and believing that America is worthy of your aspirations," Biden says.

Who was that masked rabbit?

For the second year in a row, the traditional White House Easter Egg Roll was scrubbed because of the pandemic. But the president and first lady Jill Biden appeared on the White House balcony along with a mask-wearing Easter Bunny.

Inside the costume was Air Force Lt. Col. Brandon Westling, a military aide to the president whose regular duties include carrying the nuclear football that accompanies the commander in chief whenever he travels.

Joe Biden voiced hope that the popular children's event will return in 2022. "We look forward to next year when the White House will ring with joy of the season once again and there will be an Easter Egg Roll, God willing," he said.

More coronavirus news

See a roundup of the latest regional pandemic developments on Long Island and beyond by Newsday's reporting staff, written by Lisa L. Colangelo. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.

What else is happening:

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden's chief medical adviser, said Monday that Americans should continue to get two doses for either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine despite a recent U.S. study that showed the shots are almost as effective after just one dose. Fauci said he is still concerned about how long protection from only a single dose will last.
  • More than 4 million people in the United States received a COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday — the nation’s highest one-day total since the shots began rolling out in December — said Andy Slavitt, the White House senior adviser for coronavirus response.
  • Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on Monday lamented Trump's ban from Twitter and Facebook, suggesting regulation of social media as an answer to "control of so much speech in the hands of a few private parties." His written comments came as the court vacated a lower-court ruling that Trump could not block critics from his Twitter feed. Twitter's ban on Trump and the end of his presidency made the case moot.
  • A Reuters/Ipsos poll finds that about more than half of Republicans believe the fairy-tale versions of the Capitol insurrection promoted by Trump and his allies: that the siege was largely either a nonviolent protest or the nonviolent handiwork of left-wing activists "trying to make Trump look bad."
  • Biden has pointed to competition with China as a rationale for his infrastructure package, but Republicans aren't buying the argument, The Associated Press writes.

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